Pub Rants

Category: editors

The New Buzz Word: Speculative

Status: Dashing out to next meeting in 30 minutes and sheesh, it’s hotter than blazes in New York City today. I’m melting. It’s suppose to be a high of 99 tomorrow. I may stick an ice cube in my bra. That’s probably TMI.


What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? I’M MELTING IN THE SUN by INXS (I couldn’t resist putting this title on!)


It’s official. I’ve had three meetings with three different editors at three different children’s publishing houses.


The new hot thing is “speculative” fiction.


I guess we don’t want to call it science fiction, futuristic, and definitely not dystopian. LOL.


Speculative is SF though.


For some editors, they don’t want a huge science focus or an emphasis on technology (as is a bit more traditional in adult SF). They want it based more concretely in an Earth or contemporary society anchor.


One editor actually said screw that. Bring on the next Ender’s Game (and I say Heck Yes to that! I totally want to see that book).


Editors also want:

Horror—not gore but scary as in I Know What You did Last Summer

Psych Thriller

Jodi Picoult with hot topic but for the teen set

Literary but with a hook


Editors are seeing a lot of mysteries with a romantic elements. So far, that doesn’t feel overly appealing to them. Of course it only takes one to break that mold and then every editor will want one.


We know how that goes.


Another Children’s Editor Weighs In

STATUS: Is if Friday yet? Dang. Not yet…

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? TAKE MY BREATH AWAY by Berlin

On what she’s looking for. And I’m loving this list. I’d be happy to see queries from writers for anything she mentions. Bring it on.

1. Contemporary YA where the heroine is not a victim.

2. Witches, MG or YA, dark or light

3. SF YA

4. Multicultural SF or fantasy

5. Humor

6. Strong novels with gay protagonists

7. Steampunk

8. Novels with the perfect blend of literary and commercial that will get starred reviews, win awards, and land on the Times list.

Oh that’s not asking for much! I’m getting right on that last one. *grin *

Absolutely No Need to Apologize!

STATUS: TGIF! I will not have to work on cleaning up files because of the computer conversion. We are done!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? TAKE IT EASY by Eagles

Today Gail Carriger and I received an email from her Japanese translator apologizing for the delay in getting a copy of the Japanese cover art of SOULLESS to us.

She was emailing because the illustrator was currently in an evacuation camp but trying to finish it and because the Japanese editor on the project had also been impacted and hadn’t been able to be in the office.

Good Heavens. There is no need to apologize.

But this to me is an example of the incredible Japanese fortitude. In the face of dire circumstances caused by one of the biggest earthquakes on record, they felt the need to send us an email—and with an apology to boot!

On our end, we were just relieved to hear some news that they were safe. We have not gotten a lot of information on our Japanese counterparts as of yet.

What Editors Are Looking For

STATUS: It’s almost 8 pm and I haven’t left the office yet. That pretty much sums up the day.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? EVERYBODY WANTS TO RULE THE WORLD by Tears For Fears

I have to say that all your comments on my last blog entry about the Best Query Ever made me laugh and laugh. Much needed when 160 emails in my inbox mysteriously disappeared during an email migration to the cloud.

Talk about cleaning up your TO DO list in one fell swoop. Luckily the emails were finally recovered. My tech person was much relieved too!

A children’s editor reconnected with me today. In her email, she outlined what she was dying to see. I LOVE when editors do that. Sometimes as agents, it’s easy to get tunnel vision just based on what we are seeing. So if you are an editor and you’re reading this, don’t hesitate to email me your current wish list. I love hearing from you and since I’ll be heading to NY for BEA and doing my monthly stay, now’s the time to ping me.

But back to what editors might want. From this email, it was nice to see that she was not looking for apocalyptic YA (she might be an exception there) but she’d love to see the following:

Southern-set novels

Novels with authentic characters that transform

Psychological thrillers

Mg horror (oh heck yes is what I say!)

SF (sweet!)

I have to say I’m on board with that. I’d be open to any and all of the above.

And as always, this editor would love a “stunningly-written book with a great hook.”

Rather goes without saying… *grin *

Resist The Temptation

STATUS: Blessed quiet day. I only spent an hour on the phone.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? BIGGEST PART OF ME by Ambrosia

It’s rare these days but some editors, especially those acquiring in genre fiction (such as SF&F or romance), will accept submissions directly from authors. When that happens, as a writer, know that you can only send the project to an imprint once.

Why might you ask?

For several reasons actually. First being that editors who take submissions directly log those submissions. So if one editor has passed, it will be on record so that pretty much nixes it for any other editor at that imprint.

But you also can’t resend for a more practical reason of how acquisitions occur at publishing houses. Let’s say a senior editor reads and passes on it. Then the writer sends to a new-ish editor at the same place (thinking they are more hungry to acquire).

