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Transcript for Episode 1.29

Writing Excuses Episode 29: Talking Publishing with Lou Anders


Another live from WorldCon podcast, with Dan and Howard slightly confused about who they are. But their guest is definitely Lou Anders, editorial director at Pyr books.

Key points: once the editor decides to acquire a book, they get permission from the Dark Masters, and then start being the advocate for the book in shepherding it through the publication process. The author at this point is mostly just waiting — or hopefully writing the next book.

What happens after the editor wants to acquire a book?

  • I take it to the Dark Masters and pitch it.
  • Dark Masters? I have to get permission, from marketing, and the money people.
  • many houses do a P&L — profit and loss — and the accounting people decide based on that.

What happens after the author gets a contract and signs it?

  • you wait. The agent begins to sell foreign rights, and the writer begins to write the next in the series. It’s very much a waiting game.

Cover art? Where does it come from?

  • Pyr has in-house designers, and does involve authors in the decision.
  • a cover is marketing, it does not have to represent the book.
  • 90% of the job of a cover is to get the one person at Barnes & Noble that buys science fiction interested. Another 5% is to get the buyers and distributors under him interested. Whatever’s left has to hold a browsing reader’s attention for more than 30 seconds, which convinces him to make a impulse buy.
  • the corollary is that if the covers and misrepresent too often, the readers get upset and quit buying.
  • covers are mating signals on colorful birds.

So what’s the editor’s job?

  • selection. Sometimes you roll up your sleeves and fix the book, but most often it’s just selection.
  • (Dan?) he tells me these parts are great. That’s an important confirmation. He also tells me these need fixing, generally, and lets me figure out how to fix them.
  • the editor is not a proofreader
  • the editor is a guardian angel, who explains to art and to marketing about this book. He’s an advocate for the book.

What about copy editors?

  • these are often external consultants, who point out that something is the wrong date, identify misspellings, and so forth.
  • a new author can see this is adversarial, but it’s really trying to make a great book fantastic
  • nowadays agents do some of the editing.
  • a lot of this is identifying how much work it will take to make this book publishable.
  • fixing errors and so forth is doable. Having the skill in storytelling is key.

What else do the editors do? Do they hound people for quotes?

  • sometimes authors have their buddies with quotes, but sometimes you have to tap dance to get them.

Final words? do you encourage or discourage writers?

  • Both. Be brilliant — it’s not enough to just be good.

Current Mood: tapdancing
Current Music: Something To Be Proud Of, Montgomery Gentry