Category Archives: Publishers and Editors

How Not to Wait

A friend and I were working on a project at the school when her cellphone rang. It was her thirteen year old son. His practice had ended early. He needed a ride. “Ok,” she said. “Give me five minutes to put stuff away and I’ll come.” Three minutes later the phone rang again. Same kid. Hadn’t she left yet? As she walked out the door and down the hall, I heard the phone go off again. “Nope,” she said. “I’m not almost there yet. It will take me fifteen minutes before I’m there. Do your homework while you’re waiting. Go take some shots on goal. It’s a gorgeous day. Look at some leaves or something.”

I laughed but I laughed because, at the moment, I can relate to the kid.

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After all the excitement of the book deal comes a lot (a lot) of waiting.

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And waiting is hard.

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For me, here’s what helps. Talk to people who’ve done this before about what to expect. Is it normal for contracts to take forever to wend their way through some place called Legal? Yes. Is it normal for long periods of nothing happening to be interspersed with other periods of semi-frenetic activity? Yep.

Get back to work. You’ve got other stories that need to be written. And revised. And revised. And revised. You know the gig.

And hey, it’s a beautiful day. Get out of your chair and kick the soccer ball around a little.  Look at some leaves or something.

mylisa_email_2-2Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, How to Put Your Parents to Bed (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

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Filed under Advice, Publishers and Editors, waiting

Squashing deadlines, one day at a time

Was last week’s launch party a blast or what? I love everything about SOPHIE’S SQUASH, and the Emu’s Debuts book birthday blog bash was no exception. The party’s over, but I still have the honor of announcing of the giveaway winner! So, without further ado, the winner of the signed copy of SOPHIE’S SQUASH and the swag to go with it is…

Erik at thiskidreviewsbooks!

Congratulations, Erik!

Before we broke for the party, we’d had a few posts about dealing with things like deadlines, interruptions and distractions, the guilt about writing instead of spending time with family, and the guilt about spending time with family instead of writing. (We just can’t win, can we?) This summer, I’ve had it all… at the same time. And as my August 1st deadline for delivering the first draft of CHANGEMAKER loomed ever nearer, I started to panic. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make it, and even if I somehow did, I’d have to turn in a REAL first draft (and you know what means, right? P.U.!).

Hemingway quote

One of my favorite coffee mugs.

I didn’t feel good about either option, so I broke down and emailed my editor to see if there was any wiggle room there. In the kindest, gentlest way possible (seriously, no sarcasm there—editors are some of the nicest people on the planet!), she explained that there wasn’t, but she also outlined exactly what needed to be in that draft… and what didn’t. It turned out the things I was most stressed about—sidebars, back matter, etc.—weren’t important in this round. Thank goodness I’d asked! I got back to work with a slightly different focus and a much healthier attitude. And I did it!

So, I’m now in this weird place of having met my deadline and turned in my manuscript, but still having a bunch of work to do. Imagine the conversations with friends… Them: “You turned in your book! How does it feel?” Me: “It feels great!” Them: “What are you working on now?” Me: “Oh, the same thing. I still need to finish it.” Them: *blink, blink*

Besides recovering from the last sprint and making my friends wonder about my mental state, I’m still feeling anxious about finishing all of those missing pieces at the same time I’m worrying about how hard the revision rounds might be. I have no idea if that first hurdle was the biggest one in this particular race or if there are even tougher challenges ahead. But I do know that I have loved researching and writing this manuscript. If they cancelled the book today, I’d be forever thankful just to have had the experience (please don’t cancel it! please don’t cancel it!), but (assuming all goes as planned) my own Emu’s Debuts book birthday blog bash is still more than a year away. Until then, I’ll just keep trying to do whatever needs to be done to make this the best possible book it can be.

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Filed under Anxiety, Editor, Panic, Publishers and Editors

SOPHIE’S SQUASH Launch Week and Giveaway Harvest!

Hooray, it’s finally here! SOPHIE’S SQUASH!

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With its 4 starred reviews and being one of Amazon’s picks for August, we know you’ve been dying for it to be released! (Us, too!)

