Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Q&A with Lisa Mangum, Aquisitions Editor at Shadow Mountain Publishing

Okay, so I was going to begin this post by lavishly praising Lisa as a saint to downtrodden authors, who gives her lunch money to starving children and is the picture of beauty, wit, and intelligence. Then I saw her answer to the last question, which was clearly sent in by some wise and insightful reader. So with that in mind, here's Lisa, some woman who I met at a writing event.

1) If I wanted to publish with Shadow Mountain, how much would I have to pay to get the book published? What fees does the author pay and what fees does the publisher pay?

There are essentially two different kinds of publishers. A publishing house like Shadow Mountain doesn’t require the author to pay any money up front to get a book published. The author signs a contract and receives a royalty. Of course, since it’s essentially free to submit a manuscript, we get lots and lots of submissions and can only pick a select few to publish.

In the self-publishing or vanity publishing world, the author pays upfront for a large portion of the costs to have their book published. But, since the author is paying, self-publishing or vanity publishing outfits don’t have to be as selective in their decisions.

2) “Leven Thumps" and "Fablehaven" have such amazing, elaborate websites, and, as a professional graphic designer, I know that those could not have been cheap! I just wondered if Shadow Mountain, being a relatively small publisher, has the means to do that with all its new titles or maybe just the "New York Times Bestsellers"?

Many of our titles have some presence on the Internet and we are doing more every season. We felt it was important to have a strong website for our children’s fantasy titles since many of those authors go on tour to promote their books.

3) What kind of material is Shadow Mountain looking for right now? What kind of things do they NOT want?

Short answer: We’re looking for the next big hit. :) Our door is always open to all kinds of submissions—fiction, non-fiction, children’s, young adult. Publishing is such a fluid business that it’s more of a “we’ll know it when we see it” situation than it is a “send us X manuscript now.”

4) What's the process after they receive a submission?

Once a submission arrives, I log it in and send the author a postcard to let them know we received it in good condition (and whether or not we receive a SASE). Then I start the submission through the review process. We have several people in-house who help with the review process and if the submission gets enough more “thumbs-down” than “thumbs-up” from our reviewers, then we’ll send a rejection letter back to the author. But if the submission gets more “thumbs-up,” then I’ll pass it along to one of our Product Directors, who will make the final decision about whether or not to publish the project. Once the decision is made, we’ll send the author a letter or an email (or sometimes call on the phone) to let them know what we decided to do.

5) On Shadow Mountain's website, it mentions sending query letters and either a few chapters or the entire manuscript. They prefer physical hard copies. My question is, can a query letter be sent via e-mail, or should it be sent by "snail mail" as well?

I don’t mind if query letters are sent via email, though I prefer hard copies. I tend to do better at tracking a submission (and responding to it promptly) if I have an actual letter or envelope or package that takes up space on my desk instead of an ethereal, easy-to-miss email buried in my Inbox.

6) Also, their site mentions children's books. What types of children's books are they most interested in right now?

Again, we want children’s books that will stand out from the pack, that are unique and original. The kind of children’s book that we just couldn’t pass on publishing. :)

7) What kinds of things do you see in a query letter that make you go, “Wow, I want to read more?” What kinds of things make you pass?

I think it’s really important for fiction queries to include a detailed plot summary. A two-sentence summary isn’t going to help me make a decision and sometimes it’s easier to just say “no” to those kind of queries than it is to say “send me three chapters.” I also think it’s important to include in a query letter some hint of what your marketing plans are for the book, or some indication that you’ve done your homework about competing products and how your project is different.

I hate query letters or cover letters that are filled with errors and typos. Or letters that are missing important author contact information. I’m just an editor, not a mind reader, so always include your full name, full address, and as many phone numbers or email address as you have.

8) How was Shadow Mountain so fortunate to get such a handsome and articulate author as Mr. Savage?

Oh, we only picked up Savage because our current rising star and best-selling author James Dashner suggested we take a look at him. And since James is so talented and handsome and articulate, how could we deny him anything? :)

All joking aside, it’s true that networking is a powerful tool that can sometimes help you to get published. Get to know potential publishers and what they are publishing; get to know their editors and what they specialize in; get to know their authors and what they are writing. The more you know about the business, the better chance you’ll have of matching your work to the perfect publisher.


Alright fine. Since I know she really loves me more than James and was clearly speaking tongue in cheek. Lisa is an amazing person and editor. It is because of her belief and encouragement that I have the opportunity to publish the Farworld series. Shadow Mountain is lucky to have her. I owe her at least half my royalties--not that I'm going to give them to her after that. But she richly deserves them. Not to mention that she penned this Q&A in arterial blood from her death bed. Thanks, Lisa! You are awesome.


James Dashner said...

Well said, Lisa. By the way, you left out "manly" and "Brad Pittish" in your praise of me.

Savage, good post. Wish I'd thought of that. She's MY editor!

Tamra Norton said...

Great post! What a wonderful opportunity to pick an editor's brain. Thanks!

Brian said...

Awesome post!

Sorry. Don't have much time. My mom will be angry if she sees me on the computer when it's this late. Bye!

(Why does it need the word verification? It's such a pain!)

J Scott Savage said...


Next thing you're going to say you wish you'd thought of writing a good book too. :)

Chris said...

I'm glad you decided to do this post. Great questions and answers! Definitely a post to bookmark for the future. Thanks a bunch guys and gals :)

DesLily said...

how really nice of Lisa to take the time to answer questions! And how nice of you to think of doing this.. I'm sure any information for anyone considering writing helps! Many people just won't take the time to respond to those who are "only hopefuls"... you (2)are one of the good guys

Suzanne said...

Savage and Dashner,
you two are just too hilarious! I loved seeing you guys present together at the Amazing LDStorymakers, truly entertaining :)

Savage, it's a good thing Dashner has you around, keeps the swelling down, at least a little.

Anonymous said...

This is a question for anybody that has a good answer.
What do you do when you have two guys that are pretty amazing characters, and each is a love interest for your main character, but you can't decide which one to push out? One of them is wise-cracking, smart, and the two of them balance each other well.
The other one is quieter, awkward, and probably has a softer heart, and the two get along just as well.
WHAT DO YOU DO?! She can't marry both of them, and I don't like the idea of her having to decide or falling for both. They are both perfect. But one of them has to go.

Brian said...

To Anonymous-
I think that you should decide, if you have set the stage for one of them to marry the main character, than the path is clear. However, if your choice is not that clear, I think that you should decide which of them would best fit the part. Or, you could choose the one you like to write about most, or least for the part.

You're the author.

By the way, if you can, visit my website at http://bookwormbrian.blogspot.com.

Richard Mulder said...

Easy answer: one of them has to die tragically.