Sunday, September 30, 2007

Buy a Friend a Book (BAFAB) Week

Guess what! It's Buy a Friend a Book Week! Several years ago an author cleverly (and perhaps slightly self-servingly) started this tradition. The first week of every January, April, July, and October, a book for a friend. Here's the original site of the "holiday" founder.

This is a great holiday because:

1) Warm fuzzies--gifts make people happy

2) It promotes literacy!

3) This is a way for you to introduce some of your favorites to people you care about

4) Books are a relatively cheap thing to share with a friend--even if you play all four times each year and buy HARDcovers (and who would do that?!) you're only out about $100.

5) It promotes the publishing industry and supports your favorite authors (and most of the people who read this blog are somehow affiliated with either authors or publishing somehow)

I'll post again at the end of the week after I've picked out a book (and a friend). I'll let you know whom I bought what. If anyone else wants to play, let's check back in on, say, Friday.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Walk-up Living (blech)

This morning at 9:40 am as I went to fill the coffee pot what did the rally monkey and I find on the other side of the windowsill? A USED FEMININE NAPKIN, face-up.

I swear, if I ever meet who lives in apartments 4-A and 5-A I'm not going to be able to look them in the face without sneering in disgust.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Oh noooooo

I've just learned that Andre Norton died. In 2005!!! How could I not have heard about this?! Who's going to write the last book of the Halfblood Chronicles?!

I totally think publishing companies should have some recourse for getting back at authors who have accepted advances for books they never bother to

This New York Sun article goes into details about how in 1998 Penguin paid this guy, David Brinkley, $200,000 as an advance on a biography of Jack Keruoac that would be published in time for ON THE ROAD's 50th anniversary.

The manuscript was due to be delivered in 2001. And it wasn't.

Now Penguin's suing, and I totally take their side (although, as THE SUN points out, publishing industry convention is to eat the loss--really unfair, and we don't like it, but the fact is litigation often costs more than we would end up redeeming, and on top of that authors usually manage to dispose of all their movable assets promptly. And authors and agents wonder why we try to advance as little money as possible!). Even if, as Brinkley says, the manuscript is late because he's taking his time to make a really good and worthwhile project, the fact is Penguin paid as much money as they did for the book because they had planned to time publication with a major marketable event. The book is just not worth as much without the publication strategy, no matter how good it is. The advance for a "really good" book on Kerouac that they planned to make into a solid backlist title would have been worth a different amount of advance. That's just how it works--if we can't justify our cash flow we can't afford to publish.

My take--even if he had been running late for issues of quality control, there is a way to run late without breaching your contract. Almost all editors would rather have a book delayed and better than delivered on time and subpar (there are situational exceptions, of course--like this one; on the other hand, there were SIX YEARS OF LEEWAY here!!!). If you talk to an editor nicely, they are usually able to work out a delivery due date extension amendment in about NO time flat. If the author is in good faith about his project, he should work this out with his editor.

In the meantime, Brinkley has written and published a book on Hurricane Katrina. Hmmmm.

Brinkley has described the whole lawsuit as a "snaffoo" between parties, and has claimed he didn't even know there was a problem until Penguin broadcast news of the suit. Whatever.

Ugh. I hate thinking about this. We get totally shafted in profit margins even on the best of books in this industry, and then there are assholes eating away at our barely-surviving bottom line. And THEN agents have the balls to complain that advances are too small? I know that it's going to cost your author money to take the sabbatical to write the book, but that's not something I can help you with because there are assholes like Brinkley making it really, really hard for us to trust us (not to mention to go grocery shopping once a week). We're all just doing out best to keep our noses about the water here. Boo to scumminess. Boo.

another Gawkerism

Called "Correction of the Day" and taken from the fine British periodical THE GUARDIAN:

"We misspelled the word misspelled twice, as mispelled, in the Corrections and clarifications column on September 26, page 30."

How to Marry a Rich Man

Gawker posted this awesome consideration of a craigslist ad from last week. Basically this 25-year-old "hot chick" is trying to score a willing bachelor--who makes no less than $500k a year.

Check it out. It's pretty awesome.

Your Life Sucks But You Get Free Books

Publishing Trends put out a media survey of publishing professionals, and the results indicate:

-73.6% in the 21-35 demographic of us are making less than people of our age with comparable education backgrounds

-half of all editors are secretly hoping to write a novel (told ya!)

-only 3.4% of respondents were willing to admit that they don't have time to read outside their jobs (that means there's lots of liars)

-the goal is to live to be 36: that's the age (on average) when pay increases, when 80% of us are awarded company expense accounts, and when we probably aren't anyone's Ass[istant] any more

Title stolen from GalleyCat as usual.


According to GalleyCat, IF I DID IT is the #2 NYT bestseller next week. Classy.

The thing I really don't understand is--why do people want to read this? I'm a notoriously curious person, but this sparks ZERO curiosity in me. Oh well. Apparently I'm in a minority.


According to wikipedia, although "many primates exhibit kissing behavior," there are many cultures that do not traditionally kiss as a sign of affection.

Where are these cultures?! And why?!

Scientific embellishment of above shock/confusion: in an argument for my ethnocentricity, scientists have proven that a woman selects whether or not she is attracted to her mate based, in part, on pheromones. She is more attracted to men with pheromones as different from hers as possible, since that match has the highest potential to produce offspring with diversely resiliant immune systems. Pheromones are in fact what many women describe as "chemistry" (when in fact they mean "biodiversity"). And what better way to test someone's pheromone compatibility than make out with them?!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Smoke-Veined Flower

Nadia Anjuman was the Afghan poet who was beaten to death by her husband just months after her internationally acclaimed debut collection, SMOKE-VEINED FLOWER (or, literally, "dark red flower"), was published in 2005. (Or, per her husband's story, she committed suicide after he beat her--interesting that she committed suicide by bludgeoning herself to death, since the police indicated she died of trauma to her head.) She was 25 years old when she died.

This page (courtesy Afghanistanica) is both a commemorative site and a celebration of her poetry. Her language is very pretty, even in translation (wish I could read the original). Some of her poetry does deal with the oppression of women in Afghanistan, and (apparently of great distress to her family) some of it deals with love.

For more about Nadia, her death, and her legacy, check out these links.

Her death is a tragedy not only from a human rights perspective because it is the loss of an artist who might have produced a large body of work if she had lived; it is also tragic because (as in this post) her actual poetry comes in second to her story.


SO much work today.

Robert the Publisher's Gem of the Day

[actually, this was his assistant's]

"Marriage should be more like publishing. If marriage is really a contract between two people, it would be a lot more useful if you could treat it like a publishing contract. That way you could license subsidiary rights that you're not making full use of."

yay for early rising

I get to blast Ryan Adams while editing this neverending ms revision.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

death of a short story?

Vivian over at upstreet sent me a link a couple of days ago and I want to post about this.

Vivian's link is a plug to save the short story. She makes some good points--we all say we like short stories; now we just need to take the simple step of reading them! (Not inconsiderable) literary value aside, the short story is really valuable because it allows would-be authors to cut their teeth and publish in small ways to get attention for longer/more commercial projects. So it really is worth making an effort to support the short story (if we possibly can).

Let's do an honest little survey now. Do you read short stories? (Most of us don't, so don't feel bad if the answer is no.) Even if you say you do, do you seek them out and buy them, or do you just enjoy them if you happen to come across them online/in a magazine? Seriously, I'm curious. Let me know if you read them/buy them/like them.

The truth is, when I choose something to read, I want a little more commitment than a story can offer. I want something long that will fill a couple of days. Also, because I'm terribly gauche, I want a novel because more other people are likely to have read it so I can talk about it with other people. (I'm very codependent and NOTHING, not even reading or (duh) writing a diary can be completely private or they lose all interest for me. I like performance reading.)

At the same time, I do have to say that some of the most powerful things I've ever read have been short stories. I don't think of myself as seeking them out, but a recklessly high percentage of my favorite books are short story collections:

1) Salinger/Nine Stories
2) Salinger/ Raise High the Roof Beams, Carpenters!
3) Fitzgerald/Babylon Revisited
4) The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories (truly awesome collection)
5) Any Faulkner short story, ever.

