Monday, September 29, 2008

Meet the Editors: KelliK

I'd like to introduce you to the people behind the wonderful authors and books—the editors! Aspiring authors often ask what editors want, what editors like—and what editors are like. Well, they are people and come in every variety. The one thing they have in common is an absolute love for good books and reading. Publishing is a poorly paid career field—editors do it for the love of books, not for the love of money.

I have met some fantastic editors from many publishers, and learned a lot from them. And here at Ellora's Cave Publishing we are very proud of our editors and of our editorial standards. The editing quality of our books has been praised by big NY publishing companies.

So we're going to run a weekly feature to let you see "inside" some of our editorial staff. Learn what inspires them about editing and books, what their pet peeves are regarding submission, what they like to read. We'll start with...


What is your background and experience in editing?
My editing background comes from a career in journalism, which didn’t begin in the editing field. I was a writer before the opportunity to become a lowly copy editor presented itself. I switched careers, and with the endlessly patient support and tutelage of my editor, worked my way up to associate editor.

Four years ago, my former editor wrote a cover story about Ellora’s Cave for my newspaper. I was inspired by the story and contacted EC about part-time contract editing work.

Four years later, I’m still working for EC and loving it so much that I wish I could edit books full-time. I’ve had dozens of trials and tribulations along the way, and with the help of my fellow editors and the seldom-seen but greatly appreciated final copy editors, I’ve become an editor who can be proud of her work. I’ve also learned as much from my authors as they have from me.

How would you describe your editing style?
Brutal. LOL! My authors would probably say I’m hard to please, extremely anal retentive and fixated on minutiae. I prefer to think of it as not letting anyone rest on their laurels. :-) When editing, I consider myself first and foremost an advocate for the reader, and I ask the questions I think readers are most likely to ask. I’m looking for understandable yet compelling, and I try to steer authors away from that which has been read or written too often.

It’s rare that I don’t request some revisions before accepting stories. I expect authors to learn from past mistakes, and should I find the same errors—whether grammar or narrative or world building—I require them to fix those items. I believe an acceptance should be a reward for hard-working authors who take their writing seriously.

What is your favorite thing about editing?
The power trip.

Kidding, kidding!

I’m just a more behind-the-scenes person. During high school, I always wanted to be the stage manager for school plays, not the actor. Some would say that suggests a need for control, but I really just wanted to be the one ensuring all the elements were in place for the actors. It comes down to wanting to feel helpful, which is still extremely important to me in every area of my life.

It’s the same with my authors. I’m more than content to let them shine…my satisfaction comes from knowing I helped them do so. And that satisfaction, for me, is immense. It’s my own personal “best feeling in the world”.

What are your pet peeves in books or submissions?
Spelling errors are number one. Hands-down. In this day and age, there’s simply no excuse. I’ve turned down projects based on the synopsis alone, due to excessive spelling errors.

Beyond that, there are the usual pet peeves…insufficient grammar skills, overdone plot lines, unfamiliarity with basic fiction-writing rules, lack of proper research. And in regards to potential EC submissions—sex for the sake of sex.

IMO, writing is a job and writers should arm themselves with the tools necessary to be successful. Those tools include grammar texts, formal education when possible, reference sites, research skills and knowing the market for which your book is targeted, to name but a few.

For personal reading, what are your favorite genres and all-time favorite books?
Oh man…how much time do you have? It might be easier to list the genres I don’t like. I haven’t read many self-help books…

I’m an ardent Chuck Palahniuk fan; have a fondness for horror in the vein of Brite and Lovecraft. I went through three copies of Charlotte’s Web by the time I was eight years old. My shelves are heavily lined with multiple titles from 19th century authors (Bronte sisters, Poe, Dickens, Twain, Irving, Hugo, Hawthorne, etc.).

A very, very short list of more “recent” all-time faves includes:
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal
The Catcher in the Rye
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
The Bell Jar
The Great Gatsby
The Magician’s Assistant
And lots of biographies.

