Slush Slush who wants some Slush!

1. "I'd appreciate hearing back from you by November 30". Letter dated 11/5.

ok. No.
oh wait, you want me to read it first? 30 days for a query isn't out of line. Particularly if you've got good pages to read.

clue for the day: no deadlines in a query letter

2. Sending electronic pages as "read only" or pdf is shortsighted. I have no idea why people do this. (If you do, I'd be interested to hear why) Here's why you shouldn't: PDF means I have to can only see one page on the screen; no scrolling. That breaks my focus every single page. Not a good thing if you want to hold my attention.

Second, if I can't cut and paste from your document, I can't show you the three typos in your ten pages. In other words, even if I wanted to help you enough to point them out, you've made it time consuming to do so. Don't.

3. Writing about "hot button" issues like being gay, and dating outside your race, in the hedonisit(ok ok I know--hedonist! sheesh) 60's and 70's is the absolute antithesis of 'fresh and new'. This is particularly true if you lived through it and are writing your own thinly veiled story. The world has moved on. Time to catch up.

4. While you're busy trying to impress me with what a hotshot professional you are by putting your query on your office letterhead, don't forget to give me your direct email. I'm not ever going to request pages from "info@deweycheathamandhoweLLC.comma or "help@quackercracker.comma".


Anonymous said...

To continuously read a PDF click on the continuous icon on the bottom right of Adobe Acrobat Reader. There are four icons and it's the one second from the left. The icon looks like a page split in half horizontally. You have it set to the single page default, which is the extreme left icon.

To cut and paste from a PDF click on the toolbar icon that says 'select' and then select your text.

Dave Robinson said...

I'd like to know about PDFs too. They were designed as a printing format not a reading format. It's specifically formatted for the printed page not the screen and is therefore essentially impossible to read easily on a screen. The worst are the two column ones that you have to scroll down to read the end of the first column for and then back up to start the second. Stupid.

On the up side, you can get a program called Foxit reader which can copy text from PDFs pretty well just in case you ever need it.

Writerious said...

Hmm... what PDF reader are you using? Acrobat Reader does have an option under "View" in the menu that allows you to scroll normally instead of only seeing one page at a time. There's also a text button that you can click if you need to copy text to paste somewhere else. Of course, that won't work if someone has scanned their pages as image files and made them into a PDF, but if the documents began as text, there is a way to copy text from them, though you lose formatting.

When I have to send a document to someone I prefer PDF because it's a universal format and I don't have to worry about what computer platform they use or what version of Word or if they even have Word (which some of us loathe). If the document contains images or tables, they're preserved. It's not, however, a good format to use when sending electronic manuscripts because it's not editable. When I send things to editors, I often use TXT or RTF.

Maria said...

Some agent are starting to ask for PDF as part of the email query if the want/allow an attachment. PDF is less likely to carry a virus (I believe because it is basically a print format, rather than .doc which allows for macros to be run, etc.)

Two weeks ago, I submitted to an agent website asking for pages as a PDF.

Now then--the other, more likely reason people send PDFs is they believe that YOU can't change or copy or steal the text and use it in your own fabulous novel. This isn't true of course and were you so desperate for the words, you could always print them and hang them on the wall and admire their...er, greatness.

Anonymous said...

"Sending electronic pages as "read only" or pdf is shortsighted. I have no idea why people do this. (If you do, I'd be interested to hear why)"

One possible explanation I can think of is how paranoid some neophyte writers are that their work can be stolen. I've heard stories of how neophyte writers will put copyright symbols all over their fiction--even when sending their work to literary agents and editors! Maybe these people who send you their fiction are terrorfied you'll copy and past their novel, publish it as your own, thereby making millions of dollars. ;-P

Jeffrey Palmatier

Jean said...

And isn't it completely inappropriate to use your professional employer's office supplies -- especially letterhead -- to query for your personally professional (you wish) writing gig?

I could see if the letterhead was your personal writer's letterhead (with appropriate email included).

Shakes head and wanders away muttering.

John Anthony Sperling said...

I think the reason some writers send read-only or PDF files is due to the inexplicable fear that someone will actually want to plagiarize their work.

