I’d like to introduce you to the forty-eighth interviewee in my ‘Meet the Author’ series. He is Chuck Sambuchino.
Hi, Chuck! Welcome to Susan Finlay Writes blog site. You are a book editor for Writer’s Digest Books, a humor writer, freelance editor, and a speaker at writers’ conferences, You’ve also written books about writing and publishing. Can you tell us more about your background and how you became a writer and editor?
I started out in my 20s writing articles for small magazines while being a reporter for a newspaper. I also wrote some stage plays on the side. Then, in 2005, I got a job working for Writer’s Digest and Writer’s Digest Books. When that happened, I was naturally immersed in all things writing. I began to study how stuff gets published, as well as the craft of writing. That led me to writing stuff myself. After a while, I started studying social media and book promotion. And then, when I had enough experience under my belt, I began to freelance edit.
In other words, one thing really does lead to another in this business. Small opportunities and assignments lead to medium ones. Medium ones lead to big ones. Hard work opens doors.
Your book, Create Your Writer Platform, was published by Writers Digest Books in November, 2012. Can you tell us a bit about it? What inspired you to write it?
This word—platform—started to really pop up about five years ago. It’s because publishers began to put the burden of marketing on authors themselves. And over the past five years, platform (your visibility in the world and your ability to self-market your books) has only become more important. Nonfiction writers need a platform to get published. Fiction writers should want a platform because they can sell more books and have some control over their own destiny.
I saw a void in the marketplace on a straightforward platform resource and thought I was in a unique position to compose a guide for people. The one thing I knew I wanted to do concerning the book was gather advice from a lot of literary agents and platform-heavy authors. I knew I could only explain so much, and that a variety of perspectives was what was needed. So if you read the book, you will see that it’s peppered with thoughts and advice from authors and agents alike.
Your book, Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, was published by Writers Digest Books in spring 2009. Can you tell us a bit about it? What inspired you to write it?
That book came about it through odd circumstances. In fact, I’m never really sure I’ve explained them in an interview before. It was 2008, and the next edition of that book (the third edition) was contracted out to another writer. Then I heard through the WD grapevine that the contracted writer had opted out of writing the book because of family problems, and the deadline for the manuscript was fast approaching. WD was in a bind because someone would need to put together the book quickly, and few people would be able to do that. I asked if I could have the job, and they agreed. People really seem to like that book. It’s usually my best-selling title when I speak at conferences.
You run the ‘Guide to Literary Agents’ Blog on the Writer’s Digest website. How did you get involved with that?
Around the time I started editing the Guide to Literary Agents book in 2006, they told us all editors would be creating blog content for their own new blogs. So that was it. I was pushed into it, so to speak. Over time, I took a genuine interest in the blog and in building my platform. The more good content I provided, the more the blog grew. Now it’s got scarily big. It’s up to about a quarter million page views a month.
You also edit the well-known reference books, The Guide to Literary Agents and The Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market. Can you tell us about that?
Editing both books is part of my salaried position with Writer’s Digest Books. Both are annual guides that provide markets for writers. In other words, when you write something, I provide you with hundreds of places to send that work to. Editing both annual books is a joy.
You are a frequent speaker/presenter at writer’s conferences, and you love teaching writers about writing and publishing. What topics do you discuss at these conferences? Do you have speaking engagements planned in 2013?
I discuss the topics of getting published, literary agents, query letters, pitching, publishing options today, proposal writing, synopsis writing, playwriting, platform, social media, and more.
I speak at about 10 events each year. In the summer of 2013, for instance, I have events in Clarksville, TN; Lexington, KY; Austin, TX; and a very cool one in Middleburg, VA that writers need to check out. For a full, updated list of events, visit my website, http://www.chucksambuchino.com, and click on “Writers Conferences.” That page has many, many events listed that you can check out. Writers are sure to find one or several events in their area.
Your humor book, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack, was published by Random House in September, 2010. Can you tell us about the book?
