With a publishing industry that is ever in flux, it can be hard for an aspiring author to figure out what information is relevant and what she needs to do to be successful. Recognizing this, literary agent Andrea Hurst and writer and blogger Katie Flanagan present a series of weekly interviews with publishing industry specialists. The AUTHORNOMICS Series features literary agents, editors, authors, marketing experts and more talking about their opinions on the publishing industry, writing, and what a writer needs to know.
If you have questions for upcoming guests on the AUTHORNOMICS Interview Series, email them to email@example.com.
Interview with Editor Annette Pollert
Annette Pollert acquires contemporary, commercial teen fiction for Simon Pulse. She loves complicated, engaging protagonists, and books set in—or out of—reality with inventive hooks and distinctive voices. She particularly enjoys dark, edgy novels; mysteries; and suspense—all, of course, infused with romance. Annette’s list includes NYT Bestselling authors L.J. Smith, Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié, and Thomas E. Sniegoski, as well as Lisa Schroeder, Jeri Smith-Ready, and debut authors Brian Farrey and Arlaina Tibensky, among others. You can follow her on Twitter at @annettepollert. To find out more about Simon Pulse books, visit simonandschuster.com.
1. Tell us about your process for becoming an editor at Simon and Schuster?
I’ve always loved books and reading, and fell in love with editorial work during a college internship at Scholastic Inc. But then I took a detour to grad school. When I finished my course work, there weren’t any openings in Children’s Editorial, so I took another detour and worked on the adult side of publishing (at Viking/Plume, which is part of Penguin Group USA). It was an amazing experience. I learned a lot and I loved the books and the people…I but kept reading teen novels underneath my desk during lunch. A lot of those books were Simon Pulse novels, so when there was an editorial opening—I jumped. It’s been a great fit, and I love the editorial work that I do. And I no longer read teen novels underneath my desk!
2. What are some of the most common mistakes you see in the submissions you review?
I love conflict—not in my life, but on the page. Manuscripts that start out with conflict, and keep building on that conflict, always draw me in and keep me turning pages. Long, lyrical, descriptive passages are lovely, but I want things to start happening in the first paragraph. As a reader, I want to join the party in-progress, not sit around waiting for some people to show up and, maybe, if they’re in the mood, decide to do something.
3. You specialize in young adult novels. What are some of the trends you are seeing, and which trends do you wish you saw more of?
I work with a number of authors who write paranormal novels, so there is always a flow of supernatural creatures arriving in my inbox. There was a period of time when I was reading manuscript after manuscript about demons slayers. (If you ever need an exorcism performed, I could probably do it.) And there have been a number of dystopian manuscripts, particularly novels in which women’s rights have been suddenly been restricted/repealed.
That said, I also work on contemporary fiction, so I get to read novels in which people eat food for nutrients and stay dead after their heart stops beating. Of those, psych wards and car crashes have popped up a bunch lately. And it turns out I’m something of a sucker for a good novel involving a psych ward. I love those dark novels with grit, books that make your heart ache because of love or life gone wrong, and spunky protagonists (female or male). And I’d love to find a really juicy teen mystery/thriller.
4. Let’s say you read a manuscript for submission and absolutely love it. What happens next?
After I fall head over heels for a manuscript, then I share it with the rest of the Simon Pulse Editorial team. They also read the manuscript, and we discuss what we love about it, what needs changing, how well it would fit on our list, and where we see it fitting in with the competition.
If everyone is on board, then a manuscript gets shared with Publicity, Marketing, and Sales. We all discuss the manuscript again, this time with more voices and more perspectives, an acquisition meeting.
If everyone is STILL on board with acquiring a manuscript, then numbers get crunched, an agent gets called, and an offer gets placed….
5. A lot of people say editors don’t edit anymore. What is the editorial process at S&S?
Hmm…who are these people and who are these editors? That said, each editor has an individual style, so let me explain how I edit.
Although I’ve already read a manuscript once or twice for acquisition, I go back and read it again before setting into writing an editorial letter. I usually have some broad, bulleted notes from my initial read, but I take more notes while I am rereading. These two sets of notes become the basis for my letter.
