Pub Rants

Category: editors

Publishing Is Where The Boys Are Not

STATUS: Off to the Rockies game tonight.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LIVIN’ THING by Electric Light Orchestra

Hey, nothing like ending a week on a controversial note. Really, I shouldn’t open this can of worms but heck, it’s a beautiful fall day. Why not throw a monkey wrench into it.

So in a spare five minutes I had waiting for something to download, I popped open my latest issue of PW and there was an interesting article on the lack of men in publishing and whether that impacts what gets published.

Jason Pinter did an editorial at the HuffPo saying it does.

Stuart Applebaum at Random House says it’s not keeping him up a night.

For my part, I just want to sniff. Sorry. There are SO many male-dominated industries and yet I never hear much discussion about whether the lack of women in those professions significantly impacts those industries so yeah, I’m inclined to just snort.

(Interesting side note, Alloy Entertainment, the folks behind all the Girl commercial teen products like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Gossip Girls etc. is run by 2 guys and no one seems to think twice about it….)

Then I wondered if I was being automatically dismissive and there is something to an industry being impacted by a gender leaning in one direction.

I imagine some of you might have decided opinions on this topic so air away.

Don’t Have To Tell You What This Portends

STATUS: TGIF! I need it.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THE CHAIN by Fleetwood Mac

Starting at 8 p.m. last night, rumors hit Twitterville that Leah Hultenschmidt (Editorial Director) and Don D’Auria (long-time editor) were let go from Dorchester at the close of yesterday’s business day.

For those of you who don’t know, Dorchester has always had a lean editorial staff. With the Departure of Alicia Condon several months ago and the news from yesterday, well, the editorial staff now consists of one person—Chris Kesslar.

This morning the rumor was confirmed by an email from Leah so I feel quite confident in posting this info. Not to mention last week Dorchester let go their digital director and yet they announced a digital initiative. Eyebrow raise.

I’m assuming I don’t need to tell you what this all signifies…

Another Reason To Nail Your Query Pitch Paragraph

STATUS: Blogging before noon! That means I’m head of my To Do list.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? YOU’RE ONLY LONELY by JD Souther

There is an interesting trend I’ve noticed lately in publishing. I think it has to do with the tightening of budget and the laying off of staff (actually, I’m just speculating that is the case.)

More and more lately, my clients and I have been practically writing our own cover copy for upcoming releases. Lately, it’s been clear that the copy writer has maybe seen just a brief synopsis of the plot before coming up with copy. By the way, this is not unusual. There is no way a copy writer could read every single book he/she has to write cover copy for. Still, in my mind, you don’t have to read the entire manuscript to be ready to write good copy. You really only have to read the first 30 pages of a novel to knock it out (and that’s easy enough to do even if the copy editor has 30 or 40 books to handle).

As I’m typing, I realize that this entry might sound like a complaint but it’s not. I actually prefer when the author and I are intimately involved and really get a say in the copy text (especially if the first draft we’ve received is really bland or just off).

So it’s more of an observation—as something I’ve noticed in the past 6 or 7 months. You folks are going to hate me for this but yet another reason to nail your pitch blurb paragraph in your query letter. You might actually be called upon to significantly contribute to the final copy that will go on your book jacket. You might as well master the craft now…

A Story The Editor Will Never Know

STATUS: Doing all the crazy wrap-up before the three-day holiday weekend. Yes!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LEAVING LAS VEGAS by Sheryl Crow

I’ve mentioned before what I call The Curse Of The Sophomore Novel. For whatever reason, authors invariably trip when it comes to writing the next novel after their debut.

My hypothesis is that the first novel took many years to write, had lots of feedback and many drafts. Then novel 2 needs to be written on deadline and usually in under a year’s time. With that crunch, a lot of talented authors kind of blank on all the great tools they used in the debut novel that made it so good. By the way, it doesn’t matter how talented the author, what genre the author writes in, or how many previous novels he/she has under her bed. More often than not, a new author will whiff on book 2.

Good agents anticipate and prepare for this—which leads me to a terrific article my author Kristina Riggle just sent me from Poets & Writers. Editor Jofie Ferrari-Adler has been doing a series of articles on editors and agents and every one of them is a gem. If you haven’t seen them before, I suggest tracking all of them down.

What this month’s article tackles is best described in Jofie’s own words. He says: “This is a story about literary agents. It’s a story about good literary agents and bad literary agents and, more specifically, it’s a story about the tireless, often intangible work that good literary agents perform for their clients during the period after the contract is signed but before the book is published.”

Interestingly enough, none of the agents in the article tackled the curse of the sophomore novel so I thought I would in today’s post.

As I mentioned, good agents anticipate the curse. I always strongly recommend that I see the sophomore novel before it’s delivered to the editor. In fact, I encourage our authors to send it to me (if at all possible) 2 months before the delivery deadline to the editor. Just in case. Occasionally, the author does just fine and the sophomore novel is great. No intervention necessary. More often than not, the curse has reared its ugly head.