Well, even if that newer editor loves it, she’s going to have to get second reads and support to take it to ed. Board. Well, if that senior editor nixed it and then it pops up again, well, it’s going to get shot down again. And on top of that, the newer editor is not going to have very warm feelings toward you for putting her in an awkward position.

So, resist the temptation and if you are submitting directly, make sure you pick the best editor first time around as you really only have the one shot. And of course, good luck.

And Since We Are Talking About The BEA YA Buzz Panel

STATUS: I’ve got a holiday party to attend tonight.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SNOW by Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Danny Kaye

Looking at the blog entry from June 2, 2010 was a nice reminder that I might want to check in on the titles editors spotlighted at the YA buzz panel at Book Expo and see how they are doing.

Here’s the original list for reference.

PLAIN KATE by Erin Bow—Fantasy

INFINITE DAYS by Rebecca Maizel—Vampire/Paranormal

MATCHED by Ally Condie—Dystopian

FIRELIGHT by Sophie Jordan—Dragon/Paranormal

THE DUFF by Kody Keplinger—Contemporary YA

Well, I can tell you right now that Matched is doing the best out of the gate. In fact, PW just had an article on what an auspicious debut it is. A quick look at Bookscan shows an excellent sales record for the first full week out.

Because of agreement with Bookscan, I can’t list actual numbers but let’s just say if a debut YA novel comes out of the gate over 3000 copies strong, it’s doing really well. And this title is definitely above that. It also hit the NYT list this week coming in at #5.

Crazy sales always confirm that a title was buzz worthy.

In a quick look at the other four titles, all of which were released in August and September of this year, they have, in general, what I would call normal-to-above-average sales out of the gate for young adult titles. FIRELIGHT and INFINITE DAYS having higher sales than the other two, and I think that attests to the paranormal genre holding strong in the young adult market.

From this Buzz panel, at least right now, it looks like Matched wins hands-down as the “break-out” book.

A New Change In The Children’s Realm

STATUS: It’s actually a gorgeous day in Colorado. 70 degrees and we are almost to the end of October! I want to pop out early and take a long walk with Chutney. I’ll work more tonight.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? DO YA by Neil Nathan

When I was out in New York, I was super pleased to hear this little tidbit of news from two editors at two different publishing houses. It used to be that in the children’s realm, an agent could only submit to one children’s imprint at a time under the larger corporate umbrella.

In the adult realm, we never did this. We’d submit to all imprints and just make sure the editors in the same house knew who else had it.

Well, it was considered a no-no in the children’s realm (Sidenote: I often did what I wanted anyway and submit simultaneously if I thought the project was right for more than one imprint. I did get reprimanded a couple of times, but what are they going to do? Not allow me future submissions?)

Anyway, to get back on topic, I’m super thrilled to hear the news because of course I’m not interested in deliberately annoying people. I just thought this rule was rather dumb.

What if I submit to one imprint at let’s say XYZ Children’s and the project moves fast (as in lots of editors interested) but that particular XYZ editor passes on it. Well, now there is no time for me to ping another XYZ editor at a different imprint. I’m already setting up the auction or what have you. Now that publisher is completely shut out of the action even though the project “might” have been a fit for a different imprint and editor.

It bugged me. I never want a publisher to not have the opportunity to participate and now that there is a shift in mindset on this particular topic, it won’t happen.

More Neil Nathan music on iLike

What 2 Lit Editors Bought Recently

STATUS: It’s already halfway through October…

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LUKA by Suzanne Vega

When I’m in New York, the info I glean is obviously going to be skewed by which editors I see and what genres they represent. After all, it’s only 5 days. I can only see so many people in that short time frame.

For this trip, I focused on meeting some children’s editors I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting in person and I also talked with quite a few editors in the adult literary fiction realm. I really really really want a another commercial/literary author for my list. looking for a really good

Part of that is in celebration. It’s official. Jamie Ford’s HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET has officially been on the regular and/or extended New York Times Bestseller list for 53 consecutive weeks.

One year and some change!

And not only that, this past week, Jamie cracked the top 10 again (currently at #9)—a year after publication of the trade paperback edition. I probably don’t need to tell y’all just how rare that is….

So join me in offering a HUGE CONGRATS to Jamie!

So as I said, I was in NYC at the beginning of October as I wanted to get a sense of what editors had bought recently in this field.

One editor is building a literary list at a house she just recently moved to. She’s only been there a month but in that time, she bought two books. The first a novel from an author whose work she started tracking when she read short pieces in the Paris Review. Interestingly enough, the book is literary but has a paranormal element and is set in the American West.

In a sense, not a surprise when looking at the success of THE PASSAGE. I think lit editors are looking for more of that genre blending for the literary realm. We haven’t seen a ton of that. Heck, I’d be game to see some of that! Her second buy was a narrative nonfiction work based on a true story.

