Sunday, November 9, 2008

RichWriters Interview with Berkley Books Editor, Adrienne Avila

Jeff Rivera:     Hello and welcome to the show I am Jeff Rivera, author of the novel "Forever my Lady" by Warner Books and we have a real treat for you today Miss. Andie Avila, editor of Warner Books and it is new imprint "Solana". Warner Books of course is responsible for such as New York Times bestselling novelist Nicholas Sparks, James Patterson and many, many others. Andie, Welcome to the show.


Andie Avila:   Thanks, Jeff.


Jeff Rivera:     I am so grateful to you to be able to interview you because I know you are very busy and I am really grateful that you are going to be able to provide real answers and detailed information on how the publishing industry really works and how to get their novels published and what they can do to ensure its success.


Andie Avila:   Yes. Well I will try to provide as much insight  as I can but yes, shoot way whatever questions  you have I am happy to answer.


Jeff Rivera:     Sounds great. Now, Andie, is my editor at Warner books and I have for and in my incredible agent Genone Adams and Levine Green  think from making my dream come true. So I really wanted you to be the first person I asked about this sort of things so one think I really like about you Andie is that you are really open to new ideas and you bring a real freshness to the publishing industry.


Andie Avila:   Well thanks. I definitely try to be open to as many ideas as possible especially when it comes to authors who have an idea for a book. I think if anything, sometimes it is really easy to get caught up in what works in publishing you see like trends and you see sales figures and you cannot help but respond to that so it is really easy to just go along with what is working and I guess as your business sense and it makes definite sense but it never hurts to see what else is out there that could work and especially when it comes to ideas or themes in fiction that are universal, but just have a different new perspective I am always open to seeing the potential on that and trying to pursue it if the writing is definitely at a certain caliber and you can see an audience for it then yes, I say  go for it.


Jeff Rivera:     Well, is it safe to say that you are under the age of 35?


Andie Avila:   I am a younger editor, yes.


Jeff Rivera:     Yes. So I think that, that helps because I think the industry has a lot of really established people who have been there forever and so they have somebody who really kind of brings like a new perspective to things. I think it is shakes it up  a little bit and I think that is something you are not afraid to do.


Andie Avila:   Yes, and that definitely helps to we have lots of editors  here that kind of  focus on pop culture and it is really interesting because a lot of what they are  tuned into is not necessarily what somebody an older editor would be tuned into and not to say that older editors are not invested in pop culture that is definitely is not the case we say here in Warner . My old boss, the associate publisher here who has been in publishing for over 30 years like he can tell you everything about the Simpsons  and can answer every question in the Entertainment Weekly Pop Culture Quiz like you would not believe that.


 But yes definitely it helps to have that kind of, I do not know just interest in   and I also think it helps to have a diversity too in the work place and I do not mean necessarily just when it comes to race or culture I also think of how valuable it is to bring people from different regions of the US, just having somebody from the South or somebody who understands the popularity of NASCAR like what they can bring into the publishing industry I think that is always of definite value and yes, you should always have a presentation of what the country at large is about because that is who your readers, your readers that comes from other parts of the country. If not the world.


Jeff Rivera:     Right. Now for those who  are not familiar quite with what an editor is or what an editor does, what do you think or what can you say about what an editor does at Warner , what is like a typical day for you?


Andie Avila:   Yes. I'm often asked that and I do not know really how to answer that. Everyone always knows you say like you are asked what do you do and you answer I am an editor and they just assume you read all day. It is definitely a large component of like what an editor does, it is reading, but I would not say that you get any reading done during the day. It is kind of like school, you bring stuff home and you work on it after hours or on the weekends and your life ends up becoming like a publishing because you never really have a moment when you are not thinking of…"Oh! That is a book", you know you have book ideas or whatever or you think of like, "Oh! Those is a great title", or  you are reading the back of the PDD [ph] and you think that is an excellent copy like but just to go back to what we do during the day because like every other time waking minute   you are thinking about books or you are reading manuscripts.


