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An Exclusive Interview With Maria Gagliano

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An Exclusive Authorlink Interview with Maria Gagliano
Associate Editor for Perigee Books, Prentice Hall Press, and Home

By Lesley Williams

March 2007

"My mother . . . did an amazing job of making
sure I wasn't ever without a book to read,
but never forced reading on me."

—GAGLIANO

AUTHORLINK: How did you first become involved in publishing?

GAGLIANO: My first publishing experience was as an intern at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, where I shadowed agents to learn the ropes of publishing and became well acquainted with the slush pile.

AUTHORLINK: What did you do before occupying your current position?

GAGLIANO: I was at Clarkson Potter working on books in the lifestyle, decorating, and cooking categories.

AUTHORLINK: What job would you do if you could do any job in the world?

GAGLIANO: In my next life, I'd love to either be a professional fisherman (I love to fish!) or run a non-profit environmental organization.

AUTHORLINK: Who influenced you most as a child to read?

GAGLIANO: My mother definitely made it a point to make books a huge part of my life. She used to read to me every night when I was growing up, but once I was old enough to read she turned the tables and had me read out loud to her. Once I was permanently hooked, she would go to the library each week while I was in school and pick up a stack of books for me from a wish list I gave her every month. She did an amazing job of making sure I wasn't ever without a book to read, but never forced reading on me (not an easy thing to do!). It's just something I naturally fell in love with since it was always a part of my life.

". . . that's proof that an author did a great job
of creating a character, when you
actually wish you could have them back.."

—GAGLIANO

AUTHORLINK: Who are your favorite two or three authors?

GAGLIANO: There are so many to choose from, but Raymond Carver, J.D. Salinger, and John Irving are some of my favorites.

AUTHORLINK: Why do you like each of them?

GAGLIANO: I just recently finished reading John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany and it reminded me of one of the things I love best about a great novel: the sad feeling you get when you finish the book because you miss being able to read it every day. In the days after I finished it, I actually missed having Owen Meany in my life, as if we had actually been spending time together! To me, that's proof that an author did a great job of creating a character, when you actually wish you could have them back. I love Raymond Carver for the opposite reason – his ability to create a compelling story with hardly any character development at all. And J.D. Salinger is just fantastic because anyone with the capacity to create a cast of characters like the Glass family will have my undying devotion. They're just larger than life but completely relatable.

AUTHORLINK: What categories do you acquire for?

GAGLIANO: Mostly I acquire prescriptive non-fiction projects in the areas of health, practical self-help, cooking, parenting, and popular reference for Perigee. A major part of my list also focuses on popular business and career titles for Prentice Hall Press. This includes business communication, school reference guides, self-help career guides, and anything someone can pick up if they're interested in improving their professional life. Prentice Hall Press also publishes a series of business communication titles called How to Say It(r), which I'm regularly looking to bring new titles to. The aim of the series is to guide readers towards the right words, phrases, and communication techniques to use in various business situations. Forthcoming subjects include Job Interviews and Sales, and some recently published topics cover Performance Reviews and Persuasive Presentations.

"I generally do not accept direct queries from authors and prefer to work with agents."
—GAGLIANO

 

 

AUTHORLINK:What other categories personally interest you?

GAGLIANO: I love quirky popular reference titles and am especially in love with projects in the green/organic living category.

AUTHORLINK:Of the projects you've edited and published, can you give us two examples of books (titles and authors) that would best represent your interests or tastes?

GAGLIANO: Although they haven't been published yet, Lori Bongiorno's forthcoming Perigee book on green living (03/08) is a perfect representation of my interest in books on organic and environmentally friendly living, and Niall Edworthy's The Curious Gardener's Almanac (11/07) ties in wonderfully with my love for fun popular reference.

AUTHORLINK:What do you want to see in a query? How long?

GAGLIANO: A cover letter explaining the project, a detailed proposal, and one or two sample chapters.

"It's impossible to consider a project
if the proposal doesn't include
at least one sample chapter.
"

—GAGLIANO

AUTHORLINK: Do you accept email queries?

GAGLIANO: I generally do not accept direct queries from authors and prefer to work with agents.

AUTHORLINK:  What are your three biggest turn-offs when you're considering a manuscript (packaging? typefaces? no SASE? viewpoint shifts?)

GAGLIANO: It's impossible to consider a project if the proposal doesn't include at least one sample chapter. Also, since such a major factor in prescriptive non-fiction is an author's platform, receiving a proposal without a full author bio and a list of press clips/media appearances relevant to the book's topic makes it difficult to gauge whether the project would be a strong sell. Any elaborate packaging or fonts are definitely not necessary – only the content matters, of course.

 

AUTHORLINK:What was it about the last three manuscripts you've acquired that caught your eye? Made the decision for you to buy?

GAGLIANO: My last three acquisitions perfectly represent my list's diversity while simultaneously zeroing in on the underlying principle found in all of our books – that is, they all offer a great take-away value in the form of practical, accessible advice.

My newest title is The Curious Gardeners Almanac, which is essentially a miscellany of gardening facts, advice, legends, quotes, and recipes. What I loved about this one is that it's such an addicting read, and it's the sort of book that you can open up at any page and pull out a nugget of wisdom. The author also brought a great sense of British wit and charm to the project that made it really stand out.

Before that, I signed up How to Say It for Sales from an incredibly motivated (and motivating!) corporate speaker, Sue Hershkowitz-Coore. I loved this proposal because Sue has such a knack for getting straight to the meat of what really matters when building relationships and trust with clients. She also does a wonderful job of telling readers what not to say if they want to land a sale and build lasting relationships, which is just as important when trying to make a good impression.

And three titles back was a wonderful parenting book called Elephant Ears and Marshmallow Feet, co-authored by Lisa Holewa, a Super Mom and former Associated Press reporter, and award-winning kindergarten teacher Joan Rice. This is a guide for parents that takes tricks and activities developed by top early-childhood teachers to handle large numbers of students and translates them into techniques parents can use at home to get their children organized, listening, and cooperating. I just loved the approach the authors are taking for this project.

They're combing the country for the most highly acclaimed teachers and asking them to contribute activities they've used in their classrooms to get their dozens of 3 to 6-year-olds organized and listening. Having two fantastic authors team up to give advice from the best teachers in the country makes for such a rich project, and that's what especially caught my eye.

Lesley Williams