'Reject authors constructively or face alienating them'

'Reject authors constructively or face alienating them'

The founder of 'author-centric' independent publisher September Publishing has said publishers should find time to “constructively” reject authors or they will “abandon the industry” and become self-published.

Speaking on a panel entitled ‘Writing the future: author-centric publishing’ at today’s FutureBook conference (4th December), Hannah MacDonald said the industry should give editors more time to provide feedback to authors. 

“It is very difficult for agents and editors to now find time to reject constructively and if we can’t communicate with the authors of the future then they will abandon the industry and become self-publishing authors,” she said.

MacDonald said writers were her “main responsibility” and that ‘author-centric’ publishing places a “ruthless focus on the journey from writing author to engaged reader.” She urged that this was a model which could “force us to reconsider priorities, workflows and infrastructures” in the industry.

MacDonald also encouraged publishers not to present the industry as a “closed fortress”.

“We need to appeal to the next generation of writers,” she said, adding and that indie publishers are currently "helping to spread the diversity of voices enormously."

On the same panel, president and publisher of Simon & Schuster's Atria Books, Judith Curr, discussed the differences between traditional, indie and digital authors and readers. She said with indie publishing, the “community gathers around the book.”

“They like the characters of the book as much as they do the author," she said. "It’s the idea of the ‘book boyfriend’. The readers get as emotionally engaged with the characters as they do with the overall plot and that’s a point of distinction between them and what I would call the traditional reader.”

Curr added: “The publisher’s role is to establish environments for authors to be creative, to encourage experimentation and to understand the shifting needs and nature of the readers.”