Helen Huthwaite works as an Editor for Avon, HarperCollins’ commercial fiction imprint. She works across women’s fiction, crime and saga, acquiring debut talents and managing bestselling authors such as Paul Finch, Mhairi McFarlane and Kitty Neale.
Every morning I hop on the tube and travel the short distance to the HarperCollins office in Hammersmith. For those of you who have never visited Harper Towers, it’s quite a place – a breezy glass atrium hides offices filled with tottering piles of books and manuscripts – and it’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of. For me, it’s exactly how a publishing house should be; bookworm heaven.
At Avon, we’re all about commercial publishing. We’re a small, nimble team with our finger firmly on the pulse, and we’re always listening closely to what our readers want. We’re best known for our women’s fiction and I remember how nervous I felt when I published my first acquisition, Mhairi McFarlane’s You Had Me At Hello.
From the moment it landed on my desk, I couldn’t stop raving about it, going so far as to tell my team that this book was so far up my street it was banging on my door! Enthusiasm aside, it was a valuable lesson for me; listen to your gut. You Had Me At Hello was sharp, witty women’s fiction that once made me laugh so hard I snorted milk out of my nose whilst reading/eating a bowl of cereal. The book was a breath of fresh air – and most importantly, readers agreed.
And that’s exactly what we still look for at Avon; books that you can’t put down, books that intrigue and excite, and – crucially – books that we can sum up into a single, perfect elevator pitch. As a commercial imprint, this is so important – we have only a small amount of time to capture our readers’ attention, so we need to be as directional as we can in both pitch and package.
So what’s exciting us at the moment? We’ve recently had huge success with C.L. Taylor’s dark, psychological suspense novel The Accident, and Paul Finch’s bestselling DS Mark Heckenburg series, and crime continues to be big news on our list. We’re looking for books with a unique and intriguing hook, and twists and turns that keep you guessing until the end. So whether it’s women’s fiction with a dark heart, a killer thriller, or a police procedural, we’re keen to see what’s out there.
Strong, emotional saga is another big draw for us. It’s an incredibly interesting genre, running across a wealth of eras, and I find it often yields some of the most richly satisfying novels on the market. And then of course, where would we be without our women’s fiction? Personally, I like my chick lit funny and rude – something that will make me honk with laughter and bawl my eyes out in equal measure. But I’m always casting my net wider than that; it sounds obvious, but with so much women’s fiction on the market, the key is to find something that stands out. I’m always looking for a book that doesn’t do what you expect – it’s no use reading something and thinking I’ve seen it all before when I could be reading a book that makes me think well I never saw that one coming… So go on, surprise me!
You can find out more information about Avon @AvonBooksUK and @CrimeFix, and you can follow Helen @HelentheHuth.