The Savior of Debut Authors…Emily Griffin

0089978d083ca8a6251bd41c1bf64889I remember the first conversation I ever had with my agent, the marvelous Stéphanie Abou. We were talking about working together, and she said to me in her beautiful French accent, “I know an editor at Grand Central Publishing who will love this book, and I think you will love working with her.” She was talking about Emily Griffin, who did end up saying “yes” to my book. And my agent was absolutely right about everything, as she always is. I loved working with Emily

Emily and I talked on the phone for about an hour one afternoon before she made a decision about THE MOMENT OF EVERYTHING. From our first conversation, I knew I could trust her with my work. She shared some of her thoughts about the manuscript, and, if I followed her advice, it would mean a lot of work on my part. But it didn’t bother me. In a way, I was relieved because what she saw in my novel was very close to my original vision for the novel that I’d strayed from. We hadn’t even started working together yet, and already Emily had put me back on course. And she came up with my wonderful title, for which I will always be so grateful.

So here is my fabulous editor, Emily Griffin of Grand Central Publishing!

1) How many pages into a manuscript do you know it’s something you want to acquire?

I can often tell on the first page—either the voice will grab me, or the plot will be set up in a really interesting, captivating way, and I know I won’t be able to stop turning the pages until I get to the very end. Of course, not every great first page has two hundred-plus equally great ones after it, and not every book I love has a first page that grabs me, but it’s usually a good indicator. But I give every book a minimum of fifty pages to see if the author might be going somewhere interesting with it.

2) When you’re looking to work with an author, what are the three things that are most important to you?

1. A shared editorial vision: Sometimes, the book needs a major restructuring/re-envisioning, and when the author and editor are not aligned in their ideas for it, it can lead to all kinds of heartbreak on both sides. I almost always speak to authors before acquiring a book, to make sure we share the same vision and goal.

2. A willingness to promote the book: This is not a euphemistic phrasing for “ready to send him/herself on tour” or “happy to buy thousands of dollars’ worth of ads.” But I would like each of my authors to be ready to access their communities and the resources available to them. For one, it might be getting up and running on Twitter and connecting with the literary circles there, ideally at least 8 months before publication. But a social media-averse author could find ways to tap into his or her local book community, reach out to contacts for blurbs, and so on. And out-of-the-box thinking is always a plus!

3. Understanding that we’re all on the same team: I’ve been unbelievably lucky in this regard with the authors I’ve acquired and inherited, but I find that one common denominator in all of these relationships is understanding that we all have the same objective: to get the book out to as many new readers as possible. We may not always agree on the best way to do this, but shared trust and understanding should be the underpinning of every author-editor relationship.

3) What was it about THE MOMENT OF EVERYTHING that made you say, “YES!”

I remember leaving work and thinking that the novel this terrific agent, Stéphanie Abou, had just sent me sounded really good. A few pages in, the quirky, original voice felt DIFFERENT—fresh and new—and though the novel isn’t a genre mystery, there was a secret at its heart that kept me turning the pages. Ultimately, those two things combined with the indelible cast of characters and the perfectly rendered post-hippie, post-recession Mountain View setting made me decide I had to have this one.

4) What have you learned from your writers?

So much! I work on non-fiction as well as fiction, so I’ve learned some practical things along the way and been offered a look into worlds about which I’d known nothing (everything from hunting to religious cults to high-end restaurant kitchens). But one of the things that I’ve learned over time through author relationships is the importance of communication. We can be toiling away over a cover, doing amazing marketing outreach, blanketing other writers with blurb requests—but if we don’t tell our authors what we’re doing, and they only see the end results, I think the relationship suffers. Conversely, when they’re looped in early on and feel a sense of agency, it really helps us both to confront possible stumbling blocks along the way.

5) Which recent book do you wish you had acquired?

I love my list, and so, in all honesty, I don’t spend too much time thinking about things I didn’t have the chance to buy! That said, I just read Emily St. John Mandel’s novel STATION ELEVEN and absolutely loved it—it’s a post-apocalyptic novel unlike any I’ve ever read. I also fell for a stunning literary thriller from a debut novelist named Alexandra Oliva—I predict you’ll be hearing a lot of buzz when it’s published. And Stephanie Clifford’s EVERYBODY RISE is going to be one of the big novels of summer 2015—she’s like Edith Wharton for the 21st century, and it’s a totally delicious read.

Thank you for joining us at the Debutante Ball, Emily!

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Shelly is the author of THE MOMENT OF EVERYTHING, story of love and books in Silicon Valley. She lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains with her husband, two big dogs, and a disapproving cat.

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