paper or electrons?

When an agent invites you to submit a full and gives you a choice to send your manuscript via snail mail or e-mail attachment, which is the better bet? My instinct says a real stack of paper will be likely to get more notice, less likely to get lost, and more like the final product.

Am I right about this? send your manuscript via snail mail or e-mail attachment, which is the better bet? My instinct says a real stack of paper will be likely to get more notice, less likely to get lost, and more like the final product.

Am I right about this?

I don't ask for anything except initial queries on paper right now. I love having all the mss in little electrons on my computer. The end of the heaping pile o'paper is great. I have a ms tracking system that allows me to summon up your contact info, the last email I sent telling you I was a total sloth, your polite response (and the the three not quite so polite edited versions before you hit 'send') and the ms itself.

If you send me paper right now, it sits here glaring at me and I hate it. I also don't haul paper around anymore. My sherpa days are o-v-e-r over.

It also means that if you type in courier or arabesque, I can click twice and change it to a readable font. It means I can highlight your typos, write on your margins, and send it all back to you without seeing the inside of the penal institution known as the post office.

If you have a choice, do what works for you, but don't assume paper is the better choice.


Wilfred Bereswill said...

So, that's why it's so frickin'cold in St. Louis. Hell is freezing over. Miss Snark is coming into the electronic age. What next? E-Queriees?

Anonymous said...

Not to mention that you don't have to decrypt the agents hand written notes.

Anonymous said...

(and the the three not quite so polite edited versions before you hit 'send') How do you see those, Miss Snark? Spyware? Is Ky psychic? I would never even think of sending "not quite so polite" versions to you. You are hysterical. I hope my electrons are doing well!

Dave Fragments said...

Once you learn how to do this:
"The end of the heaping pile o'paper is great."
You never want to go back.

Anonymous said...

Save yourself the paper and the $10-$30 and just send it electronically.

Anonymous said...

Some want queries via e-mail only, but insist on hardcopy submissions. Others only want snail mail queries, but insist on electronic submissions.I recently heard an agent (who takes everything electronically) mention that he had his assistant print out a ms in hardcopy to submit to an editor (I was amazed he didn't make the writer print it).

One of these days were all going to be on the same happy, electronic page.

Anonymous said...

I imagine that there are individual preferences among agents. If they haven't made their preference clear, go for your own. You can never be faulted for following instructions.

Just my own unprofessional opinion.


Anonymous said...

Changes fonts and adding annotations assumes that you use the same word processing software as the writer.

Not everyone uses Word for their manuscripts. Cory Doctorow uses plain ASCII text. Robert Sawyer clings to Word*Star for DOS. Academics often use TeX or LaTeX. Screenwriters typically use Final Draft. I have friends who wrote technical books in FrameMaker on a Sun workstation. I suspect you would have trouble accepting email submissions from any of these folks.

Anonymous said...

Sending a ms via e-mail also saves starving writer bucks on paper, toner, and postage. I like that!

Anonymous said...

I sent an e-query to someone who asked to see the whole thing. I assumed she meant mail it, so I said, Great, I will send it right away.

She wrote back: Will you be emailing it or mailing it?

I wrote: whatever you want.

She chose paper.

I have yet to hear from her.

Mark said...

Bravo! Couldn't agree more, and be rid of the postage problem to boot. You can't even send a manuscript media mail any longer.

ORION said...

I have done everything electronically with my agent. The only glitch was at first - I am mac she is pc -- and I neglected to add the little .doc at the end of my file name! Once we got our acts together it's been great.
My editor only sent the first edits via hard copy FedEx.
Otherwise everything has been electronic -- even my author photos.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark, perhaps you could then address the etiquette involved in making sure your ms made it through the gauntlet of firewalls & spam flters on the Net...is it appropriate to mark it so you're asked to confirm receipt? Do you automatically send some response indicating the ms has been received? If no such message is received, how/when/where is it appropriate to send an email asking if you got it okay?

I think this is a good question for your blog, actually, but that's your call.

Mindy Tarquini said...

