4.20.2007

3 Things You Did Today That Scream "Don't Take Me Seriously"

1. Colored paper. When was the last time you received a serious business letter on colored paper? I'm not talking ivory, beige or jellyfishbelly white either. This color could be pea soup but more it's more charitibly called shale. It's stupid to do this. Don't.


2. Telling me your novel is really about teaching people about something. This is a kiss of death as far as I'm concerned. Sales wise it's a non starter. People buy novels for the stories. If they learn something, it's cause you wrote a compelling story. I get so turned off by "this novel will help people understand the joys of Rabbitania" that I barely skim the pages. That means you have to have BLISTERING good writing to survive the slush. Give your writing a fighting chance. Don't saddle it with a teaching credential.



3. Right hand justified margins and page layout to make it "look like a book". I read books; I know what they look like. This isn't a book, it's sample pages. There is a universal industry standard for ragged right margins on manuscript pages.

23 comments:

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Okay ... so tell me ... what am I going to do with all that pink paper with dancing goats all 'round the boarder NOW?

Wrath said...

Okay, question. I use justify margins because the ragged right edge makes me crazy. Should I turn it off before submitting? Or is it just when the author draws it to your attention in the query that you don't take them seriously?

Anonymous said...

I was thinking this site is very helpful to those writers who struggle in a severe way with interactions with people due to an illness... this is why i come to this site... and Miss Snark is really good at saying things clearly and straight without confusing things in some type of politics or agenda... she simply says what many people thihk but rarely say... i know most of the people that struggle in this way are considered nitwits and i suppose many are; but it's not always that...

ME said...

I don't understand your insistence on uniformity. Many creative people consider themselves unique; using colored paper and different fonts is probably just their way of expressing that. They don't want to be like everyone else. Some go down in flames as a result of that credo, I am sure. Maybe you could put all the oddballs in a separate pile and read them on a day when you are imbued with an extra dose of patience(or gin). As for the industry standard -- Underlining the title of the book was the standard until word processors and computers allowed for the use of italics. Now really, how could justified type be that annoying?

Anonymous said...

Oh, Don't forget including an 8x10 glossy of the author, autographed in advance for you're viewing pleasure.

Anonymous said...

wrath: she just said, do not under any circumstances ever justify when submitting. edges must be ragged! and really think, you shouldn't be talking about your margin usage in the query anyway.

takoda said...

Miss Snark just got herself a new category: format. That's pretty funny. Although after I send this message, I'm going to have a second look at format. Borderline OCD will do that to ya'!

I wonder which category gets the most hits? And will there ever be sub-categories?

Anonymous said...

sha'el, save them for sending thank-you letters to your fans.

Denise said...

never woulda thought that about the right hand margins...hmm. Miss Snark, thank you for another pearl of insider knowledge!

Maria said...

Colored paper? Really? Some people's children...

froggy said...

Put it this way, wrath. As a reader, justified right margins make ME crazy.

Unless you have proper print production software (like Quark or Pagemaker or something of that ilk), justified right margins make the spacing between all the letters and words on each line go all haywire. It's difficult to read when the amount of space between words is jumping all over the place. Which is exactly what Word or any other ordinary word processor does.

If Miss Snark says don't do it, don't do it. If you gotta have the margins justified to make you happy during editing, that's your own affair. But turn them off when you submit.

alison_c said...

Wrath--

There is a reason behind the "raggad right" rule. When you're reading pages upon pages of manuscript copy, it is MUCH easier to read copy that is not right justified. Books are formatted for readability--the letting is adjusted by somebody who knows what they're doing (hopefully). The word processing programs I've used simply don't format justified text well.

Proper formatting, like proper grammar, is invisible. Don't do anything that calls attention away from the most important thing: your writing.

Anonymous said...

Ditto wrath's question.

When you say "right hand justified margins", I'm assuming you mean full justification, right? (Because it would be loopy for someone to submit their manuscript with text justified to the right.)

Why is full justification such a big deal? I'm curious.

What about font? I'm sure as hell not using Comic Sans or Palatino, but is there anything wrong with plain Times New Roman? Do I have to use 12-point Courier?

Janet said...

Ditto Alison-c's response. When you spend a major part of your day reading, the irregular word spacing brought about by full justification is a low-level irritant that reaches higher levels the more hours you put in reading. It also makes it very clear you haven't put in any time researching what the requirements are. But I have to agree, it doesn't seem to be as bad as the other two.

ME said...

Oops! Concession required. Sorry Miss Snark. Poorly justified type, squished or spacey, can be most annoying.

When I began the ms I played around with typesize, line length, (I even had a two-column format, landscape orientation for a while, just to see what it would look like as a book...what a dreamer!)and font style, but I was using Quark at the time and had better fonts than those in Word. I was a typesetter.

What I ended up doing in MS word was make the margins wider, line length about 6.5 inches, 12 pt Garamond font and fiddled with the character spacing a little. Do Not Try this at home. I'm not even using the approved font; I like Garamond (a little smaller than Times) or Century Schoolbook (larger than Times). I noticed a comment awhile back that only Times Roman should be used. Hmmm. I don't use justified type for the ms, but I think it can make a business letter look really nice. Obviously, my stuff's going to get tossed on format violations. Failure to conform is my cross to bear.
Goggle-Typesetting

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Now really, how could justified type be that annoying?

Dear Me Said:

Most editors, teachers, professors, and others who read zillions of pages of typescript find it easier to follow the flow if the right margin isn't justified. Take my word for it.

A fully justified page may look nice and neat and orderly, but those of us who read it do not prefer it. Why make us cranky and give us a head ache?

You may feel free to irritate a pixie. We're small and often thought of as insignificant. Don't irritate editors, agents or professors. ... Just don't.

Sheesh! some people are so stubborn!

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Anonymous said...
sha'el, save them for sending thank-you letters to your fans.

I have fans?

A Paperback Writer said...

Okay, who else out there besides me is secretly breathing a sigh of relief over never having committed these sins? I KNOW you're out there.
Oh, and pixie princess with the pink paper and goats, give the stuff to the nearest 13-year-old girl you can find; she'll turn in all her homework written on the stuff and drive her teachers crazy for weeks. (I know; I'm a teacher. The worst was that black paper and silver ink fad about 10 years ago.....)

Dave Kuzminski said...

The only exception I know of is for certain kinds of poetry and then only for the poetry, not the query letter or any text that might explain away your motives for what you wrote.

ME said...

Three things there are that can never come back:
The arrow shot forth on its destined track,
The appointed hour that could
not wait,
And the helpful word that was spoken too late.

Thanks for the advice pixie, but you are years too late.

BenPanced said...

Dangit, and me with a new box of crayons for naught!

Twill said...

sha'el -

Yes, you have fans!

Kit Whitfield said...

Another thing to avoid: author-photoshopped 'cover art'. Bad idea.