To celebrate the fact that one month today The Second Love Of My Life will be published, I have invited my editor Headline’s Emily Griffin to talk to us about what being an editor is all about!
You are Commissioning Editor at Headline – can you tell us a bit about what this role entails and how you came into the role?
In its purest sense: my role is to acquire, edit and publish projects for the commercial fiction list at Headline Publishing Group. The list of titles I am publishing this year encompasses a wide range, from Victoria Walters’ stunning debut, The Second Love of my Life, to gritty crime fiction, fast-paced action thrillers and laugh-out-loud romantic women’s fiction.
I started working at Headline a number of years ago as editorial assistant to three commissioning editors. It was a bit like doing an apprenticeship – you learn so much from the editors you assist – and now I’m lucky enough to work with my own list of brilliant authors.
What does a typical day in your role look like?
No day is ever the same! I could be doing anything, from immersing myself in a structural edit, to writing copy for book covers, to working with designers on the cover visuals for forthcoming titles, and liaising with our sales, publicity and marketing teams over our plans for getting titles into the hands of readers.
I also spend a huge amount of time reading the manuscripts that are submitted to me by literary agents, though this rarely happens at my desk!
How do you find the books you take on at Headline?
Almost all of the projects I acquire come to me from literary agents. There are a wide range of agents who specialise in everything from commercial to literary adult fiction, non-fiction and children’s books. A big part of my job is getting to know the agents who represent the sorts of books I like, so that when they have an exciting new project on their hands, they think of sending it to me to consider for the Headline list.
What do you look for in a submission? How do you decide what books to take on? For example, what was it about The Second Love Of My Life that caught your eye?
Reading submissions – just like reading purely for pleasure – is such a subjective experience, and one editor may love a project that another just doesn’t connect with. Personally, I’m always looking for a book with a distinctive, memorable and intriguing premise at its heart, and characters who I really care about. There need to be a number of elements that keep the pages turning: good plotting, engaging characters and a good twist or two to boot. The Second Love of my Life has all these things in spades, and it made me cry several times. That was the clincher!
When you get sent a book how quickly do you know that it’s one you want to bring to Headline?
I can decide quite quickly whether a novel feels right for me. It’s then my job to convince the company of why we should publish it on our list. This means I need to have a very clear sense of not just why I love it, but who the readership for it will be, which other authors those readers are likely to enjoy, and how we will ensure that they discover the book.
I think every author is curious about how the acquisition process woks. Can you tell us what happens when you decide that you want to make an offer on a book?
At Headline we have a weekly acquisitions meeting where editors pitch the books they would like to acquire for the list. There will be a range of people from across the company present – from the MD to the Publishing, Sales, Marketing and Publicity directors – and this is where a book and our plan for publishing it is discussed and honed to ensure that everyone is on board. Then, all being well, an editor will be authorised to make an offer to the agent, and hopefully they will accept it!
If an author wants to be published by Headline do you have any advice for them?
It’s important that you have a clear sense of what you are writing and who it is for (as well as you!). Most importantly, though, persevere and enjoy it! If you are enjoying the writing process, hopefully others will enjoy the reading process just as much.
Headline doesn’t accept unsolicited manuscripts (that is: manuscripts which don’t come from an agent) so it’s also important to research the agents who feel right for your work specifically (having a look in the acknowledgements pages to find the agents for the books you love is a great starting point) and approach them once you have a full draft of your novel ready to send.
After an author has signed with Headline what does the editorial process look like? How do you work with an author to edit their book ready for publication?
The editing process is crucial, and it can take time to get a book ready.
I’ll usually go through at least two rounds of edits with the authors I work with. At the structural editing stage we are focussing primarily on ways of tightening up the story, and this can involve everything from elements of the timeline, to making sure that each character feels fully rounded and believable, to ensuring that the pacing works, and that the plot feels clear and well tied together.
Once this process is complete, the manuscript will go to a copy editor, who tightens up spelling and punctuation, and also looks out for inconsistencies and minor editorial points which may have slipped through at structural-edit stage.
The final manuscript will then go to the typesetter to be set, and those pages will then be checked by a proofreader for any final errors.
The process is time consuming – but worth it!
Thank you so much for joining us today Emily! You can follow Emily on Twitter here: @EmGriffs