I always wanted to write a humor book. I acquired a literary agent for a different book that didn’t sell. When she asked me if I had other ideas for nonfiction books, one of the ideas that I pitched her was a fake survival guide protecting against garden gnomes. She said she could sell such a book—and that was that. The book is the only comprehensive guidebook on how to assess an attack and fight back against these malicious lawn warriors.
I’ve heard it has been translated into Italian and Japanese, that it was in the top ten humor books in the U.S, and that it will be adapted into a Sony Pictures Animation film. That’s very exciting. Tell us more.
Recently we got the every exciting news that director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) attached himself to the book. When this happened, Sony Pictures optioned the film rights off us. So hopefully it will be a movie one day! This whole process went around me. My literary agent and her book-to-film co-agent created this whole deal. I just sat on the couch snorgling my dog.
As far as the translation stuff, I will say that selling to overseas territories is one of the best parts of being a writer. It’s an adrenaline rush to hear your work will appear in another language, and it allows you make more money, as well. Perhaps one day GNOMES will appear in a fourth language.
Your second humor book, Red Dog/Blue Dog: When Pooches Get Political, was published by Running Press in August, 2012. Can you tell us about the book?
I love dogs. I love politics. It was my wife’s idea to combine the two into a humorous idea. The result is a photo collection of dogs doing stereotypically liberal and conservative things. I dedicated the book to my dog Graham. I think he immediately fell asleep upon hearing the news. That book is very exciting because we are giving away a portion of the proceeds to no-kill shelters and pet rescue organizations.
You also offer editing services and critique services. Can you tell us a bit about the author/editor relationship? What do you like best about editing other authors’ work?
The best part is knowing that I am helping writers on their journey. When a client comes back to me and says “I got an agent” or “I got a book deal,” that is an electric feeling.
As far as the relationship goes, my goal is to just present my thoughts clearly and provide some ideas on how to fix problems. Editors should be open and helpful and clear.
How do you feel about the “rules” of contemporary writing: no adverbs, limited dialogue tags, show don’t tell, no head-hopping, etc.? In your opinion, how important are they to writing? Are there any that you particularly adhere to?
I wouldn’t say those things you mentioned as “rules,” per se, but rather guidelines and principles. That said, those four things you mentioned almost always bring a manuscript down. I try to eliminate all those elements from my clients’ works. In other words, I would adhere to taking out all four specifics you mentioned.
Personally, coming from a playwriting and screenwriting background, I have a fondness for keeping a story moving and not dwelling on something for longer than needed. So I guidelines I particularly adhere to “Only include as much as you need—then move along.”
Please list any websites or social media links for yourself or your company. Thanks!
In terms of my freelance editing, please link to my editing page here:
Chuck Sambuchino is an editor and a writer. He works for Writer’s Digest Books and edits the GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS. The accompanying Guide to Literary Agents Blog (guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog) is one of the largest blogs in publishing. He is also the editor of another annual resource from WD, the CHILDREN’S WRITER’S & ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET. He was recently included in a FORBES Top 10 list of “Social Media Influencers: Book Publishing.”
Chuck’s Top 10 best-selling humor book, HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK (gnomeattack.com), was released in Sept. 2010 and has been featured by Reader’s Digest, USA Today, the New York Times and AOL News. The film rights were recently optioned by Sony and director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump). His second humor book, RED DOG / BLUE DOG, a photo collection of liberal and conservative dogs, came out in Aug. 2012 and has been featured by USA Today and The Huffington Post.
Chuck has also written two other writing-related titles: the third edition of FORMATTING & SUBMITTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT (2009), as well as CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM (fall 2012).
Besides that, he is a produced playwright, writer of more than 700 published articles, freelance editor, husband, cover band guitarist, chocolate chip cookie fiend, and owner of a flabby-yet-lovable dog named Graham. Find him on Twitter (@chucksambuchino) or online at chucksambuchino.com.