An Interview with Editor Dawn Davis
Simon & Schuster‘s Dawn Davis, VP and Publisher of 37 INK, will be a featured editor at this year’s Agents and Editors Conference. To learn more about Dawn and what she represents, visit our Featured Editors page and read our Q&A below.
How would you describe your personal approach to working with a writer/client?
Dawn Davis: I look at each proposal or manuscript differently. The more experienced authors tend to send in either the entire book or one half at a time in which case I’ll do an edit that covers both big picture concerns, i.e, arc and pace, and specific language line-by line. I’ll read the second draft with the changes implemented and, if necessary, the third draft. With new authors or those used to writing short form, such as journalists, I might look at the first three chapters to make sure we’re on the same page. Sometimes the edits can be overwhelming at first but I think my job is to be a more objective set of eyes, to see the lacunas and areas of duplication that a writer who has been drafting and redrafting simply can’t see. I’ve found that I have to be my most gentle with people writing memoir. It’s hard to tell them the expression of their experiences needs tweaking– but again that’s my job.
What do you look for in a debut author?
DD: Of course it depends on the genre. If it’s a novel, I look first and foremost for the quality of the writing and for the qualities of the story. Does the author set out to do what it is I believe they’re intending to do. If it’s to get me to care about their characters, am I feeling the pull? If it’s it to build suspense, have they accomplished that? If it’s to create a new world, does that world seem complete, credible. For nonfiction, I look for something original. I gauge their authority and, increasingly, their platform is essential.
Do you think a social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?
DD: Social media is critically important for most but not all writers. We still publish authors with minimal Twitter and FB footprints but when I come across a proposal I like and the author has a social media presence, I feel particularly energized and it’s less difficult to get my colleagues, those who’ll market, publicize and sell the book engaged.
If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
DD: Read constantly and unless you’re a preternaturally gifted writer, pay attention to what has made other books similar to yours work. Was it the author’s pursuit of book clubs? Was it the way they interacted with bookstores? Was it their efforts around social media?
Tell us about a project you took on, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on, because there was something special or unique about it that you couldn’t say no to. Or, tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an editor or agent.
DD: I’m proud of most of the books I’ve published so it’s hard to pick one. The publication of Steve Harvey’s first book was particularly fun because I had never published self-help before – and the response was almost tsunami-like. At one point the head of sales was going to drive herself to the warehouse to get books for the author events where, initially, 800 people were showing up, which is more or less unprecedented in our business.