New here - Questions on MS Word version

I’m purchasing a Mac laptop - and of course, Scrivener (which I think I’m more excited about than the Mac, :laughing: ).
I do want to make the best impression possible on agents/editors. Forgive me if this has been asked. I did find a post that emphasizes to use MS Word - always, always, always - in order to ensure consistency and the ability to track changes. I agree. Why take any chances?
My question is, should I purchase MS Word 2008 Student and Home edition for the Mac, or can I export to a .doc file and transfer the completed file to my PC (I own a copy of MS Word 2000 and 2007 for the PC).

While I’m at it, I’d love to hear your opinions - Do any of you have a preference as to your Mac laptop’s screen size when working with your manuscripts and Scrivener? I won’t be connecting it to an external monitor.

Thank you so much.

You should be able to export a .doc from Scrivener and then open/edit it fine on your PC version of Word, though you might want to re-save it - Scriv actually outputs an RTF and names it .doc, which is legitimate for Word, but it might restrict what you can do once you start formatting/editing. I don’t know the full ins and outs of this, so I always ‘play safe’ and re-save the doc from within Word. Others may know more in detail.

That said, of course, it means you’ll have to switch to your PC for everything past the initial draft, which is a ghastly thought :wink: Where are you buying the laptop from? You might want to look into any deals the retailer has on bundling or discounting Office 2008 with a new purchase.

Re screen size, I have a 13" MacBook, and use Scrivener on it all the time. I maximise Scriv, naturally, but I have the Binder and Inspector panes permanently open, and I don’t find the small screen a hindrance at all.

Thanks, Anthony!

I’ll ask about special offers. I’m probably buying from Apple, not sure yet. I don’t really mind opening it on the PC and making sure it’s okay. Funny thing is, I work on PCs for a living, and I really want a Mac to write my next novel. Long story there, LOL! What a pain it was to write my current novel in Word. And outlining in Excel and tables for character specs… <rips hair out, runs to liquor cabinet>

The geek in me fell in love with Leopard and I made up my mind I’d buy a Mac laptop - still considering which to get, though. Then my mouth fell when I researched Scrivener. I couldn’t run the demo enough.

MS Office 2008 plays nice with PC Office 2007 (That new office format .docx)

There are some drawbacks to Office 2008 and some small incompatibilities with the PC version.

One thing is find out what version is used by the agent/editor.

PS: you can install XP SP2 or Vista on the Mac Laptop if you partition the HD using Bootcamp. But of you use NTFS on the “windows side” then on the Mac side the partition will be read only UNLESS you use a third party utility.

Or you may look into VM Fusion or Parallels to run your “PC” Office on your mac so that way you are not swapping files between two computers but rather between OSes on just your laptop.

That way you can save the money on buying OFFICE 2008 if you are fine using the “PC” version and rather invest in a VM solution or a bootcamp alternative.

Depends on your workflow.

If that makes any sense?

Wock - yes, makes perfect sense. I think I’d prefer to pipe the file over to the pc (for now, at least). I work with VM ware at work, and I shudder to think of doing such a thing to my brand new Mac PowerBook Pro, LOL! (just got it last night). If I must, I’d break down and buy the MS 2007 for Mac. The current manuscript I’ll keep on the PC and any edits will be done there. The new WIP might make me go out and buy the Mac version - eventually. As long as Scriv and the MS version on the PC get along, I’ll limp along the cheap way first.

As soon as I land an agent, I’ll be sure to ask how they prefer to exhange the doc. Whatever they say, goes of course. The manuscript is out there with 3 agents, so I’ve got all appendages crossed and trying to stay focused on the new WIP. I’m really excited to start porting over the new WIP into Scriv. No more files and spreadsheets everywhere.

It’s whoever ends up publishing/editing you that you should check with for compatibility. Your agent won’t care if you write it in cuneiform on clay tablets, so long as it sells :wink:

For submitting to either an agent or a publisher, the format I recommend is PDF.
Why? Because it’s an exact copy of your MS, and nobody can alter it.
Well, if they owned Adobe Acrobat, they could, but most don’t have that know-how.
After you’ve reached an agreement or signed a contract, then it’s OK to share a DOC version.
Because at that point, they will request changes, and you will begin the back-and-forth that is the merry road to publishing.

DOC files don’t look the same on Mac and PC systems. Often the page definitions differ, pictures get out of alignment, headers or footers will change. It’s best to submit a PDF version, which others may read on screen or in print.

I use Parallels with multiple VM. I would not hesitate to suggest it for simplicity of this activity.

