Wednesday, March 31, 2010

giveaway winner!

The Rally Monkey has picked a winner, and that winner is Zoe Courtman! Zoe, email me at moonratty AT gmail DOT com and we'll chat.

I asked the RM how he picked the winner; apparently there was some kind of mystical counting he did amongst the names on the list. I dunno. He's a mystical guy.

Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by here yesterday, reposted, retweeted, etc. You made me feel very special. Also, doing this giveaway reminds me we haven't had a contest in a while. So if anyone has any contest ideas, let me know. I'm not good at thinking of them myself.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

half a million and counting!

Ed Ass got its 500,000th hit today. This makes me feel old and venerable.

Naturally, I wanted to celebrate. I mean, with you guys, since you made it happen. But how?! No one has yet invented a giant internet pie.

Jamie Harrington, clever thing, had the idea that I have a giveaway contest, the prize being a first 20 pages crit. So that's what it is! I'll give away one crit of a book's first 20 pages (size 12 font, double spaced, .5 margins for you sneaky sneakies out there).

You'll be automatically entered to win if you do any or all of the following things:

1) repost this on your blog


2) retweet my Twitter announcement


3) link to this post on Facebook (make sure you include @Moonrat in the post so I'm notified of it)

I'll close the contest at 11 pm EST tomorrow (March 31). The Rally Monkey will randomly select one winner without my input (as if I could make him listen to me, anyway).

Yay! I'm really excited now.

what makes a lead title? (Your Questions continued)

Anonymous asks, I would be curious to know how lead titles are chosen in a season's releases. I have an internship which involves receiving insane numbers of advance/review copies and I'm always curious about the reasoning for some of them getting labeled lead releases.

A lead title might be picked for a number of reasons.

1) A huge advance was paid. Now the company is in a kind of "oh shit!" position. They have to make back the money they spent, so they have to throw down tons of support to get it extra attention. (This is one of the reasons your agent pushes for a bigger advance--not only because it's nice to have the cash in hand, but also because then the company is in theory fiscally bound to treat you as a serious investment.)

1a) Sometimes the billed lead title will be the book the editorial team is most excited about, even if it's not the one they paid the most for. Usually lead title billing is tied to money, but not always.

2) Because the book, for whatever reason, starts to get a lot of surprise attention from buyers and reviewers. This is an "emerging" lead title. Publishers are often a little off about which book on their list will be the MOST exciting, and sometimes there's a sleeper hit. Actually, from my experience I've found there's at least one sleeper hit in every list--ie a book the publisher slightly underestimated. If the book emerges relatively early (before galleys go out), stuff will get relabeled accordingly.

All this said, some publishers just sticker everything with "lead title" in hopes that it will get buzz attention. That means (I'm pretty sure) that everyone just kind of ignores it all, and pays attention to what they feel like.

So. Was this helpful, or depressing?

Monday, March 29, 2010

how do I get into publishing? (Your Questions continued)

Casey Leigh asks, Publishing question: What does it take to break into publishing? I have at least two years office experience and at least two years reporting experience and yet I get nothing in response to my resume. I've honestly applied to at least 50-75 editorial assistant type positions. Any advice?

So a long, long time ago (almost three years ago!), I posted these basic rules for breaking into the publishing industry as a professional.

For the most part, the rules haven't changed, although we were hit really, really hard by the economic crisis, especially since we were already going through a lot of turmoil over the rise of digital media. This means that it's a little more difficult to get a job at all now. It's taking a little longer (sometimes much longer) for entry-level candidates to actually break in.

That's the bad news. There's good news, too. The good news is that although I stick to my guns that the plan above (doing an unpaid internship, working in a bookstore, networking) is a good one, I have had the opportunity over the past three years to see people make transitions from a bunch of other industries into publishing, and at every level, not just entry. I've also noticed more fluidity among departments than I had been taught to think there was. My advice during this time is to be open to opportunities even if they aren't quite what you had in mind. If you're dead-set on editorial, consider marketing or publicity or sales--or vice versa.

There are many paths to your dream, I guess is the short answer, and if you really, really want to work in publishing, keep plugging.

Friday, March 26, 2010

personal questions! woohoo

Sarahlynn asks, Given your demanding job and cravings for wonderful foods, how do you attain moderation? I picture Moonrat curled up reading a book or hunched over a manuscript, constantly sipping hot tea. I don't picture Moonrat running and sweating on a little rodent wheel. Just trying to clarify the picture. Is Moonrat a gym rat?

No gyms for this Ass! Blech. I tried that gym thing once a long time ago. It ended in a two-year contract I paid for but never used. Icky. I do go to yoga once a week (or have been lately), and I'm lucky enough to live by one of Manhattan's darling parks, where I go running with the Monkey two or three times a week.

However, I don't want to give you the false hope that I have "attained" any of that "moderation." The days I run are merely days I can eat MORE ice cream.

Rebecca Knight asks, If it's not too personal, how did you and the RM meet? *rachel* wanted to know this, too.

Official story, or unofficial story?

Official story: In a cafe*. I was tapping away on my laptop** and he sat down and offered to buy me tea***. We decided to go to a poetry reading together$ and then he bought me a chocolate cake$$ and we have been together ever since$$$.

For the unofficial story, please insert the following at the relevant *s.

