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Ask Editor Alison #17 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Jun 05, 2012 10:15 am

Hi all!

First Tuesday of the month. That means that the doors of the publishing industry are pulled open, and you can pick my brain about any and everything book, writing, and publishing related. So get asking!

But I want to start today by turning the tables and picking your brains. What are you reading right now that you're just loving? How did you find it - a friend? A display at the bookstore or library? Buzz online?

Also, cause I'm mucho curious, what was the last book you read that just didn't live up to the hype? Why did it fall flat for you?

As an extra prompt to get the chatting flowing, it's the wonderful time of year known as Book Expo America, so it's the perfect time for those juicy trade show questions. And I will answer them all.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison #17 (right in here!)

Post  Maggie on Tue Jun 05, 2012 11:23 am

YAY! Very Happy

Okay, what I'm reading. INCARNATE by Jodi Meadows! I've read it before, but still enjoying it! Very Happy

Hmm. Didn't live up to the hype? I don't know. The last time I was actually disappointed whilst reading a book was SHIP BREAKER by whatshisname. Everything else I've read since then has pretty much lived up to the hype, or I've enjoyed it one way or another. *shrug*

QUESTIONS!

1. What are some things that have caused you to reject a manuscript in the past? (You do have a say, right?)

2. What do you think REALLY helps strengthen writing-- editing/revising or drafting new novels (writing new stuff)?

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Re: Ask Editor Alison #17 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Jun 05, 2012 11:52 am

[quote]
1. What are some things that have caused you to reject a manuscript in the past? (You do have a say, right?)

Yes, I do have a say. Agents submit directly to me, and I get to make the decision about whether it's a project I'm interested in pursuing or not. And then, sometimes, someone above me tells me that we will not be buying said projects I would like to pursue. But that's another question.

Why do I reject projects? There are so many reasons. As many reasons as there are projects, probably! Character development, voice, plotting. We have something on the list already that's too similar. It's an area of publishing that's simply not doing well. The book doesn't feel like it will sell enough copies to make it a profitable project for us. It just doesn't click with me. I know I can't get the project through acquistions board. The book is great, but requires too much work to make it worth investing my time. I adore the project, but can't figure out what I could contribute editorially.

Let me be clear. There are lots of projects I read that I really like, but pass on. An editor has to have a real connection with a project - they'll be working on it for a very long time. Because we see so much, and we can only do so many books a year, we have to be very choosey.

2. What do you think REALLY helps strengthen writing-- editing/revising or drafting new novels (writing new stuff)?

I think that, perhaps, it's a combination of both. I think the mark of a true writer isn't that they can write, but that they can revise. It's the ability to look at your work critically and be able to pinpoint what's not working and figure out how to fix it. And it's having the courage to look at a passage that you're absolutley in love with and say, I need to cut it because it's not serving my project well.

But just as important as the revising is, you need to be able to have new ideas and try new things. You can edit a book to death. It still might not work. Just as a writer needs to be able to look critically at a piece to fix it, they need to be able to step back and say, I'm going to put this project aside for now (maybe forever!) and try something entirely new. And maybe it will work. And maybe it won't. And maybe I think it's one thing, but by the end of my jounrey, I'll have discovered that it was something else entirely. But that's what makes writing fun! It's about the experimentation and the discovery. At least, I think so.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison #17 (right in here!)

Post  Sarah on Tue Jun 05, 2012 1:41 pm

Hmm for what I'm reading, well I'm in-between books right now but I just finished Imortal City which wasn't too bad! I didn't love it but it was a fun read. I found it while looking through the iBooks recommendations for YA (they change every week which I love!) Now the most recent book that I read and also loved would have to be The Fault in Our Stars and Grave Mercy. I found the first book through buzz online (after the sixth person recomended it I broke down and got it) the second book I found through a goodreads recommendation Smile

For a book that I believe didn't live up to the hype I'd have to say The Daughter of Smoke and Bones, though I have to admit I only made it to chapter two in that book. I just didn't like it. Oh, and Fury, I was so excited for that book and I ended up hating it!


Question:

Can you describes what goes on at BEA from an editors point of view? For example, what types of things do you have to do while there and do you have to do any/a lot of preparation for it?
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Re: Ask Editor Alison #17 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Jun 05, 2012 1:53 pm

Can you describes what goes on at BEA from an editors point of view? For example, what types of things do you have to do while there and do you have to do any/a lot of preparation for it?

Well, what an editor does depends on what's going on. All of these are possible things you'll find editors doing at BEA:
  • Speaking on panels
  • Accompanying authors at signings
  • Taking meetings
  • Talking up books in the booth
  • Walking the floor to see what other companies are doing
  • Shmoozing
  • Working hard at breakfasts, lunches, drinks, dinners, parties, and events
  • Wishing they had worn more comfortable shoes


I guess the prep work goes along with what they have on their schedules.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison #17 (right in here!)

Post  Sarah on Tue Jun 05, 2012 2:33 pm

Thanks! That sounds like a lot of work but fun work Smile
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Re: Ask Editor Alison #17 (right in here!)

