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.
May, 1999 Spotlight:
Senior Editor at Simon and Schuster Imprint: Pocket Books
The Last Climb by Thomas H. Cosgrove
How did you first become involved in publishing?
I was working as a theater director and supporting myself, first with proofreading, then with copyediting, then with line editing. One day, after eight years of tinsel and sawdust and squalor, Random House offered me a job as a senior copy editor, and the next day I had medical and dental.
What did you do before occupying your current position?
For eight years I was Executive Managing Editor at Random House, where I was the author of "The Random House Guide to Good Writing" (Ballantine, $4.99).
What job would you do if you could do any job in the world?
What is your earliest memory of your love for words or books?
I taught myself to read by comparing the words in the TV Guide to the names the announcers spoke. The first words I could read were "I," "love," and "Lucy."
Who influenced you most as a child to read?
My second-grade teacher, the lovely and delicate Mrs. Lehrer. I was in love with her, and when she left after Christmas to have a baby, I was crushed. I drowned my sorrows by reading grown-up books and shocked my classmates and Mrs. Lehrer's replacement (evil old Miss Hockhauser) by reading Arthur Hailey's "Airport"–twice!
Who are your favorite 2 or 3 authors?
Patrick Dennis, Gore Vidal, Somerset Maugham.
Why do you like each of them?
Because I love comedy, history, and melodrama–especially mixed together.
What is your favorite book of all time and why?
Of Human Bondage. It's deep and trashy simultaneously.
What categories do you acquire for?
Commercial nonfiction and fiction in a variety of styles. I like books and authors who say yes to life in the face of life's unending no's.
What other categories personally interest you?
Academic or intellectual areas of study that are made accessible to a general audience.
What do you want to see in a query? How long?
No queries for me. Full manuscripts for fiction, and well-thought-out proposals for nonfiction. Agent submissions are vastly preferred. Authors do a disservice to themselves and their work by sending things out without an agent.
Do you accept email queries?
Not really–I prefer email for informal correspendence. Email submissions look slapshot and lazy and are easy to ignore.
What advice, if any, do you have for the new writer trying to break in?
Don't expect to make money.
Do it because you need to communicate something you're passionate about. It's a heartbreaking, nickel-and-dime business, and it's not for the faint-of-heart or the naive. Successes are few and far between, and you should appreciate every bit of appreciation you get. Say please. Say thank you. And be gracious to other writers, because if you're lucky you will become part of a community of writers.
What are your three biggest turn-offs when you're considering a manuscript (packaging? typefaces? no SASE? viewpoint shifts?)
Sloppiness. Sloppiness. Sloppiness.
What was it about the last three manuscripts you've acquired that caught your eye? Made the decision for you to buy?
I fell in love with it. I couldn't stop thinking about it. I thought the company could make a lot of money.
(The first two are good reasons. The third never is.)
Do you have a favorite quote or first line of a novel? Some wisdom that has guided you?
Maxwell Perkins, the legendary editor, used to tell his authors, "Just get it down on paper, and then we'll see what to do with it." And Ernest Hemingway said, "The first draft of everything is shit."