An Interview with Editor Erika Tsang
Erika Tsang is the Editorial Director of Avon and will be one of this year’s featured editors at the Agents and Editors Conference. To learn more about Erika, as well as our other featured editors, visit our Featured Editors page and read her Q&A below.
How would you describe your personal approach to working with a writer/client?
Erika Tsang: I’m very mindful of each of my author’s creative process, what each of them need from me as an editor. I have authors who I don’t hear from unless it’s to tell me she’s late with a manuscript. And then I have authors who call weekly to tell me how her plotting is going and what I think of this happening to the character, or is it okay if she kills off the family pet in the first half of the story.
What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to receiving submissions, reading work, etc.?
ET: Know the editor you’re approaching. What types of projects have they acquired recently? What have they published in the past? What are they looking for now? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been pitched mysteries or poetry or memoirs when I’ve never acquired those types of projects before. Writers should do as much research as they possibly can about the editors they’re targeting. Not only will it show you’re professional and have done your homework, but you’ll also diminish the number of rejections you receive.
You often hear that it’s the first ten pages – or even the first page – that sells a story. Is there something particular that you look for in those first few pages?
ET: I look for energy in the narrative voice, that special spark. And I want something interesting to happen in those first few pages, something intriguing. I often read a book the way I watch television. If it starts off with more than a minute of voice-overs telling me the back-story and nothing is actually happening, I’ll flip the channel.
If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
ET: Read. Read what you enjoy, read what other readers are talking about, read what’s on the bestsellers lists. Read People magazine or Entertainment Weekly or whatever you choose, but keep up with popular culture.
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.
ET: Back in the day when chick-lit was popular, I had an Asian author who wrote The Dim Sum of All Things, which was a cross between Bridget Jones and The Joy Luck Club. Years later when The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was sparking so much controversy, this author approached me with an idea: a rebuttal titled Tiger Babies Strike Back. She told me stories about her own experiences growing up under the thumb of a Tiger Mom, how she rebelled against that, and how she’s raising her own daughter now in a completely different environment…all in her usual self-deprecating humorous way. It’s not a project I would normally take on, but the proposal spoke to me from the very beginning and I just couldn’t say no.
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