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An editor tells: these are the kinds of authors I want.

It’s not often the writing community gets to hear from a senior editor in one of the major New York publishing houses. We make a lot of guesses and assumptions about what kinds of books they want to publish, and what they think about the book proposals they see. But a week ago, newly-appointed Simon & Schuster senior editor Yahdon Israel took to Instagram Live to let prospective authors know “who I am and what I really do.”

It was wonderful to see the curtain parted. More than that, Israel had some incisive and even startling things to say about the kinds of authors he is looking for.

You can check out the whole recording here, but in this post I give you six of Israel’s standout messages for authors. (Lightly edited for conciseness.)

1. We’re having a business conversation: “The moment we say we want to be published, that is the moment the conversation goes from just an artistic and creative conversation to a business conversation. So the art is a part of it but commerce is another element of it.”

2. I want everything: “If you’re not represented, that’s fine. I’m your direct plug, send it straight to me. Because if the s–t is lit, we gonna get you an agent…. Your job is to make sure you come correct.”

3. You’re responsible for being a partner with your readers: “I’m looking for writers who are looking to bring their books to audiences. So if you are a writer who understands that your responsibility beyond just writing the book is … being a collaborative partner, and bringing your book not just into the world, but getting your book into the hands of the people you know need it.”

4. You are creating more than just a book: “The type of writers I am looking to work with are writers who understand that they are putting out in the world more than just a book. I’m looking to work with writers who understand that their book is a means by which to do the things that they really want to do in the world.”

5. I’m investing in people: I want to see what you see for yourself in 20 years. What’s the type of legacy you want to have for yourself as a writer? Where do you see your books being? Do you see yourself on a syllabus, do you see yourself being taught in prisons, do you see your books being given at women shelters and homeless shelters? Where do you see your books being read, and how do we get those books there?

6. You have an entrepreneurial mindset: I’m looking for people who are also entrepreneurial in mindset. People who recognize that when we ask as writers for people to read our books, we are asking more of people than any other art asks people to do.”

Does this change the way you think about what editors are looking for? Let me know your thoughts: drop me a line, comment on my blog, or connect on social media.


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