Rabiner, Susan 1948-

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RABINER, Susan 1948-

PERSONAL: Born May 5. 1948, in Brooklyn, NY; daughter of Nathan M and Gloria (Bodinger) Rabiner; married Alfred G. Fortunato (a freelance writer and editor), March 27, 1974; children: Anna, Matthew. Education: Goucher College, B.A. (cum laude), 1969.

ADDRESSES: Home—1009 Brent Drive, Wantagh, NY 11793-1043. Offıce—Susan Rabiner Literary Agency, Inc., 240 West 35th Street, Suite 500, New York, NY 10001-2506. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER: Editor and literary agent. Random House, New York, NY, assistant editor, 1969-72; Oxford University Press, New York, NY, editor, 1973-79, senior editor, 1980-86; St. Martin's Press, New York, NY, senior editor, 1986-87; Pantheon Books, New York, NY, senior editor, 1987-90; Basic Books, New York, NY, 1990-95, editorial director, 1995-97, vice president, 1996-97; private practice literary agent, 1997—. Yale University, New Haven, CT, visiting lecturer, 1983, 1984.


(With husband, Alfred Fortunato) Thinking like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction—and Get It Published, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 2002.

SIDELIGHTS: More than twenty-five years into a highly successful career as an editor and literary agent with major publishing houses gives Susan Rabiner undisputed authority for the subject matter of her first book, Thinking like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction—and Get It Published. Rabiner is also founder with freelance editor/writer husband Alfred Fortunato of Rabiner Literary Agency, Inc., and has worked with best-selling authors such as Iris Chang (The Rape of Nanking), George Chauncey (Gay New York), John Allen Paulos (A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper), Daniel Schacter (The Seven Sins of Memory), Lawrence Krauss (The Physics of Star Trek), and Pulitzer prizewinner Herbert Bix (Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan).

Thinking like Your Editor divulges the trade secrets of experienced literary agent to would-be author of serious nonfiction. It advises on virtually everything necessary for acceptance and publication in the genre—from writing the proposal and shaping the argument to cover design and book reviews. Steve Weinberg, reviewing the book for Writer, commented, "Until two years ago, I despaired at the dearth of insightful books written by book editors for writers. I despaired as an author of nonfiction books who is always hungry for additional knowledge about how editors think. I despaired even more as a casual advisor to hundreds of unpublished authors over the decades; they needed such a book even more than I did." His despair lessened somewhat after the publication of The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner. However, when Thinking like Your Editor appeared on the scene, his "remaining gloominess" lifted. "Some of Rabiner's readers will probably be surprised to learn that writing style often plays only a tiny role in determining whether a proposal becomes a nonfiction book," Weinberg wrote. "Instead, the freshness of the idea and the size of the potential audience drive the process—the first three rules of book publishing, as stated by Rabiner, are 'audience, audience, audience.'"

Rabiner and Fortunato give excellent examples of well-presented, interesting topics that are unlikely to make the cut, primarily because their target audience is tiny, and "the first job of any book is to get itself read." One example given is a proposal concerning women who become murderers. Weinberg quoted Rabiner: "My guess is that most women who kill, kill men. Any self-protection market would be more likely among men. But don't count on too many sales there. Few men read this kind of sociological treatment, and those who picked up this title in a bookstore might well put it down as soon as the flap copy made clear the writer was no misogynist male. . . . The general principle here is that people interested in your subject have to include first, people who buy books, and second, people receptive to your treatment and conclusions."

Divided into three sections, part one of the book addresses the submission process, part two the writing process, and part three how authors and editors can work together well. Of the book, Keir Graff wrote in Booklist, "Many how-to's have been written by the dubiously credentialed. This one by Rabiner, with her inside knowledge, has a clear and positive effect and is eminently readable, rising above plodding minutiae while avoiding pie-in-the-sky pep talks and generalizations. No doubt this work will help turn ideas and manuscripts into bound, dust-jacketed books."



Booklist, February 15, 2002, Keir Graff, review of Thinking like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction—and Get It Published, p. 985.

Library Journal, March 15, 2002, Robert Moore, review of Thinking like Your Editor, p. 90.

Publishers Weekly, January 21, 2002, review of Thinking like Your Editor, p. 76; January 21, 2002, interview, "PW Talks with Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato," p. 77.

Writer, May, 2002, Steve Weinberg, review of Thinking like Your Editor, p. 48.*