Friday, November 27, 2009

Rerun: I'm Your Sister's Bikini Waxer's Ex-Boyfriend's Dry Cleaner. So You Won't Mind Doing Me a Favor.

I just found out my cousin is close friends with a high-ranking editor at a major house. As an aspiring author, I'd love to believe this could be useful one day, but I imagine there are a bajillion writers within a few degrees of every editor. How do you feel about friends and friends of friends in search of book deals? Is it business as usual, or is it all terribly awkward? Is there anything you wish authors knew about networking in publishing?
Everyone in publishing (and especially in children's publishing) accepts it as part of their job that friends of colleagues, second cousins of friends of colleagues, and hairstylists of second cousins of friends of colleagues will use their "personal connection" to force an editor to deal with their manuscript (rather than an editorial assistant or intern). We don't accept it cheerfully, but we accept it. The world is all about relationships.

We also know that a personal connection is no guarantee at all that the manuscript will be better than the usual run of slush, and indeed it's often worse-- because the people who try this end-run are usually the rank beginners who not only know nothing about the industry, they also come with a bunch of wildly wrong assumptions about it.

Now, I'm not assuming you're one of these people. They don't find their way to my blog, because they don't see why they should be interested in publishing before they get published.

But you should know that it is through this lens of apprehension and mild resentment that your manuscript is likely to be read. If it's simply terrific and grabs the editor from page one, then your road ahead may be clear and golden. But if not, the editor may only read the couple of pages that will allow her to write a letter that shows she did look at the manuscript before rejecting it.

Now, I know, sometimes it seems like there aren't hurdles in your path to publication as much as mountains. I know, following the rules of submitting to publishing houses and agents sometimes seems like an enormous waste of time. But breaking the rules is equally so.

I post about the slush to try to convey to people why there are so many roadblocks set up in the way of hopeful writers: because many hopeful writers are simply delusional about what might get published.

It's like there's a mob of thousands outside your office, and you know from experience that a good half of them are loonies. And a spare few are people you would be thrilled to work with. How do you sift through them? Ask the crazy people to raise their hands? Ask the "good writers" to raise their hands?

No. You're going to have to interview them each in turn, and it's going to be a lot of work. And it doesn't help that there are a few of them waving their arms and calling, "I knew your ex-manicurist's rabbi!"

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Never Say Never, Again and Again

As a freelance Illustrator still scraping my fingernails to get noticed by the industry, I’ve created a site that includes multiple styles. I had been told all through art school this was a big No-No to feature multiple styles under the same name. I find this rather frustrating, as I’m sure Editors can appreciate diverse styles to fit story needs… right? Is it better to have one solidified style to ‘brand’ one’s self in the memory of Editors? Or do you appreciate an artist with multiple approaches to solving a children’s text?
I like multiple styles. The designers I know like multiple styles. I don't know what they're teaching people in art school.
I hear people talk all the time about revising manuscripts based on what rejection letters say. If I have received 50 form rejection letters that have no specific connection to my writing, does that mean my work is not worth commenting on, editors are over-worked, or something else entirely?
I would say that's a bad sign. Whether it means you've been submitting something unremarkable or submitting to people who don't take the sort of thing you're submitting, I don't know.
About a year ago I sent out a manuscript to three slush piles of three prominent houses and a couple of other places which shall not be named. Today I was walking through Target and saw MY BOOK WITH ANOTHER PERSON'S name on it. Obviously, it was her book, containing my idea, and a little suspicious that it is out a little less than one year after submitting it. Is this just how the business works? Does my book even have a chance? Should I hope that it is a best-seller so that another publisher wants to pick up my book? Should I get a lawyer? Okay, so not the last, but it is tough seeing a water-down version of my fabulous story on the shelves. Yes, it may be like the Twilight phenomena and we just had the same idea at the same time, but it doesn't make me feel better. The one saving grace is that I like the illustrations and I know that another version is worth publishing. Though the reason I like the illustrations of the woman's book so much is because they are very similar to the illustration that I sent in on my cover letter. I know these things happen, but I feel I need a "pat on the back" and "carry on young grasshopper". I promise I won't be pathetic tomorrow.
First of all, it's unlikely that a publisher could find your idea in the submissions pile and crank out an imitation in less than a year. The book you saw in Target has most likely been underway for a couple years. Likewise, if you sell your manuscript, it will be another couple of years before it comes out. So unless it's a very unusual topic and your approach isn't meaningfully different, there's hope for your book yet.
I write literary fiction, mostly, as well as young adult. But that's beside the point. My question is what does one do with a 15,000 word story--not long enough to be a novel, but not short enough (I understand) to be a short story. Is there any way to sell stories around that length?
Probably not. I mean, Seedfolks is around 11,000 words, but chances are you're not Paul Fleischman. And I can't think of anything that short in YA. I never say never, but that sounds like a bit of a long shot.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Manuscripts Roasting on an Open Fire, Jack Daniels Nipping at My Nose...

