Tuesday, April 29, 2008

And I spent all that money on Adobe!

I make about 99% of my submissions via email and I've got the process down pretty well. I get my clients' manuscripts and proposals via email in Word, then I dump them into a template I created in Word, and I output the material as a PDF file using Adobe. I love this. You can secure the file much better than Word (you can hack the password out of a Word file in about two minutes) and the material shows up on others' screens just as it shows up on mine. This has not always been the case with Word. Use a font that someone else doesn't have and you could easily get something looking pretty funky on the other end. Back in the days before TrueType, the type of printer you had and the drivers you had loaded made a ton of difference. Granted, that is less of a problem if everyone is using Word and TrueType fonts, but I imagine it could still happen. Adobe makes that far less likely.

Lately, though, I have been getting emails from editors at HarperCollins's imprints saying, "I can no longer receive submissions in PDF format, as I now read them on my Sony Reader and so I need a Word file. Can you please resubmit in a Word file?" Wasn't PDF supposed to be the "universal" format? Well, interestingly enough, the Sony Reader will read a PDF if that PDF isn't encrypted, but it will size the pages down to fit, which may make it less of an easy reading experience.

Now most editors still print the PDF or part of it to read it. And I guess I should be happy that HarperCollins is saving all of that paper by using Sony Readers. Though that paper can be recycled. How much energy and toxic chemicals does producing the reader use, not to mention what is the cost of recycling the batteries it will use up? So, in the long run, which is really better for the environment?

For me, the attraction would be the ability to carry more materials around and read them at my leisure. No more going away for the weekend with a 600-page manuscript that weighs eight pounds. Now you can take ten with you on the Reader. Conceptually a great idea.

I do wonder, though, if editors' and agents' attention spans will be even worse than they already are if they are using a Reader? Can Sony build a special version for publishing with a reject button? Just hit the button and an email is sent off to the author telling them thanks but no thanks? I'd suggest an offer button, too, but given the hoops and jumps that must be overcome to buy a book in today's publishing world, I'm sure it would be like the reset button on my old Palm and you'd need a special tool just to access it and that tool would be locked in the Publisher's desk.

But think of the way we read email. You glance and digest as little as possible before hitting delete or next. I save the ones I want to concentrate on and often find them weeks later at the bottom of the list, still waiting to be read carefully.

Now imagine if you are an editor or agent with fifteen submissions on your reader. Or fifty! How much time will you spend on each one before hitting next? At least with paper, an editor can only schlep so many manuscripts home in a weekend. Now he or she can carry home a dozen! Is this really going to improve the odds of them buying a book, or simply spare them the backache of carrying home three manuscripts each weekend?

If I were a betting man, my money would be on editors using eBook Readers making it more difficult to get your book published, not easier.


1 comment:

I said...

My first thought when you got to the bit about Sony Readers and PDFs was, "I bet Sony is going to be coming out with their own proprietary format." Though I really know nothing about the e-reader format.

Regarding it getting harder to get a book published. I agree about the e-reader making it easier to reject a submission, but at the same, we're still assuming the same number of books will be getting published, right? So if e-readers make it harder to get published, they must be leading to a greater number of submissions. Do you think they'll lead to publishers becoming more open to unagented submissions than they've been in the past few years? Or to there being a lot more (presumably inexperienced) agents? Or to the existing agents having to take on and submit many more manuscripts?

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