Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ask An Editor: 5 Ways to Make Your Editor LOVE You

by Roseanna White, editor for WhiteFire Publishing

5 Ways to Be...

I admit it--I was a teacher's pet. It wasn't that I tried to be--I didn't suck up to the teachers or bring them apples. I just did what I was supposed to do. And then some. I tried hard, I was smart, and I wasn't afraid of my teachers. But I did wanted to please them. So when they asked me for something...well, I did it.

I've found that that's a pretty valuable life lesson when it comes to a job or career too. And as both an author and editor, I've come up with a pretty good list of ways to be sure you're not a pain in your publisher's posterior but are, instead, a favorite.

#1 ~ Give 'em What They Ask For

This sounds pretty simple, I know. But when your agent, editor, marketing team, or publisher asks you for something, get it to them. These are your class assignments. Your homework. The things that build the foundation of your grade. In the publishing world, they can take many forms. A few things you'll be asked for at some point are:
  • a manuscript (duh, right? LOL)
  • a strong proposal
  • a synopsis
  • a blurb
  • a market analysis
  • a cover questionnaire
  • a list of endorsers (published authors willing to read your book and offer a few sentences of praise for the cover)
  • a list of influencers (people willing to read it, blog about it, review it, talk about it)
  • articles/blog posts
  • summaries of other books
Some of these you'll already have prepared by the time you query agents or editors. But even when you think all that work is done, don't be surprised if they ask for a new version. For example, sometimes you'll have written your synopsis before you've completed your book. Your editor will write the back cover copy for you book based on your synopsis and a blurb you sent in earlier (probably), so he or she will want the newest possible version of a summary before they start this.

#2 ~ Be Prompt!

Publishing is a big...long....waiting game. You wait on critiques. You wait to hear back on queries. You wait for agents to read your proposal...and then your full manuscript. You wait to get their edits. You wait for them to submit to editors. You wait for the whole process to be repeated with them. You wait on contracts, you wait for more edits...and more edits. You wait for covers, for the release day, for sales number and royalty check.

You wait. And wait. And wait.

But you, as the author, have to hurry up so you can wait. When you get a request, get the agent or editor the material as quickly as you can, so that you're still fresh in their mind. When it's time for edits, take as long as you need, but pace yourself so that you finish up on time. Better yet, turn things in just a little early. Even a week before deadline shows that you're on top of things.

And this doesn't just go for the big things! When they ask for you little things (blurbs, synopses, cover questionnaires) they often give you a week or a month to do it. Work on it right away, get it back within a few days, and you'll make your agent or editor so happy! Because that then is something they can mark off their list and pass on to the next person. And we all love marking things off our lists. =)

#3 ~ Pay Attention

Often times, when you sign on with an agent or publisher, it's for multiple books. Or at the very least, there is some repetition within a single project. Pay attention to house rules and preferences and take notes, if you have to, on how they like things. Every capitalization and heading that you get right is one they don't have to change. And by valuing your editor or agent's time, you show them that you're a professional, and that you respect what they do. Some quick ways to do this:
  • ask for and use a template for proposals (mostly for agents) to ensure that you're not leaving out anything vital
  • ask for and review a style guide from your publisher
  • make note of house rules on capitalization and punctuation and search your MS for these issues
  • make note of how they arrange the "bonus" material in books--acknowledgments, dedication, author's note, discussion questions etc.--and include them in your MS in the right order when you turn it in
  • ask questions! Whenever you're not sure how they do something, ask. Editors are happy to answer your questions, especially since it means you then hand in a prepared document.

#4 ~ Anticipate What They Need

I know, I know--how can you anticipate what an editor might need before you've ever done this?? It's not always possible. A lot of times, you just have to wait and see and learn the ropes. But sometimes you can surprise them with exactly what they need. =)

This is doable when you have something scheduled. A phone call or appointed time for marketing talks or edits, or a meeting when an editor will be presenting your next project. When you know it's coming, you can be prepared. Even if they don't say you have to have a document prepared with answers to their questions or your ideas for something, get one ready anyway, and send it to them a few days before the scheduled meeting. That will give the team time to look it over and be prepared with other ideas of their own.

#5 ~ Get Creative, Baby!

I cannot over-emphasize how invaluable ideas are. Fresh ones, new ones, funny ones, long-shot ones...they're all priceless! For editors and agents, there's a lot of routine. A lot of in-the-box. A lot of "this is the way we do it."

Shake things up.

Did you get a no on one proposal idea but they said they liked your writing? Toss more ideas at them. Once you have a contract, start coming up with creative, innovative ways to promote your book, and ask them for their take. It's always good to have permission for things, but generally a publisher is happy to grant that for whatever you want to do--more, they're just impressed that you're working outside that boring ol' box! Be active, be out-there, be creative.