A working screenwriter once told me that her agent wouldn't read scripts that had the "circle c" copyright symbol stamped all over them. It was, she said, the mark of an amateur.

Curious to hear from other writers about sending locked files. Being that I'm ill-tempered and suspicious to begin with, if I were an agent I might find this practice at least a little insulting.

Anonymous said...

As far as the PDF thing goes, it might be because that's just about the only file format that will always preserve your format even if being transferred from one operating system to another (Windows, Mac OS, Linux, or whatever).

Jean said...

I long for the day my work will be so good that other people will need to steal it. Then, of course, I'll be furious.

Ms Molly said...

I'm not a writer, but PDF is the preferred file format for things like resumes because it can be read no matter what OS or software people have on their computer. Sending stuff in Word is frowned on, because not everyone has Word installed on their computers. So I think people who submit in PDF are being polite rather than otherwise. Unless there's something int he submission guidelines that says otherwise, of course.

Dave Kuzminski said...

It's not amazing to me that many writers are paranoid about protecting their intellectual property. I've seen it in letters from them to me and to agents. I've had numerous agents mention it to me or in forums. I can only speculate that it's one of the few things they truly own and are determined not to let someone "slicker" it away from them.

ORION said...

I have used PDF to send to print because different printers can change the pagination. I use word to send to my agent because that's what she asks for.

Kim Stagliano said...

Formatting -- when I send an e-query it feels like sending my kids to school all tidy, hair brushed, pants covering the cracks and wondering if they'll stagger off the bus after school hair frizzed and out of the scrunchy, snotty, crusty noses and butt cracks for all the world to see.

How do agents handle word docs that scramble in transmission - does it lower your chances of a read if the MS is no longer "clean?" I do wonder.

Chumplet said...

I work for a newspaper and a client send an ad in 'read only' pdf format. I was unable to convert it into the format required for the newspaper. The security settings allowed printing, but nothing else.

They argued with us and insisted that we could work with the file. They had placed security on it so it couldn't be 'altered'. It was a help wanted ad for a community newspaper, for cripe's sake!

So... I printed it and scanned it, which compromised the quality.

After much research, we discovered we could convert it if we did a lot of back flipschitzes with Illustrator A Freakin' Hundred.

Security on a pdf is a pain in the arse. Besides, if anyone wanted to 'steal' the work, all they have to do is print and retype.

shelby said...

Well people have already explained the continous view as well as the select text too so I won't go into that.

I haven't sent pdfs to agents or editors, but I did get in the habit of sending them to other people because of what people have already said--it works the same on every operating system. Back in The Day, you just couldn't assume everyone had Word. For example, WordPerfect was popular (and I lament its demise--such a better program than Word), companies like IBM who were direct competitors of Microsoft used their own word processing program, and some people still use Microsoft Works because if they have an older or low-end computer they may not have Office (although people using Works are unlikely to create a pdf in the first place). Additionally, before Word became...better (and I use the term loosely), features that worked in new versions did not work in previous versions, and if someone had a previous version your document could (and often would) come out garbled.

The amateur copyright issue never occurred to me, but maybe it's because I'm not that much of a nitwit.

erastes said...

Others have already commented on pdf. Some agents are insisting on it, I know that.

"Hedonistic" 60's and 70's? Girl, I am guessing you weren't there. I take a stab at your age as mid thirties, perhaps. And you live in New York (I think) If you lived anywhere else in those decades, hedonistic would be the last word you used. Being gay meant hiding your tastes, your music, your true self, even here in "liberal" england. And as for outside your race? Sheesh - that's tough - even today! There may have been a place called Woodstock and San Francisco exists even today, but the rest of the world hasn't caught up yet.

But yes, I agree with it not being "fresh" or "new" - but I don't believe that we've heard all the stories from then, either.

(do have a blog, can't remember password!)

michaelgav said...

Just a guess, but do you think they use business letterhead (including SASEs) because they don't have to pay for them?

Also, check the SASE postage, I'll bet they're of the corporate Pitney Bowes postmark variety, not stamps.

