Wednesday, May 21, 2008


We spent a day in New York City last week visiting editors and cementing a new relationship with a Dutch publisher for whom we'll do publicity work.

Because we are not based in New York City, it's imperative that we regularly visit the publishers there to find out what they are looking for and how they prefer to work with agents. Simply stated, it's important to meet editors face-to-face.

Familiarizing oneself with a huge publisher like Random House could become a full-time occupation. Personally, I love the ambiance of the place. The lobby is a book-lover's dream with floor to ceiling glass-fronted book shelves lining the walls. The shelves are stocked with Random House "first editions." Actually, I don't think they are the real thing. An editor told us a couple of years ago that the original first editions are archived "off-campus" in a place friendly to aging paper and bindings. It doesn't matter if the books in the lobby are real or not. It feels wonderful to be surrounded by the classics that bookend our world. Jon advises every writer or would-be writer or anyone who loves books to step into the lobby, take a few deep breaths and spend time scanning the shelves. It's like visiting old friends in a museum of the written word.

We visited three Random editors. Here are a few things we learned:
  • Nonfiction is "the way to go" for new agents. A Crown editor advised us to concentrate on this genre. "Fiction is a hard-sell," he said. Editors must defend their choices at editorial meetings and fiction is often extremely difficult to champion. It's a hard business fact and it's why we and other agents scour the queries for the gems that can survive the editorial trials.
  • In nonfiction, superlatives sell--the best, the biggest, the greatest.
  • Platform is everything. He advised us to look for journalists and hot bloggers for new book ideas.
  • REAL GOOD WRITING is still the gold standard. (But we all know that, don't we?)
  • Another editor is looking for "fiction that is believable as nonfiction and nonfiction that reads like fiction."
  • Steampunk is still alive and well. (Yea! We have THE steampunk novel in the re-writing stage.)
It was a great day, complete with two hours at the Museum of Modern Art and lunch at the Carnegie Deli where the waitress kept interrupting our meeting with the Dutch publisher to talk about my bracelet! Gotta love New York.


Adaora A. said...

Non Fiction? That's a bit of a downer. I don't write non fiction I write YA literature.

Oh well, I'll still think positive and hope for the best anyways. Random publishes some great YA fiction under their teen imprints.

I've got to visit their lobby it sounds amazing. Thanks a million for the great tip!

I had no idea you had a blog! Expect me regularly.

Kae and Jon said...


Don't worry--there are plenty of fiction editors at Random and elsewhere. The editor I quoted is strictly nonfiction.

Karen Duvall said...

I attended an agent panel a couple of years ago where the agents were lamenting over how hard it is to sell nonfiction, that fiction has a better chance of selling to publishers. Their reason being that the nonfiction author must have an impressive platform to compete in their market niche. These agents repped very little nonfiction because fiction is a far more lucrative product for them. So that's the other side of the coin. 8^)

Kae and Jon said...


That's what makes this business so interesting--lots of editors with totally different passions and needs. We love fiction, but the right nonficiton is something we continue to seek. By "right" I mean the topic has to be of interest to us, the writer needs platform and we need to know of editors who will buy it!