Pub Rants

Category: editors

Too Many Space Ships Spoil The YA

STATUS: Heading out to check out the Off Broadway musical Altar Boyz.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? AUTUMN IN NEW YORK by Harry Connick, Jr.

It was late when I wrote yesterday’s blog so I can be forgiven but I totally forgot a key point the editor from RH had shared. She’d love to see urban fantasy with a male protagonist. They’ve been kind of scarce and there seems to be room for a new Dresden Files type work (nod to fav agent friend Ms. Jackson).

Today I had breakfast (so rare to get the editors out early!) with an editor at Tor who acquires young adult and adult SF&F.

We mostly talked about her children’s list so here’s the lunch plate of the day.

If you didn’t already know this, SF children’s is a tough sell. It has to be the right balance between SF elements and a recognizable world that has a larger general appeal. Good author examples of successes would be Garth Nix and Scott Westerfeld.

This editor is dying for something that will be accessible to a wider audience and all she seems to be getting is space ship stories, zombies, and disaster scenarios—all of which feel tired or a bit old-fashioned. She also sees a lot of stories where the parents or all the adults have kicked the bucket and it’s up to the teens to save themselves, the planet, or all of the above.

Now it’s not to say that these elements won’t work in the right story with a fresh twist but it’s the fresh part that seems to be missing.

She wants stories that are about social issues but have a cool SF element that is integral to the story. Some good Tor examples are Cory Doctorow’s LITTLE BROTHER and debut author Isamu Fukui’s TRUANCY.

No Vampires Please

STATUS: It’s really late to be blogging…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH by Depeche Mode

So I had lunch with an editor from Random House who acquires for SF & F.

Her plea? No more vampires. Please. Every urban fantasy does not need to include them. Hum… where did I hear that refrain recently? Big smile.

She also expressed a longing for female heroines that aren’t killing machines. It’s okay to have a little vulnerability or emotional pull in the character.

I have to say I didn’t realize that the heartless woman assassin was a current trend but there you have it.

Paranormal to UpMarket Women’s Fiction

STATUS: I got several emails this morning asking me if I was okay since I didn’t blog yesterday. I never blog on holidays! And yes, maybe President’s day is a bit of a debate but nobody in publishing was working yesterday so I took that as permission to take the day off. Besides, it was 60+ degrees here in New York and Chutney and I had Central Park to explore. Like a dork, I forgot the camera.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? FIELDS OF GOLD by Sting

Today I had three meetings.

I had lunch with an editor from Little, Brown Children’s. Coffee with an editor who does both young adult and adult at Kensington. And then in late afternoon I had a meeting with an editor at Ballantine who handles upmarket commercial/literary women’s fiction.

So what did I learn?

Paranormal elements in YA is still quite hot but (an especially for this editor at Little, Brown, if she sees another Twlight vampire look-alike, she’ll spontaneously combust).

So the paranormal elements have to be really different, intriguing and in a really well-built world because the editors are seeing a lot of submissions. The manuscript would really need to stand out to cause excitement.

In terms of upmarket commercial women’s fiction, it’s all about the writing. Really, editors are looking for literary writers who can tackle the more commercial themes in a way that’s fresh and well constructed.

In other words, if you are writing in this area, go to the bookstore and see what is coming out in hardcover in this realm and start reading. Some examples from Ballantine would be Nancy Thayer’s MOON SHELL BEACH, Carol Goodman’s THE SONNET LOVER, and Nancy Pickard’s THE VIRGIN OF SMALL PLAINS.

Agent In New York

STATUS: Well, I was doing fine (despite the incredibly odd weather here in Manhattan) until my wireless internet went down last night before I blogged. Didn’t come back up until this morning. Sorry about the blip yesterday.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LET’S STAY TOGETHER by Al Green

So what does an agent do when she comes to New York? Lunch of course. Lots of publishing occurs over business lunches. It creates a personal and intimate setting on neutral territory to discuss either issues or needs of current clients, get the update on what that editor is currently looking for, and to generally catch up on each other’s personal lives. This is a business of personal connections and trust.

So my last two days have been frantic emailing so as to set up all my appointments. Right now it looks like I’m going out to lunch each day for the entire month I’m here in Manhattan. Saves on groceries..

