Last week we started our series of interviews with the TV lovin’ employees of ECW, starting with me, your Books on TV hostess! Today we’re talking with the woman responsible for ECW’s incredible TV list, Senior Editor Jen Hale. I chatted with her about her tube-watching habits and what she’s looking for in a TV companion guide:
Name: Jen Hale
Position: Senior Editor
What makes you think a TV show would benefit from a companion volume?
When signing up companion guides for TV shows, I look for shows that have a cultish sort of audience (i.e. they’re looking to discuss the show beyond the typical, “Wow, didn’t that show ROCK last night?” watercooler discussions) and that the show itself has multiple layers that an author could explain. If there’s something more beyond what you saw on the surface of the actual program, it might be a good show for a book. So rather than doing books on murder-of-the-week shows like Law & Order and CSI, we focus on shows like Lost, Buffy, Mad Men, Battlestar Galactica, House, True Blood, Glee, etc., that have rabid fanbases, but also have a much deeper level that an author could explore and present to the audience, giving them a much richer and deeper understanding of the shows. I’ve gotten feedback from readers of the Mad Men book thanking us for such a rich context in which to watch the show. I’ve had emails from people talking about our Lost books saying they would have given up on watching this complicated series if it hadn’t been for the books helping to explain everything for them. So I think the companion guides can benefit the reader by offering something beyond mere plot summary, and instead analyzing and giving background information they wouldn’t otherwise get from the show.
What are you looking for in a good TV book proposal?
I’m looking not only for a really well written proposal and one that demonstrates the author really knows something about the show they wish to write on (AND that they know ECW’s books in the same area) but that they have some knowledge and participation with that series’ fanbase. Showing that they’re involved in forum discussions about that particular show, or can name Twitter roleplayers associated with it, for example, or have started their own fan blog and are starting to make a name for themselves within that community: all of these things are important, and by showing me that they’ve reached out to the fans, have credibility within the fanbase as someone who knows what they’re talking about, shows initiative on their part and demonstrates that they really are passionate about this show. I want to be able to see from the proposal that they’re not looking for a quick advance or they think they might up their cred by writing about this show, but that they really do LOVE the show they’re writing about. I think you really have to love the show in order to convey that same passion to your audience. Television fans can spot a poseur a mile away.
What shows are must-see TV for you right now?
Oh my goodness… here we go: Lost, Mad Men, Glee, Damages, Friday Night Lights, Sons of Anarchy, Big Love, True Blood (it helps that I’m a fan of many of the shows the books are about!), Modern Family, The Office, 30 Rock, V, Flashforward, Gossip Girl, Dexter, Breaking Bad… these are all shows where I never miss an episode. (I think I have a problem.)
And which shows rank as all-time favourites?
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Wire, Lost, Angel, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, Pushing Daisies, Battlestar Galactica, Flight of the Conchords, The Simpsons, Heroes (season 1 ONLY), Veronica Mars.
Have your fellow ECW staffers talked you into watching a show you wouldn’t have otherwise tried?
I always wanted to see Battlestar Galactica, but it was a co-worker of mine who finally gave me the DVDs so I could see it, and I fell in love with it instantly. I gave up on Vampire Diaries after about three episodes, and one of my co-workers talked me into giving it a second go, saying it was definitely the new Buffy. So, with that, I tried it again, and enjoyed it. But generally, I’m the one in the office handing out DVDs to everyone, whether they like it or not. 😉
If you were to write a companion guide for one of these shows, which would it be, and why?
Hm… that’s a really good question, but honestly, I think I’m a better editor than a writer. I leave the writing to the professionals and just sit back and enjoy their books… while being secretly jealous of all of them.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Jen! If you have a TV manuscript you’d like to submit, check out our submission guidelines. And stay tuned for more interviews with ECW staffers talking about the TV they love!