Looking For The Post-Da Vinci Nirvana

August 23rd, 2005 · No Comments
by Booksquare

Jill Schwartzman of HarperCollins is an editor just looking for a good time. Hmm, that didn’t come out right. Jill Schwartzman of HarperCollins is an editor just looking for a good read. Yes, much better. She’s looking for unusual perspectives on life (though not, necessarily, how to live it). Now that the Da Vinci craze is waning, she’s eager to get back to discovering great reads. . .if she can only get agents to play along:

Also, maybe this is just me, but sometimes an agent seems to insist on reading a very long pitch letter over the phone, even though I’ve already said yes. I just want to stop him or her and say, “I already said yes—just send it to me and I’ll start reading!”

Schwartzman believes enthusiasm is the key to good editing, as evidenced by one of her most memorable triumph:

One of the first books I worked on I didn’t actually acquire or discover on my own. I had just joined the Harper Perennial editorial board and heard about this fantastic-sounding book that our editorial director, David Roth-Ey, had just acquired (I believe he pre-empted it) for reprint from MacAdam/Cage called The Secret Fruit of Peter Paddington by Brian Francis. It sounded like something David Sedaris would write and I was very sorry I wouldn’t be the editor.

Editors for reprint are determined by who covers the house and Christine Walsh covered MacAdam/Cage. I said nothing, but silently cursed Christine Walsh’s good fortune.

About two days later I was out of the office on vacation, walking down the street with my brother, when a friend from work happened to call to say hello. She mentioned that Christine had just given notice, and I screamed, “WHAT? I HAVE TO GET FRUIT!” My brother looked at me, confused, and said, “What do you want, a banana?” I ignored him and called the Harper switchboard and asked to be connected to David Roth-Ey, who was still at work even though it was 7 p.m. Not surprising. Anyway, I told him that I was sorry to be an ambulance chaser, but that I’d heard that Christine was leaving and I’d like to be the editor for SFOPP and cover MacAdam/Cage. He generously accepted, and I cheerfully jumped up a down a few times before finally explaining everything to my extremely confused brother.

Moral of the story, and my final comment—from acquisition to publication, for me it’s all about rabid enthusiasm. I admit that I’m enthusiastic about my authors and my books to the point of minor insanity, but it’s worked for me so far!

File Under: Publishers and Editors