Pub Rants

No Two Editors Are Alike

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STATUS: It’s super late here but I’m just getting this blog in under the wire Denver time.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? D’YER MAK’ER by Led Zeppelin

I had lunch and several meetings with the editors of Bloomsbury/Walker Children’s today. It was a day at the Flatirons.

And the adage couldn’t be more true. No two editors are alike.

I asked them to name the top 5 things they don’t want to see in a children’s submission.

One editor said “no more vampires.”

But the other editor said, “I’m still good; send me the vampires” (but she says she is “slightly tired” of trolls in middle grade fiction).

I have to say that for troll fiction, I have not seen nary a one.

Top five list for Editor A:

1. No more girl stories with famous dad, friend, family member or other. Give her a couple of years and then she’ll be game to see Hollywood insider stories again.

2. No teaching a lesson
(and let me add for the record that saying such in your query letter is always the kiss of death at the Nelson Agency. We are interested in the story you want to tell; not the moral you’d like to teach. Blech!)

3. Time travel is not this editor’s cup of tea (but the other editor says to bring it on).
Once again proving that an agent’s knowledge is often key concerning who is the right fit for a manuscript.

4. No more vampires, please.

5. No more comparisons of Harry Potter meets anything (and the same can be said about the Twilight series).
Darn it all. When are the other agents going to compare their submissions to the Gallagher Girls?

Editor B:

1. No including a sales or marketing plan where you tell the publisher how the book should be published.
(Gee, can’t imagine why that would go over like a lead balloon)

Dang I’m funny this late at night…

2. This needs to go to Oprah.
(Just in case you folks didn’t know, Lady O only does adult trade books).

3. No comparisons to Harry Potter
(hum… where did I hear that before?)

4. For picture/chapter books, please refrain from feeling the need to provide cover illustration done by a friend or Uncle Bob or better yet, your nephew. In fact, no “drawings” are necessary.
(Learning moment: Publishers hire the illustrator—not the author.)

5. If it’s over 400 pages (and first ask the question why your YA or middle grade is that long), but if it is, don’t send the whole thing. A couple of chapters will suffice.

Common sense that is perhaps not so common.

‘night all.

18 Responses

  1. Heidi the Hick said:

    I went to a writers workshop last month. Inevitably someone tells the class that they’ve got a marketing plan for their book and a cover and cities they’d like to do a book tour through. This happens all the time and usually the book isn’t even finished yet. The whole class looks defiant or disappointed or both when the instructor tells the class that it’s NOT DONE THAT WAY.

    I think a lot of writers want to impress, and believe that they’ll look more informed if they have this big plan ready to go. I suspect many don’t want to give up creative control of their book- the covers, illustration, etc. Personally I think it’s a relief. All I have to do is write. And, of course, stay informed about what this industry really wants from me.

    Blogs like this one have been so good for my education.

  2. Pam Halter said:

    At the last couple of conferences I attended, we were pounded with “you have to have a way to market your book.” We’re being told it’s the author’s responsiblity to sell the book. The publishing houses are not doing it anymore.

    This could be the reason so many people are sending in a marketing plan with their proposals.

    I have even seen the request in some submission guidelines for what kind of plan you have to help market your book.

    The main thing is to read and learn the submission guidelines for each individual publishing house and follow them. They will let you know what they want.

  3. Anonymous said:

    I ditto Pam Halte’s comments above. Every writer’s conference I’ve attended had a huge number of workshops with titles like: “How to Promote Your Book Because Your Publisher Won’t.”

    I’m glad Kristin is having a super time in NY, it’s fun to read what her days are like. It seems like what a lot of the editors are telling her, though, can change on a whim. If they get a couple of books from their wish list — like the previous post’s need for huge commercial girl book with solid writing, don’t they just move on to their next whim? Say, a boy book that’s literary?

    Hard to keep up, no?

  4. Anonymous said:

    Actually, it’s refreshing to hear any editor at all tell us NOT to provide a marketing plan. More and more in the adult divisions, the publishers expect us to change hats, tell them how to sell our book, to whom, when, and in what manner. To which most of us say, “If I’d wanted to go into marketing, I’d have GONE into marketing.”

    So what is it these YA publishers know that adult trade publishers no longer know? And can we please have some cross pollination, so the rest of us can stop wasting so much energy putting together marketing plans that no publisher’s going to actually use anyway?