OMG! The 21st Century FINALLY found you!


Here...have another exclamation point!

It's on the house.

Unknown said...

Paper? What's... paper?

Brenda said...

Courier isn't a readable font?

(Ponders changing all her stuff from New Courier 12 pt to TNR. And right when I'm finally used to how Courier looks on the screen too. Ugh.)

Anonymous said...

Can you also see the bestiality and credit card websites we have open at the same time we're writing the not so polite letters? Lucky agents don't have webcams. Typewriters are nice, but I would prefer the system to switch to hieroglyphic scrolls. Miss Snarks...Thanks for the advice. I always thought a tangible book held more weight in the agent's hands, now I feel more confident with my email queries.

Anonymous said...

I totally understand the many benefits of electronic submissions. My question is, what do you read on the subway now?


Unknown said...

The Snark Sherpa Co.

Inclusive Service Package Includes:

*One fully loaded cluegun.
*Inexhaustible itchy trigger finger.
*One Killer Yap (for a nominal additional fee will provide motivation via vicious ankle attacks).
*Merciless wit.
*Perfectly calibrated Nitwitdar and Idiot Wayfinding GPS.

Anonymous said...

I've always assumed that eventually, when I'm ready to start querying, I'll need to invest in a laser printer. Now I wonder if by the time I have my manuscript in a publishable state--which could be a while--the printer will no longer be necessary.

Anonymous said...

"It also means that if you type in courier or arabesque, I can click twice and change it to a readable font."

That doesn't sound like a nice format like PDF.

Us Internet wizards would say PDF or plain text, or even some open source format.

But why do I have the sick, sinking feeling that Miss Snark is talking about Microsoft Word?

What about us writers who never touch the stuff, what do we do?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure this is a stupid question,but when you send the whole manuscript to an agent, are you supposed to send it in one file? multiple files?
And in the event you ARE supposed to send it in one file, how do you get Word to let you keep the different chapter headings for each chapter if it's all in one file?
Sorry, I guess I should know this -- but obviusly I don't

Twill said...

Courier isn't readable? I thought that was standard...
or did I fall for a funny?

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Those agents and editors who've asked for "the whole thing" from me usually want it in a specific format, often rich text, and as one file.

They usually specify. Two who've asked take Word Perfect, Word, or Rich Text.

I like electronic submissions.

Anonymous said...

vidal, how does your publisher get your text from pdf to their design program? Or input copyediting changes? Or do anything that's involved in making a book? The editor, designer, and many more people need to manipulate the text at every single stage of the process. Plain text is fine. We can cut&paste into Word or Quark or whatever program we like and go to town. But pdf? That's strange.

The other day I opened a document from an author and it opened in excel! (???) Took me two minutes to paste it into word and style it so it looked fine for reading. No biggie.

Pam Schwagerl said...

As a publisher I don't allow anyone in my company to accept attachments unless it's from someone they know. Although we have virus protection all of the computers in our company are networked together so a virus would affect the entire company. Thus no attachments allowed. We require that all submissions come in paper form. Then if we are interested we ask the author to mail us a paper copy of the entire manuscript and if we choose to offer a contract we will then allow them to mail us the manuscript on a CD. As the person that reads those manuscripts and makes the decisions on whether or not to publish it, I hate having to sit and read a book at my computer. I would much rather do it on the deck of my weekend house overlooking the lake. Publishers still love the feel of paper.

Anonymous said...

Baen Books (a scifi\fantasy publisher that tries to be -- usually successfully -- cutting edge) has accepted Electronic submissions for years.

Their write-up in Writers Digest 'Writer's Market' (used to, I don't have this years) claim that they accepted both paper and electronic submissions. On their forums (Baen's Bar, accessible from their website but you may need to create an account and log in to view now) at one point, there was a discussion of this very thing.

Someone in one of the Baen offices said "Um, we've got some paper manuscripts lying around, but we haven't touched one in three or four years." (They then proceeded to give the person making the inquiry instructions for how to get their paper manuscript withdrawn and an electronic submission submited)