June 4th update: This deal for 11 DRM-free ebooks ends at midnight tonight (EDS time)!
My book Rejections, Romance, & Royalties is in an 11-ebook bundle this week at StoryBundle, all DRM-free books on the craft & business of writing professionally.
Pay $5 and get a 6-book bundle, including my book; pay at least $15, and get the additional 5 bonus books and a 40%-off coupon for Jutoh ebooking software. You can also allocate part of your purchase price to foundations that encourage young people to read and write.
The bundle includes books by award-winners, bestsellers, and career writers, and there’s a lot of great information in these volumes.
And here’s a sample chapter from Rejection, Romance, & Royalties:
Orphans of the Storm
Once upon a time (come on, who doesn’t love a story that begins that way?), I sold my first book, a romance novel, to Silhouette Books, a division of Harlequin Enterprises (a.k.a. The Evil Empire).
As first sales go, it was a fairly painless process. Several months after I sent them my manuscript, I received an encouraging letter from an editorial assistant saying she liked my book and was passing it higher up the food chain. A few months after that, I received another letter from her saying that the book was getting favorable readings, but acquiring a new author was a lengthy process at Silhouette, one which required patience and time. Then, about eleven months after I’d mailed in the manuscript, I received a FedEx letter from an editor at Silhouette; they’d been trying to reach me for several days, but there was no answer at the phone number I’d given them, and so they wanted me to call them.
(This was back in the spring of 1988. I didn’t have a computer, I had never heard of e-mail, and I didn’t own an answering machine.)
So I phoned them. The editor who’d signed the letter answered the phone, gushed nicely about my writing, and made me an offer for the book—an offer that was roughly the advance sum which, based on my research, I expected from them. The editor (whose name I’ve long since forgotten) praised my talent and said she would like to see everything else I had written. She explained that she’d be interested in buying several books per year from me.
I was, needless to say, thrilled!
The editor’s revision requests on that first book were neither arduous nor unreasonable. I completed them easily, turned in the final manuscript, and got paid. And, as requested, I sent her the rest of my work: two more complete manuscripts, and one partial.
The next time I heard from my editor was when I received a letter from her announcing she was leaving Silhouette and, indeed, leaving the publishing industry entirely (which is why I don’t even remember her name anymore). Her last day in the office, to answer questions or deal with her writers, was the day the letter was mailed and (obviously) several days before I received it. Her letter assured me I would soon be assigned to a new editor. She didn’t make any mention of the manuscripts that I had sent her at her request.
When I finally received another letter informing me who my new editor was, I phoned her so that we could get acquainted, talk about the book that I had in production there, and talk about the manuscripts which were now presumably sitting on her desk.
I only remember her first name, and only because it was so comically unsuited to her personality: Joy. She was a listless, sour person who told me that I’d been shoveled onto her already too-heavy workload along with a bunch of other writers whom, like me, she really didn’t want or have time for.
I asked when my first novel was scheduled for release. Joy didn’t know and was “too busy” to find out.
I asked about the three manuscripts which I had submitted at my previous editor’s request. Joy didn’t know and was too busy to find out. I reminded her of my option clause; Silhouette had sixty days, from submission, to give me an answer on those manuscripts. She coldly informed me she had no idea when she’d have time to read them.
A couple of months passed with no contact from Joy. So I phoned her. She never phoned back. I phoned her again. She still didn’t phone back. I phoned yet again—and caught her at her desk this time. She hadn’t looked at my manuscripts, had no idea where they were, was too busy to look for them, and didn’t really have time to waste talking to me. I reminded her that the option period had now expired, so an answer would be appropriate. She responded with irritable indifference and ended the conversation.
I had been (perhaps you’ve heard the term before) orphaned.
This is one of the many pitfalls of publishing that you don’t really think about (and perhaps don’t even hear about) when you’re trying to break into the business. While it doesn’t happen often, it’s nonetheless a typical enough experience that a writer should be aware of the possibility.
Being “orphaned” usually means that your editor leaves the publishing house, for one reason or another, and the editor who gets you in her place doesn’t particularly want you or care about your career. She didn’t discover you, didn’t acquire you—she’s merely inherited you, and she clearly wishes she hadn’t.
Some writers wind up leaving publishing houses (involuntarily) after being orphaned; because it’s not just the publisher who buys and believes in your work—it is very specifically and importantly the editor. Without an editor interested in your work and championing you within the house, you probably have no real future there.