I'm just getting ready to buckle down and send out a bunch of queries for my middle grade manuscript, but it suddenly occurred to me that this time of year might be the worst time to try to get agents and editors' attention. As the holidays approach, do agents and editors tend to push stuff off their desks to clear the decks for their time off, and therefore reject more than usual?
Or do they store up queries and manuscripts, knowing they might have more spare time to read over the holidays?
Or does it just not matter?
Look, you have to try to remember that there are tons of different editors, and they're not all using the same brain. There are about as many different workstyles as there are editors. So some of them will do one of the things you've mentioned above, and some will do other things you haven't even thought of. I plan to burn all my outstanding reading in a bonfire while cackling / singing christmas carols.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Language of Rejection: Not Always Meant for Translation.

As a long time children's book illustrator and now aspiring writer, I have approached a few literary agents that I feel would be a good match for my work. I recently got a very nice rejection letter from a new agent that said my PB manuscript had a "clever sensibility" to it, but that she did not "connect" with my illustration style, therefore it was a "no". I've been scratching my head trying to figure out what "clever sensibility" means...a polite way of saying your story is just okay but not great?
Maybe this would make more sense to me if I'd seen the manuscript, but I think chances are strong that this is just gibberish.
Could you please interpret this rejection letter to me... Sometimes I don't know what this kind of letters really tell... They like your work and in the future want to know what you are doing, or simply is a nice form of rejection, like when a girl friend says its me not you? This is the rejection letter: Dear X, Thank you for your enormous patience with me while I've reviewed your various projects and discussed them with a colleague here. Your writing style is intriguing and lyrical, intense and evocative, but in the end, I'm afraid we found these stories too ephemeral or elliptical thematically--or at least, we found that we lack a vision for publishing and promoting them--so I must say no with regrets.
Translation: "Your writing is good; what it's not is marketable. But maybe I'm wrong? Who knows."

Monday, November 23, 2009

In Which the Cockles of My Heart Are Reasonably Tepid

I've noticed that most MGs that have sold recently have NOT been 'school stories'. (At least what's listed at Pub. Lunch) Does that mean 'school stories' are history? Or maybe they are being bought but not reported? Any ideas?
I don't know what you mean by "school stories". A story in which the characters are in school? But that's... most of them. I'm confused.
Normally, if I get a rejection, I put it in my pile and go on, but I received one recently that makes me wonder. If an editor takes the time to point out exactly what does and doesn't work for her in a picture book, and says that it's close, but "not quite there yet", does that mean that she would be open to considering a revised version with those changes implemented? I know "no means no" is the general rule, but it seems like an awful lot of time on the editor's part if she doesn't want to see it again. And if she doesn't want to see it again, I don't want to come across as overly aggressive by sending a revision or emailing her to ask.
No means no. Invitations to resubmit are always explicit. You should take this as encouragement, though-- your manuscript clearly warmed the cockles of the editor's heart enough for her to want to take the time to give you feedback. Most of the time, speaking personally, my cockles are not that warm.
As a children's book illustrator with an agent, what should I be expecting from the relationship? I recently accepted representation with a great agency, but I'm not sure what I should be expecting as I don't currently have ambitions with submitting my own projects. Is she involved in my self promotion to help me get new work, or does she just help me with the issues that come up (contract, negotiation, etc) after I bring in projects on my own? As an editor, does it make a difference to you if an illustrator is agented or not?
This varies from agent to agent, and you should be asking your agent these questions. You should really have asked before you signed with her.
As an editor, no.
I was interested in your explanation of the fact that the author of a picture book manuscript should not expect to have any say in the illustration of their book. My question, then, is how an author/illustrator gets a book published. Is that situation always one where the person has an established presence as an illustrator? Do they submit the manuscript and not mention their hope to illustrate until after they have a publisher? Or maybe they're always established authors, and have a relationship with their publisher that allows them to present the idea? I can think of a lot of ways for such a deal to come about, but what's the typical scenario?
They submit illustrated manuscripts, and the editor doesn't look at them and think, "Well, we'll get that illustrated by someone better." She thinks, "This is essentially done! Awesome!"

