Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Agents as middle people

I've worked with many writers over the past fourteen years and this next piece of advice is one I've been wanting to share for a while. And this applies not to my private freelance work, but to work I do with publishing houses, and acquired authors.

Whether a writer starts with me with an agent or gets an agent part way through our relationship, I've noticed that some of these writers use the agent as a middle person, to the extent that they don't communicate with me fully, but use their agent to do that instead.

An agent is supposed to be a buffer of sorts to handle conversations and negotiations that take time away from the writer's writing time or simply because that writer doesn't want to worry about anything else but writing. But when you use an agent to do much of the communicating with your editor, you lose the development of a very important relationship, the editor-author relationship.

The building of a close working relationship with your editor is critical to developing a great book, I believe. The authors who are most open with me, talk to me about everything, brainstorm etc are the ones I have the best relationship with.

I hate talking through an agent. I feel disconnected from that writer when I do, when I'm forced to. It makes perfect sense because for any relationship to work and grow you need to communicate directly with one another, and if that element is missing then how can you expect it to go anywhere? It stagnates and fails to flourish.

So if you're in the position of having an agent, or are about to get one, really think about how you want to use that agent and think twice if you want that agent to do all your communicating for you. Keep that editor-author relationship open and free, unhampered by a third party.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Publishing is like high school, especially in Canada

Apart from freelancing for seven years, I've worked for two publishing houses, both, funnily enough, romance publishers.

I never set out to work in romance, was never a romance reader. I wanted to edit dictionaries, people. Dictionaries.

I seem to keep falling into romance, and that experience keeps getting me jobs in romance. What I wouldn't give to get in to Penguin or Random House. But they frown upon my romance book experience and can't get it around their biased minds that editing is editing, books are books, and that an intelligent, savvy reader with a long resume and extensive education can edit any kind of book.

But that logic falls on deaf ears. It's a clique, especially in Canada. American publishing houses are far more open than Canadian publishing houses, and that's unfortunate because I'm in Toronto, the "capital" of Canadian publishing. I put that in scare quotes because, really, this publishing capital is small beans compared to NY.

Publishing in Canada is like high school. It's not just me that thinks this, either. I've heard other Canadian editors say this, and even had a career coach tell me people in publishing describe Canadian publishing like this as well. Well, that's just great. I didn't have many friends in high school, and was the weird girl who read in the halls and didn't want to date loser boys. Now I'm back in the hall in my adult life and I keep shaking my head wondering why. Silly me to think we would all leave high school, adulthood is just one big loop of grade ten. Over and over and over again.

Try getting an in-house or freelance job in Canada as an editor and you'd have more luck winning the lottery, marrying a royal, or dating any of the Hemsworth boys. Really. It's that cliquey, narrow-minded, and self-interested.

I applied for an editor position at a very famous publishing house and the very well-known Editrice of the house who ran the whole editing show emailed to tell me that while my resume was terrific, and everything was in order, that my lack of experience editing books that their house published was a negative and that she didn't want to watse my time or hers in trying to see if it could work out because she knew immediately it wouldn't. I was blown away.

All I wanted, and want, was, and is, a foot in the door to Canadian publishing and I was and am facing the ultimate snobbery I'd faced throughout my career: my romance editing experience is frowned upon and I might as well have been editing pre-school books all these years for all my experience was and is worth.

Let it be known that words are words and I can edit your romance novel, your CanLit title, a work of non-fiction, memoir or play. There's no need to play these playground games of you're better than me. And yet here I wait in the hall of "pick me, pick me" waiting for the cool kids to let me in...

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Dream Maker

I haven't posted in ages, 2.5 years it seems. I've been busy, busy making other people's dreams come true.

It sounds pretentious, but it's a fact.

I've gone back to working with a publisher full time, 2.5 years ago, though I still freelance with other clients a little bit too to keep that active. At that publishing house, I entered the scene when they were launching their first category romance line, a genre that had been well and truly dead for years.

Harlequin had cornered the market and made millions on those short books you see at the grocery store and drug store that change every month. Well, a new kid was in town and I was at the helm of that first new category line from a new company. It was a massive success, changing the face of category romance forever. Really. I kid you not.

The line I work with, and I'm still director of, was the first, and a half dozen more lines came after. It's an amazing success story.

So how does this equate with making people's dreams come true? By acquiring their manuscripts to publish, many of them first time authors. Day after day I engage with women (one man in all these years) discussing their stories and how they can make them better, what they need to do to get published, keep getting published, improve their plot, story, characters... I love it, but after so many years it can really get you down, especially if you have your own story to tell. Like I do.

I'll be writing more regularly again so if you have any questions about publishing or writing drop me a line at and I'll answer it here.