Meet My Editor

I am thrilled to introduce you to my editor, Vicki Crumpton, from Revell Publishing. This is the wonderful person who first saw the promise in a manuscript, which was then called Murder by Marigolds, and is now Deadly Devotion. 😉

Vicki

I’ve asked Vicki a slew of questions that I thought both readers and writers would be curious about. But first I’ve asked her to share a little about herself.

I’m a native Texan…you never relinquish that title.  I have an MDiv and PhD, but I keep those tucked away unless I bump into a patronizing male who asks, “Now is that Ms or Mrs?” “Actually, it’s Dr., thank you very much.” I’ve been with Revell since 2001 and in publishing since 1989.  That makes me almost older than dirt. When I’m not working, I’m riding a bike (the kind you pedal), taking photos, working in our flower beds, or kayaking.

Oh, that’s funny. I had no idea you were a Dr.! I’m not sure if I should feel especially proud or worried that they had to break out the big guns–aka the really smart editor–to deal with my manuscript.  😐

Now to the nitty gritty questions… How many proposals do you peruse a year?

Actually, if I kept count, I’d probably be too depressed to tell you.

Sounds like how I’d feel if I actually counted how many times I rewrite a scene! If you invite an author to submit a proposal or full manuscript at a conference, how long might they expect to wait for a response? What about if an agent submits an unrequested proposal?

See above, on being depressed. The proposals tend to stack up, and I always intend to do better.

How many editors at Revell acquire fiction?

Revell has four acquiring editors, and we all acquire fiction.

How many fiction titles does Revell publish annually?  

We do 30-35 novels a year.

What in a manuscript or proposal might stop you from reading without finishing?

Poor writing…I saw one novel this year that has to rank as one of the all-time worst I’ve ever seen.  And this person had an agent.  I wondered if the agent even read the writing.  It was that bad.  But I digress. Many rejections come because we don’t have openings in the near future in a particular category, we have something like it, we don’t do that kind of book, etc.  Any of those reasons will let me stop reading without feeling any guilt.  Rejecting proposals is my least favorite part of this job.  Typos, profanity, things that say, “yes, I will be difficult to work with.”

It’s so nice to hear that you’re not like my villains who delight in thwarting people’s plans. Hee, hee, hee.

Do you read most proposals from beginning to end?

No. I read enough to know if a proposal has possibilities for us.  If the answer is no, I long ago quit feeling obligated to read to the end. If I like a proposal and it’s something we have a slot for…then yes, I keep right on reading.

What kinds of things catch your attention and make you want to read more?

Good writing; an author who knows us and conveys that he or she understands the publishing business or is willing to learn; something new or a new approach to an old topic, Snickers bars tucked into my computer…just kidding.

~note to self: mail care package of Snickers bars before sending next proposal~

What appealed to you most about Deadly Devotion and the Port Aster Secrets series?

We’d been looking to add to our offerings suspense/romantic suspense/mystery category.  Your writing is strong, your characters are interesting, the setting is unique, and we didn’t have anything like it in our list. You’d won an award in your category. So lots of things commended the proposal.  Those are just right off the top of my head.

How many times will you read through a manuscript you’re editing?

First draft, one and maybe two times. Second draft…I’m just reading for the revisions I’ve asked an author to do unless there’s been a major revision.  Same with any drafts after that.

Do you prefer to work on paper or on the computer with track changes?

Paper…what’s that?  Seriously, I haven’t edited on paper for, oh my goodness, I think I just got heart palpitations.  Not since the mid 90s, I think.  1990s, lest you think I’m THAT old.

LOL, I guess now’s not the time to mention that I often write first drafts on pen and paper longhand. Now I feel old!

