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July 2011

Angela Polidoro
Editor, Ballantine Bantam Dell

 

Angela Polidoro WG:      Welcome, and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us a bit about yourself.

AP:      I came to New York after graduating in 2006 from the College of William and Mary in Virginia with a BA in English. I knew that I wanted to work in book publishing, since I'm a reading fanatic, so I applied to the Columbia Publishing Program, and was thrilled to be accepted. The course provided me with a lot of useful insight into the world of publishing, and it also eased my way into my first job at Rodale Books. I worked there for a year as an editorial assistant, and then moved on to my current position at Ballantine Bantam Dell, where I've been for four years now. One interesting note is that I worked on mostly non-fiction at the beginning of my career, and am now working on mostly fiction (which is thankfully where I want to be!).

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?

AP:      Part of the reason I decided I wanted to be an editor is my love for reading - like most of us in the publishing world, I'm addicted to books, and I'm the proud owner of several overflowing bookcases. I also have always had a pretty strong internal editor -- every time I read something I find myself calculating how it could be better and more engaging than it is...and taking note of just how many times a certain phrase/idea is repeated. As I mentioned, the Columbia Publishing Course really got my foot in the door - I was lucky to have taken it, and without it, I'm sure it would have taken me much longer to find a job.

WG:      What genres/lines do you currently acquire?

AP:      I've edited a fair amount of non-fiction in the past, but I'm more interested in acquiring commercial fiction, particularly women's fiction, paranormal romance, Regency romance, urban fantasy, and select young adult fiction. The imprints I work within are Ballantine, Bantam, and Dell.

WG:      When was the last time you acquired the work of an author from the slush pile?

AP:      It hasn't happened yet, but I hope it will someday!

WG:      Are you actively seeking out new authors, and if so, what would it take to catch your eye?

AP:      Yes. What I look for is something that feels fresh and unique, has a strong voice, and three-dimensional characters. This last point is SOOO important to me...far too often, a novel's characters seem interchangeable, like they're there just as a vehicle for the plot. The books I remember most are the ones that have distinctive, round characters.

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?

AP:      I do - it definitely piques my interest when an author is a contest winner, and it usually means that I will read their submission sooner rather than later. I haven't yet acquired any manuscripts that I've discovered this way, but I can certainly see it happening.

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?

AP:      Whether something's told in first person or third, it should really submerge you into the experience and the thoughts of the main character (s). When I'm reading a piece of fiction with an effective, engaging voice, I feel completely convinced by the character (s) and his/her/their experiences, not like I'm reading something that's made up.

WG:      Have you ever considered penning a novel yourself?

AP:      I love writing, but my focus is on editorial work.

WG:      How would you describe your editorial style?

AP:      I typically give an author both line edits and more conceptual ones (for example, I'll let them know if I think a minor character is unnecessary, if I don't think the emotional side of a romance is totally coming through, if a plot twist seems to be coming out of left field - in a bad way, etc.).

WG:      What is your involvement with the author's creative process? With his/her career planning?

AP:      Typically, I'll read the early drafts of a manuscript and comment extensively on them, and then also read and comment on successive drafts. In general, I always try to help my authors brainstorm ways of making their work more distinctive and memorable.

WG:      What do you see as the main strength you personally bring to the table as an editor?

AP:      I think my greatest strength as an editor is that I'm a good reader. I know what I like to read, what makes books really memorable for me, and what sticks with me - and I take that into my work. I also have an eagle eye for repetitions and inconsistencies, which can be really helpful!

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?

AP:      Not normally, but if I'm interested in a submission, I'll always get secondary reads. When I ask someone to look at a manuscript for me, I'll always ask them whether or not they enjoyed it, and whether they think it's commercial enough/ will resound with readers.

WG:      Realistically, what is the normal timeframe for your response to queries? Partials? Fulls?

AP:      Probably three to four weeks. At any given time, we have so much going on in the office, that it's difficult to get back to someone sooner than that, particularly since we are typically reviewing several manuscript-length submissions at once.

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?

AP:      It's very important to me that I'm personally invested in the projects I edit. It's hard to really get behind something and to throw your all into working on it if you don't first believe in it.

