Yesterday, I promised you a look into the minds of acquisitions editors by sharing what we talk about when we see each other at conferences or trade shows. It should come as no surprise that we talk about:
1. Books. I've gotten some great recommendations for my next novel from another editor. Sue Brower of Zondervan fame once told me I just had to read Diane Setterfield's Thirteenth Tale. It's a phenomenal book of secrets, and I never could have guessed the ending. A real page turner.
2. Authors. Yes, we talk about writers and whose doing what in the industry. Here's the secret to a long and happy career. We avoid divas like the plague. Life is too short to put up with high maintenance authors who can't be bothered to meet deadlines (even close), demand the impossible, and rankle at every suggestion for change. I live on Prilosec as it is.
3. The Publishing Industry. It's popular with some trade journals to wail about the demise of publishing. Books are disappearing and being replaced with digital content. Oh, please. A book is a book is a book, no matter how it's delivered. Content is still king, and every editor will tell you that. Without authors, there is no publishing industry. But authors should beware the rush to self-publish. I haven't met a manuscript yet that an editor couldn't improve. Self-publishing can be a career killer, especially for fiction authors. Do you want to be known as a mediocre writer, or a brilliant author? Guess who helps you get there?
4. Food. Chocolate specifically. Or Diets. We're one of the few professions that spends our days never using our legs so some of us are pleasantly pudgy and have a little middle-age spread. Except there is a new crop of editors who seems to watch their diets and exercise. I'm sure they'll live longer. I don't know how they squeeze in the Iron Man or running a marathon.
5. Grammar. This topic isn't as popular as it once was since the English language is changing so rapidly. Too many can't spell, let alone identify a run-on sentence. I remember a long conversation with another editor while cooling off in her swimming pool, debating the need for a serial comma. Exciting, huh?
6. Ideas. We live to brainstorm! Most of us have brains that run like freight trains that never stop. You can hear the wheels clacking, "What if? What if? What if?" On one magical trip to Brandilyn Collins home in Idaho, another editor and I chatted in the boat while Brandilyn and her husband rescued a distressed dead-in-the-water craft. Our "what ifs" just wouldn't quit. The set-up was perfect for a thriller. What if these people were really kidnappers and only used the distressed boat signal as a ruse. The plot was quite complicated. By the time we dropped off the hapless mariners at the dock, they looked as though they'd escaped a Stephen King novel.
7. Money or the lack thereof and how much more work we've taken on in these lean Egyptian years. Editors used to have more editorial assistants and access to lots of development editors. Now we use a lot of freelancers or rely on "self service." Research on competition? Self service. Writing up pub board proposals? Self service. Chasing down sales numbers? Self service.
8. E-mail and its insidious draconian rule over our lives. I've known some editors to have more than 700 e-mails in their queue. Every morning, I have at least 80 to 100 waiting for me, and at least that many more come in through the day. Have you ever tried to edit a manuscript with an e-mail bell dinging in your ear? I've spent many an hour in Starbucks or Panera's editing a manuscript on a laptop just to escape e-mail. And if you take a week's vacation, it punishes you by either shutting down and bouncing back important messages, or it just fills up your in-box with 500 or more that have to be dealt with when you get back.
9. Reading tea leaves. We spend a lot of time trying to make sense of company restructures and why management makes the decisions they do. I'll stay on the creative side, thank you. I have no desire to build a fiefdom.
10. We catch up on each other's lives--kids, husbands, grandkids--and we laugh and pray for one another. It saves our sanity.