I would say like a typical day is dealing with your authors' queries and you can have anything from a couple of authors to 20 authors like you could be juggling many books or just have like a couple of big books on your desk but you can go from just answering their questions about a manuscript that they have already like revised for you, questions regarding like marketing, I mean it can really like their questions can range and you are also dealing with agents quite a bit who are sending you submissions and submissions can be like proposals or full link manuscripts or there is a lot of communication that goes on between agents and editors so you may brainstorm to gather to see what like the next book you want from your like top author or sometimes I just have a book land on my desk right now but if the finished copy of an idea bank that I had and something that I have thought of like 3 years ago and it is finally like come to provision  and so no reason it was able to come together with because I shared the idea with an agent over our lunch and she was able to contact one person, he made this anthology possible so it is a lot of communication that I think goes on you and you also put a liaison  between your author and different departments within the company so you basically like know the book as an editor better than anyone else. You have read it a million times and…


Jeff Rivera:     And you're always glued on the phone and the computer all day, right?


Andie Avila:   Yes, yes definitely and so when you are communicating something to somebody in production about your book for example like we were looking at the design pages, it is the little things like that the editors involved in because they represent you in the publishing house so you cannot be going back and forth to the author all the time and also it is just the way it has been set up where we are in charge of putting together like the pages so you know if the design that they decided to go with for the font of the book does not really match up with the author's voice, the only person who will really tick up on that is the editor since he or she was the one who is really…knows these books inside and out and knows the characters or knows like the voice of a character or what happen so. Editors do a lot of things that are not necessarily related to like the reading of the manuscript.


Jeff Rivera:     I think a lot of people think pretty much editors are like what I thought an editor did pretty much was he know…they give a lot of phone calls and they read a lot of manuscripts all day long and write books but that was just a very, very small part.


Andie Avila:   Yes. That is a small part because we are the ones who are representing it to the entire company. So like for example, right now is a very busy time of the year not because of the holidays but because we are getting ready like going  for our lunch meetings which means that each editor looks at the books that they will be presenting in the next season right now we are looking at the season far winter 0708. So we have to prepare quite in advance for like when this books come out and this next week is when we are going to be pitching the books to ourselves and marketing team. We will have like our covers, they are the covers that we have been working with art department on. We are the one who articulate to them what we would like to see or what the author would like to see or what the book is about and they try to capture that on the cover and so we go to this meeting and you have got a room full of all of these people who really do not know you, do not know anything about the book and they are the ones  who are selling to booksellers so you really need to convey to them like what are the main points of the book, what are the important like highlights that you want to like point to them that it is going to make this book a winner and like everything leads up to this moments because after that it is in your hands in the sense that you are working on like this stuff is going to be going in the production but you really want your pitch at this lunch meeting to be the best it can be because from there that  is where they go to like I said to the booksellers and that is when the  number of books that appears on the Barns and Nobles takes like that kind of base on how enthusiastic you can get everyone at this meeting…


Jeff Rivera:     And that is after the book has been acquired and…so you require  this book and you are now presenting to this committee of people and you are kind of basically rally them up so they can then rally up at the buyers who put the books on the bookshelves.


Andie Avila:   Exactly. Yes, and I  think a lot of what happened sometimes is people are like well, you know they understand that like a publishing house like turns them down because for whatever reason XYZ and it is not always like necessarily like the publisher does not see a way to make this work although obviously that factors in a lot of times like we understand what booksellers are looking for or if a market is crowded especially when it comes to non-fiction like there could be category killers like for a small books that does not stand a chance, and in the long run I think it is important for like people to understand, but sometimes it seems like the author's best interest because the last thing you would want is for a house to have take your book and then it goes out with like limited or small copies like if that happens you now have a track record and let say you go out with a book that has a  greater potential but suddenly you got this track record that is following you around and you have to work it  like reinventing either yourself or doing something to get people to or another house to like consider you. So it is not…I mean no one ever wants to hear this but it's not the worst thing that could happen is like a house rejects you, the first time around like hey, it might just be of the timing is off, and yes like I was…


Jeff Rivera:     For [ph] getting mad of the editor for how dare you reject my manuscript.


Andie Avila:   Yes. Sometimes the dots are not totally connected. It is not only up to us, book sellers are the ones who ultimately hear about this books and decide how many copies they want to take or if they want to take any at all. It is a very interesting kind of chain and supply and demand type of think like just because we have the supply it does not mean that they are demanding it for a will you hoped that they will.


Jeff Rivera:     Can we talk about the process a little bit for example supposed I've sent you the  manuscript and or a self-published because some kind of property and you read it and you get wow! This is great and you as Andie Avila love it. So what then happens in the chain of command in order to then the order go back to the agent or the author and say, yes, we have an offer like what happens from the time that you…?   


