Your Publishing Questions Answered

We know there’s a certain amount of curiosity about the route of the manuscript to the bookshelf. And what publishers and editors actually do (contrary to popular belief it’s not read and drink coffee all day—sorry!). So we recently asked via Twitter whether anyone had any burning questions they just had to know about publishing.

Aside from the many variations of “How do I get published?” Here are a few of them answered below.

@MaddyMelrose: How about something about how your editorial dept works on building a list over time, what choices you’ve made, chances etc?

So the acquisition of titles is an involved business. It’s not enough for an editor just to love the book, that’s merely the first step in a long run of hurdles. We get other readers across the publishing divisions inhouse to read a potential submission so that when it gets taken to the acquisitions meeting a discussion is able to be held with all relevant perspectives being represented: sales, marketing, PR, rights and editorial. If everyone agrees that we should publish it (rare), then a discussion is held about how we should publish. It’s very much a team effort, a team decision—so it’s not just an editor who decides what authors are taken on. Everyone who will be involved during that novel’s journey from script to shelf has a say.

As for the way my own list has been shaped, I’m sure it’s the same as many other editors. I buy what I read. And what I hope you might want to read. I’m always 100% passionate and enthusiastic about what I’m taking on as, it’s not just a book I’m dealing with, it’s an individual’s career. And we always think about the long-term potential of books. We want to be growing and building our authors and still publishing them twenty years down the line like Peter F. Hamilton!

@Crusaderofchaos: How it all works? How you stay sane?

Wow—how it all works?! I think certainly the acquisitions part is answered above. The whole script to shelf process is an entire blog post on its own. If you’d be interested in seeing on this subject I’m happy to write it . . . show of hands?

And as for staying sane? Who claimed I was?!

No seriously, I love my job. What’s not to love? I get to spend my days working out how best to edit and publish authors I’d read as a fan. And I get paid to do it. It rocks!

@sentencebender: What’s the best part of the whole process for folks on the editorial side?

Part is, without a doubt, as I said above, working on books and with authors that I read for pleasure.

The other aspect is the editing and publishing. I really enjoy seeing a script when it comes in and helping to shape and tweak it—I get quite involved with my editorial notes and marking up the scripts (as I’m sure some of my authors would be happy to tell you!), and then the discussions that ensue as to whether changes should be made or not.

One of my biggest frustrations as an editor is when we get comments/reviews such as “Could have done with editing…”

Every single book we publish at Tor UK is edited. Every one. And those commenting haven’t seen the script at the beginning, haven’t seen the editorial notes, and haven’t heard the conversations between editor and author. They don’t see the edits, rewrites, re-edits, proofreading, copy-editing and numerous changes and versions that have occurred between script and book. They just see the finished product. If they don’t like it then fair enough—everyone’s entitled to their opinion. But please don’t say it’s “not been edited.” Annnd rant over.

@GriddleOctopus: Do you think the addiction to paper is a generational thing?

I don’t think so. I think it’s an individual choice. I’m happy to read both. I find my Mum now prefers eBooks because she can increase the font size and read more easily. And my one year old is happy “reading” books on the iPad or in physical edition! Although she especially likes the sound effects of the eBook iPad App of Dear Zoo, apparently my elephant and lion impressions aren’t as impressive.

Ebooks have moved on so much in the last few years, as have the devices that store them. So it seems that more and more people are happy to experiment with format. The more people reading books—digital or otherwise—can only be a good thing!

@FeenixFantasy: I’d like to know exactly what you look for in a Fantasy novel, so’s I can make sure mine blows your socks off :) #Optimistic

In fantasy novels we look for exactly the same thing we look for in any other genre, good storytelling, great characterization, originality, a pacy plotline and strong writing. 

@MyAsianPlanet: If Audrey Niffenegger had come to you with The Time Traveler’s Wife would you have taken it on?

Well I read it and loved it as a reader, so I can’t see why I wouldn’t have loved it as an editor. Of course, getting it acquired—as mentioned in question one—would be a group decision, so everyone would have had to love it.

BUT, and here’s an interesting return question, I wonder if it had been published as straight science fiction/fantasy whether it would have managed to reach the wider readership it did, or whether that mainstream reader would have been put off by any “genre” tagging. Guess we’ll never know… :-)

Julie Crisp is the edditorial director of Tor UK. She discovered the joys of science fiction after reading Dune at ten and hasn’t looked back since.


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