Vision: A Resource for Writers
Holly Lisle's Vision
An Interview Diana Gill
©2002, Forward Motion
Diana Gill Conference
from the Editor's Perspective
Diana Gill is an Editor with Morrow/Avon at Harpercollins
Publishers. She primarily edits science fiction and fantasy titles for Eos,
along with commercial fiction, nonfiction, and random other titles of interest.
She started in publishing editing science textbooks, but then
moved to sf/f because it was more fun. Some of her authors include Anne
McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Dave Duncan, S. M. Stirling, Sean
Russell, Kristine Smith, Rebecca Ore, Mary Gentle, and Martha Wells. And, of
course, Holly Lisle.
March 23, 2002
-- We're about ready to start. From this point on, no messages in here.
Please use one of the other two chat rooms.
WELCOME to HollyLisle.com, and to The Diana Gill Conference -- Writing from the
Lisle I am
delighted to introduce my Eos editor, Diana Gill, who was responsible for making
Memory of Fire, (due out in May) a much better book, and who is currently
editing the second book in the series, The Wreck of Heaven.
Thanks Holly. Hi everyone, and thanks for coming.
Please remember -- the first part of this conference is moderated -- do not post
anything in this conference room (either public or private) during this portion
of the conference. I'll open the floor for discussion following the moderated
have a very fine selection of questions for you.
McIntyre] How tough is your day? How many hours do you spend on work in your
Far tougher than people usually think! How many hours do I spend at work, or
work, about 40-50.
home, another 10-25 (or more), depending on how many mss. I have in... E.
House] What do you love most about being an editor? What part of your job do you
dread the most?
editing is the best part. I love helping authors make their books better. And
there's nothing better than discovering a new author.
do I dread the most? All the paperwork...giving up most of my free time. And
*[Cheryl Peugh] If someone wanted to become an editor, what kind of background
would they need (besides love of reading); i.e. what kind of education?
Experience? Job track? How did you become an editor yourself?
best thing you can have is experience in publishing--internships, that sort of
thing. Beyond that, you need to
reading, and be willing to work a lot. And for the first years, as basically an
office slave, with not much money.
started out working as an editorial assistant in a textbook publishing company,
working on science books, and worked my
Gill way up
from there. E.
that answer the question? E.
for me. <g>
House] Once you and the author are both satisfied that the book is as good as it
can be in the time available, what exactly is the process of getting it typeset,
proofread and into print?
the manuscript is finished and approved, I then line-edit the manuscript. Then
it's copyedited. Then the author reviews both my line-edits
the copyedits. Then it's typeset, and the author reviews those pages. Then
there's a second set of proof pages that the managing editor sees,
then it goes off to be printed. E.
[Fredrick Obermeyer] Which author's books do you recommend we read to get the
best grasp on what Eos likes?
we like? Basically, well-written science fiction and fantasy that is also
commercial. We like all of our authors, of course, but recent books by Martha
Wells, James Alan Garder, Kristine Smith, Michael Swanwich, Sean Russell, and
Dave Duncan can be a good start to what we're looking for. Basically, go grab
some Eos books and start reading. <g> E.
that's Swanwick. E.
and Bujold, and well, most of our authors. Including Holly. <g> E.
*[Joel] If an aspiring writer approached you to pitch their story, what is the
one behavior guaranteed to make you stop listening?
everyone's favorite. A few easy no's--handing me a manuscript at a conference
(one editor had one slid under the bathroom door!). Being really pushy if I'm
talking to an author or agent already. Basically, use common sense--if an editor
is free, ask if you can pitch to them. They'll either say yes, or set up another
time, or tell you they're not looking./swamped/etc. then go from there. E.
*[Krista Heiser] It is preferable for an author to have an agent before they
contact you? Is this a personal preference or do you feel this is standard?
Gill We do
prefer for authors to have agents, whenever possible. It makes it easier for
everyone. The industry is tending towards that in general. But we do take
unagented queries--Holly, do you want me to go into that now, or later? E.
ahead and talk a bit about that now.
Eos's submission policies have recently changed--we can no longer accept
submit your science fiction or fantasy novel to Eos, please query us first.
