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You should also be open to your editor’s suggestions. While a writer certainly wants to preserve his voice, an editor’s job is to make the book better. Rewriting is a crucial part of being a writer. If an editor suggests a change that doesn’t work for you, be prepared to explain why and make a countersuggestion. You should, however, save the fight for the major changes that will affect your book’s message or story.
A writer who has a clear understanding of his market, and can help his publisher tap into that market, will get a lot of support from his editor, claims Taylor. According to Taylor, first-time novelist Dawn Turner Trice, whose book Only Twice I’ve Wished for Heaven will be published by Crown this February, is someone who understood this early on. “Not only is Dawn a great writer, but she is able to make a case for the things she asks us for,” says Taylor. When the author wanted to promote her book at the Book Expo America, a very large and costly convention, she convinced her publisher that it was worth the expense. Trice knew a number of the key booksellers who were attending the convention, and because she lived in Chicago, where the convention takes place, Crown was able to save on transportation and lodging costs.
Taylor highlights two no-nos for writers: never call your editor every day or attempt to go above the editor’s head with a problem. Writers need to be sensitive to their editor’s concerns, and understand that signing a new author is a leap of faith. “Every time you acquire a new novel you put your reputation on the line,” says Taylor. “You spend your company’s money, and it’s almost like gambling.”
Whether or not the current literary boom goes down in history as the age when black writers finally solidify their place in the literary world is, in part, linked to the successful growth of black publishers.
With the release of Gone Fishin’, Coates and Mosley hope to spawn some of this growth, and to develop a model that other black publishers and high-profile authors can use in working together. But both are realistic about how much of an effect their venture can have on strengthening the financial positions of black publishers, while creating more opportunities for black authors. Ultimately, black writers, by making smart decisions about who they publish with and the terms of their contracts, will play a major role in securing their place in the literary market–and help open the door for new talent.
List of Black Editors
Write for editors guidelines before sending unsolicited manuscripts.
Carol Taylor, Editor Crown Publishers 201 E. 50th Street New York, NY 10022 non-fiction & fiction
Dawn Daniels, Editor Simon & Schuster 1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020 non-fiction & fiction
Dawn Davis, Editor Vintage Books 201 E. 50th Street New York, NY 10022 literary non-fiction
Jim Moser, Executive Editor Grove/Atlantic 841 Broadway 4th Floor New York, NY 1003 literary fiction & non-fiction
Cheryl Woodruff, Editor Ballantine 201 E. 50th Street 9th Floor New York, NY 10022 literary non-fiction
Erroll McDonald, Editor Pantheon 201 E. 50th Street New York, NY 10022
Janet Hill, Managing Editor Doubleday 1540 Broadway New York, NY 10036 fiction & non-fiction
Tracy Sherrod, Editor Henry Holt and Co. 115 W. 18th Street New York, NY 10011 literary fiction & non-fiction
Malaika Adero, Editor Amistad Press 1271 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020 literary fiction & non-fiction
Carole Hall, Associate Publsher and Editor-in-Chief John Wiley & Sons 605 Third Avenue New York, NY 10158 fiction & non-fiction
Monica Harris, Senior Editor Kensington Publishing 850 3rd Avenue New York, NY 10022 multicultural romance
Deborah Dyson, Editor Writers & Readers 625 Broadway 10th Floor New York, NY 10012 children’s books
Apryl Motley, Editor Black Classic Press P.O. Box 13414 Baltimore, MD 21203 non-fiction & black history
Elias Gebrezgheir, Editor Wanjiku Ngugi, Editor Africa World Press 11-D Princess Road Lawrenceville, NJ 08648 academic & cultural
David Kelly, Associate Editor Third World Press 7822 S. Dobson Chicago, IL 60619 historical, fiction & non-fiction
Cheryl Willis Hudson, Editor Just Us Books 356 Glenwood Avenue East Orange, NJ 07017 children’s books
Andrea Lackett, Publisher Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press P.O. Box 40-4920 Brooklyn, NY 11240 poetry, fiction & non-fiction