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Thursday, March 3, 2011

9 Questions Editors Ask When Reading Your Submission

Sue Hines, Trade Director from Allen & Unwin is looking for ways to say no. I’ve heard this before from other editors – there are just so many submissions and you can only publish so much. You can only read so much. It makes it easier if they can just pass on a project and move on to the next.

Sue visited NMIT Fairfield today and had much insight and many gems of advice to share, but what I know will be of most interest to my readers is this:

She asks herself nine questions as she reads new submissions. Are you ready?

1. Is this a good example of itself?
Is the way the writer is telling the story, unique? There are no unique stories, but there are original ways of saying old things.
2. How many copies do I think I could sell of this?

3.  How many copies should I print?
The title will not be released for a year so she needs to think ahead to the publishing climate then.

4.  Will this work best as a paperback or hardback?

5. What RRP should this be priced at? $19.99? $35.00?
The price impacts sales.

6. Can I convince Sales & Marketing that this is something we should publish?
Publishing is a team sport, it is not just up to a Commissioning Editor or Publisher to choose the next title. Everyone needs to agree.

7. How is this author likely to manage the publicity world?
Can this author do publicity? She can only guess at this, some quiet little wallflowers when given a microphone turn into stand-up comedians while some highly confident personalities freeze up in front of an audience. Publicity is essential – and the publicity department can help give authors tips if necessary.

8. Is this person the right person to publish on this subject?
Not only are publishers interested in what qualifications you have to tackle your subject matter authoratively, Allen & Unwin, among other publishers have been burned by fraudsters in the past, such as a memoir that was actually fictionalised.

9.  Are there other books like this?
The manuscript could fit as a part of a fad. There are always new fads and as soon as on book becomes popular there will be a slew of titles in the same genre appear. Eg. Da Vinci Code: Religious/cult thrillers. Eat Pray Love: Travelling romances. Twilight: Vampire Romance. Harry Potter: YA Wizards. You get the picture. Good timing can aid your submission make it to publication. But you can't really predict the next big thing. Writers and publishers wish we could though, am I right?

There you have it! Something worth thinking about when you submit your manuscript to publishers.



Sue is the Trade Director at Allen & Unwin, Sue started her publishing career at the independant publishing house McPhee Gribble. She was the managing editor during the period that the company was the powerhouse of Australian literary publishing and she worked with a range of fiction and non-fiction writers. She then moved to Reed Books to start their first paperback imprint and later went on to become the company's non-fiction and illustrated publisher, publishing many well-known authors during that time. In 1996 she moved to Allen & Unwin as the publisher of her own imprint and was appointed as trade publishing director in 2005.


  1. How interesting. I was particularly surprised by the publicity bit (mostly because my own editor has never met me :)) and the RRP question.

    Great post!

  2. Great questions to think about as we plan out our own marketing strategies for our babies uh, books.

  3. Great insights, weren't they? I was surprised by the RRP question right up front as well. Thanks for commenting ladies!


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