* where I was waiting for his best friend, whom I was dating at the time
** looking very upset because his friend was very late and I was feeling stood up
*** because I looked like I was going to kill somebody
$ as friends; he even asked his buddy's permission first
$$ because clearly he had ignoble intentions the entire time
$$$ he's not friends with that guy anymore.

just finished reading

Chinatown Beat, by Henry Chang. My review here. Anyone else read it? Any thoughts?

Oh yeah, also, last week I read Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson, and forgot to cross-post on this blog (here's the review). Sorry! But apparently there are some excited Robinson fans out here!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

male or female MCs? (Your Questions continued)

Midori asks, Have you acquired more books with male leads, female leads, or an even number of both? What MCs that are children versus teenagers verses young adults?

Midori, your question called for some personal reflection, and the answer is maybe a little horrifying--with only one exception, the novels I have acquired have had female main characters.

Put that way, it seems grossly unfair. However, I think that if you line up all the editors in the world and take a collective total, the gap would shake out. I tend to be more interested in a genre that is described either as "women's fiction" or "women's literary fiction"--not because I'm trying to be interested in it as a genre, but because most of the books I'm personally interested in tend to fall under those descriptions when they are sold into categories and bookstores. There are, obviously, specialists in other genres.

As for age, most of my main characters have been adults. Again, same logic as above.

So now I turn the question on you--what percentage of the books you READ would you say have main characters of your own sex?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I was extremely efficient today and answered several questions.

The rules for this section: if you comment, you must answer each of the following three questions, just like I have. Thank you.

Claire Dawn asks, If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

Well, in no particular order except how they occur to me:

Turkey--because I've been their once and it totally brainwashed me. Wildly beautiful and convolutedly historical all at once. Slurp.

Syria--because I'd love to visit all the ancient cities there. I want to see Israel for the same reason, but I hear you can only go to either Syria or Israel on one American passport. Is that a rumor? But hey, as long as this is hypothetical and not necessarily routed in realistic ability, I might as well throw in Baghdad. So many historical places I'll probably never see :(

China--because I've never been. Chinese history has been perhaps my major reading topic since I was about 8 years old, and yet somehow it's never happened.

Japan--because I haven't been in eight years. On the other hand, getting over my Japan addiction, I suffered many symptoms of withdrawal I have heard associated with kicking a heroin addiction. So maybe I should leave that one alone.

As you may have gathered, and country full of Olde Things would do just mightily.

Ulysses asks, What's up with groundhog day? I mean, if a groundhog sees his shadow, we know there's going to be 6 more weeks of winter? Why don't we just look up at the sky? If it's cloudy, we won't see any shadows either. There's no need to go rousting a rodent out of bed just for a weather report. I know that if Puxatawney Phil were like my dad, waking him up from a nap would be something we'd only ever have the courage to do once... and only if his den were on fire. So here's my question: Which is better -- spaghetti with meat balls or spaghettini with pesto?

Ulysses, a valid question, I allow, but in my family we shun both of those pasta options in favor of cavatelli (little fat gnocchi-like cocoons with fresh ricotta kneaded into the pasta dough). Being total heathen gentiles, we usually eat this in a pork-based home-stewed tomato sauce.

Jjdebenedictis asks, Given a choice between deep-fried, crispy saltiness or creamy, decadent sweetness, which would you eat?

SALTY FRIED! If you had asked me as recently as two years ago, I would have emphatically chosen the other. But I guess now in my old age I just crave salt more. (Either that, or my body has cleverly noticed the trend of 100% of my family members to develop pre-diabetes and is trying to save me from myself. Either way, pass the fish & chips!)

Ok, now your turn.

1) Where would you visit and why?
2) How do you take your pasta?
3) Sweet or salty?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

..why? (Your Questions continued)

Catdownunder reasonably asks, Having read all these...why do you do this? :-)

I'm addicted to blogging. That's why.

They say, though, that the first step is admitting you have a problem...

Monday, March 22, 2010

linked short stories--still uncool? (Your Questions continued)

Ashley A asks, Do linked short stories still make you really fucking mad?

Ashley found this post of mine, from almost three years ago. Re-reading it, I remember how furious I was that day I wrote that.

Ashley, to answer your question, no, linked short story collections don't make me angry anymore. In fact, now I read them for fun. I personally don't love them as much as novels--I find it's too easy for me to disengage after one story ends, whereas I have an OCD compulsion to finish a novel--but I have read some really great ones in the last year. Some examples that spring to mind are Joan Silber's Size of the World, Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth, and Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge.

In terms of acquisitions, I think the climate has changed lately in favor of short stories. They are still a very, very difficult sell, but hey, so are debut novels (to be fair, story collections are still harder). But Strout's Pulitzer in 2008 and Lahiri's unprecedented debut as #1 on the NYT list the same year have made publishers and readers both realize they don't need to think of the short story as a strictly hoity-toity genre. A friend of mine predicted the Era of the Short Story is still to come--in a couple years, she thinks, there will be even more marketing and award attention for them. I guess we'll see.

So I'll throw this out to the blogosphere. Do you guys read short stories? Do you buy collections of them?

Do you ever get pissed that people just don't get it that most things need more butter and more salt? Is there anything that can't be made even better with salt and butter? I'm serious. Thank you.

I can't think of a single thing. The other day, the RM taught me to put butter and salt in my oatmeal. SO DELICIOUS.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The End of Publishing

Watch this video. It'll make your day. (Full disclosure: I cried.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

return of The Aunda (Your Questions continued)

Merry Monteleone's question was more of a statement: I'd like an Aunda story.