An acquiring editor does so much more than evaluate proposals and edit manuscripts. Could you tell us a little bit about the meetings and events you attend, physically and/or virtually, and your role at them?  (btw, Vicki fixed a wrong word in the question, saying you really can’t turn off the editing gene)

Meetings…Revell is amazing in that our four editors live in four different cities in three different states.  Only one, our editorial director, is “in house.” So most of our meetings are by phone (we’re all live and in person for positioning meetings, sales conference, and strategic planning).  In no particular order: Editorial Board (the Revell editors pitch the cream of our proposal crop to each other to decide what makes the final cut for pub committee); Publishing Committee (that’s where editorial, sales, marketing, and publicity come together to make decisions on projects we’d like to contract, with the acquiring editor making the initial pitch); Titling Committee (creative chaos that results in a final title for all our books); Positioning Meeting (3 times a year, we review upcoming titles in each catalog season…this gets us ready for the titling and cover design process and lets us review specs, think about marketing angles and such); Sales Conference (preps our sales team, 3 times a year); Strategic Planning (yearly). And then a couple of writers conferences a year, ICRS, ACFW, and maybe another trip or two.

Whew, that’s a lot of meetings!

How many new authors has Revell acquired in the last year or so? Are any of them debut authors? 

I don’t have an exact count, but we’re always adding authors who are new to us…and who are debut authors.  I’m in the process of signing a debut author right now.

How exciting! Can’t wait to hear who he or she is.  🙂 How long from the time an offer is made might an author expect their book to be released?

It depends on our lists and the category, and any number of other factors.  We’ve been so full in historical romance that one author will have waited almost two years from contract stage.  On the other hand, we had a proposal come in recently in a category where we had an open slot next summer…so this author won’t be waiting long at all. In fact, she’ll be cranking hard to finish her manuscript.

Do you prefer to see single book proposals or series proposals? Why or why not?

We like long-term relationships, so it’s good to know an author has potential for more books.  In fiction, even if it’s a stand-alone novel, if an author has additional works in process, a paragraph or two about them lets us know what the author is doing beyond “one book.” The caution is avoiding the temptation to list every idea you’ve ever had…that tells us an author may have trouble focusing.

Is it common for contracted authors to ask for your advice while they’re in the middle of writing a novel?

Some do…some don’t. I’m always available for feedback any time an author needs/wants it.

Have you ever had to reject a final manuscript, because the author, even after revisions, couldn’t deliver what was proposed?

Only once so far in my career…and that was a coauthored situation that did not work out. One of the authors actually asked us to cancel it so he could get out of the arrangement.

Do you have any humorous, memorable or horror stories about editing that you are free to share?

On the advice of my attorney…

Yes, too bad! 😀

If you weren’t working as an editor, what would you be doing?

Good question. My hobbies don’t pay well as careers, but that’s probably what I’d be doing. I love teaching people to kayak. Bicycling magazine had a survey on Facebook today asking for answers to the question “I wish my bike were…”  My answer would have been “…independently wealthy so I could ride it anywhere it wanted to go.” Alternatively, I might consider writing or even agenting. People who read my writing say I’m good, so maybe I’d write about my hobbies.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Vicki. I learned a lot, and as always, had fun chatting with you.

Your Turn: Anyone have other questions for Vicki?

46 Comments

    • Great question, Anna! I know that you have to submit through an agent or be invited (such as at an editor appointment at a conference). My agent submitted the full manuscript electronically, along with the usual proposal components of bio, synopsis, marketing etc. I’m curious if that’s common, and preferred (with first-time authors?).

    • Sandra is right (below). Revell doesn’t accept unsolicited submissions, so the best way to connect with us is to meet one of our editors at a writers conference or submit through an agent. Writer’s conferences are also great places to network with agents as well as editors. Some publishers do accept unsoliciteds, so you should check their websites or Christian Writer’s Market Guide for info. As for first-time novelists, many publishers, Revell among them, want to see a completed manuscript before contracting the project.