Sophie's Squash

You know who else has been dying for it to be released? Our own Pat Zietlow Miller, of course!

Did you know Pat was un-agented when she submitted SOPHIE’S SQUASH? It’s a slush pile success story! I asked VP and Publisher Anne Schwartz about the manuscript’s journey.

AS: SOPHIE’S SQUASH was pulled from the slush pile by our assistant, Stephanie Pitts, who was spanking new at the time. She’d been on the job less than a month, I think, which is a testament to both Stephanie and the manuscript itself. Stephanie passed it on to me, and I immediately loved it; I passed it on to Lee Wade, who immediately loved it. And that was the beginning.

Anne, SOPHIE has amassed a collection of starred reviews. What about the story resonates so strongly with readers?

AS: For me, and I assume for readers, there is something so genuine and yet hilarious about this story. The connection between Sophie and her squash is at once completely unexpected and totally relatable. It’s not easy to achieve simultaneously this off-the-wall absurdity and absolute believability, but I think Pat and Anne Wilsdorf, the illustrator, have done so to perfection. We laugh because Bernice is a squash, but we connect because Sophie’s love for her is 100% real.

Speaking of 100% real love, were you ever attached to or fascinated by an unusual toy as a child?

AS: I’m afraid I wasn’t as creative in my love object as Sophie. I had a pink blanket that I was very attached to. In fact, I still miss it…or should I say, her?

I think in this case,  you should say “her”. Too bad her name wasn’t Bernice. That would be quite a story!

We also asked Pat about her side of the slush pile story…

Pat Zietlow MillerPZM: Even though Schwartz & Wade had always been one of my absolute favorite picture book publishers, I had not sent SOPHIE to them earlier because I didn’t think they accepted unagented work. But then, I saw a website that said they did, and I thought I’d give them a try. I submitted it to them in January, and I was, frankly, close to thinking that maybe this particular manuscript wasn’t meant to be. It had had several close calls before and I was running out of spots to send it to.

After I sent it off, I didn’t think too much about it. I’m generally pretty good at that. I had other stuff to work on and I knew the odds were against it being published anyway.

So when Anne Schwartz called me in September, I was stunned. It was a classic, out-of-the-blue, we’d-like-to-buy-your-book phone call. She said they had just hired a new staff person, and asked her to look at some slush. The staff person had pulled my manuscript on a Wednesday, and Anne had called me on Friday. And Lee Wade called later that same day, which also was great.

It was amazing. And surreal. Amazingly surreal.

So after that, a friend of mine who also writes, Jessica Vitalis, said, “Well, you’re going to try to get an agent now, right?” And I actually wasn’t. I didn’t think an agent would be interested in someone who mostly wrote picture books and didn’t illustrate. And Jessica really pushed me to try. So I remembered an agent I’d seen speak at the Iowa SCBWI conference—Ammi-Joan Paquette. I had been impressed by her, but I hadn’t spoken to her because, again, I didn’t see the point. I sent Joan an email with the story and the offer and she got back to me immediately and asked to see more of my work. I sent her several other stories and then we talked on the phone.

And it all worked out and I am now ecstatically part of EMU’s Debuts. So I owe hitting the agent jackpot to my friend, Jessica, without whom, I wouldn’t even have contacted Joan.

What an inspiring story, Pat!

We’ve got a lot more inspiration coming your way this week, including an interview with illustrator Anne Wilsdorf and a top-sekrit Tuesday post with multiple EMUs participating…visually. You’ll have to see it to believe it!

Giveaway alert: comment this week to enter to win a signed copy of SOPHIE’S SQUASH plus some lovable temporary tattoos of Sophie and Bernice!

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And if you happen to be near Madison, WI, Pat invites you to attend the in-person launch party on Saturday, August 17 at 1 p.m. at Barnes and Noble West (7433 Mineral Point Road). Plus there’s giveaways on Pat’s blog at PatZietlowMiller.com.

So curl up with your favorite squash and remember to join us all week long!