Well, Merry, you asked for it. The Aunda has been up to some serious hijinx lately; it's just that I've been censoring stories. You'll see why.

For those of delicate temperaments, please be advised that the Aunda is my extremely raunchy 88-year-old Italian great aunt. She does not play by any rules and she does not care what you think. (For those who would like an illustrative portrait, here she is showing off her zucchini crop.)

So consider yourself duly warned.

Why There Are So Many Divorces These Days (Conjugal Advice from the Aunda)
My brother's girlfriend and I were sitting around the kitchen table a couple weekends ago, listening to the Aunda tell us stories about her childhood and her first years in America, when she was in her twenties. For several years, she worked at a coffee pot factory on the assembly line. She learned something at that factory.

"Do you know," she told us, "if you look at how big is a man's nose"--here she had to lean in and lower her voice so my uncle, who was sitting in the next room, wouldn't hear--"you can see how big is the, the," and here she gestured crotch-ward.

BGF and I looked at each other with shiny bald eyeballs. "How big is the what, Aunt Con?" I asked.

"The man-part," she said. "You can tell how big, if you look at how big is the nose." She knows all about how we modern girls are concerned with penis size.

"Aunt Con!" I said in my best scandalized voice. "How do you know?"

"Oh, no me," she said, waving. "My friend, she tell me."

"But how did SHE know?!"

"Oh, she KNOW," the Aunda said.

My brother's girlfriend is unhelpfully sitting by in fits of giggles.

[I should interject at this point that she refers to my brother's girlfriend as his wife, and to the RM as my husband (including labeling food/care packages for me with his last name), because of the cohabitation problem. The RM and I had lived together for more than than three years before she found out; she bullied me into admitting it to her, saying "I no mind, I know gyals today live with their boyfrien," and that I shouldn't be afraid to tell her the truth. Not being a great liar, I confessed, at which point she proceeded to burst into tears and weep that no one would marry me now. Awkward.

"What about my brother?" I asked her. "He lives with his girlfriend!"

She answered, "And no one will marry that girl now, either!"

"What were you thinking?" my mother asked me later, when this irrupted into yet another fight at the dinner table. "Why didn't you just lie to her?" There we go. My mother is a proponent of lying to my 88-year-old aunt. And I can't say she's morally incorrect. Not that my moral standpoint is any good anymore.]

"You know," she went on, "sometimes ladies, they leave their husband because they want it bigger. When I got married, we no get divorce. We stay married, good, bad. Now, people get divorce all the time."

BGF and I nodded dutifully. We'd heard about that, too.

"You know why so many divorce?" She had to lean in again for this. "Sometimes, the man, you know, he wants the wife to put the man-part in her mouth."

BGF and I looked at each other in horror again. The Aunda took this as a good sign.

"Of course, the wife, she no want to put it in her mouth. So the husband, he divorce and find a new wife who does that."

"That's... that's awful," I choked out.

"Disgusting, some men," she went on. "They want to put it in the mouth." She made a face to show us what she thought of that. "Or they want to put it other places. In il cul'. Or here!" At this point she gestured to her armpit. I can say this is the moment in which the conversation became truly educational, for I, with my fancy college degree, had never heard of that particular act before.

I think that's about all the Aunda news I can bear to put down at present. Maybe next time, I'll tell you a kitchen story, like about how she tried to teach me to make meatballs, or the time she made me make her French toast "my way" (I'll give you a hint: neither story has a happy ending).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

book into movie? (Your Questions continued)

SM Schmidt asks, Which book have you read recently (or all time favorite) that you would fangirl scream if made into a movie?

Can I make a list?

Too bad, I'm making one anyway.

1) Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, in general. Obviously I will be hideously disappointed with whatever movie is made from the series, but that doesn't mean I'm not DYING to see it (and perhaps be cast as an extra in it). Good news is they've announced it. I wish they would consider a miniseries, though, instead of a feature film. In fact, Perhaps they should consider 14 miniseries. Producers, if you need advice, my brother and I have worked out an excellent plan of how you might break the books up into good episodes. No, literally, we did. We even wrote it down. So just let me know.

2) Marlon James's The Book of Night Women. The book was just so cinematic. Then again, I'm not sure any movie could do justice to this awesome book.

3) Anything by Lisa See. Perhaps Snow Flower and the Secret Fan would be the best place to start. I think her stories (even without the narrative backdrop of her beautiful writing) can touch just about anyone who's exposed to them, and again, her careful research has made her books very cinematic.

Also, exactly 5 books that I've edited that haven't yet been optioned. I can make great cases for each of them. Sigh. Alas I can't make those cases here. But jsut keep me in mind if you ever have a film production company.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

do I really want to be published? (Your Questions continued)

Magolla asks, Why isn't anyone sending you baby animal pics?? I need my fix.

This had indeed become a problem, but as you may have noticed, we rectified much of this last week: many people came to our assistance here.

Without your reminder, though, I wouldn't have thought to ask. So thank you.

And... Do I REALLY want to be published? Sometimes I wonder. . .

Now this is a really good question. I imagine you were asking in jest (or at least partly in jest), but I know it's a concern that weighs on authors' minds, and I will answer you seriously. My answer isn't for you, Magolla. It's for the several people reading right now who I know need to hear it. I hope when they read it they realize that I really, really wish them the best, and am saying this for their own good.

