The danger of smoothing out the message

I was filling out the comprehensive author questionnaire from the publicity department at Pocket the other day and caught myself thinking about how I was going to answer some of the more personal questions. Thinking, of course, is a good thing, but this bordered on censorship, driven by the most horrid of reasons – don’t offend anyone lest you lose sales. This is a line I walk everyday as an editor and rarely think twice about it. My goal is to publish good books that sell. I do my very best to keep it in that order, too, believing that a good book will find its audience. And it’s well known that good, controversial books sell really well.

Now that it’s my turn, I realized I was listening a little closer to my opinions, and starting to wonder if any of them could cause me problems. Problems? As in folks would hear what I believe, and by the simple process of all of us being different, I was bound to offend or disagree with a sizable segment. It really surprised me. I have no desire to be that guy…that politician looking for the safe, middle ground where you offend the least. Those that already know me are probably smiling at this because the chances of me not offending someone, or at least riling them up, is a bit like the sun not rising tomorrow – possible, but unlikely. Like most human beings, I have opinions, strong opinions – most of them informed, some not – so I suppose if I change it all, it will be to become more informed so that I can have even more opinions 🙂

Something writers probably shouldn’t do

I probably see anywhere from 30 to 75 submissions a month depending on the state of the moon. Like most editors I end up rejecting about 99% of the submissions. 99% of those authors/agents accept that and move on. Then there is that 1%. These folks are the ones that know deep in their hearts that they have a hit on their hands and won’t take no for an answer. Surely, if I would just look at it again I would realize how brilliant the book is.

Hasn’t happened yet.

If an editor doesn’t get how great your book is, then this editor isn’t for you. And if you, as the writer, believe in your work (and you bloody well should,) don’t waste time with an editor who doesn’t. Go submit it to a more receptive editor. Editors are people…more or less…and we are as fickle and subjective as the rest of the population. We also get paid by going with our gut instinct. So if an editor passes, the best you can probably hope for is his or her reasoning, but even then it may not tell you anything beyond why that one individual on a planet of over 6 billion didn’t want to publish your book.

Crisp fall days…and having finished your revisions

Life is soooo much more enjoyable when you get your revisions back to your editor. Central Park was absolutely brilliant yesterday. The air was clear, the sky a vibrant blue, and the foliage every shade from orange rust to sunshine yellow. I was able to enjoy the park to its fullest because I finally finished the revisions to A Darkness Forged in Fire.

For weeks these revisions had ambled around my brain and never really let me relax. Sending my editor the novel, now a svelte 142,000 words – down from its heftier 156,000 word weight – was like giving birth (except without the pain, screaming, bloating, drugs…ok, it was nothing like giving birth, but I’m a single guy so to me it seemed like that.) This version will now be used for the ARCs (advanced reading copies) that will be sent to reviewers. In the meantime, the ms will get copy-edited and sent back to me for one last crack at clarifying things and making any other revisions before it goes to first pages. Once it gets to first pages things become increasingly more expensive to change, so it’s really key to get it as clean as possible while still in the ms stage.

It’s another glorious day here in the Big Apple, and I have a date this afternoon, so have a great day and enjoy the weekend.

A very rewarding lunch and a motto for writers to live by

I went to lunch yesterday with my agent, Don Maass, and my friend and Del Rey publishing maven, Shelly Shapiro. We were celebrating the book deal (Shelly was the one who suggested I talk to Don about representing me.) It was a real treat. The two of them have over a half century combined experience in New York publishing. I did the smartest thing I could do and kept as quiet as possible. The conversation was wide ranging and touched on all facets of publishing and of the many things discussed, one simple idea rose above all the others:



ALWAYS be writing the next book. Of all the things a writer can do, especially a new one, from websites to book signings, the single most important task to creating and maintaining a career is to be always writing the next book. Nothing is as important. Careers, almost without exception, are built on longevity and productivity. For every flash in the pan that rockets to stardom there are thousands and thousands that will climb the publishing mountain one step at a time. Those that reach the top, or even close enough to see the summit, do it by writing book after book after book…and learning from each one as they go.

Oh yeah, and the further apart the tables are in a restaurant, the more expensive the meal while the portions are correspondingly smaller (thanks to Don for that observation 🙂

My five block move

Last weekend I packed up my stuff and moved. I love my new place. It’s bigger, brighter, and on a quieter street. I have a bedroom again! And a kitchen with space to move around…not that I know how to cook, but it’s nice to know I could (sort of) if I ever get the urge. In writing news I am finishing up the revisions to A Darkness Forged in Fire and plotting away on the second book as yet untitled.