Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Interview with editor and author, Linda Yezak
How long have you been an editor? Is there much of a transition from being an editor to being the writer?
I've been a consulting editor with Port Yonder Press for about a year, but a freelance editor for three. It's a lot like being a critique partner--it's so much easier to see other's mistakes than your own.
As an editor you see lots of query letters and proposals. Give me an example of both that really grabbed your attention in a good way.
Last year, I had a speaking engagement where folks submitted to me, and again at the ACFW conference in Indiana. Since the experience is new to me, being approached always takes me by surprise. At the conference, one young lady said, "I've been looking all over for you!" That tickled me.
But as far as query letters and proposals, I discovered first hand how frustrating it is when people don't follow directions. I'm new, so I read through the submissions anyway, but can you imagine an agent/editor who receives hundreds of submissions a week? I doubt they'd take the time to look at something when the author didn't bother to read and follow their submission requirements. So, that's point number one: Read and follow the submission requirements! And research for each agency/publisher you submit to, because each one is different.
What advice would you give writers in sending out query letters and proposals?
PYP pretty much wants an entire proposal packet--or at least they did, I haven't looked at the process lately. For me, I'm interested in the cover letter and the first few paragraphs of the manuscript. In the cover letter, I expect to learn a few things quickly: title, genre, word count, intended audience, and what the book's about. A quick, eye-catching, imagination-sparking blurb of what the book is about is vital--and it also doubles as an elevator pitch, or can be modified into a one-liner to attach to your signature. From the first few paragraphs of a manuscript, I can tell quickly how well the author writes. If I like the writing style, I move on to the author's platform and marketing plan. I'm one of the ones who doesn't read the synopsis.
Keep in mind, I've only done this a few times, but from what I've read, most agents/editors are the same way. They may choose different things to check first, may put different emphasis on each component of a submission packet, but they all do the same thing. According to Terry Burns's book, A Writer's Survival Guide to Getting Published, that "thing" is finding a reason to discard the submission. Seriously. If you think about it, it makes sense. Consider again how many submissions an agent/editor gets in a week. Competition for those few slots of publication is fierce, and everyone seems to know that but the new author who hasn't done the research required to make it past the first hurdle.
What are the top reasons a story is rejected?
I can tell you what I've discovered through reading editor/agent sites and from what little experience I have:
1. Not following instructions found in the submission guidelines.
2. Pitching to the wrong editor/publisher. Be sure to research these people. You wouldn't pitch Sci-Fi to a Western publisher.
3. Cover letters that are amateurish. There are so many sites out there that give examples of good and bad cover or query letters, an author has no excuse for not sending a professional one.
4. Sending in a first draft. Many authors these days are using freelance editors to go over their work before they hit the publication trial. This can be expensive, but it's well worth the cost. Otherwise, find a critique partner or group, enter contests, submit to peer reviews--anything that will give you feedback and help you improve. But don't type "the end" and think you're done. You have a long way to go. Go the distance.
When do you think a writer should follow up on a query or proposal?
Again, read the agent/editors' sites about this. Some will tell you how long you can expect to wait for a response, others won't. Look at what the average waiting time is, and for those who don't give you an indication, give them the average time before sending in a follow-up email.
What is the best part of being an editor? What is the worst part?
As a consulting editor for PYP and a freelance editor, the best part is taking good work and making it even better. As a freelancer, the worst part is having someone's first draft and being expected to work miracles, which is awful of me to say. Lately, I have been more careful who I take on as a client. I enjoy working with people who show promise, and have decided to limit myself to these people. I stink as a writing coach for those just starting out. Don't have the patience.
How does being an editor affect your own writing?
Sometimes I see things that hit me wrong and I don't know why. When I do, I study the issue and apply what I've learned in my own writing. But I usually learn more through having my own work edited. There's nothing like having a fresh set of eyes go over your work to wake up the student in you.
I see you were a 2010 Finalist, ACFW Genesis Competition. Can you give me the details of that competition?
I was a finalist in 2010 and in 2008. I had forgotten which year Give the Lady a Ride placed). American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) runs a contest for unpublished authors every year, and the number of participants has grown exponentially. A writer submits fifteen pages of their novel, and the submission is judged by a panel of first-round judges. This panel is composed of volunteers from within the organization with varying degrees of experience. From there, the works of the top five finalists in each genre move on to the final round, which consists of a panel of judges from the industry. Editors from major publishing companies, experienced multi-published authors, and established agents make up this panel. The winners in each category are announced at the banquet at the ACFW Conference, held in different states each year in September.
Judges are requested to make comments, and some of those comments sting. Authors--myself included--need to tuck their pride away after the initial pain subsides and consider what the judge is suggesting. This contest, most major contests, is valuable for the feedback you receive. If used as a tool to improve your work, contests can up your chances of getting published.
In a previous interview with Lisa Grace she mentioned that you were her editor for her historical thriller tentatively titled The 15th Star. As an editor what is your input and focus?
When I work, I look at everything. Punctuation is my weakest suit, but beyond that, I work on grammar, sentence/paragraph/chapter construction, the broad view of the book--does it work? are there plot holes? Is the premise feasible?--to the narrowest part, "does this comma go here?" (I usually have to look that up!) Usually, with pieces that are well-written, I may suggest ways to smooth out transitions, offer alternative words, and point out things the author may have missed. With pieces that need more work, I'm afraid I pour out a serious amount of red ink.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given on writing? What advice would you give new or established writers?
The best advice ever is to study the craft. Every aspect of it. That's the best advice I've ever received, and the best advice I can give.
Although we’ve only touched on it in this interview, Linda is also an author. The book is called Give the Lady a Ride. It's available on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble on line. You can find more about Linda and her writing by clicking here.