Secret guilty pleasures: Shipwreck biographies. Really. Probably has something to do with growing up surrounded by the Great Lakes. And photography collections; Annie Leibovitz, Herb Ritts and David LaChapelle are favorites, though I’ve some interesting ones by people you might not expect, like Dean Koontz and David Lynch.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"Last Line" Contest Winners!

Well, we definitely see that people would rather write and laugh about "bad" lines in imaginary novels rather than good ones. Or maybe it's easier to stick a spear through those genre cliches? We had only two entries each for the "best last line" categories, but plenty for "worst".
Notice that we did allow the stretching of "last line", as some of the entries were last paragraphs or so.

And the winners are ... {Drum roll}

1. Mystery Novel - Best last line
Sometime between dusk and dawn the body had disappeared and in its place was a black silk rose with a single blood drop on one petal. ~ windlegends

2. Mystery Novel - Worst last line
Gertrude dabbed her eyes with a frilly handkerchief as the radiant bride sailed down the aisle toward her groom.
"It is fortuitious that the authorities have apprehended that monster. Imagine beginning one's sixth marriage with the spectre of a husband-killing psycopath on the loose," whispered Fanny.
"Oh, indeed. Imagine the horror of having your own lingerie used to strangle each of your dearest loves in the honeymoon suite. The poor darling must be so relieved." Gertrude hid a delicate sniffle with her hanky.
"And this husband is so much wealthier than any of her others. I do so love happy endings!" ~ Kristi

Honorable mention:
"Harold died of arsenic poisoning," Harris said. "In the condiments."
"So I thought." Celia slipped a bead onto a strand of her macrame. "I checked his salt and pepper, but found nothing. Nothing in the relish, mustard, steak sauce, salsa or ketchup either. It was then I considered the toast."
"The toast?"
"Yes." Celia held her latest wool owl up and admired her work. "It seems the butter did it." ~ Ulysses

3. Romance Novel - Best last line
She grinned. "Did I tell you I have cellulite on my ass?" ~ windlegends

4. Romance Novel - Worst last line
Last line of The Greek Billionaire Cowboy-Surgeon's Secret Love Surprise:
"When you told me you had a secret baby, I never imagined this!" Carrie exclaimed, staring dumbfounded at Damien's rounded abdomen. ~ Mary Ann Chulick

So, winners -- email with your name and address. Specify whether you want an ebook (and format) or a print book. For romance, whether erotic or non-erotic.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

People Still Want Stories

by Raelene Gorlinsky

The Booksquare blog has an interesting discussion on the state of the publishing industry, referencing the New York Magazine article "The End" (see our blog post of Sept. 16).
"It's Only the End of Rose-Colored Glasses" by Kassia Krozser

Her article points out places where she thinks New York Magazine missed the boat. I totally agree with her that there are still lots of book buyers and readers out there, for a fantastic variety of books. And that the traditional NY "literary" parts of the publishing industry just aren't keeping up with what readers want now. They are way behind on ebooks and other digital uses, among other things.

My opinion: People still, and always will, want stories (fiction) and information (non-fiction). It's just the packaging and delivery mechanisms that are changing, offering more options. Publishers need to be leaping into audio, ebooks, multimedia, online delivery, book-linked video and online products.

Nope, books are not going away. But the definition of "book" is expanding.

Your opinion? Where do you see publishing going in the next couple of years? Where do you WANT to see it going?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Contest Reminder

Remember, tommorrow the 20th is the last day for entering our Last Line contest.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamotte

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Book review by Sarah Pinneo (author of The Ski House Cookbook)

Most times, I would cross the street to avoid a book about writing. Those of us who have delved too far into writing books have come away with the realization that every moment spent reading them is really just a moment subtracted from-- you guessed it-- writing!