Whenever possible, we strongly urge you to query via e-mail. You can e-mail us
at firstname.lastname@example.org with
query should be brief, no more than a two-page synopsis of your story at this
time. Do not send chapters or a full manuscript.
will receive a response--either a decline or a request for more material--in
approximately two to four weeks.
that address is email@example.com.
people need more info than that? I can go into the basic guidelines as well. E.
you won't wear out your wrist, please.
that should be WRISTS, plural.
the best thing to do is to send a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) to me
at Harpercollins, asking for the guidelines, then to e-mail query from there.
horror and humor are a very tough sell, as are King Arthur and Robin Hood
stories. We strongly urge you to read some of our recent titles to get a feel
for what we publish, and please -do- be aware of what's happening in the sf/f
field, what the major clichés are (no Adam and Eve on mars stories, please!),
and so far. E.
going to drift a smidge, back to author/editor relations. I admit I'm dying to
know this one myself. *[Kay House] What annoys you most about authors?
when authors say they want to be edited and they want criticism, and I spend
hours and hours editing their manuscript, then to have them absolutely ignore my
suggestions without even saying why.
it is their book, but I wouldn't suggest changes unless I really thought they
would make the book stronger. And if they can argue their point, that's fine,
but refusing to listen at all gets very frustrating.
the authors who are just pushy and obnoxious in general.
however, is none of these. E.
cool. <g> :: sighing with relief ::
What grabs your attention in a synopsis and query letter? What doesn't?
next door, incidentally, are running high in favor of plastic spiders.
not what grabs me, but first a general note--first impressions Do count.
Spelling errors, bad grammar, handwritten letters--those are all signs that the
author either does not take their work seriously, or doesn't care what their
letter looks like. We get Lots of submissions (which we again, read in our free
time), so please, make the letter easy to read and professional.
grabs my attention? What the plot sounds like--a new twist on a story, something
about a character that I just want to read about. That sort of thing.
spiders? I absolutely hate spiders (my one ick-factor), so I'dvote against that
Gill if you
are going to send something, I'dlean towards plane tickets somewhere exotic, but
that's just me. <g> E.
*[Justin] How important are prior writing credits on a cover letter, or for that
matter, how important are cover letters?
Gill I like
cover letters--it gives me a better idea of what you're sending. And yes, if
you've been published before or are a member of SFWA, or have some relevant
background (the book is about a female ex-Marine who retired to Paraguay to
create designer perfumes, and you've done most of those things), do say so.
*[Fred] If there's a potential for future books featuring the same characters or
places, would you want to know about it up front? Would that information help or
hurt the query in any way?
if a publisher is going to buy a book, they're going to want at least two books,
in most cases. We're assuming you're willing to work hard and write several
books, and if the book does well, we'd naturally want more in that same
saying that this is book 1 of 17, is Not a good idea. We'll buy the book based
on what is in front of us, not what may be coming down the line.
*[zette] Should e-sales be listed in cover material?
If, say, you've sold online fiction to Ellen Datlow at Scifiction, do say so. If
it's a general e-sale, not so much. And, a note--most publishers consider
submissions published electronically to be previously published, and will be
much less interested. E.
*[Robert] How would I submit concepts for theme anthologies? Would it help to
have some writers already committed to them?
Very rarely publish theme anthologies, or anthologies in general. (DAW does many
of those, but they are all arranged by an agent and packager). So your chances
are low. But if you have GUARANTEES from several Major authors, you could try.
But otherwise, anthologies (whether multi- or single-author) are a very hard
QUESTIONS ABOUT MANUSCRIPTS
thistle] What, in general terms, is your dream submission?
dream submission? A wonderfully-written, creative and inventive science fiction
or fantasy story that has the potential to both get great reviews and sell
through the roof, from an author who's willing to work hard editorially and
otherwise to make their book the best possible.
did ask for my dream... <g> E.
*[Fred] Is there anything that will get a submission sent straight to the reject
Holly--do people want to really hear the truth here? E.
folks are very good.
Sending me something again that I've already rejected saying I just didn't read
it carefully enough, or read enough of it. Handwritten queries (particularly on
purple paper). Novellas of say 40,000 words. Anything ripped out of star trek
with only the names changed.
else? Something about little green elves that ride unicorns in the land of
mystical happiness. Saying that you're qualified to write about
elves/vampires/etc. because you really are one.
are the biggies. And yes, I've gotten all of the above. E.
just killed them with that one.
