Format..cause yanno, it's so HARD to get it right

For those among us who are:

A. Control freaks
B. Savvy enough to use a more readable font than Times Roman (Century Schoolbook rocks and you couldn't tell the difference with the possible exception of noting less eye strain upon your completion of my partial, thank you very much)
C. Compulsive listmakers

Would the Snark bristle at receiving a .PDF file, with all the formatting cemented in place, fonts embedded, and all the mysteries of the Mac/PC WYSIWYG universe self-contained?

If I wanted you to send a PDF I'd ask you to send a PDF.

I think we need clue music so you can remember FOLLOW THE DAMN DIRECTIONS with the same word for word perfection as "two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese pickle on a sushi roll"


Adine Weltino said...

I just sent a PDF today, they're great.

BUT what if agent says "send it in email" and makes no mention of the format? Is PDF ok at that point?

ORION said...

I have not once had my agent or editor obsess about my formatting (fonts, spacing, pagination, paper...). They Do want my manuscript in MS word but other than that it is the biggest subject of adversarial interest on writer message boards and yet of the very LEAST interest to editors and agents.
Worry about writing well.
Not formatting. IMHO

Anonymous said...

That kind of obsessive, controlling perfectionism makes you seem high-maintenance.

kitty said...

Fol-low the damn di-rec-tions.
Fol-low the damn di-rec-tions.
Follow follow follow follow,
Fol-low the damn di-rec-tions!

Anonymous said...

pdf.s suck ***.
It's a totaly crapshoot if the version that you write with is compatible with the person who's reading it. Plus they're huge.

just stick with RTF's. This world would have a lot less aggravation and violence if everybody just used rtf's and Microsoft didn't try to push new bloated programs on the public every 3 years.

btw, if you take an rtf file and change the "rtf" to "doc", microsoft word will open them no problem. Try it. ;)

Kit Whitfield said...

Why would you need to be a control freak about the formatting of a manuscript that's going to be read off-screen? Agents don't while away the leisure hours by reformatting e-mailed manuscripts into funny fonts and posting them to all their friends and yours. As long as it's legible, the font is not important enough to get controlling about. It'll make no difference to the quality of the writing, which is all the agent will care about; if the book is accepted, it'll make no difference to how it's typeset. This is not worth making a stand on.

Anon 1 is right; making up your own rules makes you look difficult. Suppose the agent happens to have a rare form of astigmatism that makes them incapable of reading Century Schoolbook? Are you going to deny them the chance to put it in Times Roman if they wish? Suppose they're long-sighted and have broken their glasses; are you going to prevent them from increasing the font size to make it easier to make out the words?

The point of picking a legible font is that the agent finds it legible, not the author. The agent is the one who's going to be reading it. As such, they're entitled to arrange the reading experience for their own convenience. You don't get a say about the brightness adjustment on their computer screens, or the way they arrange their desks, or whether they can reformat a manuscript if it helps them read it. The point is to get the words read. You're a writer, not a designer. Let it go.

Anonymous said...

How would an agent go about marking up a pdf file for revisions? Or is the submitter too savvy to need any revisions?

Ryan Field said...

I've always worked in "traditional" publishing up until recently, and couldn't understand all this concern over formatting and .doc verses PDF verses RTF, etc... Couldn't understand why it was so important to single space, rather than double space after a period (no page numbers). All this detail, when all my life I've simply submitted simple documents in times roman, 12 point to publishers and never heard a word about it. No complaints at all. I received thank yous from them all and it went to print. Simple!

And then the other day I had to submit something to an e-book publisher who wanted RTF, not .doc ... 0.5 indent (not using tabs) and a slew of other details that took a long time to figure out. It was an extensive list of details I wasn't prepared to deal with considering the only requirements I've ever seen have been "submit as a word attachment".
But more than that, after viewing other e-publishers I saw they all wanted different formatting, with explicit directions.

Now I guess this is pretty common when it comes to e-publishing, and I think I understand what everyone's talking about...but I doubt I'll do this again soon.

Dwight The Troubled Teen said...

"pdf.s suck ***.
It's a totaly crapshoot if the version that you write with is compatible with the person who's reading it. Plus they're huge."

This is specious on nine different levels. PDF readers are free.
.PDFs are backwards compatible. PDF files are smaller than word docs, not larger. Respectfully, you are passing judgement on that which you do not understand.

