How I can help with your book idea
My background is in book publishing. I was a commissioning editor at Palgrave Macmillan, primarily working on nursing, healthcare and social work textbooks for undergraduate students. Unsurprisingly, I absolutely loved the ‘editing’ side of the job. Whilst the commissioning side, such as research, list building, campus visits and conferences were fun, for me it was really about the opportunities to work with intelligent, driven authors and editing their text to make it the best it could be.
Let me the explain that I was not a copyeditor or proofreader. My favourite kind of editing when it comes to books is more of a ‘development edit’. It’s about taking a broader overview of a book. This can include simply looking at the contents list of a proposed text and considering the order of chapters and if that can be improved, through to more micro details, like evaluating the consistent use of features, headings, and even the appropriateness of style or depth of content.
I admit I also loved working with the jacket designer, coming up with something modern and different, and also writing back cover copy (the blurb!)…I think it’s where my passion for copywriting has come from. Trying to condense a whole book in to 2-3 paragraphs on the back cover of a book, that a potential reader/bookseller/lecturer will scan across in 10 seconds, was always a challenge!
Why am I reminiscing about all this? Well, partly because I loved my job and I am happy to talk about it any time (!)…but, far more importantly, because I want to help you if you have worked on a book or if you have a book idea you would like to explore.
Since setting up in January, I have helped a couple of incredible authors with their books; taking a read of sample chapters and looking at contents lists to make recommendations, primarily in terms of accessibility, depth of content and consistency.
It can be really hard when writing about a topic that you are familiar with to communicate clearly to a novice reader. This was another reason I loved working on undergraduate textbooks. Most students would be completely new to the specific subject (you don’t exactly get a nursing GCSE or A-level!) and often there were mature students on the courses too, returning to study after a long break, so the books had to be geared to all levels and a range of demographics.
It can be really difficult when you are familiar with a topic, or even a story, to share it in a clear way, accessible to a broad readership. You forget the background details or pieces of information which are soooo obvious to you that you would never think of writing them down. However, for the reader they are what would hang the narrative together better or help them understand much easier the content you are trying to share. This is where I love to help. I am that “novice reader”, that completely new, fresh pair of eyes. I can help to make suggestions, recommend additions and offer framework or structural advice, if necessary…I promise I’ll also correct the odd typo or bad grammar if I notice it too!
Unfortunately, there are never any guarantees when it comes to getting published. I have started to research into fiction, non-fiction and trade publishing, an area which is new to me having worked in academic publishing. I have to admit, there seems to be many different routes, ways and means just to get your writing in front of an editor’s eyes!
At Palgrave Macmillan, there was a proposal form, which you could download from the website and fill out. Then, you simply emailed it to the relevant subject editor! Of course, it didn’t mean an acceptance of the book idea but at least you had an avenue in to the publishing house and an editor who could give you some advice or feedback.
With trade, and particularly fiction writing, it seems there are so many paths to choose…self-publishing, agents, direct approaches, networking event, companies that take your manuscript and send it out for you…eeek!
I am no expert, but what I am trying to do is grow my knowledge so that I can offer advice. I also like to think I have a wonderful collection of friends and ex-colleagues who have a vast array of publishing experience who I can call on should you need me to.