"The first thing I look for in a non-fiction submission is confidence," says Robyn Drury, commissioning editor for Ebury Press. "That might manifest itself in different ways, depending on the book: it might be a bold idea, an unconventional style of narrative, or an arresting voice on the page, but it leaves me feeling that I’m in the hands of a writer who really knows what they want to say, and how they want to say it.
"After that initial encounter, if a submission leaves me wanting more I start to think about the proposition, the author and the audience. The proposition is the central argument or story of the book. Is it original? Is it compelling?"
There isn't a blanket choice for a non-fiction author, as genre and subject can vary so widely, "I’m looking for someone with authority – for a history or science book, for example, that might be someone with strong credentials in their field, whereas for memoir or other forms of narrative non-fiction it might be to do with the authenticity of the writer, whether they truly embody the ‘journey’ of the book and its themes. I love it when those two things line up and you feel that the author is the perfect person to tell a particularly original story, offering a perspective no one else could."
Similarly to fiction, the audience is always at the forefront of an editor's mind - who is this book for? "We also think about the audience – questions around who might buy a particular book, and what we could do to reach those readers."
"Non-fiction writers might be interested to know that editors really enjoy receiving proposals that might seem counter intuitive. We read a lot of submissions so it’s always exciting to be surprised, whether it’s an idea that shouldn’t make sense but does, or an ‘I can’t believe that happened!’ life story. Truth really can be stranger than fiction, and I love finding that in a proposal."