Confessions of a non-publisher, not enough storytelling

Many manuscripts that come across the desks of Red Hill Publishing editors that don't tell a story. Why this matters for your book.

Confessions of a non-publisher, not enough storytelling

I have a confession to make: I may well hold the title of managing director in the two-person operation that is Red Hill Publishing (soon to be three or four if things keep going as they are), but I am not a ‘publisher’ in the sense that I don’t live and breathe books. I am a businessman and I care greatly for the future of our industry; I work diligently to find solutions to the digital dilemma, declining book acquisition, changes in media consumption habits and so forth.

But what I can say is that I know a well-written book when I read one. For that matter I can see the potential in a good manuscript when I read one too. In simple terms, I read books as a layperson, the average book-buyer (if there is such a thing).

So I am surprised how many manuscripts I read that don’t convey a story. Remembering here that Red Hill is a non-fiction publisher, so we’re not looking at novels. Even so, any book has to progress, to draw its readers in, to lead us somewhere worth going. Saying that a good book is about the story is as preposterous as telling a musician that they need to focus on songwriting, or a filmmaker that they need to focus on their script. Yet I know for a fact that all too often musicians and filmmakers alike fail to focus on the fundamentals of their craft. So too do some authors, it seems.

As a self-confessed non-publisher, I don’t dissect a manuscript from an editorial perspective (I leave that to Red Hill’s bona fide publishing genius, Sally), so I want to read a story, even if the subject matter is based on fact.

The best stories take the reader for the ride of their lives. I’m looking forward to seeing more manuscripts that make me want to buy a ticket on that particular rollercoaster.