Having spent the Easter holiday reading, highlighting and reading some more, in the corner of a publisher’s office I have been the accidental eavesdropper to many a conversation between editors. Their criticisms would be very useful to someone who wants to see their books at the front of shop in Waterstones; so let me impart a few simple tips on how to get on the shelves…

Be Original

J.K. Rowling is queen of magical fiction and Stephanie Meyers rules the vampires. Yet just because these made it big, aspiring authors are surprised that when they submit similar stories they get rejected. Do something different, get a new idea and be creative.

Be on the Ball

I wonder what the average time it takes for someone to get their names in the headlines before the submissions come rolling in. Already publishers are releasing books on Glee, Taylor Lautner and three hundred pages on the issues between Ashley and Cheryl Cole.
So keep your ears to the ground, scour the news and flip through Heat: the next best-selling biography may have your name on the spine. And don’t worry about not having any inside knowledge about your subject; apparently, despite our lecturers’ distaste for it, Wikipedia is a credible source when writing a biography in a matter of weeks!

Be Smart

For a better chance of making it, do the work of the editor for them! Tell them why your idea would sell books, sort your spelling and grammar out before you send it their way, and find out who will actually be making the decision (pretty difficult if it’s a temp like me). If the publisher’s already had issues with the text before you are even an investment then it probably doesn’t bode well…

Befriend an Editor

One of the editor’s wrote her own book and is now editing her own work! Befriend those who approve or turn down submissions and you’ve got a shoe-in.

Ultimately, don’t give up! Harry Potter got turned away by eight different publishers before Bloomsbury took it on. I had the ‘pleasure’ of crushing one author’s dreams the other day and I may well have just made a very bad decision for the company… but by the time they realise this I will be long gone.

Michael de Vletter

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