I have a very particular friend who is on the Submission Train right now. I've read this person's work, and it's pretty awesome. I'm 100% sure things will work out. However, the Submissions Train causes great anxiety in all those who get on board. I've seen my friend panic about non-responses, wonder if s/he should submit directly to publishers instead, wonder if s/he should self-publish, etc. This in spite of all my excellent advice (and my advice is very excellent!). My friend knows intellectually I'm correct, and looking out for his/her best interests, but that doesn't stop the panic of the Submissions Train. As an author, you have to wrestle down those crazy emotions. Otherwise, you will make silly decisions in your hurry and panic.

This is hard news to swallow, so I'm going to type it in boldface. It's better not to be published at all than to get published in an inferior way. Doors begin to close if you try to take shortcuts. Instead, take your time to do things right. Accept no compromises. You will be much unhappier with a published book that has gone awry than with an unpublished book that still has potential. I linked to this article recently, but I'm linking to it again--this is Aprilynne Pike's essay on why taking your time toward first publication is worthwhile (she knows, because she made good decisions--her debut hit #1 on the NYT bestseller list). So I'm not the only one who says this.

In short, your writing must not be contingent upon your getting published. Book publication is affected by many factors. A book may deserve to get published, but the market may be wrong. A book idea may be wonderful, but the execution may not be really up to snuff and need more work. The author may be a fantastic writer, but maybe this particular manuscript isn't the best book on its own, or maybe it's a good book but not a good debut. In all of these cases, if the author pushes, pushes, pushes for publication no matter what, they will damage both their future career as a writer and their relationship with their art.

"I must get published" fever hurts a lot of people. It causes people to do things in desperation that will hurt or limit their long-term options. My recommendation to authors--and I know this sounds much easier than it actually is--is to try to develop zen about your books. You write because you love to write. You continue to work on your projects, whatever they may be, because you want them to continue to improve. Some projects, however good they are, never need to see the light of day, because they've been stepping-stones on your road to self-development. They are what will train you to write the book that really matters.

So do you really want to be published? Only if you're published right. This means taking your time, being patient during all the long processes, and, above all, continuing to write no matter what. When the timing is right for you, it will be clear. As my mom says, if it's meant to be, it will be. In the meantime, I hope you're writing because it makes you happy.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

what if a submission needs more work? (Your Questions continued)

Keith Popely aks: On a variation on Caroline's question: what if you get a book you really don't want to reject, but it just needs more work? Is there some some sort of conditional acceptance? Or is it only reject or accept?

This happens all the time. It depends on how much work, exactly, is needed. I'm assuming you're talking about more work than I would normally anticipate doing in an edit. For some companies, this would be an immediate no-go, as many editors are only allowed to buy projects that are very close to publishable. For me, this usually isn't a problem. I'm an editing editor--all the companies I have worked for have allowed me to be a hands-on works-with-the-author-to-make-things-better kinda gal, which I really enjoy (secretly, I like editing better than acquisitions; shh, please don't tell). So as long as the revisions seem to be something the author is on board with and able to execute, there probably isn't a contract barrier.

As far as "conditional acceptance," yes indeed, that exists as a thing! First of all, "acceptance" itself is a contractual stipulation that protects the editor. Often, second advances are payable "on delivery and acceptance"--so the author doesn't get paid when s/he turns the finished manuscript in, but rather when the publisher accepts that manuscript as publishable. This provides the author with a fiscal incentive to work cooperatively with the publisher, as well as a means for publishers to take on not-quite-perfect books with less risk. (I realize my perspective here sounds very pro-editor as opposed to pro-author, but I honestly think conditional acceptance benefits both parties, since the editorial process can get really tiresome and emotional, so having the contractual real-world marker helps everyone keep the will and inspiration to create a better book.)

Sometimes--but pretty rarely--there will actually be a contractual clause specifying what makes the book acceptable (including a chapter/section on XX, etc). But this is really pretty rare. I've only seen it a couple times.

In the case that the project has great promise but there's some crucial piece missing/something about the premise that doesn't jive for me, something that my edit wouldn't be able to change or fix, or if the edits required are something I'm not sure the author could handle/execute (and in the cases of really substantial changes, how could I know if the author could edit well unless I'd worked with them before?), then I pass but tell the agent very specifically why in case the author plans to revisit. My usual line is to tell the agent good luck, Godspeed, etc, but if you don't sell the proposal as is and the author is willing to revise, will you come back to me? Usually agents are super-appreciative that you take time to give them any editorial feedback. I guess a lot of editors are just like "not for me" and that's that, but I figure if I put in the time to read the darn thing, why shouldn't someone benefit? And it it's the author/agent and not me who benefits from my work this time around, well hey, what goes around comes around, and that agent will remember I was helpful.

P.S. Got any good flu remedies? Ugh

Yes, Keith, I do! Actually, this is the Rally Monkey's mom's secret Filipino cure-all (in Italian-American culture, where I grew up, the cure-all was butter, but it's less applicable in this situation).

Go to the grocery store and buy a big ol' fresh ginger root. Take it home, peel or chop off the rough knobby pieces on the outside, and slice it up into small pieces (the more surface area, the better). Put all the pieces in a pot, fill the pot with water, and boil the heck out of it.