For the story I want to share, the editor (to this day) does not know—and this is why details will remain anonymous. In fact, I should say “stories” and “editors to this day don’t know” because it’s happened more than once and none of the editors know.

Author delivered the cursed sophomore novel. I read and said “good heaven! This won’t do. The poor overworked editor will blow a coronary if we send this on.”

Called author and delivered the bad news. Then buckled down with the author to, literally, rewrite the entire novel in 6 weeks. (The author sent me 2 chapters every 2 or 3 days. I would edit and turnaround in 2 days to shoot it back. Author would send next batch and while I had that, author reworked already edited chapters until entire novel was revised.)

Author delivered wonderful “first draft” of novel to editor on deadline.

Couple weeks later, editor called just to tell me what a pleasure reading the novel was and how the editor has never had such a clean sophomore novel delivered to her before.

I responded with “I know. Isn’t the author amazing?”

And I’m positive I’m not the only agent to have ever done this.

By the way, this only ever happens to an author once. After the sophomore curse, the author never missteps again.

Happy 4th of July! See y’all back here on Tuesday.

Best. Story. Ever. (Part II)

STATUS: It’s been a little quiet. Fewer emails than normal. Let’s me get stuff done!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? DREAMGIRL by Dave Matthews Band

Ah, I just so love torturing my blog readers. Just to be nice, I’m doing my blog entry early today.

So as I mentioned yesterday, the one thing everyone else wants to know is why did the editor change her mind and decide to offer for a book she had initially passed on?

Before I answer that question, here’s another fun facet. A day or two after I got that call from the editor who originally passed but now was offering for the book, this same work received another offer from an editor at another house.

All this after the project had been on submission for a little while. It’s like one offer knocked the universe open for the other.

So not only did we have one offer, we had two. There is no better place for an author to be. So I had the author do phone conferences with each interested editor. Get their vision for launching the title. For us, it just wasn’t about the advance. We wanted to be with the editor who best “got” the book—especially given the unique circumstances of one of the offers. Ultimately, the author did go with the editor who originally had passed.

So why did that editor change her mind?

She couldn’t stop thinking about the project and decided she had been wrong to pass on it. She figured out how to do the book and once that answer was clear to her, she called me to offer for three books—not just one.

The author and I were super pleased. After all, when we were working on the novel, we totally had this one editor in mind for it. We were actually flummoxed when she passed as we thought it was tailor-made for her.

So, I love an editor who can say, “hey, I was wrong. Is the book still available and if so, I’m going to offer right now for it. On top of that, I’m going to show you some serious commitment by offering for more than one book.”

And I’m just saying I’m around today if any other editors want to call me about past submissions they passed on…

Best. Story. Ever.

STATUS: Just another manic Monday. Can’t believe it’s 3 pm already.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? BEMSHA SWING by Roy Haynes

Recently, I had something that has never happened to me before as an agent.

I had an editor ring up, out of the blue, to offer on a book that she had passed on 2 months previously. And she didn’t just offer for one book.

If the term “gaping fish” comes to mind, you won’t be far off in terms of how I looked when the call came in. I was so surprised that I think I even asked: “You’re calling to offer?” As if she were pulling my leg.

All my agent friends want to know how I made this happen.

I replied: “Uh, I answered the phone when it rang.”

And of course, the one thing everyone else wants to know is this: Why did the editor change her mind?

Tune in tomorrow…

Because You Asked—Take 2

STATUS: People assume that Denver is cold in the winter. In general, our temps are pretty mild. Not this week. We’ve got Alaska weather. It was -13 degrees when I woke up this morning. At least the sun was shining…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? RIVER by Sarah McLachlan

Kristi asked:
I’d love to ask an editor if they feel less inclined to take on a debut author due to the current economic climate – if they happen to address that issue, I’d love to hear their thoughts.

If the project is strong enough and generates excitement, editors are just as interested in bidding for it at auction and taking on a debut author. However, if there isn’t that level of excitement, I do see that editors are being more cautious about submissions. And maybe cautious is the same as reluctant but I don’t think so. Editors are still showing interest but they are not jumping in with an immediate offer. I see editors asking for revisions first. Wanting to give it a second read post-revision to see if their interest level is still high. Then they are getting on board to try and make an offer.

I’m also noticing that all of the above is taking a lot of time. It used to be that editors would turnaround a project with an offer in 6 to 8 weeks. Now it’s taking 6 months. 8 months. Even a year. Cautious is definitely the word of the day.

Jade asked:
I’d be interested to know if angels are the new vampires or are vampires still the new vampires? Actually, I’m just generally interested in YA trends as always, especially since whatever is being bought now won’t be in stores for a couple of years.Oh. What about merepeople? That’s my call for the next big trend. Everyone seems to be writing about meremaids and meremen…except me.

I’d have to say that angels are probably the new vampire—although I don’t think vampires are done yet.

As for mer-people, I’m not sure what to say. I haven’t seen a lot in this realm but hey, maybe that’s the next hot trend and it hasn’t surfaced quite yet (pun intended!).