Some ideas that I have presented to my team as an author:
  • a custom-made, one-of-a-kind doll modeled after my heroine to give away
  • a themed, online project purely for fun (scavenger hunt, etc.)
  • a freebie promotional novella to release between my books
  • non-fiction articles that tie in with my novel's subject to submit to magazines
  • guest appearances on high-profile blogs and websites
Some ideas I've seen as an editor that worked out well:
  • live-action trailer
  • radio interviews
  • sending PDF review copies to journalists, film-makers, etc.
  • custom headers for social media
  • short-story giveaways
Now, will all these ideas always work? No. But by presenting them, you're proving to your publishing team exactly what a good teacher's pet proves to the teacher--that you're not afraid to work hard, and that you're willing to go above and beyond. That can never, ever be underestimated!

Do you have other ideas for or questions about ways to endear yourself to your agency or publishing team? Or other questions for an editor? I welcome your comments! Or you can email me at roseanna [at] roseannawhite [dot] com.


  1. terrific ideas and much food for thought. I love the concept of a doll modeled after your heroine. Thanks for a very useful article.

    1. Thanks, Kathy! Pat Iacuzzi made the doll for me--so cool! There's a picture on Facebook--

  2. These are some great things to think about! Thanks so much!

    1. Sure! Thanks for stopping by, Amanda. =)

  3. This was very helpful! Thank you. What is the cover questionnaire?

    1. The cover questionnaire is one of my favorite parts of process--a form the publisher sends you to fill out that asks things like:
      When is your book set? What year? What season?
      What does your main character look like? Eye color? Hair color and style? What clothes does she wear? What are her hobbies? What items might she carry with her?

      As well as general ideas you might have for the book cover. Sometimes the design team will go with your ideas, often not, LOL, but they generally try to stick with your description for your characters. ;-) Fun!!

    2. Thanks, that sounds really fun : )

    3. I had the same question. Thanks for asking, Alyson!

  4. Thanks you for your insightful posts, Ms. White!
    ~Sarah Faulkner

  5. Thanks for the helpful post!

  6. What awesome ideas! I love them all. Thank you so much for this post, Roseanna! I did have one question about the proposal process. What are viable things to include in your "About Me" spot of the proposal. One proposal I submitted to an agency asked for my education and accomplishments, and being only twenty years old (and having chosen not to go to college, but to further my education at home) I felt that part was a little sparse. Is there anything else I could include in that spot of my proposal? Obviously I'm an extremely intelligent girl, and right up there with any college graduate, but it just doesn't *look* that way on paper. What crosses the line from professional accomplishments and becomes superfluous information? Do you have any opinion on this?

    1. Stephanie has a post about that here: Been a while since I've read it, but I'm sure it's helpful. ;-)

      But even if you don't have a scad of degrees to list, you can list things like groups you belong to, a blog if you have one, whether you have anything specifically relevant to the book you're pitching (like if it's a historical and you do reenacting, or if it's sci-fi and you work with a local lab or it's YA and you volunteer at a school...)

      As an editor, I'm impressed if someone HAS a platform, but I'm not turned off if their bio is spare. Everyone has to start somewhere!

  7. What is the difference between a market analysis and summaries of other books? I know that a market analysis is more than just summaries of other books, but what purpose do the summaries serve? Thanks for a great post! I'm sure I will be referring back to this in the future.

    1. A market analysis will give the editor or agent an idea of where your book fits in the market, what other books it's comparable to but what sets it apart.

      On the other hand, a summary of other books is for YOUR series--just a short paragraph about other ideas you have to continue the series after the first book, if applicable. If it's a stand-alone with no planned sequels, then you wouldn't have to include that.

  8. Thanks for the post Roseanna! I'll have to remember to pay attention and follow house rules once I get there. I tend to do my formatting simple but still the way I like, so now I'll keep this in mind.

    1. And since consistency is the most important thing in formatting, doing it your way right now is FINE. Just be sure to always do it the same way so that if ever you do have to change something, you can do it all in one fell swoop. (Says the voice of experience with that, LOL.)

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  10. Being prompt is sooo important. I'm a student editor at a small magazine, and I've had to pass up a bunch of great short stories because the author didn't turn in their contract by deadline.

    I love the doll idea. I did something similar with one of my WIPs, sculpting my water horse character.

    1. Sculpting--fun! I've drawn and framed pictures of my characters, but more for my signings than to give away. I'm no sculptor though, LOL. And yes, promptness is CRUCIAL, especially for a magazine/newspaper with strict deadlines.

    2. That's so cool that you can draw your characters! I've tried, but what ends up on paper never matches the picture in my head.

    3. Yeah, I hear ya. It usually takes me an hour or two to get it right...and I have to look at a picture. I pick out actors or models first and then draw based on that. Not that I've done it in a while, actually...

  11. Four years ago I did a series of short stories for Breakaway magazine (by Focus on the Family, but no longer in print). Their graphics team developed an iron-on print for t-shirts based on a key symbol in my stories. Now that I'm expanding those stories into a YA novel, I'm keeping that iron-on print in mind. What better advertising than to get readers wearing a conversation-starter about my book? (I just wish this had been my idea!)

    1. I figure, it doesn't really matter whose idea it is if you can use it and make it yours. It's a really great idea, anyway - I'm going to have to remember that.

  12. Thank you, this is so useful! And so easy to understand! Quick question: what is a cover questionnaire?

    1. Never mind, you've answered that question already. Sorry about that haha :)

    2. No problem. =) I would have just copied and pasted anyway, LOL.