  • I am totally fascinated by the publishing industry and loved this peek into how it works. Interested to hear that Revell only publishes about 30 titles a year. I feel like I’ve read way more annually and I’m always reading current. I have to say that Revell is one of the most consistent publishing houses as far as delivering what this reader wants. So thanks to the editors for reading my mind before I even know what I’m thinking. 🙂

    • Just to clarify, Kav, that’s 30-35 novels a year. Our total number of titles is about 100. That includes books that we’re repackaging (new title, revised editions, cloth-to-trade paper conversions, and so on). Some years we have more novels than non-fiction books, other years, the balance shifts in our lists. And thanks for your kind words about Revell. 🙂

  • Oh — I have a question for Vicki after wrestling with my previous comment. Are people afraid to email/write/send you a note because you are an editor? I am suddenly doubting punctuation, grammar and word choice and breaking out in a sweat at the thought of hitting send! Must be tough on family members to have an editor in the mix. :-0

    • Ha, good question! Editing is sometimes a sickness and I wish I could turn it off. I’m not sure people are afraid to email editors any more than editors are embarrassed when we send something out with a typo in it. Actually, I just had to fix that last sentence because I wrote “type” instead of “typo.”

  • Hi Sandra! Hi Vicki!

    Sandra, you’ve touched on most of the meat and potato questions. Great interview. It’s been fun to learn more about Vicki, and get a glimpse of what goes on inside of (Revell) the publishing company. I do have two questions for her.

    I plan to attend the ACFW conference in September. Vicki, what advice do you have for those who will be pitching a novel or a proposal?

    Also, in your line of work, do you have time to read for pleasure? If so, what are you reading now?

    ~ Loree

    • My personal advice for pitching anywhere….ACFW, a writers conference, or when somebody asks what you’re writing…is to have a big-picture opening. “I’m writing a (insert your genre) novel (or series) set in (time and place) in which…then say a few words about your hero/heroine and their big problem. Too many authors want to try to tell their entire (and I do mean ENTIRE) novel in the pitch. You simply can’t do that. After the big picture opening, then move on and talk about you, why you like to write. And let the editor help you…he or she will ask questions. When somebody sits down with me who’s obviously about to hyperventilate, I’ll ask about their family or how they heard of the conference…anything to get them to relax. Be yourself, really…this business is about relationships. Look at every appointment as an opportunity to start a relationship, not necessarily make a sale, and you’ll have more fun.

      As for what I read…I tend to do “active” stuff after work to clear my mind, but there are so many barely started books in my Kindle account it’s embarrassing. The most recently “begun” books are Velvet Elvis (yes, I’m slow to get to stuff) and The Theoretical Minimum. How’s that for all over the map?

      • Vicki, thanks for the valuable advice on pitching. It’s greatly appreciated…and just in case I hyperventilate, I’ll also bring a bag of Snickers bars. Great chatting with you!

  • I really enjoyed this article. Revell is certainly one of the publishing houses I’d be honored to write for “when I grow up.” Congratulations, Sandra, on your new publishing relationship. And thanks, Vicki, for sharing here. Blessings!

  • Very interesting post. Especially how the board works. I’ve always wondered.

    Sandra, Deadly Devotion looks great. I’ll check it out.

  • Wow! This post was marvelous! What a great insight for novice writers like me. Thank you so much for sharing, Vicki and Sandra! Wish I had a question, but I think you ladies covered it all. God bless!

  • What a wonderful interview. I met Vicki years ago at the Texas Christian Writers Conference and liked her from the start. She has such a wonderful sense of humor and personality. Hoping I get to meet up with her at ACFW. A good editor is a writer’s best friend. (Maybe next to his/her agent. 🙂 0

  • I’m blessed to have Vicki as my editor too! I love working with her (and all the people at Revell). Her content edits are a joy for me because her comments crack me up! Thanks for getting a chance to get to know her better. Did NOT know about the Snickers thing 🙂

  • My question is this: Vicki, when you do your first round of edits do you tend to put them in the body of the MS, in a letter detailing generalities, or both? Do you usually do one substantive review and one minor review? I guess I am asking too many Q’s. Mainly, I am wondering about your style. Thanks so much–I am a long-time Revell fan.

