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From the Editors

Seven Things I Learned About Freelancing by Being an Editor-in-Chief

seven.JPGColman Andrews, the founder and longtime EIC of Saveur, and freelancer du jour, provides tips he learned during his tenure in the corner office.
Seven Things I Learned About Freelancing by Being an Editor-in-Chief

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From the Editors: Hawaii Publisher Asks Authors to Bring ‘Passion, Commitment’

kbouris.jpg“We love collaborating with like-minded and passionate organizations,” says this publisher of books engineered to inspire and enlighten:

You’re located in Maui, so I’m curious how being a Hawaiian publisher impacts both the books you publish and how you do business. Do you cultivate local authors/projects?
There are pros and cons with paradise. On the plus side, we have the clarity and perspective that comes from not being stuck in the fray. When you are jumping in the ocean regularly, you are more in touch with your own creativity, balance, and inspired to make work count. We have the great good fortune, as they say, to focus intently on building relationships with meaning, working on books that have a positive impact on the world, and loving what we do. And I always promise my authors (who can travel to Maui) editorial meetings on the beach, with or without mai tais. Manhattan publishers certainly cannot deliver that.
Because there are many wonderful Hawaii-specific publishers, such as the University of Hawaii or Kamehameha Press, who have Native Hawaiian and cultural expertise, we do not publish Hawaii-specific books and most of our authors come from the mainland. That said, we want to part of our Island community 3/4 and to that end, we just launched a company called Brilliant Voices, offering Hawaii enrichment programs to raise cultural and environmental awareness by connecting nonprofit groups with corporate travelers .

More from Rachel Kramer Bussel’s interview here.

From the Editors: Self-Help With Attitude ‘Sets Our Authors Apart’

jkushnier.jpg“Adams has a long history of making authors out of first-timers. We don’t turn away people because they decided to do the legwork themselves,” Jennifer Kushnier from Adams Media tells Rachel Kramer Bussel:

On your Publisher’s Marketplace page, you also state that “the author’s first-person p.o.v. should speak to women in their 20s, 30s, or 40s. Authors should have a platform, be mediagenic, write with flair, and present a fresh angle to these crowded categories.” Can you elaborate on the qualities you’re looking for in your authors? For those without a platform, is starting a blog or Web site to build a following a good idea?
A blog or Web site is a terrific way to get started. That’s not to say that it takes only a blog to secure a book deal, but we like to see that sort of ingenuity and willingness to be in public. We like that little extra bit of exposure, something that shows the author has a following of readers or viewers. Being well-spoken and easy in front of the camera only enhances their appeal. Because our Polka Dot authors are almost always speaking from their own experiences, reading a Polka Dot book is like getting together with a group of your funniest, smartest girlfriends — even better, the authors have “been there, done that” and can offer real solutions. Finally, a book can have a great package and solid promotion, but what ultimately matters is that the book be well-written, entertaining, and useful. When I consider whether a proposal has Polka Dot potential, I consider if any of the leading women’s magazines could pluck a passage from it and run it in an issue. It’s a little bit hip, a little bit clever, and usually a little bit rebellious.

More here.

From the Editors: ‘Any Sort of Platform Helps’ Crafts Authors

rosy.jpgRachel Kramer Bussel talks with Rosy Ngo, Senior acquisitions editor at Potter Craft:

What makes a given book stand out for you, and, conversely, what makes you immediately reject a manuscript?
The Saturday Night Hat by Eugenia Kim was an instant favorite because her animated writing style is just as colorful as her look-at-me-now hats. Hatmaking doesn’t generally get a good deal of attention, but her take on it is refreshing and her press packet was overwhelming. The clincher was the sense of fun and adventure she brought to this unique aspect of fashion/sewing.
Proposals that really excite me always have two things going for them: projects that I would want to make/wear/give immediately and an author who can deliver more than just how-to instructions, one who can entertain and enlighten.

Read on here.

From the Editors: ‘Potential Authors Almost Anywhere’

bennett.jpgRachel Kramer Bussel reveals how Ten Speed Press’ Julie Bennett acquires “beautiful, inclusive, and meaningful” books that often “focus on the idea of connection”:

What makes a given book stand out for you, and, conversely, what makes you immediately reject a manuscript?
When I sit down to read a proposal, I try to be open to the topic, but my approach is to look for reasons to reject it. When the proposal is able to answer all or most of my objections, then I know I’m onto something. A good book proposal has a well-defined topic that fills a viable niche; it’s organized, well-written, and structured in a logical manner; the author has done market research and can tell me in a compelling way why he/she is the best person to write this book and how this book is different and/or better than what’s out there.
This fall we’re publishing Illuminations: Expressions of the Personal Spiritual Experience by Mark L. Tompkins and Jennifer McMahon. The book presents a collection of photographs, artwork, poems, and prose pieces that express personal spiritual experiences. The proposal was presented as a professionally designed, full-color dummy, which allowed me to immediately see its visual potential. The authors had gathered more than 180 contributors from 43 countries, which no one has done before in this way. It is a beautiful, inclusive, and meaningful project that fit perfectly with what I’m trying to put out into the world.

Read more here.

