Monday, March 12, 2012

Huh?

Just this morning a writer sent me a requested full manuscript in a chapter-by-chapter attachment.  One email (thank all deities large and small) but containing 17 attached files: one for each chapter.

Of course I wrote back and said: "One file to rule them all by gollum, and don't you forget it my preciousssss."

But I'm deeply perplexed by this strategy. It's akin to sending one chapter per envelope by snail mail.

I can't think of a single reason that you'd ever do this unless the agent specifically requested it.  Sending individual chapters means I have to open each file, copy and paste each one into a master document, make sure I got ALL the files, redo the headers and footers, make sure the pagination is correct and then save it. Am I EVER going to do that? Sure: if you're #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list and are my client.  And that is IT.

If you've got any insight into why writers do this, I'm interested in hearing it.

39 comments:

Rebecca Clare Smith said...

I used to do it before I understood how to navigate MS Word chapter by chapter via headings. Perhaps that's simply the case here?

Lydia Sharp said...

Maybe they wrote it that way and didn't realize they're supposed to put everything into a single, complete file when it's done. Or they don't know how. Those are just guesses because I'm honestly baffled.

Inez Kelley said...

Many writers do one chapter per file for critique purposes with other writers or to keep their daily word counts/chapter sizes consistent. But by not combining and formatting them into a single file for submission is a newbie mistake and an embarrassing one at that.

Mandy said...

As an editor, I face this all the time and it frustrates the heck out of me. The only thing I can think of is that they don't know how to use Word properly and don't want to admit it. Whenever this happens (and it has just happened with a new ms), I know that the author will need hand holding through the editorial process. No help to you but I share your frustration.

otin said...

Some writers are having trouble adjusting to the computer age. When you see strange methods it's usually because they can't figure out how to do it another way. I don't think anyone would do that on purpose.

Gary Corby said...

Author works chapter by chapter, as others suggested, and it never occurred to him/her that anyone else would do differently.

OR

Author has an unusually slow and old computer, in which case opening a 90,000 word document is unwieldy and smaller document sizes are indicated.

OR

Author uses an obscure feature of Word called master documents, and subdocuments that are embedded in the master. If so, there's a master file amongst the many attachments, and if you open it, all the other chapter files will automagically appear. (I've never seen this feature used for any document less than thousands of pages long.)

OR

Author wrote the book in Google Docs or some other system that can't cope with big files.

GalaktioNova said...

I remember an editor complain once about a ms where _every page_ was a separate file.

I personally write every scene as a separate file as it helps a lot with edits, but naturally, once finished, I put the book back together. :-)

Janet Reid said...

Galaktio...oh my GODIVA!! Every page!!! As the kids are saying now: "ZOINKS!"

Lesley said...

Maybe the writer was hoping to grab your attention by being different and interesting. It kind of worked, didn't it? Except it's also irritated you, which isn't such a good idea.

Bonnee Crawford said...

Depending on the size of the attachment, sometimes it won't let you upload one that's too big? I dunno, I'm not a computer wiz. If I were to send something chapter by chapter I'd probably be thinking 'so the reader doesn't have to keep remembering which page they were up to, they can just finish the chapter and start the next one the next day' or something along those lines. But I understand the one document idea would be more sufficient when it comes to transferring documents from one place to the other. Better have 1 than half a bajillion which you might forget part of.

Rick Bylina said...

I send one chapter per file because I want agents to remember me. It could be the reason I have 527 rejections (three from you) for my novel. But I doubt it: the book is brilliant. However, this strategy is all part of a master plan. If I flood you with enough files, you might start to write a blog about me, generating potential interest in my story about giant slugs taking over the world by slowly absorbing the slow and infirm.

But, I could also just have a MacII that can't handle any large files.

Keisha Martin said...

I don't mean to be insensitive, but this sounds so bizarre, as an aspiring author I have never done this, well right now I am only sending my editor chapters so she can edit it and then return it to me then I revise, rewrite and do it all over again.
However, at the end of the whole process I must put the manuscript back say a prayer and query it, but you requested this manuscript so I don't get why on Earth that writer did that, your right unless they are NYT or other notable bestseller list and your client you will make the exception.

Agents say many times they are far too busy and if the writer that sent you this didn't know manuscript 101 which are many but in this situation She/He should have put the darn thing back, getting a request is like a diamond in a haystack, or was that pin nonetheless its important I think to know the process so one doesn't lose the opportunity.

Charley said...

Maybe their email service won't accept large attachments, and the only way to get things out is in small chunks. Easy to switch to gmail or whatever to get over that problem, though.

Huntress said...

I saw this in another agent's submission guidelines, "Send chapters in one attachment".

I thought it was akin to 'remove plastic wrap over pizza before inserting in oven'.

Joyce Tremel said...

I don't get why anyone would do this. Even if I'm sending someone chapters for critique, I copy and paste them into a separate document.

Zoinks is right!

Steven J. Wangsness said...

To quote an old Seinfeld episode (George to Elaine), "Have you considered just asking him?" 'Cuz otherwise you're never going to know why, and it'll drive you crazy. It's already driving me crazy, and I'm not even emotionally invested in the deal.

Isaiah Campbell said...

The first book I ever wrote was written with separate files for chapters. I used a macro to combine all the chapters into one file before I sent it out. Ah, those were the days.

Now, since I write a lot on my smartphone or tablet, I use Google docs, and it's much easier to just keep it in one file.