Not everybody likes fresh ginger (in fact some people hate it), so you can disguise the taste with as much or little honey as you choose. But I've found it really, really helps clear nasal passages, ease sore throat, and calm coughing. Also, it's an astringent, so I picture it doing battle in my tummy with all the evil germs. Plus, if you drink enough of it, it's a great way to stay hydrated. Many birds, one ginger root. You can keep loading on water and re-boiling; a root of ginger will yield a lot of flavor.

I'm currently on it myself, since it seems I have caught whatever nasty thing the RM brought home.

Monday, March 15, 2010

a goddess among women

Wendy Cebula is my hero.

That is all I have to say at present. Except that she is also the Rally Monkey's hero.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

what's a standard submission process like? (Your Questions continued)

Caroline Starr Rose asks: I'd love to hear more about the submission process. Say an agent has just sent you a manuscript. Let's say you love it. Could you walk us through the editorial meetings, etc. that lead to the eventual sale?

The submissions process varies by company (and by barometric pressure, and by how many days it is since the last lunar eclipse, etc). However, I can tell you specifically how submissions worked at two companies I have worked for, one very large and corporate, the other very small and independent.

Again, this is only based on my specific experience, and has nothing to do with how other companies acquire.


1. Project is received from agent and logged in.

2. Editorial assistant reads, writes report, and either advocates it or doesn't to her boss, the editor.

3. The editor listens to ed. ass. (or totally disregards everything she's said, either way) and decides to bring the proposal to ed board meeting. 24 hours before the ed board meeting, the editor announces the book by listing it on the meeting's agenda minutes and by distributing to all the other meeting attendees (editors, publishers, a couple marketing folk) a sample packet of about 15 pages so they can read it the night before the meeting and come to the meeting with coherent opinions. This packet is about 15 pages, includes sample text from the submitted book, a detailed analysis of competitive/related titles, including their recent sales records (meticulously compiled by the ed ass), and a memo from the editor explaining why s/he digs this proposal, what successful book it tastes like to them, what they envision the company being able to do with it, etc.

4. The next day, ed board assembles, everyone ostensibly having done the shared reading the night before (often, this could take hours, depending on how many editors are presenting how many books). At ed board, people do everything they can to rip a book to shreds, find every possible pothole in the publication road. This isn't because they hate books--on the contrary, it's because they need to have every kink ironed out if they want to be able to proceed. At the meeting, the publisher will tell the editor one of the following three things:

A) no go--drop it
B) there's something there, but X, Y, and Z needs to be resolved before we can go any further
C) let's pursue this

If A: well, that's the end. The editor calls the agent back and makes an excuse about why. (Sometimes it's the real reason we're passing, sometimes it's not. We can't always reveal our secrets.)

If B: The editor calls the agent and brings up all the concerns. This has some risks to it, because once you've done this, the agent can (without lying) start calling all the other editors who have the project and say "we've had some real interest on this; at least one editor has already brought it to ed board," and they may find a home for the project without you. If that happens, well, as my mother says, it wasn't meant to be. But if your concerns are sound and legitimate (and the agent is a good business person), the agent will do everything s/he can to try to resolve them or answer questions. Then, next week, or whenever the issues are resolved, you come back to ed board and update them at the weekly meeting. Most projects fall into this category; that's why we always have ongoing meeting minutes with projects that roll along week after week.

If C: the editorial assistant scrambles to put together even more comprehensive information about competition, marketing, author platform, projected packaging ideas and expenses, etc. This comprehensive packet is circulated to some important people who make financial decisions for a quote of how much can be spent on this particular project. The editor takes this quoted number and offers it to the agent--if the agent accepts, there's a book deal. If not, it means the agent and the publisher don't see eye to eye on the book's potential, and there is no deal.


1) The editor reads a submitted book.

2) At an ed board meeting that might or might not have been announced beforehand, the editor (if she is prepared) presents the book she read by trying to sum it up into 20 words.

3) Based on those 20 words, the publisher will decide whether or not it's interesting. If it's not, that's the end of that. If it is, the publisher will grill the editor with every conceivable possibility of how the book could go wrong if the book were to be undertaken (sound familiar?). This grilling could last anywhere from 20 seconds to 3 hours (no joke).

4) If the publisher and others attending the ed board meeting come to the conclusion that the book is a worthwhile risk, a piece of paper is turned over by someone (or by everyone) in the room and on its back are executed a number of algebraic equations, based on mythical ideas of the profit and loss factors that might affect a book's sale and production. Based on what these brainiacs come up with (and sometimes based strictly on the barometetric pressure, how many days it's been since the last lunar eclipse, etc), some contractual terms are arrived at to offer the agent.


The funny thing is that, having seen both systems, one of which is obviously clever, well thought-through, and organized, the other of which is basically bosh, I have to say that the accuracy of both sets of predictions is about equal. I think the moral of this story is that you never really know if a book is going to work until you know.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

if you're a short story writer in the NY area...

My friends over at One Story (the nonprofit lit mag, and the only magazine I subscribe to at present!) alerted me to a workshop they're doing this weekend and next. It's one-on-one short story coaching. I know this weekend sold out, but there are still a couple slots for next weekend (3/21).

By the way, if you like short stories, One Story is for you. Because it's nonprofit the subscription is really cheap ($21 for a year, 18 issues, within the US; a little more for international). Here's their mission statement, and here are their past authors/stories--check the rather high number of writers who go from One Story to Famous. For writers, notice they accept submissions September-June. If they're not on your radar yet, put them there! They're one of the top possible literary credentials a writer can have.

