Saturday, March 10, 2007

Fonts of Wisdom ...

Currently Reading: Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and Other Stories by Oscar Wilde
The previous post got me thinking about different aspects of story submissions. Given that there is only so much a writer can control, it makes sense to format one's manuscript as well as possible. A year ago I'd have said "Hurray for e-mail submissions!" However, now I'm inclined to send paper.

The guidelines for magazines and e-zines vary. Paper by snail mail versus e-mail attachment versus plain text in an e-mail. Some publications allow more than one option. Some have requirements within the select method (line/no line between paragraphs, etc.) So, a few questions for you all, assuming the publication allows some choices.

I go for Times Roman (is it really different than Times New Roman? And who are these new Romans and where are they roamin' to?). Something about Courier I don't like, and sans-serif just doesn't work for me. Given your druthers, what would you use?

Attachment Format?
I'll send out in Word if available, downgrade to plain text otherwise. This is where the formatting can really get wonky and requires a lot of re-editing. Anyone use RTF? Any tricks for PLAIN TEXT to *clarify* the _manuscript_? Again, assuming the guidelines allow or are vague on the point.

E-Mail Text?
This seems to be the worst option, in my opinion. If my browser e-mail wraps at 80 characters, what does the recipient see? What if hers wraps at 70 characters? Or doesn't wrap at all, requiring the reader to scroll three feet to the right for each sentence? What if it is forwarded to slush readers and has
>>various breaks and
>symbols mucking up the works? What to do?


Blogger Camille Alexa said...

HEY!!! I'm liking the Blogvey-style interactive discussion post. Work that comments function, brother!

You didn't mention querying editors and agents (with novels), but I vastly prefer the idea of snailmail over email for those. I gravitate toward email for shorts submissions, though as you point out, every single submission site has different (often contradictory!) requirements/requests. Some come across as total hard-asses about the whole thing, and some go out of their way to mention they understand there are differing opinions on formatting and have a lot of leeway in their policy.

Please, for the love of your favourite deity--do not make me use courier. That is the stupidest looking stuff I've ever seen in my life, and whenever I read a story printed in courier, it loses about 40 "story I.Q. points". It just looks plain dumb. When I judge contest submissions, stories printed in that font just look more unprofessional to me (which is the exact opposite you read on most 'old school' editor/agent sites--but NOT ALL! Miss Snark hates courier), and they always come across more…facile. Of course, I don't let it infuence my scores, but it's a struggle.

I feel the same way about my own work when I see it printed in courier. It's like someone forcing you to wear nerd glasses in public (and I don't mean nerd glasses of your own choosing--cool ones, like Elton John or Elvis Costello might wear). Times New Roman is what I use.

Lately, everywhere I'm sending is begging not to receive word doc attachments. Most state a preference RTF, so I've been doing that, but I am not so computer savvy, and am always worried about odd character translation. Saving as plain text seems to mess up all my paragraphing and has to be manually re-formatted. It's a pain, and I'm not sure it goes through properly. Okay for poetry, but crappy for longer works.

I'm very nervous about this, too. I've sent pieces, cut and pasted straight from my document, as emails to friends, and when I look at them in my 'sent' folder, there are crazy wonky paragraphs and random words or lines in a totally different font, which I know has nothing to do with the original doc. No idea what's going on there, or whether it shows up that way at the other end. Sending it to Jessica for her own amusement? Doesn't matter. Sending it to an editor for consideration? Might be distracting, annoying. Who knows?

March 10, 2007 at 4:03 PM  
Blogger Camille Alexa said...

Woah. That was really long.

March 10, 2007 at 4:03 PM  
Blogger Todd Wheeler said...

LBB: Long or short, your comments are always welcome.

Yes, for novel queries or submissions I'd say paper is the way to go. If they insist on an attachment, I'd like to think they would at least use a new sheet of paper and not the back of someone else's submission, or the PowerPoint handout from the prior day's meeting, or a selection of out-of-date Chinese food menus, etc.

Upon further reflection, it seems that Courier reminds me of the font of my first typewriter (manual) and perhaps that is what I'm reacting to. It is certainly taller and wider, so much so that the page count expands dramatically. By the same token, I could see why some editors might like it: lots of space for notes, corrections, and what not.

As for the other formats: Yeah. What can we do?

Back in the 90's the U.S. Federal government started to standardize on PDF format. I worked at a college and the grant writer was beside herself because she had to learn this new software just to submit a proposal. However, it is a nice solution in that one's submission is formatted exactly as one intends. It also (as far as I know) eliminates any risk of viruses which many editors cite as the reason they don't want M$ Word documents.

I _think_ the newer versions of Word come with the PDF driver but not sure (since I don't have a newer version). I have the ability to create a PDF as I downloaded a freeware driver. It would be nice if publications listed PDF as at least an option that they would accept.

March 11, 2007 at 6:19 AM  
Blogger Steve Buchheit said...

I'm with you all. I like Times printed more than Courier, but courier as a monospaced font gives a lot of benefits to an editor (besides being easy on the eyes and what they expect to see). And I would love to submit in PDF. I love PDFs. But most places are still struggling with just accepting electronic (email) submissions. For those places, they can run macros to have everything format for them. While I personally really don't like Word, I really wish places would accept it. RTFs are nice but don't always work.

Also, normal/text weight are refered to as Roman because most type designers learn forms from Roman Capitals, specifically Trajan's Column. But as typesetters/designers we have all these weird terms like oblique, black, stroke, light, etc. Most carry history and bagage from when type was either caligraphy, or lead slugs.

March 12, 2007 at 11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I use Courier. At first, I didn't like it because it l o o k e d so s p a c e d out, but now I'm used to it and prefer it onscreen and on hardcopy manuscripts.

When I submit online (which is my preferred method, if only because it's faster and requires fewer trips to the PO for stamps), I usually have to read the instructions several times, very slowly.

March 12, 2007 at 1:47 PM  
Blogger Steve Buchheit said...

And I forgot my favorite joke

Some people drink from the font of wisdom, some gulp, some sip, others gargle.

March 12, 2007 at 4:53 PM  
Blogger Todd Wheeler said...

Steve: I had a feeling you'd know what those Romans were all about.

All the formats, with the exception of e-mail text, allow manipulation (i.e. get in there and change stuff). Having never edited a publication, I don't know what they do with the manuscript (besides reject mine). Perhaps PDF doesn't allow enough control. More research is needed.

March 12, 2007 at 5:04 PM  
Blogger Todd Wheeler said...

Hi Cheryl!

When you submit online, what format do you use? Assuming the guidelines give you a choice.

March 12, 2007 at 5:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I usually just set my Word doc to standard format and then copy and paste into Notepad, then copy and paste from there to the body of the email. Looks okay on my end...not sure what they get!

Most publications have long, specific instructions, so I follow those step-by-step. I really prefer the ones like Glimmer Train that have you upload the doc into a text box. That's so easy.

I just make sure I start with standard manuscript formatting, and never manipulate the original file. That's why I have a string of files called thedoor.doc, thedoor2.doc, thedoor.rtf, etc.

March 13, 2007 at 10:12 AM  
Blogger Todd Wheeler said...

I didn't even think about a web form. Certainly easy for the writer. Knowing what it takes to program the output, I'm cringing at the thought.

And file names. That's worthy of a whole different post.

March 13, 2007 at 10:55 AM  

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