Nancy Peske 2010 January
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January 2010

The doom and gloom in publishing comes around during times of economic downturn, but it’s especially pronounced now that eReaders are a genuine force in the industry and the business model hasn’t yet shaken out. I’m not a doom and gloomer by any stretch, having survived and thrived in this business since 1987. I think we’re facing a great opportunity for book publishers to expand their minds and business models to embrace new media as well as traditional book readers. When a 20something kid in the Mac store tells me he’s thrilled to get his hands on the iPad but dreams of having his own home library someday because he loves the smell and feel of a book, it reminds me of how easy it is to forget that each generation produces a new crop of book lovers.

That said, let me share just one story of perseverance to inspire those of you currently seeking an agent or a book publishing deal. True, it’s a tale from the past–from an era when I was hearing nonstop “It’s really hard to get a book deal,” “the market is very difficult these days,” and the like just as you’re hearing today.

My first coauthored book, Meditations for Men Who Do Next to Nothing (and Would Like to Do Even Less), was one I  conceived one day in a dull editorial meeting I attended as a young editor at HarperCollins. An offhand remark from a colleague sparked the idea, I rushed out afterwards to call my cousin Beverly West, who had been talking to me about our writing a humor book together someday, and said, “OK, I got the book idea for us!” I asked some colleagues for agent recommendations, found someone for us, and she submitted it to 9 houses. All turned it down. Then we did another round of 6 and got 3 houses to participate in an auction, with Warner Books winning. The book sold for a modest amount that was enough to pay a few bills while we penned it, and we ended up selling 60,000 copies in 4 printings and selling Italian rights too, and we got booked on the old Montel Williams show which, while it probably added nothing to sales, was a hoot of an experience. And yes, we were absolute rank beginners as authors with no platform whatsoever–just a fabulously funny idea and, most importantly, execution.
Share with me YOUR story of perseverance!

...and would like to do even less!

For those of you who are amused that I majored in Latin (well, technically, Classics, but aside from Greek Mythology, History of Rome, and one semester of Ancient Greek, I only studied Latin), here is a list of people who became gainfully employed and went on to do great things after choosing this major. I graduated in the Reagan era from a state university where the only recruiter seeking to speak to liberal arts majors was from Pizza Hut (I kid you not…and of course, you know, entry level management at Pizza Hut means you clean the bathrooms). And yet somehow I found a way to make a living–go figuah!

…when they learned it was $500 to $849. Eep!

I admire the brave souls who buy the first version of a Mac anything (gluttons for punishment?) but I think this one is going to stay. I’m already looking at the screen with my over 40 eyes and thinking okay, I think I could actually read something on that size “page” without having to push the button to turn it every quarter of a second.

Recently, I surfed the internet looking for advice and information about hiring a freelance editor or writer and found a lot of myths floating about. Too often, I’ve been called in to help out a would-be writer after she’s plopped down several thousand dollars for editorial or ghostwriting services, only to find herself no closer to a publishable manuscript. I get frustrated when I hear such stories of editing gone bad! That’s why I’d like to bust some myths about editors and agents I’ve come across on the web to help you avoid hiring the wrong freelance book editor. Here are some of the myths I’m busting in my new PDF available on my services page at

MYTH 1: An excellent editor can help you with ANY type of book you’d like to publish.

MYTH 2: Editors at book publishing houses don’t edit these days.

MYTH 3: A freelance editor that helps you prepare your book proposal to sell to a traditional book publisher does not need to know the marketplace.

MYTH 4: A great freelance editor has passed a copyediting and proofreading test offered by an online editors’ site.

MYTH 5: All editors do the same type of work.

MYTH 6: A great editor can proofread, copyedit, and do heavy structural and line editing at the same time.

MYTH 7: There’s a stigma to hiring a ghostwriter, coauthor, or collaborator.

MYTH 8: You can always find a terrific writer or editor last minute because there are so many of them out there.

Have you bought into these myths?

Tomorrow, Apple’s iTablet will be released. A New York Times article spells out the hopes of book and magazine publishers. Will Steve Jobs save print media from its current dilemmas? When’s eReader, Kindle, began to show signs of having legs, I said this might send the publishing world into a tizzy, and when Kindle sold more eBooks than traditional books this holiday season everyone began shouting about the sky falling. Personally, I’m thrilled to have the dinosaur industry I love forced to evolve. If it takes the iTablet to do it, goody for all of us, especially authors who have seen book publishers’ advances and payouts decline over the years ($5000 split into 1/3 on signing 1/3 on d&a, 1/3 on pub? Really? That broke?)–a decline that has coincided with less marketing support and editorial and marketing expertise. And how long have we been hearing about how publishers really have to do something about the problem of allowing booksellers to return unsold copies years after they were purchased? I first heard the musings around 1987 when I joined the biz, a literary agent who’s a bit older than I am claims she first heard them sometime in the 1970s. No, you don’t get 23 years to solve a problem, folks, before it bites you in the booty!

I say this all with love and affection, of course. I love my industry but really, it’s time to move out of the basement, get a real job and business model, and spread your wings like a big boy.

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