“Nothing about publishing is magic; it’s all hard work.”
We are thrilled to welcome acclaimed editor Claire Zion to the blog today. She is a vice-president and the editorial director for New American Library. She has previously worked at Pocket Books, Warner Books and iPublsh.com. She has edited bestselling authors such as Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jayne Anne Krentz, Linda Howard, Philippa Gregory, Susan Wiggs, Jo Beverley, and Karen Rose.
Nevena: Thank you for joining us, Claire. You’ve been in publishing for many years, so I’d love to get your perspective on today’s publishing landscape. How has the industry changed during your tenure?
Claire: The biggest and most exciting change I’ve seen in publishing is happening right now. EBooks and the rise in self-publishing that has gone along with them have really revitalized the industry. I think more people are reading now than ever, and there is more room for new talent and new ideas then there has ever been before. For publishers it is an exciting time because we are expanding all our programs and reaching more and more readers. For writers it’s an exciting time because there are so many more readers out there for them to connect with.
Nevena: I love your optimism! What books have you been working on lately?
Claire: My most recent acquisition was for a new series from self-publishing superstar, the New York Times bestseller, A.L. Jackson. She writes New Adult with a distinct and powerful voice that is already hugely popular with readers. We’re excited to be publishing her on our list now, so we can bring her to an even bigger audience.
I’m also very excited about a novel I have coming out in November 2013 called Dollface by debut author Renee Rosen. It’s a novel that tells the story of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre from the point of view of the girlfriend of one of the mobsters. It’s a fresh novel that captures all the spirit, fun, and drama of Prohibition Era Chicago, which was a pretty exciting time and place.
Nevena: Ooh, it sounds really good! I know what our members would love to ask you: What do you look for in the opening pages of a manuscript?
Claire: Something that catches my interest! Honestly, if the book doesn’t have something interesting to say in the first few pages, I put it down.
Nevena: So is there a type of manuscript you wish magically landed on your doorstep? What are you hunting for at the moment?
Claire: Nothing about publishing is magic; it’s all hard work. If this question is really asking, “What kind of things are you buying right now,” the answer is—whatever is selling! So if a writer is wondering what to write, they should look at the bestseller lists to see what people want to read.
Nevena: What are the most common problems in the manuscript submissions you get?
Claire: Perhaps this will be surprising to hear, but the most common problem is not bad writing. Most of the novels we receive are well written. What’s much more challenging is finding a novel that has a clear market that we know how to reach. When an editor likes a book (meaning, she thinks it’s well written) the first thing she has to do is evaluate the market. She usually starts by thinking about and researching “comp titles.” She asks herself, “This book would be for readers of what other books…?” If the answers to that question point her toward a type of book that we as a publisher are experienced at marketing, we’ll buy it. But not every publisher is good at marketing every kind of book. For instance, we at NAL can sell romance very well, but we’re not so good at selling nonfiction works of political commentary.
Nevena: This makes sense. Any parting words of advice for the Book Country writers?
Claire: I think this is a hugely exciting time in publishing and for books in general. There are so many avenues to explore for successful manuscript development and publication. So it’s a great, exciting time to be writing. But remember, it’s hard work. While the process of writing is based on inspiration and magic and blood and sweat, it’s important to remember that the process of reaching readers is a business. If you go about it that way, in today’s world you have great opportunities for success.
Nevena: Thank you so much for your time and insight, Claire! It was wonderful chatting with you about books and publishing!
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