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From the Editors

From the Editors: Paul Stevens of Tor/Forge

stevens.jpgThis editor isn’t swayed by books with marketing hooks, and he has a list-comprised equally of sci-fi and women’s fiction written by virtual unknowns-to prove it, writes Rachel Kramer Bussel:

mediabistro: What makes a given book stand out for you and, conversely, what makes you immediately reject a manuscript?
Stevens: The book has to be different: have a different tone, interesting characters or conflict, or unusual settings. So much of what I receive is perfectly well-written, but tells a story I’ve heard many times before.
I also have to really love the book. After all, I’m going to be reading it three, four, or five times during the editing process. Then, it’s up to me to sell the book to other departments in the company. The enthusiasm I show for a book has to be genuine. Believe me, they know if I’m faking it.
One of my recent buys is Fashionably Late by Nadine Dajani, which is coming out in 2007. Nadine’s critique group told her that the book wouldn’t sell because it’s set in Canada and the Caribbean-not in the United States—and because the book features a Lebanese-Canadian main character. Those are the main things that attracted me to the book. It didn’t occur to me for a second to ask her to change the setting to somewhere in the United States. That would have ruined the flavor of the book.
I bought sMothering by Wendy French because the partial she submitted had me rolling on the floor. I made copies of the submission, and was running up and down the hallway giving copies to co-workers, saying they had to read it.
On the science fiction side, Tobias Buckell’s novel Crystal Rain is set on a lost planetary colony. But this particular colony was settled by refugees from the Caribbean, and their language and culture shapes the entire novel.
And Gil’s All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez was a buddy story about a vampire and a werewolf who save the world from a teenage witch. It was just so much fun that I had to buy it. I’m glad I did because it has gone back to press multiple times, it won the Alex Award from ALA, and the movie rights were optioned by the Jim Henson Company. Not too shabby for the author’s first novel.

More here.

From the Editors: Tricia Boczkowski of Simon Spotlight Entertainment

Rachel Kramer Bussel chats with the executive editor of the 18-34 year old targeting imprint that counts Tommy Chong, Jerry Heller, Foxy Brown, Phil Gordon and Gabe Kaplan among its authors.

mediabistro: What kinds of books do you work on/are you looking for? Conversely, what kinds of books don’t you want to see at all?
Boczkowski: I do a fair amount of celebrity books-I love working with comedians, in particular. Memoir is probably my favorite genre to work on, but I also do a fair amount of narrative and prescriptive nonfiction (in a “self-help you’re not embarrassed to buy” kinda way.) I also have a background in illustrated books, so I have a soft spot for projects that are more visual. And I’m dipping my toes into editing fiction for the first time with Andy Greenwald’s next book, which I am really excited to try. While I don’t really want to impose any limits on what kinds of proposals are sent to me, because you never know when you’ll take a shine to something, I also don’t want to have to wade through a lot of crap. Just don’t send me crap… unless, of course, it’s so crappy that it’s hilarious, and will make for an entertaining editorial meeting.
mediabistro: Your books are targeted toward 18-to-34-year-old readers, and have a pop culture bent, from Jess Bruder’s Burning Book: Celebrating Twenty Years of Burning Man and Sarah Lewitinn’s The Pocket DJ, to Foxy Brown’s forthcoming memoir Broken Silence and Tommy Chong’s The I Chong. Is there a sense that, with this demographic, you’re competing with other forms of media (TV, Internet, etc.) for their attention in ways you’re not with readers who are 35 and older?
Boczkowski: We’re not competing for their attention so much as we are for their time. I don’t think people our age are reading less, I think they’re just being more discerning about what they invest their time in. The “other forms of media”-the Internet, in particular-are actually a huge help to us in reaching our readers more effectively, especially when it comes to this target demographic. We try to get creative with the marketing, publicizing-even the selling of our books-in order to get our books in the line of vision of an audience that might be more easily reached on Gawker or in Urban Outfitters than in the Times Book Review or in the chains.

More here.