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Filed under Celebrations, Publishers and Editors

The Gibbet Stays in the Picture

The writer/editor relationship is one of trust. We trust that when we allow ourselves to freefall into waiting editorial arms, the support and structure we need will be there. They trust that what comes barreling onto them out of the sky won’t be a load of bird poop.

Seagull

HERE COMES THAT NEW CHARACTER ARC YOU WANTED.

But there’s another kind of trust that must be part of the equation, and it might be a bit harder to come by.

As writers, we have to learn to take criticism. Criticism is like vegetables — you may not like it, but you have to eat it or your organs shrivel up. Or something. We fear what Rita Williams-Garcia calls the “Righteous Manuscript,” the prose so precious and perfect it can’t be exposed to the corrupting oxygen of real world feedback, and so molders in a drawer. We learn how to be in critique groups without fainting from the butthurt. We learn to adjust and adapt.

And it’s freeing to get rid of the risen hackles, to look back on our rebellious writer-youth and smile condescendingly.

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Ah, maturity!

But we can also get too used to criticism, and sometimes, you just have to trust yourself.

I started out as a playwright. Plays are not like novels. Novels might get bounced off the critique group or the writing class or the bachelorette party along the way, but by the end of the process, they usually only have two brains looking at them and jiggling them around. Plays acquire brains as they go. It’s never very clear when they’re done or where they’re going or who changed that line and where are they so I can stab their eyes out.

The playwriting/producing process is great at making you examine your creative choices quickly and decisively. Plays are in your face. No hiding or ignoring the bits that make you cringe. Regret using the word “rhinoceroserian” in Act II? Too bad you have to hear an actor belt it out, a director tweak the emphasis, and someone’s busybody mom bitch about it every day for weeks. 

And remember all those brains you picked up along the way? Take the back and forth that happens between a writer and an editor, and throw like twenty other people into the mix. People who have their own vision of your play. People who decide what it looks and sounds like, people who worry about the logistics of set pieces and sight lines and whether Greg has enough time to change his pants before his next entrance. All those people need to be happily spinning cogs in order for The Greater Thing to function.

So playwriting also teaches you to choose your battles, and, in doing so, to trust yourself when it matters. A few years ago, my writing partner and I were commissioned to do a stage adaptation of Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs, which is not actually as hilarious a novel as you’d think. The theater company had a respectable budget, but choices had to be made, and in the midst of the period costumes, hand-made puppets, visual effects, and pit orchestra, I had written a gibbet.

A gibbet that appears for all of two minutes. Maybe. At the beginning of a three-hour show. In the dark.

gibbet

Ta-DAA!

OK, so technically it was Victor Hugo who had written a gibbet. But he’d written 800 pages of The Man Who Laughs, and I had no qualms about axing a lot of it. (Srsly. We know the duchess’s bedroom has nice things in it. Stop describing them. Nobody cares.)

The thing is, even though this gibbet had less stage time than pretty much everything else in the show, I didn’t want it to be a victim of production penny-pinching. It was important. The main character, a child, is mutilated and abandoned in the middle of the night, left to trudge barefoot through the snow toward certain doom. The first vestige of humanity he finds is the gibbet, whose occupant’s tootsies are so decayed his shoes have slipped off and are lying on the ground below. And the main character is so terrified, he can’t bring himself to take the shoes, even though his own feet are frozen.

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Sorry, I know. I was waiting for a punchline, too. Um . . . they all die?

How important did I consider this visual element? Put it this way — a photo of me is literally the first Google image result for “the man who laughs gibbet.” Go ahead, I’ll wait.

RIGHT? Already looking haggard and jaded at 25. Anyway, I went to bat for the gibbet, it looked amazing, and it set the tone for the whole show.

So, yes, trust your editor. Be thoughtful. Be a grown-up writer who can look objectively at your bloodstained manuscripts.

But hang on to your gibbets.

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Filed under Advice, Editing and Revising, Happiness, Publishers and Editors, Satisfaction, Writing, Writing and Life

What to Expect When You’re Expecting an Editorial Letter

Readers, I have to ask your pardon early. I turned in my first round of book edits on Monday, and my brain is still recovering. It knows that I have to write this post, but absolutely refuses to help me out with any witty turns of phrase or metaphors. (Seriously—I tried to cobble together a metaphor about my writerly gas tank being empty, but I couldn’t get it to, um…drive? You see what I mean.) I guess I’m lucky that I’m still able to write a coherent sentence at all at this point.

