Last week we heard about Maggie Dana’s potholed path to the publication of her first adult novel Beachcombing; this week Maggie’s editor, Will Atkins, discusses the imprint which finally took her into print: Macmillan New Writing.
You might remember that there was a bit of a fuss when Macmillan New Writing launched back in 2006 [I remember only too well—I was very sceptical, but have been proven thoroughly wrong!—Jane]. We decided that, rather than fend off un-agented authors with a broom-handle, we would accept—in fact encourage—unsolicited submissions of debut fiction via our website; we also decided that our terms would be standard and non-negotiable (and this is what didn’t go down well with some): world rights, no advance, but 20% royalty on net receipts.
Macmillan New Writing is now an integral, and pretty uncontroversial, part of Pan Macmillan, and operates in the same way as the other imprints here, using the same editorial, design, production, publicity, marketing and sales staff. Several of our authors have ‘graduated’ to Pan Mac’s mainstream imprints, with multi-book deals, on conventional terms, with an advance. Macmillan New Writing was founded with the understanding that authors’ careers take time to grow. Fundamental to the way the imprint operates is a close working relationship between author and publisher: our authors are often un-agented; and therefore it’s vital that they have faith in us to a) not fleece them and b) publish them well. Successful publishing is about collaboration and mutual trust, and these things are vital when developing an author’s career over the long-term. We try to involve our authors in every stage of the publication process, and we’re fortunate that our authors are eager to muck in when it comes to promoting their own work (and the imprint itself). They are also a wonderfully garrulous and mutually supportive bunch, despite the breadth of the Macmillan New Writing church; and this sense of shared interest and community is one of the things that makes Macmillan New Writing special. All are in the same boat, all serious writers trying to develop a career, and genre snobbery is peculiarly absent, just as it is (I hope) in our commissioning policy. Good books are good books, after all.
In fact the business model is the least interesting thing about Macmillan New Writing – what is interesting is what we’re publishing: Brian McGilloway, a truly world-class crime writer, cut his teeth at Macmillan New Writing, and we’ve just published the double Orange Prize-nominated debut by Ann Weisgarber, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree. (And look out for Ryan David Jahn’s crime debut, Acts of Violence, in the autumn—a big new arrival).
But the thing we’re really excited about right now is Maggie Dana’s novel Beachcombing. One of the nice things about Macmillan New Writing is that we’re open to submissions from all over the planet, and at any given moment some gleaming gem can ping into my Inbox. Brian pinged his from Derry; Ann pinged hers from Texas; and Maggie pinged Beachcombing from Connecticut.
Next week Will reveals what he’s looking for in the slush-pile and what he looks for in the authors he publishes; and how all this measures up to more than the sum of its parts.