Squawk Radio

Friday, December 09, 2005

Confessions of an Editor, Day 3

Carrie Feron, executive editor of Avon Books, tells all her secrets...

Secret Number One.

Is there a secret to writing a great query letter? I don't think there is. However, it's important to be brief, tell the story in a way that gives us a hook to the story, and not to worry overmuch about your credentials.

It also helps if you really know why you want to write for Avon. Looking at the books that you all re-read tells me that we all have similar taste, so in your query letter target us as a company. Tell us why you want to be an Avon author. Why you think your book is right for our list? Why we would be foolish to overlook you, and how does your work fit into what we publish?

Secret Number Two.

Some of you want to know how I became an editor. I think a lot of luck actually. When I was growing up, I never knew there were people who picked books or worked on them with authors. But always loved books and was interested in the way they were put together. I used to have a long list of the name every character that appeared in GONE WITH THE WIND which included a huge genealogical chart.

In college some of my hall mates brought me their papers, asking me to help them rework the structure or find a more exciting way to open their piece, and I think that's where my editing career began. Very few people know that I was actually fired from a temp job because I made my boss's memos more exciting, but this is where I learned some people do NOT like to be edited. After a brief stint at IBM, a college colleague helped me land my first job in publishing. I've never looked back.

Secret Number Three

First drafts. What are first drafts of your favorite authors like? Someone asked if there were huge thrilling sections of things that are cut out. I think someone suggested that these sections could be offered like DVD extras.

Actually this is usually not the case. I find that for my authors, I sometimes suggest that they add more scenes rather than take scenes out! And usually if scenes are taken out, it's just the one where characters are having a quiet breakfast over Cheerios -- it's never a passionate love scene. There are exceptions to this of course, but you shouldn't feel as if there are huge files of great scenes that we editors read over lunch.

Thank you Squawkers for your hospitality! I really enjoyed this. Perhaps I'll see some or all of you at RWA in Atlanta next summer.
Christina Dodd, 12:32 PM