June 9, 2014
From an Editor’s Viewpoint
(Working with an Editor)
For about the last year, I’ve been working as an acquisitions editor for Helping Hands Press, Levittown, PA. We’ve done a nice series of holiday stories entitled MARSHA HUBLER’S HEART-WARMING CHRISTMAS STORIES and a compilation for equine lovers, MARSHA HUBLER’S HEART-WARMING HORSE STORIES. We’ve also published a few excellent tween/YA/adult novels and a few supplementary educational materials for kids on the elementary level. Right now I’m on the lookout for Easter stories, novels, and more excellent educational stuff. But that’s not the reason I wrote this blog post.
For awhile we’re going to discuss the basics of working with an editor. For almost twenty years, I’ve been on the other side of the editor’s desk as an author working with editors. Although I’m still published regularly, the editor’s table is turned, and I’m also on the receiving end of the editor/author relationship. I now see how important it is for an author to be diligent in their efforts to work with an editor on a professional level. After all, that editor is an author’s lifeline to the published market. So, let’s look at some important points for authors to embrace as they seek publication at a royalty publishing company.
Contacting an Editor:
I’m amazed at some of the emails I’ve received from writers who want me to look at their work. (That’s called a “query letter.”) Either the folks are so green, they have no clue how to approach an editor, or they are not determined in their hearts to make a good first impression on that editor, who could possibly give them one or more contracts or delete the email without a second thought. By the way, hardly any submissions are done via hard copy anymore. Everything is done electronically, and I mean everything.
Let’s examine an example of a “query letter,” (content and name modified to protect the guilty) I received about six months ago:
Thanks for taking a look at the pages of my novel. They are attached. It was nice meeting you at the conference. Sarah
Okay, so I had to take a deep breath and decide if I wanted to even look at this writer’s sample pages. So what’s wrong with this submission?
- How about a nice greeting like “Dear Mrs. Hubler:” The writer was “applying” for a job, not writing to her best friend.
- What novel? What’s its title? What genre is it? Where’s the synopsis?
- What’s attached? The entire novel? Three chapters?
- What conference? When? Many editors are on faculty at least two or three times a year at different writers’ conferences.
- Did I meet one-on-one with this writer in a private conference? Or did we discuss her project at lunch? How about a few more details to refresh my memory.
- Sarah? Sarah who? I know about six Sarahs, and I usually meet another one at any writers’ conference I attend. Full name missing? How about a phone number? Email address? Home address? Website? If I delete this email by mistake, I have no idea how to get in touch with “Sarah.” The contact is lost and, possibly, a book contract.
- And last but not least, did you notice the email address? It tells me nothing concerning who this Sarah is. So how important is it to include all contact information with that first very, very important letter to the editor?
Next time, we’ll review the basics of writing an excellent query letter.