Tuesday, April 29, 2008

And I spent all that money on Adobe!

I make about 99% of my submissions via email and I've got the process down pretty well. I get my clients' manuscripts and proposals via email in Word, then I dump them into a template I created in Word, and I output the material as a PDF file using Adobe. I love this. You can secure the file much better than Word (you can hack the password out of a Word file in about two minutes) and the material shows up on others' screens just as it shows up on mine. This has not always been the case with Word. Use a font that someone else doesn't have and you could easily get something looking pretty funky on the other end. Back in the days before TrueType, the type of printer you had and the drivers you had loaded made a ton of difference. Granted, that is less of a problem if everyone is using Word and TrueType fonts, but I imagine it could still happen. Adobe makes that far less likely.

Lately, though, I have been getting emails from editors at HarperCollins's imprints saying, "I can no longer receive submissions in PDF format, as I now read them on my Sony Reader and so I need a Word file. Can you please resubmit in a Word file?" Wasn't PDF supposed to be the "universal" format? Well, interestingly enough, the Sony Reader will read a PDF if that PDF isn't encrypted, but it will size the pages down to fit, which may make it less of an easy reading experience.

Now most editors still print the PDF or part of it to read it. And I guess I should be happy that HarperCollins is saving all of that paper by using Sony Readers. Though that paper can be recycled. How much energy and toxic chemicals does producing the reader use, not to mention what is the cost of recycling the batteries it will use up? So, in the long run, which is really better for the environment?

For me, the attraction would be the ability to carry more materials around and read them at my leisure. No more going away for the weekend with a 600-page manuscript that weighs eight pounds. Now you can take ten with you on the Reader. Conceptually a great idea.

I do wonder, though, if editors' and agents' attention spans will be even worse than they already are if they are using a Reader? Can Sony build a special version for publishing with a reject button? Just hit the button and an email is sent off to the author telling them thanks but no thanks? I'd suggest an offer button, too, but given the hoops and jumps that must be overcome to buy a book in today's publishing world, I'm sure it would be like the reset button on my old Palm and you'd need a special tool just to access it and that tool would be locked in the Publisher's desk.

But think of the way we read email. You glance and digest as little as possible before hitting delete or next. I save the ones I want to concentrate on and often find them weeks later at the bottom of the list, still waiting to be read carefully.

Now imagine if you are an editor or agent with fifteen submissions on your reader. Or fifty! How much time will you spend on each one before hitting next? At least with paper, an editor can only schlep so many manuscripts home in a weekend. Now he or she can carry home a dozen! Is this really going to improve the odds of them buying a book, or simply spare them the backache of carrying home three manuscripts each weekend?

If I were a betting man, my money would be on editors using eBook Readers making it more difficult to get your book published, not easier.

Z

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Holy eBook Editions!

I recently received a royalty statement for one of my client's titles from HarperCollins. It's seven pages long! This seemed a bit extreme to me, until I realized that pages 3-7 were all detail for eBook editions:
  • 9 copies of the Adobe E-Book
  • 8 copies of the Mobipocket edition
  • 2 copies of the Microsoft Reader edition
  • 6 copies of the Palm Reader edition
  • 10 copies of the Sony Reader edition
Now, this tells me a couple of things:

1. Don't hold your breath waiting for the eBook revolution. Thousands of hardcovers were sold and only a handful of eBook copies.
2. Sony may have something going for it. Of course, Kindle, the Amazon reader may kick its butt next period, just on the basis that it's prominently featured on the Amazon home page and essentially has a captive audience, as doesn't everyone buy books from Amazon?

It somewhat amazes me, though, that a huge company like HarperCollins is creating all of these eBook editions and dealing with accounting for them. Think of the millions of dollars in extra paper and mailing costs for the royalty statements alone!

Honestly, after all of the hullabaloo, agita, mishigas, and general bloodshed over the royalties for eBooks, when I look at these statements, I have to shake my head in wonder. Was it really worth it? Did publishers really need to piss off authors and agents and maybe even lose deals over eBook royalties? Consider that most of the books published this year will be out of print before eBook readers are commonplace (are you dropping $300-$400 for one anytime soon?). So unless you happen upon the next Catcher in the Rye that will stay in print for decades and decades, was there really a risk in not getting eBook rights? I think not.

Then again, I'm not an MBA sitting high in an office building in New York. Perhaps some combination of the smog and the altitude lets them divine the future of eBooks more clearly. But until eBook readers come down to less than $100, it all seems a bit pie in the sky to me.

Z

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The March Round-up

Well, for the first time in a while, I'm all over getting the monthly round-up posted.

In March, we received...

60 queries and rejected 35;
15 sample chapters and rejected 16;
We also received 2 requested proposals;

We requested 13 sample chapters and 5 proposals;
2 manuscripts, received 1, and rejected 1;

We currently have on hand 22 sample chapters, 3 proposals, and 4 full manuscripts or self-published books. We are also reading 2 recently completed manuscripts by clients and fine-tuning 1 proposal recently accepted for representation.

With regard to sample chapters and proposals, we have read and responded to all dated before February 8, 2008. If you submitted before that date and haven't heard from us, something may have gone astray in the mails.

Z