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, writing preferences, and why they buy the books they do.
An Exclusive Authorlink Interview with Brooke Warner
Seal Press Editor of Avalon Publishing Group
Editor's Note: Brooke Warner is an acquisitions editor for Seal Press, an imprint of Avalon Publishing Group.
"I started as a project editor for a small independent house. . ." — WARNER
AUTHORLINK: How did you first become involved in publishing? and what positions have you previously occupied?
WARNER: I started as a project editor for a small independent house in Berkeley called North Atlantic Books. I began doing acquisitions about three years into my job there and worked for Atlantic for five years before moving to Seal. Prior to that I toured Europe for a year, and was busy getting my BA at George Washington University. I received my MA from San Francisco State while working at North Atlantic.
"I love the books we publish. It's an amazing environment. . ." —WARNER
AUTHORLINK: What job would you do if you could do any job in the world?
WARNER: This would be it. I absolutely love it. I love Seal in particular. I love the books we publish. It’s an amazing environment, working with ambitious, smart, feminist women.
"I have always been an avid reader." —WARNER
AUTHORLINK: What is your earliest memory of your love for words or books?
WARNER: I have always been an avid reader. My earliest memory, though, is my mom reading to me, especially Roald Dahl, the BFG, Witches, Matilda. I read Hillary the Spy and the Sweet Valley series as a young girl and then quickly graduated into suspenseful thrillers by Dean Koontz by the time I was about ten or eleven.
"[My mother] is an avid reader." —WARNER
AUTHORLINK: Who influenced you most as a child to read?
WARNER: My mother, no doubt. She’s an avid reader. To this day we do a lot of book swapping.
AUTHORLINK: Who are your favorite two or three authors?
WARNER: Toni Morrison is my favorite all time author. I’m a fan of Barbara Kingsolver and Jane Smiley. I read a lot of nonfiction, too. I like Peggy Orenstein, Susan Jane Gilman, Beth Lisick, Ayun Halliday.
AUTHORLINK: Why do you like each of them?
WARNER: Their writing, descriptions, and my ability to get completely sucked in by their work.
" I love it [ Sula ] because it perfectly captures the way that two friends can complete each other. . ." —WARNER
AUTHORLINK: What is your favorite book of all time and why?
WARNER: Sula, by Toni Morrison, has been my favorite book for about the past twelve years. I love it because it perfectly captures the way that two friends can complete each other, and how people admire qualities in their friends because they’re qualities they lack in themselves. It’s one of the most powerful character pieces I’ve ever read.
AUTHORLINK: What categories do you acquire for?
WARNER: Women's health, parenting, outdoor adventure and travel, popular culture, gender and women's studies, and current affairs.
AUTHORLINK: What other categories personally interest you?
WARNER: Memoir and things that defy category—hybrid books, things that straddle two categories.
Warner accepts e-mail queries and both agented and unagented work.
AUTHORLINK: What do you want to see in a query? How long?
WARNER: Description, author bio, chapter by chapter summary, competitive titles, market for the book, and one sample chapter.
AUTHORLINK: Do you accept email queries?
AUTHORLINK: Do you accept direct queries from authors or do you prefer to work with agents?
" My pet peeve is getting proposals that are not even close to the right fit." —WARNER
AUTHORLINK: What advice, if any, do you have for the new writer trying to break in?
WARNER: To be thorough in their research of a potential publisher. My pet peeve is getting proposals that are not even close to the right fit.
AUTHORLINK: What are your three biggest turn-offs when you're considering a manuscript (packaging? typefaces? no SASE? viewpoint shifts?)
WARNER: Again, not knowing who the publisher is and what they’re looking for. For instance, we get a lot of fiction, which we don’t publish, and proposals from men, who we don’t publish. I hate getting SPAM email queries which my co-editor and I both receive simultaneously. Long query letters about our submissions process bother me as well, because it’s all up on our website and it speaks to the fact that the person has not bothered to do the research required to find out about us.
AUTHORLINK: What was it about the last three manuscripts you've acquired that caught your eye? Made the decision for you to buy?
WARNER: Smart writing, an engaging cover letter, ideas that are fresh and nuanced at the same time. The most important thing has been that the proposals have had new and exciting angles, and were willing to take risks.