February 15, 2011
Giving Advice to Writers
It’s always a delicate matter—this business of editors giving advice to writers. These things must be handled with great diplomacy so as not to ruffle the authorial ego. I give you an example to emulate.Continue reading "Giving Advice to Writers"
February 5, 2009
Authors need a platform, a group of people with whom authors are already networked who are waiting and wanting to buy the authors' books. I've said that here before, though the idea is not unique to me. But can books by authors who don't have a platform sell well? Actually, I think they can.Continue reading "Concept Books"
January 14, 2009
A Bold, Exciting Career
A woman in Indianapolis wanted to interview me. Well, it wasn't actually even as grand as that. She wanted her kids to interview me.
She had a project for her children to interview people in different lines of work to see how they got there. What were their interests when they were the age of her kids? What steps got them from there into a line of work that really fit who they were?Continue reading "A Bold, Exciting Career"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:36 AM
December 23, 2008
Why I Almost Didn't Get Hired
I interviewed for an opening in the editorial department at InterVarsity Press over thirty years ago. My prospective boss, Jim Sire, was sick and couldn't make it to work that day. So I interviewed instead with the publisher, Jim Nyquist, and Linda Doll, who was the only other employee in the editorial department at that time (and part-time at that). I don't remember much about the interviews except that I had a general sense that they went pretty well.Continue reading "Why I Almost Didn't Get Hired"
November 21, 2008
What I Like to Read vs. What I Like to Publish
When I read on my own time, I tend to gravitate toward history, science fiction, fantasy and New Testament studies. Sometimes I'll throw in some literary fiction or theology or management/leadership books. Sometimes I'll read a bestseller just to see what the buzz is all about. And I always listen closely to the recommendations of friends and colleagues which can lead me into any number of genres. And if you want to see where my reading interests have taken me at any time, just check out the list on the right hand column of this page.Continue reading "What I Like to Read vs. What I Like to Publish"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:32 AM
November 14, 2008
Ban the Next Book Clause
Every so often I am talking to an author about a potential book and he or she will say, “Well, I will have to check with my previous publisher first. In my contract I gave them first option on my next book.”
I am always amazed when I hear this. We got rid of the “next book clause” from our contracts thirty years ago. I thought such arrangements disappeared with the era of the dime novel. Apparently not.Continue reading "Ban the Next Book Clause"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:47 AM
October 27, 2008
So You Want to Be a Book Editor?
Every so often we at IVP get asked what it takes, or how one prepares, to be an editor. The question came regularly enough that my predecessor at IVP, Jim Sire, jotted down some thoughts which we have since been passing on to folks for over two decades. His comments are just as relevant now as they were then, so here they are.
So you want to be an editor? Or, less boldly, so you want to consider being an editor? Here are some matters to take into account.Continue reading "So You Want to Be a Book Editor?"
May 7, 2008
"Design, production, and manufacturing, in many publishing houses, are not considered as glamorous as editorial or sales, and may be looked upon a secondary. They should be viewed as quite the reverse," says publishing guru Tom Woll (p. 161). Why? Well, how many times have design and production saved editorial's and marketing’s behind when an author was late or a book needed to come out early? How many times has great jacket design made customers give a second look at something new? And how much money has been saved by shrewd print buyers?
Woll rightly points out, however, that it is unwise and unfair for others always to rely on production to bear the burden of fixing problems. When it comes to scheduling, one guideline we’ve implemented with some success is this: Do not schedule a book for publication until the revised manuscript is in hand.
That could sound draconian, but it works. Why? Authors may not always meet their deadlines because they are not employees of the publisher. So editors, as peers, have a limited set of tools they can use in working with authors to stay on schedule. But authors always want to know, "When will my book come out?" (Not so subtle subtext: "the sooner the better.")
Typically the answer would be, “In nine to twelve months.” By saying it can be scheduled only when the final draft is in hand puts responsibility (and motivation) properly in the author’s hands.
Exceptions? Certainly. A big upcoming event for which the book must be available. A big-name author whose bestseller is wanted by marketing (and probably finance) for this fiscal year. But those should be exceptions, not the rule.