That said, Melanie’s post on Monday about working through first pass pages got the 1% of my brain that still works thinking. In this business, it’s great to have compatriots a few steps ahead of you in the process so you can get some idea of what to expect in the future. Many EMUs have already wisely posted about the revisions process that I just went through…but I figure that adding one more voice to the mix can’t hurt. So without further ado, and in handy question-and-answer format, I give you:

What to What to Expect When You’re Expecting an Editorial Letter!

1. Question: I just sold my first book, hurrah! When will my editorial letter arrive?

Answer: It varies—a lot. An informal poll of EMUs gave a time range of 2-10 months. Publishing schedules and how busy an editor is definitely affect this number. My own letter took about 4 months to arrive, which was perfect for me since it gave me enough distance from the story to be able to really rip it up when it came time to revise.

🙂 Note: You should know that the time frame in which an editor promises you will have your letter generally has no correlation with when you actually receive your letter. 

2. Question: What will my editorial letter look like?

Answer: That varies, too! For novels, I’ve heard of editorial letters as short as 3 pages and as long as 24. (Though for some reason, they are always, always single-spaced.) Some editors like to put lots of detail into the actual letter, whereas some like to write more on the manuscript itself. Some will hand-write notes on the manuscript and mail it to you, and some will insert comments electronically and e-mail the file. Some might even ask you which you prefer.

🙂 Note: A short editorial letter does not necessarily mean that you have less work to do. My letter was on the short side, but I had margin notes on almost every page of the manuscript and managed to fill 6 weeks with rewrites.

Which leads us to the next question…

3. Question: How long will I have to work on my edits?

Answer: 1-2 months seems standard for the first round, based on what I’ve heard from other writers and my own experience.

🙂 Note: But that’s only the beginning! There will be a second round of revisions that’s usually a bit shorter, and there’s often a third round after that, too.

4. Question: How extensive will my revisions be?

Answer: A lot more extensive than you thought! There is almost no getting around this. Considering that you probably already rewrote and revised your manuscript a bazillion times before signing with your agent, then again before going on submission—and maybe again before it was acquired—you might be under the false impression that it’s in pretty good shape. After all, a publishing house has bought it, and your editor seemed really effusive about it when you spoke with her on the phone!

But your editor is an editor for a reason. He (yes, I’m mixing pronouns here, but hey, an editor can be male or female!) is going to call you out on every last detail that you were too lazy to flesh out in previous drafts. She is going make you look hard at every arbitrary decision you’ve ever made about your story. He is going to ask you questions like “Why does the action take place over a year when it could easily be condensed to three or four months?” (And no, “My BFF J.K. Rowling’s books all took place over the course of a year, so I thought mine should, too” is not an acceptable answer.)

You will not answer these questions with justifications. You will answer them by fixing the problems, no matter how much rewriting that entails.

So, prepare yourself—and be grateful that a professional is devoting so much attention to your story! The process can be painful, but the work is making your book so much better.

🙂 Note: How much your editor seemed to love your book when they acquired it generally has no correlation with how much work they will make you do on it come revision time.

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Well, there you have it—a mildly coherent summary of this step of the process from someone who’s just been there. If you’re an author waiting for your first editorial letter, I (and my fellow EMUs, I’m sure!) wish you luck, fortitude, and inspiration. And if you’ve already been there and have something to add, please leave a comment with your experience!

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Filed under Advice, Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Editing and Revising, Editor, Publishers and Editors

Fly, Dragon, Fly!

It’s launch week for Flying the Dragon by Natalie Dias Lorenzi, and Team Tara is here to get things started off right! Yup, two authors  named Tara have interviewed two women with the initials EM (what are the odds?) about the process that went into selling and editing this beautiful middle grade novel.

We’re also giving away a signed copy of the book (and a bookmark!) to one lucky person who comments on this post by Friday, June 29, so make sure to leave your thoughts at the end!

