Pride and Prejudice - The STORY GRID edition - Annotated by SHAWN COYNE

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ARCHIVES OF January, 2012

What It Takes

What It Takes

What Editors Do

By Shawn Coyne | Published: January 27, 2012

A month ago, just before the Christmas break, I ran into a friend and former colleague. Obviously late for an appointment, she had that thousand yard stare of the warrior just back from the front.

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise as Jerry Maquire. "It's an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about ... "

We gave each other a hug and asked about each other’s spouses and kids. Neither one of us threw out publishing’s “we have to get together for lunch or a drink” fake intimacy shtick.

We had a great time working together but we both knew that we’d probably never do so again. I don’t represent her kind of books and she has no interest in the kind I do represent. As strange as this may seem, there’s not a better basis for a book publishing friendship as that. Because you aren’t in the same editorial arena, there’s no chance of Schadenfreude and there’s no need to steel yourself for one of publishing’s undermining conversational digs….

“Oh, you bought that? I think I rejected that three months ago…I guess I just didn’t see what you did in there.”

When you’re with someone who publishes women’s stuff while you publish guy stuff, you can actually be yourself with each other and let your guard down.

In the elevator up to my office, I remembered something she used to mumble to me in the thrice a year succession of pre-launch/launch/pre-sales/sales meetings that convene for each of the three selling seasons at the big publishing houses.  It is in these meetings that editors do whatever’s necessary to position their authors’ books for the company’s publicity, marketing and sales departments. The meeting presentation is a crucial performance skill for an editor to master. If an editor can’t get the hostile audience (BS meters are on high) to buy in to what he’s selling…the book is sunk. The only thing that can save it is luck. [Keep in mind that I am describing the traditional book publishing model here. It’s much different when you bypass the gatekeepers].

My friend is one of the best and most charismatic presenters I’ve ever seen. Her stable of bestselling authors is testament to that.  But like all pros, when it was her turn in the spotlight…she felt the angst and nerves just as much as a first timer. So to let some steam off, just before she’d rise to walk to the dais, she’d turn to me and quote from a favorite movie of ours…

“It’s an up-at-dawn, pride swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about…”

We used to trade quotes from Jerry Maquire. Cameron Crowe’s screenplay and Tom Cruise’s characterization of what a sports agent contends with is a spot on description of what an editor endures too. Editors are authors’ voices inside the houses and the things they have to do to make sure their books get an opportunity to perform are not necessarily what the creators of a book need to know. There’s a lot of horse trading. And there are many additional gates inside a house that an editor must unlock before a book has a real shot at reaching its largest possible market. (more…)

Posted in What It Takes
9 Comments

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

What I Learned in the Ad Biz, Part Three

By Steven Pressfield | Published: January 25, 2012

Here’s a concept from the world of Mad Men that has served me (and saved me) many times over the years:

The idea of “new business.”

monolith

New material can be very empowering

When I worked in the ad biz in New York many moons ago, we had to account for our hours every week on a time sheet. The creative department was divided into ten or twelve groups, each with four or five two-man teams—writer and art director—with a creative director as each group’s boss. A creative group might have four or five clients that it was responsible for. On your time sheet you’d see something like

Chase Manhattan Bank

Purina Dog Chow

U.S. Navy Recruitment

Jeep Wrangler

At the end of each week, you’d write in how many hours you spent on each client. Then there was a final row at the bottom of the sheet. It said

New Business

Almost once a month, the agency pitched some big prospective client. We’d go after Burger King or Seven-Up or Toyota, competing with other agencies who were trying to snag the same account. Somewhere between twenty and twenty-five percent of our time was spent coming up with Big Ideas for clients we were hoping to bring in.

There is great wisdom in this division of one’s working time.

I didn’t appreciate it in the moment, but later, working on my own in Hollywood or writing novels, this 20/80 dynamic became a fundamental component of the way I organized my hours, week to week. (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
11 Comments

War Stories

War Stories

Today’s Boys: Tomorrow’s Warriors

By Callie Oettinger | Published: January 23, 2012

They were “just boys” or “babies” or “young.” Often in war stories, it is the men who are at battle, but the boys who go to war. Those deciding and those fighting are men and boys, as are those leaving and those returning home.

Lieutenant General Samuel Vaughan Wilson, retelling a Civil War story told to him as a child, by his “Auntie Mamie,” who spent much of the Battle of Saylers Creek “crouched on a pile of last fall’s potatoes there on the floor of the basement” in Lockett House, which was in the middle of the battle, and used as a hospital by both sides: (more…)

Posted in War Stories
5 Comments
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