Today we are welcoming Heather Osborn, editor for TOR. To submit to TOR follow their submission guidelines. Also we will be welcoming Heather to a special Q&A session with FF&P members on Tuesday, July 7, 2009. You will need to be a member of FF&P to view this session and participate. We'd like to thank Heather for taking the time to answer these questions.
1. You gathered a bunch of followers on Twitter when you announced you
were looking for a manuscript to fill a hole in your schedule. What was
your impression of the submissions you received from that call and do
you think that you would do something like that again in the future?
I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of manuscripts I received. Yes, there were some clunkers, but the vast majority of them were well written – which, believe me, is not often the norm when it comes to un-agented or unsolicited submissions. I am actually still working my way through some of those submissions – all told, I ended up with around 80 manuscripts. I would have no hesitation in doing a public call for submissions again.
2. Because you've mentioned it before and it deserves being mentioned
again, TOR takes unagented submissions, but you don't want a query
letter, just the first 3 chapters and a synopsis. Why do you choose to
bypass the query letter? What do you gain by going straight to a partial?
Well, the purpose of a query letter is to inquire as to whether or not someone is interested in looking at your partial. Because Tor is always interested in looking at the partials, there is no real need for a “query letter”, per se. That being said, I do encourage a cover letter to accompany the submission. The cover letter would contain much of the same information as the query letter, but would not ask if I am interested in seeing the submission, as ideally, it would be sitting on top of the submission when I read it!
3. What type of stories are you looking for in romance right now? Is
there something in particular you'd love to see cross your desk? How
many romances is TOR releasing a month?
Hmmm, I really love all different types of paranormal romance. The main thing I am looking for (what all editors look for, actually!) is a compulsively readable, well-written story. I like all different levels of heat, from super sexy to sweet. As for what I’d love to see cross my desk…hmmm, a book from Patricia Briggs, Naomi Novik, Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh… I could go on and on! But more seriously, I just want a great read. Right now, I would love to see a great vampire, werewolf, or futuristic story cross my desk. For some reason, I don’t have a lot of them at the moment! The Tor Romance line currently publishes one romance a month.
4. You've mentioned an interest in Urban Fantasy. What particular traits
of Urban Fantasy are you looking for in a manuscript?
I love Urban Fantasy. LOVE. I try almost every new author out there, and what seems to draw me the most are strong female protagonists behaving in intelligent, realistic ways, intricate worlds, and a sense of real danger inherent in the setting and plot. Again, see Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, etc. I want to be sucked into an alternate version of the world, with a heroine who rings true as an authentic character. Not one who everyone adores, one who struggles with life, love, happiness, and possibly demons.
5. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Let’s see. Number one piece of advice: read your work aloud. It really helps to spot errors in the text as well as awkward and stilted dialogue. Make a book as clean as possible before submitting it. And that doesn’t mean running it through spell check. Get it critiqued, proof-read, beta read, etc. First impressions count.
And this isn’t really a piece of advice so much as a comment. 90% of the submissions I get start in the wrong place. Usually several chapters before they should. An editor will usually not read past a few chapters in order to find the real start of a story, so beginning a novel in the wrong place can be the kiss of death for new authors.
The other day on Twitter someone attributed this quote to (I believe) Teresa Medeiros: “Your book should start at the point where everything changes.” That is such fabulous advice. And I am willing to bet that if you think of the openings of any book you personally love, you will find that to be true.
6. Who is your all time favorite couple in a book?
That is such a tough question! I am a voracious reader, so there are tons of fictional couples I love. I guess for me, I have to go old school and say that my favorite couple is Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth from PERSUASION by Jane Austen. I know most people go for Elizabeth and Darcy in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, but although I love P&P, Persuasion is actually my favorite Austen novel.
7. I see you are taking pitches at Nationals. Do you have any advice for
the writers who will be pitching to you?
Well, my advice would be that since you already know Tor Books accepts unagented, unsolicited manuscripts, you shouldn’t worry! Honestly, unless you are pitching something that we absolutely do not publish (children’s poetry, philosophical texts, etc), I will ask to see at least a partial. Other than that, I would ask you to relax, to understand that editors are not ogres or demons, and everything will be all right. I don’t mind if authors read off of cue cards in front of me, although I don’t think it is truly necessary. Treat me as you would anyone who asked you what your book is about. I don’t need polished cover copy, I just want to know what your book is about!
Also, it helps if you have some detailed information: Is the book complete? What genre and sub-genre is it? What is the word count? (I prefer actual word count, but estimated is fine, too.) Is it the first book in a planned series? What is the heat level? These are all things you should know about your own book.
8. Finally, twittering shows us a different side of editors and agents.
Do you like twittering and what was your favorite ride at Disney?
I love Twittering! It is actually the only social media that I find works for me. I have a sadly neglected LiveJournal that hasn’t been updated since January, and I am on Facebook but I never use it. I use Twitter almost every day. I do feel sorry for people who follow me expecting a professional editor viewpoint. I do occasionally comment on work, but never in any real detail. Instead I choose to talk about deliciously insane things like cookiecakepie and the Cupcake Truck currently parked outside the Flatiron building.
My favorite ride at Disneyworld was Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom. I have a hilarious picture of me on it – I honestly have never looked happier than when staring down the barrel of a screaming Yeti.
Thanks again, Heather. We hope our FF&P members will take advantage of the Q&A session on Tuesday.