Since I can only do so many lunches, I’m scheduling a few coffees and evening drinks so I can squeeze in a few more appointments.

Didn’t I say I wanted a leisurely meeting time in New York?

Chutney Takes Manhattan

STATUS: Absolutely frantic as we tried to wrap up the 1099s (need to be off to the IRS before the end of the month) and get everything else in order.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ONE by U2

Why the big rush? On Sunday, I’m heading to New York City. That in itself is certainly not news. I tend to go there often as my office isn’t located in the big Apple and I need to do my editor meetings and face time. This year I wanted to try something different. Hence the title of this entry.

This year the whole fam is going to New York City and I’ve rented an apartment in Soho for a month. Now we’ll find out if that state-of-the-art network we installed last year is worth the money we spent on it. Supposedly, I can work seamlessly from any place in the world and still tap in to everything at my office. But never fear, if that fails, Sara will be holding down the fort.

I’m just in love with the idea of a leisurely, non-stressful time meeting with editors without cramming everything into five days with five meetings a day.

I have no desire to live in NYC but I certainly love the town when I’m visiting. And to me, this might be a nice trade-off for being in Denver for the rest of the year (although if all goes well, I might look at doing it again come fall. Let’s wait and see).

So, I’ll have lots of interesting news to post as I give you a daily report from the publishing capital of the world.

And I just might throw a pic or two of Chutney’s first time there as well. Because really, isn’t that what this blog is really about?

Editor Dance

STATUS: Hugely productive day. I cleared the surface area of my desk for the first time in about a month I’d say.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? PROFESSIONAL JEALOUSY by Van Morrison

Today I was de-cluttering the files on my desk when I came across a pile of editor business cards from one of my trips to New York last year.

Often times I jot down a few notes to myself about the meeting or about the editor’s tastes on the back of the card. When I hit the office, I’ll input relevant info into my database for future use.

But what struck me about this pile, and hence the blog, was how many editors had left the business since I had those meetings last year. It was close to half (and these editors, by the way, weren’t new as in assistant or associate editors). They had been in the biz for years.

In fact, I just got an email from one of my favorite editors (with whom I had a client with for many years) that she’s leaving and will be having a baby very shortly. I’m thrilled for her but couldn’t help groaning.

Agents expend a lot of time building our contacts. Of course we’d love the editors to stay put—especially if we match up in tastes etc. There’s nothing worse than the perfect editor who leaves and you can’t match tastes with his/her replacement to save your life. On the flipside, there are several editors I adore personally but to whom I’ll probably never sell a book to because we just don’t share that vision. Invariable those editors stay forever (she smiles wryly). When that happens, it’s a godsend when new blood is brought in to that imprint so I have a fighting chance of landing a client there.

But back to the point. When an editor leaves, agents have to rebuild their contacts. Sometimes it’s easy (maybe there are several like-minded editors at that same imprint and I can focus on another editor there instead), but if there isn’t and a new editor arrives, I add that person to my meeting list for my next NYC trip.

And hope they won’t be leaving the biz in the following year!

My Blog Connection

STATUS: Excited. Putting something out on submission always makes me giddy. I love the novel, and I want everyone else to love it too!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HARVEST MOON by Neil Young

Hilarious story that I had to share. As I mentioned yesterday, today I’m putting a project out on submission. There was an editor on my list to whom I wanted to send the novel but I didn’t happen to know her. So, I did what I normally do and that’s to ring her up and introduce myself.

So I call and start with my usual “My name is Kristin Nelson and I wanted to call and introduce myself because I have a project that I’d like to send you way.”

The editor stops me and says, “Wait, are you the Kristin Nelson who blogs?

Me: “Uh, yes.”

Editor: “I read your blog!”

I just started laughing and I have to admit, that’s the first time I’ve rang an editor whom I didn’t know but who in turn kind of knew me through my blog.

And then it got even stranger. We are both from Missouri (how often does that happen?) and we both had attended the Denver Publishing Institute (but not in the same year). And I’ve read her blog before and didn’t make the connection.

Twins separated at birth! Okay, not really that close but you get the picture. This editor definitely needs to be on my radar, and I’m so glad I called.