Starving artist is as starving artist does, but that must make for one cheesy-ass first impression.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, viruses are a big problem on PCs--which is why nobody will open an attachment. Send a PDF, very little chance of a virus. As others have said, you can cut and paste, print, scroll read, and open regardless of your word processing app or OS.

Also, different versions of Word open documents differently, breaking pages in different places--leaving some docs with annoying blank pages, widows and orphans, and so forth.

shelby said...

Shelby said above: Well people have already explained the continous view as well as the select text too so I won't go into that.

Oh dear dog, I am completely illiterate. That'll teach me to use the preview button.

Anonymous said...

Dear Snarkikus,

You wrote: "HEDONISIT 60's and 70's." I was totally confused by this and thought that you probably meant to write HEDONIST 60s and 70s. However, I googled and discovered that during the 60s and 70s, HEDONI was a popular name for dogs. "Hedoni, sit!" was a common phrase heard throughout the West Village of NYC and the boardwalks of Santa Monica in California and in Paris (where they would say it in French). When I first read HEDONISIT, I thought that you had just misspelled the word HEDONIST or that maybe you were stupid. Glad to say that neither of those things is true. You remain unsullied in your perfection. I regret only that I doubted your spell-check prowess even for a moment. I am humbled. I tremble in your wake!

Tremble, nitwit, tremble!


Anonymous said...

The formatting problem is no joke. I recently signed with an agent, and felt surprised and liberated when I learned that she now preferred to see revisions--and even the final submission package--as attached files. No more printing and running to the post office! But then I began to have problems with files that couldn't be opened at her end, or came through scrambled, or included editing marks that were invisible to me. I'm not the most sophisticated with this stuff (rtf, doc, windows friendly attachments, compatibility checks give me headaches!) And now that my proposal is actually circulating (as an attached file, I've been told) I am both excited and afraid that somewhere an editor is staring at her computer screen, struggling to make sense of it. The old-fashioned way had some advantages.

--A first time writer who is hoping for the best

Dave Kuzminski said...

Actually, I still use WordPerfect 6.0a because it works and it doesn't try to suggest like later versions of it or Word that I really want some other word which those programs then proceed to change without permission. Yes, I know how to halt that, but darn near every single document sent to me tries to rearrange my options while it's open. Not only that, but my version of WordPerfect works regardless of the operating system version. I wish I could say that for my copy of Microsoft Access which Microsoft Windows refuses to recognize because it's slightly older than the version of Windows I use. So much for backward compatibility of Microsoft's own programs.

Also, I believe that WordPerfect is still available.

By the way, you haven't lived until you have to load a file in one program in order to convert it to a second format so it can be loaded into your program of choice. My most fun experience of that was when someone converted a file into a format for someone else to use and I had to convert that new format for my portion of the overall task only to discover I was converting it back into the original format which they didn't want to give to me.

Marva said...

I'll weigh in on the beauty of WordPerfect over Word. For one thing, my WordPerfect can create a perfect Word file. I only have Word 97 and to heck if I'm going to pay several hundred bucks to upgrade, when my current version of WP came with my shiny new Dell only a few months ago. Gee, Dell provides WordPerfect and not Word. I wonder why?

I can also create PDFs and do so when I'm sending my stuff to friends to read as it works on their various operating systems and computers.

When given the option of sending publishers RTF or DOC, I always send RTF.

As others said, PDF is perfectly easy to scroll through and cut from.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark's question, as always, has prompted some interesting, thoughtful responses.

But all this stuff about .pdf's makes it clear why many agents (especially here in the UK) still want hard copy. They can't be bothered to spend time coping with this format compatibility/ Word version/ MS Works luddite/ viruses/ programs/ scrolling/ Mac vs. PC/ file conversion/ pagination changes nonsense.

Besides, you can put hard copy through the photocopier (a.k.a. xerox)to give to colleagues, read it on the tube (a.k.a. subway), in the bath, in bed...

Black ink on actual paper has a lot to be said for it, when it comes to keeping up with the kind of slush pile reading that Rachel Vater described.

BuffySquirrel said...

I use WordPerfect 8.0. WP is out there, it just isn't bundled with nearly as many machines as Word is. You have to want it and go find it.

