Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Chatting with Publishers: Victoria Hughes-Williams

Victoria Hughes-Williams is Senior Commissioning Editor, Fiction at Macmillan Publishers Ltd. In the final post of the series this year, she takes us into 2017 with some great insights into her work and a few helpful tips. Welcome, Victoria.

Can you tell us something about your journey to your present job?
My journey has been a well-trodden route, working my way up the editorial ladder across the varied publishing landscape. The reason I’ve always been attracted to the publishing industry is because it’s a melting pot of ideas, great minds and plenty of humour. What I love about the day-to-day is that I’m continually inspired by the people I work with: be they authors, colleagues or agents. Each day we challenge perspectives, come together to talk about books and then we are tasked with finding readers. The finished book is the sum of all of these parts and it’s the reason I’ve continued along the journey to my current role. 

What is a typical day like as a busy editor – if there is such a thing as a typical day?
If I’m lucky I might write some back-cover copy and a few strap lines. Then I’ll spend some time giving thought to a strategic direction we’re taking an author in. If I’ve just acquired a new author, I’ll be negotiating terms which will inform a publishing contract. Then I’ll spend time drafting cover briefs, which might involve trying out title ideas on my colleagues. One thing’s for sure, each day I try to consume more Earl Grey tea than anyone else within in the M25. 

Have you ever wanted to write a book
One day I hope that I will want to, but that moment hasn’t arrived yet.

When not surrounded by books in your job what do you like to read for leisure?
My reading habits vary wildly, but this year I’ve been busy gobbling up everything written by Elena Ferrante. We read our colleagues’ submissions too, so I enjoy everything from memoir to dystopia. The book I’m reading at the moment is pitched as Bridget Jones’ Diary-meets-The Matrix, one to look out for in 2018 . . . 

What are you looking for at present?
One of the books I acquired last Frankfurt Book Fair is a debut called Before You Go. It’s a love story, though not in a traditional sense. Boy meets girl; they share a full and loving life together  . . . But at the beginning of the book our leading man dies. This story asks what happens if you could turn back the clock and change the past  . . . Against all odds, can love triumph? In essence, I’m looking for novels that transcend genre, that take you on an unexpected journey and leave you breathless. Easy! 

If you receive a submission that is not a genre you handle, do you pass it to another editor in your company?
Yes, often. 

Does your company accept un-agented submissions?
We receive all of our submissions via literary agents on the Pan, Macmillan, Picador and Mantle lists. The exception is our science fiction and fantasy imprint, Tor Books, which does accept unsolicited submissions.
You can find lots of information on how to get an agent to represent you at there are plenty of writing tips there too. 
Do you have a crystal ball? What do you feel will be then next ‘big thing’?
It’s something I would like to have – what a handy desk tidy! Without a crystal ball to aid my publishing decisions, I tend to go with my instinct. As I write this, we’re adjusting to life in an ambiguous political climate. We’ve had unreliable narrators and we’ve had enough of unreliable politicians. What we need is the voice of the reliable, of the good, of those who’ve overcome life’s testing challenges. Did they find sanctuary, friendship, perhaps love?

In times of uncertainty, people crave comfort and stability and enjoy returning to a treasured reading habit. Next year, we will start publishing a writer whose stories are like a comfort blanket. That said, she's not one to shy away from controversial issues – choosing instead to tackle them head-on. Danielle Steel has never been afraid to shine a light on the voices of the unheard and we have some amazing stories coming next year.

If you have one piece of advice to give to anyone submitting a manuscript, what would it be?
If you’re confident that your manuscript is the best you can make it and if it meets an agent’s submission guidelines, you’ll have put your best foot forward. 

Thank you, Victoria, and may I take this opportunity of wishing you and all our contributors and readers and very Happy Christmas and a great reading/writing 2017.


Natalie Kleinman writes contemporary and historical romantic novels and has thrown a bit of a mystery into the mix in her current wip. She is accumulating a nice collection of Regency works to help with her research. You can follow her blog at

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