Adult Program Story by Dimity Powell
The panel consisting of Lisa Berryman, Kristina Schulz and Heather Curdie was moderated by Dimity Powell.
By sharing some of the tough day-to-day decisions they have to make, each of these well-known publishers increased our understanding and appreciation of what it takes to get a book across the publishing line. It was enriching to discover that publishers are people with heart who invest themselves in our stories and wellbeing without reserve.
Lisa Berryman views her long-standing role as Children’s Publisher with HarperCollins Publishers as one to ‘recognise potential, polish the nuggets and go on journeys with people’. Some of the hardest publishing decisions she regularly makes involve pulling out of auctions for titles she’d really like but for one reason or another, usually financial, is not able to take on.
Kristina Schulz, the Children’s Publisher of one of Australian’s longest operating and most respected independent publishing houses, University of Queensland Press, still finds it difficult advising authors that whilst their work may be brilliant, it is not the right fit for UQP’s lists.
Heather Curdie, the Commissioning Editor for Penguin Young Readers agrees, stating it is important that burgeoning authors appreciate the role of a publisher and the business of publishing which is a unique and complex enterprise: ‘part manufacturing, part risk assessment, part creative and part business’. The stories they receive must exhibit integrity but unless they have strong saleability, they will not make it across the line. Sometimes it is simply a question of timing, too.
Each of these publishers gave the audience fascinating glimpses of their daily, weekly and monthly workloads, all accomplished without the aid of an assistant.
Lisa stated that it was rare for her not to get a book accepted as by then, she has already made many of the hard decisions and is ready and able to hard sell the book to the rest of the publishing team. Considering this team includes the CEO, the bean counters, sales and marketing and design personnel, this is no mean feat.
We went on to discuss submission no-nos and what some of the deal breakers were for each of them. Kristina proclaimed that whilst they are fine with multiple submissions, it is appreciated and expected that this is made apparent at the submission stage.
As Heather stated, author honesty and transparency goes a long way. One of Lisa’s pet peeves was fairy dust (glitter), NOT to be included in any submission, please!
Each of them had slightly varying views on the importance of having a strong author brand and social media presence. Lisa preferred submissions of new work come without marketing plans, declaring that she is capable of checking an author’s profile and CV herself and if found wanting, is able to offer social medial ‘training’ in house.
Conversely, Heather finds it useful to receive information from the author about the publishing potential of their story and where they think it might fit into the market.
Whilst all three conceded that sadly there is no longer a place for B-List authors owing to the ever-increasing demands on the publishing industry and costs involved, they still place considerable significance on attending conferences and festivals like this one as a positive way to locate and cultivate new talent.
Face-to-face manuscript appraisals allowed publishers, to keep in touch with the real face of the writing community and make genuine connections.
Finally, all agreed that securing an author they can work with and foster an ongoing relationship with is ultimately more important than hanging onto someone purely for the content they offer.
Dimity Powell is the author of “The Fix it Man” and other books. www.dimitypowell.com
Blogging Team 2017