Thursday, July 28, 2011

Making "The Call"

 By Deb Werksman
 Editorial Manager
Sourcebooks Casablanca

One of the most wonderful things about my job is being able to make ‘The Call’ to an author—it’s what I live for. It’s very exciting and rewarding, and kind of like asking someone to marry you—or, for an alternative metaphor, since I consider myself to be a book midwife, it’s like taking on a new pregnant mom (I always tell authors that publishing a book is more like birthing an elephant than it is like running a horse race, so patience, patience!). This is about where the metaphor breaks down though, because I also tell authors all the time—the book is NOT your baby—it’s a professional endeavor, it’s a craft, it’s something to be very proud of, but anyone who actually has children will tell you not to be attached to your book the way you would be to your child. (On the good side, while your book may keep you up all night from time to time, it will never throw up in your bed or make you rush to the emergency room.)

“The Call” that I get to make happens after quite a bit of work—maybe weeks’ worth, maybe even months’ worth: Reviewing the initial pitch and manuscript, which sometimes involves preparing a critique and working with the author to shape the work into a series or to develop the writing, characters and storyline. Then I have to think about how to present the author and work to our editorial meeting. When acquiring, we have to know why the book will appeal to readers and how we can successfully package and present it to the marketplace and reach the broadest audience. We’re constantly researching the competition and trying to gauge where the marketplace is and where it’s going.

Once we make a decision to acquire, we commit one hundred percent. By the time I make “The Call,” I have a vision for the book, the author and her career.

Then once I get the author on the phone, it’s just the best. Sometimes an author shrieks, or I can tell she’s jumping up and down or maybe holding her breath (I haven’t had anyone pass out on me!). A lot of debut authors then go and sign with an agent, so I know that my call has facilitated a lot of agent/author relationships, which is also great.

“The Call” is very special, and I just love when I get to make one—the editor/author relationship is very special and close, and it is a business relationship, but in such a creative field! The beginning of a new editor/author relationship is just wonderful.

So here’s what I’m looking for:
*single title romance (90,000 words) in any subgenre: paranormal, historical, romantic suspense, contemporary, erotic romance
*a heroine the reader can relate to
*a hero she can fall in love with
*a world gets created
*a hook I can sell with in 2-3 sentences
*the author has a career arc (if the reader loves this first book, what do we give them next and next and next…)

Full submission guidelines on


  1. Deb: How great to hear about what goes on behind the scenes before the call is made.

    Thanks for sharing the "other side", the editor's perspective. I never imagined that it would be just as exciting for your to make the call as it is for us to receive the call. ;)

  2. Deb: The Casa-authors have talked all month about the day they got "the call." It's great to hear about the enthusiasm from your side of that call and what goes on before you make it. Loved the part about birthing an elephant! And the part about having an idea where your authors' careers could be headed before you make the call.

  3. For somebody how has been accused of having cussed independence, I've found turning "my" book over to Deb and the crew at Sourcebooks (and it is an entire crew) has been a relief. All I know how to do is draft manuscripts; it takes the Sourcebooks publishing village to turn that manuscript into a book--a book that belongs to the publishing house family and the readers as much as it does to me.

    This frees me up to get cracking on the next MS, and the next...
    So thanks Deb, to you and the rest of the team, for allowing me to have and be part of a very big book family.

  4. Thanks, Deb. I'm so glad that you weren't a telemarketer when you called me. :)

  5. Deb, I was very happy to get the "call" from you.

  6. It is really fun to hear about what's going on at the other end of the line. Everyone always wants to know about the author's experience. Nice to hear the other side.

  7. Deb: It's difficult to imagine all the work that goes on behind the scenes. To hear you are just as excited about making the call as the author is to have the call really is fun.

    To know you go that extra mile to have everything in place for the writer is wonderful!


    Loni (Glover) Lynne

  8. You know, we focus so much on our end of The Call, it's great to hear what it's like from the editor's side. It must be a great thing to be the messenger for so much joy.

  9. This is one of the things that makes SB so special, you acquire the author, not just the book. Thank you for sharing!