Post  KayeM on Tue Jun 05, 2012 3:39 pm

Yay! I like asking questions. (Too much.)

Um, what I'm reading right now is Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce. I've always been curious about it, and I kept checking it out but having to give it back because of those nasty things called library fines, but now I decided to just take the plunge and read it. I'm actually liking it more than I thought I would. It helps that there isn't a horrible sister-tug-of-war love triangle thing going on over Silas.

The last book I read that disappointed me...I think that would be Masque of the Red Death. I liked the world-building and the masks and the frilly dresses (seriously, I am all about them frilly dresses), but the love triangle and the heroine seemed to fit in what I see as the Typical Dystopian Formula. Sad, really, because I really was looking forward to it.

And now for my questions! I couldn't attend BEA today, but I'm (hopefully) going tomorrow, so I wanted to know if there's any advice to offer up that people might overlook/forget about - ie. one friend told me NOT to forget to say hi to the publishing reps, because they are awesome. No duh. Very Happy

Also, is there any element that a reader probably finds cool, but an editor finds a pain to deal with in an author's manuscript? Like multiple POVs, or fancy scene changes, or something like that?

Thanks!
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Re: Ask Editor Alison #17 (right in here!)

Post  Amanda on Tue Jun 05, 2012 7:05 pm

Hey, Alison! Very Happy I actually have a question this time! Smile So, to preface, my novel covers about nine or ten months, with lots of travel that I skip over, because that'd be boring to relate. It's in close third person, and I've had someone tell me that they'd like me to start the scenes where I skip weeks with something like 'six weeks later' at the beginning, but, being in close third, that seems like it would mess with the closeness. I've found ways to include how much time has passed within the first couple paragraphs of these scenes, but I wonder if that's enough warning for the reader?

So I guess my question is, is there a way that you'd say is best—a quiet little 'hey reader, we just skipped six weeks' in the narrative, or a blatant 'SIX WEEKS LATER' at the beginning of the scene? I'd just like readers not to be confused by my timeline, because I have four alternating POVs(it's an epic fantasy, so I obviously need lots of characters Wink), and one is on a slightly different schedule than the others, in places. So…there's lots of potential for confusion if I don't pull it off right.

Also, to answer your questions…a book that I'm loving right now is The Housekeeper & the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, which is written in this beautiful, melancholy, quiet way that is ridiculously engaging. I've read it once before, and it is definitely worth the reread. Smile It was lent to my mom by a friend who thought she'd like it because of the math(she hasn't read it & doesn't plan to, because literary novels are really not her thing, lol), and I picked it up because I found the premise of the professor only having 80 minutes of short term memory extremely intriguing. I'm into that kind of thing. Smile

And…the last book I read that didn't live up to the hype…Fever by Lauren Destefano. It was just really purple and self-indulgent and blah. Gabriel, the boyfriend, had absolutely no personality—he was a 'protect Rhine' robot. Neutral Realism was lacking in the extreme, most events felt terribly contrived, and I lost my trust in the author to tell a good story. Which really sucks, because I loved Wither, with only a few reservations—mainly about Gabriel's not having a personality yet—and I'd hoped she'd improve. But these things just got worse: the writing was infinitely more flowery, to the point that sometimes I didn't even know what was going on. No *sigh* Sorry for the rant, I'm just upset, because it was one of the few titles I was REALLY looking forward to. *sighs again*
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Re: Ask Editor Alison #17 (right in here!)

Post  Maggie on Tue Jun 05, 2012 7:58 pm

Thanks, Alison! Smile

More questions.

1. What's your advice as far as projects hitting editor burnout or 'we have too many of this!'? Put it aside and come back to it another time?

2. If you have a story idea that's really popular in the market right now (i.e. paranormal), in your opinion, should you just not write it? Not even bother, so to speak?

3. What are your thoughts on writers submitting straight to editors and skipping the agent? (Disclaimer: I'm not planning to do this. And I apologize if it's been asked before. I'm just curious.)

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Re: Ask Editor Alison #17 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Wed Jun 06, 2012 10:55 pm

EEEP! Sorry I've been slow to answer, folks. BEA sunk it's deadly claws into me. Popping back in!
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Re: Ask Editor Alison #17 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Wed Jun 06, 2012 11:02 pm

And now for my questions! I couldn't attend BEA today, but I'm (hopefully) going tomorrow, so I wanted to know if there's any advice to offer up that people might overlook/forget about - ie. one friend told me NOT to forget to say hi to the publishing reps, because they are awesome. No duh.

BEA advice? Comfortable shoes, and be very picky about what you pick up. You have that desire to grab just about everything, but from my experience, I don't read most of what I grab when I grab indiscriminately. If I'm only taking things that seem like I'd truly be interested, there's a much better chance that I'll actually use it. Plus, my shoulder hurts less at the end of the day when I'm on my way home. Very Happy

Also, is there any element that a reader probably finds cool, but an editor finds a pain to deal with in an author's manuscript? Like multiple POVs, or fancy scene changes, or something like that?

