Friday, March 20, 2009

Paper v. Electronic

Through the comment section a reader recently asked why so many agents request hard copies of a manuscript via snail mail when most editors prefer email.

Now the first thing I need to tell you is that all editors and agents are different and we do different things for different reasons. But there are a couple of different answers to your question. In no particular order...

  1. Not all agents and editors have ereaders, and for those who don't it’s easier having a hard copy manuscript to read from because, frankly, reading off a computer screen is difficult.
  2. Editing is easier, for me anyway, to do on hard copy. When reading submissions I will often read off my Kindle. When doing edits, however, I will often read off hard copy.
  3. My interns and assistants don’t have Kindles. I handle every single submission I get, but I am not necessarily the first reader on every single submission I get. I have interns and a fabulous assistant for that. In addition to generally keeping me in check, their jobs are to give me a first read and a reader’s report on many of the submissions I read. And, since they don’t have ereaders, and I don’t think it’s fair for anyone to try to read on a computer, I often request materials via hard copy.
The reader also suggested that paper manuscripts were easier to ignore and take longer to reply to. Maybe, maybe not. I guess that would depend on the agent. For me, I put all electronic queries and submissions in a special folder in my email program. A folder that’s very easy to ignore. Submissions are in tall piles directly in my line of sight on the other side of the office. As easy to ignore as I want them to be.

I don’t think it matters how your material was requested or why it was requested in a certain format. What you should keep in mind is that all of us are different, and while some agents are happily embracing new technology, others are a little more old-fashioned and prefer to read the same way they’ve been reading for years. I don’t think one is right or one is wrong. In the same way, there’s no difference between those reading books electronically or paperbound. Hey, at least people are reading books.