Pub Rants

Category: editors

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.

Children’s Scoop Continued

STATUS: Tired and ready for bed. Folks. As a reminder. Most editors do not accept unsolicited queries/submissions and if you are interested in getting your work out there, your best bet is to research and target agents to submit your work.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? not listening at the moment

It’s late so I only have time for a quick blog entry. Today I had lunch with Wendy Loggia from Delacorte (a children’s imprint at Random House).

We ate at the yummy Ruby Foo’s on Broadway (which is an editor hang out by the way). You can always spot publishing folks here around lunchtime because of the close proximity to the Random House Building.

Wendy mentioned that she would love to see a MG or YA mystery (think a modern Joan Lowery Nixon-type author who can reinvent something fresh).

Hum… seems to be a common refrain that I’m hearing from various editors.

She also mentioned that although she personally loves these types of stories, they’ve seen a lot of Hollywood-type books or stories revolving around a famous character or a pop star. Booksellers are starting to glaze if sales reps try and pitch a new story that includes one of these elements.

Wendy also asked if I could remind my blog readers that the Delacorte Contest for first middle-grade novel and first YA novel. These contests are just about to open.

And here’s an interesting insider tidbit. The Delacorte editors (all of them—including the publisher and the editorial director) do a fun, bring-your-own-lunch meeting every Friday during the contest just to read the contest submissions. So, entries aren’t schlepped off to the editorial assistants. All the editors do read the entries and vote. They might not pick a winner every year but if they do, that winner is published. If you look at some of the past winners, you can see that the contest has launched several careers.

It might be a fun possibility if you are interested in that sort of thing but note that it’s the standard RH boilerplate contract so keep that in mind.

What They [Editors] Want (cont.)

STATUS: To be honest, I’d love a nap before my evening commitments commence. Unfortunately I have to leave in about 45 minutes so that’s not going to cut it.

My tireless author Cheryl Sawyer, however, is running an amazing contest where participants get to create their own Shakespearean love sonnet for a significant other—not unlike what Prince Rupert does for Mary Villiers, Duchess of Richmond, in her novel THE WINTER PRINCE.

Fresh Fiction writes:
“History comes alive under the deft hand of Ms. Sawyer. She interweaves the vibrant history of the English Civil War with the love affair of Prince Rupert and Mary, giving the tale added poignancy. Fans of Philippa Gregory need look no further for an excellent historical novel.”

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BLUE by The Jayhawks

I had a chance to review some of my notes from yesterday and I realized I had left out a few things.

The Penguin Group is looking for Teens dealing with Faith stories (stuff that can crossover into the CBA market).

However, it doesn’t have to be just Christian. In can be any story where a teen is struggling with teen life and staying true to his/her religion. However, the editor was sure to stress that she’s not looking for conversion stories or anything preachy. Just heartfelt narratives were teen life conflicts with staying true to one’s beliefs.

And RWA members will love this tip. Penguin would love to see romance stories for the young adults. Dreamy heroes and happy endings very welcome.

And Penguin is still game for Chick lit with sassy main female protagonists (action-adventure works well).

Melanie Cecka at Bloomsbury Children’s shared a very inspiring story of signing a debut author (sans agent) from a recent writers’ conference she attended.

I know it sounds like a myth or a publishing urban legend that an editor plucks a manuscript out of a critique session and voila, it’s gets published.

Well, in this case, it was true. So hey, it still happens.

She also mentions that she has seen a lot of middle-grade works that showcase a plucky third grade girl. It’s potentially overdone at the moment, and she’s not really looking for that.

However, if it were a plucky third grade boy (Think a contemporary Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing), she would be very game.

What They [Editors] Want

STATUS: Having a great time in the Big Apple. I’m calling this my “children’s tour.” I’m only meeting with editors for teen and middle grade stuff. So if you write for the adult market. Sorry. You’ll just have to wait for my June trip for Book Expo. Then I’ll be meeting with a variety of editors.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? RADAR LOVE by Golden Earring

Today I was at the Penguin Children’s Group all day. I spoke with many different editors but it’s Karen Chaplin and Jennifer Bonnell who gave me the lowdown for what they wish they had in their acquiring hands right this minute.

Ready? Grab a pen.

1. Paranormal YA that’s not vampires or werewolves.

2. A YA psychological thriller (we couldn’t even come up with comparable examples that’s how unusual it seems to be.)

3. Middle grade mysteries

4. Boy middle grade ANYTHING

Sarah Shumway at Dutton Children’s mentioned that she’s been paying special attention to this:

She’s been receiving great pitches but then when the manuscript comes in, the characters or the writing isn’t developed quite enough so she passes.


She’s receiving manuscripts with good characters and solid writing but there’s not enough of a hook to make it stand out and so she passes.

Penguin Sales reps want to be able to sum it up in one sentence.

I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating. Never underestimate the importance of high concept for young adult projects.

More tips and inside scoop tomorrow.

Editor Dance

STATUS: TGIF. And all three contracts concluded! And here’s some irony for you. Even after yesterday’s blog, I got a person who called me today about their screenplay and how it was guaranteed to generate some cash. Sigh.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BELOVED WIFE by Natalie Merchant

Today I received yet another email that an editor was leaving his/her house. This one, however, didn’t specify a new home. Oh no, another good editor bites the dust.

This is the third email I’ve received in the last two weeks.

It’s no secret that the publishing world has a “use ‘em till you lose ‘em” approach because being an editor (and don’t laugh) is not a glamorous job. They deal with long hours (non-commiserate and non-commensurate! pay), lots of demands (from agents, authors, their bosses), and books that tank (in sales numbers) despite their love and tender care.

And no, it’s not all bad. Sometimes they find a gem, have an exciting auction, see a sleeper book fly off the shelves but for the most part, it’s just hard, hard work. And it wears them down.

And it’s so sad when I get the news of a departure. Someone I liked. Enjoyed working with. Knew their tastes and what would work for them. Now I’ll have to scout out whoever fills their shoes. See who gets added to the dance card.

This month I’m lucky. None of these editors had any of my authors’ books. Next month might be a different story.