About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Manilla Extract (My Life in Technology, Pt. 3)

So as I've mentioned in my posts this week, I've been taking on new clients very selectively.  And things have been going well enough for most of my long-time clients that I've usually been doing new contracts with current publishers.  I think it's possible that my last major multiple submission was over three years ago when I sent out Adam-Troy Castro's Emissaries from the Dead.

My, but the world has changed a lot since then.

Most major publishers have now given staff Sony Readers or other such things to do their reading on.  Pretty much everyone takes submissions electronically.  An entire big multiple submission was done without a single piece of paper.   And I read multiple drafts of the manuscript on my Kindle and the final little tweaks just looking for the track changes on my computer. 

Once upon a time, everything was on paper.  In the early years of JABberwocky, I would even do my own deliveries.  It saved an awful lot on postage.  It saved even more because a manuscript going through the mail needed a padded envelope while a manuscript which I delivered could get put into a cheaper manilla/brown kraft clasp envelope.  It got me out of the house for a few hours.  I was a young and energetic thirty-something and the bag would keep getting lighter as the manuscripts were dropped off.  It was a triple win scenario.

Now, I find myself thinking I should get faster broadband so the 1.6MB file can go out to an editor a few seconds more quickly.

But the problem is that I have these boxes of 11.5x14.5 manilla envelopes that I purchased pretty much for the soul purpose of having around to put in manuscripts to hand-deliver to publishers.  And now they're all going as electrons instead of as dead trees, so what am I going to do with 200 11.5x14.5 manilla envelopes?

On the other hand, because we don't have authors mailing us manuscripts very often, we find that we don't have enough small boxes.  We get big boxes of books from publishers, but if we want to mail a small box of books to an author...

Another part of this is the way that labor is transferred to different places.  I used to get royalty statements and contracts for foreign rights deals in the mail, ready to go into the file or off to the author.  Now a lot of these come in to me electronically, and I have to do the downloading and printing.  A few US publishers are starting to send me PDF files for contracts so they no longer print out as many and I print out more.  Some of these, I may e-mail in turn to the author, who now has to print out contracts that the agent used to print out.  But on the other hand often no longer has to print out a manuscript for agent to read.  And I now get to send manuscripts to the publishers electronically, so some publishers may trade printing out 4 copies of a 14 page contract for printing out chunks of a 497 page manuscript.

There's probably a doctoral dissertation in all of this, trying to identify the ultimate winners and losers from this giant shuffle in the publishing paperwork dance.

But there's no denying that I have hundreds of 11.5x14.5 manilla envelopes that I currently see no possible use for.

The times they are a changing!


The Decreed said...

I'll take them. Then I'll send two pages, my query and synopsis, in it right back to you. :)

Lisa Iriarte said...

Hee. Schools still use those envelopes, at least mine does. You could donate them.