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Definitions for the Perplexed: Self Publishing

Janet Reid has done a fine job of covering the Harlequin brouhaha, so I needn't go over it again here.
And the SFWA has helpfully delineated the differences between vanity, subsidy, and self-publishing.

Let me just get this out of the way: There's nothing wrong with self-publishing. Not intrinsically. And a very small and extremely lucky and persistent percentage of self-publishers manage to sell their self-published works in enough quantity to make a profit. In a few extremely rare instances they sell well enough to be picked up by a trade publisher.

But there IS something wrong with self-publishing presses: They're shitheads.

Self-publishing presses reliably tell their marks ahem, clients all the things that will happen: their book will have an ISBN. It will be available through Amazon. It will have "distribution".

What they do not tell their clients are all the things that won't happen: It won't be available at both national wholesalers. Even if it is, it won't be available on a returnable basis to bookstores. It won't be available at a normal trade discount to bookstores. It won't have been edited, designed, or illustrated in a professional manner, which is what the book-buying public expects.

Which means it won't have a snowball's chance in hell of placement in bookstores, and 999 times out of 1,000 it won't have a snowball's chance in hell of selling. Period.

If self-publishing presses were educating their clients about all of that, I would have nothing at all against them. But education would cut into their profits. So they won't.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Look, Jane, look! Look at my book!

I have written a caption picture book (no illustrations) and was curious if I should use the word "caption" in my queries to identify it as such. Also, should I mention the word length (under 500 words)?
As the term "caption book" is more common among educators than other people, I would only recommend using it only if you are submitting to an educational publisher. Otherwise, call it a 'leveled reader' or a 'beginning reader'.

There are very specific guidelines for vocabulary, line length, sentence length, etc. in leveled readers, so I hope you know what you're doing. I'm sure beginning readers of every kind look very easy to people unfamiliar with them, but creating an honestly entertaining text for children who are still sounding out words is HARD. Current favorite: The Cat On the Mat Is Flat

Yes, do include the word count.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Shnookiedoodlepoo and the Diaper

I'm wondering if it's important to have a super great title for my manuscript when I submit it to the slush pile. Should I spend a great deal of time and energy to get it just right, or do the majority of titles get changed along the way anyway?
Great title:
Ooo, that's catchy. Maybe the editor will take a little peek right now, instead of days or weeks from now.

Ok title:
Manuscript gets in line. No special treatment.

Bad/cliched title:
Without realizing it, the editor keeps sifting manuscript to the bottom of the pile. Months go by. Eventually, editor reads it and maybe realizes it's great! It just needs a new title. No problem.

Horrifying title: No answer because the editor didn't want to touch the manuscript long enough to reject it.

If you can come up with a super title, then do-- it can encourage prompt responses.

But do not overthink this, and if you aren't good at recognizing the difference between an awkwardly overwrought title and something that sparks reader interest (and many writers are not!), go ahead and give your MS a blah, vanilla-flavored title that can be easily changed and that at least won't hurt it during submission.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Go To Your Happy Place: Your Writing Desk