Andie Avila:   Basically like things are done by committee and I have only worked at one house so I cannot speak for every single publishing house out there but the way I am seeing things done  here is you really if you can get several people on board and they see potential. That is typically the way it works than you go back to the agent and say, you know lots of us here loved it, we are interested and then you go from there.


Jeff Rivera:     What people do you get on your team for example, is it the salesperson, the marketing person, or it is like your publisher or who is it exactly that you get?


Andie Avila:   It varies, it varies like that is a really good question but it is not like if you get so and so then it is a sure deal. It is not always one person that makes a difference and sometimes it is enough for just two people to see potential with it to go ahead and pursue. There is no, I cannot say that there is any actual…yes.   


Jeff Rivera:     What would you need to, like supposed you got a manuscript today and your read it and you are wow! Like what type of person would you then get on your team in order to convince or what would you need to do or who you need to hang on to?


Andie Avila:   Me specifically?


Jeff Rivera:     Yes.


Andie Avila:   I mean, again, like it really depends on the kind of submission I am getting in. If I got in let say I got in submission on World War II, I would probably and I really liked with it like the voice and what it have to say it says something different about that war than any other book out there has said, I would probably share it with the editor here who is kind of made himself an expert in that area and say, listen I got the theme but I really do not know what the market is like as well as you do I would love  for you to take a look and you wait and see like how he weighs in. Ultimately, what end up happening though in the end I left out a very important part of the whole process. We go to edit meetings once a week and everyone shares projects that they are enthusiastic about or interested in and depending on the way the conversation in the room goes. That is ultimately where you decide whether to pursue something or not. It is not like independent conversation that is taking place constantly. It is typically like and this is what I mean by it is done by committee like you go into this meeting and if everyone sees potential in that idea or you have already gone advanced readings and they weigh in at that meeting then that is when you kind of get the flag and thumbs up and you can pursue and usually there is too when you kind of get the, what is the word, you just get the "No" on it.


Jeff Rivera:     In the committee usually there is usually and mostly editors like other editors in the room or…?


Andie Avila:   Yes. It is all editorial and we have got people from production, people from subsidiary rights, publicity. You have got people from almost everything single department sitting in , weighing in, especial sales. Yes.


Jeff Rivera:     And how many like since we are also talking to novelist here…how many novels would you think the Warner probably requires a year?


Andie Avila:   Requires a year, I do not know but like published a year we probably do five a month.


Jeff Rivera:     5 a month, wow!


Andie Avila:   In hardcover probably about that same number in trade and we are one of the bigger publishing houses and I think we are the third largest international publishing house, but when it comes to our list we do like to maintain a tight,focused list so that all of our books get equal attention and it is important to us the quality not as much as quantity.


Jeff Rivera:     So what are you specifically looking for I think  a lot of listeners are wondering, okay what does Andie look or what really turns you know rings her bells you know, once you read something and what type of things that be maybe published or required or what not  in the past that has really grabbed you?


Andie Avila:   Well, right now I am actively pursuing Latino fiction, just I think it is about time that we start seeing more stories with a Latino perspective and so we have Solana that is coming out in fall 2007 with three books on the first list and three on the second and we have the screen writer from real women who have curve coming out with her first novel in spring summer 2008 and we have [19:02] and [19:07] and other to Ferrera's [ph] coming out with women section in our launch list in 2007. So I am really concentrating on what I can do for that list and growing it and showing the range of Latino fiction and again like it is,  we are focusing on women's fiction right now but with that said I am definitely looking for Latino fiction for the general hardcover and trade, trade paper backless.


Jeff Rivera:     Or it could be maybe for example a science fictions to where there has Latino characters or there was maybe a romance or as long it has like Latino characters and Latino theme that is what your…you are looking for that?


Andie Avila:   Yes. That is what I am concentrating right now and in terms of non-Latino projects or non-Latino oriented projects and I am the editor for "The Frantic Woman's Guide to Feeding Family and Friends" and "I had the Strangest Dream" and "Its a Wonderful Life"  "26 Troopes"  "About Life in your 20s". I really like and started of editing non-fiction and I really do enjoy to continue editing that and so when it comes to non-fiction it is kind to stuff that like self help or  how to…or women's issues. I am interested on that. I just see they are fun to work on the editor or the authors that I have worked with on this books have been wonderful and there is a definite audience for it.