Another literary editor I met up with had also just moved to a new house not exactly known for their literary bent. Obviously she was hired for a reason. (And yes, it was deliberate on my part to meet with two editors who had recently moved to new homes. After all, they are looking to build their new lists.)

For her, she had just recently bought a literary novel where the main story is driven by a murder but this is in no way a mystery. In fact, the contemporary story line alternates with a historical narrative that illuminates the contemporary unfolding of the murder and why it happened.

Kind of cool.

And all I can say is why aren’t I seeing those books? Wink.

Live From New York City

STATUS: Actually, I’m feeling half dead after almost a full week of all-day meetings from 8 in the morning to sometimes 11 o’clock at night.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SUFFRAGETTE CITY by David Bowie

I’m back at the hotel early enough to blog. Every other night I’ve returned so late, I didn’t have the energy to fire up the old netbook and sneak in an entry. I do have LOTS to blog about so get ready for NYC recap next week when I’m back in the office.

Tomorrow I’m at Random House all morning and then I head to the Javits center for New York Comic con all afternoon. Orbit has galvanized the steampunk contingent here in the city (and I can’t believe I just wrote a sentence that has “steampunk contingent” in it…) to attend the con dressed up in their steampunk finery. They’ll be giving away Parasol Protectorate buttons and any fan that is dressed up and wearing the button will have their pic taken by Orbit to use in the Soulless cover art collage with the fan’s pic included.

Now that’s pretty cool.

The Orbit party was held at The Cellar Bar at the Bryant Hotel on 40th street across from the park. I don’t know every attendee but there were a smattering of agents and editors clinking glasses.

I ran into my old buddy and agent extraordinaire—Janet Reid (Fineprint). She was there with the amazing Jeff Somers. Got to reconnect with a young but totally up and coming agent Suzy Townsend (also of Fineprint and hadn’t seen her since St. Louis!) Eddie Schneider (JABberwocky) was there as was Cameron McClure (Donald Maass Agency) (who I tried to talk into saying something really profound for my blog but alas, we were profoundless… I’m thinking the wine floweth. Saw Matt Bialer briefly (Sanford J. Greenberger)

My fab Orbit editor, Devi Pillai, was there looking totally wonderful in a sleek black dress. Tim Holman, so British, always startles me slightly with the European double cheek kiss greeting but by end of evening we were all into the swing of things. I did refrain from saying “Darling” at odd moments and felt rather proud of that.

Sharing in the fun were Anne Sowards from Ace and Liz Gorinsky from TOR. Bumped into Ron Hogan (formerly of Galley Cat and Houghton Mifflin).

The Orbit Anniversary party was like a mini reunion.

I have to say that earlier in the week on Monday, Tim, Devi, and I got together down at Pravda in Soho for a drink and I was really pleased to hear that they are actually quite open to adult science fiction right now. There wasn’t even a hint of pessimism to that statement. Considering I had just submitted an SF there, I was pleased. Other editors I talked to in adult publishing really only highlighted military SF or alternate history SF as what was working them. It was so nice to hear some optimism!

When It’s Not Hot, Passion Can Carry It

STATUS: Why does the phone ring only after I’ve stepped out of the office?

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? YOU SANG TO ME by Marc Anthony

Clarification: Adult SF is currently not hot. YA SF is doing just fine. Sorry about the confusion!

This week I went on submission with an adult SF novel. Ask any editor and they will tell you, adult SF is not hot. Fantasy is hot—particularly urban fantasy. I’m sure this comes as no surprise to blog readers if you track PW or NYT bestseller lists.

It’s not like I’m revealing some deep and hidden secret here.

And here’s where my passion for the project means everything. If I were smart, I wouldn’t take on an SF novel from a debut writer. Even if I do sell it, the money I’ll earn from it will barely pay the agency’s electric bill for three months.

Plain and simple. That’s the reality.

But I love SF. Grew up reading it. In my mind, some of the most important novels published in the last 20 years have been in this field so I did it anyway. Because I felt a passion for the story that I didn’t feel for the YA project I decided to pass on earlier this week (and will probably sell for more money than this SF novel will).

That’s the only way I can be in the game. I know writers hate hearing that agents or editors need to feel “the love” but folks, selling novels is not an easy biz. (Which, by the way, is why most agents don’t specialize in fiction but instead focus on nonfiction to build lucrative client lists).

We also want to take on authors for their whole careers. If we agents can connect with their writing at the passionate, visceral level, then chances are good we are a good fit for future work to come.

Last year I took on a YA author for a historical novel that I could not sell (and I still think editors were crazy not to buy it). But the writing… I still can read that unsold novel and fall in love with the author’s talent all over again. So we pushed on and got going on the next work. And it was that next project that sold. At auction.

Passion was the key—for me and for that author. And if I can’t sell this SF debut, then I already believe in the next work.