Thursday, July 31, 2008

An evening wasted is a calorie retained...

...perhaps with a few more added to keep the first one company.

I'd feel better about myself as an acquisitions editor if I had just slightly altered the way I do things. Anything to remove one ounce of stress from my shoulders helps. Once a week I read submissions to Phaze - had I more time, I could add a day to that schedule and whittle the queue down to a manageable number. Alas, the pile is a bit slushy but I have a nice pair of waders, and do my best to keep turnaround to about 60 days. Believe you me, this is pretty good for most publishers, when you consider some NY houses can take up to a year getting back to you on works. I could swear it's been ten years and counting with some places on a mystery manuscript that has since been published and taken out of print. Or maybe it was rejected, who can remember?

So this is my procedure for reading potential Phaze works:

1) I read the work. Usually I can tell right away if the work suits our house. I've heard some authors' frustration with certain houses rejecting their books because the hero and heroine weren't screwing by paragraph twelve - that's not a dealbreaker with us, but I do look for a certain amount of sexual tension and activity. The story also needs to draw me further, too, and make me want to read more. What is challenging here is that I have to look at the book two ways - as an editor and as a third-party reader.

As an editor, is this book going to require a huge chunk of my time to polish? Is the first chapter so riddled with errors that I'm wondering if the author didn't proof it before sending it over? What does that tell me about the author's willingness to work at completing a salable product?

As a reader who has purchased previous books from the house, is this something that would interest me? Are the characters likeable, and is the subject matter to my liking? Is the sex hot and emotional, passionate and real?

Sometimes a book will not pass the test, and I must unfortunately say no. Hurts to do it - I've had it done to me and it's not fun. It's why I try not to send rejects on holidays, which are normally good days for me to read. Who wants a day off spoiled like that?

2) When I read a book I think I'd like to contract, I Google the author to study the depth of his/her online exposure. Is there a website (surprisingly, sometimes there isn't), blog, MySpace, Facebook, etc.? Are they published elsewhere? Yes, some authors do send supporting information, but it is at the sites of other publishers where I can find supplemental clues to the potential they can bring to us. Are they listed among the bestsellers with their pubs, with Fictionwise, etc.? Now, if they are not, it doesn't mean I'll pass on the work. I just like to have a good idea about the author who may become a part of this house, and how we can mutually contribute to each other's success.

Now, the reason for this post: Sometimes I'll look up an author and discover the very book I've read has been contracted elsewhere...and I have no record of the author e-mailing me to let me know. It's a slap in the face to learn I spent time reading and evaluating a work that is no longer available to me. My time is precious. Since taking on publisher duties, I have had to sacrifice my own personal writing time to build this house. Depending on the length of a work, I could invest several hours reading and deciding if I want it. To discover that time is wasted makes me very upset - I could have used that time editing a contracted work, fixing our website, or working on my own book.

I don't know if this bothers the authors in question who do not, or forget to, extend the courtesy of informing other publishers their works are taken, but consider this: some publishers have long memories. Were you to submit again, do you think we won't take that into consideration? Also, when your previous book is released, do you think I'll buy it? I don't have to, I read it for free!

I admit, I could research authors before reading the submissions, but it's not a guarantee things like this will cease. Some authors may remain mum about announcements, or perhaps I might not find anything on the author to know what's happening. All I request of authors is that if you submit something to me that is simulataneously sent elsewhere, let me know if you accept another contract before I contact you. You will save me time and energy, and I need both very badly. Don't think, either, that if you write to withdraw a work that it means I'm going to write you off for good. You might be surprised.

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