I’m an aspiring author with one magazine credit and a fabulous agent. I’ve recently had some good news, an editor from a major publishing house is interested in my manuscript (the joy, the terror). She’s currently circulating copies to her colleagues and I’m waiting for news and trying not to hold my breath. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from other editors (via said fabulous agent); however, the outstanding concern is that the manuscript might not be long enough for the age group (I aimed it at 8-12, though some publishers felt it would be better as a 9+). The manuscript is 32,000 words long. I do know this is short, however it felt like the natural length for this specific story. It’s a long preamble, but I would love an editor’s honest take on this situation. Is a short story just too costly to print? are they unpopular/unsaleable? or are they trying to let me down easy? I’ve indicated that I’d be more than happy to write more (provided it was more that added to the story, not just more words to bulk out each chapter), and that I would be thrilled to have an editor’s opinion/brainstorming power to help me with some ideas. Besides that, is there anything I can do?
No, that's the right approach to take. In your position, I would assume that those editors who simply rejected it on the grounds that it's too short didn't have any particular ideas (or at least, ones they wanted to share) for how it might be longer.

It's possible you will find an editor who will be willing to publish this at its current length (it's on the short side, but I can think of shorter things published for middle school), or you will find an editor who's interested in brainstorming ways to make it longer.

If I were you, I would be thinking hard now about how you might make it longer (in a way that, as you say, serves the story rather than just padding it). If you're feeling stuck, ask your agent what she feels are the primary strengths of the manuscript and then concentrate on what you could do to develop those more.

Waiting and worrying are probably the couple of worst things for authors, but the good news is you have something to do that prevents both of them! That is: writing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November Love/Hate

Know what I love? The way when a lot of people donate a leeetle money to a good cause, it becomes a LOT of money for the cause.

Know what I hate? Adam Rex's moustache.

HERE, the fantabulous Bridget Zinn auction is going on. Bridget, you'll recall, got a book deal and a cancer diagnosis in the same month. She's doing ok, but her treatment is hellishly expensive. Happily, she has lots of fellow children's book people who don't know her and yet who care about her.

HERE, Adam Rex is raising money for schoolchildren. Last year he raised a bunch of funds for Philadelphia schools; this year it's Tucson schools. (And you have the option of donating to schools in YOUR immediate area.) Please, donate some money and help us make him shave.

(What I love most: that the community of children's book people is so generous. You, my readers and your friends and colleagues: you're awesome.)

Suggestions Are Welcome! Demands... Not So Much.

I have a quick formatting question. If I want to set something off in my manuscript with a different font, how do I indicate that in my manuscript? I am going to have as part of my manuscript pages from another book and letters from characters in between chapters (not unlike Sarah Prineas did with THE MAGIC THIEF). Should I add something (a footnote? a note in brackets?) to indicate that this should be formatted differently?
A note in brackets phrased as a suggestion is acceptable. That's the designer's job, you know.
And out of curiosity--how would an author format a manuscript that needed some form of special illustration, like the comic book inset in Markus Zusak's THE BOOK THIEF or the ink blots and scribblings MT Anderson's OCTAVIAN NOTHING?
As a suggestion, again. That's money the publisher would have to spend on illustration.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

You Promoted Your Book and I Don't Bitterly Regret Coming! Win/Win.

The trend to over-share might be in part because for authors there can be quite a bit of fear-driven pressure [from peers and self] to be doing what the most visible authors are doing. And as many commenters have pointed out, some very visible authors fall into the category of internet over-share in terms of anything goes personal information. Some put out a lot of information very naturally, and some really very entertainingly - but others I suspect may be acting somewhat out of character in order to try to meet a perceived expectation [besides maintaining blog posting volume]. These can be our most prominent examples.
Actually, all of the examples I've witnessed were in person, at publisher-organized events. AND several of the worst offenders were very established writers who could easily have refused to do events. I think some people just have no damn filter.
In terms of the dangers of speaking over-share, when people ask authors to speak they often don't have any kind of request for a particular topic or theme, and we are just expected to do 'our talk'. I've seen authors talk about all sorts of things, more and less successfully. So besides what not to say [which IS helpful!!], what would you give as advice for an author wondering what exactly to really focus on when asked to give a general talk?
Well, the reason authors usually aren't given a topic or theme is because nobody else but you knows what you can speak entertainingly about. You could speak about eggplants and how they were clearly never meant for consumption. You could speak about your first meaningful experience of the power of storytelling (as long as you aren't breaking any of the rules). You could speak about publishing's pitfalls or writing's ecstasies or vice versa. You could even speak about your book, if you really want to.

