Welcome to Book Editors: Close Up at http://www.authorlink.com . This Authorlink column provides an intimate look at important book editors in New York and elsewhere. Interviews focus on editors as real people. The columns study their likes, dislikes, preferences, prejudices, and why they buy the books they do.
Editor at Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.
Q. How did you become involved in publishing?
A. My first actual job in publishing was as a sales rep for Farrar, Straus and Giroux, a small literary publisher, in those days still independently owned. They had a wonderful list and I believe they still have more Nobel laureates than any other house, but it was frustrating for me, because I wanted to be in editorial, not sales. So after a few years, I made the jump over to editorial at Cloverdale Press, where I really learned to edit in a lot of different genres. in a sense, that was my start as an editor.
Q. What did you do before occupying your current position?
A. Before I came to Leisure I was working as a freelance editor, editing and evaluating manuscripts for publishers, agents and writers. It was nice to workr out of my home and set my own hours, but when the chance came to work on these lines with Leisure, I couldn't refuse.
Q. What job would you do if you could do any job in the world?
A. I'm afraid this would be pretty close to my perfect job. I like what I'm doing, the books I'm working on and the authors I work with. Most of the books I edit here I'd read for pleasure in my spare time anyway, so it's almost like not working for a living.
Q. What is your earliest memory of your love for words or books?
A. My first memory of a love for books was when I was probably two or three. I remember sitting on our couch with my older sister while she read me a Mickey Mouse book in which Mickey and Pluto go to the moon. I loved being read to as a child, and when I learned to read, myself, I read almost anything I could find, especially horror or thrillers.
Q. Who influenced you most as a child to read?
A. My father and my sisters always encouraged me to read, but one of my aunts used to drive me to the library every week and let me take out huge stacks of books. She probably influenced me the most.
Q. Who are your favorite two or three authors?
A. It's very hard to narrow the authors I like down to two or three, but some of the ones that first come to mind are S. J. Perelman, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and John O'Hara. In horror, some of my favorites, aside form Leisure authors, are Peter Straub and Richard Laymon.
Q. What is your favorite book of all time and why?
A. Again, it's almost impossible to come up with one book that's my favorite of all time. Depending on mood and circumstances, that will change constantly. Certainly one of my favorites, though, is Moby Dick. Using a very idiosyncratic style and structure, Melville managed to create an exciting and frightening world-view of whaling, of all things. It's an amazing book on just about every level.
Q. What categories do you acquire for?
A. I acquire horror, dark suspense, technothrillers and westerns for Leisure.
Q. What other categories personally interest you?
A. I'm mostly a fiction person. In addition to the genres I acquire at Leisure, I also read mysteries and more mainstream fiction. Although I'm reading more history and biography lately.
Q. What do you want to see in a query letter? How long?
A. To me, the ideal query should be just long enough to give me an idea of the plot, the type of book, the background of the author and the length of the manuscript. Usually that can be done in a page or so. The point of the query is basically to let me know if it's the kind of book we do at Leisure. If it is, from there I would go into more specifics by requesting, probably, a synopsis and sample chapters.
Q. Do you accept e-mail queries?
A. No, Leisure doesn't accept e-mail queries. They have to come in via mail.
Q. What advice, if any, do you have for the new writer trying to break in?
A. I would tell new writers to write what they enjoy reading, not what they think will sell. This will usually come through in the form of a better manuscript, and it's the quality of the manuscript that counts in the long run. Aside form that, the important thing is not to give up. So many times, a manuscript will be bought or rejected based on an editor's needs at any particular time, and those needs will change. Also, it's true that what isn't right for one house may be perfect for another. It often will come down to your manuscript hitting the desk of the right person at the right time.
Q. What are your three biggest turn-offs when you're considering a manuscript (packaging? typefaces? No SASE? Viewpoint shifts?)
A. The quality of the writing is always the most important thing. But in terms of mechanics, my biggest turn-off would be a manuscript that isn't in the usual submission format, i.e.. double-spaced, regular margins, one side of the page. Other than that, basic grammar and punctuation should be there. And the type size shouldn't be minuscule. Basically, I just want to be able to read the material without a struggle.
Q. What was it about the last three manuscripts you've acquired that caught your eye, made the decision for you to buy?
A. In each of the last three manuscripts I acquried, I think it was the voice of the author that first caught my eye. They each had a style that set them apart form the other submission on my desk, something that caught my attention and made me want to keep reading just to hear what the author had to tell me. Then, of course, they had interesting plots. But that voice was what I noticed first.
Q. Do you have a favorite quote or first line of a novel, some wisdom that has guided you?
A. One bit of wisdom that always stuck in my mind is from Emerson: "Trust yourself. Each heart vibrates to that iron string."