Now, let’s clarify: Being orphaned does not necessarily lead to problems. There are numerous instances where your new editor is just as enthused about your writing as your old one was, perhaps even more so. There are many instances where you are just as compatible with your new editor as you were with her predecessor, perhaps even more so. There are editors who inherit you and automatically call you up to tell you how excited they are about working with you hereafter. There are editors who, before making that call, spend all weekend reading everything you’ve published with their house so they can chat intelligently with you about your work. So let’s not panic. Being orphaned is not always a disaster. It’s not even always an awkward or difficult thing.
In my case, however, it was a genuine career crisis. I knew no one at Silhouette Books, and none of them knew me. I was a brand new writer with one modest sale under my belt. It’s very common for writers to disappear after just one or two sales, so no one at Silhouette would have ever wondered why I had never survived beyond my first book with them. I was powerless and friendless, and I had been inherited by an editor who very clearly just wanted to get rid of me. An editor who wanted me to disappear, because I represented nothing to her except extra work that she didn’t want. An editor who, just by stalling me, rejecting me, and dodging my calls, had the ability to make me disappear.
This went on for five months. The closest Joy ever got to reading my work was to farm out one of my manuscripts to a free-lance reader who, she then told me, gave it an “unfavorable report.” Joy explained to me that, based on that reaction, she herself didn’t expect to like any of my work, and she doubted that I would make another sale to Silhouette.
Wow, can’t get much clearer than that, can she?
I panicked. I knew that in order to save my fledgling career, I had to do something to get past this (I use the word loosely) editor. She was a serious impediment to my professional survival. So I did something I almost never do: I sought the advice of my father, science fiction writer Mike Resnick.
At his suggestion, I wrote a carefully worded letter to Joy’s boss. I praised Joy effusively… and remarked on how terrible I felt about the way she was so overworked. I commented on her tremendous work ethic and personal charm… and mourned that she was so busy, she’d gone five months without having a chance to read any of my optioned manuscripts. I expressed tremendous admiration for Joy… while reflecting that it just seemed unfair that she was afflicted with so many writers she didn’t even have time to return my phone calls. And I nobly volunteered to be assigned to another editor—someone who, while perhaps lacking Joy’s warmth, brilliance, and efficiency, might actually have a chance to read my submissions.
In other words, I asked for a new editor and explained my reasons, while being careful not to openly criticize the one I was with. I also copied the letter to Joy herself, so that I wouldn’t appear to be going behind her back or trying to stir up trouble.
It worked. Joy’s boss phoned me personally for a long, friendly chat. She never criticized Joy in our conversation, but she clearly understood that it was a bad situation and I needed to be moved. Within a week or two, I was reassigned to another editor—one who spent the weekend reading the book I had under contract there and all of my new submissions, then phoned me, made me an offer, talked about how enthused she was about working with me hereafter, and did all the other things that a good editor does when she inherits a writer. She and I worked together for several years at Silhouette, and we have remained friendly ever since those days. So the story has a happy ending.
So, when your editorial relationship isn’t working out, you can ask for a new editor. A smart publisher knows that editors and writers work better when they’re teamed with the right individuals. (Unfortunately, not all publishers are smart; but if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.)
However, if you’re going to do this, your editorial problems need to be real problems, not just a case of an editor who didn’t buy a book you wanted to sell her, or whose personality you’re not that crazy about. Also, remember that although most publishing houses will humor this request once, they’ll rarely do it twice; if you have problems with your subsequent editor there, then you are likely to be regarded as the problem. So before asking for a new editor, make sure that you’re positive that any change would be an improvement. (In my situation with Joy, I was quite positive.)
Asking for a new editor, while well within your rights as a writer, is a delicate political move. You may have many good reasons to hate the editor, but she is an employee (possibly even a favored and longtime one) of the house. So it’s best to be as tactful and non-accusatory as possible, while nonetheless making your needs known to your editor’s superior.
As for Joy… she left publishing forever only a few weeks after I got reassigned, so you’re in no danger of running into her. (A lot of editors you’ll meet along the way leave publishing forever. Really. It’s not just the ones who work with me.)
And remember the editorial assistant who kept sending me nice encouraging letters before my first sale? She later became my editor for a couple of years. She eventually left the business, but we’ve remained friends all these years. (And just to clarify: She did not leave the business because of me, okay?)
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You can purchase the bundle of books at Story Bundle for only a few more days, so grab it now.