The major advantage for me is that I'm a sloppy typist when I'm on a roll and I often insert formatting codes inadvertently and then don't notice for pages. Easy to get rid of them in WP. In MS Word, not so much.

Pixel Faerie said...

Number four being that don't send from the office email? What if you own your own domain and email?

I've got an email: me@myname.comma (website too!)

Obviously I'm not asking an agent to look at the website, but that sort of email is okay to use, right?

Miss Snark's real agent email addy probably reads FutureMrs.Clooney@PoodleandGin.com


RyanBruner said...

I'm not sure why sending PDFs would ever be a problem. The format has been around forever. At least 10 years now. Everything can display it. You can cut/paste it, print it, scroll it, use it without viruses, etc. It truly is a "Portable Document Format".

Unless the person on the receiving end has a need to actually EDIT your document, there is no reason NOT to accept PDF. Sorry, Ms. Snark, but I just can't see your POV here. I've even submitted some short stories to places that will NOT take anything but PDF or text files.

Mac said...

I personally hate with a passion the way people put 'protection' on PDF files.

It only takes about 50 seconds to break on a PC with Office installed. (Hint: Printing the PDF to 'Microsoft Image Writer' will remove all the security. Then open the Image Writer file that it generated and print it back to PDF) and so adds no real security.

However, going through this process when you just want to copy & paste some text for perfectly legal reasons is a nuisance. If someone was truly going to copy it for malicious reasons - then it adds no extra protection. It just annoys the honest people.
It is even worse when reading film scripts - every film script library out there puts them in 'copy protected' PDFs - when they don't even own the copyright to the original text!

If someone does this to me, I always make a point of adding my notes to the original 'secure' PDF and sending it back to them .. with security turned back on and not giving them the password. Yes, it takes some time out of my already short life, but it cheers me up. It's amazing how being incredibly petty can be so uplifting.


Simon Haynes said...

When viewing a PDF full page, hold CTRL and press Page Down instead of scrolling. (Jumps to the top of the next page.) It's useless when you're zoomed in on the page though.

PDFs are really not good for screen reading, unless you can turn your monitor through 90 degrees and view whole pages in portrait mode. My Viewsonic VP171 would do that, and it came with drivers to rotate the Windows desktop at the same time.

RTF is a pretty safe format for electronic subs, and it'll reflow to fit your screen instead of sitting there like a newspaper viewed through a peephole. At ASIM we request RTF and read all submissions with yBook.

Simon Haynes said...

By the way, I never upgraded past Office 97 either, and now use the free openoffice suite instead. As a bonus, it has save-to-PDF built right in.

Anonymous said...

Another reason many people may not like to use PDF is that PDFs aren't screen-reader friendly at all (for those vision impaired folks).

Also, PDFs are designed to produce formatted pages, which generally you *don't* want at all when you are dealing with a manuscript.


Anonymous said...

I really don't understand the "fit the screen" issue here. PDF's can be easily resized to fit the screen and for me, scroll just like Word. And yes, they hold formatting. I have witnessed several occasions when the same version of a Word document has lost its formatting from one computer to another--both with the same version of Word installed.

Miss Snark, PDF's are preferred by many for reasons listed above. I doubt your writers are sending PDFs for protection. If you were to invest in Adobe Acrobat Professional rather than the free reader, you could leave notes all over the page and even circle offending words with a flick of your mouse.

Mark said...

You can highlight cut copy and paste eleswhere in PDF from the tool on the tool bar that gets rid of the hand for a cursor. PDFs are hard to read.

Anonymous said...

While we're on technical issues ... If an agent accepts e-queries and also wants sample chapters, any suggestions on how to make sure chapter text doesn't get messed up in transmission, etc?

BuffySquirrel said...

soren, you can control how it appears at your end but not at their end.

The basics are line breaks instead of indents, and no smart quotes or other special characters or fancy formatting. I've had success copy/pasting TNR rather than Courier. Send it to yourself first so you can eradicate the most glaring errors. But ultimately those who accept e-subs get used to gibberish. I used to clean up the worst ones in Notepad because you can select into the f&r field.

Ryan Field said...

Just when you think the keyboard is safe you read the e-mail addresses at the bottom of this post!