From the Editors: Nichole Argyres of St. Martins

fromtheeditors.jpgRachel Kramer Bussel chats with Nichole Argyres from St. Martin’s:

mediabistro: What kinds of books to do you work on/are you looking for? Conversely, what kinds of books don’t you want to see at all?
Argyres: In nonfiction, I’m looking for memoir, family stories, “women with something to say”-whether it be on business, politics, family, spiritual, or women’s issues. Popular science, soft business, and anything Greek, as well as anything about medicine or mental health. I deal mostly with narratve nonfiction, but have also done some practical nonfiction, and recently bought my first cookbook.
In fiction, I have a large range-from commercial fiction, to upmarket women’s commercial fiction, to literary. I’m character and plot-driven. I like fiction about small places and large families. In both fiction and nonfiction, a strong voice and clear message are paramount. Writing that is too quiet or internal doesn’t resonate with me.
mediabistro: You’ve worked largely with non-fiction books, such as What It Takes: Speak Up, Step Up, Move Up: A Modern Woman’s Guide to Success in Business by Amy Henry of The Apprentice; and Brigitte Gabriel’s forthcoming Terror in God’s Name: Islam’s Holy War Against the West; and Christopher Van Tilburg’s memoir Mountain Rescue Doctor-most very timely works. What do you look for, specifically, from these types of books? In terms of newsworthy, topical works, do you have a wishlist of issues you want to see covered, or items in the news you’d like to work on?
Argyres: I look for a strong platform and fresh message. The shelves are so crowded these days that getting the attention of the media is key-quality content and connections to the media are two ways to do this.

From the Editors: Danielle Durkin of Random House and Ballantine

ritamaebrown.jpgRachel Kramer Bussel speaks with an Associate Editor at Random House and Ballantine who wants to “see books with underrepresented characters”:

Mediabistro: Is there a typical way authors find you, or vice versa – is it mostly word of mouth? Do you seek out specific projects in addition to what gets sent to you?
Durkin: Agents. Agents call up an editor and pitch a project she/he thinks would be appropriate. If I have an idea for a book, I’ll look for a writer or an agent and work on developing a new project. If someone I respect wants to refer an author to me, I will always consider it.
Mediabistro: When you’re acquiring a book, how much relevance does the author’s long-term potential have?
Durkin: It’s usually nice to be able to look at an author’s career in the long-term. We always think about that.
Mediabistro: How many manuscripts do you receive in a given week or month? Do you only consider agented submission? Do you look at everything that gets sent to you?
Durkin: I can get 3-10 manuscripts in any given week. I don’t always look at the unagented stuff. There just isn’t time.
Mediabistro: What are the qualities in a manuscript that immediately grab you and make you keep reading/want to work on a particular book?
Durkin: A strong, mature style; a theme that will make people think; something that makes me laugh out loud.

More here.

Bye for now!

This is Annie, home from the ASJA Conference and turning the blog back to Claire. It was great fun; attending conferences every now and again helps writers get ideas, improve craft, and feel some camaradarie in a solitary profession.
Also, a shoutout to United Airlines – the baggage handlers ripped the front pocket off of my suitcase, but they gave me a new one with no muss and no fuss. Hurray!

From the Editors: Jessica Rozler of Allworth Press

allworth_covers.jpgRachel Kramer Bussel chats with Allworth Press Associate Editor Jessica Rozler about the books she works on: practical, legal, and business guides for people who work in creative fields:

Mediabistro: Does a potential author need to be an expert in the field they’re pitching, or already working in that field, in order to write a guide?
Rozler: It is very important that our authors have experience and background in the field they’re pitching. Many of our authors are working photographers, graphic designers, actors, and musicians. We also have a lot of authors who having teaching experience in the particular fields they write about. That’s always a good thing. Right now I’m working on a book called Your Career in Animation: How to Survive and Thrive. The author, David B. Levy, has extensive work experience as an animation artist and teaching experience at Parsons School of Design and School of Visual Arts. We love to see that.
Mediabistro: When you’re acquiring a book, how much relevance does the author’s long-term potential have?
Rozler: When we sign up a book, it’s because the particular title is of interest to us, and the author seems like she has knowledge, credibility, and a presence in her field and is able to organize her thoughts for the scope of a book. Initially, we aren’t really looking at long-term potential. However, if the author proves to be knowledgeable, professional, and cooperative, and has an interest in writing about related topics, we are eager to make a long-term relationship.

More here.

