Emily Bestler, Vice President and Executive Editorial Director Pocket Books

August 20, 2001
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Welcome to Book Editors: Close Up at http://www.authorlink.com . This regular Authorlink column provides an intimate look at important book editors in New York and elsewhere. Interviews focus on editors as real people. The columns explore their likes, dislikes, preferences, prejudices, and why they buy the books they do.

An Exclusive Authorlink Interview with Emily Bestler
Vice President and Executive Editorial Director of Pocket Books, a Division of Simon & Schuster

by G.K.Sharman

August 2001

 

Bestler loves her job because it lets her read all day.

 

Emily Bestler learned early to love books.

"When I started reading, I was doing something everybody else in the family did," she said. "It's what we did together as a family."

It's a tradition she's passing along to her three children – girls 9 and 8 and a boy, 4. They want to be writers when they grow up, though, not an editor like mom.

Bestler, who loves her job because it lets her read all day, calls herself "a huge omnivore when it comes to books." She devours fiction and non-fiction in about equal proportions, both for work and pleasure.

 

She was intrigued by Iwasaki's proposal . . .

 

At work, her three most recent acquisitions are a memoir by Mineko Iwasaki, the woman on whom the fictionalized "Memoirs of a Geisha" was based; "All the Presidents' Children," by Doug Wead, which looks at presidents and their offspring; and a trio of international thrillers by new writer Brad Thor. His first, "Lions of Lucerne," is due out in January 2002 and concerns the kidnapping of an American president.

The books caught her eye for different reasons. She was intrigued by Iwasaki's proposal before she ever read it, she admits, thanks to "Memoirs" and curiosity about geisha life. It helped that the proposal was "beautifully, beautifully written."

She also was intrigued by Wead's well-written proposal, which convinced her that there was enough information for an entire book. Thor, she said, a good storyteller whose tales she couldn't put down.

 

"Make sure the proposal and the manuscript are neat . . ."

 

Writers who want to get her attention have better luck if they: Find an agent. It's very unusual for anyone in her office to acquire an unagented manuscript. Don't send e-mail queries. She's already overloaded. "I get 50 million in-house (e-mails) a day," she said – probably only a slight exaggeration. Make sure the proposal and the manuscript are neat and have no typos or grammar goofs. Sloppy work indicates that the sender either isn't a strong writer or just doesn't care, she said. Send the whole novel, not just a synopsis and sample chapters, if you're writing fiction. "Anyone can say, 'Here's the plot'," she said .And, of course, show, don't tell. "Don't tell me what the character is thinking or feeling," she advised. "I don't want to spend too much time in the character's head."

 

"Be committed."

 

To be a better writer, Bestler advises:

Be committed. Some of the world's most successful writers had day jobs. They wrote at night, on weekends – whenever they could, "because they had it in them to write."

Focus. "Decide what you want to write and write it with passion," she said.

"Write what you want to write, not what you think people want to read. Readers know when you're writing for commercial gain."

 

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