THE TEXAS SWEETHEARTS are thrilled to introduce our newest FEATURED SWEETHEART, Chuck Sambuchino. Not only is Chuck the awesome brains behind the Guide to Literary Agents blog, he's also an editor at Writer's Digest, a writer himself, and plays in a band. (We Texas Sweethearts think we could take him at Rock Band no problem.)
You can visit Chuck's fantastic blog here.
TXS: Could you share with us what your role as an editor is like? What are some of your other interests?
My role at Writer’s Digest Books changes every year, it seems. I started off just editing Guide to Literary Agents (the most recent book out is the 2010 edition). Then I also took over another annual book called Screenwriter’s & Playwright’s Market. Now I also do odds and ends for the magazine, teach webinars online, speak at a lot of conferences, and put together special magazines dealing with agents. All the variety keeps me on my toes.
Besides editing, I love to write! I’ve had some plays produced, wrote a lot of magazine articles, and have a humor book coming out in Sept. 2010 called How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack (Ten Speed Press). If you’re reading this and own garden gnomes, trust me: This book will save your life. Other than that, I’m a husband, dog owner, and cover band guitarist.
TXS: What is something you've gained from your experience as an editor?
Time management. When you’re working on a magazine article, you can wait till the last minute and throw it together and somehow it all ends up OK. But books take months of work, and you need to set deadlines for yourself and put things together piece by piece.
TXS: How did you get your wonderful and informative blog started? Do you have any advice for bloggers?
I was kind of forced, at gunpoint, to start the blog two and a half years ago. It took a while for me to really get it going, but once I found out what kinds of content really helped people, then the blog just became a big joy to host. At this point, the site gets so many page views each month that authors write great columns for me all the time just to get their name out there.
As for advice for other bloggers, I would say contests always work well to draw people in. Try to provide helpful information for people, rather than having it be about you. Pay attention to the terms and keywords people are searching for that lead them to your site. Get people to link to you to increase your SEO (results in Google). Use subheads and bold terms to break up your text. Never underestimate a little white space on your page. Have at least one piece of good art with every post.
TXS: You speak at many conferences and critique many manuscripts--what is some advice that you repeatedly give?
When it comes to critiquing: Cut cut cut. I’d say for every time I critique something and say “Expand this section,” 10 other times I am telling people to cut things. I tend to freelance edit and critique a lot of memoir, and people just don’t know how to edit their own lives, so to speak. Lots of times, sections are long and/or unnecessary, and I know that the writer wrote it this way “because it happened like that.” It’s hard to evaluate our own work and realize what sections shine versus those that don’t. When the story is your own life, this becomes even more difficult.
When it comes to speaking at conferences, I get asked a lot of things, but no one question comes to mind immediately. I do get asked “Do you know the identity of Miss Snark?” a lot. (I do know, but I have yet to spill the beans, though no one has offered me a large sum of money for the info yet.)
TXS: Is there any advice you have for writers to keep up with this changing industry? What about advice for other editors, or for agents?
There’s lots happening with e-books and the imminent digital revolution, etc. – but I’m not the best person to speak on that. My best advice is to 1) diversify yourself, and 2) just keep building your platform. What I mean when I say diversify yourself is to write in multiple areas. Perhaps that means to write several novels instead of just one. But it could also mean to try your hand at articles or freelance editing – just something new. It’s hard to make money in this business, and you need little successes (e.g., newspaper articles published) to keep you going while you wait for that novel to hit it big. And concerning platform, we are coming to a point where it seems like you have to already have friends and an audience in place to get books published, especially nonfiction. The more people you know and the more people who listen when you speak, the better.
As for advice for other agents and editors, I’d rather listen to theirs than offer mine. But I would say that if you’re not attending writers conferences when you can, you are really missing out on great opportunities to understand what writers want to know and the questions they’re asking.
TXS: Thank you so much, Chuck!
Chuck Sambuchino is an editor for Writer's Digest Books (an imprint of F+W Media). He is the editor of two annual resource books: Guide to Literary Agents, as well as Screenwriter's & Playwright's Market. He recently helmed the third edition of Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript (a WD trade book), released in 2009. He is also the author of How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack, due out in Sept. 2010 (Ten Speed Press / Random House).
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