Julie Frost, SFF writer (agilebrit) wrote,
Julie Frost, SFF writer

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Dear Publishers: What is wrong with Standard Manuscript Format?

Yes, yes. I've ranted about this before. At length. Well. I'm going to rant about it again, because it's getting more and more ridiculous.

Standard Manuscript Format. We all love it. It's ugly, but functional. It lends uniformity to our deathless prose. One-inch margins, double-spacing, name, story title, page number in the header, half-inch indent for paragraphs (via tab or ruler), first page with the contact info and word count. There's a few things up for grabs (two spaces after a period or one? Underlines or italics? It doesn't matter because those things are easy to change), but this is the standard for a professionally-prepared manuscript.

Unless you are a special snowflake.

I came across a market today (which shall remain unnamed). In their guidelines, they want:
  • 1.5 spacing (not double spacing, no, that would be too easy)
  • .3 indent (no tabs, use the ruler)
  • no header
  • very definite that they only want one space after a period
  • Times New Roman (yes, I realize that TNR is becoming as accepted as Courier New, but bleargh)
  • ETA: OH AND... a summary of the story. Kill me now.

I am going to assume that they also want italics rather than underlining, because that seems to be how they're rolling. But they didn't say so, perhaps assuming that modern writers don't use such outdated things. *snort*

And I look at guidelines like that, and make a o.O face, and then... don't submit, nine times out of ten. Because I am tired of ticky-tack guidelines that turn me into an unpaid typesetter for these people. And oh my God, but it seems like the less they pay, the more ticky-tack the formatting they want is! This is a small-press royalty antho. There's no guarantee I'll be paid anything at all!

I am also tired of having eight different files of the same damn story on my hard drive. PICK A FORMAT. I realize that publishing is in flux right now and everyone thinks that Word is a shiny toy they can play with, but... why do they insist on making my life more difficult than it already is?

The nice thing about Word is that I can make the stupid changes, save the file, send it, and then undo them back to my Standard file, especially for guidelines as ridiculous as this. But the weirdo formatting demands are becoming such that I don't even want to submit to these places unless they're offering pro rates or better. If you're going to throw wads of money at my head, sure, I'll format the damned thing in Papyrus or Comic Sans or friggin' Wingdings for you. "A share of the proceeds"? Ha, no, not unless I know you and I'm doing you a favor.
Tags: publishing, rants, writing business
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