Gill DId I?
Laugh It really is true...! E.
one had even considered the possibilities.
*[Alyssa] Diana, I'dlike to know how often do you get past page two when you're
evaluating a manuscript from an unknown author, and what are the manuscripts
most often missing?
page two? Honestly, that depends on how good page one is. If you can get me to
read past the first paragraph (and yes, we can tell by the end of the first
paragraph if we want to read any further), get me interested in the story, or
the character, that's a very good thing. If the first page isn't absolutely
intriguing, but is nonetheless well-written (without the little green elves, say.)
think one really important thing to remember is that an editor's primary
function is to act as a reader--if I don't want to read any further, why should
someone want to buy the book and the read it? Give us (and yourself) something
to be interested in.
no, that doesn't mean the first sentence has to have an explosion or some other
really glossy hook, but do think about what's happening. Make it interesting.
are manuscripts most missing? Originality. Yes, there are only a few plots and
stories out there, but there are endless things you can to take that boy meets
girl theme and make it interesting.
Say you receive a fantasy manuscript from a first-time author that's
well-written, complex--and long (around 300,000 to 325,000 words, similar in
size to a Kate Elliott or George R.R. Martin novel). If you liked the story,
would the length be an issue?
words? Oh boy. For 1 book? That's hard. If it is really good, what we'd probably
do is work with the story to streamline it. Very few stories cannot be
streamlined. But if it's that wonderful, we're willing to work with it to figure
Gill But in
general, submissions should be 80,000-120,000 words... E.
*[Joel] In your opinion, what month do you see a surge in the number of
guessing he asked this to know when NOT to query. <g>
particular month, really. There's always stuff coming in. I guess the busiest is
right after conventions or some such.
Gill In re
when not to send it? The holidays, obviously. ;-P E.
*[Fredrick Obermeyer] How much money can we expect to get on a first novel sale?
If a novel does really well in the market, can a writer expect a possible
advance for the next one? Or does he or she have to wait a few more novels
you have a really good agent, not much. Usually around $4000-$6000, but it can
be less for some genres/publishers/lines. I
advance is what you get when you sell a book. If a first book does well and we
buy more, that's another advance. The only way to get more money beyond the
advance is to have your book sell enough to start earning royalties. E.
*[Fredrick Obermeyer] If a novel gets published, can the writer have any say
about the cover art or is it out of his/her hands?
you're Steven King or Tom Clancy or so on, you will not get cover approval or
official consultation. Most editors talk with their authors about what they'd
like to see on the cover, but, frankly--and this is what many professional
authors don't [or won't!] understand--the cover is to get the book buyer
(whether for a national bookstore chain or suzy q. public) to pick the book up
and be i
It's a marketing took, pure and simple. and, frankly, most authors aren't
marketing people. But we do get the author's opinion and talk to them about it,
whenever possible. E.
that's tool. not took. no hobbits here. E.
Viehl] How many titles does Eos release per year, and are there any plans to
increase or decrease the number?
while I pull down my schedule and count... ......
there are any hobbits here, they won't be admitting in in their query letters.
now i almost spilled My diet coke!
12 hardcovers a year, 3 trade paperbacks, and about 24 mass-markets. We're
planning to stay at about that level. Maybe a few more, maybe a few less
depending on when stuff comes in, etc., but pretty much there. E.
Mills] How many first-time novels do you take in a typical year?
Gill 1 or
so? More because it's hard to find a good first novel than anything else... E.
*[Joel] Besides the quality of their work, in your opinion, what is the best way
for a newly published writer to promote their novel?
friends with booksellers! Go to local stores and sign stock, have a website,
start a newsletter, that sort of thing. There's a good article at, umm, i think
www.broaduniverse.com about self-promoting. (if that's not the address, sorry!
Bad memory...) E.
*[Andi:] What is the one question you've always wanted asked in an interview
that you've never been asked? Consider it asked now, if you would.
Umm... Honestly, I don't know if I have a question I've always wanted asked.
Besides, can I give you lots of money free of cost from an anonymous donor?
Sorry, no ideas here.... E.
Gill Hmm, I
guess I should mention that we've started an online newsletter, so anyone who's
interested should go to www.eosbooks.com
and sign up for it. It's a lot of fun--really. E.