The trick is just to find something that you want to talk about and other people want to hear. Still, if all you can manage is to avoid speaking about something your audience finds uncomfortable, disgusting, inappropriate, weepingly dull, or nightmare-inducing, I say: that's a job well done.

Monday, November 16, 2009

No Excuses

I’m a professional illustrator, I’m from Italy and I work in the UK as a video game artist. I usually just write short stories, nothing too complicated o convoluted. I tend to get bored pretty easily so I’m not exactly the kind of person who can manage to stick to a novel for a decade. (I usually write in Italian so please don’t take my English as an example) So, I recently wrote two short books. The first one is a collection of my grandma’s recipes. I know it’s not something that will change the course of literature, but honestly my initial purpose was purely emotional. I have been told people don’t live forever so I just wanted to gather all her recipes before, well, it was too late, so to speak. Then I realized that maybe a book about the recipes of an elderly Italian woman could have some commercial relevance, at least in Britain. After all the entire kingdom is famous worldwide – as admitted by its own inhabitants - for its not-exactly-top-of-the-range food. Italy on the other hand is famous for the opposite reason so I figured that someone might be interested in it. Anyway, the book is written in a humoristic style, there are a few anecdotes about my grandma’s life and persona (they’re relevant because both vital parts of her cuisine) and as opposed to most cooking books I planned to include a few of my own illustrations rather than the usual photographs of pasta and meatballs.
I'm a children's book editor, so please bear in mind that I'm no expert in food publishing for adults. The things I am thinking now are (and anyone actually in food publishing, feel free to correct me):
  • There are a TON of Italian cookbooks available in English already. You have some heavy competition.
  • People are more likely to buy a cookbook for its ease, its appetizingness, its novelty, or its personal charm than its type of cuisine.
  • So that means not only must the recipes be excellent, the stories must be very charming.
  • And it means the publisher who picks this project up probably will want pretty pictures of the food. But they can handle that photo shoot.
Assuming that the stories are charming enough to make people want to spend some time (and money) on the book, this is an excellent example of a situation in which getting your work edited in advance of submission might be very good for it. Your English is a little bit rocky, and so getting a freelance editor to clean it up for you might help the publisher to whom you send it to see its potential.
The second work is a 500 words picture book. Being an illustrator I couldn’t help picturing the story in my mind in images first, the words came after or at least simultaneously. Let’s say that initially the plot was just an excuse to put together a consistent series of colourful images I would have fun working on, and that at the same time could entertain my toddler girl.
Since I’m not a book illustrator (if we don’t mention the pointless Repair Your Car by Yourself which I illustrated when I was seventeen and for which I wasn’t even credited for) I did some research and I learnt (from you, btw) that editors don’t like authors to submit manuscripts that are already illustrated (or at best they don’t care if they are).
Hence my questions:
Does the same “rule” apply when an author-illustrator submits a manuscripts with his own pictures?
Maybe. Since you are paid for your illustrations, there's a chance that your art is professional enough for you to be considered as an author/illustrator. But the part where you say "Let’s say that initially the plot was just an excuse to put together a consistent series of colourful images" is a big red flag. I've gotten submissions that started as a colorful (but unconnected) series of images, with a text that tried to connect them with something approaching a narrative. Tried and failed. Anytime you're doing something in your bookmaking "as an excuse" for something else in your bookmaking, I strongly suggest you rethink whether there is any excuse for it.
Is it likely (on the unlikely assumption the story is accepted) that the book might get published but illustrated by another artist? To be honest it would be really awkward to be a professional illustrator who gets published for something he did primarily for fun that eventually gets illustrated by someone else.
It's possible, yes. If you couldn't stomach that and are unwilling to consider that option, make that clear in your cover letter.
Does the fact that the story is closely linked to the images decrease the chances of it being published? (assuming the story is good enough but maybe the style is somehow wrong etc.).What I mean is, does the rejection of the illustrations usually imply the rejection of the manuscript in its entirety in this case?
If you say in your cover letter that you'd be willing to consider someone else illustrating your story, then the editor will bear that in mind.
I’m finishing all the illustrations anyway, but do you think in general, when it comes to picture books, an author/illustrator should submit only sketches?
An author/illustrator should submit mostly sketches and a couple pieces of finished art. This is because (a) the art will almost certainly not be accepted just the way you originally envisioned it--that's why publishers expect to see sketches before final art. And (b) we cannot assume what qualities will carry over from an artist's sketches to their final art, and what qualities will only show up in the final art. So you have to send samples.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Overzealous Is Your Middle Name (Which Makes You Just Like Most Authors)