I also can't explain why I remember details from short stories 15 years after I read them (when sometimes I don't even remember whether or not I liked a novel). Anyone remember THE VELDT? About the futuristic children who murder their parents in their simulator toy room? or THE TUNNEL, about the boy who trains himself to swim under a rock jette? How about that Jack London story about the guy crossing the tundra with his dog whose luck falls out and is left with the choice of killing the dog or dying himself? The Joyce Carol Oates story about the child molestor who passes himself off as a high school student? The most recent of those I read 10 years ago, and I still carry vivid images in my mind of the stories.

I find short stories to have very strong impressionistic power. I think, for me at least, they are more likely to change the way I look at the world than a novel is--the novel, after all, is escapist, and allows you to remove from your own reality when you read it.

So I guess I'm a grudging and unconfessed short story fan. Vivian's email is a good reminder for people like me--the ones who DO love but don't think to buy.

Tell your friends.

schmoozy lunch successfully executed

And now, with OODLES of work to catch up on, I am reminded that I am late for schmoozy drinks event.


So alas I need to leave. I know I haven't told you all about the fancy quiches I ate for lunch at the swanky apartment yet, but I hope you'll forgive me. I just want to leave you with this one thought:

Here's an article about an editor who makes it all work--Jill Bialosky, an execuitve editor at W.W.Norton, is also a novelist slash poet (published by Knopf, no less).

Let her be an inspiration to us all. (By us all, I mean me. I know you all are all inspired already.)

I do have one question, though--do you think she has time to blog, too?

Monday, September 24, 2007

What Makes a Dream Author

By request... an editor's definition of The Perfect Author (TPA).

TPA is awesome. She's smart, funny, nice, knowledgeable about her topic, and a good writer. Please, please, let her be a good writer.

TPA thinks I'm awesome. (Even if he thinks I'm geeky...since I am.) He tells everyone how great I am. He leaves me a thank-you in his acknowledgments section.

TPA is honest.
Once she has committed to a deal with my company, she is loyal to me as her editor and my company as her publisher. She treats our relationship as both a professional and a friendly one, and she doesn't do anything to me (her editor) that she wouldn't do to a friend. She doesn't shop her project elsewhere after working editorially with me on a project, and she doesn't allow her agent to sneakily sell her option elsewhere without showing it to me.

TPA is smart. If he has an agent, he lets the agent do his job. But he also does his best to be informed about all the pieces of his contract and to understand his obligations, responsibilities, and rights.

TPA is reliable. She meets her manuscript delivery date and knows it's not my responsibility to chase her down for her manuscript. If she is worried about her deadline, she talks to me about it in advance, because she knows I will be understanding and would rather she took the time to finish her manuscript well than panic create something sub-par.

TPA gives me some leeway.
He knows that he and I are both dedicated to his book, but we have slightly different relationships. The book has been his long-term preoccupation; I have up to 30 other preoccupations that fill my life in stages. He knows that since I have a lot of other things on my desk at any given time there are going to be periods I can't respond to his emails or his calls in the same day. He's also understanding (and forgiving) when, during the period I AM focused on his book, I send him emails at all crazy hours of the night and occasionally make desperate time-sensitive requests. He knows that it is his right to tell me he's unable to turn stuff around in the time I, in my strange alter-universe, would desire, but he also tries to be as helpful as he can (within his schedule).

TPA knows I'm his advocate, not his enemy. After all, I risked my ass and my career to bring his project into my company--I wouldn't have done that if I hadn't believed in him and his book. He knows that my goal is the same as his--to sell as many copies of book while making sure the content has integrity, and to make a product we are proud to put our names on.

When I give her edits or advice she doesn't like, TPA takes a moment to step back and ask herself if I might be right. She knows that she is closer to the material than I am, and because she's worked so hard on this project she might not see certain flaws that I can see. She knows that my job is to take a critical eye to her manuscript and make it the best thing it can be. So before she reacts strongly to my recommendations, she asks herself: am I clinging to language language I should let go of? Is my editor asking for these changes because they will improve the marketability of the book (or because they make the book more palatable to certain people, or because they make me less legally liable)? Or, if after reflection I still really believe she's wrong, could I do a better job of explaining to her (and the reader) why the original content is necessary?

TPA knows that although we are friends, when we communicate about his manuscript it's a business conversation. Whenever he feels frustrated with me, TPA knows that his best bet for getting his opinion heard (and of course I want to hear it!) is to put down his arguments rationally, preferably in an email I can forward to other people (like the publisher, the sales and marketing teams, the cover designer, etc) who would benefit from understanding his logic. If he thinks he's at risk of reacting too emotionally to something I'm asking for, TBA knows he can call in his agent to act as a professional go-between and to perhaps level the playing field.

TPA is available. She knows that there is a fragile window of time when we will be fighting to make her book take hold in the market, and she does her utmost to help us every step of the way. She knows that if she just sits back after the writing part is over, her book will never be all it can be, so she is as open, communicative, and helpful as possible. She is willing to think outside the box and to work with us on creative marketing suggestions. She never flakes out on events, cancels appearances for frivolous reasons, or forgets to call in for radio interviews our publicists have worked hard to arrange.

TPA tells me everything. He realizes that the more I know about his connections, his experience, books he's published, degrees he's received, places he's been, worked, lived, visited, the more I can do on my end to make his book work. He leaves no stone unturned, because he knows that the savvy classy people I work with might have connections in the most unusual channels. He is good about forwarding past book reviews and lets me know whenever he's doing an interview.

TPA understands that it takes all of us to make the book work. She respects all the members of my publishing team and realizes that we all work together. She knows that everyone who's working on her project is a different kind of expert with a different wealth of experiences but that we all have the same goal--to sell her book.

TPA knows that there are certain forces beyond the control of his editor. He knows that sometimes he and his editor will have to give in, even though they don't want to.

TPA is my friend. After the book is over, we still keep in touch. When she's going to be in the city, she drops me a note to see if I'm free for lunch, drinks, or coffee. She knows that we've been through a lot together, and she's proud.

So am I.

There are no homosexuals in Iran.

Just in case you hadn't heard.

President Ahmadinejad speaks at Columbia

I love that PrezBo told him "You exhibit all signs of a petty and cruel dictator." Awesome.

taking a breather

So, some random thoughts for you--

First, I was touched by how many people responded (and personally) to my recent post about writing. This might sound dumb but it honestly energized me and made me want to get back on the horse. Not that I really have time for horseback riding right now. But who has time for anything, really. So thank you.

Second, I am SO EXCITED about one of my authors that (even though I can't tell you who she is!) I have to gush here. She's been all over everything and we've been selling rights right and left. She's going to be a star--and really, really soon. I'm so proud because I really had to fight Robert to acquire this book and now it turns out I was right. It's really special to watch something like this build from the ground up.

I am filled with love for everyone. Love!


SO much to do today. Wow.

I guess sleepy summer is over.

current task=mindnumbingly boring

I would sell my soul for an ipod right about now. I wonder if my coworkers would object if i started listening to internet radio?

because I've already been at work for two hours

I feel like it's fair to take this little break to rant.

For the record (and I'm not in any way modest about this): my authors love me. All of them. Just call ANY of my authors and ask them. GRILL them. I have 100% faith they will absolutely gun for me all the way. This is because I'm conscientious, courteous, timely, enthusiastic, and extremely diligent. (Perhaps I'll get more jaded as I get older and more battle-weary, but for now, I'm still all those things.)

I've even had some major setbacks--just ask any editor who's been in a similar position (which is most editors). When you start new at a company, the list you inherit undoubtedly contains all the "dogs" that none of the other editors want to deal with for whatever reason. Often the "dog" authors USED to be nice and normal people but after their book got passed over, sat unpublished, or wasn't scheduled/edited to their liking, they became bitter, angry people who were nonetheless stuck under contract and who begin to lash out at their publishing company with every communication. I inherited quite a few dogs. But through a careful combination of blame deflecting, shameless flattery, teflon enthusiasm, and affectionate nagging, I have managed to bring all these authors round to my side...and also get them finally published in the process. That's why they love me as much as the authors I wooed myself do.

Naturally, there's one exception.

One of the major dogs I inherited when I got here has come up a couple of times in this blog already (since I've been sweating blood over it since I arrived--three rounds of edits, etc). You may remember it as The Manuscript from Hell (or alternatively The Manuscript of Doom) if you've been reading for awhile. It's a journalist war memoir slash contemporary history of a particular area of the world (it's amazing we have it on our list... we really don't don't do much in either of those areas). It sat on our list for awhile before I started here, and had been in the hands of a total of five editors. But I WAS GOING TO MAKE IT WORK!!

