Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sara Goodman - Editor at St. Martin's Press

  • How did you get your start as an editor? Why become an editor instead of say, a fighter pilot or computer engineer?

I moved to New York in June of 2001 from California thinking I wanted to work in magazines.  Upon my arrival, I interned at a few publications and cocktail waitressed at night to pay the bills.  Then 911 happened and I was like, "I need a full time job with benefits!  The world is too crazy right now."  I answered a listing on MediaBistro for a job in "media."  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  Even after my interview I wasn't entirely sure what the company did! But finally, when they hired me, I realized I was working at a literary agency, and the rest is history.  I tried my best to become a high powered agent, but I realized that it just wasn't quite the right fit.  Editing books is more my thing, so in 2007 I decided to change careers.  I'm now at St. Martin 's Press and I couldn't be happier.  

  • What are some of the exciting books you've acquired that you're most proud of?

HOT GIRL by Dream Jordan is a young adult novel that just came out on November 11th, and I'm really proud of that one.  It's the story of a young girl forced to survive the travails of the Brooklyn foster care system, which she does with grace and wit and incredible strength of character.  Also, on December 23rd, CRACKED UP TO BE by Courtney Summers will be coming out.  This is also a young adult novel, and it's amazing.  Without giving too much away, it's the story of a young girl who's witnessed something truly terrible, but is too afraid to admit it.  As the book unfolds, the reader is given small clues about the event as you see her slowly break down and ultimately confess. 


  • When you receive a submission what about it really grabs you and excites you to the point that you'd like to acquire it? 

An editor almost always knows if a book is publishable right from the very beginning.  A good opening line, an immediate sense of place, and good pacing are always a good sign.  I also keep an eye out for that plot that's going to hook me from the very beginning.  As an author, you want to keep your readers up all night.  You want them to start the book and not want to put it down until they've turned the very last page!

  • What makes you decide to read a submission overnight compared to it rotting on the bottom of your slush pile?

If an agent calls me up and can't stop talking about how wonderful a book is, I'm going to look at it that night.  If I get a query letter that immediately piques my interest, I'm going to look at it that night. 

·         What's the best way for a writer to contact you? Query letter?

I'm currently only looking at agented submissions. 

·         Are you open to receiving submissions from self-published authors?

 A lot of bestsellers have been previously self-published, so absolutely.  Though, I really do prefer that they come in to me from an agent.

  • Are you open to receiving unagented submissions?

 No, not at the moment. 

  • What are you personally doing in order to adapt to the changes in the marketplace? (Changes meaning: lower print runs, shrinking book review outlets, oversaturated market and chains stores being more selective about what books they put on their shelves)

Firstly, I'd say that I'm trying my best to acquire fresh voices with fresh ideas.  I don't understand the desire to write something that has already been done before.  Secondly, I'm working closely with my authors to help them promote their own books, especially using online resources.  For first-time authors, this is so important.  I have an author who made her own book trailer, for example.  She's posted it on her blog, her Myspace page, and on her Facebook page.  The internet is an amazing and FREE marketing tool if used correctly.  Also, for the young adult market especially, the wonderful librarians out there have done great things.   Get a librarian to read and love your book, and you're doing great!  I think in general we all have to be much more creative about getting our books noticed.   It's just a matter of adapting and utilizing the resources we do have.