Interview with Michael Braff, Assistant Editor Del Rey Spectra

By Theresa Rizzo

Date:  February 2011


Bio: When he graduated with a BA in Comparative Religion and World History from McGill University in Montréal, Mike Braff did not have a clue as to what he should do for a living.  An internship at a printer lead (in a round-about way) to a position in the editorial department of Del Rey Books (Random House Publishing Group) where he is currently acquiring science fiction, fantasy, graphic novels, urban fantasy, and thrillers.  Mike loves genre fiction in any form, and his favorite books are the ones with a well-realized world, iconoclastic characters, and new twists on well-loved themes and ideas.  He currently works with authors like China Miéville, Peter Watts, Richard K. Morgan, and on Del Rey’s successful game- and movie-tie-in novels.



  1. Which categories do you currently acquire?  Which category has a special/constant place in your heart?

    Answer: I currently acquire fantasy, science-fiction, urban fantasy, thrillers, and graphic novels.  My personal favorite genre to read and acquire is epic fantasy: the bigger, the better!


  1. What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial?  Single spaced or double?


Answer: I prefer to see the synopsis at less than one page, double-spaced so I can make notes between each line.  If an author can’t hook me quickly, their work is going to have a hard time hooking readers quickly.


  1. In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?

Answer: I am sick to death of kitchen-sink urban fantasy.  If I get another submission that features a werewolf/zombie/vampire assassin/thief/bodyguard, who is locked in battle with an evil demon/vampire/wizard in the city of Seattle/LA/Chicago/New York I swear I’m going to feed myself to a lycanthrope.  I would love to see more epic fantasy and space operas; anything with broad world-building and a sense of history.



  1.  What are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good
     read?   What particularly grabs your attention?

    Answer: I love to read stories set in a world that is bigger than the story at hand.  When I feel that every miniscule detail in a story could spawn its own storyline, I am in love.  Of course, strong characters and clever story arcs are extremely important as well.



  1. For you, which elements in a fiction submission are terminal problems garnering automatic rejections and which are tempting and fixable meriting a look at a revision if a talented author is willing to accept your advice? 
    1. Voice
    2. Weak Grammar
    3. Common plot
    4. Poor character development
    5. Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?)
    6. Mediocre / uninspired writing
    7. Excessive use of violence or cursing
    8. Lacking genre –specific requirements like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building
    9. Pacing is off—plot is too slow
    10. Story starts in wrong spot
    11. Ending is unsatisfactory
    12. Other

Answer: Immediate rejections: A, D, F, and H.  If a submission is missing these things, it is going to be nearly impossible for it to be taken seriously.


Fixable: B, E, I, J, and K.  All of these things can be tweaked and improved upon, if the author is collaborative and open to suggestion, of course.



  1. Does meeting an author face-to-face at a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission process, or the rejection process (ie. Form letter vs a few sentences of advice)?


Answer: It would make a difference in the submission and rejection processes, since I am more inclined to have a close look and respond with suggestions and constructive criticism.  As far as response time, I’m afraid that depends on just how busy work is at that point.



  1. Besides the writing, the story and the talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins, cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of publishing industry, promotability, etc?



Answer: Knowledge of the publishing industry and online presence are becoming more and more important.  The world of publishing is changing very rapidly, and we need authors that (apart from writing great books) are able to adapt to these changes and are willing to market themselves online.



  1. Do you have any pet peeves?


Answer: Authors who are unwilling to be edited.  There is nothing worse than an uncollaborative author, one who thinks their work is already as good as it can be.  There is ALWAYS room for improvement and tightening-up.



  1. What are you addicted to?


Answer: Nerd culture!  I love fantastic storytelling in all its forms, from videogames and comic books to novels and movies.  A good story is bigger than the medium that conveys it and, for me, the “geekiest” stories are the ones I like the most.



  1. What have you always wanted to do?


Answer: This is probably not surprising, but I would love to write a fantasy series.  In fact, I’ve been working on one for almost six months now and I hope to be able to start shopping it around soon.



  1. Do you have a favorite quote?


Answer: “Part of the appeal of the fantastic is taking ridiculous ideas very seriously and pretending they are not absurd.”  ~China Miéville