Now Tara Dairman will kick things off by chatting with Emily Mitchell, who edited the book.

Tara Dairman: While a lot of middle-grade fiction today is high-concept or action-packed, Flying the Dragon tells a quieter, more family-centric story. What about the book appealed to you as an acquiring editor?

Emily Mitchell: The characters really drew me in — fully realized, flawed, sympathetic, and surprisingly funny. Strong characters are key for a quieter story like this one: in the absence of whiz-bang action, you need something to keep readers engaged, and the best way to do that is to create characters that readers want to spend time with. I loved Skye’s self-deprecating humor and Hiroshi’s earnest befuddlement, and I loved how Grandfather was wise and tender without feeling like a stereotype. Natalie and I worked hard to polish some of the plot elements during the editing phase, but the characters were spot-on right from the start.

TD: Did you know much about Japanese culture or kite-fighting before you started working on this project, or was it an educational experience for you?

EM: I read The Kite Runner — that was the extent of my knowledge of kite-fighting. And aside from having some friends of Japanese heritage and knowing I don’t like sushi, I knew very little about Japanese culture before working on this book. The tidbits about the rules of language, for example, were fascinating.

TD: One of my favorite elements of this book is how Hiroshi’s culture shock is expressed through so many specific, poignant, and even funny moments. Do you have a favorite?

EM: When Hiroshi proudly demonstrates his newfound knowledge of American slang by telling his ESL teacher, “That totally sucks.” Definitely my favorite moment in the book.

Thank you, Emily! And now here’s Tara Lazar in conversation with Natalie’s agent, Erin Murphy.

Tara Lazar: What was your initial reaction the first time you read Flying the Dragon? What elements of the story jumped out at you, and what stuck with you? How did you know you wanted to sign Natalie?

Erin Murphy, agent extraordinaire and owner of superdog Lulu.Erin Murphy: When I first read it, Hiroshi was the only point of view character. I really loved Hiroshi, and most of all, I loved his relationship with his grandfather. I love the way I learned so much about Japanese traditions through Hiroshi’s experience with having to learn American ones. Natalie’s manuscript hit that sweet spot that is very hard to find with middle-grade fiction manuscripts: the voice felt true to the age group, the character’s experience unique yet universal, the emotions going deep but tinged with humor, too. Natalie was both wise and enthusiastic when we spoke, and fun to talk with, and incredibly knowledgeable, both about children’s books in general and about the experiences her character had in the manuscript. I sensed we could work well together, and I knew she was committed to working on the manuscript to bring it to a new level and make it even more of what it was. In particular, Hiroshi’s cousin (then called Susan, now called Skye) was screaming to have a bigger voice in the story. Now half the story is hers, and the juxtaposition and overlap of Hiroshi and Skye’s experiences make for such a rich read.

TL: We hear these days that a lot of editors are interested in multicultural fiction. Did that make this book easier to sell? Or did the quiet nature of the story make it harder to market to editors?

EMu: Back when we were shopping the story, “multicultural” was still carrying a bit of negative connotation from years before, when publishers were all producing multicultural folktales that turned out to be spotty sales-wise. The push to publish multicultural stories that reflect the experiences of today’s diverse readers had not really begun in full, not in the way we see now. And Natalie and I have running jokes about the “q-word”; it came up in almost every rejection the manuscript received, I think–but, delightfully, it has also turned up in the shining reviews we’ve seen so far, as a good thing! As always, I hold on to faith that great fiction will find a home and an audience, even if it’s a little harder to find. I think the book is an absolutely perfect fit for Charlesbridge!

TL: What do you think of the cover? How does it visually convey the story that’s inside?

EMu: Oh my goodness, that cover! It made me swoon from the start. That dragon in the sky! Both characters shown, the bicycle giving it a contemporary feel, and yet the whole thing looks timeless. I could not be happier. There’s an extra pleasure in the way this book and EMU Jeannie Mobley’s Katarina’s Wish look side by side on my shelf–both with silhouetted figures, both with similar colors, both so incredibly eye-catching, and both such satisfying debuts.

