Insiders On The Publishing Process

Last weekend, writers from New Brunswick to Scotland to New York flew into town for the Surrey International Writers’ Conference.  A series of great panels included editors and agents Marilyn Biderman, Genevieve Gagne-Hawes, Donald Maass, Thao Le and Steven Salpeter talking about how the traditional publishing process really works.

Some of the questions they discussed were:

i. What is one thing you wished writers knew about traditional publishing?

• Everyone in the industry loves books. People all the way up the chain get frustrated with rejections, the slow pace, the unpredictability.

• Publishing is not a meritocracy. Book success is affected by timing, luck, being at the right place at the right time.

• The publication of your first book won’t necessarily transform your life.

• New York is not a mythic, monolithic, exclusive fortess. Lots of the editors to whom we submit – like lots of successful writers – aren’t anywhere new New York.

• There has been a surge in audio sales for traditional publishers.

ii. What are some stumbling blocks or steps in the publishing process where things go wrong?

• Authors getting their backs up after receiving input from their editors. Bad writer-editor chemistry can lead to a lot of friction.

• When authors miss their contracted deadline, the entire publication schedule can be negatively impacted. It’s best to give your editor early warning if you think you might be late.

• Discuss your communication style with your agents and editors. Are you someone who likes to talk by phone or by email? Do you like to make decisions right away or do you like to sit with issues for awhile before you make up your mind?

• It is dangerous to compare your own career trajectory with the progress of other writers. “I’ve written the same number of books, why isn’t that happening to me?” Careers move in different ways at different paces.

iii. How important is it to have a platform, social media or otherwise?

• None of that matters if the writing isn’t good. The most critical thing you can do for your debut novel is to work on your craft.

• Deft self-promotion – eg: if you’re on NPR or CBC – can help sales. Writing op-eds can be influential.

• The importance of social media is dependent on your genre. In YA, for instance, strong social media can make a difference.

• How engaged are you with the writing community? That can be more impressive to agents and editors than the number of followers you have accumulated.

• Social media can be particularly effective in feeding the connection between authors and their existing fans.

• A key study found that 2/3rds of fiction sales were branded sales, ie: fans buying more books. The next 1/3rdof sales were based on front table display in bookstores, then word of mouth. Twitter and Facebook were responsible for a small percentage of sales.

• The same study found that in romance, author websites are particularly important; in SF/Fantasy/Horror, it’s more about the publishers’ websites.

• Podcasting is becoming more influential.




Header – Patrick Fore

2. Simson Petrol

3. Robin Benzrihem

4. Se7en



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