Following on with our 'Day in the Life of. . .' project we caught up with Helen, a Commissioning Editor for Piatkus, to see what she gets up to and what it means to buy books!
My name is Helen Stanton, and I am a Commissioning Editor for Piatkus non-fiction. Primarily, my job is to acquire exciting new titles for the Piatkus list, so a great deal of my time is spent reading and assessing the proposals I receive from literary agents, who are pitching their authors to me. On an average day, I will have several new proposals in my inbox to read – and I need to deal with them quickly, especially as other publishing houses will be reading and assessing them too! The first thing I would do is check the subject matter – Piatkus have clearly defined areas of publishing, and so often it is quite easy to see whether a book’s topic will work well on our list. We are looking for books in the areas of mind, body and spirit, personal development, popular psychology, health, memoir, business and self-help. If the proposal does fit one of these categories, then it is a question of seeing if what is on offer is a new and fresh approach. Plus, we want the author to have good credentials and be promotable. Then, if I am excited about a book, I spend time writing a pitch to present it to my colleagues, including sales figures of similar successful titles, to try and encourage our sales team to be as excited about it as I am so that we can hopefully acquire it for the list!
Whilst assessing new projects, I will also be keeping up-to-date with my existing authors, and working on their titles. Whether it is reading a new version of their manuscript and giving them editorial feedback, chatting to them about marketing and publicity plans for their book, or working with my other colleagues in-house to promote their book as much as possible, a large part of my day will be spent keeping on top of my current books and making sure that the authors are happy.
We are also always trying to anticipate trends in publishing and be aware of what customers are buying and why – so my job also involves looking at the latest bestseller lists and sales charts, so that we can get a better understanding of the changing tastes and preferences of our readers. For example, a number of our mind, body, spirit titles used to be considered rather niche topics, but actually, MBS as an area has a much more mainstream following now, so we work hard to provide new books that will really tap in to the changing market.
I’m in a really lucky position as Commissioning Editor, as you get the chance to choose what books you would like to publish, and work with authors from the very start of the publishing process to help them make their book the very best it can be. You can often influence the list with your own personal taste too – if you can prove to the sales team that there is a market for what you love! I am a huge Michael Buble fan – and so managed to commission a biography of him. He hasn’t written his own book, so it has been a hit with fans and a great seller for us too!
Have you ever thought about getting involved with publishing? Let us know what you think!
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