MONTCLAIR, NJ - Montclair’s own Book Doctors, David Henry Sterry & Arielle Eckstut, paired with Peter Ginna, author, publisher and editorial director, for a free event at the Montclair Library on Saturday. The 90 minute panel discussion and Q&A session was a forum to share “tricks of the trade” for those wishing to get their works published.
About thirty people came out hoping to gather insights on what it takes to get an editor to pick up their query or proposal. Ginna listed a range of criteria, “It often comes from the voice, the way it’s written, the passion you can feel from the author about the subject … you know... the niftiness of the plot, the beauty of the imagery…” Beyond the list of attributes he added that on occasion it’s simply very personal, “sometimes editors come to things out of their personal enthusiasm.”
As for the single best piece of advice for what an author should never do, The Book Doctors and Ginna agreed, “The turnoff is the reverse-querying “Dear Editor” without having done enough homework to know who you are writing to” said Ginna.
While the gut feeling an editor gets about a writer’s proposal does carry weight, an editor must also have a sense of whether the manuscript will be marketable.
Sterry looked out at the audience grinning , “There is an editor waiting for your book out there your job is to find that person.” He went on to say that in order to accomplish that, researching the editor’s interests and writing a letter that reflects the research, can be a way in.
Continuing on the subject of marketing, Ginna jumped in with a personal story about 2 book jacket mockups he had to present to sales director in a book about the Prince of Wales. One was a standard portrait, the other had the royal subjects holding pugs. The director, who was incredibly difficult to please, burst out joyfully when he saw the pugs and selected the book cover immediately. He happened to love pugs. So be it an editor or a sales director, the choices made are often personal.
Maryann, an audience member, wanted to know what kinds of publications an aspiring writer should try to get small works published in. Ginna said it depends on what you are writing, but essentially, “whether it’s a blog or twitter or a special interest magazine…” what matters is to reach the largest audience.
Eckstut added how important it is for a writer to display knowledge of the shelf on which the author’s books will live. She said writers need to know not only famous books from years ago but more current, and perhaps although not best sellers, similar books known and loved by editors.
Sterry cautioned that a common mistake in a proposal is to compare one’s work to very famous books. He joked, “My book is the next Harry Potter meets The Hunger Games meets Eat Pray Love.”
Eckstut went on to discuss traditional and self publishing. She also added a word of warning about companies who run a myriad of scams that prey on writers’ desire to be published.
Blogging effectively on a common platform was also discussed as a way to grow an author’s platform prior to submitting a book proposal to a publisher. Ginna said WordPress and Medium were some of the platforms used and he went on to discuss the importance of bloggers delivering consistent and frequent content.
The event lasted over ninety minutes and ended back to back with the beginning of another event called The Power of the Black Superhero.
Eckstut and Sterry have published twenty six books, including the Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published which was for sale at the event. Ginna’s What Editors Do - The Art, Craft and Business of Book Editing was also for sale.
At the conclusion, Tapinto Montclair wanted to know how Ginna felt the about the event. He said, “I was very happy… I am enough of a publishing nerd that I enjoy talking about the business in almost any setting, and I’m always glad to be able to help writers understand it better.”