Monday, June 29, 2009

Publishing Process Part 1.5: Editorial Meetings

As previously mentioned, Editorial Meetings are pretty much the pinnacle of THE INTERN's existence, right up there with opening her backpack to find that her beloved Techie Boyfriend has packed her a delightful lunch complete with See's chocolates for dessert (which happened today! graow!). There's something tense and exciting about sitting around a table with all those short-listed manuscripts piled up in front of each editor, waiting for each one to be handled and chewed over. It's like watching Olympic diving. Hot.

Editorial meetings are where manuscripts in the "maybe" pile either get voted off the island or stay on for another round. Before becoming an intern, INTERN supposed this involved a lot of vigorous debate over the deeper meaning of a given book, its cultural significance, its zeitgeist.

What really goes on in editorial meetings is a lot like what goes on when a bunch of girlfriends go out shopping for clothes.

Many acquisitions can be boiled down to one fundamental question: Does This Make My Boobs Look Good?

Never underestimate the importance of the appearance of a certain publisher's proverbial Boobs. It doesn't matter how good your manuscript looks on the hanger. If it doesn't fit the publisher—or fit in with the publisher's overall style—it won't fly. INTERN can't count the number of times the only question that comes up at an editorial meeting is "I like this, but is it for us?" ("Oh, it looks good on you, sweetie." "Are you sure? Doesn't it make me look fat?" etc.)

INTERN tells you this for two reasons. Actually, three reasons:

1) Because 90% of declines are because the ms just doesn't fit. It's nothing personal: it just don't fit!

2) Because, with this in mind, you should never, ever submit your shizz all over the place without thoroughly studying the publisher first. It's like getting the saleslady at Forever 21 to pick out an outfit for your grandma.

3) Because, with this in mind, it's better to get an agent who actually knows the best place to submit your ms.

"Does This Make My Boobs Look Good?" is obviously not the only question that comes up during editorial meetings, but it's the question that gets put to every single manuscript.

Other questions that come up are specific to certain manuscripts or authors. INTERN was intrigued to discover that a lot of the time, editors are actively looking for books on certain topics ("let me know if anything about shape-shifting extraterrestrials shows up in the slush pile") and will often call up an author they already know rather than waiting for a book proposal on that topic to trickle in ("why don't you call up Larry and see if he'll write us a book about shape-shifting extraterrestrials?").

Editors also sometimes quibble over whether or not they want to keep on working with a certain problem author. e.g. "Yeah, Jane Smith has done ten successful books with us, but she did set fire to my doormat and send us anthrax in the mail after finding a typo in that last one."

At the end of each editorial meeting, everyone goes around the table and tells one personal thing that happened to them that week. A lot of people talk about dentist appointments. INTERN tells about playing a show with her recently disbanded harsh noise band.

Then everyone goes back to work.

25 comments:

  1. I've been reading your blog for a couple of weeks, and already it is one I read everyday. In fact, it's a must read before I can sleep. Not only are your posts interesting and informative, they're also funny. Today's is no exception. Thanks for writing.

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  2. Oh! Oh! Do acquisitions next! Pretty, pretty please with a significant deal on top?

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  3. mmm...shape-shifting extraterrestrials...i think that may actually be a romance sub-genre. scary!

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  4. Damn that Larry guy who just gets the call to write their next book.

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  5. This blog is fan-tab-ulous! I can see I'll be an eager regular...looking forward to all the juicy bits. And of course more on the Nemesis Intern!

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  6. ROFL! Thank you. You made my day.

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  7. You rock! Great info.

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  8. When you see the process through that lens (the shopping trip with the girls), it puts a new perspective on the whole situation. Everything seems a bit whimsical and flighty. Obviously, the editors want to maintain the publisher's momentum and direction, but then surprises abound on the road not taken.

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  9. Rock on! Do you play an instrument or do you sing in the band?? Oh right, this is supposed to be about publishing. Ahem. Thank you very much for your informative post. I appreciate all you do to enlighten the world outside the top secret rooms of publishing. (This doesn't make me look phat does it?).

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  10. How is it you have no comments, o Intern?

    You are a goddess sent to us... I shall worship you... gently and from afar (I am already stalking someone)

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  11. I guess that answers the question why we writers are so often told to "tighten up" our manuscripts, huh?

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  12. The Boob Question must be pretty tough for the male editors...

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  13. Ooh, goodness, I hope I never turn into the doormat and anthrax author!

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  14. It is a very subjective business, isn't it? But it's also so hard to separate a ms rejection from author rejection.

    It's like telling a mother her baby is ugly, she's tempted to slap you and then will tell everyone you called her ugly. Usually with tears involved.

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  15. I did comment a couple of days ago. I don't think it was objectionable. What happened?

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  16. Way funny, INTERN. You're a dream secret agent from The Inside and I appreciate all the news. I've read through all your blogs and am struck by the absence of decision making guys. Have you noticed an acceptance/rejection (sorry, decline) ratio in favor of either sex?
    Big bow to you.

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  17. Just.... wow :P. This is some great insight, THE INTERN. We writers have no clue sometimes what the make-or-break factor is in these meetings, but that "does this make my boobs look good" explains a lot.

    Thanks for the info! :D

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  18. Might I ask how many times a manuscript might go to an editorial meeting before a decision is made? Is it a one-shot deal? Or can the same book keep coming up over and over without anyone pulling the trigger either way for weeks/months?

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  19. Wow, See's chocolate?!? Your boyfriend is awesome. Thanks for this informative post. My manuscript is out on submission right now and I've been tearing my hair out wondering what's happening to it (and it's only been a week). Thanks for making it so I won't have a bald spot.

    wordver: expanter - reformed exhibitionist

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  20. Oops, sorry Janet et. al re: commenting stuff. INTERN forgets to check/accept her comments sometimes. :)

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  21. TI: FORGETS?! Put it on your calendar. I feared I'd been banned.

    TFC (part of the et al.)

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  22. Ten successful books and she *still* can't set fire to the doormat? Tough crowd. ;)

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  23. Good God! I already have a draft of a shape shifting book for teens. To whom do I send it?

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  24. Fascinating! How often do editorial meetings come up?

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