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.
March, 1999 Spotlight:
Greer Kessel Hendricks
Editor at Pocket Books, Washington Square Press, MTV Books
Imprints of Simon & Schuster, New York
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
How did you first become involved in publishing?
My first job after college was at Allure Magazine where I worked as an editorial assistant. I left there to attend the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. While at Columbia I took a book writing and publishing course which led me to the decision to pursue a career as a book editor. After graduating I worked at Scribner as an Assistant Editor and then I moved to Pocket Books.
What job would you do if you could do any job in the world?
If I could do anything I would probably write. When I was younger I wrote both fiction and non-fiction but I abandoned my own work when I became an editor. Someday I hope to return to it.
What is your earliest memory of your love for words or books?
Some of my most vivid childhood memories involve reading and writing. I loved going to the library and taking out five books at a time. For some reason I loved reading out loud to others and I used to read to my brother and mother all the time. I also loved to write poems and short stories. When I was in fourth grade I started a novel entitled Secrits (sic) about a young girl whose
Parents were divorcing. It was modeled after the work of my favorite writer — Judy Blume.
Who influenced you most as a child to read?
Both my parents are avid readers and spent their spare time with books. The television was rarely on when I was growing up. As I said earlier my mother listened to me read aloud many
of my favorite books.
Who is your favorite author?
If I had to pick one favorite author it would be Anna Quindlen. Not so much for her fiction, but for her non-fiction and what she represents. Her op-ed pieces in the NY Times were always so well-written and thought-provoking. She is a real role model for me as a writer, woman, wife and mother.
What are some of your favorite books?
In non particular order: Slouching Towards Bethleham, Praying For Sheetrock, A Civil Action, Common Ground, Memoirs of a Geisha, Anywhere But Here, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Tess, Light in August, The Book of Ruth, Bastard Out of Carolina, Nine Stories, The Great Gatsby and The Color Purple.
What categories do you acquire for? I acquire and edit a diverse list of books, comprised of commercial and literary fiction, business, psychology, health and fitness, and popular culture titles.
What other categories personally interest you?
I love narrative non-fiction but I haven't found the right project yet.
What do you want to see in a query? How long?
This really depends on the projects. For fiction I usually need to see the entire manuscript,
for non-fiction an overview essay and sample chapter is usually enough. A list of comparison titles is always helpful.
Do you accept email queries?
What advice, if any, do you have for the new writer trying to break in?
It's very important to have an agent. Most publishing houses rarely look at work that is not agented. And even if you do receive an offer it's a good idea to have a middle party representing you. An agent will help you shape a project, and guide it into the hands of the appropriate editors. They will serve as your liason throughout the publishing process.
What are your three biggest turn-offs when you're considering a manuscript (packaging? typefaces? no SASE? viewpoint shifts?)
I rarely look at unagented manuscripts. But I would say,
don't try to be "too cute" (colored stationary, glitter, etc.) don't suggest that your book will be a best-seller, because that's for us to judge always send an SASE or you risk never getting your material back
What was it about the last three manuscripts you've acquired that caught your eye? Made the decision for you to buy?
It's hard to define exactly why I acquire a manuscript. Strong writing is essential. A commercial project always helps. And a passionate author is also important to let the reader know why you are THE person to write this book.