Friday, June 15, 2007

Learn to Speak Editor (part 4—the hard news)

"... the story just didn't come together in a way I had hoped it would.”
This could sure be more specific. It could mean that your resolution didn't resolve what the editor felt was the real conflict; it could mean that the strong elements of your writing weren't applied evenly in the manuscript. It could mean almost anything.
"Unfortunately, although I enjoyed this I’m afraid it feels a little too familiar. We are publishing a book that is similar called [title] this summer and I’m afraid this isn't quite unique enough for us to publish as aggressively as we’d like.”
This probably means just what it sounds like. Publishers have to try hard to keep their books different enough from each other so that bookbuyers can't say, 'oh, I don't need that book, I have your other book about that.'

"It's a fun idea and I especially enjoyed some of the moments between mc and mc, but I’m afraid it’s not right for our list right now.”
Praising the idea rather than the writing is usually a sign that the writing wasn't something the editor wanted to praise.

"You have sweet faces and a good family unit and theme at the core but at least for me the text still needs to be refined. I like the style and the feeling but not the story at hand."

This is a nice way of saying, "start over."

"Very clever, but not right for us. Good luck!"

This means nothing.

Here's one that puzzles me ... In a couple of cases, I've received several encouraging, complimentary rejections on my picture book manuscripts from one
editor. By the third or so letter, the editor will say sorry we can't publish this and ask if I have "anything longer." I don't.
I do, however, have other picture book manuscripts. Judging from their catalogs, these editors are publishing their share of picture books (and often from new authors). Should I move on to another editor at the same house? Or is that rude when someone has put the time into sending personal rejections? Clearly, these editors are sending me a hint but I'm not sure what to do with it.

There are pros and cons to having a semi-personal relationship with editors. It may get you a pass to send email submissions; it may get you personal rejections. But after a certain number of trys and misses, it's going to mean your submissions are met with rolled eyes and sighing. It's probably time to try another editor.


Anonymous said...

The last one sounds a bit like they think you might be a good writer, but either don't like/can't use your picture book ideas or don't have much room on their picture book list, or both.

Just because they're publishing picture books by new authors doesn't mean they're looking for picture books by new authors. The things they're publishing now were acquired years ago. Now they could be signed up through 2011 for picture books, but have holes in their early chapter book list. So a picture book submission would have to be mind-blowing to go for it, but chapter books just have to be really good, not mind-blowing. When something like this happens, it's not uncommon for editors to say to themselves, "well, I liked x submission, but not enough to shoehorn it into a crowded list. I wonder if they have any y?" And so they ask for it.

(Just using picture books/chapter books as an example, based on the puzzled author's situation--could be any combo).

I think it's a good thing! Unfortunately, if you haven't any chapter books, you may not have time to write one before their needs change. Once it becomes clear you need more of a certain type of book, it's often not long before you have too many of that type (because everyone's focusing on it).

Anonymous said...

This is interesting because (and I could be wrong) it appears that there are three forces at work here: books that fill a need, books that feed into trends, and books that don't do either (like Holes for instance, wonderful writing, wonderful story... original?! Where did this come from?) and shine through the other two. I would think number three is the optimum but probably doesn't happen that much. Am I right??

Editorial Anonymous said...

That's about right, AE.

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