something (not) to talk about


One of the sites I visit constantly is The Litblog Co-op and I’ve been enjoying the discussions re: Elizabeth Crane’s ALL THIS HEAVENLY GLORY. Today her editor from Little, Brown guest-blogged on LBC and answered questions from readers; one such answer involved how a book gets acquired by a publisher. I was starved for information like this not so very long ago; it seemed so oddly difficult to get any kind of real insight into life on the Other Side of what often feels like the massive yawning abyss that separates Us (innocent little doe-eyed scribblers) from Them (darkly mysterious publishing overlords).

Usually the acquisition process works a little like this: editors get manuscripts or proposals from agents. We read them, and if we like them we bring them to an editorial meeting for discussion. If enough reads are positive, we bring the project to an acquisitions board. This is a more formal process: we circulate the material to a range of people in-house, including the CEO, President, Publisher, and heads of sales, marketing, and publicity. Then the discussion begins with the general reactions to the book itself before we turn to the question of numbers: how many copies we can sell and therefore how much money we think we can pay the author for an advance. We base the sales estimate on our experience with similar books, the author’s track record, known sales of similar books at other houses, etc.

Sometimes, if things are moving quickly — someone else has bid, usually — a book might not get so much early scrutiny from so many people. The process always begins with an editor’s interest (or, ideally, excitement) but, at least at Little, Brown, that’s just the first step.


And in the interview with Elizabeth Crane, I was struck by what she said here:

I also really, really want to make a plea for y’all to consider pioneering with me the complete abandonment of the chick lit discussion. I know some of you have read the two posts on my blog about it from last year…but I urge you and any readers to read them again. My proposal was that anyone and everyone drop the discussion once and for all. You may have heard folks are talking about that dude who dissed Oprah right now – when that gets boring, I’m sure there’ll be something else right behind it. Meantime, I truly believe there is not one further word to be said on this topic that will illuminate anything, you know, that needs to be illuminated, and that the very discussion takes away from some really good writing simply on the basis of a character being a single female. I will never understand why this in and of itself makes a piece of literature less valuable, why the issues associated with being single longer and having careers are not important ones. Many books out there that some people see in this way, like let’s just say mine, address subjects including: god, cancer, loss, intimacy, friendship, family, work, child abuse, divorce, depression, September 11, identity, alcoholism, sobriety, that’s a short list, and I guess what bums me out is that although it’s true that more women read than men, if you put a book like mine into that category, potentially half of the readers, that being the male half, just won’t read it. Which is unfortunate, because I have a lot of guy fans, and have gotten some of my best reviews from men. More often than not, I find that these reviews tend to say something like, “It’s too bad this book is sometimes categorized that way.”


I’m inspired by writers who have it together enough to have Mailing Lists and send out Newsletters. It’s always been my intention to have such things of my own — I’m just not sure of what to include in a personal newsletter that would distinguish it from this blog and make it appealing enough to readers that they would want to give up precious Inbox space. Any thoughts on this appreciated.


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