TL: Why do you think kids and adults should read Flying the Dragon?

EMu: Because it’s a fabulous story! And if that’s not enough, people who have knowledge of Japanese culture will be delighted at its expression here, and those who don’t will learn something of it, and all will see bits of themselves in both Hiroshi and Skye–and very possibly have a good cry, too. And the kite fighting is thrilling!

Thank you, Erin, for that terrific peek behind the scenes!

And what’s a launch party without a door prize? Please leave a comment below for a chance to win an autographed copy of Flying the Dragon. We’ll choose a winner this Friday.

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Filed under Agents, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Interviews, Publishers and Editors

Don’t Worry–We Have it Covered

I was so happy the day that Lisa unveiled her new cover for LEAGUE OF STRAYS. I was one of those people who visited her ultra-cool website! It was so great to see—and I was so happy for her—because it has been a long wait all this time while the rest of us have unveiled our covers. But, her cover was totally worth the wait!

I sometimes joke that, as I lie on my death-bed 100 years from now, I will be particularly worried, as sometimes I wonder if I made a deal with the devil that I don’t remember. I have been so blessed in signing with Erin and EMLA and I really can’t imagine a better editor/publisher than Nancy Paulsen. She has been super-supportive.

One such way was in the design of the cover for One for the Murphys.

I experienced the same trepidation that Lisa did the day my Murphys cover landed in my in-box. I took a deep breath, held it, and then click. I should have loved it. I was colorful, had specific references to the book, but there was something not quite right. It was not a final cover—it was rough—and she had sent it to me to ask what I thought of its general direction.

So, I responded with thanks to the people who had worked on it and all the things I liked about it but that it seemed commercial to me. Perhaps it was more like an ad for a Disney show than my literary novel. It was bright, eye-catching, and would have made a wonderful cover—just not for Murphys.

Then, I sat leaning forward staring at my computer screen, waiting for her to respond. Good thing she answered so quickly, as I probably would have collected cobwebs by the time I’d given up. Her response was, “I see what you mean. We’ll go back to the drawing board.”

At that moment, I wanted to paint a mural of her (although, with my lack of skills in that area, it may have looked like a Picasso-knock off.) Or maybe hire a skywriter to spell, “Thanks, Nancy” over the Hudson River outside of her office.

A few days later, I received three more covers—all with girls lying in the grass. Any of them could have been the cover of Murphys, but the one that the design team and Nancy ultimately chose was my favorite. I was thrilled when it came through as the final cover, as it fits the tone of Carley Connors—not just the book but the girl as well.

The giraffe and the basketball that were shopped in are also important parts of the book. They made me feel like this was my cover and not just a picture I liked. I am grateful to Nancy Paulsen and her extensive, talented crew. They’re publishing my book which will officially be released in less than a month!!

And I really do love that cover, because now I have a picture of Carley Connors.

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Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, cover art, Editor, Happiness, Publishers and Editors, Satisfaction, Thankfulness

My “Useless” Skill

I think Mike’s description of the beast of marketing’s awakening was spot on. Which is why I took my little beastie to its usual haunts on the Internet this morning, and fed it a carb-heavy snack of tweets and status updates. While it naps, I’ll take part in an Emudebut tradition–using my first post to share that magical moment when chasing the dream became catching it.

Like many writers, it took multiple years and manuscripts, as well as a plethora of supporting documents, the most cumbersome of which was the synopsis. But since synopses were necessary for writing classes, grants and contests, as well as agent-seeking, I wrote them, grudgingly. To my surprise, by the third manuscript, people began mentioning how much they liked my synopses. Really? Those useless, ol’ things? Okay, it was better than hearing folks hated them, but hardly cartwheel-worthy.

Once I landed an agent, hah! No more query letters; no more synopses! For my fifth manuscript, I constructed beat sheets, outlines, story grids, all that groovy, writerly stuff. And on a blue-skied day in March 2011, I finally got that knee-weakening, eye-watering, fist-pumping, oh-my-God CALL! Someone wanted to publish my book!

And then a funny thing happened.