WG:      What input do you personally have on the cover art selected for the manuscripts you acquire? What level of involvement do you feel the author should have in this process?

AP:      Before our designers generate their initial cover designs, we have a cover briefing conference in which I suggest a few possible approaches. After that, the designers generate several possible looks. In choosing a cover, our editorial director and publisher have a significant amount of input. I also typically ask my authors for their ideas at the beginning of this process, since I definitely wouldn't want to pick a cover that an author hates. That being said, authors sometimes aren't as cognizant of what readers will and won't like as we are.

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?

AP:      I think it's really valuable to attend conferences - personally speaking, I've found that it provides a great opportunity to meet with agents that I might not already know, and to speak in person with authors. I've also gotten some interesting submissions through conferences in the past, and hope to continue that trend in the future!

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?

AP:      Yes, I do. I definitely notice if the site looks professional or not or and if there are any big mistakes in the copy. I also think the copy should be really well written, since it's trying to sell us on the author's writing!

WG:      Do you approach submissions by agented authors differently from those without agents? Does your familiarity with/opinion of the agent impact this?

AP:      Yes - if I know an agent well, and have discussed a project with them, I'll probably be excited to take a look as soon as it arrives, whereas I don't have that same sense of expectation if I haven't heard anything about an author or their novel. I try to give everything a fair shake, though!

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?

AP:      Try to cater to an editor's tastes. As a rule, you shouldn't send a parenting book to a fiction editor or a cookbook to an editor who specializes in thrillers. The information is out there, whether on Publishers Marketplace or any of the other publishing websites out there. Use it. Also, make sure that your cover letter is well written. I think it's always a good idea to show it to a couple of people you trust, who you know will be truthful with 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?

AP:      Some people think it's an editor's job to completely re-write/re-plot a book, but that's not so. Rather, we're here to guide writers, and hone their writing - to help them make their books as good as they possibly can be.

WG:      How important do you think self-promotion is to a writer's career? If so, is there a particular area of promotion that you feel is most effective?

AP:      I think it's very important for authors to have a web presence, particularly as Twitter and Facebook become ever more popular. It helps alert readers to their work, and it's also inexpensive to maintain.

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?

AP:      I guess this is more of a motto, but my favorite phrase is �live passionately.� I try to abide by it!

WG:      What do you do to relax and have fun?

AP:      Though it's not all that relaxing, I absolutely love to travel. I spent quite a few years living in Guinea and in Kenya while I was growing up, so travel is part of my blood. (My parents work in international development.) I also love to bake, watch TV shows (particularly on DVD, so that there's no need to wait a week for the next installment), and to spend time with my adorable 1l-month-old puppy, Juno.

WG:      Other than your client's work, what do you enjoy reading?

AP:      My reading interests really run the gamut. A few recent favorites are The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (I love young adult literature!), the A Song of Fire and Ice series by George R. R. Martin, In the Woods and The Likeness by Tana French, Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares, and The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood.

WG:      What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?

AP:      Dexter is probably my favorite current show, but a couple of others that I love are True Blood, Bored to Death, and Sherlock (a UK show). Basically, I love anything that feels unique, quirky, and fun. Oh, and I also love shows that are just plain entertaining, like Pretty Little Liars and the Bachelorette.

My favorite recent movie is Bridesmaids. I love that it's genuinely hilarious, but that it still tells such an engaging and fun love story.

WG:      Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your life? In what way?

AP:      Too many to count, but I'll do my best :) East of Eden, which I read when I was much younger, really stayed with me, and expanded my world view. I particularly remember one lesson from it - the characters embrace the philosophy of timshel - thou mayest - which basically means that all of us have the freedom to make our own choices in life...to carve out our own paths. Another old favorite is Wuthering Heights - it made a hopeless romantic of me!

WG:      Before we close, is there anything else you'd like to mention about yourself or the publisher?

AP:      I think that about covers it!

WG:      Is there a website you can point us to where folks can go to learn more about you and/or your publishing house?

AP:     Feel free to visit our website and www.randomhouse.com. We also have a more specific imprint site at: http://bantam-dell.atrandom.com/.

WG:      And finally, thanks again for taking some time to 'stop by' this month!

 

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