I submitted three chapters and a synopsis to two editors I met at a very small regional SCBWI event. When I sent the 3 chaps, thinking I had a minimum of 4-6 months wait ahead of me, I was aware my MS still needed a last copyedit and a proofread. When Editor A requested the full MS, only three weeks later, complete with scribbled smiley face on her note to me, I was elated.... and horrified to find my story wasn't as ready as I thought. The second half (at least) had some serious issues which suddenly became glaringly obvious to me now that someone actually wanted to see the full. I'm sure I made a complete gaffe of the situation: I sent Editor A the first half of the MS, and explained what had happened, with an assurance I was committed to fixing the issues. Editor A quickly rejected my half MS with a form letter. No real surprises there, I guess, a sharp rap on the knuckles, and a hard lesson learned.

Ah... well, I can't speak for all editors, but if I had the first half of a novel and was really excited about it, I would let the author know that I'd love to see the rest when it was done.
Unless it was about vampires, zombies, or angels. Only manuscripts ready to be sent to the printer can have those in them right now. Damned angels.

At the same time, you're right, you shouldn't be submitting a novel that isn't finished, so I'm glad you're taking this as a lesson.
I'm wondering what's the best way to handle Editor B: just to send her a letter and withdraw my MS from consideration at this point? I don't want to waste her time. But I'm not expecting that she will request the full. And I don't want to come across as Stupidity Exhibit A to someone whom I admire. How is an author, if she's silly enough to be there, expected to handle this kind of situation? Talk about arguing for one's limitations....
Let her know that you feel you've noticed a couple problem areas and want to send the manuscript to her once it's really as good as you can make it. She should appreciate that. And give her an idea of how soon that might be: a month? A couple months? I don't mean to pressure you, but we like people who have a new book every year or two.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

You Don't Hate Me! You Really, Really Don't Hate Me!!

Do good reviews matter? If one's first book sold few copies, but received excellent reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, VOYA, and others, will a publisher take that into consideration when deciding whether to offer a contract for a second book?
Yes. As long as we're in agreement about what "excellent" means.

I know some authors who think the world is ready to crack open and give them an oyster the size of Hong Kong if a reviewer simply refrains from impaling their book on a bloody spike.

Most really glowing reviews are starred reviews, and that's what really makes a difference to how ready I am to overlook bad sales history.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In Which I Am Proud of My Bruises

Do you know why some really, really prominent children's books - like the last volume of a certain boy wizard series - are edited so badly? I'm certainly I'm not the only person who read through the last few installments of Harry Potter thinking OH MY GOD CUT CUT CUT!!!!
The obvious explanation is that a bigshot author can demand their immortal prose be left untampered with, on threat of decamping to a different publisher.
Yes, in large part.
Another still more depressing possibility is that the publishers just don't care and skip the editing process in order to get the big-name book out there bringing in all that lovely money as soon as possible.
Yes again.
But if the latter, that seems short-sighted, as a well-edited book is surely more likely to stand the test of time and keep making money for the publisher in future (if, of course, that publisher retains the rights - if not, maybe they don't care.).
It's certainly difficult to imagine that Bloomsbury couldn't find someone competent and willing to work on HP. Was there some poor editor weeping in her office over being prevented, by authorial ego or sales department supremacy, from doing her job properly?
Yes, that's possible. There are also a few editors who, unfortunately, just don't really give a crap.

I agree with you that there are further books in certain series that could have done with a sh**load of editing beyond the editing I know they received. (Never assume they weren't edited at all--they were.)

But I'd like to say a couple things about the short-sightedness of publishing, to provide some context, without actually defending it.

