Ask the Editor: Questions and Answers, Part V

We're back with more answers from the editor who is living a very fine life in my basement. She installed a wine cellar, and says it's a job requirement. I presume editors everywhere are nodding at that idea. 

Tessa asked: 

How much do the business considerations drive your acquisitions?  I expect it varies by publisher, even by the imprint, maybe by the quarter?
Do you often find yourself reading ms you love, but are unable to purchase, because projected sales don’t meet a minimum?  How are those numbers derived?

Ask the Editor:

We don’t acquire to lose money. We acquire so that we can publish books we love and so everyone can keep their jobs. Have I bought books from authors who didn’t sell so well because I loved them? Yep. One author. For small money & small print run and they at least had a proven track record. And I didn’t lose money on the deal.

However, we often find ourselves unable to buy particular projects (the ones that got away!) It’s part of the day to day. That can be because without rights to certain countries (perhaps the project sold to UK and most of Europe before coming to me) we don’t think we can publish it profitably. That can be because the editor in chief just doesn’t “see it”. Or because someone at editorial meeting thought it would be a better magazine article than a book. Or it’s too “small”. All of those things have happened. What we do as we come to our editorial or acquisition meetings is have a P&L done—we suggest comparative titles and we look at how they sold (and where) and see how much we can offer based on the profit from that. It’s not an exact science, but that’s what we do. 

BookwormBabe asked several questions:

How do you manage successful authors who (according to their fans) are past their prime?  Is there a way of gradually easing them out or a way of trying to get them back to their best?

Are they selling? Because if they are, and I’m making money, then people keep their jobs. But in those instances, you have to have a person (author or editor) want to change—maybe they like what they’re doing and don’t care about the reviews. Maybe they have a good, long-term editorial relationship and don’t want to change it. If they’ve changed houses, then they have a new relationship with a new editor and perhaps they take a different tack. 

How to you get an author to wrap up a series?

Usually a writer has a sense of how they want the thing to play out, and it’s not something an editor has to step in to stop.

Why is it that e-books seem to escape any editing?  Most notably spelling and grammatical errors.

I don’t work on that side, and I’d imagine that it does vary—some digital places do have people to copyedit and edit, and some self-pubbed people do hire editors, etc. But some don’t. Or some hire bad versions of all of those people.

How have e-books changed the publishing business?

I’ve discussed this earlier, but more avenues to find readers and writers! And more rights and publishing schedules to be negotiated!

Does the rise of blogs and fantastic sites such as SBTB change the way you promote authors? (SB Sarah says: Thank you!)

Yes, it’s expanded how we can reach readers and the extent to which we can interact with them directly. 10 years ago, would you have had a blog tour?

Virginia Llorca asked:

What do you think about the use of “He said,” “She replied,”  “He responded,”  “She wondered,” ?

“How much is too much and how much is too little?” I wondered.

Ask the Editor:

Don’t fall into Tom Swifties, but it does depend on context. It’s not like I do a word count and expect that it’s under 15 uses or something. Don’t make me aware that you’re telling me a character’s speaking. Let the character speak!

Nichole asked:

What do you think about the recent lawsuits filed against publishers and Apple over agency pricing?

What are publishers doing to prepare for them? Do you approve of agency pricing?

Will ebook prices ever be cheaper than print books? Will they ever come out before print books?

Ask the Editor:

This is so terrible, but I don’t care about agency pricing. I really don’t as an editor. It’s just not something I’m dealing with. If I were the publisher, then yes, I’d have an opinion.

Anything the publishers are doing is happening in the legal department. (By the way, the legal staff at any publishing house is filled with really fabulous, fun people—get to know them. I mean this.)

Will ebooks ever be cheaper than print? I could see that if print became a keepsake sort of thing—an object of privilege. But getting the first copy of anything, whether it’s E or not, is going to be pricey.

Some of us are using e-versions as teasers, as a way to hook the reader. The same way we publish the mass market of the previous book right before the hardcover of the new one comes out.

library addict asked:

For backlist books which are scanned from a print copy to make an e-version, why is seemingly no attempt made to correct the scanning errors? I realize these books have already gone through the editing process when released in print, but we’re being asked to pay full price (and if agency with no sale options) for books with multiple errors in them and this reflects poorly on the publisher and author.  Why does it seem publishers care so little about such an easily fixable problem?

Ask the Editor:

I have to confess, my house doesn’t scan—we use the old files and reformat it (however the production elves do it!) But in terms of errors—usually we’ve got an ongoing reprint file—corrections handed in that are incorporated into the master file for reprints. Or alternatively, it’s because the author didn’t want to make corrections to the file for free, which is what the publisher’s asked them to do.

Easily fixable—sort of. If I take this task on, and I’m not convinced at this point it’s not a production problem to deal with,  it means my assistant sits with old copies of the book combing it for errors. And not dealing with current copyedits, current submissions, returning author calls or helping me get authors paid. So that’s the balance you’re looking at.

This editor lady is seriously demanding, let me tell you, but I should say thank you to her for answering all the questions you've asked. Got more? Please leave them in the comments!


Comments are Closed

  1. Julia says:

    Love, love, love reading these. Thanks!

  2. Love reading this. It’s great to hear how the other end of the business works.

  3. MissB2U says:

    Could we get one of those fabulous, fun legal staff members in for some Q&A along with someone from production?  I’d love to hear more about those sides of the business especially as it relates to ebooks.  These are so fun to read, thanks!

  4. Rosa E. says:

    Thank you, captive editor! I always love seeing one of these posts—the world of publishing is still mystifying in some ways, and it’s great to see the other side of the business.

  5. Dorothy Mays says:

    I’ve always heard that an author is in danger by being “orphaned” when an editor either quits or changes companies.  How concerned should an author be if this happens?  Hasn’t the publishng company already invested in launching and promoting an author?  What typically happens to an author whose editor leaves?

    Thanks for fielding these questions! 

  6. Yes. It’s sad how much I enjoy reading about the industry. Great article.

  7. bookwormbabe says:

    Thank you for answering my questions and the many others that have been posted.  Glad to see the basement facilities have been upgraded to include a wine cellar!  I assume there are compartments for Godiva and quality cheese and other nibbles.

    Sarah – when are you going to open up the basement for a party for all of us to meet the editor???

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