Tag Archives: Publishing

From the Mind of an Editor

For writers to succeed, they must dig deep into minds foreign to their own.

The reader wants to feel the pain of a nine-year old boy who loses his family in an instant of fire, understand the turmoil of a emotionally scarred woman forced to trust a man who toppled a building and killed many of her friends, and yes, feel some empathy for a sadist who seeks to control people’s lives because he cannot control his own.

Whether or not I succeeded with the above characters, time will tell.

This sensitivity to others is crucial in finding an agent or publisher. I could complain and lament how they’re against me every time I receive a rejection slip, or just when I think a publisher will accept my genre, I read the words: "no science fiction" or "not accepting new clients at this time."

It’s a conspiracy, I tell ya!

I’m not writing and editing my manuscripts like I should. I’m "wasting" my time catching up on reading, and writing entries in this blog. 

One book I picked up again after reading it once about five years ago is "The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers" by Betsy Lerner.

I wanted to read it again, because I need to re-learn what life is like for an editor. If you thought writing wears a person out, try being an editor.

But that’s Part II of the book. The first part, Betsy describes six types of writers:

  1. The Ambivalent Writer
  2. The Natural
  3. The Wicked Child
  4. The Self-Promoter
  5. The Neurotic
  6. Touching Fire

I’m not revealing the kind of writer I am. You’ll have to guess. Ha! I tell ya, it’s quite illuminating. Yet Betsy describes writers and editors with compassion, irony and humor. You won’t feel preached at or torn down if you see yourself described in her pages.

Writers, in general, are a self-absorbed lot. It’s part of being a writer, I think. We wrap so much of who we are in every word we pen or type, they become our children. It’s no wonder when an article or book is rejected, we take it personal.

Publishing is a business. Editors and agents stand between the writer and the reader, making sure they give the readers what they want. That means having to reject manuscripts that don’t meet their standards of writing, genre or storyline. 

We could see each rejection as another nail in our writing career coffin, or use it as an opportunity to improve our manuscript — and our approach to publishers and agents.

I need to squelch my ego, and write my query letters and proposals with the eye of an over-worked editor who’s looking for that one gem in a mountain of manuscripts and query letters. That means following their guidelines as closely as I can, and write my queries with understanding and empathy — in as few words as possible. Their time is no less precious than mine.

Another desire of an editor is a writer who heeds an editor’s advice (although there is always room for debate). 

Writers sometimes see harsh critiques the same way as telling a parent their child is ugly. When I think like this I remember a piece of advice I read a few years back. I wish I remembered who wrote it and where so I could give proper appreciation. Because I’m going off memory, it’s paraphrased:

"When an editor tears apart your writing — your baby — you see a person grabbing the little one and slashing it with a knife. Your first instinct is to rescue the child and attack the person who dared try to destroy what you created. That’s not it at all. An editor is merely taking your child in his or her arms to give it a bath, put on a clean diaper, and dress it up to make it more presentable."

A Small Mea Culpa, and More on Researching.

When we spill our words on an internet page, we risk offending someone, or proving our ignorance on a specific subject. With a blog, we many times know right away if we made a boo-boo.

I knew even as I typed my previous entry, I may not have been entirely correct in my assessment. After all, I don’t have a publisher or agent, and as such have yet to see my book on any bookshelf.

I still have much to learn in this publishing game.

The best part is when someone comes along to learn me a thing or two. Misty kindly showed me the error of my judgment by commenting in my last entry. If you haven’t read it yet, please do. 

It makes me want to turn my blog over to someone who actually knows something. Ha!

So, with that out of the way, let’s hope I can offer something better with this entry.

When researching agents and publishers, I use multiple resources. Picking one and sticking with it will not guarantee the publishers listed are reputable. These lists are so large, the compilers can’t track all of them all of the time, although overall they do an excellent job.

It’s similar to journalists checking out multiple (at least three) sources before they write an article.

I frequent the following websites:

Writersmarket.com. A yearly subscription costs the same as the book at $44.95. If that’s too steep, they offer a monthly subscription at $5.99. Right now they’re offering a 7-day free trial. I prefer the website, because it’s updated more frequently. If an address, phone number, or name of an editor changes, or if a company goes under, the listing is changed. You can also search with multiple criteria such as by state, if they have a website, and if they will accept — for example — science fiction and religious, but not westerns. It sure beats flipping through 1,000+ pages of a book. The website has other features such as bookmarking listings, and keeping track of manuscript submissions and query letters.

Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. Kara suggested in entry "I Found it . . . Not" to search books in my genre and make note of the publishers. Amazon allows searching by publisher, so I can count how many books they’ve published. I check the books’ rankings as well. If they’re consistently low numbers, then the books are selling well. It helps to compare the numbers side-to-side with Barnes and Noble. For researching agents, Kara also suggested reading the acknowledgments, because the author often thanks their agent by name. Both websites have a "Look Inside" feature for many of their books.

Writer Beware Blogs: This blog writes about potential scams and dubious practices of agents and publishers. A definite must-read, because it not only shows what companies to avoid, but gives examples of what to look for when researching publishers and agents.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has a lot of resources available to writers including a Writer Beware page.

Do you know of any websites and other resources for researching publishers and agents?