The end of the line

A brief announcement for those of you who were planning on seeing me at the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association conference this summer or taking my Seattle-area pitching class prior to it: the Pitch Practicing Palace’s staff has decided that we will not be operating at PNWA this year, and I have already informed the PNWA that I will not be teaching the class for them again. I have, in fact, resigned from the organization after many years’ membership.

Struggling through negotiations to provide these services for conference attendees was taking up far too much of my time, energy, and patience. I believe I can do more good here than by fighting with people who apparently do not understand that pitching is both stressful and a learned skill. I won’t bore everyone recapping the events of April 2 and thereafter, or dealing with the personalities involved. Suffice it to say that my mission here is to be upbeat and supportive of my readers, and I believe I can do a better job of that if I sever all ties to an organization that has made it quite clear that it now wishes it had never asked me to be its Resident Writer for 11 months in 2005-2006.

There’s no accounting for taste, eh?

My deepest apologies to any of you who made plans in the expectation that the PPP would be available or who were looking forward to the class. I shall try to find another venue for the latter, but rest assured, I shall be writing EXTENSIVELY about pitching between now and then.

Enough of all this unpleasantness. Let’s all get back to work.

Editors, Part VI: Love…exciting and new…

Hello, readers –

Ask and ye shall receive! I sent a fervent prayer in the general direction of the sky yesterday, in the hope that the last editor scheduled to attend the PNWA conference would produce a bio for us by the end of the week – and lo and behold, when I opened my e-mail this morning, there it was. This, courtesy of the fabulous Brenda Stav, who does so much thankless good work for the PNWA throughout the year that we really all should get together and heap her with leis and thank-yous at the conference.

In case you are tuning in mid-series, and can’t imagine what I am gibbering about, my fair fingers have been flying like the wind for weeks now, trying to dig up and pass along information about the agents and editors scheduled to attend this summer’s PNWA conference – and thus available for appointments with YOU. (If you are looking for information on the attending agents, check out my posts from April 26 to May 17. May 18 on is the series on editors.) I had promised myself to try to finish up before Memorial Day weekend, not only because I know a lot of you will be grabbing precious writing time then, but also because there is a SIGNIFICANT discount for conference attendees who register prior to June 6th.

And if you are having trouble working up the nerve to pitch to a real, live agent or editor, fear not: I shall be giving a free (Free! Free!) class on June 24th, courtesy of the PNWA, on prepping yourself for exactly such a situation. Not to mention the fact that I and some intrepid souls who have successfully fought in pitching wars past (translation: we all have agents) will be manning a Practice Your Pitch booth at the conference, to help you iron out any last-minute problems or justifiable jitters.

And you thought I didn’t love you.

Speaking of love, on to the editor du jour, Raelene Gorlinsky, Publisher at Ellora’s Cave AND Managing Editor of Sensual Romance Reviews. Her blurb should be going up on the PNWA site any second now, but here’s an advance copy:

”I don’t remember a time when I couldn’t read and didn’t have a book in my
hands. I was a shy child, so books were my best friends and provided all the
excitement and emotion I could want. Romances, fantasies, and cozy mysteries
have been my preferred reading since I was a teenager. My favorites these
days are paranormal and futuristic romances with a high sensuality level.
I’ve got over 3000 books in my home-there are no more walls available to put
bookshelves against. Even my “hobbies” involve books-I collect antique
dictionaries, illustrated children’s fantasy books, fantasy art books, and
fancy bookmarks.

”I spent twenty-five years in the information communication profession, as
technical writer, editor and manager. I started editing part time for
Ellora’s Cave because it was an interesting variation from my day job in a
computer department. It’s a lot more fun to work on ‘He caressed her body
with his eyes’ than ‘Key in the serial number and press Enter.’ In January
2004 I moved to Ohio to take on the job of Managing Editor at Ellora’s Cave,
allowing me to use my organizational, managerial, and editorial skills on a
wide variety of projects. My position is now Publisher, and I supervise
fifteen editors, deal with over 200 authors, manage our digital releases,
still edit several authors of my own, and am enjoying this job more than any
other in my life.”

I have to say, I find this blurb refreshing – yes, it says what she likes to read, but it also provides something one almost never sees in this sort of context, insight into what the editor in question might be like as a person. This isn’t just a blurb – it’s the kind of confidence that a new acquaintance might reveal over a daiquiri. In an industry that is getting increasingly cold and businesslike, I can only applaud her openness. And, apart from gleaning that she MIGHT have had a FEW friends who thought she was insane to give up her computer job to do this (which makes me approve of her even more, frankly), this blurb tells me that this is a habitually enthusiastic person — also increasingly rare in the industry.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: to walk into your meeting with her having prepared a fabulous sensual detail or two in your pitch that will make Ms. Gorlinsky chortle with joy. If your heroine ever has silk against her skin, or rolls about with a paramour in a blackberry patch, or has herself covered in a piquant combination of confectioner’s sugar, dark chocolate, and paprika so someone could lick it off, FIND A WAY TO WORK IT INTO YOUR PITCH.

Seriously, looking over Ms. Gorlinsky’s publishing record, I wouldn’t be particularly surprised if one of her group pitch meetings were raided by the vice squad. If you are not sure that your pitch is torrid enough, try this experiment: over lunch with a coworker in a crowded public place, try giving the pitch. If your coworker does not either blush, glance over his/her shoulder to see if anyone else is listening, or think that s/he is being propositioned, you might want to think about ways to spice your pitch up a little.

For those of you new to pitching, this may sound like a joke, but actually, it isn’t: like a synopsis, a good pitch should be representative of the style of the writing in the book. I’m not suggesting that you show up for your pitch meeting garbed only in a corset and Saran Wrap™, of course (although it would be an interesting approach), but if the book you are pitching is intended to titillate, at least one solid detail in your pitch should, too. If you are pitching horror, some tidbit in your pitch should nag spookily in the hearer’s head later that night. If you are pitching comedy, go for a laugh.