Suffice it to say that perhaps the back burner wasn't the place for my various predecessors to have left the manuscript, because there's really a lot of crud stuck to the bottom of the pan at this point. The manuscript was in extremely rough shape, and because the author has already lived with it so long he was extremely intractable about making any changes--even when stuff didn't make any sense. The author has been largely unresponsive to my editorial direction and has been basically inaccessible unless he wants to be. The only times he wants to be accessible are when he is unhappy with some direction the book has taken--then he calls and shouts at me. On two occasions, he had his agent call and shout at me, too, and there was one occasion on which there was a particularly harsh email that accused me of being "unprofessional" (hurtful words indeed). I really don't like shouting; I'm a quintessential author advocate and fight for changes in packaging/titling/cover imaging when my author expresses discomfort. Shouting is really, really unnecessary and makes me tear up--just a natural reaction. I know he can't see me over the phone, but I dread when I hear his voice on the other end because I never know what's coming. Also, these changes are usually made far above my head for reasons that have had a lot of expert opinion behind them--perhaps the buyer at Barnes and Noble suggested a cover image change, for example. This isn't something we can treat haphazardly, and all of the author's ranting and railing doesn't help sell the book in better. In the end, we both have the same goal (don't we?): to sell as many books as possible. Can't he trust all the years of industry experience we have to offer on our end? And even if he can't, does he need to shout?

I have three huge projects to work on today, and the other two are books I'm so excited to have on my list and authors who have been absolutely spectacular to work with. And so a day that should be filled with fun work is instead blighted--I had to come in at 7 am to get the last batch of manuscript prep done on the beast, and of course many further unforeseen problems have popped out of the woodwork in this latest round of edits. Boo. Boo.

Ok, I better go back now. I just wanted to express some frustration.

7:35 am

I'm at work.

Don't ask why. Suffice it to say things have not gone smoothly. Boo.

I hate that acidy feeling you get in you stomach when you wake up at 5 in the morning. I think I'll fight it with some, uh, coffee.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

tonight for dinner

Cornish game hens marinated in cranberry juice and black pepper, roasted in a butter-marmalade glaze; mashed potatoes; cranberry cornbread sweet sausage stuffing with crushed peanuts.

Goran Magnus Blix, Vida Winter, and the Idea of Eternal Return

Ok, confession time.

I used to write (a lot). I think that a lot of editors get into the business ass-first, wanting secretly to be authors but realizing there are other more realistic or controllable ways to work in making books (and work there creatively). A lot of others are still hoping (again, secretly) to someday to parley their connections into a book deal. Most put these dreams to the side indefinitely, but I think you'll find most editors admit (under pressure) that they used to write. A lot of them will probably even admit that they still think they HAVE a novel in them.

I think I'm a pretty competent writer (yay, catalog copy!), but in the end there's a gap missing between me and a publishable novelist. Luckily, I'm able to see other people's gaps and help them overcome them (hence having a job, etc). Fixing other people's writing: Yay. Writing my own stuff: Nay. Naaaaay.

My secret dreams of being a novelist are mainly stymied by this one particular problem. There is this one idea I can't shake out of my head. It is one particular plot device that keeps coming back and coming back and invading everything I try to write. I've written three--count 'em--full-length manuscripts around the same theme. The most recent one was about two years ago; I ran it by a couple of agent friends and they all shook their heads. It didn't work, they said. Fair enough. Even I knew it didn't work. I just needed to hear it from somewhere else.

It was ok, though--I figured that now that the manuscript had been birthed and looked at that maybe the "problem" was out of my system. I even developed this great plot for a totally unrelated story. Can't do it, though. Every time I actually sit down with Word open [at home, I mean] I "accidentally" just open the old story and start paging through. Oo, this again.

Goran Blix was my Classics teachers a-many years ago. Not only was he a great teacher but he was wonderfully indulgent of all of our secret dreams (he was the kind of guy whose alumni used to congregate in little coffee groups with him long after the class was over). He always had strings of books to recommend for me (generally spot-on recommendations).

He also successfully diagnosed my condition--I was a victim of the Eternal Return. Sometimes, for reasons we don't understand (or, in some cases, for really obvious reasons), our identities become hinged around one particular thing that happened to us or one shocking thing we saw or one story we heard. In my case, it was something completely untraumatizing--a story I heard, this once, from this person I didn't know that well. But I just can't get it out of my head. I keep coming back.

I'm not in bad company, though. I think most authors are obsessed with SOMEthing. I just think that to be a real writer you have to be able to harness the obsession and work with it (or around it) creatively.

Has anyone read THE THIRTEENTH TALE? I loved that book. Anyway, Vida Winter is the name of one of the characters. Vida is a world-renowned author with many, many books to her name. She tells the narrator that for her, her fiction is basically a product of everything except what obsesses her. Her fiction is all based on life experience, but it is life experience that is old enough to have "mulched" so that she can sift through and put together previously unrelated fragments into a believable and compelling but purely fictional story. The story she has never been able to write is the one that has obsessed her her entire life--it's the one that never actually mulched.

So the next question--how to mulch? Goran Blix told me that he didn't think there was a solution--that you need to keep writing the story until you're done with it. Even if that means you're only writing for yourself for the rest of your life. On the other hand, I should be glad--the sake of the story is one of the more honorable reasons people can choose to write. I should be glad I have the story, since a lot of people struggle for a story.

So here I am, half of a writer with half of a story, no time to finish, no time to polish, my head (and date book) full of other people's stuff. Sometimes I think about going back and trying to pick it up, but then I shy away. I think I'm embarrassed that I won't do the story justice...again.

I wonder, will the obsession ever go away? Will I ever be able to put it aside? Or should I not even try?

post is taking too long.

I'll finish it tomorrow. Oh, the suspense.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Melanie and I got KICKED OUT of the karaoke place after two hours. Apparently they frown upon not booking in advance these days. And we were SO on tonight, too. Boo. Boo!

The rally monkey and I are watching a documentary on Pepperidge Farm cookies

Their 1950s spokesperson was named Titus Moody. Tee hee.

The founder of the company (who happens to be a woman) installed an innovative circular cookie conveyor belt. I want to live there, on the conveyor belt.

Originally there was a Naples cookie, a fine butter cookie with dark European chocolate on one side. People kept opening bags to discover the cookies were all melted together. The solution? Another cookie! And we have the Milano.

Today, 80,000 Milanos are produced every minute.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Thursday, September 20, 2007

drunken blogging pact.

Angelle and I are both home and drinking alone. We have made a pact to drunkenly blog together. This is most excellent use of my time because I have a manuscript I was supposed to finish. So now let me tipple a bit and then I'll be right back with some updates about my week that I haven't had time to post!

In the interest of full disclosure, I am drinking a $5 bottle of Gato Negro cabernet that I opened on Friday night of last week and which has been in my REFRIGERATOR to keep it marginally drinkable. Cold, cheap, old red wine. Yumm.

My lunch yesterday at Boro Park was awesome. Not only was my author amazing--and have I mentioned her edible baby? Who had so much hair it looked like she was wearing an oversize and undergroomed curly brown wig?--but I got to see the orthodox/hasidic capital of the world. "I was going to tell you I'll be pushing a stroller," my author (whom I had only spoken to on the phone before yesterday) warned me, "but then I realized everyone was going to have one. So I'll be the one without the wig." It was true--every single person I saw was wearing an ankle-length long-sleeved black dress, a brown wig, and flat black shoes, and was pushing a baby carriage, pregnantly. Every single person. There was even a time when we were at a sidewalk corner and there came about a junction of 5 different baby carriages. A veritable traffic jam.

Last night I went to an apartment on Park Avenue where one of our authors was having a signing party. I think the marketer, who was there with me and the publicist, expressed my feelings more accurately than I ever could: "When we came out of the elevator and walked in, I thought to myself, wow. This place is spectacular. Look at the marble! The chestnut! The decor and furnishings! I gotta admit, it isn't quite as swanky as I thought it was going to be, but hey! This place is SO nice. That's when I realized we were in the servants' quarters." Yeah. Surreal. I don't really have a lot else to say on the topic. Except I saw a black American Express card for the first time. It was so thick our crappy old credit card machines couldn't read it. Hum.

Robert is a meanypants. He has said three (3) incredibly mean things to me this week and once reduced me to tears in a production meeting for no good reason. And the worst thing is he didn't even mean it!! He tried to recant after the crying incident by coming to my office and making jokes. And then he recanted his original stance. Boo. So he couldn't even stick by his initial complaints?! Sigh. I wish he were in a better mood this week.

