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 Kim Kanner Meisner
Senior Editor Harmony Books (Crown Publishing Group, Random House)
Kim Kanner Meisner is a senior editor at Harmony/Crown Publishing Group/Random House. She has been with the company for 2 1/2 years, and in book publishing for more than 11 years. Here, she talks about her acquisition interests and what she likes about publishing. She began her career as a publicity and marketing intern at The Noble Press, a tiny Chicago publisher. She then became a sales rep for the college division of St. Martin's Press, and later an assistant at ICM. She then moved to the editorial department at Simon & Schuster where she "grew up" for five years. In 2003 she joined Harmony Books at Random House.
"My primary acquisition interests currently are narrative nonfiction, cultural history, popular science, memoir, health, spirituality, self-help, and women's issues." — Meisner
AUTHORLINK: What are your main acquisition interests at the moment and how have they changed during the last five years?
MEISNER: My primary acquisition interests currently are narrative nonfiction, cultural history, popular science, memoir, health, spirituality, self-help, and women's issues. The main change for me in the past five years is that I now focus solely on nonfiction, whereas at my last job I did about 30% fiction as well. More subtle changes include less of a focus on memoir than I used to have, and a greater variety of narrative nonfiction and self-help.
AUTHORLINK: Who are the three authors you are particularly proud to be editing?
MEISNER: I love all of my authors and projects and cannot put one against the other, but a few examples of authors I am proud to be editing right now include: Daniel Amen, M.D., author of the forthcoming MAKING A GOOD BRAIN GREAT, a book that truly changes the way you view your brain and live your life; Jeff Byles, whose first book RUBBLE comes out this fall and I think is going to be a sleeper hit; and Paula Poundstone, the comedienne whose book has been a long time coming but is going to be terrific.
AUTHORLINK: What are the two or three most important elements you want to see in a winning submission, with respect to the craft of writing?
MEISNER: With specific respect to the craft of writing (because it is difficult to answer this question without mentioning platform), I want to see a great, well-thought-out idea and writing that is smart and attention-grabbing without being overdone. I like to see that an author has done their homework, gone through several drafts of their proposal, and every word is chosen with care.
"Proposals often do not have enough background on the author, even when there is valuable material that could have been included." —Meisner
AUTHORLINK: What are the two or three most frequent mistakes you see writers and/or agents make in their submissions to you?
MEISNER: Proposals often do not have enough background on the author, even when there is valuable material that could have been included. CVs don't tend to be that helpful, but complete bios and writing clips are. And they frequently don't include sample chapters when they would really have helped the cause —how can we know how an author will write this memoir or piece of narrative nonfiction if we can't read a sample? The best proposals don't just tell us what the author is going to do, they also show us with sample material.
"I love the passion of everyone involved, from author to agent to editor to all other people in the publishing house." —Meisner
AUTHORLINK: What do you most love about the publishing business?
MEISNER: I love the passion of everyone involved, from author to agent to editor to all other people in the publishing house. And I love when a book that many people have put a lot of work into is really appreciated in the marketplace and begins to take on a life of its own —when we can imagine how it is touching so many new people in many different ways.
"Read widely. Know and respect your competition, familiarize yourself with the industry and the market through sites like AUTHORLINK. . ." —Meisner
AUTHORLINK: Any advice or encouragement for new writers trying to break into publishing?
MEISNER: Read widely. Know and respect your competition, familiarize yourself with the industry and the market through sites like AUTHORLINK, put rigorous thought and care into your work. Get an agent (and do research on this agent before you sign with them), and stay positive.