Reblog: What an aspiring writer needs to know about editing, marketing, and publishing: An interview with editor Jillian Manning!

Reblogged from GoTeenWriters.com

Monday, May 22, 2017

Stephanie here! I’m really excited that Jillian Manning, the acquisitions editor at Blink YA Books, is here with us today! Jillian was my editor for my 1920s mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street, and is a rock star of an editor. Not only is she great at the red pen stuff, but she’s super encouraging, and will even dress up for her authors:

Jillian and me at the ALA Midwinter Meeting. Wouldn’t we have been great flappers?

Jillian was gracious enough to take time out of her schedule to answer a few questions for me about the unique struggles of trying to get your first book published. I wish I could have read her detailed answers back when I was a flailing and confused aspiring author!

SM: I talk with a lot of young writers who want to be traditionally published, but are kinda stressed out about the idea of needing a platform. When you’re looking at a manuscript for a writer who hasn’t been published, what kind of marketability do you like to see? What kind of social media numbers make you say, “Okay, we can work with that.”

JM: Publishing is a business, and sales and marketing people want to know that the books editors bring them can be commercially viable—meaning they can sell! One of the ways to help sell a book is by being an author with a platform online, since that means you have a built-in fan base.

For a debut author, I definitely want to see a professional website/blog, as well as a minimum of 1,500 followers across a maximum of three platforms. Those three can be a mix of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube, and it helps to see a steady number of followers on each site, rather than 1,000 on Twitter and 10 on Facebook. (P.S. Editors know what a follow-for-follow account looks like, so someone who has 10K followers but is following 12K people will give us pause.)

I’ll admit, it’s a little scary when I get a manuscript in and when I go to look up the author online I find…nothing. No website, no blog, no social media. (And by social media, I mean professional social media, not a personal page for friends and family.) That being said, I know that someone who has never published a book won’t have the same draw to followers as a published author would have. So the only real “rule” I try to follow is to make sure the author has some form of professional presence online to use as a starting point.

SM: Lots of writers (me included) feel nervous about pitching a novel to an editor at a conference. Do you have any thoughts on this or advice that can help us chill out a bit?

JM: I have a blog post for that!The most important thing to remember is that you are talking to another human being who loves books and writing as much as you do. WE ARE YOUR PEOPLE! We are simply the people who hold the red pens, which does make us a little scary. But if you come with a polished manuscript and meet with someone who publishes books in your genre, you’re likely to have a great conversation.

SM: That “conversation” word is key, I think. When I first started pitching, I rehearsed so much that I kinda forgot it was supposed to be a conversation. The publishing process can feel really mysterious and confusing. Is there something you wish writers understood better about editors or how it all works?

JM: You know, the publishing world always feels a little bit like a secret club, which I think can make it tough for writers to know what’s going on behind the scenes. Here are a few things I often tell new writers about our little universe:

  • Most editors do not make unilateral decisions when it comes to acquiring a book. Even if I love a manuscript with all my heart and believe it will sell a billion copies, I still have to convince my publisher, my marketing team, and my sales team. And that convincing requires research, presentations, and a whole lot of data—not just beautiful words!
  • Companies can only publish a certain number of books each year. There are only so many people to do the work, and only so many books that can fit on the shelves. As a result, we have to be incredibly picky about which books we publish and when.
  • Publishing isn’t usually a speedy business. Sometimes it can take two years (or more, if you’re George R. R. Martin) to publish a book, even after the initial version is turned in. This is a result of the best timing to release a book (e.g. you always want to release a Christmas book around Christmastime), as well as the sheer number of hours it takes to edit, design, print, market, and distribute a book.
  • Last, and most importantly, editors can tell when you are turning in a first draft vs. a fourth draft. And on behalf of my people, please, please take the time to edit and revise your novel once on your own and once with a critique partner before submitting it. The whole process is more enjoyable when we can work with a polished draft.

SM: So, sometimes as a reader, I hear a concept for a book, and I think I’m going to LOVE it. But then the experience doesn’t quite live up to my expectations. Does that ever happen to you with submissions. Have you ever requested a submission because you liked the story idea, but then when you receive the manuscript and start reading it, you don’t connect to the story like you thought you would?

JM: Unfortunately this does happen. I’d say the most common reasons I have to say no to a good idea are:

  • Unpolished writing: Check out my rant on drafts in the fourth bullet above. Editors can work a lot of magic with a manuscript, but if we get sent something that contains obvious typos, major plot holes, or just mediocre writing, we’re not likely to want to spend the time and effort to get the book into presentable shape.
  • Poor execution: Great ideas are great, but great execution is better. If your pitch promises to be totally original and utterly fascinating, the entire book needs to live up to that—andI mean every single sentence. I’ve been excited about unique concepts before, only to find that the author has bitten off more than they can chew and the story ends up feeling weird or confusing.
  • Undeveloped characters: In YA especially, characters are hugely important. Due to the age of the protagonists, most YA novels feature coming of age stories, which means I need to see a character change and grow and learn (for better or for worse) throughout the story. If someone has an awesome pitch but a character that is one-dimensional, I quickly lose interest.

SM: Let’s go back to that unpolished manuscript thing. Many writers struggle with editing their own novels. Obviously, there’s no replacement for getting feedback and corrections from a professional editor, but do you have one or two tips for how to be a better self-editor?

JM: First and foremost, take a break—at least one month—from the time you finish your book until the time you edit it. In that month, read one or more books in your genre to inspire you…and also show you places where your story needs work. Then, when you go back to edit with fresh eyes, think about what you loved about those books (without copying them, of course!) and how you can improve your work.