Think about renovating a house: this is the time that I map out which rooms need to be gutted, how the flow of the floor plan could be improved, where an addition could be created, and discuss options for spruce up the kitchen by refurbishing the cabinets and/or laying new tile, etc. The letter usually deals with overarching plot, character, world-building, flow issues. etc.
Then an author revises, and I read the revision. Depending on the manuscript, there may be a second editorial letter or we may move forward with line-edits.
I enjoy writing editorial letters, but I love to line-edit. I write a lot on a manuscript—and it’s everything from questions about passages that need clarification (think: choosing paint color for a wall, considering moving a desk into the “bonus room” so it’s clear it’s an office) to places where the language could be strengthened and tightened (think: moving a couch from one wall to another to see where it both looks best and is most functional). I also make notes in the margin about phrases that I love, scenes that are working really well, and the like. There’s a lot of scrawl. And I will admit that smiley faces and hearts can be (ok, are) involved.
Sometimes we’ll do one round of line-edits, sometimes we’ll do more. When both the author and I are satisfied that a manuscript is the best that it can be, it gets sent off to copy-editing, where it is read for grammar and syntax and such.
Two questions that I ask when I am editing at every stage? Why are you telling me this? (relevance) And, why are you telling me this now? (placement)
6. After you sign an author, what happens if an author doesn’t agree with edits you suggest?
If I fall in love with a manuscript that needs some big, sweeping changes, I have a conversation with the author before acquisition. For example: sometimes an ending is too light and “happily ever after” given the dark nature of a narrative. I would have a conversation with that author before acquisition to make sure that they were open to, and agreed with, the kind of revisions I had in mind.
I prefer to line-edit in pencil on the page, rather than in track-changes on the computer. I may have a great idea for how to reflow a paragraph or rewrite a sentence, but an author may have an even better fix. And I don’t want him/her to think that my ideas are the only solutions for revising. At the end of the day, both an editor and an author want a novel to be the best version of its self—but it’s the author’s name that goes on the cover.
7. What kind of books do you read for fun?
I love reading teen books of all sorts, but when I go on vacation, I tend to take nonfiction (particularly books of essays and memoirs) and mysteries (Tana French is one of my favorite authors) to read.
8. What is the most important piece of advice you would give an aspiring author?
It’s hard to decide on ONE piece of advice, so I’m going with two…
1) Write what you love. Your energy and enthusiasm will come through in the manuscript.
2) Then revise. Not just once. Or twice. A lot.
Remember when you were a teen and had to clean your room? Don’t do the speedy, shove-all-the-dirty-laundry-under-the-bed-so-Mom-won’t-see-it-so-you-can-borrow-the-car-to-meet-up-with-friends approach. Why? Because at some point, Mom is going to look under that bed and find all of the STUFF…and then no car keys.
Really work it. Clean out the closet. Figure out what fits and what doesn’t. Throw out what you don’t need. (Or donate it! Save that great line or idea for the next manuscript!) Keep what fits and find it a home, the home, in your manuscript. It’s not an easy process, but the results will make you proud (and Mom will totally let you borrow the car—maybe even extend curfew).
9. Will you be participating in any conferences or events in the next year?
Yes! Though at the moment, I’ve only confirmed Rutgers’ One-on-One conference in October. Sorting through a few manuscript delivery dates…that always comes first!
Thank you for interviewing with our blog series.
Andrea Hurst has over 25 years experience as a published author, developmental editor for publishers, and skilled literary agent. She works with both major and regional publishing houses, and her client list includes emerging new voices and New York Times best-selling authors. Andrea represents high profile Adult Nonfiction and well crafted fiction. Her clients and their books have appeared on the Oprah Show, Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, National Geographic network and in the New York Times.
Katie Flanagan is a fiction major at Northwestern University. She is currently an editor with Booktrope and a reader for Pink Fish Press. In the past, she has interned with Andrea Hurst Literary Management and the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. Her favorite genre is women’s fiction, but she reads any fiction put in front of her. Check out her blog about the writing life at katieflanagan.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter at @K_Flanagan.
The winner of last week’s random drawing for one of Margie Lawson’s online courses is Patricia Yager Delagrange! Come back later this week to learn more about an end-of-summer contest.