My favorite TV show in the world at the moment is TWO AND A HALF MEN. It's so funny. I've never laughed this hard at anything. Every single thing everyone says is funny. There's no unfunny time in between jokes. It's magical.

Despite Robert's crankiness, I love my job and my authors. I have some really awesome new authors on our Spring list. I always think about that thing that random guy said to me that time, that "other people should be so lucky" as to do for a living what they would do all day if they didn't have to work.

I sent my evil ex-boyfriend an email to let him know Robert Jordan had died, since (yes, this is true, aren't you lucky I've been drinking; actually I typed this part sober, but I'm a flagrant masochistic exhibitionist) the first time we flirted we discovered we had that dirty teenage secret in common. He didn't reply. He's a jackass. Have I mentioned? Four years later, still a jackass. On the other hand, why did I email him? I don't really know. Sigh.

I am a lightweight. I haven't even had half a bottle. Woo. Maybe I should have eaten dinner...?

Those are my thoughts.

A Novel

Big debate afoot recently--I know that I've even had comments here--about exactly how heinous the words "A Novel" are on the cover of...erm...novels.

Here's the Mediabistro article. I'm not really riled up about it, frankly--I think having "A Novel" on the cover is kind of a nice art convention (a vehicle for more copy as well as for book positioning) but just to be a devilish twerp, the answer to their question ("Does this mean there are millions of people buying books and never opening them?! Sheesh!") I have to just say, Yes, Mediabistro, yes it does, and the publishing industry counts on those people. If only people who read books bought books we'd all be out of jobs. Sorry.


It's too bad, because I have so many things to post on this week. But I've been dragged back and forth between author events literally every night and I have three books due to ship off to the printer on Monday (needless to say they're all in appallingly undercooked condition).

Sorry for the lack of characteristic prolixity. Be back as soon as I can. (Probably sooner than I should. Probably, like, noon.)


this stolen from Gawker

Re: Jake Gyllenhaal

Long long ago, in a city far far away, Jake Gyllenhaal attended Columbia University, alma mater of embittered, antisocial people who don't fit in anywhere else but have been working on their problems in therapy twice a week and feel they've made some improvements. Having only been in City Slickers at the time, Jake was by far the lamest celebrity to attend Columbia, as his fame was eclipsed by TGIF luminaries Rider Strong and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman's daughter.

[Please find funny whichever portion appeals to you most.]

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Having only JUST returned from schmoozing with my new author (and her absolutely edible baby...boojabooja) in Brooklyn, I now have one short hour in which to do Assloads of work (catalog copy corrections, jacket mechanical routings, email answerings, etc) before jetting off to an EXTREMELY wealthy author's brother's palatial pad for a book launch (at which I will be hand-selling books like a monkey). I'm SO nice. Authors should be REALLY pleased to be working with me.

I've been so busy I haven't finished a book since September 6th. This is blasphemy. So when I get home (possibly marginally inebriated) from this Event I plan to pull an all-nighter to finish the book I'm reading. I think this is a great idea.

Glad I wore the tweed suit.

Spam email subject of the day award

Re: Flatulent Microscope

YT is all decked out

in a cute little tweed suit of a rather pungent color (thank you, H&M) and will be venturing off for lunch in Boro Hall, home of the Bobovs. I am meeting an author there (she happens not to be a Bobov). I am now concerned that my skirt suit--which I thought was classy/conservative because it was a SKIRT and not a pair of ripped JEANS, might actually be pure scandal because it comes up slightly above my knee.

Anyway, looking forward to recounting my expedition later. My author has been fantastic on the phone and I'm really excited to meet her in "real" today. Also, she may be bringing her baby, and we all know how I feel about [other people's] babies.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Self-Pubbing: the Great Debate

Riding on the coatails of other blog posts at BookEnds and Writer Beware, I'm jumping on the bandwagon and adding my two cents.

I have to start out by saying it's true--agents and editors do not look upon self-publishing as a viable method of platform-building in most situations. "John Smith has published 5 books with SelfPubInc" sounds to us like "John Smith has failed 5 times at getting anyone he doesn't pay to look at his work." Also, it must be said that among the self-pubbers, there are a lot of crazies--people who are really not qualified to write their books, who are terrible writers, who barely speak English. Trust me. I used to work at a self-publishing company. I know all the ins and outs. And I know exactly how many totally ridiculous people use those services as a vehicle to publish books that no author or agent would take seriously.

There's also the very valid point that Jessica makes--if no agents or editors are willing to touch your book, it's possible you should step back and ask yourself as honestly as you can, is this book ready to be published yet? Or is is a book that should be published at all? Is there a concrete market that can be directly reached, and is the plot/premise/set of characters/writing style really as polished and appealing as the author can make it? But ALL authors should be asking themselves these questions, all the time.

Now that I've gotten all the bad stuff out, I'll give you my honest shakedown. This isn't sugar-coated and I have no loyalties--this is just how I feel.

There are many, many writers in the world today--as we become more educated overall and as we have more word processors among us, more people find they have a novel in them that's just bursting to be written. There is not, however, appreciably more room on bookstore shelves (in fact, there is usually less). If you are an author who writes for him/herself and would simply feel rewarded at seeing their book in bound format, self-pubbing could be the way to go. Your family and friends would have it, and if you are appreciably networked and are comfortable with hand-selling, you could do ok for yourself. We all know the story of the self-pubbed meditation guy who hand-sells 60 copies of his book each week online (straight out of his garage). It does happen, if you can make it work for you.

You might wonder why a publishing company misses this opportunity when a book is obviously making money. The truth is that a book costs a substantial amount of overhead to a company--time in marketing, publicity, sales conferences, human capital spent discussing the title in editorial meetings. To make up for all this overhead lost, it's important that books be able to sell in bulk--unlike meditation guy's single-copy hand and internet sales--and that they be appealing to the mainstream vendors with whom the publishing company does business. Although meditation guy might be a genius at meditation, if he doesn't have a meditation license of some kind places like Borders won't want to carry him (in their eyes, he's too unaccountable). This means the bulk of his sales have to be made through individual pitches to open-minded venues. In the end, a minimum commitment is required for each title, and for the meditation guy's book, the commitment required for each copy is too high for a publishing company. This book would never be able to compete (from their perspective) with their top-selling titles, because the billings from the brick & mortar stores would be so disproportionate. This is why meditation guy still hasn't been snapped up by a major trade publisher. If your story is like meditation guy's, you really SHOULD consider self-pubbing.

There are also dream scenarios--I can name off the top of my head 5 authors who got major book deals out of being self-pubbed, selling themselves well, and taking off, but since I don't want to out any of my editor or agent friends here I will only name one. Linda Berdoll is the author of the DARCY AND ELIZABETH series--you know, the one that has sold about 800,000 copies or something since finding a home at Kensington. But Linda was "discovered" when she got tired of distributing herself--I think she had already sold multiple thousands of self-pubbed copies. (Details here rather fudged, sorry, but the message gets through.) A self-pub certainly does NOT preclude a contract--unless you do the self-pub the wrong way.

There are downsides you do have to consider, however. No editorial team will touch your work unless you pay for it--that means you're risking publishing your book in a much less polished format than it would be if you went through a major trade house. If there are significant editorial flaws in your book when it is self-pubbed, you have really killed off any potential for it to be anything else, since it is a lot of trouble making changes to a manuscript that already exists in a different published form. And while many authors believe in the quality of their own work, it is absolutely essential that someone besides yourself look at your book. A friend, a parent, a child, or better yet--an editor. We are here for a reason. So if you're self-pubbing, do yourself the service of making sure you don't trust yourself.

You also do have to be comfortable with hand-selling. I, for one, am too shy. It helps if you have a venue and an expertise, of course. If you're in the Junior League and you have a perfect women's novel that no publisher has picked up, well, go forth and plug yourself to all your fellow League members! (Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Berkeley alumni, veterinarians, Igloo Dwellers of America, hula dancers, Nascar fans, Trekkies, whoEVER your people are.)

Anyone thought about it? Any opinions?

New York Times bestsellers

Good news for authors and agents--the New York Times is extending its printed list to 20 titles per category (up from 15), and is breaking mass market and trade paperback fiction into two separate lists. This makes you approximately 33% more likely to make a printed bestseller list ;) More complete article here.

