Pub Rants

Creative Cost Cutting

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STATUS: I’m in the Caribbean this week—doing a vaca before the holidays. Yes, that made sense in some universe at the time that I booked the trip. So blogging might be spotty. I am, however, looking at a lovely blue ocean while holiday music plays over the speaker. Incongruous to say the least!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DO THEY KNOW IT’S CHRISTMAS? by Band Aid

I have to say that I’m all for creative cost cutting if that takes the place of lay-offs in the publishing industry.

This week Harlequin sent out an email firmly requesting that authors limit their manuscripts to 100,000 words and under. That will significantly save on paper and printing cost. Guess that means no epic historical romances a la the 1980s. Big grin here.

And the Penguin Group is finally doing what I think publishers should have done something like 5 years ago. They are converting all their computers to laptopTablet PCs with docking stations so that editors can read and edit (“handwrite” if they want to via electronic pen) comments into their authors’ manuscripts.

No more printing out pages. Comments electronically in track changes! Hooray. Fewer trees need to be sacrificed.

By the way, I’ve been doing tablet PCs since 2003. Part of the reason why we’ve been paper-free for the life of my agency.

25 Responses

  1. Jeremy D Brooks said:

    Thanks for the chuckle…I just got an image of an Ayn Rand-length novel with a hunky pirate on the cover.

    Do you think the writer>agent>editor>publisher chain will ever be completely digital? Seems easier in some ways, as long as you have the infrastructure behind it.

  2. Nikki Hootman said:

    Recessions are useful in that they force everyone to streamline their processes and cut wasteful and redundant garbage. Looks like the publishing industry’s finally hopping on.

    Here’s hoping all those literary agents who still won’t accept anything other than snail mail will decide to get with the program as well.

  3. Rosemary Carstens said:

    Maybe this is a good time to encourage all writers who are not highly computer literate to hone up their skills with classes, online or at your nearby library or community college–or wherever in your area instruction is offered. I work with a lot of authors to copyedit their manuscripts and to develop their book proposals and/or query letters. Being computer saavy, including effectively using the Track Changes feature of MS Word, and having an Internet presence will be just that much more essential in the tougher, more competitive market we face in the year ahead. No time like the present to jump in–having these skills is a part of your professional presentation! Good luck to all in 2009 with your publishing efforts! Rosemary Carstens

  4. The Writers Canvas said:

    Hey Kristin!

    Enjoy the beaches and balmy air! (She says, while snuggling into her fuzzy slippers even more as the Southeast imitates an ice rink!)

    Glad there’ll be less trees sacrificed. I like the electronic submission/comment process.

    By the way, your previous blog about Indie studios closing/laying off people makes me guess that you’re an Indie film fan. Not sure if you’re a Jim Morrison/Doors fan or not, but there’s an Indie documentary premiering at Sundance next month–the filmmaker is a friend of mine. I’m hoping it will bring some light back to Indies. My blog description on this film is below:

    Thanks and happy vacation!


  5. Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said:

    It’s long past time that publishers get with the program and use computers! I’ve been in publishing for almost 25 years now, which I suppose makes me a dinosaur, and yet as a freelance editor, I’ve been using computers for editing much longer than most publishers. Most of them have seemed to want to stay in the dark ages and do everything on dead trees. Maybe they see change as scary? Maybe they think progress is bad?

  6. Miriam S.Forster said:

    There are very few books, in my humble opinion, that couldn’t be improved by a 100,000 word limit. 🙂 If you don’t want to end the story, write a sequel. I love sequels!

    (Also, I can’t decide what makes me more jealous, that you’re in the Caribbean, or that you have a tablet PC.)

    Have fun!

  7. Joe Iriarte said:

    Ooh! A fellow tablet user!

