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Comment from the book world in July 2018

July 2018

The editor’s role

30 July 2018

‘Publishing is all about taste. You have other things, but at the centre of everything you do is your taste - and your trust in your taste and your judgement...

It's such a difficult job - you need to have the big picture and the detail. An editor who is just an editor thinks only about the text and creating a marvellous book and handing it over - whereas one who is also a publisher has a 360 degree view on a book and they are the engine that drives a book and they get involved in all aspects, particularly publicity. So you have to have skills in every bit of a book's life and be there for the author as well.

You have to be prepared to watch and listen and read and get involved and learn. You have to be very patient because it takes a long time to learn it all. The tortoises rather than the hares of the world make the best editors.

I sometimes feel that too much is expected of younger people too quickly and that is why you get some of them burn out. Commissioning editors carry a great load. It induces neuroses in the sanest people because you feel the responsibility for whether a book works or doesn't. Yes, there is a collective responsibility with the company, but in the end it's you as the editor who has said: ‘I love this book and I want to publish it, I want us to publish it.'

Alexandra Pringle, editor-in-chief, Bloomsbury Publishing, in Bookbrunch


Advice to Aspiring Writers

16 July 2018

‘You must dedicate yourself to keeping a journal. When I look into my own journals, what fascinates me most about what was going on in my life 30 years ago are the things that we would consider the most mundane. What was I reading, who was I talking to, what were the main subjects of conversation.

Where you're living, what's on your desk, who do you love, even what you had for breakfast, it doesn't matter. The banalities actually begin to shine after many years have passed. You don't have to write in it every day. Once a week would be fine. 500 words a week doesn't sound much, but it really mounts up. That's 25,000 words a year.

The terrible thing about life is that most of it is forgotten. A lot of it is rich. And a lot of that richness can be retained for future use by an occasional excursion into a notebook.

Ian McEwan, author of 22 books including The Child in Time, Amsterdam and Atonement in an interview in Signature Ian McEwan Offers 3 Pieces of Advice to Aspiring Writers

'A lucky book'

9 July 2018

‘A bestseller might be read by hundreds of thousands of people, but Apple Tree Yard on TV reached 8 million people per episode - one of the few occasions when an author can become part of the national conversation.

But writing a good book on its own is not enough - it needs to be a lucky book. Apple Tree Yard was a lucky book, lucky on several levels. Lucky in being published by Faber & Faber, who did the most amazing job even before the glamour of TV. Then it was lucky again as the rights were optioned by Kudos TV and lucky a third time when they sold the adaptation in a brilliant version by Amanda Coe to BBC1. But the lynch pin of that whole process was being published [and] it's the publisher who takes the risks of the cost of publication. Without proper support for the publishing industry they will not be in a position where they can support authors - and of course the lynch pin of that support is copyright.'

Louise Doughty, author of Apple Tree Yard, Black Water and six other novels in a speech at the UK Publishers Association Summer Reception in the Terrace Pavilion in the House of Commons, London.

'Revision is absolutely necessary'

2 July 2018

‘Revision is absolutely necessary. If something is easily too good to alter, thank the gods, but don't expect it to happen again. Expect, rather, that you will need to improve upon the given, to continue the imperfect formation that your initial work has produced. Which is, after all, what making the poem is all about - to take the passion and, without cooling it, to put it into a form. For such work all the usual assets will help: energy, honesty, patience. But nothing is so helpful as an interest in language that amounts almost to a mania. Indeed, it is essential. For emotion does not elicit feeling. Style elicits feeling.'

Mary Oliver, from Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse. This Pulitzer Prize-winning poet has also produced four books of poetry and Devotions, a definitive collection of her work.