Acquiring editors’ pet peeves

Are you unwittingly turning off an acquiring editor by committing one of her pet peeves?

Two acquiring editors spoke recently about what works – and what doesn’t – at a panel at the Left Coast Crime convention in Colorado Springs.

Denise “Deni” Dietz, a senior editor for Five Star publications, says any manuscript sent to her should follow the submission guidelines, and authors should be professional in their dealings with her.  She isn’t looking for perfection in a manuscript, but she is looking for someone with a “good voice” and for solid “characterization, plot, and pacing.”

“You can edit a book, but you can’t edit a[n author’s] voice,” Dietz said.

She also has several pet peeves, and she warns writers:

Let the animals growl, not your tags.

Let the animals growl, not your tags.

* To avoid using “animal tags,” such as “he roared” or “she growled.” In most instances, just use “he said,” with only a few variations.

* To keep eyes on a person’s face. Don’t say someone’s eyes “trailed across the room” or “she dropped her eyes to the floor – where they could get stepped on,” Dietz quipped.

* To do a search for your character’s name. Many writers overuse the name of their characters, and fifty percent of the time, the character’s name could simply be replaced by he or she, or him or her.

Terri Bischoff, acquiring editor for Midnight Ink, mostly accepts agented submissions or those by invitation. Like Dietz, she has pet peeves, too.

One of them is authors who don’t know the genre or subgenre in which they are writing.  “Or they say, ‘I write like so and so,’ and I open the manuscript and it isn’t at all” like that writer, Bischoff said. Also, writers who submit and a week later are asking her about the submission don’t do themselves any favors, she said.

Because Dietz and Bischoff work for smaller publishing houses, they will often critique or give suggestions to authors who show promise, but whose manuscript may still need some work.  Take time to really rework the manuscript before resubmitting it, they said.

Finally, don’t try to follow the trends, or the popular authors.

“If you are submitting to me and saying, ‘it’s like Dan Brown,’ “ said Dietz, “well, I tried getting through Dan Brown four times and finally gave up.”

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