Ok, plug of the day. Have a happy rainy Saturday! Indoor activity suggestion: karaoke.

Friday, March 12, 2010

delicious tasty fan art for fellow Wheel of Time fans

My brother found this guy's blog. Check out his incredible trading card-style renditions of WoT characters. These are better than any others I've ever seen, including the official ones.

He also did some alternate covers. Sweet. (That's a dork joke. The original cover designer's name is Darrell K Sweet. But I think these covers are super sweet.)

Ok. That's probably enough rabid fanism for today.

pastries, sushi, or chocolate? oh my! (Your Questions continued)

Kiersten White asks: If you could only eat one of the three following things for the rest of your life, which would it be?

A) Pastries
B) Sushi
C) Chocolate

Sushi. Oh, I bet you were expecting to make some cutesy answer like I did in my FAQ. But no. Sushi. I'm in total withdrawal. I haven't had sushi since... JANUARY. For real. Just thinking about it makes my mouth ache.

Second question: If for some horrible reason you couldn't be an editor, what alternate career would you choose? So basically, in a horrific alternate universe in which Moonrat is not an editor, what is she?

So recently I've been OBSESSED with Turkey (the country, not the bird, although I've never been against a turkey sandwich). Part of me is constantly nurturing a secret desire to pack up all my bags and move to Turkey, where I could... I don't know. Teach English, maybe?

And finally: How bad do you hate hypothetical questions?

How bad do YOU hate it, Kiersten, when people answer one of YOUR questions with ANOTHER question?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

what is a Moonrat? (Your Questions continued)

[Kaitlyne asks, "Could you settle a bet for me? A friend insists that a moonrat is in fact a small rodent in the Erinaceidae family. I've told him before that it is obviously a lesser known god of the Egyptian underworld. He insists Wikipedia proves him right. Which one is it?"]

Kaitlyne, my dear, we must only pity those people who shield their eyes from the truth.

Actually, since this question of from whence my name derives has come up before, I will tell the True Story. Back when I first started blogging, my blogging buddy (there was only one at the time; we were very secretive) chose her favorite flavor of Naked Juice--Bluenana, which I believe had been discontinued--as her name. Wanting something equally opaque for myself, I gazed out my window and up at the moon. The visual stimulus reminded me of the cliche that the moon is made of cheese, which got me thinking about cheese (mm, cheese). And I thought about who would enjoy a GIANT BALL OF CHEESE more than anyone else? Well, a rat. Right? And if I were a moon cheese rat, I imagine I would be extremely happy. But "mooncheeserat" didn't have quite the same ring. So I dropped the middle bit.

Sexy, right? Was this story more or less silly than you thought it was going to be? (It's true, by the way; that literally was my thought process.)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

self-images of YA protagonists

So I asked this question on Twitter, but it occurred to me belatedly it's hard to have a coherent conversation on Twitter. Apologies to those who are seeing it twice.

Which kind of heroine do you think is better in YA fiction--one with a really positive self-image (to promote self-confidence in teen readers), or one with a flawed self-image (eg someone who has always felt like a misfit, who has never been labeled conventionally pretty, etc, to promote reader identification)?

I've been reading a lot more YA lately, and have found that in most books, protagonists are one or the other. I understand why this cliche comes up so frequently--heck, I sure felt like a misfit as a teen. But I wonder which kind of protagonist is psychologically healthier--or more interesting, while we're at it--for teenage girls.

Your thoughts? I'm calling today especially on my YA readers/writers crowd.

if I could only recommend one book... (Your Questions continued)

[Briony asks, "If you could recommend one book to read, what would it be?"]

So in order to answer this question, I had to access my BookBook, which is my nerdy catalog of every book I've ever read since I was 15. What a treasure it is.

Woops, I just spent 45 minutes poring over my BookBook. Gee, thanks, Briony. Thpbpbp.

My final answer, and why: Autobiography of Red, by Anne Carson. This is a novel in verse that ostensibly re-creates part of the Hercules myth, the episode where Hercules slays the red monster Geryon. Only in Carson's retelling, Geryon, the little red monster, is an introspective photographer who falls in love with Hercules and who is slayed by a broken heart. My reasons? It is both rich and utterly surprising. Since it's poetry, and since Carson is a really capital poet, every word is beautiful--but at the same time, it's not at all as scary or boring as "novel in verse" sounds. I wouldn't say it's the easiest read in the whole wide world, but it is (to me at least) the most accessible poetry I've ever read, since it tells a story. I just think it's a really special book.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

the weird and the wacky in publishing (Your Questions continued)

[Beth asks, "What are the weirdest and funniest situations you've encountered while working in publishing?"]

Oh wow, Beth. You've given me an excuse for a favorite backlist link list.

This was my sleaziest experience in publishing. Lunch date gone gross.

Random skeezy authors aren't the only ones into Mad Men-esque gender roles, though. For example, there's Betty.

There was that awesome day I got Robert the Publisher's lecture on fearing fear itself. Tasty.

Getting your project idea stolen sucks, but it also inspires Shakespearean knock-off poetry.

At my company, we had Beach Day. Yes, just like in the office. Only it ended up drunk on high-end vodka at a Russian restaurant.

All anyone in the publishing industry does is tell one another crazy lies.