Best news, of course, is for authors with bestseller clauses in their contracts. (Little industry secret unveiled.) It's really good for everyone, however, editors included, because now it is marginally easier to be able to call your book a New York Times bestseller in good faith (it can be especially frustrating that the top spots are generally occupied by some immortal beloveds like THE DA VINCI CODE or KITE RUNNER--this gives the rest of us more of a shot to fight over the scrapings).

Especially especially good for commercial nonfiction writers, who know how very many diverse titles have been competing for the same tiny list. I feel your ongoing frustration, my loves, and I rejoice with you. is still slow

and not terribly informative but the folks at have put together a nice Robert Jordan commemorative piece.

Have now commenced panicking over the twelfth and unfinished book in the series. Which, I suppose, really lies at the heart of our mourning, doesn't it? What a cold, cynical world.

one question

How the hell does Jason Pinter have time to write novels?!

big day ahead

Things to do:

-editorial conference call
-Spring list pricing meeting
-haggle with UK agency over North American rights to a history book we THOUGHT we were very excited to have on our Spring list but now look like we might not be able to publish
-edit/rewrite catalog copy
-proofread scan of blasted art book left for me by fellow editor
-make the index for blasted art book
-track down photo permissions for blasted art book (I think these are on his computer somewhere, but he literally has 42 different applications open on his desktop and I feel dirty going through them)
-finish up tear-sheets for this one revision manuscript that needs to be mailed out to the printer in China by the end of the day tomorrow
-editorial memo for one manuscript (this might slip to tomorrow, it seems)
-chat with my designer on the phone for at least 43 minutes in probably three different conversations over the course of the day (it keeps him happy to tell me stories, and when he's happy he's much more productive, and besides, when he's chatting to me I don't really have to listen, and I can do things like, for example, write this blog post)

I'm the only editor today, alas, too. Ok. Nose down.

Monday, September 17, 2007

FAQ about the Ass

Please let me know if I've forgotten any questions.

1) What is an editorial ass, exactly?

Ass is short for "assistant," but also describes more accurately what exactly is thought of an editorial assistant, and what their job description entails. Any wretched impoverished oaf who ever wants to be an acquisition editor at a publishing company has to start off as an assistant to an editor (or, in most cases, more than one editor). The work and pay is truly Assinine. My dear friend Bluenana coined the term (which perhaps other clever creatures have coined before) back in the days when it looked like we would both be Asses forever.

2) So there's no actual Ass? There's nothing pornographic about your site at all?

Nope, sorry. Nothing at all. Except this, I guess, and maybe this. This is really the only post that prominently features male anatomy. Woops. I guess this one does, too (and this is just a follow-up). Yikes, I forgot this one. But that's it. Overall not really a pornographic site. Oh, wait, wait, there's still this and this. And this. And in the interest of full discloser, I think I should probably come right out there with this, this, this, this, and this. But that's it. Really. Well, this one actually IS pornographic. Just ask the guys on the train. Woops. So is this. But really, other than that the site is totally, um, clean. Oh, for petessake. Just read all the posts.

3) How long have you been an Ass?

Actually, I'm an editor now. I started this blog when the prospects looked bleak, but the publishing gods and goddesses work in extremely unpredictable and often nefarious ways, and now it's ME (or "I" if you're grammatically inclined) editing your books. Nyuk nyuk. Never fear, however. I will always be an Ass at heart.

4) So what's your name, and what's this highly entertaining company you work for?

Tragically, as is the case with many superheros, my identity must remain an enigma. I am supremely mysterious. Certain core details are incontrovertibly true but most stories are deliberately obscure and most characters fudgy composites. Except Robert the Publisher. He's too good to be fiction.

5) I got this weird/confusing/exciting letter/email/phone call/tip from my agent/editor/writer friend/next-door neighbor. Do you, as a publishing industry professional (albeit a rather hapless one), have an opinion?

Yes please--I'm happy to answer any questions about the industry, editing, writing, agents, authors, chocolate, sushi, diverse ethnic foods, etc. I also love tidbits, trivia, and random thought-provoking opinions about industry, editing, writing, diverse ethnic foods, etc. You can leave them in a post comment or, if you would like your identity to be obscured in post, shoot an email to

6) Can I send you my awesome manuscript that I'm trying to find a publisher for?

No, since you don't know who I am so I could therefore never publish it in the real world. Cf #4.

7) Would you rather have a large tray of sushi or a layered gourmet chocolate cake?

Fnnnnn. Why always the DIFFICULT questions?! What is this?!

8) Would you rather lose your right arm up to the elbow or never eat sushi again?

Can it be my left arm, instead?

9) Do you have some kind of weird obsession with moles?

Yes. And that is Mole, the fuzzy four-legged road-crossing critter, not the potentially cancerous witch-adorning growth. The Mole is the symbol of all things good & kind. (S)he is the ultimate example of a creature being karmically balances. Leave off, please. Or JOIN THE RANKS.

10) Why do you drink so much?

I actually don't. It just sounds like I do, because if I have even one glass of, say, gin I start to do silly things.

11) Have you done your laundry yet?

No comment.

poor dad

My poor dad is very upset by the passing of Mr. Jordan.

He discovered THE WHEEL OF TIME back when it was in promotional stages--I think there were three books out (or maybe only two?) and he was riding an airplane. The flight attendant gave him a promotional volume that turned out to be the first third of THE EYE OF THE WORLD.

I must have been about 11 or so at this time (10? Meep, I don't remember.). My dad let me start reading right then because at that point the books had very very little explicit/embarassing content (although, to the bitter end, THE WHEEL OF TIME has been one of the safer, more patriarchical fantasy series you might let your preteen daughter get her hands on).

I definitely wanted to become both an herbal healer and a Woman of the Spear. Neither one has worked out yet. I'll let you know.

I used to check the Wheel of Time FAQ back in the early days of the internet. It was funny--it was a BBL (remember when Web sites had BBLs?!) and there were like 4,000 pages of trivia and theories about whether Moiraine was Black Ajah or whether the True Source would ever be cleansed. (You know. Back before Book 7.) There was a whole forum dedicated entirely to making fun of the TOR jacket art. I made a lot of internet friends, but of course we only exchanged character names. Mine was Nynaeve, of course. Humph.

There must be some other fantasy geeks amongst my readership... Come out of the woodwork!! Don't you have a WHEEL OF TIME story? Please?

"The Dragon Is Gone"

Robert Jordan has passed away. I...can't even express how sad this makes me, because people would think I was being sarcastic. As I'm sure you already know if you were a fan, he had been fighting off a rare blood disorder for the past year.

I definitely wore a single braid to school everyday from sixth through tenth grade because it was Mr. Jordan who revealed to me the truth of my secret alter-identity. (Power-weilding fantasy warrior priestess, of course.) He helped me understand what I look for in a good read and really actually changed the way I approached reading, writing, plot-spinning, and world-building.

And yes, to be crass, it is true and rather relevant--the twelfth and final installment in THE WHEEL OF TIME series will never be written.

I stole my title from the Galleycat article.

Note: his blog is getting so much traffic right now it is almost impossible to load the official announcement. If anyone gets it and wants to forward the text...

I have moved my desk.

An excellent start to a productive day. Also, I would fairly argue, a productive day in and of itself, so if anything else at all were to be accomplished today it would be pure gravy.

dear lord

Day from hell unfoldeth. Please please let someone have made another pot of coffee.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Filipino Adventure in Queens

Alas, no horror stories to come out of today's quest for delicious foodstuffs (loyal readers will remember the last time we went to Ihawan, the Filipino restaurant on 74th street. For those of you new to the fold, this is possibly my best post ever).

But I do have some pretty pictures, as promised.

Here we have the famous fresh lumpia--like a giant spring roll, only with a soft crepe skin. It is uncooked and is filled with delicious soft noodles, cabbage, and bean sprouts. The sauce is pureed peanuts with insanely large chunks of fresh garlic.

Here's the cooked lumpiang--slender spring roll dry-fried and usually served with a sweet chili dipping sauce. No sauce today, alas. However, we did have a very nice waitress, unlike last time. You win some, you lose some.

Here's the tocino pork. My favorite. This is candied pork--a dry, sweet cure that brings out the inner diabetic in all of us. I would love to learn how to make this, but I hear it's a major time commitment. Served with some deep fried eggs. Alas I had eaten half the dish in about 10 seconds so by the time the camera was broken out to photograph it some creative rearrangement was in order to disguise the rather obscene dent I made.