I just LOVE it when a new submission allows me to meet a new editor. Even better when I sell that project to the new editor as I did with DEMON’S LEXICON. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Agent Assets

STATUS: It’s after 5 p.m. but I’m reading a client manuscript and just really enjoying my job at the moment.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? F.M. by Steely Dan

I think that a lot of aspiring writers simply assume that an agent’s job is to find projects and sell them and that’s it.

I’d like to posit that my real job is to be a troubleshooter but that’s getting a little off track. As I was walking Chutney this afternoon, I got to thinking about all aspects of my job and what I could share that would show my blog readers a different facet of what an agent does and why an agent could be valuable beyond just negotiating your contract.

So here’s a good example.

This afternoon I had a three-way phone conference with me, my client, and a prospective editor potentially interesting in buying my client’s novel.

Yes. You read that right. A phone conference with an editor who has not yet offered for the work.

I’m assuming I don’t really need to point out the value in having this type of conversation with an interested editor. What I want to highlight here is that this type of event is part of my daily job. It’s not even all that unusual.

This is just one way an agent can be a valuable asset to an author, but I bet most writers wouldn’t even think to include it in the job description of what agents do.

Boston’s Back Bay

STATUS: TGIF and one more day before I head home. I’ve had a great week but I’m ready.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I PUT A SPELL ON YOU by Bryan Ferry

Today was a hoot. Not only did I have lunch with an editor but we popped over to Downtown Crossing to visit a “famous” tea room to have our fortunes told.

Poor Jennifer Kushnier of Adams Media. She got the news that she’ll have three baby boys in her future. All I got was “in 12 months, I’ll be living in abundance.”

Hey, I’ll take the latter.

At noon I met Jennifer at the restaurant Turner Fisheries in Boston’s Back Bay area. Yep, I broke my fast of only meeting with children’s editors.

She bought a book from me called THE DIVORCED GIRLS’ SOCIETY: YOUR INITIATION INTO THE CLUB YOU THOUGHT YOU’D NEVER JOIN by my authors Jennifer O’Connell and Vicki King. (It’s a nonfiction book that will be out in the fall and will be spotlighted in the AM booth for Book Expo).

As most of you know, my agency doesn’t tend to do nonfiction projects. In this case, Jennifer O’Connell has been a long-time client of mine so I was happy to take on her nonfic project and sell it.

So for those of you in the NF field, Adams Media should probably be on your radar since the editors there will consider unagented submissions. Just do your research first.

Jennifer summed up their focus as this:

Adams Media specializes in prescriptive, practical nonfiction that has a national (not regional) appeal. Their goal is to know what drives readers to that shelf in the bookstore and then to have an AM book there that will answer that end user’s question.

That’s it in a nutshell. What works are books where the title presents the problem and the subtitle provides the solution.

For example (and this book was plucked out of their slush pile): DATING THE DIVORCED MAN: SORT THROUGH THE BAGGAGE TO DECIDE IF HE’S RIGHT FOR YOU.

You pretty much know what that book is about and you pretty much now know what Adams Media is about.

Back in the office on Monday.

Don’t Read Into It Too Much

STATUS: Today I’m in Boston to meet with editors out here.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? RIDE LIKE THE WIND by Christopher Cross

I think it’s important not to read too much into this week’s posts. It’s too easy to say “darn, editors aren’t looking for what I’m writing” or “yippee, they are” and believe it’s a sure thing.

Not really. Editors just talk about what’s uppermost in their minds at the moment of conversation. They could get back to the office and think of 5 other things they wished they had said.

Not to mention, every editor I’ve talked to this week has told me that a fresh, original voice trumps everything.

So maybe right now they are tired of seeing submissions for let’s say a vampire paranormal YA. Surely the market has seen enough of them! But then that manuscript lands on their desk that changes their mind because the voice is so good and the story line is incredibly original. They love it and sure enough, there’s room for one more.

Happens all the time.

A writer’s voice is the singularly most important aspect of writing and I hear that from editors with every conversation.

A writer can have a good, high concept idea but without voice… it’s a car with an engine but it’s not going anywhere.

And plot can be fixed. Voice can’t. You either have it or you don’t.

So if you are a struggling-to-publish writer, honing your voice should be your top priority.