Writing Excuses Episode 29: Talking Publishing with Lou Anders

So what exactly does an editor, do, anyway? We’ve already talked about the process of submitting to an editor; today we talk about the millions of vital things that happen after an editor says “I want to buy your book.” Not only that, but we get to hear it all straight from the mouth of Lou Anders, the Hugo-nominated editor from Pyr Books, who this year alone helped create a Hugo-nominated book and two Campbell-nominated authors. In other words: when this man talks about editing, you listen.

Lou Anders

Pyr Books


45 thoughts on “Writing Excuses Episode 29: Talking Publishing with Lou Anders”

  1. Thank you! I’m looking to be an editor some day, so hearing about what goes on from an editor was awesome. It was also really interesting to hear more about Pyr. I picked up on them a few months ago, but I didn’t know much about them because I hadn’t read any of their books. Thanks to the Trio and thanks to Lou.

  2. Did you hear the furtive coughing in the background? Yeah, that was me. I finally decided to unclip my mic and run around the corner and hack up a chunk of ink-stained “cartoonist’s Black Lung.”

  3. I was surprised that no one commented on it duirng the podcast. ^_^ Hope you feel better.

  4. I’m still geeking out that we got Lou on the show. Pyr is one of the best publishers in the world, and he more or less built it from scratch over the last three years.

  5. Editors… haha.. I think I will have to finish and improve my writing first if I to ever see one face to face.

    Just a question based on the podcast… and this came up few other podcasts: how do you develop voices/style?

    I notice that a lot of times, you three mention it’s the style/voice that sells the book, not plots and what not.

    So my question to anyone who care to answer would be, how do you go about working on that? Doesn’t style and voice depend on what story you are writing?

    By the way, my understanding of ‘voice’ is… the voice of narrator whether it’s in 3rd person or 1st person.

    Thanks and love the podcast, btw. :P

  6. I am totally fascinated by the business end of all of this, and this was another great podcast on the subject. I think the big voice we are missing now is the voice of the agent. I just finished reading “On Writing” by Stephen King as per the recommendation of Dan (I think) in an earlier podcast. (Yes, everything you recommend immediately goes into my request queue with my online account with the NY Public Library!) I really loved everything that the King had to say on the subject of approaching agents. And I’d love to hear more from agents themselves.

  7. Since there are no writing prompts in the podcast. Here are some I made up.

    Writing Prompt: Describe a story in which a principled high born character must eat human flesh. They must be doing this for some other reason than to survive. What reasons can you think of?

    Writing prompt: Take a heroic character from a public domain story and recast them as the villain. Then make the main villain the anti-hero of the story.

    Writing Prompt: Take ten classic villains from public domain fiction and make them into anti-heroes. What changes needed to be made? Now revise them into characters for your own story.

  8. 1. Just a question based on the podcast… and this came up few other podcasts: how do you develop voices/style?
    2. So my question to anyone who care to answer would be, how do you go about working on that? Doesn’t style and voice depend on what story you are writing?

    I second that question! The way I’ve heard it, is that it can not be taught. Is this true?

  9. Pingback: SF Signal
  10. This episode mentioned the process of ‘hurry up and wait’. Is two years a standard waiting period? I’m wondering because my first novel has an as-yet unfinished sequel. I’ve planned to wait and submit both novels to publishers. But now I’m thinking maybe I should get the first manuscript out job-hunting since there’s such a lengthy wait. Good idea? Bad?

    Thanks for everything.

  11. I would absolutely start shopping your first one before the second is finished, because the second book is not likely to sway a publisher’s decision. If your first book is good enough to publish, they’ll buy it whether the second is written or not ; if the first book is not good enough to publish, they won’t want the second one anyway. While the first book is out, and even after it’s accepted, you’ll have plenty of time to write your next few books. You should ALWAYS have something out for consideration while you’re at home busily writing your next thing.

  12. C: From everything I’ve heard and read, (correct me if I’m wrong, anyone) your best bet is to just submit the first novel while you finish the second one. Dan mentioned in this podcast just how long it’s taking for him to get his book published – I think he said that there’s still a year-and-a-half wait before his book hits the shelves, and that his editor contacted him about a year ago. Waits like that are pretty common in publishing, I think. And that’s just since he got an offer – nevermind the time spent querying and all the rest of it.