Regarding the VMware issues… Mac != Microsnot

I think that should explain a lot.

The best format is the one the publisher or agent prefers. The annoyance caused by any other format can have negative consequences up to and including silent deletion of the file. That’s especially true when you don’t have an existing relationship with them.

If format shifting in DOC files causes problems, that may very well mean that your formatting is too complex to begin with. Unless otherwise specified, use the simplest formatting that will convey the necessary information. Anything else will just mess up the publisher’s page layout program anyway. Personally, I would recommend ignoring all of Word’s advanced page layout functions. (Margins, headers, and footers are probably okay, but that’s about it. Even foot/endnotes are risky.)


I agree 100% with Katherine. In my experience, any file format that the editor/publisher didn’t ask for, or you didn’t agree with them in advance, is a black mark. I submit comic scripts in PDF all the time, because I’m established and have long-standing relationships with my editors. When I was starting out, it was .doc all the way because that’s what they asked for.

And I’ve never met a prose editor who wants PDF. They all want .doc, so that’s what I give them. Two points to elaborate on this:

[1] As Katherine says, if you have strange formatting that will be ruined by font changes, then your ms is too complex. Pictures, graphs, formulae and so on should be done as separate documents, with a [fig 1] style reference in the ms. You’re writing for an editor here, not a reader. Editors understand the difference between ‘raw copy’ and the published article.

(I 100% guarantee that Danielewski didn’t submit his original ms for HOUSE OF LEAVES with five fonts, two colours, cut-up galleys and mirror-writing :wink: )

[2] Sorry, Druid, but the idea that you should make a PDF so that nobody can alter it is misguided. No professional editor asks for a .doc because they want to pile in and start correcting your grammar, or changing your words. Professional editors never do this without consulting you first. They may, however, want to change your wacky font into times roman, or change the line height, or whatever, before printing it out to read (I have also never met an editor who reads 500pp mss on screen!). You’re not ‘protecting’ your submission by making it a PDF, you’re just potentially giving the editor a headache.

The above notwithstanding, the most important thing remains that you should ask your editor what format they want it in, and submit in that format. Anything else is simply unprofessional, and will garner you a bad rep faster than you can say “I am a unique and special snowflake”…

“faster than you can say “I am a unique and special snowflake”…”

Yippee. I’ve been looking for a faster way of explaining that I am a unique and special snowflake. That’s what LOTS of people who work with me say about me.

Except they leave off the “unique” and the “special” and, now I think of it, the “snow” parts.

But I agree. Churning out the stuff at one’s desk can be oddly disorienting, inspiring fantasies about the Lone & Godlike Creator etc. But the truth is, it’s a collaborative enterprise. Giving publishers mss. in whatever format they want is part of the trade, just like showing up for bookshop talks even if they only sell six copies, being friendly to the sales reps, explaining in advance if you need to push the deadline (I speak from grim recent experience here) and all the rest of it. God knows, if someone came up with the right software I’d ditch Scrivener in a flash and go over to Cuneiform, but I’d not expect publishers to agree.


Perhaps true in your experience, but in mine the current standard is PDF, not DOC. I’m currently in a round of submissions, and the agent wants only PDF files to circulate. She says that most New York acquisition editors do, in fact, read files on the screen. If and when we sign, the line editors will get DOC files.

Well, that’s an eye-opener. You can be pretty certain, though, that if they’re reading it on screen, that means they’re not reading the whole ms. Which is to be expected of acquisition eds, I suppose…

Well my two cents.

I make my living Printing. I agree completely that you should first verify with the publisher/agent on format BEFORE submission for many reasons.

The biggest is this. Depending on their workflow can either make things run smoothly or cause a nightmare for the printer. The reason why many publishers/agents request .doc is not really for the editing/changes features but rather that the Printer (publisher) will use the files to import the raw data for impostitioning to a final piece for running on the press. They usually request certain fonts and sizes so that their automated impostition “flags” these and changes these on the fly to the Book (final piece) settings. Such as 12 pt courier being converted to 10 point Times RomanPS etc.etc.etc.

Not all shops (printers/publishers) are the same and have different software and workflows. Some can extract the data right from a PDF where others are setup to use .doc only.

Some shops want their PDFs set to a certain size and output setting (PDFs are all not the same) once again it all depends on on the Printer/Publisher and the final job they are printing. They ay impostition the final PDFs but they better be exact to size and settings or the impositioning could be thrown off screwing up the job and delaying things and costing more.

So ask and make sure BEFORE submitting because if it is the wrong format and you convert to another format late in the editing approval stages then misprints or delays could occur because everything would have to be reproofed and approved before they put it on the press.

