Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Blog Resolutions?

An editor and a copyeditor are out walking when they come upon a set of tracks. The editor looks at them and identifies them as deer tracks.
The copyeditor says, "No, those are elk tracks."
"I disagree," says the editor. "The majority of viewers would certainly interpret these as deer tracks."
"But they do not follow the correct form of deer tracks," objects the copyeditor. "They must be elk."
They argue back and forth, on and on, and they're still arguing when the train hits them.

There aren't nearly enough editor jokes. You guys are the writers; can't you come up with some?

In the new year, this blog resolves to laugh more and eat fewer authors for lunch (its margins are feeling a bit tight). It resolves to go to the gym when it says it's going to the gym, instead of stopping at a bar to bench press tequila. It resolves to tidy its apartment more often and see if it can figure out why the damn toilet keeps running, even if this requires visiting a (gasp!) hardware store.

When I started this blog I wasn't sure it wouldn't be just to amuse myself, but a couple of months later, ta-dah! I had a readership. It's nearly a year later (which is eons in internet terms, not to mention in terms of my attention span), and to celebrate this miracle of longevity I thought I'd ask you what you'd like to see on this blog in the new year. Ideas? Suggestions? Most appreciated.


Wordy Bird said...

I'd just like to say "Thanks!"

Every morning, the first thing I do is check to see if you've posted. I've directed all my writing students to read your blog, and even though I've been at this biz for 12 years, I learn something from you all the time (or at least feel very well supported in all that I've been teaching). You make me weep with giggles and I really just hope you keep going with this as long as you can.

I loved the query letters comp and also learning more about what goes on behind the scenes. More 'what makes editors cringe or guffaw please', the excerpts from actual queries/manuscripts were pants-wettingly hilarious.

Once again, thank you, and Hoopy Loopy New Year!

Anonymous said...


Boy, those two editors are pretty stupid!!

Stephanie J. Blake said...

Thank you for blogging. Has it been a year already? I'd love to see more behind-the-scenes stuff, the Q&A, actual queries and generally your snark and wit.

Joni said...

I don't know if you could do this and still be anonymous, but I would love to see more of the thought process that goes on in the editing of a ms. you've acquired. Like -- do you read for specific weaknesses, or do individual ms. weaknesses jump out at you the first time you read? How many times do you read before/for a line edit? How do you develop the ed. letter? How do you balance personal opinion or "buttons" with how you think readers/others will take the work? What do you look for when reading the revision? Etc.

Happy New Year, EA!

LindaBudz said...

First off, thank you for all of your 2007 posts! You do an amazing job, both in terms of quality and quantity.

As for 2008 ... just a thought, but I think your blog could be more easily searched (and therefore maybe you'd get fewer "repeat" questions and requests) if you did the Blogger labels thing. You wouldn't have to go back and add labels to the existing posts, but maybe you could start with the new ones?

And ... I love (and learn a lot) from contests!

Editorial Anonymous said...

You're right, I know you're right. I've been a slacker at that.

Anonymous said...

Love the it every day. I'd love to see more info regarding how you choose a manuscript. Is it just the story line, the characters, or the way it flows. Don't say everything! Can a manuscript with really strong characters overcome a weak plot, or vice versa?
Also, do you often work with new agents and if so, what advice do you have for them?
Finally, what do you see as the biggest trend for 2008 as far as novels? What's out and what's in?
Thanks for all the advice. Can't wait to see your reply.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with mg: keep up the "pants-wettingly hilarious" examples of what not to do.
Besides giving us a laugh, they make us all feel somewhat competent.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a joke about editors but I've got one about writers.


Q: How many writers does it take to publish a book?

A: Fifty: one to write it, find an agent, revise until they are blue in the face, help write the jacket copy, and beam when they spot it on a bookstore shelf. And 49 to gather together and collectively say, "WELL, I wouldn't have written that scene/MC/dialogue/action sequence/character arc/exposition/flashback like THAT! What's wrong with this market, anyway..."

Sarah Laurenson said...

Thanks for this past year. Between you and the evil one, I've been keeping up with my daily writing connection.

Suggestions? Hard to say. I like having feedback on specific queries and pieces of manuscripts. I get that from the Evil Editor, but it's not geared to children.

Hard to do that and do what you do, so maybe it's better to stick with the great work you've been doing all year.

Thanks for the laughs, the inspiration, the bad examples, the good examples. It all helps!

Anonymous said...

More on choosing and working with illustrators would be nice.
Thank you for all the entertainment and enlightenment this past year--and bonne année for 2008!

Sherryl said...

