Monday, August 24, 2009

Let's play!
How many excuses do you count in this email from an author?

Dear Michelle,

I aplogize for not responing earlier, but i escaped to get some work finished last week. I will be I will be sending portion of the work next week after I formate and scan. Sorry for the delay. I'm being overly cautious on this submission. However, I am still missing drawings for the first and fourth chapter. Under estimated the amount of time involved in completing. I hit a blank on the best way to visually describe the information.

I will be flying back at my house Friday and finish scanning the drawings i have completed. I should have not said I would send until I was confident in the quality.

Also i have been trying to complete my grant work this last week and a half. I just needed them out of my hair.

Thank you for being so patient,


Let's play! Count the typos next time. . .

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Today's post is real simple:

If there is a typo in your book proposal, it belongs in the slush pile. If there is more than one typo in your book proposal, it belongs in the trash can.

Put your best foot forward! First impressions are everything in publishing.

P.S. When I have a difficult author, I look back at his proposal and wonder what Acquisitions was thinking. Acquisitions editors cultivate relationships. They are good at socializing. I credit them with having foresight into whether a concept (not the actual product) will sell. However, I don't think they take into consideration how well a new author will perform when the demands are high.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Not that I'm not feeling original, or anything, but it is late and I am naked. So, I think everyone should read this on-target writing advice.

Two parts I find most valuable are the overall humility and inquisitiveness that the article encourages, and this golden suggestion: "I always asked sources at the end of interviews about other people they thought I should interview for a specific story. That question usually resulted in me lining up an interview with someone I might never have thought of interviewing before."

Remember to ask, who else should I talk to? What else should I read? What blog or magazine (yes, magazine!) should I subscribe to in order to stay informed?

I tend to reflect on finished manuscripts long after they're published, and stay in touch with authors about updates in their fields. Writing is relationship-building and so much more.

Hope you enjoy this and let me know whether you did.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Just Say No

Inspired by Jason Seiden's recent post ( I want to yell at you: Just say no, damnit!

I recognize and honor what my bestie and I once labeled "The Power of Maybe." That had to do with putting off inept (and probably gay), rich bankers long enough to get some good dinners out of the deal before bailing. Also, "maybe" is a lot easier than "no" when you are trying to be polite.

Nevertheless, what really ticks me off, especially from authors, are watered-down commitments to deadlines, like these:

"I feel fairly comfortable with the deadline."
"I should probably be able to finalize this by Monday."


It is in the spirit of collaboration (and just plain polite) to let your editor know in advance of the deadline if you've run up against some obstacles. In many success stories, authors and I have talked through the obstacle, broken a large assignment into smaller, manageable tasks, created batch schedules, and everyone felt like a champion in the victory circle.

Here is one better option for addressing your own stinking tardiness while still coming out smelling like a rose:

"I'd like to have that for you and I should have said this sooner, but July 31 is not workable right now. How about August 7?"

Editors don't want or need to hear about deaths in the family, illness, injury, or any other medical condition, acts of nature, acts of God, technical glitches, visitors from out of town, unresponsive collaborators (i.e., passing the buck), travel delays, foreclosures, bankruptcy, home renovations, existential crises, depression or other DSM-V classifiable conditions that would delay delivery as promised in your legally binding contract.


This wasn't my author, but a colleague of mine wins the prize for her author having a really wacko excuse (and this compares with avalanche, glass-in-the-eye, air conditioner falling on head, and burnt feet at the beach): One author was late. She explained why, saying "I have to bury my cat this weekend." The editor said (probably while rolling her eyes at the phone), "Oh, I am sorry to hear your cat died."

The author replied, "No, that's okay, my cat died months ago. She's just been in my freezer until I could get over to my mom's house to bury her."

The author continued, "When I took her out of the freezer her eyes glinted in the sunlight and she looked alive. I've been spooked for days."

So we're standing around picturing this author brushing aside the stiff cat stuffed in a plastic bag to get to her frozen pizza!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Borrowed Bitchery

I give kudos where kudos are due.

This blog bitches (or, I could say, this bitch blogs) about breaking through the publishing barrier best!

Feel free to leave comments.

Friday, June 12, 2009


to think you don't need Automatic Spell Check? Even I use Automatic Spell Check. The operative word is AUTOMATIC! How lazy are you that you cannot click your mouse on a button that will not only check your spelling, but give you a haircut and make you look good? It's free, it's easy, and you're a numbskull if you don't employ it. If you own a business or are looking for work, you receive an even harder spanking for not doing everything in your power to leave a good impression (or at least avoid leaving a bad impression).

My approach is derived from my ethic in college and grad school. I used the finest paper, set my margins according to guidelines (more on that in future rants), and met the desired page count on every single assignment. If format and presentation accounted for 10% of the grade, that was a guaranteed 10% that any fidiot could attain.

Hmm... let me think... Is it worth going on a rant about iPhone's Automatic Spell Check FAIL?

It suffices to say that its tendency to change "the" to "she" and "bushed" to "bushes" could land you in hot water some day. Don't ask how I know. IF YOU HAVE AN IPHONE, READ YOUR SHIT TWICE BEFORE SENDING! The operative word is READ. We learned how to do it early on, but some lessons need a refresher course later in life.

Is that too sarcastic? You can let me know, but by then it will be too late.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Edit U

I begin this blog on a bitchy note. My tweet right at this moment is:

If you are cryptic, unclear, incoherent, inconsistent, or avoidant, I will hunt down and shoot you. Most of you have nothing to worry about.

I've decided to free the beast. Writers need to hear what editors are really thinking. No more pussyfootin' around. On a good day, you might catch me in a magnanimous mood and I'll be willing to dole out some unbiased, practical writing advice with no snark.
On a good day.
Here is a picture of me on a good day at my midtown office.

Here is a picture of me on a no good, very bad day at my midtown office.

Michelle Sydney has an M.A. in Writing from DePaul University; a certificate from University of Chicago Publishing Program; and a B.A. in Psychology and English from NYU. She lives in NY with her husband who is a news junkie. She will occasionally rant about his obsession with news and his insane hours. She has been an editor in NY for ten years. You got a problem with that?

Leave a comment if you are looking for writing advice with absolutely no sugar coating.