A rule of thumb I would advise is this. Anytime you are setting up something that someone else is going to print TALK to them and find out exactly how they want things before you do ANYTHING.

A prime example is when people have pictures (raster) they wish to print. They usually bring in something that the resolution is too low or already screened (been printed before). This is a nightmare. Or they have ungodly high resolution pictures that delay the printing

People ask “Well what resolution should I scan or take my pictures at?” It varies but here is how you find out.

It is a simple equation.

Final Resolution (PPI or as most call it now DPI) = 2 X the line screen (LPI) of the output device at Final size. or simply put
DPI=2XLPI@ Final Size

Now you need to find out the LPI from your Printer/Publisher (If you can’t find this out you can use the scale below)

Most newspapers and Fiction books are printed at
85 - 133 LPI (use 133 if unsure)

Most standard magazines and commercial Printers print at
133- 150 LPI (use 150 if unsure)

Most high end digital prints and high end art catalogs and magazines print at
175 -210 LPI (use 200 if unsure)

The most common of all is 150 LPI so if you have no clue use 150 LPI

So a picture that is 4x6 and its final size will be 4x6 and our LPI is 150 the equation looks like this

DPI = 2x150 = 300 DPI I need to scan at or set the resolution to when the picture is 4x6"

Now if you need to enlarge the picture there is one extra step

Let us say the actual picture is 2x3 but we need to enlarge it to 4x6 for printing. We find out how much we need to enlarge it by in a percentage. Which would be 200%

So now the formula is
DPI=(2 X LPI) x Percent (which is 2.0)

So now we have a 2x3 color picture we need to scan for printing and it will be 4x6 when printed. We are printing 150 Line Screen (LPI) so the formula comes out to this.

DPI= (2 X 150) x 2.0
DPI= 300 x 2.0
DPI= 600

Crazy huh? Now imagine when I do a catalog that has 800 photos. :slight_smile:

If all else fails use 300 DPI at a size that is close or slightly LARGER than the final piece and you will be OK.

That is how you get really NICE pictures printed by following that formula.

Why did I go through this long and exausting explaination. Simple.

Most people just bring in Photos that are already scanned and set in resolution BEFORE asking the printer/publsiher what the specs or requirements were.

SO then we have to go thorugh each picture and “adjust” them which takes more time, costs the client a lot more money and delays the due date of the final printed piece.

That is because most people do not know the complexities of printing.

Now your publisher is a printer. That is the most costly overhead is actually printing.

Play it safe and ask for something (Spec sheet whatever) that lists EXACTLY how they want the document submitted. That will save much time during and after the approval process. Believe me Much time.


Speaking as an acquisitions editor who, like most of us these days, reads submissions primarily on-screen (and whose agent sends out my book submissions to NY publishers as either Word files or PDFs, depending on what format a specific publisher prefers), I don’t find any qualitative and very little quantitative differences between on-line manuscript reading and paper manuscript reading.

Most of us can tell within the first few paragraphs if we’ve read enough, or need to read more. We pretty much have to, given the number of submissions we all get. When I was in books, I probably looked at 30-40 manuscripts a week, and bought 25 a year. In magazines, I look at 35-100 submissions a week and buy about 50 a year. That’s a lot of sifting chaff to find the grain, and anything that streamlines and economizes the process is welcome.

I don’t know anyone who can read 40 500-page manuscripts a week and still have time to edit (still averaging 1000 words per hour, on-screen or on paper), meet with marketing, promotions, sales, suits, maybe eat lunch and sleep a few hours.

The best thing about reading manuscripts on-screen: No immense piles of dead paper to dispose of, or to mail back to the author.

I checked with a friend who acquires nonfiction in NYC. He wants to see (typical of nonfiction buys) an outline, two sample chapters, and a short cover letter. If he likes it, he’ll get in touch and ask for the whole thing–paper and Word file on CD.

Ahab, I think perhaps a certain level of intended tongue-in-cheekness didn’t come over in that last post. I know acquisition eds don’t read full mss, and I wouldn’t expect them to, for the reasons you give - most of the time there’s no need, and all of the time there’s, well, no time.

Which is why it’s fine for them to read them on screen, of course. My (original) point was that worrying about keeping the precise formatting via PDF is a bit pointless, regardless of whether it’s going to be read on screen or off.

Which was also my original point :wink:

Ah, it’s like the 2000s never happened…

Heh. I was in a technical seminar today where the presenting author, to the amusement of his audience, talked about papers between 1999 and 2001 as “around the turn of the century.”