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Meri Paterson Posts

Technical and follow-up advice for sending submissions

This post is the fourth and last part in a series about submitting unagented proposals to publishers. Start reading here!

In this part I will share a few tips for getting the technical specs of your email right. In the grand scheme of your submission, this is not as important as some of the other things I’ve talked about before, but still worth mastering. For one thing, consider that the editorial assistant who will first receive your submission is likely to be a millennial – one of those frightful creatures who learn to use an iPad before they can speak. So creating the impression that you are someone who knows their way around a computer can help distinguish yourself (most hopeful authors come across to these millennials as terminal Luddites).

Business, Work & Careers

Book rec: I Know How She Does It

I have a book recommendation! Laura Vanderkam is a wonderful author who writes about time management. Her new book, I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time is really worth reading if you’re a woman who dreams of having both a happy family life and a career, or already have both and find the juggling act stressful and difficult. (And if you’re a man in a relationship with such a woman, I would also recommend it to you for perspective.)I Know How She Does It cover

I’ve been a fan of Vanderkam’s writing ever since I happened to find What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast in a bookshop, and was inspired by her optimism about time. The lack of time is a favourite complaint among ‘busy’ people, but she actually maintains that you can make time for anything you want by planning and prioritising. And some of the things your time is currently spent on probably aren’t worth it.

The new book is based on research among women who have a big career and a family, and her findings are honey to my ears. I’m ambitious career-wise, but I also hope that I will eventually have at least one child, and I’ve already started worrying about how that’s going to work. The narrative is that if you want one, then you need to be reconciled to the fact that you will never be fully invested in the other. But Vanderkam’s research shows otherwise: the book is full of women who find the time to be properly involved in both, without big trade-offs, and it’s really reassuring to read about. 

Personal & Family Life

Kernels of thoughts

London street at twilight
A June evening on my street

When I was growing up, I kept a diary for years. I had a friend who was a very gifted artist, and when we met and swapped diaries to get up to speed about what the other one had been up to, I was so impressed with the colourful, doodle-y pages of her diary. I obviously tried to ape her best as I could, so the main purpose of keeping a diary for a while was to come up with some witty illustrations or colour patterns my friend wouldn’t have thought of.

Now I dream of keeping a grown-up diary where I could record thoughts. I figure, when I’m old and want to look back, I won’t be so interested in which places I visited, etc – but what I used to think about things.

My efforts to start keeping a diary again have largely failed, but I can at least commit my ideas to the internet! Here are a couple of thoughts from the past week or so.

Personal & Family Life

Stop describing career wins as ‘luck’

Tell me if you recognise this. You go to a talk or seminar about some topic to do with succeeding in your career or getting a job. There are panelists, each more distinguished than the last and clearly chosen because their careers are somehow exemplary. Excellent, you think, these people will definitely be able to tell me how it’s done.

And then they all proceed to tell you how lucky they got, and how they owe it all to fortunate circumstances. They may have a speck of talent but mostly it was that they were in the right place at the right time. Time well spent?

Geisha playing violin
I was fortunate enough to have this violin fall into my hands.

Business, Work & Careers

Presentation advice for submission letters

This post is part 3 in a series of posts about submitting an unagented book proposal directly to a publisher. Start reading here!

This part is about presentation: giving your submission the best possible chance by making sure it’s straightforwardly presented and easy on the eyes. It would be nice if everyone reading submissions was able to see directly into the soul of a book just by quickly scanning your letter, but in reality they will need help in understanding why your submission is The One. You want to try and make the essential information leap at the reader with minimal effort on their part. Here are some ways to do that.

Business, Work & Careers

Real questions from editorial job interviews

Allen_Ludden_Jack_Klugman_Tony_Randall_Odd_Couple_1I’ve been to a fair few job interviews in the past 4 years for jobs ranging from Editorial Assistant to Commissioning Editor. Afterwards, I wrote down as many of the questions I was asked as I could remember. Some of the interviews were more conversational than others, so there were fewer questions. I haven’t included my answers, because a) I didn’t write them down at the time, and b) I didn’t get most of these jobs so they would probably not be that useful! :P

The interviews I had were all at well-known trade publishing houses in London. I hope this will be helpful for people who are preparing for similar interviews!

Business, Work & Careers

To publish good books or profitable books, that is not the question

Last weekend I went to a party with some non-publishing folk, which is a rare occurrence and never fails to make me feel like a circus animal. People ask you what you do, and then exclaim ‘How exciting!’ and ‘That must be interesting!’, and then ask you uncomfortable questions you don’t have the answer to. Like, ‘Do you think publishers should publish books that make money or books that are good?’ This actually happened, and after only about a minute of warm-up. Hardly fair.

I said on instinct that I thought the former, but then they turned the screws on me and we ended up agreeing on a compromise: Publishing profitable books allows publishers to publish good books, so they should publish both. But now that I’ve given it some more thought I would like to go back to my earlier, less forgiving view. See, a couple of things nagged at me about the compromise…

Business, Work & Careers