On being an Editorial Consultant: Cressida Downing interview

Editorial Consultant

Cressida Downing has worked in bookselling and publishing for over twenty years.  She started at Waterstones in Hampstead and then moved into publishing working at Penguin Books and then Piatkus Books. Norah Myers interviews Cressida about her role and the advice she gives authors.

1. Please introduce yourself and give us an overview of your job.

Hi, my name is Cressida Downing and I’m an editorial consultant. I work with agents, publishers, published authors, self-published authors and authors just starting out.  Each day is different but I am always focused on doing the best for a piece of writing, at whatever level.

2. How would working with a self-published author differ from working with an author who intends to traditionally publish?

Often when an author comes to me, they aren’t sure what the best route is for them at that stage. I will always give an honest opinion on what their chances are for a traditional publishing deal, and what the chances would be with a reworked book.

Some authors don’t want to go down the traditional route and that’s fine – but a lot of the same issues will arise with writing, about quality and considering your reader.

A self-publishing author may not have thought about the elements of publishing that they will have to take on to get their book out there.  I always stress that there’s no rush, it’s worth taking your time to make sure your book is as strong as possible before you send it to readers.

3. How do you help an established blogger develop a book that is not a compilation of their posts but a new book that complements their blog and online brand?

I talk to them about what sort of book they want to write.  Often the blog is just a jumping off point for a different aspect of their writing – a novel based on their life, or a practical book about issues they have faced.

4. How do you advise self-published writers to use social media?

Extensively!  Every author – whether self-published, traditionally published or just starting out – should have a twitter account.  They can then follow helpful authors and agents and get a sense of the online community.

A website is also a must, somewhere for readers to find you.  A blog that you update as you write the book can also build an audience. It’s not my area of expertise however, so I point people at other online resources that can give them more up-to-date and specific information.

5. How do you maintain commercial awareness and an idea of what the public wants, and how does that come into play when you choose new projects and clients?

I read extensively.  I visit bookshops, I read book reviews and I follow a lot of people on twitter.  There are trends but fantastically well-written books will always find an audience, regardless of whether the current vogue is for vampires or erotica, or erotic vampires!

I take on most projects and clients that I feel I can help.  I only turn down projects if I don’t feel I’m the right person (and I can normally find them the right person) or if they are not in a place to receive advice at this time.


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