Jeff Rivera:     And if some of the listeners do not have an agent but they really, really believe on what they are doing what is the best way to approach you?


Andie Avila:   That is a good question,  I think probably just mailing in, sending in a query letter.


Jeff Rivera:     Like a snail mail with poster to…


Andie Avila:   Snail mail. Yes, email I think it is more intrusive and I am not so speaking for myself like I do not really like to get things on email because it is just harder to, it is just so easy to delete and it is harder to you know I do not want and have to go out and print something out and I got all these other stuff it is like filling up my inbox, it takes higher priority, but with snail mail it lands on your desk you actually have something physical that is there that you can, we have to look at so I would say that is the best route


Jeff Rivera:     Do you got a lot of submissions every week? I mean obviously Warner does but I mean are you indicated with a lot to read?


Andie Avila:   Oh! Yes, definitely. Editors and agented stuff and un-agented stuff. I know it is quite hard for people to stay back and wait  and wonder like what is happening to their stuff but it is really it is hard to…when it comes to unsolicited stuff especially like your pride the turn around time is far longer than I if you had an agent on your side which is you know…. should try to find an agent and for finding an agent, there are several things you can do you can just look at acknowledgement page of books that you love or feel that are comparable titles and you can find like in acknowledgement page like they always thank their agents so you can like hook up that agent then find out a way of getting in touch with them and solicit them and query them and see if they are interested in representing you, but this is also like other resources like literary market place and various writers have blogs or websites that also recommend different agent and such.


Jeff Rivera:     If they send you something…


Andie Avila:   No, no, no go ahead.


Jeff Rivera:     I was going to ask you that if they send you a manuscript supposed you know so and so sent you a manuscript today realistically and maybe they do not have an agent, realistically when would they expect to hear from you, you get a lot of submissions when should they…


Andie Avila:   anywhere like from a month to three months.


Jeff Rivera:     Okay. But of course if they have agent then it can speed up the process.


Andie Avila:   Oh! Yes, definitely. You know I got something from an agent one Friday and I got back to her Monday.


Jeff Rivera:     Any kind of screen… like pre-screened right? You are assuming that probably they are not going to give you a crap, it is probably…and you rather read something that is not crap and something that could possibly be and what were you going to say Andie?


Andie Avila:   Well, now I will just you know.. to find an agent that whenever possible, because ultimately like they are your greatest advocate when there negotiating deals on your behalf they are looking out for you and they have the experience of knowing what to look for.


Jeff Rivera:     And do you, of course you have receive a lot of submissions but do you actively look for writers too or do you pretty  much just sit back and wait for them to come …and if so…?


Andie Avila:   Oh! No, no. I looked for them…the three that we have on our launch list for Solana, I discovered either by emailing them because I saw their blog and ask them if they had a manuscript. In the works or like I put out my interest out into what is it called..? a world wide web, I do not know why I said it like that is in the internet and it is put it on different websites saying that I was interested in finding Latino authors and they found out about me contacted me directly. So two of them were slash authors and the other one in the launch list is somebody that I contacted on my own and then this one book "It's a wonderful Life" it is an anthology about like kind of what happens to women in there 20's in the sense that it is not exactly what they have been led to believe. It is going to be kind of think of like friends or what was that movie with Winona Ryder, I cannot think, Reality Bites. It is kind of like it kind of speaks to that time in one's life and that was an idea that I had and I think in said it earlier like I shared it with an agent and she found the right author for it so it was able to come together but yes, like when often times editors will pursue something on their own  that did not land on their desk.


Jeff Rivera:     Right. I think that is interesting because I think a lot of people think that people just kind of submit things but also sometimes it is a creative idea you may have and you might feel..okay, let me assign a writer let me find  the agent who has the right writer and let us make this book happen.


Andie Avila:   Yes.


Jeff Rivera:     And kind of already know which you are looking for. Now can we talk a little bit about self publishing and I think a lot of listeners are maybe self-publishers and they self-published I mean if self-publishing is that leave a nasty taste in your mouth or…?


Andie Avila:   No, no, not at all and especially not if like the author sold  a lot of copies like that is always something that people or editors are willing to chew and learn more bout  and find out more about the book or the author behind the book like that does not at all like discourage the editors.   