    And you’re definitely better off pitching one book at a time. You only have one page for a query letter anyway; and you’re not going to get a publisher to read the second book unless they like the first. From the lurking I’ve been doing on agent/editor/author blogs, it seems the way to deal with something like that in a query is to mention that it’s a “stand-alone book with potential for a sequel” or something to that effect. But definitely pitch one book at a time. And don’t wait ;)

  13. …Uh, yeah. Just imgaine that entire post from me reads “what Dan said”, ’cause he said it first, and better. Damnit!

    Oh, and thanks to Lou for guesting on the podcast :)

  14. Um, after listening to this latest several times yesterday, I’m not sure whether I am encouraged or terrified of trying my hand as a professional writer.
    Kind of odd, I went from totally enthusiastic during the Foglio episode, to wanting to crawl back in whatever dark hole I had drug my meager ambitions from just fifteen minutes later. I’m not sure whether to thank you or curse you. I think I will just email Brandon and torment him.

  15. For some reason I can’t get the whole podcast. I hit ‘play’ and get anywhere between 10 seconds and 1 minute 30 seconds, and then it craps out and stops getting any more… downloading it as an mp3 has the same problem. File download craps out after 900K, 1 meg, 1.63 megs, 1.69 megs, or weirdly, claimes to be finished after 2 megs (which is only a minute of play-time)…

    Anyone else having this problem? I’m gonna have a friend download it and send it to me.

  16. WEKM:
    Do not be discouraged by the requirement to be excellent–that should actually enliven you and excite you. Where else but in art do you have the specific mandate to stretch yourself and be more than you think you can be? Most jobs in America encourage competence: you’re not supposed to stand out, you’re supposed to fit into a prescribed box and do the job they ask of you. In art (in our case, writing and editing) there are literally no limits–you can be as big and as awesome as you want, and no one will ever hold you back and say, “please, just stay in the box.” So Lou was right when he said he offered simultaneous warning and encouragement: this is a business where you have to shine, but don’t you want to be in a business like that?

  17. @ frustrated

    Trying clearing your browser cache (e.g. temporary internet files), if there was a connection time out during the first time you tried to get the file your browser probably thinks that’s all there is when you try to grab it a second time.

  18. @frustrated

    One other suggestion — when I compare myself to the top authors, forget it, I might as well take up knitting. But go out there and pick up some of the . . . less-well-known authors? Read their stuff. For some reason, knowing that trash like that gets published makes me feel more confident. Damn, I can do better than that — and you can too! So let’s show them what we can do, right?

  19. Thanks for the encouragement Dan.
    At the moment I work in the explosives industry. While I just LOVE my job, it is not exactly one in which you want to “shine”. As well, doing things outside the box in it can at best lead to a failed shot, or at worst someone’s death.
    I guess I was just intimidated a bit. There are times where I want nothing more than to be a writer, and others like that day where I just want to make sure my family is taken care of and indulge my hobby on my free time.
    Who knows, maybe one day I will get up the nerve to submit something, but for now I will content myself with practicing and trying to improve my craft. When I do get around to it, you guys are going to get a LOT of credit. Your podcasts have been a huge help in a lot of areas I have been shaky and opened new areas for me to explore.
    Keep up the great work and I will be looking forward to the next cast.

  20. Drat, anyone else finding it impossible to download this episode? I’ve had zero trouble with the site until now but whenever I try to get episode 29 my connection is really bad at about 20kbps. And the connection freezes repeatedly. I tried blanking the cache but no luck. As to when it quits downloading it seems to be completely random.

    This is rather strange since I don’t get trouble if I try to download or listen to anything else on the site…

  21. Yeah, clearing the browser cache, much like ze goggles, does nothing. Trying a different browser, nothing.

    And I have yet to persuade someone else to download it and send it to me.

    Tamren, you’re not the only one.

    If it was a caching issue on my machine, the file should break at the same spot every time. It breaks anywhere between 11 seconds and about 1 minute 35 seconds, though. And, of course, a caching issue would hardly come up on a different browser.