That’s just one idea for trying to deal with the scheduling dragon. Any other good ideas out there?
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:45 AM
April 30, 2008
The Joys of Coauthoring
One colleague said I seemed to be pretty negative about coauthoring when I wrote about that here recently. Since I have coauthored five books myself, I suppose one could suppose a certain autobiographical slant to my comments. That has not been the case. I coauthored three Bible study guides with my wife, another with my wife and a friend, and Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength. with my former coworker at IVP, Linda Doll. Each was a very enjoyable experience with minimal problems.Continue reading "The Joys of Coauthoring"
April 23, 2008
The Myths of Coauthoring
It’s a myth that coauthoring is easier than single authoring.
What every editor knows and few authors know is the myth of coauthoring. The myth stated simply is: Coauthoring is better, easier, quicker and less work than single authoring a book. The myth is false on almost all counts. Yet it persists. Why?Continue reading "The Myths of Coauthoring"
April 15, 2008
March 27, 2008
Is There No Accounting for Editors?
Perhaps the least number-oriented species of human being is that of editors.* Figures, subtotals, net present value, gross margin are as nothing in their sight. So should we just consign editors to the outer darkness of a numberless eternity? Is there to be no accounting for editors?Continue reading "Is There No Accounting for Editors?"
March 24, 2008
Copyright: Sell or Rent?
Copyright is one of the more difficult and complicated concepts to wrap your mind around. That’s largely because it has to do with an intangible object—intellectual property. Over the years I’ve tried a variety of ways to explain it to authors and others. Here’s one of the best I’ve used.
Copyright is like real estate. If you own a piece of property, there are two things you can do with it to get some dinero. First, you can sell the property. Second, you can rent it.
If you sell the property, you are relinquishing all rights to the property in exchange for some greenbacks. The new owner may build a skyscraper on the land and make a gazillion samoleans (or lose same). In either case, it has nothing to do with you. You are not helped or harmed because you have no legal interest in the land anymore.
If you rent the property, you agree to allow someone to use the land for a certain amount of time for certain purposes in exchange for an agreed amount of shekels. But since you have transfered certain rights to the renter, you can’t just do anything with the property you choose. You can’t rent it out to someone else at the same time figuring you can get twice the rent. You can’t tear down the building on the property. At the same time you still have certain obligations. Likely you have to keep the building in good repair. In any case you still own the land.
With copyright you can also sell or rent. A work for hire is like selling your land. You transfer full, irrevocable ownership of and rights to the work you've created to someone else for some dead presidents. The new owner may make a mint or may crash and burn. You aren’t helped or hurt by this because you no longer have any rights in it.
Work for hire agreements are often used with employees (who get their salary in exchange for the intellectual property they create on the job). Freelancers often sign a work for hire agreement to do some work that is part of a larger work or collection.
You can also rent your copyright. You transfer certain rights for a certain period of time. But again, after having signed such a “rental” agreement, you can’t do anything you like with it. In many book contracts, all rights are transferred from the creator to the “renter” (or publisher). Now the publisher can exploit the work in a variety of ways and is obligated to compensate you, the creator, as agreed. You are limited in what you can do on your own with the work by the terms of the publishing agreement you have signed.
Now the work itself may be copyrighted in your name (indicating that you are the owner), but because of your (rental) publishing agreement, what happens to your work is now in the hands of another until the agreement comes to an end. That could happen when the work goes out of print or when some other event happens as defined in the agreement, such as the publisher failing to fulfill certain terms of the agreement.
So real estate and copyright. The analogy works for me. What about you?
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:50 AM
March 18, 2008
Good News, Bad News
When Chris got the report back about the manuscript, he knew it wouldn’t be good news for the author. While there was much to commend, the end result was that the whole manuscript would have to be rewritten. It had simply been done from the wrong perspective and wouldn’t work for the intended audience. And it wasn’t just one report that came to this conclusion. It was three.
