Friday, March 4, 2011

Salute Editors, Part 2

I continue the interview with Kat Thompson, former senior editor at Echelon Press. Every publisher has individual preferences for manuscripts. Where one will accept a tag line after a question, another will not. As I discovered, the rules continue to be updated, but many are to make the writer think, to be more creative, and to put out a better product.

8. I've learned a lot about writing, as have others, through trial and error and from other writers in critique groups. I strive to put out the best manuscripts I can, to follow all of the rules. However, I've read a lot of books, written by well known authors, where I find all sorts of mistakes I'm not allowed to make? Why do editors let those go by?

Because each editor looks at things differently. For instance - at Echelon, we don't like tags with question or exclamation marks. Other publishers don't seem to have an issue with this - just different styles. Many of the books/guides written by authors are extensions of their own opinions about what is correct. You can get 3 different editors in a room and have 5 different opinions about what is correct in any given situation - that's the craziness of the English language.

9. I'm ready to submit my manuscript to be review for acceptance. I can just mail the whole thing to your attention, correct? Why not?

No. You must check the publisher's website and review the submission guidelines. If you do not follow the guidelines (very often different for different publishers), the publisher will not even consider your submission. The publisher's opinion is if you cannot follow those guidelines, then you may not want to follow other rules of the publishing house and, frankly, we don't have the time to deal with someone who will not follow the rules.

10. Could I ask how many submissions Echelon Press receives on a monthly basis? How do I make myself stand out?

It really depends on the month. I've seen as many as 6 or 8 and as few as one. If you follow our guidelines, your submission will be read. We read every single one of the submissions we get - as long as they have followed the Echelon guidelines.

11. I've submitted a manuscript. Should I wait by the phone or keep checking my email every day expecting a reply? How long should I wait and should I just assume if you haven't replied within X amount of time, you just didn't like what I wrote?

Generally, expect to wait 4-6 weeks. Most publishers do not have a single person or team who do nothing but read submissions, so submissions are being read by the editing staff, in between editing books and dealing with whatever else life is throwing at them at the moment. A good publishing house will acknowledge receipt of a submission and try to give you an estimate of how long you can expect to wait. If, however, after 6 weeks you have not heard anything, it's acceptable to drop a line to the submission email and inquire where you are in the pile.

12. I've made submissions to multiple publishing houses or agents and, wonder of wonders, two have accepted it and would like to offer a contract. How do I choose?

Good question. How do you feel about the publishing house? Which one gives you the best impression? Which one responded first? This is entirely subjective, but good luck with whichever one you choose.

13. Part of Echlon's submission requirements is a request for a marketing strategy. What is this and why should I have one? I mean, I wrote the story, if you publish it people are just going to buy it, aren't they?

Because Echelon expects its authors to market their books, we want to know how you plan to do so. Echelon does not have the personnel to do nothing but marketing. For that matter, the big NY publishers may expect an author to do some of his/her own marketing, too. Without marketing your book may sell - to your family, friends, and possibly friends of friends, but unless you get out there and sell your book, it can be in all the right places (Ingram, B&N, Amazon, etc), yet will not sell enough copies to make it worth the time, effort and cost to the publisher. This is a business, after all, and Echelon, as well as every other publisher, is in the business to make money - for Echelon, the editors and the authors. You have to be willing to help get there.

14. In our frequent correspondence, I've noticed a tag at the end of your emails saying you're in search of 'wandering body parts.' Explain what these are and give a few examples.

Wandering body parts are perfectly correct sentences that create humorous mind pictures. Or they may be sentences that because of word order, create a physically impossible action/movement/scene.
Examples: Small pine trees reached out, and then a row of bamboo shot up in front of him. She squeezed her eyes together. Boots and skirts spun past Ann. Slinging his arm over his eyes on the bed. The Marquis sat in the den reading along with a snifter of brandy, which sat on the highboy next to him.

15. What advice do you have for new writers or already published authors to help them improve their skills to make the writing more fun and your job a little easier?

Write, write, write, then write some more. Pay attention to what your editor says and learn from your mistakes. Accept critiques in the manner in which they are intended - as an aid to improving your story. Read books and study how the authors tell their stories. And write.


Sunny Frazier said...

It is always good to see the vision of other publishers and editors. I am sending this on to the Puerto Vallarta's writing group (which I just met last week) to add to the knowledge I gave them on my talk about changes in the publishing world. Thanks, Stephen and Kat!

Anne R. Allen said...

Congrats on the debut of Night Shadows.

Nicely done interview. Small presses are a great alternative to the agent/big six publishing route.

Thanks for commenting on my blog. I totally agree with you about those patterned backgrounds and too many visuals. Yours is nice and clean and easy to read.

Elisabeth Hirsch said...

I found #14 especially helpful. Thanks for the awesome info. I'm now following.