Tag Archives: Editorial

Ask an Editor: Alexandra Cardia Answers Your Questions!

Posted by August 22nd, 2014

Book Country Ask an EditorWelcome to Part III of Book Country’s Ask an Editor blog series. Alexandra Cardia, Assistant Editor at Riverhead Books, talks about the most rewarding thing about being an editor and deciding whether to work with a particular manuscript. Read Part I and Part II of Ask an Editor.

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1.  Generally how far do you read into a submitted book before deciding it’s trash or good enough to work with? – BoJo Johnson

It really depends on the project. Nonfiction projects are generally submitted as a proposal, and I read proposals front to back; you need to, I think, to get a full picture of the work. For fiction, how far I read into a work is generally dependent on two things: First, if I connect to the writing. If I don’t, I’ll know that pretty quickly and know that the work is probably a pass for me. Second, if I like the writing, I’ll read for story. This can take anywhere from a couple dozen pages to the entire manuscript. Sometimes I’ll read an entire manuscript and only then know that it’s not the right fit for me. So it really does depend on the work! Continue reading

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Ask an Editor: Melissa Danaczko Answers Your Questions!

Posted by August 12th, 2014

Ask an EditorWelcome to Part II of Book Country’s Ask an Editor series! Melissa Danaczko is an Editor at Doubleday, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Today, she talks about how to improve dialogue in writing, how marketability plays a role in selecting books for publication, and how editors deal with personal bias. Read Part I of Ask an Editor.

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1.  Is there bias when editing? When editors get content which violates them personally, does it affect their work? – Melanie Kilsby () Continue reading

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Ask an Editor: Brian S. Geffen Answers Your Questions!

Posted by August 5th, 2014

Brian S. GeffenThank you so much for submitting questions for Book Country’s Ask an Editor blog series! Brian S. Geffen, Assistant Editor at Philomel Books, discusses what a typical day is like for him, and whether the editing process differs between new writers and seasoned writers. 

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1.  What is a typical day like? – Anni Eayrs

The different tasks really vary week-to-week for an editor—though the answer is a bit cliché, it’s true. The work may consist of reading manuscript submissions from agents, editing contracted manuscripts (both line editing and conceptual editing), writing copy of all sorts (jacket copy; title information sheets that provide background on upcoming titles for the Marketing, Publicity, and Sales teams; catalog copy to introduce new books to booksellers), working with designers on interior and jacket design concepts, negotiating contract terms with agents and foreign publishers, and keeping informed about the general world of children’s publishing beyond one’s own publishing house. It’s easy to get engrossed in one’s own work, but it’s very necessary to be on the pulse and know what else is out there in the wider publishing world. I’m also the assistant to the Publisher of Philomel so I help out with some of the administrative tasks of the imprint as well. The varied workload really allows me to exercise different forms of creative thinking, and I find it very enjoyable and fulfilling. Continue reading

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Vince Salamone on Editing His Book SERAPHIM: GENESIS

Posted by August 1st, 2014

SERAPHIM: GENESISWhen it came to writing my recently self-published novel, SERAPHIM: GENESIS, daunting is the word that often comes to mind. Set in a world teetering on the edge of technological and medical evolution, GENESIS follows Jade Tetsumo, a disgraced Royal Marine haunted by a violent past and faced with a dangerous future when she is chosen to be part of the Seraphim, a six-man black-operations security force operated by the powerful Alighieri Bio-Solutions to protect the secretive and highly sensitive research contained there–but when a rogue geneticist forces the team into action, the past bleeds into the present and Jade realizes that the hardest battle to come might be from within.

The act of writing can be a harrowing and overwhelming task. Crafting characters, set pieces, events, histories, worlds, stories and plot; it can often feel like a titanic ordeal to get the ball rolling–and that’s just the prep work! Getting it all to work together is another story entirely and it’s something you won’t figure out until after you finish the first draft. When it came to my first write-up of GENESIS, there were bumps in the road but for the most part crafting that draft was organic and painless. After all, it was just my computer and I, content in the isolated flow of the creative stream. Continue reading

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Submit Questions for our Ask an Editor Series!

Posted by July 28th, 2014


Book Country Ask an EditorThank you to all those who submitted questions for our Ask an Agent blog series! Your questions touched on a lot of topics including how to query agents and how agents actually go about choosing manuscripts. Thanks to the literary agents who helped make Ask an Agent possible! You can find links to their blog posts below.