Thanks for the blog - I especially appreciate that it focuses on writing for children/YA.
I'm interested in the factors that influence you acquiring a manuscript. It seems to me that editors want a manuscript to be perfect *and* a great idea, or a fabulous, original idea that needs work.
Are there lots of manuscripts like this? Or are there thousands that are pretty good but just not pressing any buttons for you? I think what I'm asking for is more on your thought processes about what you decide to publish and what you pass on, and why.
But it's all been good and useful so far!

Natalie said...

I've enjoyed your blog (has it really been a year already??) and have appreciated the glimpse you've given us into the world of editing.

What I'd love to know is how shy from perfect does a MS have to be before you decide to acquire it? What kinds of things do you see as "fixable" and what kinds of things are no-way-will-this-ever-make-it? Have you ever acquired a MS assuming the author would be able to fix something, and it turned out that wasn't the case (either the author refused, or wasn't capable)?

Thanks again for your insight, and Happy Holidays!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the past year! I work as a minion in children's publishing and I am always entertained and enlightened by your posts. Bring on 2008.

Anonymous said...

I'd say I'd like more insight into what makes a MS a "pass" as opposed to an acquire.

I hear within the idustry all the time that "voice" has to be there, but that "plot" can always be fixed (according to an editor's specifications). But I've found this not to be the case. I'm agented (and previously published) and get "great" rejections from major houses saying they love the voice/writing/characters, but then end up passing because of minor plot issues that heck, it would take me maybe all of an hour at my computer to fix. I'm not kidding -- these issues could be fixed with a few added paragraphs here and there.

Does no one want to give you the benefit of the doubt anymore, that you as the writer CAN fix that tiny thing they don't like, or does the EDITOR feel that they've got to have a "solution" in mind for an issue or they don't want to take your manuscript on?

Sign me, so damn close but yet so damn far...

Anonymous said...

I find posts about the editing part of your job the most interesting. What type of specific things draw you to a MS or repel you. All the horror story submissions stuff is always fun, but if you're past that painful learning curve as a writer it doesn't do much to add to your knowlege.

Tell us about editing. How you edit. What drives you crazy. Not just, overwriting, too much dialouge, or boring descriptions, but examples of that (from your trained eye) and ways YOU would change it.

YA writers chant these things like a prayer, yet no discussion/examples of how to FIX too much description, overwriting, etc.. ever gets touched on.

For instance on Nathan Bransford's blog a week or so ago, he posted a query/first five pages of a querier's work (with their permission) and gave his comments. I'm sure the querier hadn't realized that his/her piece was overwritten, but that's what Bransford and nearly every commentator said. THAT was helpful, because the person got honest feedback (not someone making snide comments) and had a place to start reworking their book instead of simply wondering why they kept getting form rejects.

Anonymous said...

I may be in the minority here, but I'd prefer fewer snide comments about off-the-wall questions or submissions. Sure, sometimes they're funny, but mainly -- who has the time?

I'd like fewer newbie questions that people should be getting answered from a good writing book or CWIM or ICL or Underdown's site or something.

But I go with the majority in that I'd like to hear lots of details about what made you pass on "almost" submissions, and some honest comments on how perfect something has to be before you'll acquire. My experience -- in previous publishing history and current submission history -- is like anon. 9:00's. I suspect editors say they can't fix voice but can fix plot because that's theoretically true -- but WILL they fix plot? You hear all the time about writers who enter into these back-and-forth editorial processes with an editor, but, except for twice in the 90s, my experience is "perfect, or no deal." Is the answer money?

Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed your posts. Some of the very basic newbie stuff does get tiring.
I'll keep a heads-up for a good editor joke! The anonymous 2:01 author joke made me sad. Am I really working in a field of bubble bursting,back-stabbing, jealous armchair critics? I felt like adding one more punchline to the joke... "and the next time the 49 authors walked by the bookstore window, the book was plastered in shiny gold stickers. Newbery. Kids' Choice. Oprah's Pick."

Editorial Anonymous said...

Great feedback, guys! I'll see what I can do.

Nancy Werlin said...

I'd also be interested in ongoing observations about an editorial-author relationship that's working for you, and why.

Anonymous said...

Something that might be interesting and useful for your readers would be a blog post entitled, "If you're in it for the long run, here are ten things you should know (or learn) right now."

I enjoy your blog. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

For "the eyeball"

I'm Anon 2:01... oh heavens, I didn't intend to make you sad at all! In fact, the thing that made that a joke was I was referring to something I ran across on a writer's forum where everybody and their brother had a comment to make about a certain "hot" YA right now, (that will most certainly get nominated for some awards). My point was, as writers, you, me, and everyone else all have such definitive ways WE would write a scene/character/ending that oftentimes books are talked to death (by other writers) instead of simply being appreciated.

I don't consisider that to be backstabbing, just the nature of writers.

Anonymous said...

Here’s a personal editor joke just for you:

I could fix your “running toilet . . . .”