Just because publishing is a media industry doesn't mean we're on top of things. Like technology, which can be really horribly confusing.

But that's all ok. Weird, crappy stuff happened to Jane Austen when she tried to get published, too.

Sadly, not all authors are as cooperative and honest as Jane was. Sometimes they do crazy things that make their publicists smack their heads repeatedly against the wall.

But then again, so do some publishers. Check out this post, from FOUR years ago! Remember Judith Regan? She's some "weird and funny" stuff that happened in publishing.

Editorial, it turns out, is not a 9-5 job.

This doesn't have anything to do with publishing, really, except fonts. But it's definitely funny.

Ok, this has nothing to do with publishing at all. This is a story from back when the RM was still a car mechanic. But in going through my old posts I came across this and wanted to share it again.

Of course, the weirdest and funniest stories of all I can't blog about, sigh.

Monday, March 08, 2010

hypothetically speaking... (Your Questions continued)

[Candyland asked, "If you had to choose between: a)being a writer who loses the hand you write with or b)being a runner who loses a leg which won you the gold... which would you choose?"]

Well, Candyland, this is obviously a difficult question. So let me apply a little logic (I should mention at this point that according to Myers-Briggs, logic is not my strong suit).

In either situation, my personal passion would be compromised, which, in theory, would be traumatizing. However, I think it would be less traumatizing to be the runner who loses the leg. My reasons are as follows:

-You mention in your question that I've already "won the gold," which seems I may have already achieved the tip-top of my art. A runner expects their physical prowess to decline as they age, while a writer expects their writing to get better as they age. So although the loss would be huge, I believe the opportunity cost would be lower.

-Athletes have tons of adrenaline. Many computer-dwellers (such as myself) have none. Therefore, my athlete-self would probably be able to cope with the situation in a more health manner than my writer-self. I can see my athlete-self determining to overcome my new challenge and super-training with my new prosthetic, going to lots of conferences and speaking out as an awareness advocate for whatever cost me my leg, etc. I see my writer-self eating a lot of cake while watching TV. (What do you think, writer friends? Would you be better than me? You probably are. But I really like cake.)

-In either case--lost hand or lost leg--there are very interesting technologies to help me adapt to my new situation. However, I think the loss of the hand would affect me in more OTHER disciplines of my life besides writing than loss of a leg would besides running. For example, losing a leg would not affect my use of chopsticks. Or a fork. Or a spoon, or a straw.

These are my thoughts. Now, Candyland, I have a question for you. Did you expect me to address your concern in this much detail?

Friday, March 05, 2010

my baby animal picture hook-up

has been running pretty dry lately.

Any help?

Have a great weekend!

writing in your favorite genre (Your Questions continued)

[Marquita Sandefur asks, What's your favorite genre? Are you a writer? Do you write in your favorite genre? If no, why not? If so, do you find it difficult to be original since it's your favorite genre?]

Reading: I really like to read fiction that has stood the test of time--this means a lot of classics that might fall in either the literary or commercial categories. I also like to read new books if I know the author, or if someone sends me a review copy (with my reading list, this is about the best I can manage). I try to read a nonfiction book every now and then--I find I'm never in the mood to pick one up, but then if I make myself, I enjoy it about five times more than most novels. I also read some fantasy--I used to read tons, then took a 15-year hiatus, and last year picked up where I left off. Yum epic fantasy.

Writing: Am I a writer? ...Yeah, inevitably. I mean, I think I probably wrote more than 100,000 words on this blog alone last year. I write other stuff, like book reviews and endlessly re-edited novels. Up until now, all my fiction writing has been pretty much straight literary fiction, much like what I mostly read. But as I've been reading more fantasy, I've been thinking a lot to myself, "You know what would make a great premise for a fantasy world? It they just took..." etc. So I might have to branch out.

Re: is writing in genre difficult? So here's the thing I've noticed lately--perhaps because I've been reading too much. It is very rare to find a theme, motif, plot element, or even sentence I haven't seen somewhere else before. This can be a little crippling--every time I have a good idea, I remember that I read a similar idea in [FILL IN A FAMOUS BOOK OF YOUR CHOICE HERE]. It makes me anxious about how much I may be borrowing, how original my ideas are, and whether I should pursue the project. Do other writers have the same problem?

But I think there's one thing writers can control, where they can force themselves to be original: language. It takes more work to think of a fresh way to say something, but it's also more fun that way. I love thinking of inventive ways to say things, even in places like my diary, where I know no one is ever going to read them.

What about you guys? Do you write in the same genre you read? Or not so much?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

why are you so busy?

[Graywave asked: Here's a question, how come you're so busy? Is it because you are really, really inefficient? ;)]

Dear Graywave, you asked in jest, as indicated by the winking smiley you included. But for the sad, inefficient truth I refer you to an earlier source!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

why become a book editor? (Your Questions continued)

The Novelist asks: How did you end up doing what you do? Did you always want to be an editorial assistant? Was there something else you wanted to do and you just ended up where you are? I know that is 3 questions, I am just curious.

It's funny how epiphanies work. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and made a series of career accidents basically to fill my time until I graduated from college. I worked in a bookstore for 5 years in high school and college, I worked in my small town library and then in my college library, I took a job as a private editorial assistant for one of the professors in my department who was working on a textbook, and I took an internship at a literary agency (I heard you were supposed to do internships or something). Then, right after graduation, I got called in for an interview for an editorial assistant position. Duh. Why hadn't I thought of that before? There was literally nothing else in the world I was prepared to do for a career, and there was literally nothing else that would have been as awesome for me.

