Friday, January 4, 2013

Interview with Amanda Ng, Assistant Editor at Berkley

Amanda Ng is the assistant editor at Berkley Publishing and the final judge of the Fantasy/ Science Fiction category of The Sandy.  Amanda will be popping in to answer your questions, so take advantage of this great opportunity!

Amanda  started her career in publishing at GamePro magazine in San Francisco where she wrote and edited video game reviews.  Books have always been her true love, however, and she moved to New York to pursue a career in trade publishing.

After completing NYU’s Masters in Publishing program, Amanda joined The Berkley Publishing Group and is actively looking to grow her list. She is interested in acquiring fantasy, science fiction, general fiction, thrillers, and mysteries.

  1. Which categories do you currently acquire/ represent?  Which category has a special/constant place in your heart?
    Answer: Fantasy, science fiction, general fiction, mystery, and suspense. Fantasy in particular has a special place in my heart.

  1. What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial?  Single spaced or double?
Answer: Two page synopsis, single spaced.

  1. In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?
Answer: There’s nothing I’m truly sick to death of as a great manuscript will always pique my interest. 

  1.  What are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good
     read?   What particularly grabs your attention?

    Answer: Interesting characters and solid pacing. A solid plot will keep me turning the pages of one book, but characters I can connect with will make me want to read the second book.

  1. For you, in general, which elements in a fiction submission are terminal problems garnering automatic rejections and which are tempting and fixable meriting a look at a revision if a talented author is willing to accept your advice?  
There are exceptions in every case, but in general:
    1. Voice – Automatic rejection
    2. Weak Grammar – Automatic rejection
    3. Common plot – Potential revision.
    4. Poor character development – Potential revision.
    5. Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?) – Potential revision.
    6. Mediocre / uninspired writing – Automatic rejection
    7. Excessive use of violence or cursing – Potential revision
    8. Lacking genre –specific requirements like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building – Potential revision
    9. Pacing is off—plot is too slow – Potential revision
    10. Story starts in wrong spot – Potential revision
    11. Ending is unsatisfactory – Potential revision
    12. Other

  1. Does meeting an author face-to-face at a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission process, or the rejection process (ie. Form letter vs a few sentences of advice)?
Answer: There’s no difference in response time or submission process, but I do try to give more advice than usual if I’ve met someone.

  1. Besides the writing, the story and the talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins, cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of publishing industry, promotability, etc?
Answer:  Cooperativeness is extraordinarily helpful in creating a long and lasting relationship. Promotability is always helpful. 

  1. Do you have any pet peeves?
Answer: When an author comes up with a clever or striking phrase, but repeats it numerous times in the manuscript.

  1. What are you addicted to?
Answer: Stories featuring strong protagonists, both mentally and physically.

  1. What have you always wanted to do?
Answer: I’m already doing it!


Kaki Warner said...

Hi Amanda. Thanks for your frank answers. Even though I'm a Berkley historical romance author (with Wendy McCurdy), I feel your list of essentials can be applied to any genre. How would you distinguish paranormal from fantasy and sci-fi? Where does steam punk fit in? And how do you feel about blending historical romance and paranormal or sci-fi? Is that too risky for a first-time writer?

Unknown said...

What do you see as the future of traditional fantasy/romance (e.g., Anne Bishop)? Is that a genre that interests you?

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Dear Amanda, thanks for joining us on Five Scribes today. I love your last comment. You're doing what you love. What every author needs to know from their editor. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

Teagan Oliver said...

I was curious. If a writer had found minimal success with a small publisher and through indi publishing and now wanted to switch to mystery, would you suggest that they make the change to a new pseudonym?

Thank you for such an interesting interview and taking the time to field questions.

Joel Q said...

Thanks for taking the time to do this.

20Pat said...

Hi Amanda

You acquire mysteries. Is this separate from or as part of the Berkley Prime Crimes line. And are you looking for mystery submissions for series?

Shalanna said...

Is it career suicide to place your books with small presses and on the Kindle these days? It seems to me that all the FREE BOOK stuff on the Kindle is fueling a meme of "books should all be free," which doesn't seem promising for authors who need to make at least a pittance on each book (since books can take a year or more to write and polish). Can a book that has won awards while it is with a small press ever have a chance at Berkley mass market publication? (Thanks for answering questions here!)

Theresa said...

Hi Guys, Thanks for stopping by and leaving questions for Amanda. She must have gotten tied up at work yesterday, hopfeully she'll answer these questions Monday, so please check back. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Sandra said...

Hi Amanda,

Why does it seem most paranormal/fantasy type books have to have vampires or werewolves to be considered? I don't mean by you, I mean by people in general. I have a futuristic/fantasy that has never done well in contests and the books that do place almost always have a vampire or werewolf running through them. What do you look for. Thanks, Sandra

Terry Spear said...

Hi, Amanda,

When you say fantasy, do you mean only historical fantasy, or does this include urban fantasy?

And how do you feel about romance in either genre?

Amanda Ng said...

Hi, everyone! Thanks for your questions.

Kaki: Hello and I do recognize your name from Wendy’s list! Paranormal fiction is mostly used as a catch-all phrase that describes fiction with some sort of paranormal element (ghosts, otherworldly creatures, magic, and more). Paranormal is then broken down even further into more specific genres, including the huge paranormal romance category. I will occasionally call a book “paranormal fiction” if it is mostly a general fiction novel with just one or two paranormal elements but doesn’t fall into a more specific category.

As for blending genres, it can be difficult for a debut author to start with something that mixes genres that aren’t commonly combined. It’s not always recommended, but the internet is making it easier for a cross-genre title to find its audience and if the manuscript is great, it will find the right publisher.

Unknown: There is definitely still a market for traditional fantasy/romance and I love the genre. Traditional fantasy won’t be going away any time soon but I have to say urban fantasy and paranormal romance are the hot genres at the moment.

Teagan: There are always exceptions but generally, yes, we would suggest the author should switch to a pseudonym. Always disclose any books you’ve published previously in your query, though.

20Pat: I don’t do cozy mysteries but mysteries I acquire are published in our Berkley or Berkley Prime Crime lines. While I’m judging science fiction and fantasy for The Sandy, I am certainly accepting mystery submissions.

Shalanna: It’s not career suicide, but there are so many books self-published online these days that it’s easy for a book to get lost in the shuffle. Berkley is a commercial fiction publisher, so if the book fits our list we could potentially publish it.

Sandra: Every contest is different so I can’t speak to that question. I will say that vampires and werewolves are a perennially popular topic that readers love to read about. If you look at the interview I discuss what I look for in a submission. The short of it is I look for what any reader wants: characters that I care about and a story that interests me.

Terry: I mean all types of fantasy. Ace is Berkley’s SF/F imprint and we have a very strong urban fantasy roster. Including romance is often a good way to expand your readership.

And last but not least, Donnell and Joel: You’re quite welcome!