But you’ll have to catch it first.


No seriously, thanks for all the great advice and laughter too. We look forward to your 2008 posts!

Oh, and I’d like to learn more about publishing contracts. It would be helpful to have a list of books and/or reference materials. Maybe you could also share some of those hidden clauses to look out for. Websites are always great too! Names of recommended literary attorneys who specialize in this field would be especially awesome, but you probably can’t offer that. Or could you?

Kimberly Lynn

Anonymous said...

Uh, you do actually edit books, right? I'd love to hear more about the editing you do, the process, what you think about when you edit, what you look for, what problems you come across, etc.

There has to be a way to share this info and still stay anonymous. Even if that means being very general, I think we'd still find it fascinating and useful.

And thanks for asking!

Anonymous said...

Like everyone else, I love the blog and check it often.

And, as was the case with the late , great Miss Snark, I am sad when you actually have to stop blogging and spend time working.

Which is dumb of me, of course, because I want to hear all about the time you spend working, not blogging-- I want that continued feed of glimpses into your editor brain.

Keep up the hard work--on both ends.

And I second the request for more comments about illustration.

Anonymous said...

Okay, you asked for jokes... good, bad or otherwise.


There once was an editor, stranded on a desert island. Every day he'd walk to the water's edge and peer across the ocean, hoping to be rescued.
One day while the editor built a sandcastle, he heard a "splash" and when he looked in that direction, he saw a black figure approaching. "Oh my," said the editor. A lovely young lady, wearing a skin-tight wetsuit jumped out of the surf. "Hello," she said.
"Hel-lll-o," stammered the editor.
"I've brought something for you," said the young lady. She unzipped the zipper on her right shoulder and pulled out an icy cold beer.
The editor sipped, then gulped the cold beer.
"I have something else for you," said the young lady. She unzipped the zipper on her left shoulder and pulled out a box of Chinese take-out.
The editor gobbled and guzzled. "This is the happiest day of my life!"
"Well, I have one more thing," she said, eyes twinkling in the sunlight.
She slowly began to unzip the zipper at her neck. "You want to have some fun on the sheets?"
"You brought a manuscript?" cheered the editor.

Natalie said...

Ha! That last joke made me chuckle.

Reading through the others' comments, another question came to mind. I know the wording in rejections is usually meant to be encouraging, so even if you've just read the worst query/parital/full in the history of the publishing world, the author would never know you felt that way by reading your rejection letter.

My question is, how honest are you with an agent when you reject a client's MS? Do you say nice things so as not to offend the agent? Or do you say it like it is? I suppose it depends on the agent, and how well s/he has targeted the submission, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Again, many thanks!

Anonymous said...

Okay, so Natalie's question above prompted a new question.

I'd like to know how differently agents get treated. At a writer's conference two of the editors were talking (not to a panal, but privately) and made a "cringing" face when a certain agent's name came up. Of course I know all agents aren't created equal, but in thinking about it days later I wonder how much it skews a writer's chance of getting published if the editor/house doesn't like the agent?

Do you salivate to read your favorite agent's stuff and put the other crap in a pile to get to four months later?

My current agent is a nicer person all the way around than my previous one and I've noticed she gets much better responses to my work -- i.e., even if we're getting a rejection someone says something more than "no thanks," but gives a list of pro's and con's. Are you sometimes wary of a project before you read a page if the agent is that old annoying so-and-so?

Anonymous said...

I'll add a question to that: Do writers have any way of avoiding becoming clients of the agents you don't want to hear from? Are there clues we can look for, questions we can ask, that might be a tipoff to that agent's reception by editors, or are we basically helpless on this point?

Anonymous said...

please please do not cease the snide comments. keep up the good work etc.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see more about editor-author relationship stuff. There's a lot of guidance out there on Life Before Contract but not much on Life After.

For instance, I can't get my editor to buy a second book for crap. Should I feel out what I'm doing "wrong" or just accept the fact that not everything's going to stick (and maybe nothing else will)?

And I second the interest in scoop on how you perceive various agents. I think a lot of us feel like, oh, I'm not aggressive but that's a good trait for my agent to have. However, given the above comments, maybe not ...

Thanks for all you do! Looking forward to reading more in 2008!

Anonymous said...

I am completely content with (and ADORE) your If I were to ask one thing, it would be more of a question re: the insight into the editor relationship with author/illustrator or illustrator. There is so LITTLE for us who are approaching publishers not as non-professionals, but as unpublished first time book artists. Everyone starts somewhere, but for many of us it feels like a precarious step into a muddy quagmire rather than a confident trot over a sturdy bridge. Do first time artists get guidance from the publisher? Are the lines of communication open expected/encouraged/welcomed?

