But today, I just want to give a big shout out to Anica for her awesome comments and advice that night. At the risk of sounding horribly cliche', they really struck a chord with me. Here's hoping they do the same for you.
Anica Rissi is an Executive Editor at Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. She specializes in developing, editing, and acquiring fiction for teens, and especially loves discovering and building new talent and new voices. She is interested in commercial, high-concept, and literary projects; unexpected or dark humor; edgy topics; smart writing; compelling storytelling; and characters that she can’t get out of her head.
I want to read the story that only you can tell, written
the way that you need to tell it.
I do not want to read a manuscript that you've written to fit a trend.
I want writers to ask their agents/editors LOTS of questions.
Open communication is key to the process.
It's an important part of the acquisition process--
talking with the agent/author to make sure the author agrees
with the editorial vision for the book.
If my ideas don't feel like a good fit for that writer, I want the author to say thanks but no thanks--it's not meant to be (and neither of us would be happy forcing it to be so).
Are you telling a great story? Are you telling it well? Then it can work in YA.
If it's true to the characters and true to the story, there are no limits (at least at Simon Pulse).
Q: Are books with sequels easier to sell? Should we mention a planned sequel when querying?
Anica: No. I need to fall in love with the first book before I care whether there's a second.
I am looking to fall head-over-heels in love. I need to love the manuscript so hard that I want to spend my nights and weekends with it, and read it over and over and over again. So it's like with people. Sometimes you know right away you will/won't be friends/lovers. Sometimes you need to spend lots of time together and see what does/doesn't develop.
Q: What are the main weaknesses you find in manuscripts?
Anica: Too much backstory, especially in the first 50 pages.
It's a good thing when people are talking about a book, whether they're saying great things or complaining about it.
Use the social media that makes sense to you.
Play to your strengths.
It's not my book, it's the author's book.
I'm not going to strong-arm her into any changes she doesn't believe in.
But together we can brainstorm alternate solutions if she doesn't
like my first suggestion.
I acquire 18-20 books per year, edit 12-15.
I receive hundreds and hundreds of agented submissions per year.
Usually a few new ones every day.
You can't be an editor if you aren't living it, breathing it.
Q: If you rejected a story, and then it went on to become very successful, do you regret your decision?
Anica: No. If I rejected it, I wasn't the right editor for it.
I do, however, feel super glad for the author. It's good for everyone when YA books are selling!
It doesn't matter if the themes are familiar
if the execution is unique.
When you're done with your manuscript, put it away and don't look at it for A COUPLE OF MONTHS, then go back and revise, revise, revise.
You need that distance from it to really see it.
Novels edited by Anica Rissi that were mentioned in this chat:
GONE, GONE, GONE by Hannah Moskowitz (upcoming 2012)
BEING FRIENDS WITH BOYS by Terra Elan McVoy (upcoming 2012)
VIRTUOSITY by Jessica Martinez (upcoming 2011)
POSSESSION by Elana Johnson (2011)
WHEN YOU WERE MINE by Rebecca Serle (upcoming 2012)
CLEAN by Amy Reed (2011)
PAST PERFECT by Leila Sales (upcoming 2011)
SWOON by Nina Malkin (2009)
SWEAR by Nina Malkin (upcoming 2011)
UNRAVELING ISOBEL by Eileen Cook (upcoming 2012)