And so forth. You would not BELIEVE how often I have heard good comedy writers give the impression that their books were turgid, good novelists convey that their books were boring, and good mystery writers convince hearers that the solution to their plots could not be more obvious. It just breaks my heart. This is a performance, people! Show that you understand not only how to write, but how to entertain as well.

Okay, now that I’ve guaranteed Ms. Gorlinsky some pitches to remember, I dug up a bit more information about her reading preferences. This, from Sensual Romance reviews, gives a few more specifics about her tastes in books. Check out especially the middle of the second paragraph:

”My life revolves around reading (800 books in my TBR mountain), writing (book reviews for fun; technical writing as a profession), and ‘rithmatic (how many more years until my teenage son graduates?!?). When not busy with all that, I am owned by three Pembroke Welsh Corgis who require not only feeding and walking and adoration, but also must be shuttled to obedience classes and tracking practice and dog shows. I collect Barbie dolls, old dictionaries, Corgi paraphernalia, and the books of my favorite authors.

”My reading tastes cover romance, light mystery, and fantasy books. I definitely prefer contemporary settings, although I read a few historicals — and future-set fantasies. I love paranormal romances (vampires! werewolves!), romantic suspense, romantic comedy, and romantica/light erotica. I prefer mature, experienced heroines; usually don’t care for tortured heroes or very ‘dark’ books; can’t stand baby books; and am burned out on time travels. The only series books I read regularly are SIMs, Blazes, and some Temptations. I make exceptions if a favorite author writes a book for another line. My favorite publisher is Ellora’s Cave.”

Now we’re cooking with gas! I love it when agents and editors tell writers directly what they hate; it saves us SO much time. But heavens, what IS it about this year’s PNWA conference that has attracted so many agents and editors enamored of vampires? Should I wear my garlic necklace?

And what IS romantica, you ask? On another website (her web presence really is substantial), Ms. Gorlinsky is kind enough to tell us:

”Romantica is a term to describe a genre that combines hardcore erotica and romance. The sex scenes in romantica are very graphic, detailed, and plentiful, including graphic language, but entwined is a romantic, loving relationship that will reach a level of monogamous commitment by the end of the book. Romantica is perfect for the reader who enjoys extremely hot, graphic sex and fantasy-type situations, but who also finds satisfaction in traditional romance and wants to see characters fall in love.”

There you are, you see: these books are about, as the little old ladies in my tiny hometown would say, having your wedding cake and eating it, too. (If you’re from a small town, I’m sure you’ve seen them, the charming old women who snicker behind their purses at weddings, hissing at one another, “Can you BELIEVE she’s wearing white?” but still who like enough the bride enough to buy her a fondue pot as a wedding present.)

If you are thinking about pitching to Ms. Gorlinsky, you would do well to read the entire article from which this description is excerpted, because it is full of very useful definitions. She delineates between sensual romance, romantica, erotica, and pornography in a very businesslike manner, for those of us who were curious. (As a mainstream novelist who reads a lot of literary fiction, I had not known, for instance, that a ménage à trois could not fit into the first two categories. Really? I wonder what an editor of chick lit would make of that restriction.)

If you want more tips on what Ms. Gorlinsky likes, I think you can do no better than to read her book reviews on Sensual Romance Reviews, Ideally, if you can find a review of a book that you also read and liked, you will be able to pick up many clues to Ms. G’s tastes. I also found a fairly up-to-date rundown on her upcoming series and publishing trends.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what Ms. Gorlinsky has to say for herself at the editors’ forum. I really, really want Ms. Gorlinsky to show up at the conference in a majestic hat and boa, trailing clouds of My Sin wherever she goes, don’t you? In my mind, she has attained the majestic proportions of Elinor Glyn, the novelist/screenwriter who discovered Valentino – and taught him that it was far sexier if he kissed women inside their sensitive palms or the insides of the wrist, rather than on the comparatively tough back of the hand. Ms. Glyn’s 1907 blockbuster THREE WEEKS was considered so scandalous that reviewers suggested that only married people should read it – although the actual writing, by the standards Ms. Gorlinsky lists in her article, and despite a quite steamy episode involving candles, a tiger pelt, and an older woman stalking a callow young Englishman as though she were going to pounce upon him and eat him, might not even rise to the level of sensual romance.

If you have ever written a sex scene, pause every so often in your merrymaking and lift a glass to Elinor Glyn: she charmed open a whole lot of doors for novelists who came after her. And take a second sip in honor of Henry Miller and D.H. Lawrence, while you’re at it. Heck, go ahead and toast Aphra Behn, the first woman known to have written a play in English and been PAID for it, whose 1688 story THE FAIR JILT enlightened the English-speaking world about possible other uses for the confessional.

One final note: when you are making your editor meeting ranking choices, please be careful about confusing Raelene Gorlinsky with Liz Gorinsky of Tor. Yes, I know, it seems like a silly piece of advice, since they publish such different work, but people make silly mistakes when they’re in a hurry.

Tomorrow, the last of the editors, and perhaps a word or two about the good folks teaching the Sunday seminars. Phew! In the meantime, keep up the good work!

– Anne Mini

Editors, Part V: Fantasy and FANTASY

Hello, readers –

Welcome back to my series on the editors who are scheduled to attend this summer’s PNWA conference. Why am I running through them, you ask? Well, every conference attendee is booked for one appointment with an agent and one with an editor. I suppose one could talk about matters of peripheral interest at these appointments, but most aspiring writers choose to use the time to pitch their work!

Obviously, then, it is in your best interests, dear friends, to ask to see the agent and editor whose preferences most closely match your writing. Most of the attendees have already posted bio blurbs elsewhere on this website (you can find the link on the PNWA homepage), but not all have, and one of my great rules of thumb is that you can never have too much information about people you are trying to impress. Thus, this series. (If you are looking for information on the attending agents, check out my posts from April 26 to May 17.)

I’m trying to get through the rest of the editors this week, because there is a SUBSTANTIAL financial incentive for all of you to register for the conference prior to June 6: it’s $50 cheaper if you register early. I’m just saying.

