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So what are fiction editors looking for in 2015?

26 January 2015

So what are fiction editors looking for in 2015? A handful of British editors have contributed to a recent article in the Bookseller, speaking up for home-grown talent, strong debut novels and - perhaps surprisingly - books in translation.

It continues to be hard to get your book taken on by a publisher but ironically first-time authors stand more of a chance. There's no track-record so the editor can predict strong sales if the book has got everyone excited. If the book is published well, with good marketing and high sales, the next one has a good chance too, providing it's another strong novel and preferably a variation on a theme, rather than something completely different.

For second-time novelists who are not staying with their first publisher it's actually quite hard, as the track-record will be the first thing that other publishers look at. A totally new author can be promoted more effectively than a second or third timer. This doesn't make much sense in terms of building an audience, which takes some time unless the first book makes a substantial impact, but that's the tough situation authors can find themselves in.

In each country publishers are looking for strong home-grown talent which they can promote to the local audience and even more to a bigger international one - although that's usually and increasingly the province of the agent.

As for translations, they have made a lot of headway in recent years, but the numbers are still small because of the cost of the translation and what has in the past been seen as a perceived prejudice on the part of readers against books originally published in another language. This has long ago been overcome as regards literary novels, which do truly have an international market and a more sophisticated readership for whom the book coming from somewhere else is part of the appeal. But what's really made a difference to novels in translation is the commercial success of Scandinavian crime writers and in particular Stieg Larsson.