Picking a book out of the pile

Hi, it’s Stacy again. I thought the blog machine might put my signature at the bottom of the post, so you can tell me from Caridad, but no such luck.

Thank you all for your kind comments and interesting questions. I want to address as many as I can today. Granted, that’s more like a chat than a blog entry, but you guys have at least given me lots to write about! There were several people curious about the daily life of an editor. I’ll get to that, and related questions, tomorrow. For today, the questions are mostly about finding publishable manuscripts amidst the slush.

Carol M. asks: “How do you decide if a manuscript is good enough to publish? Are you more careful about publishing a book from a new author than one you already know?  Do you find it hard to turn down someone’s work?  Do you make the decision yourself or do you work with others?”

Deciding if a manuscript is good enough to publish is a key element of my job. It has taken me a long time to perfect that skill, and my decisions are always affected by personal preference, no matter how objective I would like to be. However, what I personally enjoy is not the only, or even the most important, criteria I use. Top on the list: quality of the writing (grammar, good storytelling, smooth plot, fully developed characters), marketability of the author’s idea, and the needs of the publishing program (for example, if Nocturne is seeking vampire stories then many good novels can be pitched; if they put a hold on buying vampire stories, then only the very best novels can be pitched).

As for new talent, I love to find it. But I am careful about making sure new writers can deliver what they promise. If a manuscript has potential but needs revisions, then I ask a new writer to make the changes before we go to contract. I need to know they can do the rewrites necessary for a stronger book. If I have worked with a writer before and I know they can make revisions, I consider projects at earlier stages of completion.

Rejecting writers’ work is difficult for me. I have written a couple of (really terrible) manuscripts myself, and in writing them, I learned just how difficult it is to finish a novel. Any writer who gets to ‘The End’ has done something amazing that involved hours and hours of sweat and tears. As an editor, however, I can’t let that understanding influence my purchasing decisions. I am required to judge the final draft, not the hard work that went into making it.

Finally, I work with many other people when deciding to buy a manuscript. I am the first judge of submissions that cross my desk. If I like something then I am the one who must convince the senior editor and the executive editor that we need it. I have passed on technically good books just because they didn’t have the X factor, which isn’t always about perfect writing. If something about the project (writing, story, author experience) doesn’t excite me, then I can’t justify putting in the time and effort needed to make the book a success.

Lord, if all of my answers are this long, you’ll be reading this blog post all day!

Irene Peterson asks: “What are the five top things a writer can do to completely turn you off a manuscript?” and Elaine Cantrell asks: “What advice can you give to new writers to help them rise above the slush pile if they don’t have an agent?”

I don’t really have a list of pet peeves. I’ve been very lucky with the writers who have sent things to me. I’m even willing to forgive some grammatical errors if the book has promise. The answer to both of these questions, then, is that the number one thing I’m looking for is a good story written well. That, plus a unique premise or a twist on a traditional premise, will make a reader stand out.

Yolanda and Jeannie Donnelly both want to know: “Is chick lit dead? And if so, what’s hot?”

Chick lit is not as popular as it once was, but the voice of the genre is not dead. Readers still like a witty, strong heroine, just in different locales like suspense and paranormal.

As for what’s hot, there are some sub-genres that are selling well for us right now: sexy romances like those in Silhouette Desire and Harlequin Presents, erotic romances like those published by Spice and paranormals like those in Silhouette Nocturne and by writers like Jennifer Armintrout and Gena Showalter.

Melissa_G asks: “Did I see a glimmer of a mention of additional books in The Calling series awaiting contract? Could we maybe have a small hint?”

Caridad definitely has more ideas for The Calling, but I’ll let her decide what to leak. 🙂 

9 thoughts on “Picking a book out of the pile”

  1. Hi Stacey, as a reader, I’m getting to understand the process more, but too, so much that goes into it for you all to get Caridad’s book out, one of many different ones each month all over! That was a big thank you!

    Off to check on your sneak peeks Caridad!

  2. Thanks for educating us readers on some of the finer points of publishing. I envy poeple who can write i can’t and wish I could. So rejecting folks would be hard for me to do. Do most editors try their hand at writing.

  3. Thank you for all of your answers Stacy. I know that I appreciate all of the time and thought you’ve put into them, it certainly gave me a lot to think about.

    I have only one simple question today – is it really the kiss of death to have a manuscript in first person? Some excellent books, series even, have been done in first person, yet in bold letters on nearly every “submission guideline” is NO FIRST PERSON.

    Why? Drat…that was two questions. Hope you understand that it probably is one question all the same 🙂

  4. Thank you so much for answering our questions! This is really interesting. It’s a part of the book world that I know so little about!

  5. Hi Stacy,

    Thanks again for answering our questions and providing us with insight. I don’t think this one has been asked yet … Is it really OK to submit without an agent? Although, one might think having one may improve one’s chances of getting out of the slush pile.

    BTW, Caridad, I really enjoyed More Than A Mission and I’m Looking forward to the sequel.

  6. Hey Stacy nice to meet you *waves*… I’m not a writer but rather just a reader but it is sure is interesting to read about all the in’s and out’s on publishing a book! Gosh sometimes as a fan you tend to forget about what goes in in producing and releasing a book … all we demand from our authors is more more more *lol* Thanks for shedding some light.

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