The sharper-eyed among you may already have noticed that I have skipped Raelene Gorlinsky of Ellora’s Cave in this alphabetical series. I do intend to write about her, but she does not have a blurb up yet. I have it on pretty good authority that her blurb and picture might well be going up on the website this week, so I have been holding off until we had her own words in hand. Rest assured, though, I am not ignoring her many very valid claims on your attention.

So, coming within a few days: an authoritative definition of romantica!

On to the editor du jour, Liz Scheier of Penguin. Right away, I hear alarm bells ringing in the heads of those who have been following this series: Penguin! That’s one of the Pearson Group, isn’t it? That’s a gigantic publisher, so does that mean that they don’t accept unagented work?

See? You really are learning how to think like an industry insider. Make sure to ask Ms. Scheier this question point-blank at the editors’ forum. (Or, if you’re shy about poking someone to whom you may be making a pitch, bribe the person sitting next to you, the one whose nametag indicates that she writes NF or Romance, to do it for you.)

Ms. Scheier edits for Penguin’s New American Library (NAL), including the well-known Roc imprint. While NAL publishes lots and lots of paperbacks, Roc prints SF and Fantasy in hardcover, trade paper, and paperback. (Why is this important? The author’s royalty, expressed as a percentage of the cover price, varies widely by format. The harder the cover, the higher the percentage — and no, the author does not get to pick.)

Heavens, I was getting so carried away with Roc that I forgot to reproduce Ms. Scheier’s blurb from elsewhere on the website:

”Liz Scheier (Editor) spent four years at the Bantam Dell Publishing Group, and left in early 2004 to join the New American Library, a division of the Penguin Group USA. She acquires mainly science fiction, fantasy, and horror for the Roc imprint, but is also interested in biography, humor, popular culture, and works of GLBT interest. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College, where she studied English literature and thereby rendered herself blissfully unemployable in any other field.”

A nice, straightforward blurb: I like it. Checking her recent sales to see how heavily she buys in her other areas of interest, I had a bit of a surprise: Ms. Scheier has been busy as a beaver of late buying an even broader array of books than she has indicated here – not only for Roc, but for NAL proper. Because I love you people, I have broken these acquisitions down by category:

Fiction: SF/Fantasy: Diana Pharaoh Francis’s THE CIPHER, “a series set on and around the strange island of Crosspointe, center of commerce and conspiracies.” (Roc, acquired 2005); Faith Hunter’s BLOODRING, “a dark urban fantasy.” (Roc, in a quite spendy three-book deal, 2005); Author of HAMMERED, Elizabeth Bear’s BLOOD & IRON, WHISKEY & WATER, “a contemporary fantasy about the ages-old war between the realms of Faerie and the human mages of the Promethean Society, told from the point of view of the pawns who will be instrumental in deciding the fate of both worlds.” (Roc, acquired 2005); Janine Cross’s MEMOIRS OF A DRAGONMASTER, “a trilogy of dark and erotic fantasy novels.” (Roc, acquired 2004); Chris Bunch’s fantasy trilogy THE STORM OF WINGS, “comprising Dragonmaster, Knighthood of the Dragon, and The Last Battle, originally published by Orbit/Time Warner UK.” (Roc, acquired 2004); Susan Wright’s TO SERVE AND SUBMIT, an erotic fantasy. (Roc, acquired 2004; there are fantasies and there are fantasies, right?); Marianne de Pierres’ NYLON ANGEL, “a sci-fi (sic) novel of a future Australia and the adventures of Parrish Plessis, bodyguard and all-round survivalist.” (Roc, in a two-book deal, acquired 2004); Rachel Caine’s next three books in the Weather Warden series (Roc, acquired 2004); E.E. Knight’s next three untitled Vampire Earth books (Roc, acquired 2004); Lou Anders’ anthology FUTURESHOCKS, “collecting science fiction and sci-horror stories dealing with fears arising out of social, biological or technological change, with include stories by Kevin J. Anderson, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Mike Resnick and Harry Turtledove, and others.” (Roc, acquired 2004)

Fiction: Women’s /Romance (which, please note, was not on her current interest list, but hey, she bought one of these books as recently as last March, so I’m including it): Lucy Finn’s debut paranormal romance, I DREAM OF DIAPER GENIE (NAL. Acquired 2006); USA Today bestseller Savannah Russe’s next three books in the DARKWING CHRONICLES, “an ALIAS meets BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER thriller/suspense series featuring a vampire recruited by the US government to become a spy.” (NAL, acquired 2006).

Fiction: Mystery (also not on her preference list): Jay Caselberg’s next two untitled Jack Stein mysteries, “featuring a psychic investigator.” (Roc, acquired 2004)

Fiction: YA (again, not on her preference list): Rachel Caine’s GLASS HOUSES, the first novel in a three-book vampire series (NAL, acquired 2005)

NF: Humor: PIRATTITUDE! FROM AHOY TO ZANZIBAR, YOUR PERSONAL GUIDE TO ALL THINGS PIRATE, a humorous book by the inventors of International Talk Like a Pirate Day, sharing their tips on how to work pirate patter into your day-to-day conversation; descriptions of what pirattitude is and how to tell if you’ve got it; and observations of who has pirattitude and who doesn’t.” (Avast, already! NAL, acquired 2004)

All right, campers, notice any patterns? Let’s start first with what isn’t here: biography, pop culture, or (unless I am misreading the descriptions) anything with a GLBT bent. In fact, she doesn’t seem to buy much NF at all, which makes me wonder why she has listed so many NF categories – and not all ones that are hot right now. (A good question for someone to ask her at the editors’ forum, maybe?) If I were planning to pitch NF at the conference, I would try to get an appointment with her, but I’m not sure that she would be my first choice.

On to fiction. Frankly, the only horror I’m seeing here is vampire-oriented fantasy, which raises the rather interesting question of whether she would even consider any non-bloodsucking flavor of horror. The fact that she (or someone in her office) has listed SERVE AND SUBMIT as SF/Fantasy makes me wonder, too, what criteria are being used to categorize the books – or if the editor was doing a little genre-blurring here.