Meg E Dobson said...

Such kind comments, so I'll be brave and blunt... Stupidity, and a waste of a golden agent opportunity. Even I know better.

More power to you if you persevere.

Kristine said...

yeah, agreeing with everyone else up there. I used to have separate files for each chapter before I discovered Scrivner, but I wouldn't send a novel to a friend that way, so I've no idea why I would send it to someone to whom I was attempting to appear professional.

Ali Trotta said...

That is very strange. First, inconvenient to you to read (obviously). Second, attaching those chapters by hand? Erm, tedious to say the least.

Reagan Philips said...

I'm still laughing about your perfect delivery of the "one file to rule them all . . ." statement.

*wipes away an after-laugh tear*

Malin said...

I used to work with my manuscripts like this because it was easier to double check things because I could have two different files open (no need to scroll up and down) so maybe the author works like that too and just didn't realise how odd it was to send it like that?

Redleg said...

I have a thought. If at some point an agent requested a single chapter as an attached file from this author, the author may have gotten the idea that all chapters should be individual files. Makes as much sense as anything else on this thread (except for the suggestion that kids still say, "Zoinks.")

Jill Bonnar said...

I did break mine up into chapter by chapter files, but that was for my own OCD while writing it. I felt it was more organized and I could refer back to specific scenes with ease. But as for sending it to an agent that way? Never. Every bit of advice I've gotten says to sent it all together with your query letter. Always follow specifications.

Terri Coop said...

I'm not surprised at all. Writer was not knowledgeable enough and technically comfortable enough to do it correctly. I often have people buy several items off my website or ebay page and pay for them one at a time. On one, I had to open and transcribe 45 PayPal receipts to get the order straight. Since there was cash involved, I did it.

Let's just say there was a legitimate file transfer problem. Before taking a virtual knife and hacking preciousssss into seventeen pieces, an email asking how best to proceed would definitely be in order.

To build on another commenter, when you find a diamond in the haystack, you pick it up out of the hay, rather than deconstructing the stack around it.

Terri

Amy Ashley said...

My guess would be that they wrote it on Scrivener or some other program which breaks a manuscript into chapter segments. They may not understand how to operate Scrivener's "compile" feature, or may not like how it formats the document. I know when I switched from Pages to Scrivener, it took a while to sort the new program out.

I'd take the time to lay it into a single doc by hand even if I didn't know how to do it in a click of the mouse, but perhaps this author got kerfuffled from the full request. That tends to be an overwhelming feeling!

Jane | @janelebak said...

When I requested the edited files of my first novel back from the publisher, they sent it back to me as 26 files, each one individual chapter.

If that was someone's only experience of publishing, I can see where they might think that was necessary.

(Either that or maybe they're still working on an IBM 286 with 520K of RAM.)

Debra Lynn Lazar said...

Baffled.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

My best guess is the only reason a writer would do such a bonehead thing is because (s)he didn't know how to convert the individual chapter files into a single whole book file. (I'm thinking I'd better learn how to do that, huh?)

Jearl Rugh said...

I have used the Word Master Doc feature 'cause in the early creation stage it's easy to rearrange chapters. But when it's all done, it rolls into one (rhyme intended). Even then, a 350 page novel is less than half a megabyte. Should be no problem emailing it. I would never trouble and agent to reconstuct my novel, unless, of couse, I was a bestseller.

Bellamama said...

There is only one reason that this happens. The writer was lazy.

Charli Armstrong said...

I'm with Gary Corby on this one. I can't imagine someone would do that on purpose.

Whirlochre said...

At least you didn't get a 150,000 word historical novel bundled as individual letters and punctuation marks along with a curt note saying, "apols - bit rushed - sort these out yourself"...

stacy said...

The only thing I can think of is if the author's email program would not accept one (large) file. But I think the author would then have to not only break the manuscript into chapters, but send those chapters over a series of separate emails. Other than that, I don't know. Maybe the author is such a novice s/he didn't know better. I'm guessing there's some forehead smacking going on, and not just on your end.

Steve Stubbs said...

I think I know the answer. The writer was thinking you had seen every bonehead, nitwit, screwball thing imaginable, and, being the creative person he is (I say "he" because it can't be a woman), he said to himself: "ZOINKS! I'll show that lady! ZOINKS!"

Then he sent it in seventeen files. Case closed.

ZOINKS!

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

No Word doc would be so large (over 10 megs) that it would be too large to e-mail unless the book were just the most enormous thing ever. That said, Word docs are still very fat, with a lot of extra coding and stuff that's simply not needed. I write in Open Office and save as a word doc and my files are about a tenth the size of a similar doc created in Word.

But however the author created the document, there is simply no excuse for such a fundamental goof. Any retailer will tell you one of the tricks to sales is making it easy for the customer to buy. In this case the author is trying to sell you his product, and anything he does to make it harder for you is a giant mistake.

A3Writer said...

I had a brief stint on Authonomy (but no longer), and they required each chapter be in a separate file. Maybe the author is in a similar community.

John Lucas Hargis said...

A3Writer beat me to it.

A quick search for the title on Authonomy would check this theory.

(As though you'd care enough to do that...lol)

Buzz Malone said...

Perhaps each chapter is a literary island unto itself, capable of evolving into a stand alone classic, and yet also capable of being strung together into a series. Sounds like a brilliant marketing strategy if you ask me.