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.