From the Editors: Andrea Montejo of Rayo

lamentablebook.jpgRachel Kramer Bussel speaks with Andrea Montejo, four-year veteran at Rayo, at HarperCollins imprint that features both English and Spanish titles:

Mediabistro: Can you give me an overview of Rayo and what its mission is?
Montejo: Rayo publishes books by, for, or about Latinos in both English and Spanish, seeking to give a voice to a community that has traditionally not had one. While our Spanish-language titles are intended for the many first-generation, Spanish-dominant Latinos, our English-language titles are for literally anyone (Latino or not) who reads books in English.
Mediabistro: Within Rayo, what kinds of books do you specialize in? What kinds of books are you looking for and, conversely, what kinds aren’t you looking for?
Montejo: Generally, I am interested in any book fiction or nonfiction that has something to do with Latin culture. They can be written in either English or Spanish. I have worked on a variety of books ranging from craft books (Crafty Chica’s Art de la Soul) to self-help books (The Love Diet) to commercial fiction (Point of Entry, The Last Cato) to literary fiction (The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow). My main interest, however, is fiction and I am particularly drawn to novels that have already been published abroad and can translate well for American readers.

More here.

From the Editors: Kate Nitze of MacAdam/Cage

dogbooks.jpgRachel Kramer Bussel chats with Kate Nitze, an editor who’s been with MacAdam/Cage for three and a half years:

Mediabistro: What kinds of books to do you work on/are you looking for? Conversely, what kinds of books don’t you want to see at all?
Nitze: I am looking for literary fiction with a strong, distinct narrative voice (Rose of No Man’s Land); stories in which landscape or the natural world is an essential element (A Map of Glass); explorations of how characters react to violence, tragedy, and uncertain mysteries (The Housekeeper, The Bewildered); and, always, anything about the inner workings of families and relationships, especially unlikely ones (Dog).
As much as I am drawn to dark stories, I don’t like in-your-face novels that try too hard to shock and exclude the reader. Rather, I like to be invited into a family’s secrets or to share in a character’s fears, regrets, and flaws.
I tend to prefer contemporary stories, rather than historical fiction, unless the historical piece focuses on a particular person or group of characters I can become close with, such as in the novel Mary, about Mary Todd Lincoln, that we are publishing this fall.

More here.

From the Editors @ Hyperion: Zareen Jaffery

fromleeditors.jpgRachel Kramer Bussel speaks with Zareen Jaffery, who works in an interesting genre: the tie-in.

The Lost Chronicles, Wicked: The Grimmerie, the upcoming Desperate Housewives Cookbook, for example. I’m also working on a number of business books, like Treat Your Customers, which is a fantastic little book about the customer service lessons a Fortune 500 Exec learned by working at his family’s Dairy Queen store when he was growing up. I’d love to work on commercial women’s fiction as well as narrative non-fiction, specifically on politics, history or a great memoir (the Frey scandal hasn’t scared me away!).

More here.

From the Editors: May Chen of Morrow/Avon

rulesofpassion.jpgThere’s room in romance for experienced authors and first-timers alike,” writes Rachel Kramer Bussel of her discussion with Harper Collins’ May Chen:
Mediabistro: The romance, erotica and chick lit genres all seem to be growing exponentially. With over 2,000 romance titles published each year, an estimated 51 million readers, over $1 billion in annual sales and a national organization, Romance Writers of America (RWA), comprised of 9,500 members worldwide, it’s understandable that the genre keeps expanding to go after these voracious readers. Can you comment on what the latest trends are and where you see these fields going? Is there room for infinite expansion?
Chen: I think trends tend to be cyclical and the genre is always changing. I do think there is room for infinite expansion – at the very least room for infinite interpretations. We’ve seen the huge revival of paranormal romances within the past few years, and now with the emergence of erotica, we’re also seeing paranormal erotica being written and published. There are all these interesting permutations. Chick-lit is definitely changing and need to change and grow in order to keep up with readers’ developing tastes. We’re no longer only interested in reading about the “girl in the cubicle with a shopping addiction” stories, but now we want to know what happened to the girl once she leaves the cube in 20 years, or what would happen if the girl was Asian? African-American? Or if she was a crime fighter or amateur sleuth? Or if she fought vampires and werewolves? We’re looking for stories with a broader scope to reach a wider audience.
More here.