2.11.2006

The Last Word on Manuscript Formatting...ever


Dear Miss Snark,

I was hoping that you could help me with a question that I have been recently researching today (and I am sure many of your viewers would be equally interested in your inestimable incitefulness, as there has been recent debate along a similar vein).

I understand well that the literary market is severally stratified with some people being the type who appreciate the challenging nature of heavyweight literature, while others favour a lighter read. Therefore, as a somewhat aspirant author myself, I would greatly value your opinion on what you consider to be the optimal weight for a novel?

Through my own aforementioned research I have seen that, for instance, Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code" weighs in at a little under half a pound, while the latest "Harry Potter" is something north of 20 ounces, indeed forcing younger readers to seek assistance from a parent or guardian. What size would you recommend a first time novelist to aim for? Should we err on the side of something that the speculative book browser would be better inclined to carry home from the shops, or lean more towards something that offers a more attractive value proposition, price per pound wise?

Additionally, with further regard to the recent questions on editing technique: if you are working with a current or prospective client and have advised them that their manuscript could use a little tightening up, what approach would you recommend? Is it sufficient to simply lop a few ounces out of the middle (on the basis that the beginning builds the world and hooks the readers in; the ending inspires and enlightens; but the middle is, generally, padding), or would you rather see a more considered pruning, pulling one or two extraneous pages out of each chapter until the desired poundage has been achieved?

Moreover, when submitting a manuscript for consideration by an agent or publisher, is it necessary to put the weight on the cover page or simply refer to it in the accompanying letter (either approach giving the additional advantage that a quick turn on the scales will let you know if any pages have been misplaced during review); or alternatively is it better to put the weight on each sheet alongside the title and author name (the total weight of the opus, that is, not the weight of each individual page)?

Finally, assuming that the author is also interested in exploiting the foreign rights, is it appropriate to additionally state the weight in grams (rounded up to the nearest 10g), or can one assume that the foreign rights agent will be able to perform the conversion as part of the packaging? Or is it, in fact, necessary to prepare both English and metric versions of the manuscript?

(Note that I am, of course, talking specifically about prose; I am not a complete novice and do understand that poetry is generally handled by the foot).



Yours Sincerely Faithfully,


Miss Snark retires from the Comic SmackDown, beaten...nay, dare I say, pounded into ...err...submisssion.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is this a joke?

I can't believe this person is talking about weighing a book. Sheesh; just write a damned good book, and quit obsessing about the things that don't matter.

Feisty said...

It's sarcasm, silly! And a little satire, maybe.

Eva said...

This is hilarious! Thanks for the laugh! The middle is essentially padding--what a riot!

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Well, ducks, I weigh six stone, 4 lbs. (That's 3.14 Tods; .24 sack; or 39.92 kg) Yet, I'm a fine edition, custom bound by a true Lady, who happens to be one of my co-authors.

If I was on Hercule Perot's bookshelf, I'd be at the end. (Are you figureing this out at all?)

I have been read, but gently so. Light corner bumps. Minor shelf wear. A rare edition, weight aside.A classic work containing a mixture of poetry and prose. One odd spot on FEP that resembles a goat's hoof. Gilt edges. Nice. Rare.

Anonymous said...

And a little satire, maybe.

I agree - satire; and I read it more as irony than sarcasm. I wonder if it will reach the desired level of incitefulness?
-ril

December Quinn said...

This has to be a joke. A "somewhat aspirant" writer? You know...they make medicines for that.

Anonymous said...

who IS this person, I want to read their book!

Anonymous said...

'Is this a joke?'

Tee hee. They got you, AND with the snarky admission of defeat!!!!!!!

Christopher said...

I thought they were serious until I read the bit about poetry being measured by the foot.

Bernita said...

Priceless.

Thank you,Miss Snark dear, and whoever.

Chiffonista said...

Funniest thing I read all week. Oh my god! Brilliant.

Ric said...

This is really good. Great way to start the weekend.

Reggie said...

S/he had me sucked in, believing we were taking a stroll through nitwitville, until the third paragraph. That's when I got it. Hilarious!

Stacy said...

I wrote about 3 feet of poetry once. Threw it on the bonfire after I realized it was only worth .003 cents per inch. Not a good buy for a discerning reader at all, so not worth my time.

SherryD said...

"Anonymous said...
who IS this person, I want to read their book!"

I DON'T !

Anonymous said...

This reads like something Ed Champion over at Return of the Reluctant (www.edrants.com) would write.

Anonymous said...

This is too funny. Just yesterday I was complaining to another editor that I was in need of disability payments because I could no longer lift some of the manuscripts coming across my desk. Since H.P., it seems writers think they must write epics to be successful.

By the way, should the weight listed on the front page be the weight of the paper manuscript or the weight of the bound book?

Bella Stander said...

This was a dangerous post! I'm recovering from pneumonia, and laughing leads to coughing. Still, it was good to start the day with a lung-clearing guffaw.

I must point out that the writer (love you Brits!) is the "inciteful" one; Miss Snark is "insightful."

magz said...

AWESOME! Great laugh today, courtesy of a witty writer and Miss Snark.

(Also the exact reason why both the Rott-on Sisters have harnesses and saddlebags on when they accompany me to the used bookstore)

Weighty tomes, indeed! Magz

Cayendi said...

Brilliant!
I couldn't help but snicker

Anonymous said...

The writer has given new meaning to the concept of a little light reading. Very funny, and a great parody of the kinds of questions that often show up here.

Anonymous said...

Are you SURE this is satire? I'm not. I pray it is, but I'm not altogether convinced....

Lady M said...

(either approach giving the additional advantage that a quick turn on the scales will let you know if any pages have been misplaced during review); or alternatively is it better to put the weight on each sheet alongside the title and author name (the total weight of the opus, that is, not the weight of each individual page)?

If you didn't get that it was comedy by this paragraph within the weighty paragraph, then you must not be a fan of extremely dry humour.

Oh! Do let the scales weigh in on the large and obnoxious books - oh what a novel idea!

This deserves an A+++ on the Dry Humor and Sarcastic Wit Scale created by someone who has a decent grasp of the English language.

Can I just ROF&LMAO and be done with it?

:P

Crisi said...

Is it bad that I've actually had discussions about the weight and size of the book? Of course, I'm going into publishing and was looking at the production side of thing.

I have this thing against books that are too big to read in one hand while in the bathtub. Which is why the last H.P. books took a long time to read for me. ^_^

Loved the post by the way.