Well, a nice response to "Ask an Editor..." Day all around. Thanks to all who wrote in with questions! We felt generous, so all three of us have given answers to your questions.
"OK, so if you could poach any author from another publisher's roster, who would it be, and what would you use to bait the defection?"Jon answered: Well obviously we wouldn’t do that, as we’re dedicated professionals, but you do sometimes wish you were the people who got to publish Joe Hill first in the UK. Or China Mieville. However, this is more a case of admiring other lists rather than publishing envy. I’m very proud to work with the authors we currently have.
David answered: I could answer in a pie-in-the-sky, Fantasy Publisher’s League way about the authors I’d love to work with, but really they’d just be the authors whose works I really love, so it’d tell you more about my reading habits than my editorial preferences. I guess I'd have liked to discover Marie Philips' Gods Behaving Badly, and Justina Robson's Lila Black series. But we genuinely love our authors, who work hard for us and produce books we’re proud to put our brand on. And all those hookers and coke we send out never seem to have any effect anyway.
Jenni answered: Terry Pratchett still won’t return my calls. Or my hookers.
Jonathan D. Beer asked...
"Given the market trends in sci-fi and fantasy, where do you see the future of steampunk titles heading? More? Less? Scorned in favour of the next sparkly-vampires YA series?Jon answered: Certainly more. I mean look at the success of people like Stephen Hunt. When we first started the Pax Britannia series for Abaddon, steampunk was pretty niche. But now it seems to be gathering more and more momentum.
"Damn, I think I'm going to regret asking a more hilarious question on this day of days. A great idea by the way."
David answered: I was genuinely thrown by this one. I thought Steampunk was awesome when it reared its head in the 'nineties, but would have sworn blind it was going to be a flash in the pan. But it's going from strength to strength, and spinning off other alternate history models like the Renaissance-era "clockpunk" stuff you're seeing coming up. It's not the one-trick pony it first looked like. Definitely more.
Jenni answered: I am slightly worried by the sudden popularity of the sub-genre steampunk romance. It’s really taken hold – wasn’t Steamed (Katie MacAlister) the biggest-selling steampunk novel in the US last year? I hope the genre can stick by its roots. But then as a girl in genre publishing it seems like it’s my duty to regularly express shock/horror/alarm at any and all things romance, in case people think I actually read it or something. [cue one of the clichéd Twilight-related criticisms that you’d heard a hundred times by the end of 2009]
"Will you publish my book?"Jon answered: I’ll give the drop-off address for the suitcase full of unmarked bills and then we’ll talk.
David answered: Nice try, Dan Brown, but the answer is still no.
Jenni answered: Yes, let’s do it. We love agreeing to publish books on the basis of anonymous comments. Nothing could possibly go wrong with that.
Mihai (Dark Wolf) asked...
"What roles play the selling potential and the literary value when publishing a new author? Does one of these aspects weight more when considering a new manuscript?"Jon answered: Obviously you don’t want to publish something that’s going to be too obscure, but we do look for fresh new ideas and takes on genre and we’re not adverse to taking risks. Literary value I think is most important, as if a book is well written that’s going to help sell it. We do look at brand new authors along with established names and we treat every MS with the same level of professionalism, care and attention to detail.
David answered: Gotta strike a balance. Publishing generates very slender profits; we have to pander to the market a bit or we'll go bust. But we're all in this industry because we love books, so we're not just going to churn out crap that we think will sell well; apart from anything else, in the long run that'll give us a bad reputation and lose us sales anyway. We're looking for books that we'll be proud of and will sell well. Fortunately, that coincides a lot more than people seem to think.
Jenni answered: What they said. It’s all about balance, young grasshopper.
"Do most of your submissions come from agents? How many, say, in a month? Are there any agents that you have a particularly strong relationship with, i.e., that you could suggest for someone who wanted to be published with you?Jon answered: For Solaris, yes most. Possibly around 4 a month. There are many excellent genre agents out there and we have good relationships with John Jarrold, John Berlyne, Dorothy Lumley to name but a few.
"Maybe too many questions, huh? ;-)"
David answered: What Jon said. He’s the Man.
Jenni answered: John Jarrold is cool – and really helpful to new writers, I’ve heard.
Harry Markov asked...
"If you could find yourself in an outrageous parody of three popular movies, which three movies would you choose?Jon answered: Good grief. Erm... Some movies just parody themselves don’t they? Maybe some of the more obscure stuff like Turkey Shoot, The Last Dragon and any Danny Dyer film, as he’s always unintentionally hilarious. Bruvver!
"I want a frivolous answer, but offensive works, too."
David answered: I wouldn't appear in an outrageous parody. I'm a class outfit. I tend to think I'll appear in some high-brow Woody Allen pastiche. Ooh! Allen would do an excellent job of parodying the Twilight movies. Introspective neurotic middle-aged New Yorker falls in love with a beautiful young vampire and spends the whole movie debating whether he should kill him or ask to be turned into a vampire as well. I'd play the sarcastic best friend. Or the vampire. Gay vampire romance is classy, isn't it?
Jenni answered: Me and my best friend wrote a couple of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter parodies, back in the day. We thought we were pretty funny. Something like that, full of parody potential, LotR, Star Wars, a superhero movie... I’m not much of an actor but I’d play anyone wearing a cool costume, as long as I got to keep it!
Mihai (Dark Wolf) asked...
"How important is the cover artwork in the editing process? Is more important the originality of the artwork or the pattern that had success before?"Jon answered: We try and make it so the artwork is descriptive of the book. We’re not going to plonk any old image on the front. Obviously it helps if a series maintains a certain look for consistency. But basically we look for the best cover artists and use their talents accordingly.
David answered: Original is cool, striking is better. I want to look at the cover and think, "I bet the book in here is awesome!" Which, once again, is both commercially valuable and artistically principled. There's a lot that in this business, which is good.
Jenni answered: The artwork should look and feel new, but the format (fonts, layout etc) of a series should stay the same in a series so that it’s easy for bookshops and book buyers to recognise the series. Not that we treat you like you’re easily confused, or anything... I love some of the artwork we’ve had recently, Clint Langley’s art for King Rolen’s Kin and Vincent Chong’s art for Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic Science Fiction have been my faves.