    My employer went to tablets about five years or so ago. I’m a teacher, and I’d say that tablets are (i.e., can be) the most revolutionary advance for education since . . . um, writing. You know, letters and stuff. 😉 But only if you know how to use the technology. A lot–maybe most–of our teachers really never learned how to use any of the new features effectively, so most teachers just used the tablets as funny looking laptops. Four years later, the school decided this was an expensive experiment that had failed. We still have the tablets, but they’re not getting supported, and we have to cannibalize the ones we have when they break. We have plenty left over, though, because a good chunk of the staff was thrilled to trade in that thing they never understood for an old-fashioned laptop.


    I hope publishers don’t go the same route–an initial flurry of excitement followed by complaints and people not using the technology to anywhere near its full potential.

    For myself, I will never go back to teaching without one again. I bought myself a tablet for my home use, and if I ever work where tablets are unavailable, I’ll just use my own.

    I could gush more, but I’ll stop. 🙂

  8. Paul West said:

    ‘Bout time the publishing industry comes up to the 20th century. Maybe they’ll one day come up to the 21st. I’ve been wondering for a long time why they won’t accept electronic submissions. It just doesn’t make sense to keep killing trees, as someone above pointed out.

  9. MATTOB said:

    at 180,000 words trying to publish my debut I’m probably getting laughed off the stage. I still think if the book is good enough, then who cares how long (within reason).

    I wonder if Robert Jordan is still around…?

  10. Anonymous said:

    As an avid reader, I have to say while I mourn the loss of trees, I even more mourn the loss of a long (well-written) novel I can get my teeth into. I’m just warming up at 100,000 words. I adore losing myself in a book I can sit with for a while.


  11. Maprilynne said:

    My editor did a round of line edits and copy edits with me electronically. It was so easy and I was one of my only friends who didn’t have to decipher a zillion squiggles! i am all for it!

  12. Kristin said:

    Heidi, just to answer your question…buy Office for Mac and you can do track change in Word just like everyone else. 🙂

    If you are a student or have a student of any age in your household, you can buy the discounted student version of Office for Mac. Worth the price.

  13. Anonymous said:

    Dawn, I think this only applies to the single title lines. The other lines have already had their own separate word counts.

  14. Dawn Montgomery said:


    They haven’t changed their submission requirements on Eharl. I appreciate the information on the blog and rarely ask questions, but I wanted to clarify those two lines. I’m an avid reader and forum participant at Eharl, but some of the Luna authors hadn’t heard this…

    Thank you,

  15. stacy said:

    Being able to handwrite comments is one thing that keeps me from doing my first edits on screen. I hate having to stop and type comments, pulling me out of the story, during the initial getting-to-know-the-story stage.

    I’ve been line editing electronically for a few years, though, and it works because reading electronically, you concentrate more on a paragraph or two at a time, because that’s what you see on the screen. That’s probably what also keeps me from wanting to edit first drafts on-screen: for me as an editor, there is a difference between being able to shuffle through the pages and to see the whole page at once (or two pages, because I’ll print out 2 pages per sheet to save paper) and seeing a paragraph at a time.

    If the tablet PC solves that, I’d love to see it.

  16. Kathleen said:

    I know I’m late to the party… but this is one of the reasons I love your agency! Paperless is ALWAYS better! (And so much easier to keep up with!)

  17. dr.morbius said:

    Good lord, how I envy you. I wish my office at the University of Missouri would go paperless. While I’m wishing on a star, I’d like a pony, too.

    (In case you don’t recognize me, trust me, you know me from WAAAAY back. Send me some email when you realize who I am. None of the email addresses I have for you seem to work anymore. And say hi to Brian and Chutney for me, while you’re at it.).

  18. Beth said:

    (MATTOB — Fyi, Robert Jordan, age 58, died on September 16, 2007.)

    I believe every story has to find its own length, though admittedly I’ve read some novels that should have been trimmed and others that should have been longer.

    But I wonder if other publishers will begin to follow Harlequin’s lead. This does not bode well for those of us who write long and epic.