Monday, May 17, 2010

What Do Editors Want?

Earlier this month, GalleyCat did an interview with Jean V. Naggar, president of the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency. Here are some things I took from the interview.

What she looks for from authors:
Authors need to offer their best work, to be ready to revise, and to trust that they have put their work in good hands. Having a job on the side can also provide a guarantee of more food variety, and they should keep counting the pennies, also keeping up a steady constant presence in all social networking areas, twittering and tweeting, helping themselves to get the word out about their books with energy and resourcefulness.
What editors want in a manuscript:
Editors are looking for fresh original material in perfect condition. Dramatic pace, writing quality, and clarity of thought trumps any particular trend, and my recommendation to writers today is to listen to their agent if the agent is requesting that more work be done before showing a manuscript to editors. Editors today are heavily bound up in meetings and other requirements, and showing them a strong national platform and a manuscript that is almost ready for the printer is the best way to get their attention.
Click over to read the full interview, including how her agency likes to be approached and what her particular pet peeve is.
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26 comments:

  1. The "perfect condition" is something I've noticed. I think right now the climate is such in publishing that they don't have the time or money to slog copy editors down with a lot of revision work.

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  2. "Perfect condition" *sigh* I long to have my work perfect. I sometimes wonder if it will ever get there.

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  3. hmmm...being a metaphorical engineer, I'm trying to put this in terms of my 'day job' as a therapist. Yep, I would like it if my clients came in knowing what they want to change and with some insight as to go about it. Sometimes they are big messes with defences strongly in place and long standing habits of self-denigration but I think the jewel is in them so I'm willing to get down and dirty with them to uncover it. I know that I need to do all the work I can and I'm going to miss some of it - even with good second readers and line edits and reading out loud. I hope the jewel in it can be seen by my agent and my editor. We'll see!
    Oh - and I know that I can't be too picky with my clients - don't have enough. Suppose if I were wildly popular and too busy (covered by insurance would do it) I could say no to troublesome clients that won't cure fast enough. Editors aren't in that situation - and that's why this is a metaphor.

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  4. We've all reacted to the perfect condition comment. I've just had my wip edited and it has improved my writing and the story 100%. I've done so much work I almost need to get it edited again.

    I think writers need good critique partners willing to edit and if we don't, we need to get our work edited before we submit. I know the cost is a factor, but if you believe in your wip I think it's beneficial to give it the best chance possible.

    Thanks, Helen, for another great post.

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  5. Yes, perfect condition makes sense.

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  6. I think that's exactly what's wrong with publishers today. They no longer edit, expect perfection coming in. They're nothing more than a printing press with a huge psychological wallop behind them.

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  7. I don't know that an editor at a publishing house gets too many absolutely perfect manuscripts, but they do want them as near to that as possible. As a freelance editor, I know I'm as busy as I've ever been.

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  8. It's funny, but with all the advances in technology and changes in publishing, the advice seems constant. Give the very best work you've got, to the perfectly targeted agents ... some things never change.

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  9. I spent four years getting my first, historically accurate, novel ready for market and it's been published by three different publishers since 1999. (My best selling book so far.) My last novel took six months and is creeping along in sales, so I agree that getting it as perfect as possible has more than one advantage.

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  10. I am so bookmarking this!! When I do my publishing & promoting seminars, it's like beating against a brick wall trying to convinve attendees that they need to hire a professional editor no matter what route they select.

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  11. Hiring editors is crucial for any writer wanting to get published. I lost count of the number of times my manuscript was reviewed, either by me or others, and more changes made. Perfect may not exist, but getting it damned near is our goal.
    Karen

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  12. Ah. How am I going to say this without sounding simple? Well, I just will. A book is a product, and for the most part, it's the quality product that sells. As in any business, the experts (in this case editors and publishers) will be able to identify a superior product when it is presented to them. Why would anyone want to submit something that they haven't poured over to make it as "perfect" as they can? Would you buy a dress with ragged seams? Would you order a meal that came half cooked? Would you purchase a new car with bald tires?

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  13. Perfect condition. So true. Too bad it's sometimes hard to know when you're there. Your crit partners might say it's ready, but it could be a long way from that place.

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  14. Perfect condition. So true. Too bad it's sometimes hard to know when you're there. Your crit partners might say it's ready, but it could be a long way from that place.

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  15. Sometimes you're so wrapped up in your own work and you love the story that you don't see how much work still needs to be done.

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  16. If "perfect condition" means getting it as close to perfect as YOU can before sending it off, I think mine may just be ready. Do I think it's perfect? No. Nothing ever is, is it? But it's as perfect as I can get it.
    Thanks for the tips!
    Jen

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  17. I have a Hell of a long way to go ... >:)

    Cold As Heaven

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  18. When I read what agents want and what editors look for, it sounds so easy (except maybe for that 'perfect condition')- if only...

    I'm going to read the rest of the interview.

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  19. I love my editors. I try my very best to do all I can on my end to keep their job easy. They may have a different take and wonder, "What the heck is this?"

    Stephen Tremp

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  20. Even authors often look at their published book and want to change something. You're right, perfect means as perfect as it can be at that time.

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  21. I don't blame them for wanting to have work in pretty tip top shape. It's a busy and competetive world out there. I also like the point about us being willing to trust!

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  22. Found your blog from Patricia Stoltey's. So glad to know you're out here. Thanks for the good advice.

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  23. Thank you, and thanks for stopping by my blog!

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  24. How about our own editor, if we engaged one? How "final" should the material be when we show it to our own editor?

    Really Angelic

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  25. Enid, make it as "finished" as you would if you submitted to a house agent. An editor you hire will end up becoming a part of your life, for that time period. There will be back and forth and a relationship will develop. Don't pay to have that person do things you could have done yourself. Spend your time working on things with her/him that are major.

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

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