Monday, April 18, 2011

The Writers' News Q&A Panel

At the York Festival of Writing there was a Writers' News Q&A panel comprising:
  • Donna Cornden - editor at Piatkus
  • Beverley Birch - Commissioning Editor at Hodder Children's Books
  • Hannah Westwood - Agent at Rogers, Coleridge and White
  • Piers Blofeld - Agent at Sheil Land
  • Jonathan Telfer - Editor at Writers' News and Writing Magazine.
Here's a summary of the snippets of information these wise people passed onto us.

  • For editors in publishing houses, many find pitching a new book that they really love, to the sales team, is like entering the Dragon's Den!
  • Some agents said they take on one new writer for every thousand manuscripts they read.
  • Some editors said that they take on one agent-submitted manuscript for every three to four-hundred agented submissions! (Combine these last two statistics together to ascertain the realities of getting a novel published!)
  • The editors felt that e-books could be the saviour of publishing. The fact that e-books are so easy to buy (for whichever device you choose to read it on) means that impulse purchases are more common with e-books.
  • The e-book market in the USA is about 12 months ahead of the market in the UK.
  • In America, more than half of all the books published are self-published, than trade published.
  • Authors have got to do more to market their books. Beverley Birch said that Hatchette has a small marketing department covering 4 imprints (2 fiction and 2 non-fiction). It's not a lot of staff to go around the many, many books that are published. 
  • Authors should be encouraged to build links with book reviewers.
  • If an author is going to blog, try to have something to say, rather than merely regurgitating something from the book. Readers expect a blog to promote a book, but to add value to the book's content.
  • Producing an e-book is not as simple as saving your text to PDF format and uploading it. Publishers have found that each of the different e-book readers have different formatting structures, which means that the publisher has to produce a different e-book file for each different format of e-book reader (which means that page breaks and line breaks are in different places too - this causes complications for books containing tables or illustrations, for example.) Producing a PROFESSIONAL e-book takes time and money. Publishers are concerned that authors who upload their own texts into e-book format (such as Amazon's Kindle) and then price them very cheaply - at say less than £1, or even free - are devaluing the e-book market for ALL authors, including the professional ones.
  • Writers are encouraged to follow publishers on Twitter.
So, as you can see, there are some interesting points there. You may, or may not, agree with some, or all, of them, but it is a snapshot of the sorts of things publishers and agents are trying to get to grips with at the moment.

Good luck!