Second, I recommend reading the book out loud. Not all of it, necessarily, but definitely the dialogue. That will help you catch spots that don’t quite feel like a normal conversation. Third, when you’re editing your book, pay attention to repetition of certain words and phrases. We all have ticks in our writing, and you might find you used the word “dangerously” 128 times, which, in my professional opinion, is about 120 times too many.

And last but not least, learn more about editing! There are tons of books and blogs that talk about the art of editing, and the more you learn, the better you will be when editing your work or someone else’s.

Writing Conference Pitches: Dos and Don’ts

Many writing conferences offer aspiring writers the opportunity to pitch agents and editors. These meetings can be a chance to get representation or even a book deal, and as a result can seem totally intimidating. But don’t get overwhelmed—follow these dos and don’ts to make the most of your face time with a publishing pro!

Do…research the person across the table. Spend time before the meeting checking out the agent or editor on their website and on social media so you know exactly what kind of project they’re looking for. Choosing the right person is the first step to finding a home for your book. Continue reading

Seven Things to Do Before Querying Your Novel

Finished your book? Starting to query agents and editors? Wondering how you can stand out from the slush pile? Check off these seven steps before sending off your manuscript, and you’ll be well ahead of the game.

1. Edit. A book that has not been edited by a third party is not your best book, and working with a critique partner or hiring a professional editor is always a smart move for your manuscript. You can connect with thousands of other writers online or in your local community and even find folks in your genre who are willing to read your work and provide notes. A second set of eyes can provide invaluable feedback and catch those pesky typos that you’ve overlooked. Continue reading

5 YA Authors Whose Writing Inspires

As an editor, reader, and writer, I deal with a lot of words on a daily basis. To quote Friends (as we all should), sometimes my life feels like this:

Dr. Franzblau: I try not to let my work affect my personal life, but it’s hard, when you… do what I do. It’s like uh…Well, for instance, what do you do?

Rachel: I’m a waitress.

Dr. Franzblau: Ok, all right, well aren’t there times when you come home at the end of the day, and you’re just like, “if I see one more cup of coffee…”

(Bonus points to anyone who can name that episode.)

Sometimes I am just sick and tired of WORDS, especially the boring, ugly, or hateful ones that may surround us in everyday life. And yet, my livelihood and my favorite pastime both depend on letters on a page. So when I’m feeling uninspired as an editor, reader, writer, or even as a human being, I turn to some of my favorite authors, authors who I know will bring back the wonder of the English language to my word-weary mind. Below are five of the authors who inspire me to keep doing what I do, even when it means upping my eyeglass prescription to stare at yet more words. Continue reading

Preorders: What They Are and Why They Matter

pre·or·der
verb: order (an item of merchandise) before it is available, with the understanding that it will be shipped later.
noun: an order for an item that has not yet been made commercially available.

If you’re an avid reader, odds are you’ve preordered a book. When you purchase a book before it’s on sale to the public, that’s a preorder. (Remember the good old days of Harry Potter midnight release parties? *nostalgia*) So what’s the big deal? Why are preorders so important? I’ll give you three reasons. Continue reading

Editor Talk with BLINK YA’s Jillian Manning

Thank you to The Spinning Pen team for this awesome interview! An inside look at life as an editor.

The Spinning Pen

Pen Friends ~ We are elated to have Blink YA Book’s Editor Jillian Manning with us today. Hope you enjoy her insights, tips, and recommendations!

wpvdcemmSP: Welcome Jillian! Let’s start personal ~Who are you and how long have you worked as an editor? Which books made you fall in love with the publishing industry?

I’m Jillian Manning, one of the editors at Blink YA Books. I’m a Michigan girl, cat lover, list maker, and avid YA reader. (Grown-up books? Yikes.) I’ve worked in publishing since my early college days, and have been an editor here at Blink for over two years. According to my mother, I started reading when I was two years old (though that may be a parental exaggeration), and I haven’t stopped since. I grew up reading Tamora Pierce, J.K. Rowling, and Caroline B. Cooney, and I decided I either wanted to be them or work with people…

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10 Things to Do When You Have Writer’s Block

It happens to all of us, that agonizing moment when you sit down to write and…nothing happens. You try all the tricks you can think of to break the cycle, but the words just aren’t coming.

Instead of banging your head against the wall, try the 10 activities below. Some get your creative juices flowing, some engage your research skills, some are just plain fun, and all them allow you to keep moving forward with your manuscript without actually writing the text. And who knows, maybe you’ll be back at your keyboard before you reach #10.

1. Go back and edit what you’ve written. Stuck on a chapter? Go to the beginning of your book and start editing. By the time you reach the sticky chapter, you will have gotten reacquainted with your book and will be full of news ideas to improve. Continue reading

5 Reasons I Say No to a Good Book

I hate writing rejections. I hate writing rejections even more when I have to say no to an amazing book. But, because the world of publishing isn’t all kittens and rainbows (alas!), sometimes I do have to say no to an awesome story. Here are 5 reasons why:

1. I already have a book like it. I will read retellings all day, but I can’t have three Beauty and the Beast stories on my list at one time, even if they are all top notch. Having competition within your list is tough on marketing and on sales—marketing can’t keep pitching the same kind of book, and buyers won’t take repetitive stories from a publisher. Continue reading

Your Bookish Shopping Guide

Holiday gift cards burning a hole in your pocket? Already bought as many books as your shelves can hold? (That’s okay…buy more books!) Check out 7 of my favorite bookish shops and sites for your closet, home, and office.

1. Litographs

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Get the text of your favorite book on all kinds of amazing swag. And I mean a lot of text…up to 40,000 words…and a lot of swag…shirts, scarves, tote bags, posters, and more. (So, you know, if you’re stranded on a desert island you’ll have your book and your clothes.) I’m the proud owner of a Pride and Prejudice scarf, a Throne of Glass T-shirt, and a super cool Secret Garden poster. Continue reading