Friday, December 29, 2006

Manuscript submission: Are you still partial to paper?

There's an interesting article in the December 29 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine about the trend of literary journals to accept electronic submissions from writers. There are all sorts of advantages to this system--for the writer:

Proponents of online submissions say the process saves money on postage and paper and cuts down on response times, since it curtails much of the administrative work involved in logging, assigning, and distributing manuscripts once they are received by a magazine. It also reduces the chances of submissions being lost. Online submission systems usually notify writers once their work is received. After setting up accounts, writers can also log on to the journal's Web site, determine whether their work is still under consideration, or review what they have previously submitted.

My romance-writing pals tell me that more and more book-publishers and agents are accepting e-mailed queries, synopses, and even sample chapters. But don't editors get as tired of reading from computer screens as we writers do?

Those editors reluctant to convert to online submissions have expressed concerns about economics and eyestrain. Printing out thousands of electronic submissions is not feasible for most journals, and the alternative—asking readers to stare at screens—does not appeal to editors like Stephanie G'Schwind, whose staff members at the Colorado Review consistently tell her "they don't want to read submissions on-screen." Michael Czyzniejewski, the editor of Mid-American Review, agrees. "Sitting at a computer terminal for so many more hours than I already do seems like a complete nightmare."

I'm concerned that an over-eager writer who submits via e-mail might send work that isn't quite agent- or editor-ready. One advantage of the old system of printing pages and reading them one last time before carefully sliding them into an envelope, double- and triple-checking the agent's or editor's address, and then carting the package to the post office is that it affords authors an opportunity at every step to second-guess themselves--which is, in some cases, a very good thing. But on the whole, e-mail submissions look like a pretty good deal for writers.

If you're a submitting or published writer, have you ever sent an e-mail submission? Would you like to?

Technorati Tags:


Mirtika said...

I can see why submitting shorter stuff electronically is efficient (and conserves TREES and FUEL!) and convenient. I do wonder, though, how editors can handle comfortably editing (for revisions) without the hard copy. Maybe it's a just a matter of getting used to it, like anything. And now with all those tracking type software thingies, maybe it's easier than pen and paper.

I've submitted poetry and short stories online. :) Gotta love not having to worry about postage and being able to cut it REALLY close to the deadline.


Robin Lee Hatcher said...

Brenda, for all of my publishers except Steeple Hill, I send my manuscripts via electronic file as an email attachment. I get my edits via electronic files, completing them using Word's Track Changes. I'm sure that the publisher prints copies on their end when they receive, just as I print off the edited copy with the Track Changes showing up in color when I receive back from them. When I'm done with the line edits or copy edits, I zap right back via email. I'm so used to this method that when I have to print and send a copy to Steeple Hill, I feel like I've stepped back into the dark ages.

As for my agent, I know that she receives many contracts these days by electronic files. Only when they are ready for signatures are they printed and signed and returned the "old fashioned" way. When Revell contacted her a few years ago and said they were interested in doing some novellas, my agent had my Hart's Crossing proposal already on her computer (I had prepared it for another publisher but they weren't doing novellas). She zapped it to them the same day.

Even though I do things via email with my publishers (Zondervan, Tyndale, Revell, WaterBrook), I have no idea if they accept submissions via email. I doubt it. I imagine hard copies are still the way to go at that point.


Regina said...

If I'm not mistaken, Barbour Books is taking submissions electronically.

Bhaswati said...

Electronic submissions make even more sense for non-US authors targetting US agents and publishers.

I recently queried a magazine editor via email, and when she asked to see (not purchase) the article, I asked her if a friend living in the US could mail it on my behalf. She was so kind as to allow me to submit electronically (the mag only takes snail mails as a rule). In my case, this naturally made a lot of sense, since I hadn't yet sold the article, and being rejected after spending on international air mail would probably have hurt even more. :P

The article was eventually accepted. :-)

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

In the last year, I've had more requests for email submissions. Most article submissions were by email with the exception of one.

My agent requests me to email my manuscripts to her. If she is sending it to Steeple Hill, she has requested I print it and mail it. But for Thomas Nelson she asked me to email it. For Barbour's Heartsong Presents line, they are only accepting electronic submissions.

Great topic.

Anna Adams said...

Hey, Brenda,

I dropped by to wish you the happiest of New Year's! (To you and all of yours!)

But I like seeing how other publishers handle email submissions. I've submitted by email once. My editor agreed to take my revisions when they needed to be in her office on a specific date, and I literally had so many other things going on at the same time that I couldn't have made the deadline without emailing.

Obviously, it saved me a bundle. Overnighting is almost always around $50--usually more. But more than that, it gave me 24 extra hours to work on the ms.

From years of working as a tech writer, I'm accustomed to editing on screen. In fact, I edit more freely if I work on final read-throughs on-screen as well.

For some reason, the words on a printed page feel more permanent to me. I'm less able to change them--creatively. I'll fix, but I tend less to hack out and put in something better. Mind you, I've just turned in a ms., and I'm filled with doubt--I could be wrong about the quality. :-) How many times have I cut and put in something worse?

Brenda Coulter said...

So there are even more people e-submitting than I guessed. Robin, I was especially surprised to learn that all but one of your publishers are taking e-mail submissions of entire manuscripts and even doing your line- and copyedits on the disk.

Bhaswati, congratulations on selling that article. May you and every writer reading this enjoy a very successful 2007.

How many times have I cut and put in something worse?

Anna, we are not going to think about that. We are going to have an angst-free 2007. Right?