This August, we are launching our Ask an Editor blog series! As you know, editors decide which manuscripts they would like to publish. Editors are involved in virtually every step of the publishing process, from the actual editing to marketing and promotion. Continue reading

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The Back Cover Synopsis: Writing Your “About the Book” with Copywriter Carly Hoogendyk

Posted by December 6th, 2013

Writing Your "About the Book:" on Book CountryWe are so pleased to have copywriter Carly Hoogendyk as our guest blogger this morning. Carly, a colleague of the Book Country team here at Penguin, is an expert in writing back cover copy for dozens of books in many genres. We all know how important that cover copy can be in selling a book, whether it is a physical book jacket you are reading or the “About the Book” entry on a eBook retail site. I asked Carly to apply some of her knowledge of book cover copy to what Book Country members are doing when they upload their books for peer review or to publish. Read her tips for writing your “About the Book” to attract and engage readers on Book Country.

Putting together a fantastic “About the Book” is a great next step for writers, whether you are just coming off a month of NaNoWriMo or preparing to self-publish.

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Carly HoogendykI’m a Junior Copywriter at Berkley and New American Library. I read manuscripts for soon-to-be published novels across the full spectrum of genres—New Adult, Westerns, Cozy Mysteries, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Contemporary Romance, Erotica, and Thrillers. Once I have a sense of the story, characters, and “what sets this book apart from the rest,” I write the snappy, three-paragraph persuasive book report that we all know and love: The Back Cover Synopsis.*

*Grammatically speaking, you’ll observe throughout this post my copywriter’s love affair with my favorite persuasive punctuation: ellipses, colons, the Oxford Comma, and—perhaps my favorite—the EM DASH.

I got into copywriting via fundraising. I became extremely adept at the 15-second elevator pitch by cold calling strangers to ask them for money to support the arts. (If you think writing book synopsis is difficult, trying hectoring strangers for their hard-earned dough during dinnertime.)

It was brilliant practice for what I do now: If I couldn’t engage their attention quickly and articulate my hook in an extremely short window of time, they’d hang up on me (and it happened… a lot). In the instances where I successfully got strangers to listen for long enough to actually fork over a buck or two (or a thousand), it was lively language, a confident tone, and fact-based persuasion that gave my argument the edge that won them over.

That being said, here are my basic tips for how to avoid a “hang up” when you’re writing descriptive copy for your book:

Know Your Hook(s)
In cover copy, the hook is anything that will make your story especially enticing to a potential reader. It can be the name recognition or awards won by the author, a clever turn of phrase which suggests the writing will be entertaining, or a cryptic suggestion that there’s something completely unexpected in store…*
*There’s something about the dot-dot-dot that reads like beckoning someone with a curled index finger…  Which, while creepy in real life, is fair game for effective book copy.
There’s something about your novel that makes it original and specific and intriguing to readers. That’s your hook. Working your hook into a tagline that opens your copy is a tried and true way to get a reader to continue on to the rest of your synopsis and, ideally, the first page of your book. Continue reading

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Light a Fire Under Your Characters

Posted by August 11th, 2012

Book Country Twitter Chat (August 11, 2011)

Find out what bestselling author Karen Hawkins and “Smart Bitches, Trashy Books” blogger Sarah Wendell have to say about chemistry between characters.

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 One of the main things that draws a reader into a romance novel–or any novel really!–is the chemistry between the characters. Whether it’s a hero and a heroine, a protagonist and an antagonist, or a main character and a secondary character, the sparks should fly off the page. But it’s not as simple as it sounds to achieve! So how do you create that tension, that fire? And what even constitutes chemistry really?

Book Country turned to the pros for some wise and entertaining answers: Karen Hawkins(@theKarenHawkins) and Sarah Wendell (@smartbitches).

Karen is the New York Times bestselling author of historical and contemporary romance novels. Her characters, no matter what the time period, always sizzle and burn white hot!

Sarah is a reviewer, blogger, and author who runs the popular romance blogSmart Bitches, Trashy Books. Her taste is impeccable and she can smell the fire between characters from miles away. These ladies know their stuff!

Just check out these highlights:

@SmartBitches: Examples of no chemistry: People who end up together simply because they are the hero and heroine. YAWNNNN.

