When an author submits work to a publisher, there are guidelines that must be followed, and they will always be very clear about what those guidelines are. Some of them are industry-wide. Some of them are also without merit and bordering on either absurdity or outright lies.
One demand that publishers seem to spew with regularity is that all manuscripts must be in a certain font; what is called a serif font. Serif fonts have those little tiny flourishes or extras on the letters. The most common one is Times New Roman. The number one argument is it’s easier to read. When publishers say Times New Roman is easier to read, what they really mean to say is, Times New Roman is what we have always used. (this is because that’s what the industry started with when typesetting involved little blocks in a frame which would
stamp one page at a time–it was too hard to make another set of blocks). But we’re in the digital age now and typesetting is easy and a variety of options are now available. Another reason is that Times New Roman is the only typeface available in the third world where they send these manuscripts to be typeset and printed. Cheap labor, cheap supplies. Another example of American Outsourcing.*
Moving on to word count. In recent years, the criteria for word count has increased. A standard novel was often around 60,000 words. Now publishers almost across the board demand 80,000
to 120,000 words in order for your book to even get a glance. My problem with this one does not stem from laziness or an inability to write that many words; it stems from the concept of being true to a story. Sometimes a story is best told in fewer words. I think a book should only be long enough to tell the story, and to impose a higher word count as a matter of course is a total dismissal of the art of storytelling. Even the most popular fiction writers have had to pad out their stories to meet this word count, and I don’t know about you, but I can tell. Who wants to read a three page description of a freakin’ sunset? Also, it makes sense that it would be cheaper for the publisher if the book was smaller. And aren’t people busier than ever? who has time to read these long ass books? I don’t, and I write books myself and read quite a lot.
My best friend, who’s also an author, believes it’s inherently psychological. Readers think they are getting more value for their money if the book is bigger. What they’re getting is unneeded exposition that doesn’t move the story, and often serves to bore the reader. Again, padding. I maintain that a story is as long as it needs to be. If a writer is thus shackled by a word count, aren’t we just screwing around with the literary arts? That’s like telling an artist he didn’t use enough paint to create his picture, and should use a different color, or should perhaps paint on something other than canvas. Who are they to tell the creative artist how to interpret or impart their muse?
I get so disgusted with this whole thing that I swear I’ll self-publish for the rest of my life. Then I can write what I want to write, how I want to write it, tell the story that needs to be told in the space it needs to do so, and I’ll use the typeface that my research tells me is most legible and easy on the eyes, and I’ll buck convention and write sarcastic and funny things within the copyright page because I bloody well want to, and not because some big brother publishing establishment tells me otherwise.
I have vented.
I feel better.
But only a little.
*since this writing, i have begun to use Palatino Linotype across the board. It’s a compromise. I’m not completely stone-headed.