    I’ve been able to listen to the past 28 episodes without fail, over the past few months. However, now if I try to listen to any of the past episodes, I run into the same problem.

    Whatever is handling the file transfer seems to just pack up and go home, after a certain point. And when playing in-page, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of mechanism that tells the player, “okay, you have played all that I sent, BUT I WILL SEND MORE”…. If the player reaches the end of the material thus far received, the player simply kills itself- it doesn’t wait for the rest of the file or try to reestablish its connection. If I could pause the playback, wait for half an hour for the file to load, and then play it, that would be… not good, but certainly it would be acceptable.

  22. I also find it impossible to download this episode. I can’t listen to it using the player either. It starts downloading, but simply cuts off about one third of the way. When I play it in Winamp it does play, but gives the file as only 5 minutes long. When I use the embedded player It simply stops halfway through the introduction. And also the same connection problems mentioned by Tamren.

    Using latest version of Firefox on Vista ultimate.

  23. What? Here it is noon on Monday and there’s no new Writing Excuses podcast up yet? Geez, just because it’s a holiday. Slackers. ;-)

    Seriously, enjoy the holiday.

    – Alastair

  24. Still no dice.

    I appreciate your trying to help, though. Thanks.

    Also, if you mirror it somewhere, even if we can’t listen to it in the page, that’d be good enough for me. Downloading it and then listening to it would be just as enjoyable.

  25. But I wants a new one….

    Please hurry Dan, I have DexOnline and I’m not afraid to use it!
    Don’t make me come to you house and have you flogged. I have wet noodles just waiting to go!

  26. I was actually gonna upload the podcast to my server (which is probably a violation of various copyright laws, so sorry :P) and see if that made a difference for you folks having trouble downloading, but filezilla freaks out when it gets large files like that and won’t transfer them. *rolls eyes*

    Perhaps someone else would care to try though? Not sure if it’ll work, but nothing ventured…

  27. Loved this one, guys. Especially since I’m going through it for the first time with my editors. I can add a data point on a couple of issues.

    1. My agent did go through a round of edits with me. She was a former senior editor and Harper Collins / Avon.

    2. My acquiring editors (Hartwell and Hauge-Hill) have focused almost 90% on story edits as stated in the podcast. I did one edit based on Hague-Hill’s comments. Now I’m doing a second based on Hartwell’s.

    3. Was talking to Hartwell at WorldCon and he mentioned the dark masters thing. If it had just been the assistant editor wanting to acquire, she would have had a limit it what she could have gotten. Or it would have taken speical approval. So different editors have different limits to what they can acquire.

    4. I’ve loved working with both of my editors so far. They’re insightful and everything they’ve said so far has clearly made my story better.

  28. I still can’t get this one to download. It tells me the file is nearly 30 MB large, which is much larger than the other files have been, and I can’t get more than 9 MB of it downloaded no matter what I try.

  29. odd, the file is 30 megs which may be why some people are having issues with it, i’ll see if I can re-render it.

    Another thing to try from Dan and my experents is to do a save as then try to listen to the flash version.

  30. Still no dice. The download starts fine at my normal 150kbps but then the connection seems to get cut off because all of the activity lights will go dark for about 3 seconds. The connection then resumes but the speed spirals down to 20-25kpbs. Then the cycle repeats, the lowest it got for me was 10kbps before I canceled.

    Better than last time but still unworkable.

  31. that’s a negative…

    And man, I wish I was pulling it at 150. I seem to pull at about 20KB/s.

    Listening to it in-page, I actually was able to hear about how the guy’s story was ‘tonally the same’ as his previous. And that was about as far as it got. I’m now trying to download this version.

    The first try stalled out at 584K, for some reason.

    Try #2 came through, though, after about 20-some minutes. Woo! I can listen now!

  32. Hi Guys,

    Are you aware that none of your recent episodes are coming through VIA the Zune Podcast Feed? Also, this particular episode is currently being truncated at the 1 minute mark (611059 (597kb)) I’ve tried several times through RSS feeds and by direct download



Comments are closed.