For one thing, for 99.99% of books, publishing is about the now. Being able to sell 500,000 copies now is the very best most books can ever hope for. Trying to create a book 'for the ages'--a book that will last past the author's own lifetime, nevermind just making it to two years from now-- is playing with such long odds it's ridiculous. That's a fact of the industry, and something to bear in mind.

It's also worth remembering that as long as the first book in a series is in good enough shape to keep hooking readers, it doesn't matter so much how badly plotted, excessively adverbialized, and padded with filler the last books are. Readers will still want them. That's a fact of the reading public.

So yes, sometimes authors prevent editors from doing their jobs. Sometimes publishers prevent editors from doing their jobs. Sometimes editors just don't do their jobs. And sometimes it's a combination of all three.

It takes a lot of fight to be a good editor. And it also takes knowing what fights are worth fighting.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Definitions for the Perplexed: Assistant- Associate- Senior- Executive- Editor -in Chief -ial Director etc etc

Could you explain exactly what an Editorial Director does? Where does she fit in with the general hierarchy of a publishing company? (I assume she is more senior than a Senior Editor, but is there anyone more senior than her?) Does an Editorial Director have to go through a committee to acquire, just like everyone else, or is she more autonomous?
Ha-ha! I will never tell. The industry is conspiring against you to make this information inaccessible!

Ok, I don't mean that. But I can't tell you the answer, because what an editorial director does, how she fits in the hierarchy of the company, and how she acquires will vary unpredictably from one house to another.

So if I told you what "editorial director" means at my house, my colleagues might be able to figure out which house I work for. Every company uses titles to suit their specific needs and interprets titles according to bureaucratic whim. There's no communal chart for what a particular title means in publishing.

Perhaps some of my publishing readers could give anonymous examples in the comments of what "editorial director" means at their houses.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Importance of Community and Research

I have a sister who has written 3 tween girl books. She recently sent me a contract she received from an agency for my review. In researching this agency it was not hard to uncover that it is a fee based scam sort of operation. I would love for my sis to have a real opportunity to get some healthy and professional critique on her writing. Unfortunately my rolodex is a little thin on literary industry folks. What's the best way to obtain information on reputable children's/ tween freelance editors that I could hire to work with her?
She should join the SCBWI to start with-- that will put her in contact with a whole community of people whom she can ask for advice. My readers may have suggestions in the comments, too.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

How to Illustrate for Children? Oh, That's Simple.

I'm currently studying Illustration at the Arts University College at Bournemouth in my second year. I've been given a brief where I need to design 5 rough ideas and 3 final images for a children's book. The brief is that I've got to pick 5 religions and pick one section from their story about creation and illustrate it for a child. I've been given no text as of yet so I need to be mindful that the text will take up at least a third of the double page spread I've got to design for each image.

And so as I was reading through your blog and all your posts, i was wondering whether you had any advice about how I should go about this and if you could give me some information about what's successful in the realm of children's books.
I don't know how to answer this. For one thing, I'm an editor, not an art director. And for another thing, it sounds like you don't know what your question is. Which part of this assignment are you confused about? If it's the whole assignment, you should talk to your teacher.

I'm sorry not to be more help, but specific questions engender specific answers.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fragile: Contains Dreams. Please Do Not Bend, Fold, or Crush.

Do children's book editors know that they hold children's book author's dreams in their hands?
Yes. But long acquaintance with the slush pile has convinced us that we are also holding authors' crack-induced fantasies and psychotic delusions in our hands.

Also: No.

Here's the thing we'd like more authors to be aware of: we don't hold your dreams in our hands. You do.

What we hold in our hands--what you've sent us-- is your work, not your dreams.

Any reasonable person expects to work hard to make their dreams come true, right? Getting rejected and writing and rewriting and writing some more and getting rejected some more is all part of that hard work.

No editor should be able to crush your dreams by telling you the piece of your work they looked at wasn't good enough. Because it's just one piece of your work! And you have lots more, right?

When you receive a rejection letter and feel your dreams being crushed, BE AWARE: it's you crushing your dreams.

That's what happens when you forget that dreams are achieved through your hard work, and not through the miraculous intervention of others.

We are not your fairy godmothers; we are your colleagues. We will be so grateful if you will treat us as such.