A second publisher was very interested, but wanted to talk about some possible revisions. I agreed to speak with the editor. He described what drew him to my manuscript, and then he laid out the areas where it could be improved. Oh. It was one of those times where you instinctually know that what you’re hearing is right on the mark. At the same time, I calculated that addressing the issues would mean tossing out, let’s see, half the manuscript. Ack. Before I could faint or hyperventilate, we shifted into brainstorming mode. By the end of the call, I saw what the second publisher saw—a bigger, better version of my story. And, even though I could’ve gone with publisher number one (whose books I love) and saved myself a ton of work, you can’t unsee a vision once you’ve glimpsed it. You just can’t. I hung up eager to get to work.

Of course, imagining a substantially new plot is a far cry from writing it. In order to make the case for the powers that be to acquire my book, I had to prove that I understood their concerns and could address them. Because of the offer already on the table, there wasn’t time for a revise and resubmit. The only thing hanging between me and this second possibility, the one with that sparkly new plotline, was–you guessed it, a synopsis. At first I panicked, but then I remembered. This was something I could do. My useless skill would finally have its day.

Burning the midnight oil for a few nights, I replotted my story and produced a synopsis. Not long after, I had an offer. Not just any offer. An offer from a publisher who’d push me to make my book so much better than I’d imagined.

Contrary to popular belief, this guy has nothing to do with synopsis-writing.

So when writers lament over synopsis writing, invariably using words such as “dreaded,” “daunting” and “evil,” I get it. Yes, synopses are difficult to write. There’s a reason for that. In roughly five pages, you have to hook your reader with the seduction of a query letter, make your main character’s voice compelling enough to care about, and present a cohesive plot with twists, turns and a satisfying ending. It’s the hardest type of writing we’ll probably face–the butterfly stroke in our swim medley, the decathlon in our track events, the a cappella in our repertoire.

But it’s also incredibly useful. Not just for getting the deal. But as a communication tool for agents and editors to share with sales staff, subrights folks, movie agents, etc… Who knew these little suckers could carry so much weight?

Well, now I do. I doubt I’ll ever find them easy, but they’re doable. And clearly, worthwhile. Which is a far cry from evil and useless.

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Filed under craft~writing, Publishers and Editors, Satisfaction, Synopsis, Writing

It’s a Journey

Um, I think Natalie Lorenzi and I have had somewhat different experiences with the timelines of our debut books.

The publication of Natalie’s FLYING THE DRAGON was pre-poned by nearly a year. That’s right. It moved up from Spring 2013 to Fall 2012. WE’VE GOT A JOB, on the other hand, bounced back and forth between a 2011 and 2012 pub date. Winter 2011? Spring 2012? Guess which won! Yep, it’ll be out in two weeks.

And then, Natalie’s book started making public appearances eight months before its new, earlier pub date.  ARCs! The cover of her publisher’s catalog! ALA!! Let’s see. Eight months before my pub date, my indefatigable editor and I were still doing photo research—with captioning and layout still to come. As a result, my galleys/ARCs appeared, oh, about three months pre-publication. (It was featured prominently, however, across a two-page spread just inside the cover of my publisher’s catalog.)

And, did Natalie say that she completed her edits in four months?! Let’s see again. Kathy and I started revising the manuscript in April 2010. And, we went to press in November 2011. That’s 18 months—over four times as long as Natalie and her editor needed for copy edits.

So, what do all these differences in our editorial and publishing processes mean? I’m certainly NOT blaming my editor. On the contrary. I can only conclude that Natalie’s manuscript was near-perfection when she submitted it. A plus

Mine, on the other hand, needed so much fixing, we had to keep pushing back the timeline. (Uh oh. Something just occurred to me. Do you think that editors share stories with each other about their impossible authors and their impossible manuscripts? No editor may want to work with me. Natalie, on the other hand, will have editors begging her to send them her manuscripts, her early drafts, her napkin-scribbles.)

And, the funniest part? She’s worried about what to wear to her debut. Natalie—gorgeous in even blue jeans and fuzzy slippers!

