“The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers” by Betsy Lerner (Riverhead, 2001)

A Book Every Writer Has to Have!

Forest For the Treesstarstarstarstar

Like a lot of English majors on campus, I want to get a book published eventually. Also, like a lot of other people, I don’t really know how to go about getting an agent, an editor, a publisher, etc.  I just figured I would find answers to those questions when I got the book done.

Thankfully there is now a book that answers all these questions, and much more.  The Forest for the Trees should be on every writer’s shelf, right next to Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style.  The author, Betsy Lerner, is now an agent for the Gernert Company in New York, and has worked in the editorial departments at Simon & Schuster, Ballantine, and Houghton Mifflin, as well as executive editor for Doubleday.

The book is divided into two sections: one on writing and one on publishing.  It does not try to teach you how to write.  Lerner offers advice and information to writers who have problems.  She uses categories (The Ambivalent Writer, The Natural Writer, The Wicker Child, etc.) through which writers can classify themselves, and with Lerner’s help, avoid the pitfalls and potholes that this category reveals.

The second half of the book is on publishing.  Starting right at the beginning, Lerner takes you on a journey, where you are told how to get an agent, how they should be treated, and whether multiple submissions are a must or a must-not.  Lerner explains how to deal with rejection, telling you that each rejection is a run on the ladder towards success.  She explains what it is that editors want, and what authors want.  Finally, Lerner takes you on a unique quest with what happens once you’ve signed the contract and the many steps it takes to get your manuscript into book form and out on the shelves of the bookstores.

The Forest for the Trees is an interesting and entertaining read for the writer or the reader interested in the process of writing.  Find out the problems Tom Wolfe had with his editor, or how well did John Grisham’s novel do?

Betsy Learner uses a language that is simple yet detailed, packed with information that everyone can benefit from.  Recently issued in paperback, this book is now only $12.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally published on February 18th 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.