How Writers Deliver to Publishers

Authors now use electronic submission to their articles and book publishers instead of snail mail or overnight delivery to meet their final deadlines

A literary agent and author discusses how writers deliver their manuscripts to articles and book publishers. Methods have ranged from snail mail and overnighted hard copy to email attachments.

Believe it or not, much of my first published book, a novel, was written on a manual typewriter by the light of a kerosene lantern.

Before you imagine me sitting in a rough-hewn log cabin with a dirt floor, let me hasten to add that I was writing my manuscript during a series of bad winter storms that regularly knocked out our electricity, forcing me to abandon my beloved IBM Selectric for a manual typewriter.

Delivery methods before computers

Manual or electric, typewriters did not have memories. Nor did we have affordable copy machines. Delivering a manuscript meant hand-typing clean text.

In those days, published authors had to create at least 3 identical copies of their text. The book publisher would require the top copy plus one clean carbon copy. This meant using at least 2 messy carbons per manuscript page, so that the author could retain one copy as a backup.

One could have a couple minor corrections per page, provided that they were well executed, which meant white-out on not just the top sheet, but also on the carbon copies. This was easier said than done, as scrolling up or down for access to the errors usually meant the sheets got misaligned and were ruined. Getting to the bottom of the page and discovering you’d typed into the bottom margin meant starting all over again. Frustrating, indeed!

The reason that book publishers required at least two hard copies was so that the editor could manually make notes on both copies, mailing one back to the author and retaining one for herself. Then the edited manuscript went to a highly-paid typesetter who began the process of creating the actual published books.

Authors enter the computer age

Once computers were available, publishers began to require that an author compose their work on a computer and deliver their material both in hard-copy as well as floppy disks, then 3.5 inch disks, then CDs.

In the past, some book publishers required my clients to not only deliver electronically, but they would even go so far as to specify in their contract that the author must compose their text on a PC (not an Apple platform) using only particular versions of Word that would match their software. I’ve had Mac-owning clients who had to borrow a PC in order to meet this contract requirement. Fortunately, this has changed.

From the writer’s fingers to the published page, all via electronics

Now book publishing has become so advanced that authors can compose on either PC or Mac computers using almost any word processing software.  Forget hard copy or disks or CDs, instantaneous delivery of the final manuscript via  attachment is the norm.

Editing is now being done on the attachment and emailed back to the author or else the author accesses it on the publisher’s website.  After the editing is complete, the author’s typed text goes directly into the publisher’s specialized software for layout, ready for printing.

Copyright 2006 by Barbara Doyen. All rights reserved.

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