99% Crap

Agent and former leading SF / Fantasy editor John Jarrold on the route to publication. More information about John here

Or see the original thread at the TTA Press forum here


This does vary from company to company, but here is the general route for a new writer:

Basically, every editor in London will receive around thirty books a week, some from agents, some direct from authors. In the former case, the agent may well have spoken to the editor in advance, so they have an idea what to expect.

An editor may only be taking on one or two new authors a year, and there are two specific points they look for: wonderful writing and great commerciality. That cuts out over 99% of the books they are seeing. Remember that publishing is subjective, and an editor needs to love a book personally AND professionally. Some extremely good books are loved by one editor but hated by another.

Once the editor does think they have something that special, they take it to the editorial meeting. Before that meeting, every other editor in the company has to read the book, and they will make their comments, positive and negative, at the meeting. If the book gets over that hurdle – and many don’t – it will then be taken to the publishing meeting. Before THAT meeting, the sales director, marketing director, publicity director, managing director and other senior, non-editorial staff have to read it, and agree that it is both wonderfully written and intensely commercial. Again, many new books fall at this hurdle. However, if this is all agreed, the sales director and editor will agree on expected sales figures for the first print-run, and a costing will be produced. From that, the editor will come up with a sum that the book is worth to the publisher and, once he has the agreement of his managing director, he will make an offer. Easy! Probably less than 10% of the books that enter this process at the editorial meeting actually have offers made. And they themselves are far less than 1% of the books that are originally submitted by authors and agents.

Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.


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