And the fresh melon drink. Very refreshing. I would also recommend the young coconut juice, which I fully intend to get next time (but will probably have forgotten about by that point).

Kare kare: the oxtail stew in peanut sauce with green beans. A favorite amongst the pork-wary.

We, of course, were not in any way pork-wary. This is the pork barbeque. (How the heck is "barbeque" supposed to be spelled? I've tried everything!!! I take this opportunity to remind you that I am not responsible for anything misspelled herein. Cf disclaimer in upper right-hand corner.)

And the dread avocado milkshake. You see there layers of crushed ice, sweetened condensed milk, and pureed avocado.

A good day. I came home and took a 4-hour nap after this.

Tomorrow, the Brooklyn Book Festival. Do stop by--you'll get to meet a lot of awesome indie publishers, book vendors, and local writers (some pretty big names live in Brooklyn!).

I have noticed

that my readership dovetails significantly on the weekend. However, I believe this coincides rather cleverly with the dovetailing of overall quality of posts.

Love ya.


I have unexpectedly received an invitation to go to Queens for Filipino food today!

Embarking on my voyage shortly. These are the things I fully intend to consume:

-avocado milkshake!!
-tocino pork (num num num)
-adobo chicken
-fresh lumpiang (please cf earlier post for beautiful pictures by Bluenana)
-halo halo (ice shavings with sweet beans and jellied fruits and condensed milk)
-melon juice
-young coconut juice
-kare kare (peanuty oxtail)
-pancit (fried glass noodles)

The rally monkey will come with me and act as photographer, so you may expect a whole new photo essay this afternoon.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Thursday, 11:02: drinking alone on the couch.

Watching SVU reruns.

A theme seems to be developing.


A fellow editor, who shall not be named, went on vacation earlier this week. He left on my desk for me a CD that says "old index" on it with a post-it that says, "Moonrat--thanks for helping out with the art book!"

I knew NOTHING about this project (or the fact that it is due to the printer next Friday!!) but my designer was kind enough to ring me and give me some details. All I'm responsible for is copy editing and proofing the backmatter. And drafting captions for 60 unlabeled images. And making sure all the credits are in order for all those images (what are the odds?). And GENERATING A NEW INDEX.

Thanks, honey. And we both know this isn't the first time I bailed your ass out.

OH. AND. Catalog copy is due--we got first proofs today. *Someone* forgot to write about two of their books, knowingly left a third book to me to "help out with," and chose not come up with reading lines or author bios for some of his titles. And then went on vacation.

Hello, Wikipedia!

EVERYONE else has left work already, because it's a beautiful day and they all have things to do.

It's ok. I'm much more productive when no one else is here. Also, I can blog with impunity.

new update: Monkey Falls in Love with Pigeon

The monkey was orphaned on an island off the coast of China. A Guangdong zoo saved the monkey, but he was dying from lack of emotional nourishment until he met the pigeon. Thanks Aparna for today's excellent update. As she says, the urge to snuggle is alive and well.

awesome weekend in Brooklyn!!

Sorry about my absence, my pretties. I was in Brooklyn all morning speaking at a writing group about how to a) work in the publishing industry, and b) build your platform for getting published. It was really cool. Lots of bright and creative people.

Tonight, Brooklyn again! For a gallery opening. And then Sunday I am hanging out at the Brooklyn Book Festival ALL DAY--I am SO excited and hope everyone who's in the near vicinity is coming.

Woohoo Brooklyn!! (Let me take this moment to state I am the only New York book editor in the history of the world that DOESN'T live in Brooklyn. But I am gradually developing a deep affection for that borough, although Queens of course is my one true love.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Ok, confession time. I'm an arachnophobia. Yes, I am. Past any point of reason that you'd think someone with a college degree and a substantial background in biological sciences would have to sustain.

Now moving on to this delicious news item.

These pictures I've stolen from other sources are of a new phenomenon in Texas--this year, apparently the bug population at a state park was so big and juicy that all the spiders--12 species of them--got together to create one giant web the size of two football fields.


This guy at Wired pretty much spells out my thoughts (they are spelled GAAAAHHHHH! AHHHYAHHHHH!). For a more "official" report, try here.

Can we please just all step back and think about what this means for evolution? Unprecedented interspecies cooperation? Economic prosperity among the spiders? It's only a matter of time before they are all the size of houses!!!!

Thanks to La Gringa at The Swivet, through whose blog I was brought to terms with this harsh new reality.

what a beautiful daaaaaaaaaaaay

I wish I were outside... :(

another invitation to join The Book Book

Hi again all my lovelies,

If you are among my lovely new readership, please do check out The Book Book, a (very low commitment!) group reading log/virtual book club. Basically, you just write about what you read--which I know a lot of you do, anyway. The reviews are beginning to stockpile, so hopefully someday soon they will flower into a wonderful searchable collection of opinions.

The more we have on The Book Book the merrier, so please just drop me an email if you'd like to join.

To those of you who have had to read this a bajillion times (or have already joined), apologies.

Loves and kisses,


just between the time I went to bed and the time I woke up

A bunch of you have responded to the cover question--this is great. So just one more for good measure.

Like GHOSTWALK, this is a book I would buy just because I'm fascinated by the cover image. I also particularly like the stark type on the romantic image.

Here's the green argument again--I have literally have agents call me and ask me if we can't get a cover redesigned to be less green, since they can't shake the taboo of the 80s and 90s. For me, the green on this cover is beautiful (and, since I'm that superficial, a reason to buy the book, which, by the way, had a starred review in PW).

My one petty gripe? The florets in the corners. I hate arbitrary design elements like florets or frames. There is, however, a large school of thought among designers that leaving the cover unadorned will drive a book too much in the direction of genre fiction.

Your thoughts?

great covers, continued

Thanks for all your feedback, everyone, and please feel free to leave me a note anytime you come across a great cover in the future. I'm always interested.

I'm going to bring up GHOSTWALK by Rebecca Stott, which Amy mentioned. This book is a highbrow literary thriller with a female protagonist--once an unusual kind of book, now becoming less unusual (I have one on an upcoming list, so this conversation is just a little self-serving). I'm using this example because I find it both attractive and provocative--my question is would you buy it?

I'm particularly interested in your thoughts about the elements:

a) the image of the building
b) the text treatment
c) the frames
d) the blood spatter
e) the white prism

I'll post my thoughts as the first comment.

Quiz Night, Alas

I only provided two of the 24 answers, and both the answers (which I was 100% sure about!) turned out to be wrong. Sometimes we all need to be reminded that humility is a virtue. According to the many forms of mass religion. But perhaps not unjustly.

Next week there is a prior engagement on Quiz Night, so I shall not even be able to redeem myself. Boo. Very sorry, teammates.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

sad self-pitying post

[Apologies in advance.]

The Thing at my office happened again today. I ate my lunch for breakfast and then worked studiously at my desk until 5, at which point I realized I had forgotten to eat lunch. I went to the kitchen to get some pretzels. The editorial assistant followed me. I complained of my plight.

"Oh," she said. "You should have come to lunch with us."

Then we both fell silent, for we realized that "us" included everyone else, and that I had in fact not been invited to lunch, because "us" doesn't think of inviting me, because I'm not one of "them" (it's not clear exactly why I'm not, but of course there's lots of room for me to ruminate about how uncool I must be). I am saddened, especially because these are nice people who don't mean to deliberately exclude me, so it must just be that they simply don't think of me as a friend. I also miss the old days of camaraderie at my old company, where I had Blue and Nikki to hang out with everyday.

an example of an awesome cover

Jeff Talarigo's THE PEARL DIVER

Sorry to those of you who already read about this in thebookbook, but the topic of cover art is hot on my mind right now (perhaps you can guess how I spent this morning, as well as yesterday? and probably tomorrow?).

I'm not sure if pain an heartache went into this cover image, but I actually bought this book because I loved the cover so much. Turned out the book rocked. So all worked out well. But I think this is an example of a visually pleasing (if slightly provocative) image that complements content nicely. Go, team!

Interestingly, conventional wisdom has it (or at least HAD it until the late 90s) that green books always fail. Green is my absolute favorite color. I think the KIND of green is very relevant (I HATE electric green and would never want a bright bright green book to blemish my bookshelf! I have a couple of examples but they feel to mean to post here).

So second poll of the day--do you own any green books? Did you buy them in spite of the cover, or because of it?

And third poll of the day--do you have a favorite book cover? I'd love to post up some reader samples. Angelle has already turned us onto The Book Design Review, which is super cool, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Sleep is overrated.