Gill =) =)
anyone have any other questions? I can stay for a bit more if there are some...
<@Holly Lisle> Do not pitch you work to Diana, but the
floor is now open for a few questions.
Anyone? Bueller? Bueller... E.
<Jinx> I would just like to thank you for your time and
generosity in answering our questions, Diana.
<Shelley> Ok, I'm asking this one for my fiancé. Does
Eos take comic books or graphic novel submissions?
<@zette> Just a note -- I fear most or all of us got
dropped for a moment there... people are just signing back in.
<fred> You talked earlier about the length of
submissions. I seem to get stuck around 65k words. Would that be a serious
strike against my work?
one at a time. No, no graphic novels or comic books.
My pleasure. E.
<Kaelle> I echo Jinx's comment, Diana. Thank you very
<Shelley> Yes, thank you so much Diana.
a bit short, really. It's more of a novella than anything else, which doesn't
work as a book... E.
you all for coming--I know Holly's pleased, and I hope you had fun. =) E.
<Kay House> Thanks for coming, I learned a LOT!
<karen thistle> thank you, Diana
<Diana Stirling> Thanks a lot!
<@Holly Lisle> We've had a wonderful time. Thank you so
much for taking the time to join us today.
<Robert> Thanks for having this conference, Holly, and
thanks for coming, Diana. If I've got a self-published book and it did well,
should I mention that on the cover?
<CatherineM> Thank you from me too.
<Mistythank> thank you
<YvonneM> other than little green elves, is there
anything that's done to death in fantasy novels?
<May-Lee> clap clap clap Thank You
<Gayle> Thank you
<Beth> Thanks for coming--it's been very informative.
<Anon_11> Thank you very much, Diana.
<Allison> Thank you, Diana!
if it's sold well, do mention that. E.
<fred> Thanks for your time.
<MaryMuse> Are there any credits you shouldn't mention
in your cover letter? Such as if you've sold erotica?
lord of the rings retreads. make your world original, please. umm, contemporary
fantasy is also very hard. E.
it's not relevant to the genre, I wouldn't put it. if you're writing erotic
fantasy a la Laurel Hamilton, do mention it. E.
<MaryMuse> Thank you, Diana.
<Misty> does experience in the publishing industry have
to do with manuscripts to really count? I have a position, but it's with
bibliographic information, and I'm wondering if I'm going to have to start as an
Editorial Assistant if I want to move into manuscripts
depends. if you want to move into editorial, having a general publishing
background can help you get a position, but it really would be as an editorial
assistant unless you have substantial editorial experience and knowledge of
another field. and even then, it would probably be to assistant editor or stuff.
at least for fiction. Specialized science or academia can work a bit differently
<Shelley> do you look for more character driven
stories, or more plot driven ones?
both. Beyond that, I'm partial to well-written characters, but they still need a
plot. Sitting around and talking does not work as a book, at least for me.
<Shelley> thank you
<@zette> Do you feel Internet communities like this one
are a good help to upcoming writers?
I really don't know. I do think it is helpful to go somewhere where you can ask
those more experienced/knowledgeable questions, but
being a writer, I'm not sure in general. But good feedback and input can help
anyone, and networking never hurts. E.
<YvonneM> do short story sales have any impact on how
you look at a novel?
story sales can't hurt, but there are many writers who can't write short fiction
for their lives but write wonderful novels. Basically, it will let me know that
<Sarajael> Do you prefer cover letters that start with
the one-line hard sell "what do you do when you're locked in a closet with
an axe-murderer?", or the plain vanilla "please find enclosed my novel
Closet Murderer"? <g>
thinks your writing is at a professional level. E.
vanilla, please!! As I mentioned, a professional letter is important. The hard
sell is very very hard to work--we see hundreds of letters, and it doesn't
really work. E.
<Kay House> Do line editors ever become editors, and
how do people get to be line editors? Are publishing careers mostly limited to
New York City?
<Diana Stirling> Is Eos interested in young adult
fantasy? If not, can you recommend a publisher/s?
<Sarajael> Thanks, Diana
<MaryMuse> Do you recommend that writers write in
multiple genres if they wish to support themselves with their writing? Or do you
prefer authors who write just sf/f?