Because my eyebrows were raised a little by this list, and because Ms. Scheier’s transplant from Bantam was fairly recent, I did some checking from farther in her acquisitional past. Take a gander at her last year of sales at Bantam:

Fiction: Chick lit (not a peep about which on her preference list, you will note): Donna Kauffman’s SLEEPING WITH BEAUTY and NOT-SO-SNOW WHITE, “two more fun, sassy chick lit novels, taking a new twist on your average fairy tale.” (Bantam Dell, acquired 2003); Donna Kauffman’s THE CINDERELLA RULES, “a sexy new contemporary novel.” (Bantam, two-book deal, acquired 2002.)

Fiction: mainstream (ditto): “Susan Miller’s untitled story of a Jamaican woman who leaves her beloved daughter in her mother’s care and comes to America in search of a better life, caring for the children of a wealthy Chicago-area family, who must rebuild her life after her six-year-old daughter is killed.” (Bantam Dell, acquired 2003); Sean Murphy’s THE FINISHED MAN (along with one other untitled novel), “a witty satire about a down on his luck (sic) writer in LA, determined to discover the truth about his successful hack writer friend’s new novel that is inexplicably getting great reviews.” (Bantam, acquired 2003; this is presumably not to be confused with all of those non-witty satires out there.)

Almost doesn’t sound like the same editor as the earlier list, does it? Her track history takes an abrupt swerve after she moves to NAL: she apparently used to do women’s and chick lit, which may explain why her SF/Fantasy preferences seem a tad romance-like. As I have pointed out before, the preferences of the publishing house or agency necessarily trump those of the individual editor or agent who works there, but this is quite a strong switch. It makes me wonder if she would still be open, say, to women’s or chick lit, if someone happened to pitch it to her. Or whether she really wanted to be doing Fantasy all along, but Bantam did not want her to go in that direction. Either is possible.

My strongest recommendation, based upon all this evidence: if you write SF, fantasy, or vampire books with a fair amount of pretty flesh in them, this would probably be a GREAT editor meeting for you to have. If your tastes in SF/Fantasy run in other directions, particularly dark ones, head for Liz Gorinsky (she of the genuinely interesting photo next to her conference blurb). If you can manage to score spaces in both of their pitch meetings, great, but looking at their respective track records, I suspect that they define their chosen genres rather differently.

It just goes to show you (again!) that similar words in different editors’ blurbs do not always translate into their liking similar books. Keep reminding yourself: they are all individuals, with personal tastes and quirks. Listening carefully at the editors’ forum can be invaluable for discovering what those works are.

Oh, and one other thing about Ms. Scheier: she has bought a LOT of books in the last three years from Lucienne Diver at Spectrum Literary. So if you absolutely fall in love with what Ms. Scheier says on the editors’ panel, you might want to consider shooting a query off to Ms. Diver seconds after the conference concludes.

On an unrelated note, I had mentioned in yesterday’s post that there are not a whole lot of good books out there geared toward helping writers pitch books, rather than screenplays. Ever-helpful loyal reader Toddie wrote in to point out that Arielle Eckstut (THAT’s a name that should sound pretty familiar by now) and David Henry Sterry’s PUTTING YOUR PASSION INTO PRINT does in fact deal with this issue, “including a sampling of three (pitches) on pp. 88-89.” She reports that the book is primarily geared toward NF.

Thanks for the tip, Toddie! If any of you out there know of good resources for writers anxious to learn how to pitch, please do let me know.

A couple more days, and I think we shall have the editors polished off. Keep up the good work!

– Anne Mini

Editors, Part IV, in which it once again becomes ASTONISHINGLY clear why it’s important to do some background checking before you make your agent and editor selections

Hello, readers –

Pardon my Dickensian title, but today, I am going to be writing about an editor with such a specific specialty — AND from a house that accepts unagented work, no less — that the idea that any of you out there who write in her area might NOT be aware of her preferences prior to making your conference choices…well, let’s just say that it’s not a prospect I like very much. And WHY would someone registering for the conference NOT know what this particular editor buys? Say it with me now: because she did not post a blurb on the PNWA site.

In case you’re tuning in late to find me apoplectic, welcome to my ongoing series on the editors who are scheduled to attend this summer’s PNWA conference. I have been gleaning as much information as I can on them, so you may make your appointment choices wisely. If you are looking for the scoop on the agents who will be attending, check out my EXTENSIVE series on them, April 26 through May 17.

Okay, back to my jumping up and down. If you have already registered for the conference online (which is easy to do! On this very website!), you may have noticed the name of Carrie Obry in the editors’ column. Being a thoughtful, observant kind of person, you might perhaps have wondered (a) what publishing house currently employs her and (b) what kind of books she is empowered to acquire. Little things like that. If you have been following this series on editors, you might also have – because you are so clever – wondered IF she is empowered to acquire unagented work.

If you did indeed wonder these things, my bright-as-buttons friends, and that wonder made you hesitate about selecting her as an appointment choice, congratulations! You are thinking like a publishing professional. One of the great rules of the industry: never buy a pig in a poke.
I’m not entirely sure what a poke is, in its natural state, but in this context, it means don’t do business with people whose credentials you don’t know.

That’s really what made Random House look bad in the eyes of the industry in the A MILLION LITTLE PIECES debacle, you know — not that they might have knowingly perpetuated a fraud upon the reading public (which happens too frequently to stir much comment, and besides, didn’t the book sell considerably better AFTER the scandal broke?), but that they did not do the requisite checking to see, say, how long Mssr. Frey had actually been in jail. And, since the book had originally been pitched as fiction, the industry expectation would have been that they would ask at least a FEW questions before the book hit the shelves at Borders.

A corollary of the great rule is that specialization saves busy people time. Remember yesterday’s post, where I told the story of the editor who scoffed when I suggested that there were writers out there who would hold off on submitting their work to agents on the strength of an editor’s conference request to see the first chapter? His attitude was far from unusual: few annoyances are as deeply resented within the industry as having one’s time wasted. So the idea that any reasonable person would sit immobile for three to six months while someone he had barely met did or didn’t get around to reading his submission, without taking prudent further steps to promote the work, was absurd, within his worldview. This is an industry where it does pay to be proactive.

