I was lucky enough to attend the morning session of my RWASD’s monthly meeting. Our speaker was editor Leis Pederson of Berkley Books – a division of Penguin.
Her topic was “What Not to Do in a Book Proposal,” however much to our delight, instead of speaking to us lecture-style, she gave a brief introduction of herself and of Berkley Books and then opened the floor up to questions. Later that afternoon, she also took a few pitches.
What follows is a hodge podge of questions that the membership asked and I did my best to take notes on the answers. I was able to lump them into different groups, but my first blog on this will mostly be what people find the most interesting . . .QUERIES & SUBMISSIONS.
NOTE: I was handwriting notes, and did the best that I could to take them accurately. Please do your own research before submitting to her or to any editor or agent.
- They print around 700 titles a year
- Leis personally edits 20 authors currently in romance (all genres) and womens’ fiction.
Overall Submission Mistakes
- Sloppy proposals – the manuscript needs to be clean. Have it edited for punctuation, grammar
- “Spell check is your friend”
- Know the gender of the person you are submitting to, no “Dear Sir or Madam.”
- Do your research on the editor that your submitting to, “Know the line.” Don’t submit mystery to a womens’ fiction only editor
NOTE: all cases are individual, “It depends,” was a common response from Leis.
Question: What happens after a book is acquired?
When she finds a book that she wants to publish, she sends it through to others for a second or multiple reads. Basically they buy by committee, the board (not sure who it consists of) makes a decision on if they want to publish the book or not. Once they receive the green light . . .
- Offer for acquisition
- Schedule when the book will come out (usually within a year or sooner) – This date can move forward or backward depending on other authors deadlines (if they are met or not).
- Edits – sometimes there are many, sometimes not. But there is a back and forth process where the editor redlines things and sends it to the author, etc.
- Copy Editor – who checks for grammar, punctuation, word choices, etc.
- Type setter – checks for typos and sets how the book will look in print.
- Production, Cover, Copy – These typically happen simultaneously
Question: When querying you, how long do you want the synopsis to be?
2 to 7 pages. If she wants more, she will request it.
Question: What do you want in the synopsis?
- A general sense of where the story is going
- What are the major plot points
- Where does the romance go – how does it develop
- You can give away the ending
- Give enough detail but don’t give too much. She has received a synopsis where it said something like, “On page 2 the hero takes a bath.”
Question: Which do you prefer Electronic or Hard Copy?
- Electronic, definitely. Save the baby trees. Hard copy goes in the slush pile to be read at a later date.
- Send the requested synopsis and sample chapters as an attachment, NOT embedded in the email.
Question: On books you pass on, do you provide feedback? And do you accept resubmissions?
If she reads a book and thinks that it can be fixed, then she’ll make some revision recommendations and will ask for it to be returned. Sometimes she’ll make notes as to why it didn’t work for her, but that’s NOT the same thing as asking to see it back. Always ask before resubmitting.
Question: Do you ever buy on less than a full manuscript from a debut author? What about established authors?
For debut authors, she never buys on less than a full manuscript because she needs to know that the author can finish the entire book and that it’s as strong as the first 3 chapters.
For established authors, especially from her own line, then sometimes all that’s needed is a proposal/synopsis.
More to come on Leis Pederson and her thoughts on the industry, her life as an editor, etc. Stay tuned.