In the course of a seminar I was able to visit the S. Fischer Verlage, one of the top five publishers in Germany. For two hours, the heads of each department explained how their operational procedures work.
It was inspiring to listen to marketing, production, two editors, the press department, the legal department, and controlling. Naturally, things in a large publishing company are run differently compared to how we at Ylva Publishing work.
Whereas we wait for authors to send us their manuscripts, the big publishers nowadays mainly work through agents. Authors send agents their manuscripts; the agents decide if they want to take it on and then contact publishers. From my point of view, that’s an effective method for publishers, since the manuscripts are screened by experts. In addition, they have someone sitting across them with experience in negotiations. After working with international law firms for over 15 years I know that this is something that is well appreciated.
Interestingly enough, in certain circumstances publishers contact authors directly to ask them if they would be interested in writing a manuscript. That goes for the crime and thriller department, which contact successful scriptwriters, as well as for the non-fiction department. The latter picks an interesting subject and then looks for an expert in that field who will be able to write a book the average person understands.
One of the editors responsible for thrillers explained that they publish a lot of foreign writers, mainly from the US, the UK, and Scandinavia. Even though they also publish German thrillers, the German readers love their foreign thrillers. By contrast, so far few German thriller authors are published outside Germany. But this is about to change.
The two hours on Thursday were far too short for my liking. I could have listened much longer and I would have loved to ask about a thousand questions. Still, I took away a lot of helpful suggestions and even reassurance regarding our own work.
And despite the size difference between our two houses, there are things that we both believe in. Let me pick the two most important ones:
– we do our best to produce a quality book with each manuscript we accept, and
– we aim to support our authors and do our best to provide a home for them.
As a bonus all participants were invited to the roof-deck to enjoy the marvelous view of the Frankfurt skyline. I find it absolutely fascinating how different a city looks from above compared to the constricted view one has on the streets.
Naturally, in Germany you always have a place outside which will somehow be converted into an inofficial smoking area. At least at the publisher even the smokers are a creative bunch, as the little snowman proves.