But then there's novelist Anne Lamott. Her Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life is the only writing book I've ever found to be worthy of procrastination. Lamott frames the book modestly, as if it belonged on the same shelf as those other watery tomes about writing punchy dialog and describing your characters physically. Although you'll find practical pearls of writing wisdom between its covers, Bird by Bird does not aim to instruct in the minutia of good writing. Instead, it shows the reader how good writing gets done. It is a book about process.

The cornerstone to Lamott's process is the chapter entitled "Shitty First Drafts". It seems obvious only in hindsight that every writer on the planet writes shitty first drafts. But when Lamott painstakingly explained the transformation of my Shitty First Draft to an edited masterpiece, a light bulb went on over my head. (Apparently there have been many such light bulbs, since Bird by Bird outsells most of Lamott's actual novels.)

Writes Lamott: "I know some very great writers, writers... who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much." Holding the reader's hand, she explains how to get past the anxiety and disapproval of rough writing in order to find the "heat" of a piece, and then develop it. Lamotte permissions her reader to feel doubt and self loathing. But she does not permit the reader to give up. And she does all this with prose that is knee slapping, gut-aching funny.

Her wonderful imagery and humor along the way make the book an easy page turner. The end of the book meanders a bit into other topics: "Writers Block", "The Moral Point of View", "Publication." Those parts of the book are less forceful, but every bit as fun to read. For example, Lamott encourages her readers to use even painful material from real life in their writing, yet she advises them to change details in just such a way as to prevent libelous action. If all else fails, she recommends giving those characters "a teeny, tiny penis" in the story so that the real life men who inspired those characters would be less likely to step forward and sue.

On every page of Bird by Bird, you'll find a reason to reflect, and also a reason to laugh.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The End of Publishing as We Know It?

by Raelene Gorlinsky


New York Magazine's article "The End" is a fascinating collage of tidbits about the NY publishing industry -- both its past and the current unsettling turmoil and change. It's lengthy, and I don't agree with all the doom and gloom, but I recommend reading it to understand part of where the industry stands at the moment. Be aware it ignores small presses and e-publishers. This is about the old guard NY publishing giants - HarperCollins, FSG, RandomHouse, Simon & Schuster, Hatchette Grand Central, et al.

Part of the article discusses the focus on blockbusters, how that's what the publishers are risking all their money on and how that is squeezing out midlist authors. Questionable business sense like paying $1 million dollar advances to unknown first-time twenty-something authors in hopes that the book will be the next Oprah pick or runaway fad. There's a list at the end of the article about spectacular flops of this type and what they failed to earn for the publisher. Harvard economist Anita Elberse is quoted for a tidbit of a study of Hatchette's 2006 list: Average profits for 61 titles were almost $100,000 each, BUT -- the top seller had $5 million profits, and if you take that one book out of the calculation, the average profits for the other 60 drop to a mere $18,000 per book.

The juiciest part of the article, of course, is the gossip about people in the industry. Do read.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Last Line" Contest

Most everyone has heard of the Bulwer-Lytton contest for the best Worst Opening Line of an imaginary novel. So we are going to run a contest for the proposed best and worst LAST line of an imaginary book. There will be four categories:

1. Mystery novel - Best last line: A final sentence that is moving or heartstopping or just so perfect for closing a mystery.

2. Mystery novel - Worst last line: A silly or parody-type or just-plain-awful ending for a mystery story, something that leaves us groaning or laughing or screaming.

3. Romance novel - Best last line

4. Romance novel - Worst last line

So put on your creative or goofy thinking caps, invent some really unique and imaginative last lines for ficticious fiction books!

Post your entry (or entries) in the comments here on the blog. We'll scoop them all up by September 20 and announce the winners the following week.

Prize: Well, we'll send you a book - either a mystery or a romance!