There is one thing we have in common, though. We’re both proud of our books that are about to take their bows. In fact, we’re proud of all our EMUs Debuts books, no matter how long they take from brilliant idea to book-in-hand and no matter what we wear to their debuts. Take a deep bow, EMUs!

I don't know who she is but she's been helpful on EMU's Debuts!

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Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Colleagues, Editing and Revising, Editor, Happiness, Publishers and Editors, Updates on our Books!

Interview with Sourcebooks Assistant Editor Aubrey Poole

On Monday, I had the pleasure of interviewing author, Anna Staniszewski about her newly-released book, MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE. Today, I follow-up with an Assistant Editor at Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Aubrey Poole, who stepped right in and helped put Anna’s debut novel into the hands of readers.

LBS: Speaking for Sourcebooks, what was it that first attracted you to MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE?

AP: Anna’s agent sent over a great pitch about an adventurous girl that saves magical kingdoms (I loved that Jenny did the rescuing in this fairy tale), but it was the first few lines that grabbed me: “You know all those stories that claim fairies cry sparkle tears and elves travel by rainbow? They’re lies. All lies. No one tells you the truth until it’s too late. And then all you can do is run like crazy while a herd of unicorns tries to kill you.” How can you not love Jenny after reading that? And who knew Unicorns were so bloodthirsty?

LBS: How did the revision process work between publisher and author?

AP: Generally we go through two rounds: First is the developmental edit that looks at the story arc and second is the line-edit where I look more closely at sentence structure, word choice, etc. Anna is a terrific writer and she put a lot of work into it with her agent before we even got it. I suggested a few tweaks to the pacing and the final showdown with evil Klarr, which Anna skillfully incorporated, but I can honestly say it was a pretty light edit. Also, I just have to thank Bill Gates for Microsoft Word’s Tracked Changes.

LBS: I understand that Anna’s original editor left to attend an Oxford writing program. Did you become the primary editor, and if so, what was that like for you?

AP: Yes, Rebecca Frazer was the acquiring editor. She has a fantastic eye and really helped me learn the ropes. This book is one we worked very closely on from the beginning – I actually read it first and when Rebecca heard me laughing hysterically from the next room she called me to find out what I was reading. Since I was such a big fan, Rebecca let me take point on this project while overseeing the process. I’m very grateful for her trust and direction, and it turned out to be a smooth transition once she left. I was incredibly pleased when my MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE was officially transitioned to me – I love working with Anna!

LBS: From a publisher’s perspective, what is the most challenging part of bringing a debut novel to life?

AP: Getting the word out! I think it’s obvious how much I love this book, and I want everyone else to love it too! But they have to read it first. Anna has been just amazing about getting out there and promoting this book, and so has our marketing team. It’s also important to get the packaging right because we’re hoping to establish a successful career for Anna—not just this one book. So we want to get the title, cover, and back cover copy just right not only for the book but for Anna’s author brand.

LBS: I know a lot of readers and authors wonder why it can take years between an acquisition and its release date. Why is that?

AP: There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes! As an independent company, Sourcebooks is a bit more nimble and we can actually get a book to market more quickly than is sometimes typical. We’ve just finished acquiring for Fall 2012 and are moving to Spring 2013. But we need time to edit the book, get the packaging right, manufacture the final product and then build up interest. We print advance reader copies five or six months before the actual publication date to send out to reviewers and bloggers like you. They need time to review the book and get it into their magazines, etc. I get anxious to see my author’s books in print, so I can only imagine how they feel, but it doesn’t help to print the book faster if no one’s heard of it.

LBS: I’ve always wondered, is it easier or harder to work with debut authors?

AP: Oooh, good question. I think there are pros and cons. Previously published authors know the ropes and have experience with the editing and publishing process. But there’s nothing more exciting than that first call to an author to tell them that we want to acquire their book(s). That’s the best part of my job.

Good luck with Anna’s book, Aubrey! I am sure it will reach the hearts of many middle-graders. Thank you for taking the time to stop by Emu’s Debuts and share your side of the publication experience with us.

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Filed under Book Promotion, Editor, Guest Posts, Publishers and Editors