- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Riverhead Books; Rev Upd edition (October 5, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 159448483X
- ISBN-13: 978-1594484834
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 122 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Forest for the Trees (Revised and Updated): An Editor's Advice to Writers Rev Upd Edition
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One feels for Betsy Lerner's writers. Oh, sure, Lerner must be a fabulous agent. But too bad for them: In gaining her as an agent, they lost her as an editor. How rare and wonderful it must have been to have such an advocate, advisor, and, yes, admirer so firmly ensconced in publisher territory (at various times, Houghton Mifflin, Ballantine, Simon & Schuster, and Doubleday). In The Forest for the Trees, Lerner reflects on writing and publishing from an editor's point of view. There are so many books by writers and agents promising to disclose what editors really want; here, finally, is one straight from the source. Like all experienced editors, Lerner has seen writers at their best, and at their worst. "Like shrinks," she says, editors "have a privileged and exclusive view into a writer's psyche, from the ecstasy of acquisition to the agony of the remainder table."
To writers, particularly unpublished ones, editors can seem imposing figures determined to thwart their success. They won't take calls, they don't offer feedback--sometimes they don't respond to queries at all. Guess what: Editors don't lug home hundreds of pounds of manuscripts to read each year because they aren't looking for good writing. "An editor gets off," says Lerner, "on the thrill of discovering a new writer." Editors crave "succinct, well-written cover letters," inspiration that comes from within (as opposed to from the bestseller list), and "catchy, clearly targeted title[s]." They detest unsolicited phone calls, "query letters that sound as if they were penned by Crazy Eddie," and writers who offer to "write it however I want it" (it's "like saying I'll be straight or gay; you tell me, I have no preference"). Lerner is aware of how excruciating it is for a writer to wait for feedback on his or her work. But she also lets writers in on a little secret of her own. "I'm always anxious about the author's response," she confides. "Will he or she take to my editing?" --Jane Steinberg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Lerner's credentials include editorial stints at Houghton-Mifflin, Ballantine, Simon & Schuster, and Doubleday. Working now as a literary agent, she shares an insider's perspective on the publication side of writing. Definitely not a "how-to" book or a style manual, this chatty, informal volume is anecdotal and encouraging to the novice or amateur writer. The first part describes various types of writers Lerner has worked with over the years and how a writer's personality influences both the writing and the ability to get published. Stronger and more helpful, the next section covers the process of manuscript submission and offers concrete advice about literary agents, query letters, multiple submissions, working with editors and publicists, and dealing with rejection and writer's block. Because of her unique approach, this book will find its audience among writers groups and workshops. Recommended for libraries supporting this activity.
-Denise S. Sticha, Seton Hill Coll. Lib., Greensburg, PA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
This is not a "how to book," on writing, but rather a carefully written work full of pithy anecdotes about authors, editors, agents, publishers, publicists, booksellers and the rest of the pantheon of individual needed to put a well-written book into the hands of a reader.
The author lovingly and frankly shares with her readers the good, the bad and the ugly lessons she has learned first-hand and vicariously in several decades of inhabiting the publishing world. As someone who writes on a regular basis and who is intrepidly plodding along on writing a novel, I found her advice both practical and heartening. She does a wonderful job of describing the idiosyncrasies of writers of every stripe, identifying common obstacles - lifestyle-related and psychological - that can trip up an aspiring writer.
Her love for literature,for the written word and for the peculiar type of person who is compelled to write books comes across loud and clear. It feels that we writers have someone in our corner on an otherwise sometimes lonely and hostile planet.
However, the second part was, even after my several years in the writing business and lots of reading on that subject, one of the best pieces I have ever read on writing in my life! It was helpful, informative, and so full of experience that I was captivated, page after page. Nearly everything I read was applicable and full of wisdom; it was amazing to hear from the voice of an editor "What an Editor Wants" "What a Writer Wants" and also on topics such as how books are actually published. This is an eye-opening piece on the process of book publishing, and gives you a good heads up on what a writer *really* goes through when their book is published.
In conclusion, this book is a must-have for new or under-published writers, even if you never read the first part and skip to the back. Don't feel bad for doing it; the last part is well worth the reward of purchasing, in my opinion, one half of a book.
The second half is even better, with an in-depth look at publishing from an editor's point of view. It's the best all-around, "Here's the truth, kid," wise elder intro to publishing I've read. If you hope to be published, or if you hope being published will change your life, this will tell you not only how to get published, but what to expect and how to best work with the process along the way.
Even when you know the routine, Lerner brings a good deal of insight, with plenty of stories of what's worked and what hasn't. It doesn't have all the nuts and bolts of formatting guidelines other books focus on, but sits you down for a long, friendly talk with a pro who counsels you on all you need to know.
What's even better is she's never arrogant, but openly shows all her mistakes and how she went from a naïve intern to a professional editor.
There's also a lengthy bibliography, but no index, which makes it difficult to find that quote from Salinger, but again, it's one of those books you will go back to, and highly recommended.
~ Betsy Lerner
A book that introduces a writer to writer's life, vile and virtues. What to expect. Where s/he is going wrong. It's a 101. Must read for any writer who wants to understand the what being a writer feels like, inside the skin.
Most recent customer reviews
For an editor, her writing at times lacked clarity.Read more