How long have you been looking after the crime list at Constable & Robinson?
I’ve been editorial director of the Constable & Robinson crime list for fifteen years now but in fact it’s been going for as long as I have – both of us started out in 1964! So we both have big birthdays coming up and to celebrate fifty years of Constable Crime we’ve already rebranded the crime list as it was high time it got its own dedicated imprint!
Wow, so with all your years of experience, you must have some idea as to what makes a good editor then?
I’ve come to realise that the qualities of a good commissioning editor are probably also those that a good midwife possesses – patience (masses of that) prior to the book’s delivery, calmness under pressure, encouragement when your author feels like giving up and, above all, enthusiasm and joy when the book is finally published.
It takes years to hone these skills – especially the patience. But you have to be intuitive too and truly believe in your author and their work when they come to you; half-heartedness in this business is a fast track to failure.
My job also involves watching out for authors who are creating a buzz in the US and about once year I visit the various US editors and agents I already have links with, to see whether they have anything new and exciting. This year we publish two great new American talents, Paul Doiron and Elizabeth Hand. Liz, primarily as a fantasy/YA writer, has has written two extraordinarily original crime novels, while Doiron follows the tradition of C J Box in setting his crime thrillers in the wilderness of the Maine countryside.
Tell us a bit about how the crime list at C & R has changed over the years…
When I took over the running of the crime list in 1997 we were publishing twenty-two hardbacks a year, primarily for the libraries. There were very few trade sales and certainly no supermarket or non-traditional sales deals. Indeed, there was no paperback publishing arm and paperback rights to Constable’s most notable crime authors – Peter Robinson and R D Wingfield – were sold out of house.
Today’s crime list is a very different beast, we publish about sixty-five titles a year in a variety of formats. We do outstandingly well with series crime and have found our own niche in the marketplace with ‘cosy’ crime, spearheaded by our star author M.C. Beaton, who writes the Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth series.
So now, in 2013, it’s an excellent time to relaunch the list when we’re at our strongest. Having a consolidated crime list at Constable makes perfect sense; putting all our crime fiction under one imprint should end any ambiguity as to where a book sits, regardless of whether we publish in hardback first or as a paperback original.
So what are your plans for the new C&R Crime imprint?
We relaunch as C&R Crime with the publication of ebook-bestseller James Craig’s fourth novel in the Inspector Carlyle series, The Circus, and new talent including Paul Doiron, A D Garrett and highly-regarded US dark thriller writer Elizabeth Hand. British crime also has a strong showing with the latest in the new-look Hamish Macbeth series from M.C. Beaton, Death of Yesterday, and from award-winning author Cath Staincliffe with Blink of an Eye in April.
C&R Crime will incorporate a variety of authors, from US series crime authors, homegrown authors with an established backlist, and also new authors, such as Lynn Shepherd (author of the widely reviewed Tom-All- Alone’s and the recent A Treacherous Likeness) and Danny Miller (author of 2011 CWA John Creasy Award runner-up Kiss Me Quick and forthcoming The Gilded Edge) who we have worked hard to break through into the UK marketplace.
We wanted to launch in style and so we’ve also got a fantastic new dedicated website to the crime list, www.crcrime.co.uk, which we hope to grow into a hub for all the latest crime news. We currently have a competition to win a weekend break to Harrogate for the festival running so do go check out the website and enter!
All sounds very exciting! So what would you say are the hot books to come this year from C&R Crime?
It’s a big year for us! We have Paul Doiron’s follow up to The Poacher’s Son, his critically-acclaimed debut novel, Trespasser is coming in May and the latest in Alison Bruce’s DC Gary Goodhew series The Backs out in July. Excitingly we also have a new Inspector Carlisle from James Craig in August, Then We Die, so that’s summer sorted!
And, of course, we can’t talk about what’s to come without mentioning the inimitable M.C. Beaton. After being named the 3rd most borrowed library author, writing 24 Agatha Raisins and 28 Hamish Macbeth’s, and with over a million copies of her books currently in print she’s showing no signs of stopping. This Autumn will see us publish her next Agatha book, Something Borrowed, Someone Dead, and we can’t wait to share it with her fans.
We also have an exciting new addition to our list in the terrific Brian McGilloway, with a sequel to his number one bestseller Little Girl Lost. Brian’s smash hit featuring the complex DS Lucy Black was originally published as a standalone, but proved so successful a follow-up was called for. We’re thrilled to welcome Brian to C&R and hope everyone is as excited as we are at the arrival of Hurt in November.
So… to conclude: the key to commissioning a successful crime fiction list is variety. The job is certainly never dull and I hope that among this list of rich pickings there must be someone to suit everybody’s tastes!