Sleuthfest: The Editors’ Panel

The guest editors attending Sleuthfest were Emily Giglierano (Mulholland Books), Juliet Grames (Associate Publisher: Soho Press), Annette Rogers (Poison Pen Press), and Neil Nyren (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Random House). Diane Stuckart moderated the panel.

All four editors said they (generally) only accept submissions through an agent. Annette said Poison Pen is currently closed to submission—except, if you meet her at a conference and let her know that in your subject line she’ll look at what you send.

Emily said Mulholland Books publishes 15-16 books a year and they are looking for female driven mysteries with a twist.
Juliet said crime has no time zone and setting trumps plot. The writer’s voice is important, as well as good writing. They’re looking for something unusual and want a likeable protagonist.
Annette said they’re coming out with a new series called Deadly & Dangerous. It’s more lighthearted and funny. The protagonist is younger.
I don’t think Neil said anything specific. (If so, I missed it.)

When asked about series and dropped series

Emily would want to know why the series was dropped and would look at sales of the published books in the series. She felt it’s harder to build on and sell a series that’s already out there unless it has a big audience.
Neil builds his list on series. On-line sales would be important. For him, characters create the series.

They all agreed it was a case by case situation

How do they feel about Self-Publishing (Indie Publishing)?

Juliet has hybrid authors. She’s found it helps with traditional publishing. However, she won’t take a self-pubbed series or anything published anywhere before.
Neil said if writer is self-pubbed, then the book submitted to him has to have a different kind of strength
Annette feels the author’s backlist is a factor. She’ll consider self-pubbed if they have a strong fan base.


Annette wants a clean manuscript. She does content editing. It’s not unusual for her to send 7 single-spaced pages of comments back to the writer. The writer must be cooperative. If the writer has a constraint of time, Annette wants to know so she can work within that time frame. She won’t do any editing until they have a contract. The copy editor does the fact checking.
Emily loves editing. For her, it’s the most fun. She wants what’s submitted close to finished, but she said there’s usually 2 rounds of editing with a book. She works with a writer not to make the work dumber but to untangle it.
Juliet also loves editing. Contracted writers get priority with her. Sloppy writing is a red flag, so be as clean as possible.
Neil said there are myths and truths about editing. The truth is, editors do edit. Also, editors don’t ask a author to dumb down their work.

Book Covers: Do authors have input?

Emily said an author may or may not have approval. It varies by publisher and author’s power.
Juliet said the same. An author may or may not have input.
Neil said the author gives input, but writer must realize that 60% of book sales occur on-line. The cover has to be something that stands out on an iPhone (where many buy books).
Annette said the author does not have the final say.

Settings: Are any not commercial?

Juliet feels voice is more important than setting. A crime can be solved in any setting.
Neil said, if a book sells, it’s commercial.
Annette feels setting is critical to character. She likes urban books.
Emily likes a twist on a common setting.

Alternative fiction.

Neil: how it’s done is important to him.

Contact: How should a writer contact an editor?

Annette feels it’s okay to check if a submission was received. Send a short email (“Just checking in.”) Don’t send one every week.

All felt it’s okay for a writer to check.

What’s Hot/What’s Not?

Neil said do not write to trend. P.I. novels not selling well right now. Psychological thriller from a woman’s voice are.
Annette: Write your own book, not to a trend
Emily: Passion sells
Juliet sees no changes in what’s hot/not.

What keeps them reading a submission?

Neil said it is characters and plot. A sense that the writer is in control. Extra intensity
Annette said if when she wakes the next morning and the manuscript is still with her she knows it has something special.
Emily: Voice. Some intangible quality. When she wants to tell others about it.
Juliet is put off with too much formula, repetition of what’s already out there. She said, write the book only you can write. She is put off by a bad first page.

All said: voice, voice, voice

What is the time table from contract to shelf?

Neil said they first build a team. No set time frame.
Juliet said 18 months
Annette said 1 year to 18 months
Emily said 2018 spring summer books are already being pitched to the reps.


Questions from the audience

There was a question about Poison Pen’s line, Poison Pencil. Annette said the line failed and is now closed.

Regarding reviews:
Amazon is not open to early reviews
For early reviews, they suggested being a vine reviewer
You can get early reviews on Goodreads

Regarding Setting:
Setting must work. Can’t be a travel log.

What is a sales success?
For a new author, it depends on the publisher’s expectations. (How much did the publisher pay for the book?)
They always want to see sales increase from book to book
It’s important to build a profile

Word Count
The type of book dictates
150K may not be too long if all of those words are important.
Publishers are looking for longer books, but short word counts are also doing well

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10 Responses to Sleuthfest: The Editors’ Panel

  1. Melissa Keir says:

    Sounds like a challenging market to get into!

    • Maris Soule says:

      It always has been, Melissa. As I mentioned a couple weeks back, in my overview, don’t take up writing if you think you’re going to get rich.

  2. Thanks so much for this very enlightening post. Almost like being there for the information.

  3. Valuable info. Thanks, Maris!

  4. Lots of good information here, Maris. Thanks for sharing. I can’t believe two of them said they love editing. #myworstnightmare LOL

  5. Good recap; thanks for sharing. 18 months is a long time to wait between releases.

    • Maris Soule says:

      You’re right, Nancy. I think that’s one of the reasons many writers are going the independent route. They can then control release times.