In that spirit, then, I tracked down some facts on Carrie Obry, who (and it may surprise you to hear this, after the preceding diatribe) should probably be your top-ranked editor if you write NF on alternative health, healing, or New Age-oriented self-help. Because, you see, not only is Ms. Obry an editor at St. Paul-based Llewellyn, near the top of the heap of New Age publishing houses, but she was hired in 2003 SPECIFICALLY to expand Llewellyn’s offerings in these areas.

So: yoga, anyone? (And no jokes, please, from those of you familiar with Llewellyn’s line of tarot and divination books: no, I don’t think Ms. Obry expected us to find out where she worked through skrying or passing a pendulum over Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers.)

Oh, and did I forget to mention that Llewellyn not only accepts, but encourages submissions from unagented writers? Bless them, Whomever, because they make their submission guidelines so very easy for prospective authors to find.

If you are unfamiliar with Llewellyn’s traditional strengths (they produce a very beautifully-packaged astrological calendar series every year, for example), check out their website and see whom they are publishing these days. Fair warning: because they primarily produce esoterica, a LOT of their authors seem to write under pseudonyms. If you are in the greater Seattle area, it’s even easier to get a sense of their offerings: East/West Books on 65th and Roosevelt usually is stuffed to the brim with their titles.

I am harping on Llewellyn a little, because in the past, I have met quite a few authors at the PNWA conference who habitually preface their pitches with, “I know you’re not going to believe that this is a true story, but…” or “Most mainstream publishers are really hostile to channeled work, but…” If you have ever uttered these phrases, or ones like them, in connection to your writing, Llewellyn might be an excellent fit for you. The house’s motto, “new worlds of mind and spirit,” seems to be genuinely reflective of their acquisition philosophy: they are open to innovative approaches, and they are not overly fettered by a sense of normalcy.

Llewellyn describes its offerings in Ms. Obry’s area as books that “will encourage you to take a healthy degree of responsibility for your wellness by giving you the tools to understand it — holistically.” Traditionally, the house’s preference has been for books that are very straightforwardly hands-on; be the book about how to hold a séance or how to have tantric sex, they like clear how-to writing on esoteric subjects.

If you are curious about what this translates into in terms of sentence and paragraph structure, Ms. Obry wrote a column on sound healing some years ago for New Worlds, Llewellyn’s magazine/catalog. In it, Ms. Obry was kind enough to define true health, à la Llewellyn:

”True health involves the whole you — mind, body and spirit. These days, I hope no one will refute that, but we workaday folks, as involved as we are with mundane demands, can easily forget to incorporate patterns that support holistic health into our daily lives. Rarely would we hesitate to see a doctor and take medication if we had strep throat, but what do we usually do if we feel disengaged, anxious, stressed, overworked or over-stimulated? Don’t accept the popular message that these unpleasant states are endemic to our busy and disconnected consumer age. Empowering yourself by nourishing your mental health will have a positive impact on your wellbeing — and you will have fun while doing it.”

If you are planning to pitch a self-help or health book that is not very New Age in philosophy, do not be too quick to dismiss Llewellyn as a possible publisher; Ms. Obry sounds as though she might be open to a very non-woo woo book on incorporating healthful practices into everyday life. It is probably worth trying to finagle a seat at one of her group pitch meetings, if you could fit your book into that mold. However, as the meeting rosters of editors who do not post pitches tend to fill up more slowly than those who do, you might want to rank another editor first, if your work is easily accessible to a more mainstream audience – and then rush to the appointments table as soon as they open, to see if you can slip into one of Ms. Obry’s groups.

I have a very serious caveat to append to this advice, however. Since we do not have information from Ms. Obry herself, and since the information I was able to find on her editorial habits was a couple of years old, it is in fact possible that her preferences have changed in the interim. It is even theoretically possible that she no longer works at Llewellyn. The logic above may – and I dread to say this, but it is not inconceivable – may not be a trustworthy guide.

I’m just being honest here.

How can you find out for sure? The same way that you would with an agent who did not provide a conference blurb: go to the editors’ forum at the conference and listen carefully to what Ms. Obry says she is looking to acquire. There is no way that you could conceivably get more up-to-the-minute preference information than that.

You see, I have been hanging around the publishing industry long enough that I don’t like the idea of any of you buying a pig in a poke.

Keep up the good work!

– Anne Mini

P.S. to the loyal reader who wrote in asking for recommendations for books on pitching: since verbal pitches (as opposed to written ones) are actually not the primary medium by which writers gain the attention of agents and editors, there is surprisingly little out there specifically designed to help writers prepare for this daunting process. I shall do some investigation, however. In the meantime, the practice of verbal pitching by the author is borrowed wholesale from the motion picture industry, where screenwriters give verbal pitches all the time. Check out the screenwriting section of a well-stocked bookstore, and see if you can find a book with a good how-to chapter for fledgling screenwriters.

That being said, don’t forget to mark your calendar for June 24, my class on how to prepare yourself for a pitch meeting!

Editors, Part III: Boys and their toys

Hello, readers –

I’m going to begin on a personal note today: thanks to all of you who have been writing in to congratulate me about my memoir’s coming out, but no matter what Amazon is saying about the book, it has NOT been released. Not even a little bit.

To the best of my knowledge, the review copies haven’t even gone out yet, so I’m not sure why Amazon is saying otherwise (as, I’m told, are some bookstores). I’ve asked my publisher to look into this, but to be perfectly honest, I have absolutely no idea when the book is coming out. Really. I wouldn’t kid about such a thing.

And if it surprises you that the author might not be kept in the loop about that sort of information — welcome to the publishing industry, baby. The author is often the last to know about major decisions about her own book. I did not even see the book cover prototype before it was posted online — which I discovered by accident — featuring a title that I had thought was still the subject of spirited debate. Not only have I been left out of the loop, I’m not even sure that the loop has ever visited my time zone.

When it does come out, trust me, my readers will be the first to know. Or at any rate, the first to know after I know it myself.

Okay, that off my chest, we can get back to business. Welcome to the third installment of my series on the editors scheduled to attend this summer’s PNWA conference. (If you are looking for information about the attending agents, in order to make your ranking choices wisely, please see my postings for April 26 to May 17.)

