7x Questions with Briony Gowlett
What's stopping your book from making it through the acquisitions meeting?
The ‘7x Questions with…’ series is an opportunity for your questions to get answered by leading publishing experts. It’s where you hear directly from those with the power to commission and represent your book.
This month, I spoke to Briony Gowlett. Briony is masterful when it comes to publishing commercial non-fiction. She’s someone I look forward to sending submissions to because I know her response to the material will be different to everyone else’s and her pitch to publish always unique. She’ll sniff something out of the text that others miss or don’t place value on and it’s led to her publishing multiple Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling books.
I always think it’s an interesting fact that Briony chose not to pursue a university education, and so unlike a lot of the industry (English and History degrees), she deconstructs things a little differently. Her career began in the contracts department at Penguin in 2006 before landing a job as PA to Susan Sandon (then MD of Cornerstone at Random House). She moved fully into editorial at Century, Random House (pre PRH merger) where some of her first acquisitions were Sunday Times bestsellers. That’s quite usual for a junior editor.
Briony then joined Hodder & Stoughton in 2013 where she built up a varied list of non-fiction books and authors, including 12 Sunday Times bestsellers and a New York Times bestseller. In 2022 after nearly being poached by another company, she decided to stay at Hachette and launched a highly commercial non-fiction imprint, Radar, with the mission to publish popular culture books for everyone.
In its first full year Radar has already published two Sunday Times Bestsellers and has a very exciting list of authors to watch out for in 2023, including two of Bergstrom Studio’s own. Briony’s authors have spanned the best in digital first talent (Joe Sugg’s Username: Evie was the fastest-selling graphic novel since records began), TV & film stars, musicians (Dolly Parton among them!), cats, dogs, podcasters, smart thinkers, experts in their fields, astrologers, comedians, and florists. She is a leader at scouting out people who aren’t necessarily ‘writers’ first and foremost but who have something to say and something credible to offer the world in the way of books.
In this month’s expert series, Briony tells us exactly what she’s looking for when she receives a proposal and gives her top three pieces of advice for anyone working on one. She lifts the lid on the most common reasons books fail to make it through an acquisitions meeting and shares some of the misconceptions about the publishing industry.
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