So as the editor, Chris knew what he had to do. He called the author and asked if they could meet and talk about the reports. A time and date were set. When they got together, Chris was able to smile warmly and genuinely express what he appreciated and then deliver the no doubt unwelcome news that a large amount of work yet remained. He closed with appreciation again for the author’s hard work already.
The editor was following a principle I heard many years ago that applies well beyond the realm of editing: The worse the news, the more personal the communication should be; the better the news, the more permanent the communication should be.
So if you’ve got bad news to deliver, do it in person or (if that is not possible) on the phone. If it is good news, do it in e-mail or (preferably and if time allows) a handwritten note.
The message of good news offered in writing allows the receiver to reread it and come back to the compliment, word of praise, comment of thanks or report of good results more than once. It has a lasting, tangible quality that makes it feel more permanent. If it is spoken, it can easily fade from memory. Certainly we often want to--and it is appropriate to--get good news to people quickly, and in person is often best for that. But following that up with a note is a good idea.
With bad news, it is tempting to fire off an e-mail or letter and not have to face the unhappy recipient so directly. That may help you not feel so bad, but it won’t help the person you are contacting. With the personal touch, people are more likely to be responsive to what you have to say. At the least, one hopes they will feel they were treated with some respect.
The personal meeting between Chris and the author made all the difference. Certainly, that was not what the author wanted to hear. But because it was delivered in a personal, human way, the message was palatable. Work on revising the book began very soon.
February 14, 2008
Questions Editors Should Ask
Editors are responsible to bring new book ideas and proposals to the publishing committee. Previously I wrote about how weak books can kill strong books, especially if the committee has not been objective enough about a given project. Here are some additional questions editors can ask of themselves before they ever bring a book to the publishing committee.Continue reading "Questions Editors Should Ask"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:16 AM
February 11, 2008
The Voice of Experience
I believe it was The New Yorker that ran a cartoon depicting a stereotypical, balding, blue-suited executive sitting behind a large desk with an earnest, young, stubble-bearded creative-type standing in front of him imploringly. The executive says, "Your job is to propose. My job is to pooh-pooh."Continue reading "The Voice of Experience"
January 28, 2008
How a Weak Book Kills a Strong Book
I've seen the pattern all too often. We as a publishing committee are enthusiastic about a book because we see it as unique or because we are passionate about the topic or because it touches on a trend that it is rising. Then a year or two after publication we look back with disappointment. It didn't catch on. There weren't many readers as passionate about it as we were. It may have had fine editorial quality, but the experience left a bad taste in our mouths.Continue reading "How a Weak Book Kills a Strong Book"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:00 AM
October 19, 2007
Extreme Makeover: Vanity Publishing Edition
Vanity publishing. It even sounds a bit sleazy, doesn't it? Paying a "publisher" to print and distribute your work has always had negative connotations in publishing. If a legitimate firm won't produce your book, there must be something wrong with it. Right? Either it is commercially unviable or editorially substandard. It means someone is doing it just to satisfy their vanity.
No more. Vanity publishing has had an extreme makeover.Continue reading "Extreme Makeover: Vanity Publishing Edition"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:59 AM
September 26, 2007
They Just Love My Title
"I asked five friends, and they all told me they loved the title I'm thinking of for the book."
"I randomly surveyed a dozen people at the mall and most liked my title best."
"I've been speaking on this topic lately, and when I mention my working title for the book, I get a very positive response."
Over the years we at InterVarsity Press have heard many variations on this theme from authors. They mention their working title to friends, relatives, coworkers or people in the intended audience, and the reaction they get leads them to believe they have a winner. And they might. But why should a publisher be cautious about such a conclusion? Why should an author also be cautious about such a conclusion?Continue reading "They Just Love My Title"
May 21, 2007
A Book by Any Other Name . . .
Most people know the title of a book matters. It can make or break the success of a book. A wrong title can confuse readers about the content or mislead readers to think the book is not for them.
In publishing, everyone wants a piece of the title--editorial, marketing, sales, design and, oh yes, the author. So what makes a good title?Continue reading "A Book by Any Other Name . . ."