I’ve heard a little grumbling out there after last week’s posts, where I broke the news that since most of the major publishing houses have firm policies specifically precluding the possibility of acquiring unagented work, it is highly unlikely that even an editor who ADORES your conference pitch will attempt to pick up your book directly. It does happen, from time to time, with editors from smaller houses with less draconian policies, but generally speaking, the best an editor from a major house can do for a conference attendee is provide a sterling recommendation to an agent to handle your book.

It is very, very easy to lose sight of this fact at a conference, especially when you’ve just heard a fabulous speech at the editors’ forum by an editor who seems perfect for your work. Once they start waxing philosophical, editors tend to sound very much as though they are at the conference SOLELY to acquire books, but history tends to show otherwise. If you find yourself starting to doubt this when you hear them speak at the forum, shoot your paw in the air immediately and ask point-blank how many of them acquire unagented work.

Then listen to the dull, unconscious moan that rises from the crowd after the answer.

At conferences past, both locally and elsewhere, I have seen the responses to this question clear an editor’s appointment schedule faster than an earthquake sends people scurrying under the nearest table. But, as I said last week, there are a number of very solid reasons to go ahead and make a pitch to an editor from a major house. Just do not go into the meeting expecting to be discovered, and you can get a great deal out of it.

”Wait just a second,” I hear the more conference-experienced of you out there murmuring. “I’ve been at editorial appointments where an editor from a major house asked for my first chapter. In fact, I’ve been to appointments where the editor asked everyone at the table to send him something. If the majors don’t take unagented work, why would he do that?”

An excellent question, and one with a very, very simple answer — or rather, with one nice public answer and one less nice private one. The public answer is that conscientious conference organizers like the PNWA’s generally extract a promise from attending editors that they will be open to having SOME writers send them submissions. This is why — and we’ve all seen this happen — sometimes editors will just ask everyone at the meeting table to send the first chapter. Some editorial assistant will read it, and the promise will have been fulfilled.

Don’t be surprised, though, if the promise takes months to be fulfilled, or if you do not hear back from the editor at all — because, you see, the major houses are simply not set up to receive submissions from unagented writers. Thus, without the well-regulated pattern of nagging, “Have you read it yet?” calls a good agent provides, conference submissions tend to fall through the cracks.

It is completely legitimate to ask an editor at a conference what kind of turn-around time to expect, but don’t be floored if it is expressed in months, rather than weeks. A couple of years ago, right after I won the PNWA Zola award for best NF book, I was in a group pitch meeting with an editor from St. Martin’s. As I have both friends and clients who have published through St. Martin’s, I was aware of their policy about unagented work (con), so I asked the editor what kind of turn-around time my tableful of colleagues should expect from him.

”Three to six months,” he answered, straight-faced.

Readers, I couldn’t help it: I started to laugh, with rather annoyed the gentleman. He was probably just being honest. We subsequently had a rather interesting little conversation (which I’m not sure mollified him much) about how conference-going writers often hang their hopes on the implied editorial promise to read their submissions, and thus (unwisely, I think) don’t continue sending out queries while they are waiting to hear back from the editor who seemed so nice at the conference. The editor professed not to be aware that writers did this: “It’s a business,” he scoffed. “They should know better than to spend that much time on a single prospect.”

You will forgive me, I hope, if I heard this as a pretty explicit directive not to bother to send him anything at all.

So why, I hear you wondering, would an editor at a major house bother to have an assistant read conference-gleaned submissions in the first place? For one very simple reason: because your book may be the next DA VINCI CODE, that’s why. Nobody wants to be the editor who had the chance to buy the rights to a blockbuster for a couple of thousand dollars and blew it. No, everybody wants to be the editor who recognized the embryonic talent and directed it to an agent with the implicit understanding that no other editor would see the work and bid it up before he acquires it himself.

Hey, I’m just the messenger here.

Again: think about what else you can get out of your editorial appointment, and walk in determined to make such a good impression that you will be laying the groundwork for a possible future discussion, years from now, about your work.

On to our editor du jour, David Moldawer, who works at Riverhead, a division of Penguin. Mighty big publishing house, Putnam, with policies, I believe, similar to others of its size. Here’s what Mr. Moldower had to say about himself in the blurb he gave to the PNWA:

” David Moldawer (Editor) is an editorial assistant at Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA). David is looking to acquire nonfiction books on pop culture, science, technology, the internet, and psychology. Secondarily, he is seeking smart, funny fiction targeted at a younger male demographic.

” Prior to Riverhead, David worked at W. W. Norton & Company and Arcade Publishing.”

Okay, those of you who have been following the whole series, let’s see how well you have been paying attention. Mr. Moldawer has told you something VERY important in this blurb, but you would have had to be pretty familiar with the preferences of the agents coming to the conference to notice it. Any guesses?

One of the major patterns yours truly noticed in this year’s crop of agents is that an unusually high percentage of them were explicitly looking for books aimed at young men. This is surprising, because young men (and men in general) are not the biggest buyers of books in North America, outside of certain genres. So when I see an editor express an interest in them as his ONLY fiction preference, I begin to suspect that he may, let’s say, be open to back-room at the conference collaborations with those agents who share his preferences. I would suspect, perhaps wrongly, that he might have remotely considered the possibility of hooking up authors of these kinds of works with those agents on an informal basis. If I were being very conspiracy-minded, I might draw the conclusion that he has already talked to these agents about it.

So here is how I read the tealeaves on this one: if you write for men under 50, and your work is even vaguely humorous: find a way to score a seat in one of Mr. Moldawer’s group
pitch sessions. Otherwise…yes, it’s a chance to practice your pitch, but you might want to make an appointment elsewhere.

If you are unsure if your writing would interest Mr. Moldawer, check out his rather hefty web presence, starting with his personal website. Here’s what he says about himself there:

“David Moldawer is a writer, playwright, and videographer living in New York City. A Manhattan native, he graduated from Amherst College with a B.A. in Theater in 2000, and has been writing and making videos ever since. His plays have won teeny little awards and notices here and there, and his story, Scotty Buys a Pair of Scrubs, was published in the Portland Review…David works in editorial at a prestigious publishing imprint, and lives with his girlfriend and their dog.”