Good morning, my pretties.

Does anyone have any suggestions of current events topics that might come up at the pub quiz tonight? I suspected perhaps African grey parrots. Please leave your suggestions below.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

11:19, down half a bottle of wine

I'm breaking out a manuscript to work on. I've realized this week, as I kicked my ass (notice the unusually low number of blog posts during the working day?! It's because I've been...uh...what do they call it...WORKING!), that there is way too much to get done in the day.

I want to be a dedicated professional and if I want to go anywhere in my life I'm going to have to start applying myself more magnanimously than I have been thus far. For, you see, there is really endless work that could be done--endless manuscripts to read, endless numbers of times to go over edits, endless Web sites to troll for new authors, endless bloggers to stalk. So I am going to start working in the evenings. Every. Night. I might make an office in the spare room. When I can afford a desk. Or a chair.

I also have this pan of brownies, which is both good and bad.

I do know that today is September 11th.

I couldn't decide whether or not I should be like everyone else and post, but I've felt guilty all day because I haven't posted about it, so I guess there's your answer.

I think that writing this right now means I am not one of the Americans who is quite ready to move on yet. I don't mean to indulge in sentimentalism; I'm just typing what I'm thinking about right now. I hope that no one who is bothered by the subject matter will keep reading on.

This morning at about 6:50 am it started raining so hard that it woke me up. Remembering back to a few weeks ago, when the entire MTA shut down because of a little pre-rush hour flash flooding, I turned off my alarm and tucked myself back in.

I woke up again at 8:30, at which point I decided the best way to find out the state of the trains would be to try watching the news. Needless to say, there was not a single channel that was broadcasting anything as lighthearted as a weather report this morning. I managed to catch the period between the mayor's speech and the traditional reading of the names, so it was this guy speaking who had lost his wife, the love of his life. He read a poem written by his two daughters.

I left for work sobbing, of course. Not that the people who have passed don't deserve it. And I think I would rather cry about it than not cry about it. But I think many New Yorkers (more so, perhaps, than other Americans) live with September 11th every day of the year. Every morning I walk by a particular fire station on the way to work, so every morning I get to see faces of the lost firefighters in bright acrylic on the brick outer wall of the station. Mostly little reminders like that. I'll admit there are afternoons in, say, July when I'll sit at my desk at work and page idly through the sites dedicated to the memories of the victims. I'll click randomly on a page link and read a personal story about accomplishments, family, favorite foods, unrealized dreams. After awhile I'll tear up and click out.

This year, like every other year, I wore all black. It's my little way of observing. I become very sad for two reasons when I think about it. I am shaken down to my core by stories like the one I tuned into this morning; the weight of the personal losses that directly and indirectly affect so many people in webs of interconnectedness across the country is astounding. But the other sadness is at the New York that is lost and may not exist again--and I do think that New York has changed at least a little more than America as a whole since 2001.

The towers came down only a few weeks after I first moved here, all dewey-eyed and full of selfish energy, imagining this limitless New York that was such a very rich carefree feeding trough for other selfish dewey-eyed would-be artistic types. I heard about what happened in an elevator, where I was babbling away cheerfully to a stranger about how I really needed to do my laundry (some themes never change). She was like, "You must not have heard, I guess..." I felt like an asshole.

I have a freakish number of out-of-state or out-of-country friends, and for some reason they all like to come and visit. And every single person who came to visit dragged me back to Ground Zero. The first time I went was in mid-October of 2001, and the last time I went (when I finally started refusing to go with people--you're free to go, I'd say, but I'm busy that day) was a year later in October 2002. They put up this blue barrier around the site--you probably all remember it, but--and people would write on the wall or hang flags or letters on it.

The one that really got to me that I still think about all the time was a collection of 1000 colored origami cranes from an elementary school in Nagasaki, Japan. "We love you, New York," it said.

I went one more time, in March of 2005, and another time I accidentally took the PATH train from New Jersey into the WTC site instead of to the West Village station, but I can't help but react exactly as strongly then as I did three years earlier.

I think that's really all I can think of to say. I know it's not coherent. I guess everyone has a story, anyway.

I'm praying, in my way.

Woe Is the Cover Image

Authors never like their covers. It's like a rule. I don't know how to work around it.

And let's face it--we ALL judge a book by its cover. This statement shouldn't apply to any of the mentioned book's metaphoric counterparts (for example, cf aforementioned dilectible Persian chicken dish that just LOOKS like a bowl of slop). But we all judge ACTUAL books by their covers. I've certainly bought books for no other reason than that I liked their covers. And it's not like I'm the only one (for example, has anyone else felt compelled to buy a copy of THE SOUTH BEACH DIET, even though they, like me, have NO INTENTION of EVER going on a diet in their entire lives? But oh the glossy metalic teal cover!! How I desire to possess it!!). And (I'll be strung up for saying this, but) you probably SHOULD just a book by its cover, since the amount of thought and money put into cover development is directly proportional to how much priority a publishing company is investing in a book.

Alas, there is a strange hierarchy within publishing companies as well, so it is often very difficult for the author, the editor, the cover designer, the production editor (who gets to determine things like the budget for special effects), and the marketing team to all be on board with the same image. Each of those parties brings a different expertise to the topic--and often these expertises are irreconcilable.

You, the author, are almost certainly going to be disappointed no matter what you see--odds are, you have the ideal dream cover somewhere in the back of your head, and you've probably had it there for years. Not only is it difficult to communicate a dream to an editor who then has to communicate it to the designer (by way of the marketing and production teams who approve any maneuvers) but then it is even more difficult for the designer, who surely doesn't know the book's content as well as you, the author, do, to perfectly recreate it.

Also, it is the frustrating but understandable role of the marketing and sales departments in any publishing company to basically nix all the best cover ideas, anyway. The sad truth being that no matter how excellent an author's vision is, it's more important that the cover image be appealing to the consumer. Who is a tricky, tricky beast.

Those are my thoughts. Dear author, be kind to your editor. She's on your team. But please, please, if you can, try to have an open mind about your cover image. Try to keep in mind that everyone at the publishing company wants the book to sell just as much as you do. Also, try to put forth your most very important points about how you imagine the cover before the design sampels come forward. That will prevent the wrong roads from ever being gone down (it's really hard to shake a "great cover" out of a marketing team ex post facto even if it causes the author to shed crocodile tears). This is even a conversation worth having with your editor toward the beginning of the editorial process.

Maybe you can all guess how I've spent my morning.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I was watching Two and a Half Men when the truth came to me in a heart-stopping epiphany.

I am in love with Enrique Iglesias. He is The One.

I can run, I can hide, but I can't escape his love.

I have the most wonderful new author!

I just talked to her on the phone. She has the most wonderful accent ever.

Joy joy joy. I'm very excited for my upcoming list. I can't WAIT to see how things unfold!!

I have been accused

by Jesse, mon fellow editor, of being "all hipped out" today. This is what happens when one accidentally spends the weekend in Brooklyn.

I suppose I should go out and try to find myself an acoustic guitar.

Monday, Monday

Fortunately, I have a pan of Ghiradelli brownies (with walnuts) waiting for me in the refrigerator should I need them.

Also, when I got in this morning there was an envelope on my desk. One of my authors had sent me a thank-you note just, quote, to let me know how helpful, bright, and poised beyond my years I am. Aww. Warm fuzzies.

Melanie says you know you have the right job when you get excited about coming to work on a Monday morning.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

I cooked!

I made breakfast sandwiches with buttermilk biscuits, skillet sausage patties, and fried eggs. The biscuits fell to bits so the sandwich project might be considered a failure but was quite a success as a "mashed up breakfast pie" to eat with a spoon. But the point is I cooked!

Now I have to do the dishes. Boo. Back to Chinese take-out.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

end in sight

on this effing manuscript...

Tonight, sushi and sake!

Amy's response to my last post

to which I would like to draw particular attention:

Perhaps all of those happy writers should send their darling editors gift certificates to fabulous restaurants, rather than another fruit basket. Your thoughts?


We've never met, Amy, but I'm sure if we did we would be good, good friends.

one tiny little vicious entry about my industry and then I won't being it up again for a long time

Good morning! It is 8:54 am in New York and I am set up in my home work space for the long haul (probably at least 5 or 6 hours this morning) because I have a freelance editing assignment that is due this afternoon.

