7x Questions with Susannah Otter
A Publishing Director Tells You How To Make Your Proposal Stand Out
I started this ‘7x questions with…’ series because I want to give people more access to those who have the ability to represent and publish their work. This series is about access to agents who might represent similar genres or writing to yours and access to editors who one day might be the people who are deciding yes or no when it comes to reviewing your book. This series is an opportunity to hear from those in positions of power when it comes to selling and printing books, and to ask them not just what they are looking for, but also, for advice on how you can make your book stand out.
This month we’re talking to Susannah Otter, who I adore and respect greatly. She is full of wit and has a warmth that always draws authors in, but a shrewdness that reassures them they are in the right hands. I’ve been submitting books to her for years and she always offers up invaluable insights, whether or not she decides to take a project forward to acquisitions. She first realised publishing was a possible career when she began working for an author as a research assistant. Susannah then began her career as an editorial assistant at Vintage, a literary division of Penguin Random House, where she worked on the books of Edmund de Waal, Toni Morrison, Stephen Grosz, Simon Amstel and Booker-winning Richard Flanagan, before moving on to Quadrille as an editor where she started her own list of narrative non-fiction.
Today Susannah is a Publishing Director at Bonnier Books where she runs the Blink list which encompasses celebrity, fashion, memoir and trend. She’s published multiple Sunday Times bestsellers, including Hope by the late Tom Parker, Why Being Too Much is Exactly Enough by Canadian comedian Katherine Ryan and Brutally Honest by Mel B. But she also publishes and discovers new voices and told me that she’s always looking for books which speak to how we live now, whether that is about how we make our breakfasts, choose our outfits or where we put our energy. Books, as she described it, which introduce us to a new way of seeing something familiar, and encourage us to think anew. Susannah is on the hunt for stories we haven’t heard yet, be that memoir or as-yet-uncovered history.
We talked about what she’s looking for when she reads a non-fiction proposal, she also gives advice for how an author can make their proposal stand out as well as tips for how to improve and develop their skills as a writer.
Over to Susannah…
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Something to Say with Abigail Bergstrom to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.