NOVEMBER 2009 SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW
Editorial Assistant, Bantam Dell
WG: Welcome, and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month.
WG: To start off, please tell us a bit about yourself.
JS: My pleasure! Thank you, Winnie, for having me.
I have been an Editorial Assistant at Bantam Dell for two years, a position I was thrilled to accept shortly after graduating with a BA in English from NYU (after a brief stint in the world of business journalism).
WG: Can you tell us why you decided to pursue a career as an editor and what steps you took to get you where you are today?
JS: I was always a reader as a little girl, and I never grew out of my hunger for books. I knew that I wanted to do something with words, and found in college that I enjoyed editing other's papers more than I did writing my own, so I pursued it from there. . .
WG: What genres/lines do you currently acquire?
JS: I work under Shauna Summers, a Senior Editor at Bantam Dell, and a wonderful mentor and inspiration. I recently began acquiring my books, and am currently looking for single title romances and women's fiction.
WG: When was the last time you acquired the work of an author from the slush pile?
JS: I've never successfully acquired from the slush pile, but I would definitely love to find something special from a query letter. How exciting would that be!?
WG: Are you actively seeking out new authors, and if so, what would it take to catch your eye?
JS: I am definitely actively seeking out new authors. I would love to find something with great characters that I couldn't put down.
WG: Do you think contest credits help an author further their career? Have you ever acquired a manuscript that you discovered via a writing contest?
JS: I think that contests are a good opportunity for unpublished writers to get their manuscript read and seriously considered by an editor.
WG: When asked what they look for in a new author, most editors and agents will mention a fresh and/or strong voice. How do you personally define voice?
JS: Hmm that's a toughie. I'd say if a novel is a human being, then the "voice" would be her or his personality. It's how the author shapes the words on the page to convey a substance and style that is unique and that readers can connect to.
WG: Have you ever considered penning a novel yourself?
JS: Who hasn't? But for now, I prefer reading them.
WG: Are some/all of your submissions read by someone else in house before they reach you? If so, what sort of feedback and/or screening do you expect that reader to provide?
JS: I help Shauna, the editor whom I work for, weed out her submissions, but I'm the first receiver for anything sent to me.
WG: Realistically, what is the normal timeframe for your response to queries? Partials? Fulls?
JS: Four to six weeks.
WG: Given that you feel an individual author's manuscript is marketable, how important is it that you personally like the work in order for you to pursue acquiring it?
JS: I would think that is pretty crucial. In today's marketplace, an editor needs to be very, very confident that a book will have mass appeal in order to acquire it. I think that it would be difficult (especially in fiction) to persuade myself that a book I didn't like would be a huge success.
WG: Do you feel that writers' conferences provide significant value to you in the way of personal contact with your authors, other authors (either published or unpublished), and/or other industry professionals? Do you receive any value from other offerings such as the presentations, pitch appointments, and/or networking opportunities?
JS: Definitely! I love putting a face to an email address, and conferences make it easy for authors, agents, and editors to stay connected on a more personal level. Also, for less experienced editors like me, it's a good opportunity to network and to see higher quality submissions.
WG: Do you visit the websites and blogs of authors you work with or of authors you are considering acquiring? If so, is there something in particular you look for that potentially impacts your view of the author and their work?
JS: I'm constantly on the websites of the authors who write for Bantam Dell, and I love to see the new things that they are trying out online.. A good-looking, informative, functional website tells me (and readers too) that the author cares about how she is perceived.
WG: Do you approach submissions by agented authors differently from those without agents? Does your familiarity with/opinion of the agent impact this?
JS: I try to consider all submissions with an open mind. However, when reading a submission from an agent you know has done good work in the past, I don't think you can help but be a bit primed to hope that the manuscript is going to be exceptional. I think it's like the difference between picking up a book randomly at a store and having a novel recommended to you by a friend.
WG: What piece of advice or 'pearl of wisdom' would you like to offer authors who are considering submitting a work to you--or to any editor for that matter?
JS: I wish it was easier for devoted, hard-working writers to see their work develop into a book. Unfortunately, I know that this can be a struggle. My recommendation would be to think like an agent or editor. Consider who would really want to read your story, what kind of market there is for this book, and who in the industry is the best person to fight for you.
WG: What sort of misconceptions/ unrealistic expectations have you encountered from authors about what an editor's role is that you would like to correct?
JS: Surprisingly, I think that more authors are overly hesitant about requesting help than overly demanding. Ask me to help you! That's what I'm there for!
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share?
JS: I'm a big running fan. A famous quote by Prefontaine is a goodie: "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."
WG: What do you do to relax and have fun?
JS: I run every day to relax and get my blood pumping. I also like to do crosswords and try new recipes at home.
WG: Other than your client's work, what do you enjoy reading?
JS: All sorts of stuff! At the moment I'm reading A Race Like No Other by Liz Robbins about the New York City Marathon.
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
JS: I moved a few months ago and left my TV behind, but Mad Men and Top Chef are both so good that I travel to friends' apartments to watch them. The first has amazing characters, and the second has ridiculously good looking food and great competition.
WG: Before we close, is there anything else you'd like to mention about yourself or the publisher?
JS: Submit your work to me! I'd love to hear from you.
WG: Is there a website you can point us to where folks can go to learn more about you and/or your publishing house?
JS: Head on over to BantamDell.com or Randomhouse.com for a look at the books we publish.
WG: And finally, thanks again for taking some time to 'stop by' this month!
JS: Thank YOU!