Agent & Editor Q&A: Editor One
Editor Profile: This editor has been a prominent figure in the publishing industry for nearly 15 years and is currently an acquiring editor with an imprint within the massive Random House Empire, which is part of the massive Bertelsmann Empire. Editor One acquires and edits approximately 12 titles per year with an emphasis on fiction with a side-order of some narrative non-fiction. Editor One lives and works in New York.
Girl: What is your impression if an author first publishes his or her work with a POD company? Is there a difference in quality between POD and traditionally self-published?
Editor One: You mean reputation-wise? I don't care. No one I know cares. In fact, one editor I had lunch with a few days ago mentioned he wished more writers would publish POD first, if for no other reason but to get a glimpse into the publishing world and to see, first, how hard it is to get attention for a title, and secondly, to see what a traditional publisher can offer instead. Obviously, my friend is sick of his stable of complaining authors, but I think he might be on to something.
As far as the difference between POD and "old-school" traditional self-publishing, I say there is no difference. Self-publication means self-editing and self-promotion, too, and that usually is a bad thing. If one person could do it all herself there would be no need for the hundreds of people in my building.
Girl: If you like a book, do you care if it was once published POD?
Editor One: Doesn't matter to me. Frankly, if someone is querying me regarding his novel, unless it has sold thousands of copies, I would rather not even know it was printed POD. I have edited two books [one I acquired and one I did not] that were previously POD titles and both books had sold no more copies than to friends and family members, so what difference does it make? If it has sold thousands of copies, you better tell me that. That's a stat that might help get the book past marketing.
Girl: What if someone pitched a POD book to you and told you it had sold 1000 units in 6 months? Or 3000 units in a year?
Editor One: See above, but I would like to see more like 5,000 units sold, especially for non-fiction. Fiction would require less, but not much less.
Girl: Do you think POD will eventually revolutionize the publishing industry?
Editor One: The only thing that will ever "revolutionize" the publishing industry is something that will a. shorten time to print (one year is too long), b. create a cheaper product for the consumer. POD is a big winner on the first item but a tremendous failure on the second. I like POD for things like small galley runs and bringing out-of-print titles back into the market.
Girl: Do you think POD publishers are taking advantage of hopeful authors by giving them a glimpse of being in a bookstore?
Editor One: Well, I do not know what a POD press charges but I would imagine it must be getting close to free now, isn't it? Even if it costs an author a couple hundred bucks, I am guessing they could earn that back by selling 100 copies or so if the royalties are in-line. If it costs in the thousands then that sounds like pure scam. I am more interested in the technology itself. Any company that takes thousands from an author better have some mind-blowing service to back it up.
Girl: Do you think POD publishers will have an impact on books already out of print?
Editor One: They should have had more of an impact by now, in my opinion. Instead of marketing to authors they should be marketing to publishers. Maybe not Random, because we can handle it ourselves, but the unending list of small presses and university presses who cannot do the work on small budgets.
Girl: If someone POD'd a book but still wants to pitch editors/agents, should he or she simply send the paperback?
Editor One: Get real.
Girl: Bonus question: True or false-"If you have a brilliant manuscript, your book will find a home/get published."
Editor One: Tremendously false, and though many of my peers feel it is a rather recent phenomenon, I believe it was never true. I would estimate that there are thousands of excellent books that have been lost in the ether for a whole host of reasons. What scares me more is the opposite is true: that if you have a bad book, it does not mean you will not get published. This industry is very arbitrary. My own imprint is guilty of this.
Girl: Anything you want to add?
Editor One: My advice is [if you have a good book] get an agent. If you still [have a good book] and cannot get an agent you might want to try printing the book POD at the cheapest level and make a go of it. Distribution is non-existent for POD presses so you will have to do it all yourself. Self-publishing is an ugly road, but you have a better chance of getting noticed on a miracle level than if you put the book in a filing cabinet. And my advice for the backlist folks: start using POD to save your titles now before the list is too big to bring back all at once.
Thanks Editor One! Your time is greatly appreciated. By the way, Marketing called and that breathtaking novel you've been pushing got the axe. So sorry.
Oh, and since you rejected my manuscript before Penguin Putnam so quickly snapped it up, let me say this: bite me. Of course, it is not the commercial success I'd hoped it to be, but more the midlist title you predicted it would be. So bite me again.
Upcoming: Agent Three. Holy cow, does it ever end?