And I’ll tackle more Qs tomorrow…

Because You Asked

STATUS: Very sad to see that Imeem has now merged with My Space music. Not sure how good my music excerpts will be until I can find a new, good site for the embeds. I already miss Imeem.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE by Johnny Mercer and Margaret Whiting.

And because I so rarely answer, I thought it would be fun to take your questions from the comments section of my December 1, 2009 blog entry and actually respond.

I know. Try not to die of shock or get used to it. Grin.

Lisa Dez asked:
I’ve been asked to make some revisions by an editor PRIOR to her taking my mss to her editorial board. My agent says this imprint is doing that more and more. I’d love to know if this is a common thing at all houses.

Sadly, this year a lot of editors are asking for revisions before going to ed. Board or before offering to buy a book. It’s becoming unpleasantly common across a number of publishing houses.

Stephanie McGee asked:
I’d be interested to get a feel for how angels are faring with agents and editors these days. I know Becca Fitzpatrick had Hush, Hush hit shelves a couple months ago. I’ve got an angel project hanging out on the sidelines but I’m not sure I should bother since I couldn’t get it done in time to hit any sort of angel renaissance.

Angels do seem to be popular as of late. Random House is releasing their angel book called FALLEN this month as well. Is there room for more angel books? I’d say yes but it depends on your take on it. They haven’t been done to death as of yet but just like all things paranormal in the YA world, editors are looking for something different and fresh. Since different and fresh is almost impossible to define until you see it, I’m not sure this answer helps you much.

Debra Schubert asked:
One question: Did you simply hold the glass of wine or did you get to drink it, too?

I did take the occasional sip!

New Line At SMP

STATUS: It was 5 degrees walking to the office this morning. Can somebody remind me why I live in Denver and not San Diego?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CHRISTMAS IN HOLLIS by Run DMC

When I was in Arizona over the Thanksgiving break, I gave a talk to a group of writers. One of the participants asked me about the new line over at St. Martin’s Press and did I know how much sex was going to be allowed in the romance for that line targeting older teens and twenty-somethings.

I didn’t have an answer as I had only just seen the press release and didn’t know much else about it.

But now I do. When I was in New York, I had a chance to meet up with Dan Weiss (who is heading up this new line) and his assistant S. Jae-Jones (known as JJ). I can now answer this question.

First off, you need to know who Dan is. I know he’s not going to take offense at my highlighting that he has been around the publishing block a time or two. You either love Dan for bringing you the Sweet Valley High books back in the early 1980s or your loath him for being responsible for that series. Grin.

Dan was the owner of 17 Street Productions book packaging—a company he sold to Alloy Entertainment several years ago. (Note: Alloy Entertainment is the packager responsible for bringing you the Gossip Girls and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants among other things.)

So what I’m saying is that Dan has been in the biz for a good long time and he particularly knows publishing for young people. So when he decides to start a new line to deliberately target older teens and twenty-somethings, he knows a thing or two about it. JJ is his assistant. Being a smart, twenty-something who knows her way around the internet and how this target audience uses this medium, she and Dan make a good team.

But back to the original Arizona question that started this entry. How much sex is going to be allowed in the romance?

Well, this new line at SMP is not a romance imprint per se—which is what I think that participant thought it might be. They are more a line for publishing smart, upmarket fiction for this target audience where sex and relationships are simply part of the question. In other words, it’s not so much about the happily-ever-after, which is the focus for a romance, nor is it about the sex—explicit or otherwise. It’s more about the story that will speak to older teens and twenty-somethings. Think Emily Giffin’s SOMETHING BORROWED, Curtis Sittenfeld’s PREP, Nick Hornby’s SLAM, and even GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING in some respects.

Now the biggest issue for this new line, and we discussed this, is where the books will be shelved. Considering that there are numerous books that cross-over, it would be an issue easily solved if Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Independent Bookstores could shelve a copy of the book in two different places. Alas, they don’t do that. Right now, the system is set up so a publisher is forced to choose where to shelve it.

If this line is targeting older teens and twenty-somethings, you can see the potential problem—where to put these books so they can be found by the target audience. Does it go in the teen section or in the general fiction?

For the above examples, all of them were shelved in general fiction. Did older teens find the above books? The goal of this new SMP line is to make sure they do for the books they decide to take on. They also want to do creative things with the electronic book.

All in all, an interesting proposition for them to specifically go after this niche.

Things You Don’t Want to Learn While In New York!

STATUS: Back at the hotel for 30 minutes before I need to run out again.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? COME BACK TO ME by David Cook

I mentioned in our November newsletter a couple of weeks ago that Sara and I just absolutely loved a submission that came our way, offered rep, but alas the author went with another agent (as there were many agents interested).

I heard today that the project sold at auction for some money–with tons of houses bidding on it.

Ack. Hate that. But you know what? We tried for it; we were in the game. We loved it. Obviously lots of people agreed.

And for all of you, this is good news. This means Publishers are willing to step up to the plate for projects—something I was rather worried about as of late.

But truthfully, I wish editors hadn’t told me about it. Ignorance can be bliss…