Interview with Anna Boatman from Piatkus

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We are so looking forward to welcoming you to Fremantle in 2020, Anna. We’d love our members to get to know a bit about you before conference.

Anna Boatman

I see that you started your career at Mills & Boon, and now work with international romance bestsellers at Piatkus, including Mary Balogh, Julia Quinn and Charlaine Harris. What do you love about romance fiction?

Escapism! The world is a tough place to be at the best of times, and I think we can probably all agree that currently we’re not in the best of times – it’s wonderful to be able to step into another world knowing that the ending will be happy!

Great characterisation (I always think you have to be a psychologist to write successful romance).

Witty, intelligent dialogue.

What women want being the focus of a whole genre!

You are also the publisher for PCR Fiction, which encompasses the Piatkus Fiction and Constable Crime imprints. What’s a normal day in the office for you?

It honestly varies so much from day to day that this is a tricky question to answer! There is less reading during the day than teenage-me believed when planning to become a publisher – and definitely more meetings and spreadsheets, but overall, it’s a very interesting and challenging job. The core of my role as a publisher is to identify the titles across the division that we think would most benefit from extra focus and make sure they get it, while also doing everything possible to make sure we buy the very best books across both crime and romance.

Can you tell us the process of what would happen after you read a submission you like?

If I like it and want to publish it myself, I would take it to Editorial first. Editorial is a lovely meeting, as it’s the wider editorial team, who will all read the book too and help me decide on the best pitch and strategy. After that, I take it to Acquisitions, where we (hopefully) show Sales, Rights, Marketing, Publicity and Digital why we think it’s a great book, and get their thoughts on how to make it work, and how much we think we can pay. This can be trickier to navigate, as it being a good book is of course not always the same thing as it being a clearly sellable book. Some of the most interesting books out there may struggle as it won’t be as clear where they might fit in the market – our job as publishers and editors is to work out not just whether the book is good, but the best way to get everyone excited about selling it from the first moment it’s presented to the publishing team. Once we’re all on board, I will make an offer to the agent (if there is one) or directly to the author if there isn’t. Once the offer is accepted, we then begin to make any editorial changes with the author, working towards a final manuscript ideally about nine months before publication, while beginning to create a plan across all departments for how we get the book out to as many people as possible!

You have a mix of genres in your portfolio. Can you tell us a little about them?

I’m lucky enough to work across a big range of commercial fiction, and have published everything from erotica to science fiction to book club fiction. In one memorable case I have published an erotic science fiction thriller (though it didn’t make it into a book club). For me, one of the greatest strengths of Piatkus and Constable is that as we are lucky enough to have a core of long-running authors with big fanbases, we are able to sometimes take a risk and take on books that don’t immediately fit into the established genres – I tend to love books that are a mix of genres (eg Amanda Bouchet’s wonderful fantasy/romance trilogies) and it’s a real privilege to be able to publish books that are taking risks.

What do you love about writing conferences? Any advice for conference goers?

For me it’s really wonderful to meet both aspiring authors and readers – as I spend a lot of time negotiating with agents and then working with authors who are already published, you can feel sometimes a little disconnected from the readers and from authors at the beginning of the process. I always find it hugely invigorating and interesting to hear their enthusiasm and passion for the books in person.

What books that you’ve worked on that are coming out soon are you excited about?

Love Letters From Montmartre comes out in Australia in November – this is the very first translated fiction I’ve ever bought for Piatkus. It’s about a writer of romantic comedies whose wife dies, leaving him with his young son. After her death, he is struggling to believe in happy endings and is suffering from severe writer’s block, but before she died she made him promise to write her one letter for each year of her life. This beautiful book is the story of how, over thirty-two letters, he begins to believe in love again. It made me cry SO much.

Where Winter Finds You by JR Ward – JR Ward is an institution – I love her Black Dagger Brotherhood series and this is her first ever Christmas vampire!

Christina Lauren’s Twice In a Blue Moon – gorgeous, swoony romance by two of my very favourite authors.

Maria Lewis The Wailing Woman – a feminist fantasy about a banshee and an absolute joy from start to finish.

What do you do in your ‘down time’? Are you going to able to have some down time on your visit to Australia?

I’d definitely love to! I’m planning on a two-week holiday if I can manage it. At home to relax I cook longwinded and impractical dishes for my long-suffering housemates, have an unhealthily developed Netflix habit, go cycling and do yoga. Also I read, but am aware that’s a particularly boring answer!

Do you find much time for reading as a pastime and if so, what’s on your TBR pile right now?

Red, White and Blue – amazing gay romance with a prince!

Holly Black’s Queen of Nothing – can’t WAIT for this as I love the trilogy.

Orchestra of Minorities – fantastic book published by a very talented colleague of mine that made the Booker shortlist this year.

I also tend to listen to audio books for my non-work reading – it’s a nice separation. Recently I LOVED Daisy Jones and the Six, and am currently mid-way through a quirky, mysterious book called The Hoarder.

Any advice to unpublished writers?

  • Keep going! I’d suggest writing because you want to, not in expectation that it’s going to be an easy way to make a living – it’s tough out there.
  • Don’t be afraid to try self-publishing – any way to get your books noticed is good, and the average editor will be intrigued by an author who has successfully self-published, not put off by it.
  • Don’t listen to anyone who tells you there’s only one ‘right’ way to write – the process is different for everyone.
  • Find authors who you admire, work out who their agents are and approach those agents specifically.
  • Read as much as you can in the area you are writing in.

Any advice to published authors?

  • Keep going! It’s tough out there. Do everything you can to keep your focus on your characters and your books, and keep remembering why you enjoy writing in the first place.
  • Chase your publishing team (nicely)– they will be doing the best they can for you, but they likely have a lot of competing books taking up their time and it’s always worth checking in.
  • Do everything you can to connect directly with your readers, online and off. It’s really important, particularly in romance. When you’re starting out, no signing is too small, no request too slight to make something of – you are your own biggest advocate and the more you give to your readers, the more they are likely to respond.
  • Make connections with as many other authors as you can, and be generous with quotes and reading – it will definitely be worthwhile later down the line!

Finally, we are so delighted you’re visiting us in Western Australia. Is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to seeing or doing?

I’m delighted too – thank you so much for the opportunity! I’m hoping to find a beach at some point and do some snorkelling. Also, I hear the seafood is spectacular, so am keenly looking forward to both eating and drinking what sounds like really wonderful wine!


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