Terri Bischoff (@TerriBischoff), is not only my editor and close friend, but a perennial favorite at our annual Colorado Gold Conference. She joined Midnight Ink as an Acquiring Editor in October 2009. She leads all editorial directions and creates the seasonal lists. She has dramatically increased the number of titles per season, publishing 36-38 titles per year, as well as expanded the type of crime fiction Midnight Ink now publishes. Before signing on at Midnight Ink, she worked at Kramer Books in Washington, DC, and owned Booked For Murder Mystery Bookstore in Madison, Wisconsin. Several other Colorado authors have books coming out by Midnight Ink, including Mark Stevens, Shannon Baker Maggie Sefton, and Laura DiSilverio. Terri is looking forward to hearing pitches from potential new voices this September.
Welcome to the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers blog, Terri. Thank you for agreeing to this interview.
1. Midnight Ink is known for publishing cozies, but I’ve noticed the list is diversifying with some really interesting upcoming titles. What else are you looking for these days and how many books per year are you acquiring in each sub-genre?
I am looking for a good story that I fall in love with. The one where I have to stay late or take home over the weekend because I need to finish the manuscript. I tend toward books that have strong characters. I am currently pubbing books ranging from traditional cozy to serial killer dark.
2. As an acquiring editor, what plot and/or character do you never want to see again? What would you love to see in the next manuscript you read?
I don’t ever need to see another baby kidnapping/smuggling ring. What would I love to see? Hmmm… There are some holes in my line, for example, I don’t have a historical series or a police procedural. A female assassin would be cool. It really doesn’t matter, as long as I fall in love with the book.
3. What’s the best advice you can give to writers submitting their first novels?
To go through a critique or professional edit before submitting. I no longer have time to work on manuscripts. In the past I have done up to three rounds of revisions with an author before I put the book into production. I can’t do that now. The book needs to be solid from page one.
4. So you recommend that authors pay to have their manuscripts professionally edited before submitting?
I don’t think it’s mandatory, but the advice of a solid critique group or that of a professional editor can give you an advantage over other submissions, especially if you do not have an agent. At Midnight Ink, after I have acquired a manuscript, both the production editor and I make a list of revision requests. This is generally for content, but occasionally we will point out some copy edit issues. After the revisions are sent back in to me, I put the book into production, where the production editor will do line edits with the author. At other publishing houses, the acquiring editor does both the content and copy edit – but they also don’t acquire as many books as I do. But as I mentioned above, a polished ms will put you ahead in the submission process.
5. What is the easiest and hardest part about your job as an editor?
That is a hard question. The hardest is breaking up with an author. I don’t think there is a part of my job that is consistently easy. But the best part of my job is getting to know my authors.
6. How have changes in the world of publishing impacted your job in the last year?
To me it feels like the last year has been holding the status quo. Ebook sales have leveled out. The loss of Borders has been absorbed. Specific to my job, I do feel like I am getting a higher caliber of submissions. I have picked up a few more authors who have published with the big five (new series or stand alones.) But I am still committed to finding debut authors to balance out our line.
7. You’ve been to the RMFW conference a number of times. What keeps you coming back? (Besides your adoring authors, of course.)
The sense of community is amazing – it doesn’t matter if you have published 25 books or if you just started writing last week. The conference itself is very well run and informative.
8. What advice would you give authors who plan to pitch their novel to you at Colorado Gold?
Keep your presentation short, but include all the important info – if the ms is complete, word count, sub-genre, comparable authors. And give me the first five pages of your ms. That will tell me more than your presentation.
9. Conferences can be expensive and daunting, while querying agents and editors these days is really only a matter of sending off an email from the safety of your own home. How much of an advantage do you think there is for writers to attend conferences and meet and/or pitch you personally?
I am only taking unagented manuscripts from people who have pitched to me at a conference. Otherwise the only way for me to see it is if the author has an agent. Beyond that, I am more likely to take on a borderline project if I have met the author and feel good about the working relationship. And if I reject a manuscript, I may give the author feedback rather than a form rejection.
10. Are you coming into town early to allow extra time for some shopping and a mani-pedi with me while you’re here?
Maybe shopping, but no mani-pedi. I think I am still a bit traumatized from my first pedicure with you, thank you very much.
Linda Joffe Hull is the author of The Big Bang (Tyrus Books) and Eternally 21 (Midnight Ink) the first title in the Mrs. Frugalicious mystery series. Linda is a longtime member and former board member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and currently serves on the national board of Mystery Writers of America. She is the 2013 RMFW Writer of the Year. Her next mystery, Black Thursday, will be released in October 2014. To watch a recent interview with Linda please go to Off the Page on You Tube or visit her website. You can also find her on Twitter.