Why Publishing is Like Dating

Harriet1By Harriet Bourton

A good friend of mine is having a lot of fun being single and going on lots of dates at the moment. And I’m enjoying living vicariously through her: I haven’t been on a proper date since my husband and I attempted a fancy-pants meal out in London only to get stranded due to train chaos and finish the evening with a colourfully worded ‘discussion’ about the best way home in the middle of the Victoria concourse. Aaaanyway… She’s having fun, but there is a lot of vulnerability involved too. You’re putting yourself out there and you have no idea whether this unknown person is going to like the cut of your jib or not, or how they’ll make you feel about said jib.

With this is mind, I wanted to write a blog post especially for all the unattached authors who haven’t found their perfect match with a publisher yet, and who keep putting themselves out there. It has struck me on more than one occasion that the submission process especially* is weirdly similar to dating. Minus the left swipe, of course.

The Match Make

Receiving a submission is a lot like being set up on a blind date: the agent hopes that they’ve matched the two of you well, but it’s totally unpredictable – everyone is taking a chance on one another. Sometimes it looks like a dead certainty, but it all comes down to…


Is there a better feeling than that spark fizzing away between you and your date? It’s just the same when an editor starts reading a manuscript: that connection has to be there. You can be polished up to full shine, neat and tidy, and the evening can have a perfectly well rounded beginning, middle and end, but unless that chemistry is there between you, you’ll never…

Fall in love

As an editor, I find there is something very instinctive that kicks in when you start reading a novel. It’s not that we judge by first appearances – we look beyond the title, pitch and typeface – but when you find something special, you just know it in your gut. Butterflies, feeling jittery, an inability to stop smiling – you feel it all. Why would any author want to be paired with an editor who doesn’t feel that way about them? They certainly deserve to. Sadly though, at one point or another, we all have to face up to…

Letting someone down

When that connection inexplicably isn’t there, and you can’t see a future for yourself with this novel, the decent thing to do is be honest about it. Breaking up is hard to do, and editors try their best to let agents and authors down gently when that sense of a perfect fit is missing. And in this case, it’s true when we say ‘It’s not you, it’s me.’ Because beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and in another’s view this book could be The One. So until that moment comes, it’s best to…

Move on

Tuck every experience in your back pocket and don’t lose confidence in yourself or your book. Call it fate, good timing, or just darn luck, but in love and publishing, you never know where life might lead you. I hope you all find your lobster.

* Though I’m sure there are lots more publishing/relationship parallels to make: editing process = moving in together, publication = wedding day, etc…

Harriet Bourton is the Editorial Director overseeing women’s fiction at Transworld, where she works with a range of brand and up-and-coming authors. Harriet joined Transworld in 2013 and previously worked at Hodder & Stoughton and Headline. She loves discovering new voices that give her the tingles and pressing books into her friends’ hands.

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One Response to Why Publishing is Like Dating

  1. Oh, Harriet, what a lovely analogy. I guess we’re married then?!
    Cathy x

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