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!