@TheKarenHawkins: You should thread the evidence of this chemistry through the book, and not dump in one place.

@Chumplet: Instant attraction doesn’t fly these days. Readers want to see deeper nuances than merely the physical.

@mamajalapa: tension will always exist in some form even after h/h are together. It’s human nature. How they deal w/it makse chemistry.

@SmartBitches: My fave: “I don’t want to like you, I don’t want to like you, I can’t stop thinking about your hair DAMMIT!” That’s chemistry.

@TheKarenHawkins: Villains w/depth – a real person – means they can be redeemed and that true chemistry is about POSSIBILITIES.

@anneholly2010: The ones that can’t live without each other are unrealistic and creepy. Co-dependence is not sweet.

@younglibrarian: clue #1 your story has gone off rails: your mc’s have more chemistry w/secondary characters than bet each other

If you missed the chat or want to remind yourself, we’ve posted the entire transcript as a PDF document here. The PDF will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles.

Please note that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start at the bottom and work your way up.

Thanks to all who made this chat such a great success!

REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats occur every other Thursday night from 9-10 pm EST. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Topics are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look!

 

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Book Packaging: Another Way to Get Published

Posted by March 22nd, 2012

Book Country Twitter Chat (March 15, 2012)

Learn about the ins and outs of book packaging from experts of Stonesong agency, Ellen Scordato, Alison Fargis, and Judith Linden.

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What is book packaging?! It has nothing to do with literally packaging a physical book. It is an alternative way to get published, also known as book development. Book packagers may be enigmatic figures to laymen, but any industry insider will tell you that they play a fundamental role in the book world!

As one of our guests Alison Fargis told us, the book packager is like an independent film producer, in charge of doing everything that has to do with putting a book together — working with writers and publishers on a project management level, offering comprehensive editorial, design, and production work, as well as marketing and PR. Book packagers help publishers execute difficult or crash projects. Or they come up with their own idea for a book and hire writers who bring the concept to life.

How does this pertain to YOU? Well, the book packaging industry employs a ton of freelance writers and publishing professionals. It is a great way to break into the biz and get writing credits. Our special guests to tell us more are the ladies of Stonesong, a NYC-based literary, publishing, and book development agency — Ellen Scordato (@EScordato), Alison Fargis ( @AlisonFargis), and Judith Linden ( @JudyLinden1) — mostly package non-fiction.

Ellen Scordato is a book packager who handles production, design and custom publishing, and has a quarter century of in-depth publishing experience. She used to be a managing editor who loved production and midwifing great ideas, and it is the passion for project management that got her into book packaging.

Alison Fargishas 17 years of packaging and book development experience. She often puts on a literary agent hat, representing clients such as bestselling author of The Sisters Grimm, Michael Buckley. In 2002, Alison and Ellen co-founded Stonesong.

Judith Linden joined Ellen and Alison at Stonesong in 2004 as Executive VP, Literary Agent, and Director of Digital and Print Media. Prior to joining Stonesong, Judith spent nearly 20 years as an executive editor and book developer at two major publishing houses.

Together, they have produced many bestselling titles, including The Daring Book for GirlsDating the Undead, and Smart Words. With 75 years of combined editorial and packaging experience, they are a treasure trove of pub insight! Here’s a taste:

@JudyLinden1: Basically we [book packagers] are agents plus. We follow a project from inception to final form. For PETFINDER [a book about adopting shelter dogs], we found the org, wrote proposal, sold it, edited every word, managed photos, delivered ms to pub.

@EScordato: We don’t have writers on staff. We compose teams specifically for each project, depending on the expertise needed.Suppose we a book on culinary history or a craft book. We might look for writers who have blogs on the subject, or teach on it.

@AlisonFargis: We also look for writers for the crash projects publishers send our way.

@JudyLinden1: [Biggest subjects in non-fiction book packaging right now] cooking, design, lifestyle, diet, relationships, pop psychology, pop culture, fashion, parenting among others.

@EScordato: Yes! We certainly are [considering every delivery medium]. Very active in developing ebooks.

@AlisonFargis: I keep resumes for years. I may not have a gig for u right now but if the right project comes along I will call.

If you missed the chat or want to refresh your memory, we’ve posted the entire transcript as a PDF document HERE. The PDF will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles.

Please note that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start at the bottom and work your way up.

Thanks to all of our chat participants!

REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats are taking a short hiatus, but typically occur every other Thursday. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Dates, topics, and special guests are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look! And follow us on Twitter @Book_Country.

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Working with a Writing Partner/Team

Posted by December 7th, 2011

Book Country Twitter Chat (December 1, 2011)

Bestselling husband-and-wife team Ilona Andrews and editor Anne Sowards discuss the challenges of writing with a partner

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 Collaborating can be an amazing experience: you can take a project in directions you never conceived of before, you can get multiple perspectives to make a piece more relatable and realistic, you can divvy up tasks to focus your strengths, and so much more. But it can also be very difficult to work so closely with someone else in such a creative, traditionally solitary process. You won’t always see things the same way or have the same ideas of where a story should go. You might even have vastly different opinions on character motivation, for example. There are many areas where conflict could arise.


With this in mind, we decided to bring in one of the most successful writing duos today–Ilona Andrews (@Ilona_Andrews)–and Ilona’s editor–Anne Sowards (@AnneSowards)–to talk about their experiences.

Ilona Andrews is a husband and wife writing team–Ilona and Gordon. Together, they have written two New York Times bestselling urban fantasy novels, as well as a number of eBook originals.

Anne Sowards is the executive editor of the Ace/Roc imprint at Penguin Group, and works with bestselling authors like Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine,and many more, in addition to Ilona Andrews.

Here’s a sneak peak at some of the chat’s great discussion:

@Ilona_Andrews: The idea is not to compete but rather to create the best book possible.

@AnneSowards: Both author names are listed on the contract, i.e. “author x & author y, writing as author z.”

@Ilona_Andrews: We disagree frequently on characterization, but if it’s in the final book, it is a compromise.

@AnneSowards: I would be a bit more cautious (if approached by an agent with a writing pair) because it’s a more unusual situation, but love for the book overcomes fear!

@Ilona_Andrews: I don’t think the gnre matters that much. 🙂 It’s more what each of the partners brings to the table.

@AnneSowards: [It’s a] marketing decision [to use a pen name instead of both author names]. Less confusing for readers to have one name, and [for] UF, we wanted it to be female.

@Ilona_Andrews: Writing with a partner is very similar to working with the editor.


If you missed the chat, you can view or download the entire transcript as a PDF here. It will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles.

Please note that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start reading on the last page and work your way to the first page.

Thanks to all who took the time to share their experiences and ask questions.

REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats occur every other Thursday night from 9-10 pm EST. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Topics are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look!

Follow us on Twitter for more: @Book_Country 

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Collaborating to Make a Great Book Cover

Posted by December 3rd, 2011

A freelance designer advises on how to approach the make a great book cover.

“It’s your book, your baby, and you have every right to have input into what the cover looks like.”

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Whether you’re publishing an eBook, paperback, or hardcover book – a custom cover designed specifically for your book is always your best option. So, what I’ve cobbled together here are a few guidelines for working with a cover designer, because unless you are very experienced with sophisticated image manipulation software – such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator – and have professional design experience yourself, you really need to work with someone who does. The keywords here are “work with someone.”

 

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1. COVER DESIGN SHOULD BE A COLLABORATIVE EFFORT BETWEEN THE DESIGNER AND THE AUTHOR. Nobody knows your book as well as you do. In fact, it’s highly unlikely the designer will have read it or will have the time to do so. I ask my clients to fill out a questionnaire that gets us started on this collaborative process and then follow up with phone discussions and numerous email exchanges along the way. If your designer is not a collaborative type – find someone else. Period. It’s your book, your baby that you’ve sweated blood over, and you have every right to have input into what the cover looks like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deadly Voyage

2. LISTEN TO YOUR DESIGNER. Now that you’ve read #1, I must point out that you work with a designer for a reason – to help you put out an eye-catching cover that will attract buyers/readers. You may have your heart set on 72 pt. puce-colored type for the title, but if you’ve got a decent designer who says, “Uh, no…I don’t think so, and here’s why….” you need to listen. Keep an open mind.

3. BE HONEST. As an avid reader myself, few things tick me off more than buying a book based on a snazzy cover (lots of buyers/readers do this) only to discover that the cover has little or nothing to do with the content of the book. It’s dishonest and I will dump a client rather than do this.