He sounds like an interesting guy, doesn’t he? He’s a short story writer in his own right (so he should have known better than to introduce characters with so little character development: what KIND of dog? Who IS this girlfriend, and is she in the videos?), whose personal tastes in fiction run to SF – he regularly writes reviews of new SF releases. But please, SF writers, don’t get your hopes up: I could not find one scintilla of evidence that Mr. Moldower is in a position to acquire SF books, alas. (Riverhead’s list focuses on literary fiction, narrative NF, memoirs – none of which are noted for being the reading preference of those sporting Y chromosomes, I might point out. They also publish spiritual texts — seriously, the Dalai Lama is one of their authors.) This confirmed my gut feeling on the subject: in one of his many personal blurbs floating around in the ether, Mr. Moldower reports that he “unleashes his inner geek writing reviews of the latest scifi (sic) books.” (As those of you fond of the genre already know, insiders have never called it sci fi, however spelled: amongst the cognoscenti, it is always SF or not abbreviated at all.) But then, he is quite young (he’s only been out of college for 6 years), and junior editors move around a lot: he might well end up editing SF some day.

If I were going to spend half an hour of my life, sitting around with an editor from a major publishing house who is not going to buy my work and listening to other people’s pitches, I have to say, Mr. Moldower sounds as though he would be a good choice for a table companion. I’m always a big fan of publishing professionals who have the personal guts to keep writing and sending out their own work, so they know what the process feels like from both sides. And Riverhead, from all I hear, is a good place to be a first-time author – although their reputation for that rests in their literary fiction, which he is apparently not seeking.

So would I pitch Mr. Moldower a literary novel, memoir, narrative NF, or spirituality book, since he did not specify that he is looking for these strengths of his imprint? Personally, I would not schedule an appointment in advance to do so, for as I said above, I think he’s coming here looking for something else. However, if I liked him at the editors’ forum, and if some spaces in his group pitch sessions opened up (possibly after some of his scheduled appointment-holders ask whether his house takes unagented work?), I might make the effort.

More editors to follow tomorrow – I really do want to finish up this week, so I can move on to discussing other conference matters, like how to construct a pitch. And for those of you who haven’t yet done so, mark your calendars now: on June 24, I shall be teaching a Writing Connections class on getting through your pitch without fainting or screaming. If you live within driving distance of Seattle, I would love to see you there!

Keep up the good work!

– Anne Mini

The Editors, Part II: The rara avis

Hello, readers –

Welcome to Day Two of my series on the editors who will be attending the PNWA conference, to help you pick your appointments wisely. (If you missed my series on the attending agents, check out my archived blogs from April 26 to May 17.) Forgive me if I’m a trifle terse today — developments with my memoir stole away virtually ALL of my writing time today, I’m afraid. (Sorry not to be able to be more specific — my posts of March 30 and April 18 explain at some length the legal reasons I cannot — but I suspect that very soon, I shall be able to fill my readers in on every gory detail. Stay tuned.)

Even in my terseness, I do want to address the issue of what you should and should not expect from an editorial meeting at a conference. Those new to the game often walk into these meetings hoping that if an editor falls in love with their book, they can bypass the agent-finding stage entirely and go directly to a publication contract. A net savings of years!

However, as I explained yesterday, these days, this dynamic is really only at all likely with an editor from a small publishing house. Most of the major publishing houses have ironclad rules against picking up unagented books, so even if you make the best pitch since Columbus convinced Ferdinand and Isabella that there was gold in the New World, the absolute most it is reasonable to hope for here is the editor’s offering to introduce you to a good agent.

Don’t sneer at this — the right introduction could save you years on the road to publication; editors seldom make these recommendations unless they have already decided to buy the book. Another good possible outcome — the editor says, “Hmm, that sounds like an intriguing project. When you find an agent, have her send me the manuscript.” Again, such offers are generally not made lightly, so thank the editor profusely and pocket her business card for future use.

Otherwise, the rewards of these appointments tend to be rather intangible.

So what SHOULD you expect to get out of your meeting with an editor? A chance to make a personal connection with a publishing professional who might be able to help you down the line, a chance to practice and polish your pitch, and an opportunity to conduct yourself like the professional writer you are, networking with and supporting other writers. Anything else is gravy, but if you walk in with a positive attitude, you can always gain at least these three things from any editorial meeting at a conference.

If the editor is a conscientious one (and not too tired from hearing 50 pitches an hour all weekend), you can also expect to get some feedback on your pitch. Listen carefully: editors hear hundreds of pitches per week, so they are pretty fair barometers of what the industry is thinking at the moment. If there is a bestseller out there that your book resembles, the editor will often mention it; if books like yours are out of fashion, he will often mention that, too. Take notes on what the editor says about your project, as well as what he says about others’, and use this information to make your work sound more market-appealing.

Others, did I say? Well, yes: at PNWA, editorial appointments are almost always group affairs, 5-15 eager writers all sitting around a round table, pitching one at a time. It really is in your interests not to be competitive in this situation (see explanation above about the agenting preferences of the major houses, and yesterday’s about the value of being conspicuously charming in these meetings), so listen politely and attentively. Show a little community spirit toward your fellow writers — laugh at their jokes, and make appreciative noises when they mention an intriguing plot point. To coin a phrase, do unto them as you would have them do unto you. If you embrace the meeting as a great opportunity to meet other writers and hear about their work, I guarantee that you will get more out of the experience than if you avoid interaction, merely nervously waiting for your turn to pitch your own work.

More on conference strategy follows, but for now, let’s move on to the editor du jour, Liz Gorinsky of Tor. Here is her blurb from elsewhere on this very site:

”Liz Gorinsky (Editor) is an Assistant Editor at Tor Books, where she edits a list that includes acclaimed fantasy authors Dave Duncan, Cherie Priest, and Jeff VanderMeer. She also assists editors Ellen Datlow, Jim Frenkel, and Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

”Liz is primarily interested in acquiring books in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. She tends to prefer works that are dark, weird, literary, or genre-bending, have feminist or GBLT interest, or are some combination of the above; but has been known to surprise herself. As an avid fan of theatre and comic books, she is also open to looking at fantastical works in either of those mediums.

