Pulling Big Publishers into the 20th Century

In the early 1990s when I was launching my career as a novelist, I began work on an Apple //e, then graduated to a Mac. For my first four novels, I had computer text files (ASCII) of my manuscripts…but I was distressed that my publishers could not accept them. They didn’t have the facility.  Instead, my first four novels were *rekeyed by hand* from the printed manuscripts (which introduced a whole host of new typos, no matter how clean MY manuscript was in the first place).

Later, in 1993, my assistant editor from Bantam came out to stay with us on a vacation; she looked at my home office which had a fax machine, a small photocopier, a laser printer, and my desktop computer—and she was amazed.  ”You’ve got as much high-tech stuff here as we have on our whole floor at Bantam!”


Last week I signed a new contract with a major publisher, and I won a victory for modern authors everywhere. For the first time, my agent was able to secure major concessions by striking the following clauses:

•  That I am required to submit a typewritten manuscript on bond paper (typed on one side of the paper only) and a carbon copy.

•  That I am required to deliver an electronic file on a computer floppy diskette.

I have signed contracts with this publisher before, under the previous terms, and always just rolled my eyes and thought it was silly.  This time, however, I decided to dig my heels in and grew more intractable.  Yes, it may sound amusing, but in actuality this is a legally binding contract and the terms required me to deliver the manuscript in that format. It was just nonsense.  So, I am pleased to have accomplished this.

The sad part?  It took my agent eight weeks of hard negotiations to wring this concession out of them. I want my publishers to be adept, forward-thinking, and facile with the rapidly changing world of publishing. I wish I could be more optimistic.