"That kind of obsessive, controlling perfectionism makes you seem high-maintenance"

Yep. Using the second most common document format in the country is a pretty good indicator that an author is obsessive, controlling, and high-maintenance. There you go. With crystalline logic like that, it's amazing Adobe remains in business. You wouldn't think there were that many Type-As out there.

Suppose the agent happens to have a rare form of astigmatism that makes them incapable of reading Century Schoolbook?"

I don't even have words for this gem. Just a helpful tip: You many want to lock your keyboard up before you open your bong-of-the-month shipment.

"What if terrorists are secretly encoding viruses into Acrobat in an effort to wipe out agent PCs and literacy in America."

You got me. I'm so short sighted.

"The point of picking a legible font is that the agent finds it legible, not the author."

Kit, why would a font designed for readability only work on the eyes of those those living outside the 212? Dude, it's easy:

1. Think
2. Write

"You're a writer, not a designer."

Wrong on both counts, Skippy. But thank you for an ill-informed diatribe encouraging me to be less professional in my use of templates and technology. Because you and Orion are absolutely correct, professional presentation simply CAN NOT co-exist with good writing. They are mutually exclusive and I sold my soul to the one with the shiniest glimmer.

"How would an agent go about marking up a pdf file for revisions?"

Well, the agent COULD open up the revision tool that comes standard with .PDF, but I was thinking more along the lines of using the .PDF electronic sample pages or a partial. Not a full, 2Bedited submission.

Maya Reynolds said...

Pat (Orion) is right.

I used automatic hyphenation on my manuscript. Neither my agent nor editor ever mentioned it.

Therefore, it came as a complete surprise to me when Nathan Bransford mentioned in his blog not to hyphenate manuscripts. Sure enough, a week later, my manuscript came back to me from the copyeditor with every single end-of-the-line hyphenation corrected by the copyeditor by hand.

Follow whatever rules the agent's site lists. DO NOT rush to identify yourself as a potential pain-in-the-ass control freak. You'll have plenty of time to do that later :)

Kit Whitfield said...

Did everyone who isn't Dwight get that the 'rare form of astigmatism' thing was a joke? Or should I use emoticons next time?

Emily Veinglory said...

LOL Ryan. Ah yes, but the joy of epublishers (who are a law unto themselves) is that they may demand weirdness like 16pt Garamond and 3.17 cm margins. You still do it of course, but only if 'follow the damn directions' is written on your computer screen in red Sharpie--and not with the feeling that this is a good omen.

Emily Veinglory said...

I got it.

Also, pdfs do suck.

sky said...

Arrrgh! Maya, I can't believe the copyeditor hand marked all of those eol hyphens!? I copyedit everything electronically and autohyph is a no-brainer easy option to turn on or off depending on what the pub wanted---why oh why did the publisher/whoever send the ms in hardcopy to be edited by hand? I'm astounded. Really. That's so Gutenberg.

Dave said...

This is a silly argument.

In my days publishing scientific papers, I once got my hands (and eyes) on the copyeditors markup of a technical paper for the journal of FUEL (one of the biggest publications in my research field)
AND it was covered in style marks and punctuation changes. A PDF would have been useless. Fonts were useless.

Those copyeditors and typesetters made the journal of FUEL look like FUEL. The same thing happened with the American Institute of Chemical Engineer's Journal. They have their style, you give up yours .

Follow the intructions and quit wasting time over stuff that means nothing.

Follow directions.

Julia said...

I think anon 1 is onto something. Maybe all of this is just a test to see if the author is capable of following directions. Or perhaps the test is to see if the author is a pain in the ass.

Kathleen Dante said...

Sky, the copyedit is because a hardcopy is provided to Production with all the annotations for style and layout. If the hardcopy keeps the EOL hyphens, the proofs will include those hyphens *even if* the hyphenated words are in the middle of a line because that's what the original manuscript had.

Twill said...

Kitty -

I believe "damn" throws off the meter of the Yellow Brick Road song because of the voice-drop that accompanies the syllable. Probably drawing out the "di-" into two syllables instead would make it flow better.

Follow the di-rections
Follow the di-rections
Follow, follow, follow, follow
Follow the di-rections

If Garamond or Courier
Your man'script will sell hurrier
because because because because because
The di-rections was what they was -

(horn segue:
a reba da booba da boo)

You want to sell your story,
Then follow the di-rections!

Anonymous said...

I think "dwight" proved himself to be the original author who so adores .PDF files and, simultaneously, one of those dreaded tough-to-work with people.

Sarcasm, insults, and the assumption that his way is best and anyone who disagrees is a moron. Yeah, I'd want to work with that.