An Interview with Editor Matt Martz
Matt Martz, editorial director at Quick Brown Fox, will be a featured editor at this year’s Agents and Editors Conference. Visit our Featured Editors page and read our Q&A below to learn more about Matt.
How would you describe your personal approach to working with a writer/client?
Matt Martz: There are a lot of different things to consider and ways to approach a writer. What I would like to focus on here is the creative process. A lot of editors focus on making the best possible book. I want that as well—we all do—but I have always been more interested in helping my authors become better writers and storytellers. I want them to become better with every book that they write. My focus is on the writers and the process from developing the idea to ironing out habitual mistakes so that the writers I work with have the space and the support to write the best books that they are capable of.
MM: Build a community of fellow writers as friends and mentors in the business. Writing is a lonely business. Writers need the support of friends who can understand what they’re trying to do. There is also only so much information an editor can pass on. There’s a lot to learn, and writers are expected to lean it very quickly with very little guidance. It’s a hard job, and you’ll need people to talk it through with you.
What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to receiving submissions, reading work, etc.?
MM: My biggest pet peeve is a submission with multiple files. Everything is electronic now. Editors are not carrying home handfuls of this manuscript and that manuscript anymore like we used to. Thank goodness. If I can receive one file with all the information I need, that is the easiest way for me to read the manuscript.
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?
MM: Yes, the first few pages. An editor can normally tell whether or not a writer can write in the first few lines. No matter how good writers are at everything else, they need to be able to write so that readers will want to follow them. It takes a tremendous amount of work and practice to write so that it reads and sounds like it’s easy, and it’s that ease, that obvious skill, that gets readers to trust writers enough to let them tell their stories. While it isn’t the only thing or the hardest thing, it is the first win that a writer needs to secure to get the chance to do everything else.
If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
MM: My one piece of advance would be to write straight through to the end of the manuscript, then come back through it, then write another manuscript, and repeat until someone is publishing the books. Writers learn more about writing by writing full books quickly and ugly than they do by polishing up a single book. Be brutal. When you come through your manuscript a second time, rip it apart, put it back together, and know when it’s time to move on and write another.
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.
MM: While I acquire only crime fiction right now, I published nonfiction in the not too distant past. My favorite experience was when I took an idea to an author, and then he went off with that idea, made it his own and came back with a book that was better than anything I could’ve imagined. I love it when my authors take my advice and go off and do something truly special because writing a good book is a special accomplishment, and I’m always looking for a good read.