The reason I have a freelance editing assignment due this afternoon is because even though I graduated with high honors from what might be considered a rather good university and even though I speak 4 languages and can tap dance and bake a mean hazelnut pie and even though I spend at least 65 hours (on my LAZIEST weeks!) slaving away with pure and joyful dedication to my books and my authors (I'm not factoring time I spend blogging at work here. Those figures would look a little different.) I don't actually make enough at my job in a month to pay off my basic bills (rent, metro, phone, gas, electric, three 15-year college loans). Well, actually, Robert recently gave me a small raise, so I do. I just clear even.

However, as you may have noticed, I have a small (and occasionally expensive) ethnic food habit. (Never mind the book habit. Does not bear looking into.) And I think a girl's only entitled to her one vice, wouldn't you say?! ;)

The point is, it's not like Robert's a big jerk because he pays me and my colleagues so little. THESE ARE EDITORIAL SALARIES. Everywhere in the industry.

According to PW's annual report, this year an editor at the peak of his/her career (at the PEAK) can hope to make $51,000 dollars a year. Now keep in mind that person is a full-grown adult who probably has to live in New York City (after all, this is where most of the jobs are). Subtract living expenses. $51,000 is above the poverty line, it's true, but remember that a) this is a GOOD PEAK CAREER scenario--many editors make rather less! and b) an adult living in NYC on those financial limitations has had to make some sacrifices (for example, the idea of ever having a family or a nice wardrobe or a trip to Italy). Unless they have been extremely fortunate and have mined themselves a filthy rich husband/wife/life partner, your editor is livin' small.

Ok. I'm off my soapbox now. Back to my second job.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Persian dinner

Space Alien and I have survived out Persian food celebration of life. Oh my goodness. Everyone in the world (or at least the greater New York area) MUST go to this restaurant: Ravagh at 30th between 5th and Madison. Pretty layout, nice bathroom, super friendly service, all at incredibly affordable prices. By the way, have I mentioned it was THE BEST FOOD IN THE WORLD?!

Mast-o-khiar (yogurt and cucumbers): a cold dip with mint. Perfect for spreading on pita and eating with fresh radish.

Chicken kebob: done royal. They gave us the most mammoth chicken that ever squawked.

Served with zereshk: that's barberry rice with currants and saffron.

Khoresh kesenjan: perhaps the best thing in the entire world that was ever eaten. The picture isn't super attractive, I know, but the waiter (who was extremely friendly) told us that he once ran a commercial on TV--one 60-second commercial--and featured this dish, and that evening there was a two block line outside the restaurant. It's chunks of chicken stewed in a very thick "broth" of crushed walnuts and pomegranates. The chicken is SO tender it falls apart with a spoon. This would convert a vegan. Oh my God.

Persian tea in a little glass.

They have an amazing dessert list, too, but we were too full (anyone who knows me knows how weird that sounds... I just couldn't fit dessert!! I couldn't stop with the walnuts and pomegranates etc).

I want to move to Iran SO bad right now.

inexplicably long & productive week

Thanks to all who helped it happen, particularly the menacing marketing manager who, um, inspired me to finish writing all my catalog copy.

Next week: rejections! YESSSS.

Tonight: Persian food with Space Alien!

In Memoriam

Madeleine L'Engle has passed away at 88. I remember my dad reading me her books from the time I was way too little to understand them.

Here's the NYT article.

A very sad week.

more on Larry

For those of you, beloved and esteemed colleagues and friends (no names shall be mentioned here) for whom this topic is the be-all and end-all of your existences, it's true!! Gawker has made the whole story into a musical for us.

From the closing chorus:

Larry, Larry
I misjudged you at first blush
You're braver than I thought
Now please come back and flush

We can, in the words of an anonymous friend, all die happy now.

[Oddly, there doesn't seem to be any three-part male harmony, nor any barbershop poles. Gawker!! Help us here!!]

why YOU should go to pubquiz night

Oh, you mean you didn't know that in their free time, foot-tapping airport-trolling Idaho Republican Larry Craig and his friends John Ashcroft and Trent Lott call their barbershop trio The Singing Senators (pictured here with former fellow doowopper James Jeffords)? Click here for touching story of humble origins.

As Wired puts it, they put the "party" in GOP.

Porn Star Friday

All the boys at my company (that's a lot of boys) have been growing their facial hair like cave men. Today, they have all come in shorn clean but for the top lip.

Damn I wish I had a camera.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Booker Prize shortlist announced

Naturally, I have read none of them.

[How can I spend my ENTIRE LIFE reading and still have made such a small dent?!]

Darkmans, by Nicola Barker
Gathering, by Anne Enright
The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid
Mister Pip, by Lloyd Jones
On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan
Animal's People, by Indra Sinha

Anyone have strong opinions?

trusting your agent

A reader send me this note yesterday:

[M.M.'s letter]

Hi Moonrat,

I wonder if I could impose on you for just a moment regarding agent/editor
relationships. I just got an email from a publisher that has caused me some
concern, and if you don't mind, I'd like your opinion on it.

"Dear M. M.,

Although your query and submission are enticing and the manuscript has been throughly worked well thus far, I am curious that your said agent, XXXXXXX of the XXXXXX literary agency is listed on Preditors and Editors as not authentic (in the list of agents with a history of non-commercial sales). Also, I am curious why you are submitting and not your agent? An agent's responsibility is to submit for their clients. We are interested in the novel, however we are very wary of working with said agent."

Should I be concerned? I happen to know my agent has a very substantial track record of sales to various major houses, including S&S, Warner, and HarperCollins (among others). I have read books by authors she repped and they thanked her in the acknowledgments (that's how I found her in the first place). The only reason I submitted anything to anyone is because I don't have a contract and she (my agent) said if I wanted to send subs to some smaller presses to go right ahead. This press is small, new, and not well known.

Any wisdom to share here?

M. M.

[so here's my response to you, M.M.]

Dear M.M.,

My honest take--

The editor must really have liked your stuff, or s/he wouldn't have wasted all his/her time with replying at that length. Trust me--we usually just send out form rejections if a book seems even remotely troublesome (for example, even a good book represented by a dubious agency). Which means that for whatever reason, this small publisher is very interested to the point that they put those misgivings aside. Given the number of queries you can assume they receive each day, this says something very positive about your book.

It sounds like you really did your homework in terms of the agency--the finding an agent through acknowledgments, consulting other clients, etc. All very good. You really need to take your instinct about your agent and cling to it right now through what I'm going to say--if you really love and trust your agent, please just take this as an outsider's read on the situation. I have to say that having a client submit queries on their own is EXTREMELY counterproductive and very, very strange (I totally agree with your small-press editor here). I would never read a proposal from an author who says they have an agent--my thoughts would be just like this editor's
(why is the agent not submitting?!). Although this may not actually be the case, to us, it looks like the best-case scenario there is that the agent is unwilling to commit to your book but wants a sleazy piece of the pie if it all works out. Also, editors would almost always choose to deal with agents instead of authors, since agents really smooth the way in a) negotiating a contract, and b) being another party accountable for author's commitment. I make exceptions and work with a lot of authors without agents, but that is because of the unusual structure of my company. At all other companies I have worked for before this was not the case.

Also, you can't know about your agent's (or his/her agency's) relationship with other small presses or clients in the past--it's possible that ancient bridges were burned (and policies have since been changed) and that this is where the editor's bad information comes from. Sometimes very big agents have a habit of treating small presses very shabbily--it might be a great agent for an author to have, but not one who small presses feel inclined to work with if there isn't already a forged relationship.

Basically, my advice would be to trust your instinct about your agent--after stepping back and thinking really carefully about all of this. I'm not sure how your agent is used to doing business, but it seems like s/he isn't prioritizing you as much as s/he could. If your agent is really big and important, his/her name could help you get a great sale; on the other hand, neglectful treatment by your agent (including "shady" letters from you directly that claim you have an agent who is choosing not to submit for you) may just sour all the publishers who see your book and cause them to not take you seriously. Conventional wisdom (and my personal experience) says that if an editor sees your book and rejects it she is going to be extremely unwilling to consider it again later--meaning that a poor submission of a good book by an agent is endlessly more damaging than no submission at all, since it destroys any potential for that particular manuscript. Of course, it's very possible that you'll decide you do trust your agent and s/he is right for you, and that you'll be right. We (publishers) (and authors, too) just have to be super cautious because of all the unfortunate weirdos out there who are very comfortable taking advantage.

I hope this helped at least a little.