    Slightly exasperated in Indiana

  5. Anonymous said:

    I’m actually not surprised that editors are telling authors and agents not to spend their time (especially at that stage of the game) on marketing plans–I imagine they’re much more concerned about the books.

    In fact, the only people I hear talking about how “authors have to sell their own books” and “you’ve got to have a marketing plan if you’re going to have a career” are other authors–especially at conferences–as if it’s possible to self-promote your way onto the bestseller lists.

    But I don’t think a person can ever self-promote their way to a breakout book. I do, however, think a person can WRITE their way to that point in their career.

    But I never hear THAT at conferences. I guess it’s just easier to say “my publisher didn’t do anything to sell my book” than it is to say “I wrote a book that didn’t sell.”

  6. Anonymous said:

    Question for the thread about YA marketing proposals … I have a YA book on submission right now at a major house. It’s kind of a strange situation, in that the book has already been through committee, and I’ve been working with the editor since October on revisions. They wanted to see a rewrite before they considered an offer. The revised draft is back at committee right now, so we’re waiting on the word.

    So … I sent my agent a few ideas for marketing this book, and he called and said he wanted to forward my e-mail to the editor. He said it would show them that 1) I’m thinking of ways to help sell it, and 2) I’ve got a few specific markets in mind.

    But now I’m reading here that YA publishers don’t want marketing plans, and in fact, bristle at the notion. This is pretty much the opposite from what my agent told me, and now I’m nervous. Anybody have thoughts?


  7. Anonymous said:

    Editor A is talking about the book — the subject, the characters, the voice.

    Editor B is talking about all the peripheral stuff, don’t mention Oprah, don’t include your own illustrations, etc…

    So Editor B must be an editor that accepts nonagented material? Surely AGENTS aren’t making those terrible “Oprah will love this” propostiions, are they?

  8. Stuart said:

    So, my YA “Harry Potter meets the Troll beneath the bridge” yarn is not going to go over well? But he’s such a nice troll, not like his internet cousins….

    Kristin, are you meeting with any (epic) Fantasy editotrs this week?

  9. desponding in the west said:

    Hey, how about the Troll on the Internet, kind of Tron meets Shrek…wait he was an ogre wasn’t he?
    I too would be really interested in hearing if editors are still taking epic fantasy or anything Jordanesque these days.

  10. Anonymous said:


    About how long should a novel from a new writer be for the teen market? I heard an agent at a Surrey Writers’ Conference a couple years ago say 60,000 words.

    Mark in the Seattle area

  11. Lorilei said:

    I randomly came across your blog (via an interview) by Googling DPI. I just applied to the program and have yet to hear back. Could you spare some advice in the event that I don’t get in? I really want to stay in the Houston area but I’m having a hard time finding any book publishing companies. Also, if I do get lucky and find one, I’m not sure how to get my foot in the door.

    Lorilei Espinola

  12. Anonymous said:

    Lurker: I wouldn’t be nervous. If you went with a reputable agent with contacts, I’m sure he knows what the particular editor in question would be interested in. Trust your agent.

    Anon requesting high concept… your question was answered in the comments to Friday’s blog.

    Personally, I’m pleased to know that no two editors are the same. Not only does this mirror the reality of no two readers being the same, but it allows writers to pretty much tell whatever story they want.

    As for the marketing issue… even if a publisher asks for your input in how to market the book, don’t argue with them about the best methods. That is NOT going to go over well. And I don’t think Kristin was saying not to market yourself at all; in fact, a previous post indicated that we should all have websites for soon-to-be released work.

  13. Anonymous said:

    “And the adage couldn’t be more true that no two editors are ever alike.”

    They are alike? Ever alike? Oh… never 🙂 It’s nice to see that even agents have the minor typo now and then. Still, I will be very careful with my query letters, since there is a far greater need for proper spelling in them 🙂

  14. La Gringa said:

    The number one thing guaranteed to make you in-house publicist hate you without ever having met you is to email her or call her and say “I think this book is perfect for Oprah.”

    Because I have made voodoo dolls of authors who have done that to me.



  15. Editor said:

    @ the last “Anonymous”: She had it right, you had it wrong. You can’t say “no two editors are never alike.” You can, however, say “no two editors are ever alike.”
    But nice try.