Your comments have taught me so much, especially as to what a writer should be doing as a writer regarding the thinking a manuscript through, and what the point is in the piece. Still not an easy feat, but at least I know what I SHOULD be doing as I write.

Again, thanks for your time and insider knowledge. Best for the new year.

Heather Ayris Burnell said...

Your blog is a gift. You make me laugh, inform me, you make me feel like I actually know some things about the mysterious world of publishing, and teach me things I don't.

What would I like to see? I want to know it all(yes, I realize that's not possible). Maybe there are some little things you do everyday, things you don't even give a second thought to, that we writers and illustrators would find fascinating.

Wish I could come up with a joke for you, but all I can do is say thanks!

Christine Tripp said...

I'm very new to your blog but am already addicted and appreciate your humour and bluntness.
As another poster suggested, perhaps, for the new year, a little about how editors work with illustrators, the relationship between the AD and the ED, preference that the illustrator is rep'd or not, etc. I used to believe that it was only the AD that an illustrator need concern themselves with as far as submission and selection for project, yet more and more, we hear it's the Editors that make the decision on the choice of illustrator for their book.
As far as a new Editor joke, I'm no writer but this one came to mind.

"Why are most Editors, like Mothers, woman?
Because men just don't have the stomach for cleaning up everyone elses ----!":)


Anonymous said...

I love this blog and like so many others I am just thrilled to have something that specifically deals with CHILDREN'S publishing. You seem very responsive about answering questions, so I'm guessing that the more questions we ask about non-newbie issues, the more answers we'll get. Maybe the problem is that, at that point, situations get pretty specific. I'm not sure how much you can tell us without risking your anonymity. I know I often hesitate to ask questions here that might get back to my editors or agent!

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see more advice towards illustrators.

I love your blog!

Anonymous said...

Maybe some refreshments, like nachos or cake. And you need a sidekick. Yes, that's it--a mascot.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your blog!

Here's my favorite collection of publishing jokes:

Q: How many copy editors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: I can't tell whether you mean 'change a light bulb' or 'have sex in a light bulb'. Can we reword it to remove the ambiguity?

Q: How many editors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Only one. But first they have to rewire the entire building.

Q: How many managing editors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: You were supposed to have changed that light bulb last week!

Q: How many art directors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Does it HAVE to be a light bulb?

Q: How many copy editors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: The last time this question was asked, it involved art directors. Is the difference intentional? Should one or the other instance be changed? It seems inconsistent.

Q: How many marketing directors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: It isn't too late to make this neon instead, is it?

Q: How many proofreaders does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Proofreaders aren't supposed to change light bulbs. They should just query them.

Q: How many writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: But why do we have to CHANGE it?

Q: How many publishers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Three. One to screw it in, and two to hold down the author.

Q: How many booksellers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Only one, and they'll be glad to do it too, except no one shipped them any.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Ooh, ooh, ooh! Pick me! Pick me! (as your sidekick that is). And please don't even think about reducing the snarky comments. I know we're all entitled to our own opinions but, really, your sense of humor is what sets this site apart from all the others.

Cheers and Happy New Year EA!

Anonymous said...

Hehehe for the lightbulb jokes!

I really wanted to know what happened to the person you pulled out of the slushpile. Did the rest of your publishing house like them? How did they react when you rang them up? Have you found them an illustrator? It felt like an unfinished story.

I like the contests too.

And I had a question - I'm a British author, and I know Britain publishes about the same number of children's titles as America for an audience about a fifth of the size. Why does America publish relatively so few authors?

Keep it up,


Anonymous said...

I echo the request for more about illustration. In particular, as a writer, I'd like to know how can I be helpful when presented with art (be it a book cover or picture book illustrations)? I'm no art director, so when asked for feedback, I'm never sure what to say.

Adrian said...

Okay, I'll take the stab at a bad joke:

What do you call an editor on a bus?

What do you call an agent on a bus?

What do you call an author on a bus?

What do you call the driver of the bus?
Hopefully not Pigeon, or Mo Willems has some ‘splainin to do!

(insert groan here)

The blog is great fun. Keep up the good work...

Anonymous said...

I cracked up at all the jokes! We need way more giggles in this biz. Cheers to the writers who wrote them.

Anonymous said...

Another author-editor relationship question ... what is a "healthy" author-editor relationship like? How often do you talk/have contact? Do you always know what your authors are working on next? How much feedback do you give when rejecting once an author is in your stable?

Any light you can shed on what it's like once a writer is through the doors would be helpful.


Anonymous said...

I hope I'm not too late to the party with my question ... But I was at a children's book panel event recently and was hugely surprised to hear that the editor who edited a nonfiction book (the writer was on the panel) didn't know anything about the subject nor did she read up on it.

How, then, does she edit? Can you explain the process that a nonfiction book (for any age) goes through?

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