SCBWI Highlights: Nonattachment and Editor/Publisher Advice

Tim Ditlow of Amazon Publishing shared some gems with us including the importance of non-attachment. He grew up with his dad working in audiobooks and saw the rise and fall of records, cassette tapes, cds. He likes to believe that “it’s the coffee, not the cup.”


I think his point extends to not getting bogged down in debates over paper books versus e-books. Those are just the cups. Not the coffee. Not the content, just the method of delivery.

Arthur Levine had a workshop devoted to answering everyone’s questions. He gave some important advice about when authors submit to editors. If an editor wants to buy your book, DON’T start negotiating and then bring in an agent. If you have an agent, you should put the editor in touch with them to negotiate your contract.


If you get an editor’s interest, go with your good fortune. Ask yourself why did you pursue an editor if not ready to do a contract by yourself. He also stressed the importance of not always doing what others think you should. It’s about what you want for your manuscript. Just because someone tells you to cut it down, doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

With respect to genre, you told us not to worry about it because it is the publisher’s job to decide who to market the book to. That was an interesting piece of advice considering how important it is to identify your genre in the query letter. I do think he has a point though. Publishers categorize hundreds of books a year. How many does a writer categorize? Just their own.

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20 Responses to SCBWI Highlights: Nonattachment and Editor/Publisher Advice

  1. Cat Forsley says:

    You know what – You are such a leader K …………….
    when You share – You really extend knowledge to everyone around you ๐Ÿ™‚
    love xx

  2. klynwurth says:

    Thanks, Kourtney. I don’t make it to conferences, so I appreciate your generosity. I also give you thanks upon thanks for encouraging me to get my work out there…a lit journal has accepted one of my short stories. I’d become discouraged about my short fiction; you fired me up. You are a leader, inspiring to writers around you. Bless you, as you are a blessing.

    • Kelly, I’m so glad to hear that you submitted your short story! And even more excited that it is getting published! CONGRATS!!!!! Aw, I’m happy to inspire you. Having awesome writers like you in my life helps me stay on track and focused! You are a blessing to me too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Carrie Rubin says:

    Good advice as always, but I agree–it seems challenging to be a bit loose with our genre when this is exactly the kind of specifics agents request. A query letter pushing a book with a “fluid” genre is likely to be rejected, especially if it’s a first-time author.

    • Yeah, I think in theory it makes sense, but when agents break down along genre lines in terms of what they represent, we as writers have to be aware of our genre. One of the problems I have with my books is that they mix genres. It’s been an uphill battle to find agents who rep what I write (or across the genre lines of what I write).

      • Carrie Rubin says:

        As someone who wrote a medical thriller with a science fiction subgenre, I know just what you mean. I had several agents tell me they liked the medical thriller aspect, but they didn’t represent science fiction. And really, the science fiction part is quite light, but the crossing genres was apparently a no-no.

        • I can’t help what I write. I have a contemporary fantasy mixed with a dash of literary fiction. I also have a gothic mystery with a tiny historical component. Those are not easy to sell…so far anyway. ๐Ÿ˜›

  4. 4amWriter says:

    Good points to remember. I have to work harder at seeing the coffee through the cup. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Something about the way Tim said it made me suddenly not feel any concern over the e-reader vs. paper book controversy. Either way the book exists and is being read. And fundamentally, I just create the content not the forum. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I like the coffee/cup analogy. It’s true, when you really think about it, that it’s the words you read that matter, not whether you are reading them from a paper book or an electronic tablet. I hadn’t thought of it in that way before. Now that I do, that analogy could apply to a lot of other things too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. jmmcdowell says:

    Interesting for authors going the traditional agent-query route. If we’re not getting our genre correct when we query, are we querying the right agents?

    • Exactly. And that can be why first time authors get so many rejections. I took a genre journey with each of my books, trying to figure out what they were and weren’t. LOL. Half my query rejections might be attributed to genre issues.

  7. Some of this advice I could have used two years ago. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I took an editor’s advice too much to heartโ€”a mistake that took a whole lot of time and effort to reverse. I’ve since learned to trust my instincts, but it’s so tough in the very beginning and barely know up from down. Great post!

    • Isn’t that always the way? It’s so hard to determine what feedback to jump on and what to weigh for a while. I had an agent ask me to take the time travel out of my time travel murder mystery. I politely declined. That wasn’t my story. But then I had an agent come along who gave me some terrific feedback and though it was tough to implement, the manuscript is so much better for it. Instincts are so important. For me, whatever I am most opposed to or dismissive of is either not right for my story or exactly what it needs. The trouble is determining which is which. ๐Ÿ™‚

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