Oh, yeah, we're also open to suggestions on what to name our contest.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Man Book Prize Shortlist

Okay, I admit I'm very much a genre fiction reader, I'm not into "literary fiction". But I do keep up with publishing industry news, look at the bestseller lists, read Publishers Weekly. And I have to admit I don't recall hearing of any of these six books. Has anyone read them? Are they like the Oprah picks, where you buy it and put it on your coffee table and never read past the first few pages?

International Booker Shortlist Announced
by Kevin Howell -- Publishers Weekly, 9/9/2008

The Man Booker Prize judges have whittled down the long list they announced six weeks ago to six titles competing for the U.K. literary award. The six finalists are:

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (Free Press, $24; Tantor audiobook, $34.99; published in the UK by Atlantic)
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry (Viking, $24.95; Blackstone audiobook, $19.95; published in the UK by Faber)
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26; Brilliance audiobook, $29.99; published in the UK by John Murray)
The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant (Virago Press, $21.49)
The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher (releasing in the US on Feb. 24, 2009 from Knopf, $27.95; published in the UK by Fourth Estate)
A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz (Spiegel & Grau, $24.95; published in the UK by Hamish Hamilton)

The six finalist authors cover a broad geographic spread with two Indian authors, two English authors, an Australian author and an Irish author. Aravind Adiga and Steve Toltz are first time authors. The shortlist surprised some by ignoring two bestsellers that had made the long list: Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence and Joseph O'Neill's Netherland.

The winner will be announced on October 14.

Another E-Reading Device Coming

Plastic Logic will announce a new electronic reading device the size of a standard sheet of paper, billed as having "a lightweight plastic screen that mimics the look of a printed newspaper." The price will not be announced until the CES show in January, and "the reader will go on sale in the first half of next year."

New York Times article:

It definitely seems more geared to reading newspapers than books, doesn't say what formats it will read, but mentions being able to store several hundred pages of text - definitely not what's needed by ebook users, who want a device that will hold many dozen books at a time. However, that huge screen certainly is enticing!

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Comic Toolbox: How To Be Funny Even If You're Not

The Comic Toolbox: How To Be Funny Even If You’re Not by John Vorhaus
Book review by Belle Scarlett (

Petruchio and his favorite shrew, Kate. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Harry and Sally. Ross and Rachel. Carrie and Mr. Big. What do these iconic romantic couples have in common? Will they, or won’t they? How hard will they make us laugh before they finally do? And why, oh why, am I answering my own questions with yet more questions? The answers to these and other laughable ponderings can undoubtedly be found in The Comic Toolbox: How To Be Funny Even If You’re Not by John Vorhaus. I consider it my go-to humor primer whether I’m writing a full-on comedy or merely want to lace my romance characters’ sexual chemistry with some fun banter or a humorous twist. After all, love and laughter go together like Sam and Diane.

Vorhaus is my comedic answer to Strunk and White, had they been a vaudeville act. Since I have A.D.D. when it comes to writing reference books, they must be entertaining or succinct, preferably both. Vorhaus delivers up a rapid, droll textbook that elicits chuckles thanks to his engaging prose that practices the comic rules it preaches. He gives us such handy dandy comedy tools like “jokes vs. jokoids”, “the comic set up and pay-off”, “four facts about the comic character”, “the rule of three”, “wince factor”, “comic callback”, and how to “avoid clichés like the plague”. Even his chapter on practical jokes turns out to be an actual practical joke.

In Toolbox, Vorhaus guides our big clown feet through the ABCs of “comedy hell” and encourages us to lower our sights, thus giving us permission to take risks until the good stuff flows. Moreover, Toolbox offers helpful information regarding basic plotting that is surprisingly accessible for all writing levels. Vorhaus peppers many chapters with effective writing exercises, so budding comedy writers may begin throwing figurative pies in faces post-haste.