<Joel_A> Ms Gill, I've read there's a large interest in
sci-fi--especially hard sf--partially due to the influx of soft sf and fantasy?
What's your view?
editors as in copyeditors? Sometimes. There, each managing editor has a stable
of their own preferred copyeditors. Prior experience is necessary, and usually
networking. You can get publishing careers in other places certainly, but New
York definitely has the most. E.
<Kay House> Thank you, I did mean copyeditors.
Stirling--we don't really do young adult fantasy in EOS per se, but
Harperchildren's does a fair amount of that... E.
<@Holly Lisle> These need to be the last questions.
<Diana Stirling> thanks!
Muse--as long as my authors turn in their books on time, I don't care what else
they do, really. E.
<@Holly Lisle> I would like to thank Diana for spending
some of her free weekend time with us today.
is still the biggest/most popular genre. I haven't seen a recent surge in
interest in hard sf, but I'm not really out there on the ground floor... E.
<Kay House> Thanks again, Ms. Gill, and to you Holly,
for inviting her!
<@Jae> Thank you Diana! This was really wonderful!
<Joel_A> Thanks, Ms Gill.
<Robert> Thank you, Diana! This was great!
<karen thistle> thanks again!
<@zette> Thank you. This has been very helpful!
<@AndiW> Thank you very much. We do appreciate the
<Diana Stirling> thanks again!
my pleasure. I hope this was helpful, and Holly, thanks for the invite. (Does
this give me extra credit when you get the next editorial letter?) <g> E.
<MaryMuse> Thank you!
<@SLViehl4> Thanks, Diana, it was great having you here
<Shelley> thank you Diana. This has been a great
learning experience for me!
<Misty> this has been great, thank you and have a great
<Allison> Thank you, Diana! This has been great!
<Kaelle> Wonderful conference!
<@JimMills> Thank you, Diana!
<CatherineM> thank you again for you help
<karen thistle> and thanks, holly!
<Della> Thanks for your time.
<@Holly Lisle> Diana -- I'm ready. And yeah, I think
this gets you one Name Change and a pack of This scene does not work for me's.
<Diana Stirling> ditto!
<Shelley> Yes, thanks Holly for all your work setting
hoo! I'll hold you to that Holly. J/K.
<@AndiW> Hats off to Holly. <G>
have a great weekend!
<@Holly Lisle> Folks, thank you for coming out, for
asking intelligent questions, and for following the rules.
<Joel_A> you too, ms gill!
<@AndiW> You too!
<Allison> you too!
<Joel_A> thanks again, holly!
<Kaelle> You are the best, Holly, Thanks!
<Joel_A> wow. a real live editor...even virtually
<CatherineM> thank you holly
<@Holly Lisle> Okay. I'll be closing the room. I'll see
all of you soon.
<Allison> thanks Holly!
everyone! Take care.
<karen thistle> bye!
<@AndiW> Have a good one, Holly. Good writing!
<@Holly Lisle> And those of you who did transcripts,
please e-mail them to me. I lost everything when my connection died.
<@Jae> Bye Holly! Thanks for setting this up!
<@AndiW> Unfortunately here too, Holly. <vhs>
<@JimMills> On its way, Holly... <g>
<Robert> Mine may have lost a little of the Q&A but
I got almost all of it and it'll be on its way in moments!
<@zette> I have a good part of the opening.. but lost
mine at the 300 word manuscript question. I need it too!
<Sarajael> we'll probably have it all between us
<Robert> I have a gap between Holly's asking for
questions and Jinx's question - everything after that or before that is in mine.
<@zette> This was excellent. I'm glad I finally figured
out how to get in.
<@Holly Lisle> I hate to leave now, but I have to go
take care of other things.
<@AndiW> I lost all the fun stuff in the Spider Chat.
<@Holly Lisle> Thanks again for coming.
<@Holly Lisle> Oh, no. Did anyone get the Spider Chat?
<@zette> I'm heading off too. This was great Holly!
Talk to you later!
<@AndiW> The chat completely reset--everyone lost
<@AndiW> It reset just as I was saving it, so I didn't
get any of the good stuff.
<Shelley> I gotta get going as well. Thanks again
<Robert> See you in regular chat soon as I mail
<@AndiW> I do have the entire conference, though,
Holly. I think I do, at least.