Jeff Rivera:     And when you say a lot of copies of that, how many copies do you think before an editor will be interested and go..oh, well or maybe this is something, how many do you think that they need to…?


Andie Avila:   That actually I think depends on the kind of what the book is? Who is it targeting? So let us say it is a business book and it is only sold, I do not know a couple of thousand copies I do not know like I cannot imagine that, that would be a revolutionary type number for…I think like they would be looking for something greater I mean we have seen books sometimes as sold well into like several thousand like 30,000, 60,000. So I do not know I think that really does depend on the book itself and who it is targeting.


Jeff Rivera:     There are novelist that we know, I mean  specifically a lot of people listening might be Latino and were looking…they are Latino, they have Latino novel and maybe that one, publishing a novel like you know at what point do they think it would be good enough that it might takes on like you with your interest?


Andie Avila:   I know? I don not know.. It is a really good  question I cannot give you an exact number, I do not…I guess it is safe to say that like a couple of thousand is not necessarily going to get us too excited but beyond that it is something to consider and it is also you may have to consider the time frame within which the book was sold. I do not know, I am sorry I cannot give you a more concrete…


Jeff Rivera:     Well I think it helps…they need to  have at least a couple of thousand. Now I know you have got to run so I want to ask you just a couple more  questions. Once and after this could go for so on or who maybe has just signed with Warner Books or maybe they have self published themselves or whatever…Why…I Know you have been seen  a lot of authors, you have worked with a lot of authors throughout your career that you have seen what works in terms of spreading a word about their books and what does not and I have noticed that there has not been a lot of attention brought toward, you know in a publishers toward maybe books on it is because maybe they are not seeing quite what they hope to be seen, what can an author do when there is example as order sign with you that can really assure or increase your chances of being successful?


Andie Avila:   Wow! I guess just coming up with as many ideas as possible and then sharing them with like your editors so that your editor can go forward and share that with other people in house like if…I mean there are also opportunities to work with your publicist but that is usually three to four months before your book is out so in marketing ideas are decided well before then. So I think just trying to be creative and clever in coming up with things that you can do yourself that will boost the word of mouth so that you know the house can get behind you and potentially like partner up with you. I think also just coming up with things that are cost effective to that do not…if it is web kind of viral marketing type things like that, that something that they will…if a house can see you doing stuff like that then perhaps they can do maybe a loud mouth mailing, no it is not loud mouth but I think it was called loud mouth, it is called 'big' mouth mailing and That is where like they send a bunch of books or galleys of to either people in the media or just we had a dream book and we talked about what were going to do like emailing to different sleep clinics [ph]. So it is just kind of anything you can do I think frankly to show that you are going to get the buzz started and that they can get behind you and I think it is a good idea. I have this one author who she comes up with the different little…and her book is actually "The Frantic Woman's Guide to Feeding Family and Friends" and it is very accessible where you can just pull out like a bulleted points and just shoot those out into to via email and to a mass email mailing and etcetera but she pulls out the bullets that she thinks would work  in her particular mailing and she does all these kinds of post cards etcetera and I can see how like she makes it the job just like the publicist or online marketing person a lot easier and it makes it …allows them to accomplish a lot more because of it so I think just keeping in mind that like it is not, it is not just up to the house to get the word out like it is great when that author can get involved in and work with the publicist etcetera on getting the word out and getting ..just  people excited about the book. I do not know if that answers to your question.  


Jeff Rivera:     Yes. I think it does. I think it is a great point because I think a lot of people think that once they signed with a publisher that their job is done and they can just sit back and smoke cigars and drink Champaign and wait for their…but I think that you are saying is they need to be a team member and really work hard themselves also, to do what they can to get the word out.


Andie Avila:   Yes.


Jeff Rivera:     That is great. Well thank you so much for your time Andie…thank you so much.


Andie Avila:   Oh! Sure.


Jeff Rivera:     I really appreciate it and I think everyone listening appreciates it and once again, I am the author of "Forever My Lady" and it is coming out with Warner Books in July 2007 and we are joined by Andie Avila from Warner Books, an editor [ph]…so thanks for doing this Andie.   


Andie Avila:   Sure, it was pleasure.


Jeff Rivera:     Thanks a lot, bye, bye.


Andie Avila:   Bye.