Giving the reader a clear, practical method of organizing and structuring comedy writing that is oh so useful, Vorhaus teaches writers who don’t believe they were born funny how the funny happens, and gives them the tools to begin firing their own comic plots and characters out of a cannon with confidence. As one testimonial by a sitcom producer on the back cover of Toolbox asserts, “I don’t think people should read this book. They’re liable to learn all our secrets and take my job.”

I use the serviceable tools I learned from Toolbox every time I sit down to write romance because my paranormal alpha males desire exceptional heroines who provide them with both love and laughter throughout their preternaturally long lives. We never tire of the sport of courtship in the game of the love. There are probably petroglyphs on a rock wall somewhere depicting the timeless romance formula of “caveman gets cavegirl, caveman loses cavegirl, caveman drags cavegirl back to his cave by her hair, and they all live HEA.” So now, let us count the comic lovers … who are some of your favorite sexy, funny couples?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Statistics – Publishing Growth

by Raelene Gorlinsky

Wow, how the world of U.S. Publishing has grown in half a century! The information below comes from The Culture and Commerce of Publishing in the 21st Century by Greco, Rodríguez & Wharton, Standford University Press, ©2007.

[I'm not recommending you get this book. It is deadly dull -- pages upon pages of statistical charts, overly lengthy and obtuse market analysis, and boring writing. And it barely mentions POD ("too new" to evaluate) or e-books (claims they have no future).]

648 - U.S. publishing firms
$435.1 million - total revenues (Bowker)
9182 - total new titles
1307 - new fiction hardcover titles
$2.66 – average retail price of fiction hardcover
$0.25 – price of mass market paperback

3500+ - U.S. publishing firms (U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Census Bureau)
[R.R. Bowker, issuer of U.S. ISBNS, says 81,000+]
$27.7 billion - net publisher book revenues (Book Industry Study Group)
200,000+ - total new titles for the year
25,184 – new fiction hardcover titles
$27.52 – average retail price for fiction hardcover
$6.79 – average price for mass market paperbacks

Wow, I can't even envision a world where there were only nine thousand new books released in a year! Of course, I'd really like to be able to pay only twenty-five cents for a paperback book. And I might be able to afford hardcovers at that 1947 price.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Banned Books Week coming

Banned Books Week
September 27 - October 4, 2008
(American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression)
(American Library Association)

From the ALA website:

"Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year. Observed since 1982, this annual ALA event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. This year, 2008, marks BBW's 27th anniversary (September 27 through October 4).

"BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.

"BBW is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Library Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers, National Association of College Stores, and is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress."

There is an annual poster (now two posters - adult and children) for this event. They are all displayed on my office door. Defend our FREADOM - celebrate the right to read.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s

The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s
by Marc McCutcheon

Reviewed by Titania Ladley (

Have you ever wondered what a “puddin’ foot” is? Or “bilboes”? How about a “night hawk”, or what it means to “wake snakes”? In one’s everyday life, maybe not. If you’re a writer looking to authenticate your 19th-century manuscript and enrich the story so the reader feels as if they’ve been whisked back in time, you might want to give The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s a try.

But that’s not all this book offers. For example, would you like to learn if placing a player piano in your western saloon in 1820 is accurate? Hopefully so — this innovation didn't come into existence until 1842. You’ll find clothing descriptions and when they came into fashion; when popular songs, magazines and books were penned; a chronology of important events such as war dates and when states were admitted to America; and when household items were invented, along with their descriptions and where they might commonly be found.

In this reference book, a writer can also learn about everyday modes of transportation in the 1800s, slang to enrich dialogue, available furniture and household inventions, and ordinary — or not so ordinary — food and drinks. Health issues, courting and marriage practices, weapons, slavery, facts on the Civil War and various battles, and monetary usages are also included, to name a few more topics.

While The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s is an entertaining and very interesting book of facts and history references for laymen, it’s more a useful handbook for writers of the historical genre, including the western, adventure, thriller, mystery and romance sub-genres. I highly recommend this excellent resource for authors preparing a manuscript set in the 19th century.