Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Writing Wisdom: Mark McVeigh

Children’s editor Mark Mc Veigh says it was the act of reading and thinking that led him into being an editor. “The best way to find a book is to browse the library,” he says. “I view every book as a promise.” And that’s the attitude he brings to the projects he decides to publish as well.

“To be a non-reader is almost to be a non-member of society,” he adds. “A good book gives the reader something to think about.” Mc Veigh looks for manuscripts that entertain, enlighten, and encourage. “Books are a way to figure out life, because in reality, life is a novel.”

He says that authors need to keep in mind that audiences are changing. “Give people what they never knew they wanted. Don’t go for the easy thing,” he says. A fan of non-fiction, Mc Veigh says, “The world changes so fast, the moment a book is printed it’s already inaccurate.”

Mc Veigh also delivers what he calls the “sad news” about publishing. “Publishers view books as a way to enrich their coffer, so potential sales decide which books we buy. It is a business. Your book may be wonderful, but it also needs to be a certain profit–at least a minimal profit–or we won’t buy it. It’s not about the work itself; the book must be commercial. This is a business, so try not to be cute during the submission process.”

He says that authors should look at what’s already out there then consider: “Would my book seem out of place?”

As an editor, Mc Veigh says he usually knows after a single page if he wants the book. As a courtesy, he may give a manuscript fifteen to twenty pages if he’s been asked to look at something. If he’s not sure, he will read all of the pages submitted and then think about it before making his final decision. “I fall in love with a manuscript about one out of every five hundred submissions I see,” he says, then quotes Ursula Nordstrom: “If I can turn down a manuscript, I will.”

He says that those who want to be authors should, “Read and write voraciously! The right manuscript will take you a long way.”

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