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4. WHAT ABOUT TYPE-ONLY COVERS? Unless your name is Tom Clancy, it probably isn’t a good idea. And even Clancy covers usually have some sort of art element on them along with the big type – a chopper, blood splatters, weapon, etc… Clancy has a huge following of slavishly loyal readers. Do you? If the answer is “No,” you need more than type on your cover. There are very rare exceptions to this rule and here is one of them – the U.S. and Canadian cover for the New York TimesBestseller ROOM by Emma Donoghue. I don’t know who designed this cover, but it’s a good job. Why is it an eye-catching exception?

a. The super-short title allows for a huge point size in the type – easily readable from a distance (for book store browsers);

b. The font chosen is an unusual, childish (HONESTY!) one and is presented in a different bright color for each letter;

c. Colorful letters against a stark white background make for high contrast that attracts the eye.

5. CHOOSING STOCK ART.  I suppose Nora Roberts might be able to command a pricey photo shoot with models of her choice (think several thousand dollars), but don’t fantasize that you’ll have the same option. Most covers are designed with stock art. Stock photography can be expensive, or it can be free (see the Deadly Voyage cover above), and everything in between. The quality can also vary wildly. Lean on your designer here. From decades of experience, I can spot a lousy photograph with limited possibilities at a glance; chances are the author can’t. Things I look for in a photo, other than whether it is context-appropriate for the book, are: sharp focus, sufficient contrast, adequate foreground and background (for placement of the title, author name, and additional art elements as needed), appropriate color, and that indefinable quality that I call JAZZ (it’s got to turn me on).

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6. YOUR COVER ART CAN – AND SHOULD – DO MORE FOR YOU.  The most wonderful book in the world (even with a terrific cover) may well remain inadequately sold and read without promotion. Successful authors learn this lesson early on and live it. Can the art elements on your cover be easily used promotionally on items such as: book trading cards, bookmarks, ads, website banners, merchandise (mouse pads, coffee mugs, t-shirts, etc…)? There is no reason why you should have to purchase additional stock art bannerWEBgoldenor promotional purposes if you’re smart about it from the start. Discuss this with your designer (hopefully your designer offers these services as well) and let her/him guide you to wise choices that can easily be re-used in marketing your book.

7. WHAT ABOUT USING A PRE-MADE COVER?  The trick to using a pre-made cover is finding one that suits your book. Not all designers offer them because they really aren’t good money-makers. I do because I have a weak spot for fledgling authors with skimpy purses. You can see my current stock of pre-made eBook covers here.  If you must go the pre-made route, look for two things: the best fit for your book; and, a designer who will insert the title and author name for you at no additional charge (the designer will have a wide selection of fonts to choose from – I have hundreds – and a good eye for the best placement, size, color, etc…).

Turquoise Sea WEBFarm Boy WEBDream Catcher WEB

 

I asked a Twitter pal of mine, Robin Bradford (aka @Tuphlos on Twitter), who is very savvy about book covers to choose a few she’s seen recently that really grabbed her attention. Robin is the Collection Development Librarian at the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library and doubtless sees thousands of covers every year – so she should know! Here are her selections and insightful comments:

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“[The Watchtower cover is] a very menacing image that tells the reader a little of what they may get on the inside. It looks like a genre fantasy book, you wouldn’t open this book and expect space ships or a police procedural or a cozy mystery.  It tells you what to expect without gimmicks or tricks.  It’s a tower with some swirls and color and a bird but it looks slick and professional. You CAN do more with less!”

 

 

 

 

 

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“[The Hereafter cover] also telegraphs the story a bit; you get the ghostly angle right away. Even though it tells you, it’s still mysterious and draws the potential reader/purchaser closer.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“[Maps of Hell is] another one that seems almost tactile. I look at this cover and it almost hurts. I don’t think the pages inside are going to be soft and fuzzy.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dawn Charles - logo bio photoAbout Dawn

After a long career as a journalist – newspaper, magazine, and public relations – Dawn has taken the leap into creative writing. She currently has three books in the works – two novels and a cookbook. As the editor of a professional magazine for educators, she did her own design work and won numerous awards for cover design. Early in 2011, Dawn applied those skills to design eBook covers for some author friends and several web and print ads as well. Now she offers a freelance design service specifically for authors: Book Graphics. Find her on Twitter at @bridgemama, on Facebook as Book Graphics, and on Book Country as snurf.

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