From the Editors: ‘Make Me Laugh’

threerivers.jpgZeroing in on humor and pop-culture books, editor Carrie Thornton of Three Rivers Press tells Rachel Kramer Bussel that she likes titles that “show just how weird everyone is”:

Many of your books also have a pop culture bent, from Spin magazine’s 20 Years of Alternative Music to the book version of The Marijuana-Logues. Is there anything prospective authors should or shouldn’t do when approaching the world of pop culture?
I tend to avoid books that focus on highly specialized or esoteric elements of pop culture — sometimes culty things are that way for a reason, and the audience for a book on the subject is probably going to have too small an audience for my list. I also try to avoid books that are extremely of the moment — in that the topic is hot right now but may not be nine months from now. I prefer to focus on books that focus on an evergreen subject where there is clearly established, long-term interest — The Book of Exodus, my recent book on the making of Bob Marley’s Exodus record comes to mind. Generation after generation comes to Marley, and I think that book will have a very long life.

Read more of their talk here.

From the Editors: Richard Nash, Soft Skull Press

softskull1.jpgRachel Kramer Bussel talks to the man:

Since you publish across genres and formats, from political activism to poetry, fiction, graphic novels, comics, spirituality, history, current events, and erotica, is there an overarching theme tying them all together, or do you evaluate each book on an individual basis? Is there anything you categorically do not want to see and would never publish?
The theme is that through all these books, I’m trying to understand the world. In a sense the process is deeply personal (I’m trying to understand) and wholly divorced from my personal tastes (to understand the world properly, you have to let it come at you full-bore, shock you.) So really no, there’s very little I could say I would not do — I just did a book called Power and the Idealists by a so-called liberal hawk, but I did a book by a guy who thinks the Zapatistas need to be far more aggressive militarily. So in this sense, very much everything has to be evaluated case-by-case, so as to allow for discovery.

Find mo’ here!

From the Editors: Stacy Boyd, Harlequin

boyd.jpgRachel Kramer Bussel speaks with the 5-year veteran of the romance house:

Harlequin is the standard-bearer for many people when they think of romance, and releases 110 titles a month with its various imprints, selling 144 million books worldwide in 2003. How has the company evolved with the times, and how are the romances you edit different from, say, those from 20 or 30 years ago?
Harlequin is always looking to update their offerings and determine the next wave of reader interest. We were the first company to respond to the success of the chick lit genre. After the success of Bridget Jones’ Diary, we launched Red Dress Ink, which still publishes distinctive fiction for the 21st-century woman. And in the last few years, Harlequin has launched several new series and imprints that go well beyond romance: fantasy imprint Luna Books, erotica imprint Spice, as well as a women’s fiction series, Harlequin Next, and the upcoming series Silhouette Nocturne, Harlequin Everlasting and Steeple Hill Love Inspired Romantic Suspense and Love Inspired Historicals. We’re also invested in new formats for fiction, from mobile phone technology to e-books and audio downloads.
In today’s romance market there is a wide range of character types, plots and subgenres. Romance readers tend to read a lot, both in and out of the genre, so romance authors — and publishers — capitalize on this by providing romances that blend genres, such as romantic thrillers, Christian romance, romantic suspense, erotic romance, and women’s fiction. First and foremost, romance novels are about the emotional high of finding love. That’s still true today.

Read more here.

From the Editors: John Williams of Harper Perennial

williams.jpgRachel Kramer Bussel asks the questions:

Can you give me an overview of the kinds of books Harper Perennial publishers, and then within those areas, what you specialize in?

We reprint books that are published in hardcover by Harper, William Morrow, and Ecco; we publish original paperbacks, including some by young novelists (more on them later), anthologies (like The Revolution Will Be Accessorized, which collects the best of BlackBook magazine), and essay collections (like The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the World Cup); and we always keep an eye on what other houses are publishing, with the thought of possibly acquiring the paperback rights. I’m fortunate to be able to work across those boundaries on a variety of projects, rather than having to narrowly specialize in one thing.
According to a 2005 Publishers Weekly article, Harper Perennial was streamlined last year to focus on a media-savvy audience who “read The New Yorker, surf, listen to NPR and watch cable channels like BBC America.” How has the branding of the imprint played out? Is there anything else you can say about who your target reader is?
I think Nick Hornby was right in High Fidelity when he suggested that our tastes define us as well or better than anything else might, and so that list is a pretty good description—we want to target readers who are broadly intelligent, curious, and plugged in to both high and low(ish) culture. Our readers absolutely might read The New Yorker, but I imagine a lot of them also watch Entourage and/or Pimp My Ride. As for the more material aspects of the branding, many people locked themselves in rooms for many hours to draw up a plan, and they came out with a great new logo and a beautiful, more uniform design for the books, which really stand out.
More here.

From the Editors: Brooke Warner of Seal Press

seal.jpg“The mission statement we have—to publish books by women for women and which inform women’s lives-can be interpreted broadly, of course; but we are a feminist press and will always publish books that speak to women, and ideally that help women,” Ms. Warner tells Rachel Kramer Bussel:

What makes a given book stand out for you, and, conversely, what makes you immediately reject a manuscript?
We acquire books by committee, so a proposal kind of goes through the ringer here before we’ll bring it on. Sometimes a proposal stands out because of the writing, other times the platform. I acquired Max Wolf Valerio’s The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male because of the writing, but it was a serious conversation here because he is technically the first male writer Seal has ever published (in a single-author book). Yet we’re publishing trans issues, and we realized that we needed to embrace writers and issues all along the gender spectrum, so that was a direction that we decided to go as a press.
Things I reject outright include books that would probably have commercial appeal elsewhere. We don’t publish guides on how to catch the perfect man of your dreams because we don’t believe that those types of books are empowering to women. Conversely, we will publish dating books that have a feminist sensibility to them, in which the writer addresses the range of emotions that are involved around being single. We tend to err toward more complex issues that lots of women grapple with.

More here.