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An Exclusive Interview With Marjorie Braman, Vice President and Executive Editor HarperCollins Publishers

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Welcome to Book Editors: Close Up at http://www.authorlink.com . This regular Authorlink column provides an intimate look at important book editors in New York and elsewhere. Interviews focus on editors as real people. The columns explore their likes, dislikes, preferences, prejudices, writing preferences, and why they buy the books they do.

An Exclusive Interview with Marjorie Braman
Vice President and Executive Editor at HarperCollins Publishers

July 2005

 

Marjorie Braman is vice president and executive editor of HarperCollins Publishers. She has just celebrated her 20th year in publishing and her eighth year at HarperCollins. Note that this editor accepts queries ONLY from literary agents. No direct submissions from authors, please! Among the many authors she has edited is Katherine Mosby, whose latest work is titled, TWILIGHT. Read our Authorlink interview with Katherine.

 

"My list is now much more general than it ever has been. . ." —Braman

 

AUTHORLINK: What are your main acquisition interests at this time?

BRAMAN: My list is now much more general that it ever has been; I have memoirs, narrative non-fiction, literary and commercial fiction, all on my list.

AUTHORLINK:  Who are the three authors you are particularly proud to be editing?  

BRAMAN: I would never single out any of my authors and not mention others, as I'm terribly proud of every author on my list.  If my feet were put to the fire, I would mention that I am proud to edit, and to call friend, Mr. Elmore Leonard, who really is a legend and one of the nicest authors you'd ever want to meet. 

AUTHORLINK: What was it about Katherine Mosby's work that first caught your attention?

BRAMAN: Katherine's work is satisfying on all of the three levels that I think novels need to work on—story, characters and writing.  In most cases, I'd settle for two out of three but with Katherine, I don't need to settle at all!  

AUTHORLINK: What are the two or three most important elements you want to see in a winning submission, with respect to the craft of writing? 

BRAMAN: The craft of writing.  Ok, OK, not to be clever, good writing, coupled with a clear sense of the craft of story, which means structure.

 

". . .agents sometimes take on work they don't love, but they think fits some kind of 'commercial' list." Braman

 

AUTHORLINK: What are the two or three most frequent mistakes you see writers and/or agents make in their submissions to you? 

BRAMAN: First of all, I only accept submissions from agents.  There are just too many submissions to look at, and still do the work of editing my authors, if I accepted unagented submissions.  The frequent mistake I see is that agents sometimes take on work they don't love, but they think fits some kind of "commercial" list.  

AUTHORLINK: Describe your publishing history, former positions, etc., in a short paragraph.

BRAMAN: 20 years in a short paragraph.  OK, I began as a receptionist with Ballantine Books, because they said I didn't type fast enough to be considered for an editorial assistant position.  And I believed them. But that didn't last long and within six weeks, I became an editorial assistant to an editor there.  Then it was move, move, move, until I found a stable company and a position I love (with HarperCollins).  So from Ballantine I went to Random House (Little Random, as it's known), Atlantic Monthly,  Bantam, Avon, Dell and then, finally, here.

AUTHORLINK: What do you most love about the publishing business?  

BRAMAN: All the people I work with, from the authors, the agents, right on through to my colleagues.  Since everyone is someone I'd like to be friends with regardless of work. 

 

"Really, all it takes is talent." — Braman

 

AUTHORLINK: Any advice or encouragement for new writers trying to break into publishing? 

BRAMAN: Really, all it takes is talent. Yes, publishers sometimes publish bad books, or books that others consider bad.  But truly talented writers will always find a way in. 

 

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