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What makes a publisher fall in love with a book?

Why publishers buy certain books 

What influences the decision for publishers to buy certain books and not others? This newsletter delves behind-the-scenes with commissioning editors and looks at what you can do from the beginning to help you land that elusive publishing deal.  

The Summer Festival of Writing starts next week! (50% discount for members) 

This is your final chance to grab tickets for the Summer Festival of Writing – the global three-month writing Festival anyone can access from home. Join publishers, agents and big-name authors for over sixty live events starting 1 June 2020.  



FEATURE: An interview with Kimberley Young - HaperCollins (FREE for members) 

Sit down with Kimberley Young, publisher of Commercial Women’s Fiction at HarperCollins, and find out what makes her fall in love with a novel. 



BURSARY: 30 FREE places to the Summer Festival of Writing 

Deadline 29 May. Are you an under-represented writer? Thanks to the generosity of our speakers, we’re offering thirty Full Festival Tickets to deserving under-represented writers. 


UNCUT: How a major publisher acquires a book (FREE for members) 

We chat to Publisher Harriet Bourton from Orion to find out how a book is acquired from an author and their agent at a major publisher. 



Content corner: Acquisition from the author’s side 

Being “on submission” as a writer is widely regarded as the worst waiting game of your career – even worse than waiting to hear from agents (if such a thing is possible!) Here’s what you see as a writer: 

Your agent starts pitching the book a few months before it’s ready. When the book is ready, she sends you a list of publishers to approve. You might not be 100% sure of the names of the editors she’s sending (and you understand why – it's very easy to spend hours obsessing about any names you do hear!) 

Now comes the waiting game. You’re sure things are happening, but you aren’t sure what. You don’t hear anything for days. A week. Two weeks. Are publishers rejecting it and your agent is trying to spare you the pain? How long does it take to read a book? Should you be worried?! You send some of these questions to your agent and she calms you in soothing tones that work for around ten minutes, before you’re back to refreshing your emails every second again.  

When a publisher does respond positively, she forwards the email for you to obsess over. But a “positive” email means nothing without an offer. Before you get solid money on the table, your book will have to convince a Commissioning Editor – the editorial team (including the senior ‘Publisher’) and then the wider company, including representatives from sales, marketing and publicity. You don’t get told much about any of that, but you know vaguely that’s what’s going on.  

Not all books make it past this stage and an agent can spend months – even years – knocking on doors whilst you twiddle your thumbs. If you are lucky enough to get an offer, things at this point tend to speed up – other publishers are contacted and you (hopefully) enter into an “auction”, which doesn’t involve a man with a moustache and a gavel (unfortunately), but is a series of exciting emails until you get given a choice – do you go with the highest bidder? Or do you go with the publisher you like the best? 

Whatever your journey from there – submission is horrible. I’m on it right now, and I can tell you, a pandemic doesn’t help in any way. So tell me – what are your experiences of being on submission? Does this sound familiar to you in terms of agents or even non-writing-related work? Sign up for free and share in the Townhouse, here.  

Stay well x 

Sarah J  

Plus, don’t miss: 

Self-Edit Your Novel tutored course (Discounts available for members) 

9 June 2020. A final place has just opened up! With 1-in-4 alumni now published, this could be your shot at whipping your book into shape before the end of the year. Warning: this won’t stick around for long. 

Manuscript Assessment  (Discounts available for members) 

 Our most popular editorial service matches you to your dream editor and gives you tailored feedback on your work. It doesn’t get better than that. 

Complete Novel Mentoring (Discounts available for members) 

Work with an expert tutor as you write or edit your book. We have three world-leading authors at your disposal covering everything from children’s books to sci-fi. 


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  • Wonderful updates very helpful.

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