Friday, August 31, 2007

24, part two

As editors at Select Editions, we’re caught in the same bind as everyone else when it comes to selecting our 24 books a year. Of course, we read books before they’re published, so sometimes a book’s success can take us by surprise, but on the other hand, a brand name is a brand name, and when a big author’s manuscript arrives, we can be pretty confident that it will make the bestseller lists. But that doesn’t necessarily make it a book for SE. We’re not just looking for bestsellers, because lots of bestsellers aren’t as good as you would like them to be. We have to pick and choose. Not only that, but some writers publish multiple books in a year, and we have only 24 spaces available in our series; we have to be choosy.

In fact, our reading program (and we read as many manuscripts as we can get our hands on) is designed in part to go past the big names. We want to see who the new people are, to find those first-time authors or lesser-known authors who are doing excellent work but haven’t made it big yet. We see that as a service to our readers, but to tell you the truth, we also get a kick out of it ourselves. It’s really fun to pull a random manuscript off the pile and find that it’s the best book you’ve read in months and you can’t wait to recommend it for the series. For an editor selecting books for SE, it doesn’t get much better than that.

So we need to balance our program between the bestsellers that are good, and the titles that should be bestsellers. And, somehow, we’ve got to limit this program to 24 titles a year, 4 at a time, making sure each individual volume contains a nice variety of stories. Of course, you can’t please everyone with every book (and we editors often argue among ourselves), but we try.

Choosing 24 books a year for the program isn’t easy. But sometimes it sure is fun.


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