”Liz came to Tor after studying English, psychology, and computer science at Columbia College in New York City, but she is much more likely to draw on skills learned during a three year stint as president of the Columbia University Science Fiction Society. She currently lives in Brooklyn with three roommates.”

I’m not quite sure the purpose of telling us about her roommates, except perhaps to remind conference attendees that NYC rents are legendarily high, and assistant editors do not typically make a whole lot of money. It is worth recalling: when you are sitting in front of a person who has the power to make or break your book, it is easy to think of her as all-powerful, but in point of fact, it’s not a very lucrative job. Most editors honestly do go into it because they love books, believe it or not.

Because Ms. Gorinsky is an assistant editor — and thus, as she tells us, often edits work acquired by other editors, I am not completely comfortable relying upon the standard industry databases as an indicator of her interests. Since Tor operates mostly in paperback, which has a higher turnover than hardback, your safest bet is probably to go to a well-stocked bookstore with a solid SF/Fantasy section and look up the authors she lists above. To widen your search, do be aware that Tor also publishes a very broad array of SF and fantasy: in fact, Tor has won the Locus Award for Best Publisher for the past 15 years running. To make your search a little easier, here are some of the writers currently publishing under the Tor imprint, in alpha order:

Roger MacBride Allen, Kevin J. Anderson, Catherine Asaro, Steven Barnes, Lisa Barnett, TA Barron, Greg Bear, Joanne Bertin, John Betancourt, Terry Bisson, Margaret Wander Bonnano, Ben Bova, Richard Bowes, Steven Brust, Pat Cadigan, Ramsey Campbell, Orson Scott Card, Jonathan Carroll, Raphael Carter, Jeffrey A. Carver, Jack L. Chalker, Stephen Chambers, Suzy McKee Charnas, Bryan Cholfin, Hal Clement, Brenda Clough, David B. Coe, Storm Constantine, Greg Costikyan, Kathryn Cramer, Tony Daniel, Jack Dann, Ellen Datlow, Pamela Dean, Keith RA DeCandido, Charles de Lint, Carole Nelson Douglas, Debra Doyle & James D. Macdonald, David Drake, Diane Duane, Rosemary Edghill, Brad Ferguson, Robert L. Forward, Gregory Frost, Lisa Goldstein, Terry Goodkind, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Steven Gould & Laura J. Mixon, Terence M. Green, Jack C. Haldeman II, Thomas Harlan, David G. Hartwell, Elizabeth Haydon, Kij Johnson, Janet Kagen, David Keck, James Patrick Kelly, Elizabeth Kerner, Katharine Kerr, Donald Kingsbury, Nancy Kress, Ellen Kushner, Mercedes Lackey, Geoffrey A. Landis, Warren Lapine, Justin Leiber, Paul Levinson, Shariann Lewitt, David Lubar, Brian Lumley, Michael Marano, Marc Matz, Paul McAuley, Anne McCaffrey, Wil McCarthy, Terry McGarry, Maureen McHugh, Donna McMahon, Sean McMullen, Beth Meacham, Melisa C. Michaels, Karen Michalson, Sasha Miller, Pat Murphy, Linda Nagata, Yvonne Navarro, Sharan Newman, Andre Norton, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Patrick O’Leary, Rebecca Ore, Clifford Pickover, Frederik Pohl, Jerry Pournelle, Christopher Priest, Michael Reaves, Kit Reed, Katya Reimann, Mike Resnick, Madeleine E. Robins, Spider Robinson, Michaela Roessner, Joel Rosenberg, Rudy Rucker, Fred Saberhagen, Robert J. Sawyer, Frank Schaefer, Melissa Scott, Robert Sheckley, Charles Sheffield, Brian Francis Slattery, Joan Slonczewksi, Sherwood Smith, Stephanie Smith, SP Somtow, Norman Spinrad, John E. Stith, Diann Thornley, Dave Trowbridge, Joan D. Vinge, Jo Walton, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Peter Watts, Robert Weinberg, Martha Wells, Jack Whyte, Walter Jon Williams, F. Paul Wilson, Terri Windling, John Wright, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and Jane Yolen.

Seem a trifle extreme that I listed them all? I was trying to make a point about editors in general, and Tor in particular. SF/Fantasy covers a LOT of different kinds of prose, just as any general category does; there are authors on this list who really don’t have anything in common except their chosen genre and the fact that their work is published by Tor.

Out of this impressive list, Ms. Gorinsky has chosen to tell you about only three: Dave Duncan, Cherie Priest, and Jeff VanderMeer. If this is your area, and you have your heart set on wowing Ms. G, I have a suggestion: figure out what makes these three writers’ work stand out in the larger list. How is it different from that of other Tor authors? Once you’ve figured that out, look at your own book: does it share qualities with those of Mr. Duncan, Ms. Priest, or Mr. VanderMeer? If so, can you work those qualities into the first couple of lines of your pitch?

That may sound like a whole lot of work between now and the conference, but if you write in Ms. Gorinsky’s chosen areas, it’s well worth doing. Why? Because — wait for it — TOR ACCEPTS UNAGENTED MANUSCRIPTS. This means, realistically, that Ms. Gorinsky is one of the only editors attending the conference who could actually acquire a book directly from an author she met there.

Let’s all pause for a moment to let those delicious little facts seep into our craniums.

Why, then, did I preface her write-up with an explanation of why editors almost never pick up books at conferences? So you would properly value your opportunity to pitch to Ms. Gorinsky, my friends. In the conference world, an editor at a good publishing house who is willing to read unagented work is as rare as a Bengal tiger: yes, they still do turn up occasionally in the wild, but it’s getting harder and harder to spot them.

And because it’s best to be prepared well in advance of when you walk into a meeting with any publishing professional, here is the link to Tor’s submission guidelines.

Have a great weekend, everybody. Keep up the good work!

– Anne Mini