10 Ways Being an Editor Is Like Being a Doctor

My sister-in-law actually is a doctor, and she would probably say an editor isn’t like a doctor at all. Technically, she’d be right. (And thank goodness—no one wants me giving out medical advice.)

Not-so-technically, here are 10 ways being an editor is like being a doctor.

1. An editor’s submission inbox is a waiting room. It’s packed with people (manuscripts), and sometimes it can take a while to get in to see us. Many editors take between 4 and 8 weeks minimum to review a submission, so you may want to get comfortable. (But hey, you know we’ve got a ton of great reading material out in the waiting room to keep you busy.) Continue reading

For the Love of Books: How to Give Thanks When You’ve Burned Out

With Thanksgiving only days away, I’ve been thinking about what I’m most thankful for when it comes to my professional life. I have some awesome coworkers, a list of super talented authors, and I get to work on books every day. So in some ways, that list of “thankful” items is a mile long.

But as everyone in the book business knows, ours is an industry of exhilarating highs and devastating lows. It’s an industry of two steps forward and one step back. It’s an industry where every yes seems to come with a no.

The reality is, publishing is not for the faint of heart. The success of any book is based on the ability to merge business with art, consumerism with creativity. It’s a difficult balance to strike. On top of that, rejection follows us at every stage of the publishing process. Authors are rejected by agents. Agents are rejected by editors. Editors are rejected by pub boards. And all of us know the pain of putting an amazing book out into the world—one we all poured our hearts and souls into—and watching that book be rejected by readers.

It can be hard to push past the setbacks and the rejection and the self-doubt. It can be even harder to admit to ourselves that while we may be in our dream industry, we don’t always feel like we’re living the dream. Continue reading

Beyond the Manuscript: What ELSE an Editor Looks for in a Submission

Let’s pretend (only for one horrifying second) that the content of your manuscript didn’t matter.

Yes, I know. It’s awful. But bear with me.

Let’s pretend that it didn’t matter how good or bad your actual writing was, and that an editor only focused on the other pieces of your submission—your platform, your hook, etc.

Okay, now you can stop pretending. That was pretty scary, right? Don’t worry—content is always going to be the #1 concern for an editor. However, it isn’t the only concern. So let’s dive into the other elements of a submission an editor considers when thinking about acquiring a book. Continue reading

Not Just a No: The Decision Behind a Rejection

Let’s face it—getting rejected sucks. You poured your heart and soul into a book and were brave enough to ask other people to read it…only to get shot down.

Quite frankly, doing the rejecting isn’t all that fun either. We editors and agents know the hard work that goes into writing a manuscript, and it’s never a good feeling to know you’re crushing someone’s dream. We’re not sitting behind our desks, holding red pens and grinning evilly as we write a giant “NO” on someone’s submission. We want to fall in love with books. We want to publish them. But not every submission will be a fit, and here’s why. 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 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

The Subjective Editor: Why taste matters (and why that’s okay)

When I first started as an editor, I hated sending rejections to authors or agents with a note saying, “sorry, but it just wasn’t my thing.” I always wanted to give concrete, constructive feedback about why I didn’t feel I could acquire the book. I still want to do that, if only because that’s my job.

But sometimes, there are no typos to blame. Sometimes the characters are interesting and well developed. Sometimes the book may be the most marketable thing since sliced bread (or, you know, since the latest novel by John Green). But I still may not have completely connected to the story or the writing. And taste isn’t something an author can fix by running spell check or making a few tweaks.

In those instances, I dreaded writing rejections. What good was I doing anyone if I said the book just wasn’t a fit for my taste?

Well, it turns out, I was doing everyone involved a lot of good. Continue reading

Thanksreading: 2016

At my house, before Thanksgiving dinner we all go around the table and say what we’re thankful for. Health, happiness, friends, family, food…the list goes on. Given the turmoil of the past few weeks, I wanted to do a post on all the things I’m thankful for in the literary world. I’m bad with titles and good with portmanteaus, so let’s just call this Thanksreading.

  • First, I’m obviously thankful for J.K. Rowling because she is an international treasure. And a genius, because she said she wouldn’t write any more Harry Potter books and yet I bought two new ones this year. Hmm…

Continue reading

How to Write a Fiction Book Proposal

A book proposal is a document most commonly associated with pitching a nonfiction book. It includes information on the content, the author, the market, and the salability of the project. When it comes to fiction, few agents or editors expect or require book proposals, but it’s an incredibly useful tool. A book proposal helps me learn more about an author than a two-sentence bio. It gives me insight into marketing opportunities. And it provides a snapshot of the project that saves me hours of work when I’m preparing to evaluate a project.

Whether or not you need a book proposal, I recommend going through the exercise. Putting together a proposal will help you hone your pitch and get a feel for being the “brand manager” of your book. A proposal makes you think like an editor, a marketer, and a salesperson all at once.

Ready to give it a try? Here are some elements I love to see in a fiction book proposal (and if you’re writing nonfiction, most of these still apply!): Continue reading