A Comment from Colleen
Colleen Lindsay left a fascinating comment on my Considering Mieville post, but since the discussion there had died down and her comment was number 23, I asked her if I could post it on the main page, since many people who might be interested in what she has to say might not have seen it. If you want the full context, you'll need to go back to the comments section of that post (quite an interesting discussion, actually).
Hi all -- I'm Colleen Lindsay and I am Del Rey's publicity director. I am also China's personal PR machine. The fact that so many of you are grumbling about his celebrity means that I have done my job right -- thank you! :-)
First some thoughts on editing. I am not an editor, but I do know something about the editorial process at Del Rey especially where China's editor, a very gifted fellow named Chris Schluep is concerned. When Del Rey bought PERDIDO STREET STATION, it was, essentially, a finished book. We were simply publishing the reprinted UK edition, with some minor Americanization of spelling here and there. Chris did no editing of this book. However, when he went back to China's agent to buy more original stuff, the idea was that he and China's UK editor would work together on the edits.
Now I don't know how much you know about the editing process in the UK, but traditionally, there isn't a whole lot of developmental editing in many of the big houses. With THE SCAR, Chris lopped off a good 200 pages, and caused China no endless amount of consternation and grief and agony. But China LOVED having the editorial direction. The published result was a far superior book than what was originally submitted. This is how it is supposed to work.
With IRON COUNCIL, Chris worked even more closely with China, and they really knocked it down to it's bare essence. Sure, everything in the world could probably use more editing, but in the real world of publishing, you have deadlines and publishing schedules and laydown dates and at some point you must say, "Well, here goes nothing."
Now, as for PR, well, I am here to tell you: PR is all about the writer and not about the book. When I have to make a judgement to determine which of my new authors I get to spend my meager publicity and marketing budget on, I look at the following things:
:: The book itself
:: The author's physical appearance: Is he or she well-groomed? I know two authors who have terrible body odor problems; when you are near them, you don't think about the book or how great a writer he or she may be, you just think about how fast you can get aay from them. Sad but true. Is the author significantly overweight? If so, will this be a physical hindrance to the person if I need to send them on a rigorous tour schedule? (As someone who is very overweight myself, I know the strains this can put on one's body is one is routinely inactive.)
:: The author's bearing: Does he or she bear themselves with dignity and grace, or does he /she give the appearance of walking like a victim? This is the kiss of death in front of a crowd of eager fans.
:: The author's voice: Does he or she have a radio-appropriate voice? Does he or she have an accent that will hinder an audience's comprehension when he/she reads? Does he/she have an unpleasant voice in general? If you have an unpleasant voice or vocal habits, by golly, hire a voice coach and get rid of them.
:: The author's vocabulary and sense of humor: How educated and intelligent is the author? How erudite? Can he/she make you laugh without resorting to ribald humor? Can the author talk about anything other than his / her book? Trust me, nobody wants to hear about your book on a radio show after the first two minutes. Greg Bear is a favorite author of mine as he can talk intelligently on pretty much any scientific subject, and his sense of humor and timing are impeccable.
:: How the author comes across on the telephone: Does he or she mumble, or talk too softly?
:: How the author comes across in person, and sense of charisma: Is the author humble or a pompous ass?
You don't need to be pretty like China, but you need to be confidant, well-groomed, educated, erudite, interesting to talk to, able to maintain a sense of humor throughout, and someone that other people want to get to know.
Terry Brooks is another prime example. You may hate his writing, but anyone who has ever spent any time with him knows he is the consummate professional, easygoing, funny as hell, intelligent and a little bit of a smartass sometimes. I can put him on any radio show in the country and know that whomever is listening -- even if not a fan of his -- will be entertained or intrigued. China was actually blown away by what an great guy Terry when he met him in 2002.
Neither Terry nor Greg could possibly be considered young or pretty. They just get what it takes to market yourself in today's publishing world.
Just my two cents, kids. Back to your discussion, please.