I don't mean to be flippant. This story is kind of true (I mean, I MUST have had a plan, right? I just don't remember what it was). But I feel like I'm supposed to be here. I LOVE editing. I get so excited to work on a project that it doesn't really feel like work a lot of the time.

My mom is still holding onto hope that I'll become a CIA agent, instead. To be honest, if I do, I probably won't let you know ;)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

how are multiple book deal advances divided up? (Your Questions continued)

[Stephanie McGee asked: When a book deal is for multiple books, is the money paid in the deal divided into parts to create an advance for each book? I know that advances are generally divided into parts, with some given at signing and some at publication. I'm just wondering, I guess, if the money in a multi-book deal is divided and divided again per book?]

The boring answer here is "it depends" (which is, of course, true). But I'll tell you a couple of ways I've seen advances divided in the past.

Background info on single-book contracts: as you might know, most single-book advances are divided into two or three installments: for two installments, half on signing of contract, and half on either delivery and acceptance of the final manuscript ("d&a," we call these) or on publication. If it's three installments, it will be a third on signing, a third on d&a, and a third on pub. This is often depending on the total amount of the advance--if it's a small advance, publishers are less anxious about cash flow, and more willing to pay it in two lumps instead of three. Whatever your case may be, these payment schedules are laid down very explicitly in the contract.

Ok, so now, onto multi-book contracts. Generally, the advance will be divided up based on the same inspirations as the above (contract signing, d&a, publication). So here are some examples (that I've seen in my real life).

1/2 on execution on contract
1/4 on delivery & acceptance of Book 1
1/4 on delivery & acceptance of Book 2

1/3 on execution of contract
1/3 on delivery & acceptance of Book 1
1/3 on delivery & acceptance of Book 2

1/3 on execution of contract
1/6 on d&a of Book 1
1/6 on publication of Book 1
1/6 on d&a of Book 2
1/6 on publication of Book 2

1/2 on execution of contract
1/6 on d&a of Book 1
1/6 on d&a of Book 2
1/6 on d&a of Book 3

1/6 on signing
1/6 on d&a of Book 1
1/6 on d&a of Book 2
1/6 on d&a of Book 3
1/6 on d&a of Book 4
1/6 on d&a of Book 5

Sometimes, the books will have different "values." For example, maybe an author has written a new thriller, but the contract includes a previously published thriller that has gone out of print from another house, and the author's new house is planning on reissuing. Then, you might have something that looks like this:

1/2 on execution of contract
1/3 on d&a of New Book
1/6 on d&a of Old Book

Agent friends, if you have any other permutations you favor (or crazy ones you've seen), please chip in! I'd love to hear.

Monday, March 01, 2010

just finished reading

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, by Jack Weatherford. My review here. Anyone else read it? Any thoughts?

Book Club: Sons & Other Flammable Objects, by Porochista Khakpour

Hi everybody! Welcome to our March Book Club "meeting." Today we're talking about Sons & Other Flammable Objects, Porochista Khakpour's debut novel, which is published by Grove.

Be sure to check out Undomestic Goddess's interview with Porochista--it's about much more interesting things than my publishing-related questions!

Also, if you're in the mood for a little short fiction, Porochista just published this brand spanking new short story in Guernica.

And now, Editorial Ass's Three Questions for Authors, with Porochista Khakpour:

MR: How did you get your agent?
PK: I had one agent at first who everyone on earth raved about, but he was a truly awful fit for me. I don't know know what happened, but I think I caught him at a bad time--he was completely absent from my world. So I was back to the drawing board, looking for new agents in New York, while being very poor and depressed. It wasn't going too well. Then I met a writer--a pretty well known one--on the street in the East Village one night. We hit it off and began dating. He felt bad for me struggling as I was and so I think he just thought he was doing a cute favor for me by passing on my manuscript to his agent. He hadn't read a word of my writing. But it turned out she really loved it and she is still my agent today.

MR: How did you get your book deal?
PK: A year and a half before my agent sold it, a friend of mine who was quitting his job as an assistant at the publishing house that bought my book, asked me, just for the hell of it, to email him my novel. I had shown him a chapter or two when I was in the process of writing it and he had liked it. But I told him it was nowhere near done, just a very rough draft. He said it was his last day and he wanted to see what would happen if he just tossed it on the desk of a prominent editor there who would likely toss it back into the slush pile, but who maybe, on some off-off-off chance might peek at it. . .I said fine and thought nothing of it. I was a shopgirl at Rodeo Drive at the time and miserable. I suddenly got an email out of nowhere from this prominent editor a week later saying she had been crying and laughing all week, reading it on the subway ride home. She wanted to know how to proceed. I thought it was a joke. In any case, I had no final draft and no agent so I exercised amazing restraint and said I'd have to wait, which she understood. I don't think I even grasped what a big editor she was. Finally, a year and a half later I had an agent and a real draft and we sold it to that same publishing house, a very happy ending.

MR: Are you working on another novel?
PK: Yes! I began it last summer and it is going suspiciously smoothly. Well, at least quickly. But, yes, I am happy to finally say I honestly am.

MR: Thanks so much for dropping by, Porochista! I can't wait to read what's next :)