    • Hi Carrie, I can answer from my experience. Vicki uses track changes making occasional minor changes. Major changes she questions in a comment, making observations about inconsistencies or missing information, for example, and offering suggestions for how I might remedy the situation. After I sent back those edits with my first book, she then reviewed/approved them and passed the ms on to my copy editor, who caught additional things–some story related, some more structural.

      • Thanks Sandra! I really prefer that. Having worked with a number of freelance editors I like that best. I’ve heard stories of people getting edits that are pages and pages of commentary and I find that scary!

    • Sandra’s been reading my mail, Carrie. I use track changes and also make comments and suggestions in the manuscript. When i send back the ms, I send an email summarizing the major points and giving instructions on how to work with the file. I think we all do things a little differently, though.

      • Thanks, Vicki, I really prefer that method as that is what I am accustomed to. But I’ve been hearing about editors sending 19 pages of suggestions, etc., as a Word doc, which the author then has to go through and apply to the MS and I’ll admit I dk if I could manage that. In fact, that would be a nightmare edit for me. But I guess some authors prefer a more global assessment. Not me. Thanks!

  • Great interview! Sandra I just finished Deadly Devotion and I need to schedule an awesome interview/review for the Writers Alley! But now I’m feelin’ the heat to come up with awesome interview questions. 🙂 I should wrap book 3 in a week and then I’m coming for ya! Beware.

    Hi Vicki! It was so nice to hear about the inner workings at Revell! My question might be a little silly since you said you are always looking for new authors, but with Revell having such a full (and STELLAR!) line up of Romantic Suspense authors, and a few newbies adding to the roster, are you still currently looking for debut RS authors, or is the docket pretty packed for the next several years?

    Now you all made me nervous about my typos! Fair warning, an energetic toddler was jumping on me while typing this. 😉 No really!

  • Sandra — Thanks for telling the world what a great editor Vicki is. She’s my editor too, and I can’t say enough wonderful things about her or, for that matter, about the entire staff at Revell. It’s a true pleasure working with them.

  • Hi Sandra and Vicki,
    Love the post. I’ve got to ask what your seeing in general Vicki regarding historical romance novels. I’m hearing the historical is dead and publishers aren’t interested. Does that include only novels set outside the US or is it all inclusive, or totally rumor has it? So I’m looking at changing genre and just experimenting with voice at the moment. Can you share your best advice for all of us that have published in the historical romance genre and are currently writing in this genre?
    Many thanks to both of you!
    Jill

    • Jill, we rarely do anything set outside the US. Honestly, I’m not certain I agree with that approach because I enjoy reading about other settings. We’ve acquired a lot of historical romance and a year or so ago, realized we didn’t have open slots til 2015. So we’ve been very selective in even taking proposals to pub committee. You’re right…historical romance took a big hit when the economy struggled and the big box accounts cut way back on their book selection. We keep hoping the readers will come back to the category. I think there’s also maybe some reader fatigue. So…be patient, keep working on the craft, network with publishing people…you never know when the opportunity will be there.

  • Dr. Vicki!!! Should I stock up on my Snickers? I had no idea … LOL Just a note, really. VC (as I often refer to her in my diary) is one of the BEST editors on the planet. She is a good conference roomie and an even better friend. Anyone who works with her is blessed. I am among the blessed …

    • Ha….I make Ed keep his supply locked in a safe to which I refuse to know the combination. And thanks for those kind words…you’re making me blush.

  • Great interview, Sandra and Vicki! I always enjoy reading blog interviews with editors and agents, because we get a real “behind-the-scenes” peek into their world (and/or their publishing world). 🙂
    Thanks for sharing this. Blessings, Patti Jo 🙂

  • I enjoyed the interview so very much! Vicki is my editor for my debut novel and I sooo admire the authors she works with. I trembled at the thought of revisions, but she’s made the initial edit process both fun and insightful – I feel so blessed to be working with her! Thank you Sandra and Vicki!!

  • Fabulous interview, Sandra! It was great to get an inside glimpse into an editor’s world. I second what Kav said about Revell. They are one of my all time favourites!!

Great to "see" you here today! I look forward to reading your comment.