I guess I don't think of any element as a pain, per say. I think different projects just require different types of attention. For instance, when you're doing an illustrated novel, you have to pay attention to the art (does it look good), the text (does everything there work and make sense) and then how they come together (is the art actually depicting what's described in the text, or are there inconsistencies?). So it's just different. I don't think I'd characterize anything as particularly annoying in the editorial process. At least, not yet.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison #17 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Wed Jun 06, 2012 11:10 pm

Hey Amanda! So glad to hear from you.

It's a bit hard for me to fully advise on your question, simply because I do think it's the sort of thing that can be very dependent on the text of the story, itself.

I'm one of those people who can take or leave reader cues about time shifts. Sometimes I find them really helpful. Sometimes, I find them really annoying. And that's the consensus I get from a lot of other book industry friends, too.

That being said, I think keeping the timeline clear for your reader is always important. If you can work cues into the text itself, I tend to think that's preferable because it doesn't take the reader out of the narrative abruptly as the outside cues can.

But, of course, it depends on the novel, itself.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison #17 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Wed Jun 06, 2012 11:34 pm

1. What's your advice as far as projects hitting editor burnout or 'we have too many of this!'? Put it aside and come back to it another time?

When you say burn out, do you mean when there's a type over-saturating the market? Well, that isn't quite so cut and dry. Because while I, or even my house, may have decided the moment has passed for this sort of thing, even if the industry is saying the moment has passed for this sort of thing, I can guarantee that there's a house or an editor who will still buy it because it's the hot thing of the moment. That's often just how it works. We keep buying for a period after we say we're done, because someone sees it and falls in love.

Now let's say you hear no from just about everyone. Well, I think you put the project aside, and try something else. Maybe the cycle will come back around soon and with some reworking you can revive it. Maybe it's put aside for good. The point is you give the project it's best shot, and then move on.

2. If you have a story idea that's really popular in the market right now (i.e. paranormal), in your opinion, should you just not write it? Not even bother, so to speak?

I think if you have a story knocking around in your head you write it, regardless of whether it's hot or not. It's the story dying to be told, and it needs to come out. That doesn't mean, however, that I would advise that you invest everything into making this the book you show the world. If you know it's going to to be tricky you either need to take your book in a direction that's new and fresh and will make it stand out in that very crowded world, or get it out of your system, and then move on.

3. What are your thoughts on writers submitting straight to editors and skipping the agent? (Disclaimer: I'm not planning to do this. And I apologize if it's been asked before. I'm just curious.

I'm a little spoiled about this question, because Egmont only takes on agented material, so I've yet to be in a position where I was ready to go to bat for a project where the author didn't have representation. And if I did find that project tomorrow, I'd give referrals to agents I think would be a good match. Here's why.

I regard my relationship with an author as a creative one. They put together their words. I work very closely with them to polish their project into something extraordinary. But when business gets in the way, some of the openness of that creative relationship gets impeded. And while I want my authors to be happy as happy can be, I ultimately answer not to them, but to my publisher. So when those two relationships are at odds, that can be super caustic.

Enter the agent. They understand the ins-and-outs of the business and can come up with some of that creative stuff, too. But they can handle that non-creative stuff that could be tricky between my author and me. The agent's interests are to the author, not to me, so they take out some of that Catch-22 from my relationship. They get to be the heavies with me when the author isn't happy, or they think the author deserves more money, or they don't think we're doing enough for the author's book. But they can also be the cushion when as an editor I need to convey bad news that would be damaging were it coming directly through me.

I'm talking all the work they do on the negatives, but there are so many positives, too! From my perspective, agents weed out so much of that content that really just isn't ready for prime time. And because they know the biz just as well, they can often help with positioning, with connections, with fine-tuning a project so that a grouchy editor like me doesn't immediately say "NEXT!"

I know lots of people think they can go it alone without an agent and save the commission, and some people can. And there are unscrupulous agents out there. But all the agents I know are so beneficial to their clients, and they bring so much more to the table. Selling your book is hard work. They're experts at that.

That's my two cents.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison #17 (right in here!)

Post  Amanda on Thu Jun 07, 2012 1:31 am

I thought mine might be hard to really answer, without knowing the project, but I like what you said, anyway. Smile That's what I was leaning towards, incorporating cues instead of blatant labels. So that's what I'mma do. I'll just try to make them very clear! Thanks, Alison! Very Happy
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Re: Ask Editor Alison #17 (right in here!)

Post  Taryn on Fri Jun 08, 2012 10:03 pm

ALISON! First of all, it was so fantastic to meet you on Thursday! I feel special. Everyone is jealous of me Smile

Secondly.............I have to ask you a dumb question. Because you said we never ask dumb questions. Hmmm... How do you get an agent? Wink

Just kidding!

So how long does BEA affect the publishing world? Does it still ripple in a month? What exactly happens in the VIP area? How do you fancy editors manage to wear heels all day?

Oh! A good question: How much does a preempt acceptance period vary? I've heard they can expire within like five hours!
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