Today, we are delighted to have Gillian Green, Ebury’s Commercial Fiction Editorial Director joining us. Gillian has been very busy developing Ebury’s Fiction lists so we’re very honoured that she has managed to pop by for a Tuesday Chit Chat. (Now, where did our best biscuits get to?)
Q: What attracted you to a life in publishing?
Unsurprisingly I’ve always loved books but as a working class girl from Devon I don’t think it ever occurred to me before I started my first degree that a) someone edited all the books I devoured and b) that someone could be me…. I also did a creative writing course in my final year in which we had to edit each others’ work which also got me started thinking about it as a career.
Q: Do you manage to keep your job ‘9-5’ and if not what aspects do you take home with you?
Most fiction editors read outside of office hours and at weekends. I actually relish my commute as reading time. If I lived closer to the office I’d get a lot less done!
Q: What’s the most rewarding/challenging aspect of being an editor?
I love working with authors and seeing a book you’ve worked on hit the shelves and get the readership it deserves. The most challenging aspect is probably getting the right package for a book – jacket, blurb etc – so you can give a book its best shot in an ever competitive market.
Q: Do you have any guilty reading pleasures?
I love the True Blood series by Charlaine Harris – I’m not sure I feel guilty about that though. And I have always loved the late Maeve Binchy books – they’re my go-to comfort read. I was very sad to learn of her passing.
Having worked on Nora Roberts’ books for so long at Piatkus, I’ve also been known to dip back into my mum’s collection when I’m visiting. She also has a lot of the romances I published at Piatkus and I will happily re-read Julia Quinn or Susan Elizabeth Phillips. (My Mum would say the most rewarding thing about having a daughter who is an editor is that she never has to buy books!)
Q: Away from work, what do you do to wind down?
I read! Or I catch up with friends. I like old movies and musicals. I’m trying to get fit – not so much the gym but I do classes and I love Zumba.
Q: Have you ever wanted to be on the other side of the table and write a novel?
Well, way back when I did my creative writing course, perhaps but now I’m very happy being the midwife rather than the one in labour, having a baby once a year so to speak!
Q: How important is the synopsis?
It is a punishment that we editors like to inflict on authors! (Cue evil laugh!) I know authors hate them – in fact I’ve only ever had one author in my entire publishing career who loved writing them. However, for new partial submissions we do need an idea that you know where your story is going and that it’s a good one. Also, that your sweeping historical romance doesn’t suddenly have aliens arrive etc…
With commissioned writers we need to know what future books are about so we can plan and brief jackets and write advance information sheets. I think authors panic because they think I’m going to hold them to every word.
Q: What makes a good book title?
For commercial fiction they have to be short and snappy. I like intriguing titles that tell me something about the hook of a book. I’d also say though that new writers shouldn’t get too hung up on titles as we publishers often suggest changes. (Did I mention we’re evil?)
Q: What are the most common mistakes you see in manuscripts?
Info-dumping – whether it’s authors dumping all the research they’ve done into scenes or delivering too much back story in one hit. Starting a story in the wrong place happens quite a lot. A lot of the women’s fiction I read on submission rushes the ending when I think readers, having spent a whole book getting there, like to bathe in the happy ending a little more. As my authors will attest, I’m a big fan of epilogues in women’s fiction too. On a more practical note: spell check – you’d be surprised how many people don’t even do the basics.
Q: What are the deciding factors that take a novel from e-pub only to paperback?
With Ebury Press and Black Lace I’m commissioning titles that will go to print and simultaneous epub. Rouge, our digital first romance list, we are now publishing two titles a month in print as well as two titles a month digitally. We’re cherry-picking titles at the moment as we have a wealth of romance titles on the list. What informs my ‘cherry-picking’ – well, all the Rouge titles are great romances and all of them would work as print titles. However, I can only do two a month so it usually comes down to what genre/theme/title I think will work the best – and personal taste.
Q: Have you ever had ‘one that got away’?
Every publisher has – whether it’s books you miss out on at auction stage or can’t get enough support for in house. Or books you love that just don’t fit your list. Or sometimes you do miss something. Some go on to be huge successes and you have a mutter to yourself – or at colleagues – and move on. Or sometimes a book goes for a huge sum of money and then sinks without a trace. And then you give an evil laugh and move on…
A big thank you to Gillian for taking the time to come and chat to us.