Pub Rants

Category: publishers

The Year Delay

STATUS: I’m awake. Heck, that’s a good start to the day. I love being in NYC and doing appointments but it’s tough to be gone all day and then still keep up on all the work that needs to be attended to at night.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ONCE IN A LIFETIME by Talking Heads

Most of you already know this but for the new readers who might not, this is what you need to keep in mind.

What editors bought last year are the projects that are hitting shelves now. That means if you have a project now that has similar elements to novels hitting the shelves, you’re too late. This is especially true in the world of romance (paranormal in particular) where the trends are pretty easy to spot and the market does shift within a year or two timeframe.

I had coffee with an editor at Dorchester yesterday afternoon. If you know anything about this house, they lean toward debut writers, the editors read a lot of slush on their own, and they don’t mind taking risks with new kinds of material.

This editor is even still open to dark, interesting paranormals but lately there has been a trend of demons being the new vampires.

Or instead of demons, we have dragons.

Folks, it’s not the paranormal element that makes your story fresh or original, it’s the amazing world you build within your paranormal romance that makes the difference. From the slush stuff Sara and I have seen lately, a lot of writers haven’t quite learned that distinction.

So what would this editor love to see?

1. Blends of historical with fantasy (C.L. Wilson’s LORD OF THE FADING LANDS did well—and was quite long to boot)

2. Urban fantasy with a strong romance.

What this editor has too much of?

1. Mystery romance

2. Romantic comedy or straight contemporary romance is a tough field for them (but I have heard that editors are looking for it at other houses so this might be a publisher-specific thing.)

I think what you should take away from all these posts of mine lately is that it’s good to know the market but ultimately don’t get overwhelmingly caught up into it.

I’ll tell you right now that if I found a new, exciting author with a fresh mystery/romance or a vampire paranormal, I could sell it if the story was original, amazing, and basically reinvented how we view the paranormal romance world.

And that’s the kicker. It would have to be just that good when the market is awash in vampire stories or what have you.

Make sense?

No Two Editors Are Alike

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.

Hold The Gimmick

STATUS: Snowing like crazy today in New York. I actually didn’t have any lunch dates for this Friday as I was running an auction instead and that can be quite time consuming.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LOVE’S DIVINE by Seal

However, I did have lunch with an editor from the Penguin Children’s group yesterday (I know, my waistline doesn’t much appreciate breakfast immediately followed by lunch but what can you do!)

This editor likes girl stuff (so this is the context.) She wants high concept novels because they only have a few slots open per season and the work would need to stand out as a debut.

Problem is that she’s getting gimmicky novels with very little substance or a plot that’s not big enough. She’s dying to buy that manuscript that achieves the fine balance of a great voice, terrific writing, high concept, and good character development.

In other words, just write a great novel.

Well, duh. That’s all you need to land an agent and a book deal as well.

But I do think I understand. She’s seeing submissions that have a good hook but don’t seem to have much else and that can be a problem. I know this because we see similar patterns in our own submissions.

It can be equally problematic to have great writing and no solid story to drive the plot forward.

So, for what that is worth…

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.

Rumors Confirmed

STATUS: With the mail, I’m reminded that it’s October royalty statement time.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHEN DOVES CRY by Prince

The rumor is now official. Harlequin is closing its NEXT and Everlasting lines. Not a huge surprise but now things need to be re-evaluated if an agent has an author writing for either one of those lines.

And I have to laugh. Publishers need to be able to move as fast as the word does and they rarely do. The poor editors. They all had to say they didn’t know anything about it until Harlequin made the official announcement (which happened today). Talk about being in an awkward position.

Once information hits the streets (and I do mean the virtual streets), word spreads rapidly.

Speaking of streets, virtual or otherwise, I had an interesting time getting to work this morning. Chutney and I were doing the usual walk down 17th street before taking a right on Wazee. Usually the streets in Lodo are a little quiet since most businesses are more uptown. Then I noticed there seemed to be an inordinate amount of attractive and well dressed people on the street and literally, standing in front of my office.

But hey, it’s a free country and fashion plates can stand where they like.

I walked into my lobby only to run into several of my fellow office building mates. They asked if I were “in it?”

Confused, I said, “in what?”

“The movie. They are shooting a movie.”

Ah. Well, that explains the people with the walkie talkies. I’m thinking not since nobody stopped me as I walked down the street. I probably ruined a scene and didn’t even know it.

Ends up they are filming an Eddie Murphy movie literally right outside my office door so when his next film comes out, look for the SH Supply Company brick building and you’ll know that is where the Nelson Literary Agency resides.

I have to say that car alarms were featured heavily in the scene they shot this morning because we would hear the command, the alarm would go off, and when “cut” was yelled, it stopped.

And no, I didn’t get a glimpse of Eddie.