Ask An Industry Expert: Tara Loder
17 June 2022
Today I’m delighted to welcome Tara Loder, Editorial Director with Boldwood Books
Hello and welcome, Tara. First of all, many congratulations to you and all your colleagues that Boldwood Books was named Publisher of the Year in last year’s RNA annual industry awards.
Thank you, Sue. We are beyond delighted to be the RNA’s Publisher of the Year 2021!!!
It seems only yesterday that I was interviewing Nia 6 months into Boldwood’s existence and now you’ve recently celebrated your 3rd birthday. I guess much has happened in that period, including expanding the editorial team!
Yes, it’s hard to believe what Boldwood has achieved in the last three years. Over 7 million books sold, 60 Global Top Tens, 250k 5* reviews, being named Publisher of the Year 2021 by the RNA (just to get it in there one more time), winning the IPG’s Independent Publisher of the Year – the list goes on.
A lot to celebrate, then. Any particular highlight?
Yes, one of my favourite Boldwood stats is that 90% of our authors have been featured on the global Top 100 bestseller charts. Ninety per cent! To me, that number shows the commitment the team has to each and every Boldwood author!
Can you tell us a little of your own journey into the publishing world?
Ah, the journey. It’s had so many steps, starting with the author visit to my third grade class that showed me authors were regular people. You laugh, but it’s true. My brain connected the dots – if authors were people, and I was a person, then I could work with books (a big realisation for a girl from a small fishing village on the edge of the world).
Despite that early realisation, I was a late entrant to the fiction publishing world. I started out in legal publishing, but then a friend showed me an advert for an editorial assistant job (thanks, Rhian!). Every word I read sang to me. I applied immediately . . . and didn’t even get an interview.
I ended up going back to school, interning off and on for about a year (while holding down an evening job), and one day I was in the right place at the right time and got my first fiction publishing job – which was in romantic fiction!
The best! Can you say more about what’s involved in being an Editorial Director?
Acquiring, editing, managing covers and freelancers, writing copy and sales material, coordinating with the team and supporting authors in any way I can.
What an Editorial Director role involves can vary wildly across publishing houses, but I think the core of it is being an author champion. You are there to champion the author and their books.
I’ve heard it said that an editor should be wary of imposing their own viewpoint on an author’s work. How does an editor steer that fine line between useful, constructive comment and the temptation to steer the story another way?
Good question! To be honest, it’s really hard, and I can only hope I’ve done it right.
I think the key is to have open and honest communication with the author. There are a hundred solutions to every problem, and just because I’ve suggested something, doesn’t mean that has to be the solution. I strongly encourage authors to get in touch at any stage if an edit I’ve suggested isn’t working so we can find another way to address the issue.
What are the main things an editor brings to the process of fine-tuning a manuscript, that the author might have missed?
Sometimes an author will have shied away from the big, emotional moments, other times something doesn’t read as believable or the hook needs to be stronger. Or if an author gets stuck, an editor can be the sounding board as they brainstorm wild ideas until they find the perfect story.
The general idea is that we use all our market and industry knowledge to improve a book, so that readers fall in love, leave fantastic reviews and become fans for life.
I notice Boldwood now has an established list of more than 60 authors, publishing books in a range of genres including crime/mystery, historical, romance, saga, thriller and women’s fiction. In sharing out the editorial roles, do you tend to specialise in the work of particular authors and genres or put your hand to anyone/anything?
We tend to all work across all genres. It’s one of the things I love most about the job!!! I can be editing a gripping crime novel, then a pacy thriller, followed by a gorgeous romance, an epic historical novel or an emotional piece of women’s fiction.
How important is romance as a genre for Boldwood?
How long is a piece of string? It’s hard to quantify how important romance is to Boldwood, but it’s definitely a key part of what we do.
We have a large number of incredible, intelligent and savvy romance authors, and couldn’t be prouder of them or their books.
Boldwood’s author list, although predominantly from UK, includes natives of Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the USA. That got me thinking about how the market for romance might vary in different countries. BISAC lists an astonishing 28 sub-categories of romantic fiction. Which of these are the most represented in Boldwood’s output and are there any that you would avoid?
Maybe romance has so many subcategories because this genre reflects the richness of our lives and experiences, our dreams and hopes.
I’m not sure I can quantify which romance genre we represent the most. What one reader calls a saga, another calls historical fiction. What some would call a romance, others would call women’s fiction or fiction. Where do you draw the line between each sub-category?
We’re open to all areas of fiction.
Do you have a favourite go to genre yourself, that you read for leisure?
I read, read and read. I’ve certainly haunted the romance section many a time, or gone straight to the sci fi and fantasy shelves or the crime corner (that should be a thing!). I’ll also be found in front of the YA display or in general fiction or non-fiction. In other words, I spend a lot of time in book stores, physical and digital. I sometimes go through phases of reading in a particular genre, but I tend to read a bit of everything.
I’m guessing you’re quite busy at present as you’re currently not inviting new submissions. Any idea when this might change and when it does, will you be seeking anything in particular?
We tend to close the portal when we can’t guarantee to get back to authors quickly; no one likes to be left waiting for months to hear back on their manuscript.
When we open the portal it’s all hands on deck and I’m sure we’ll do it again, but I’m not sure when, or if it will be genre specific.
I remember Nia telling me that all Boldwood’s titles are simultaneously produced in print, ebook and audio. I notice you now have something called Yeoken Audiobook Club. Could you tell us more?
Yes. We’ve partnered with Yeo Valley, so that you can collect tokens from their products and then redeem those tokens when you purchase books featured in the club.
All that yummy goodness and a book? Yes, please.
In those distant days when we held our annual RNA conference in person (though I’m delighted to say there will be one this year), we had a session when a panel of experts listened to the opening page of a number of anonymous manuscripts and said whether they’d consider pursuing them. They didn’t always agree! What makes you want to read the rest of the manuscript and take it on?
Having a vision for the book. Do I know who the audience is and how to reach them, can I see a package, did I fall head over heels for the story, a character or a twist? I think that’s why a book is a ‘yes’ for one editor and a ‘no’ for another – we’re different.
What is your typical working day like?
I don’t really have a typical day, which is part of what I love about the job. I get to hop genres and tasks.
The parts that are consistent . . . I have at least two cups of coffee before tackling email, and I read something every day. From there the day can be a combination of editing, meetings, writing copy, sales material, chatting with authors or managing covers.
What’s the best and worst parts of your job?
The best part of my job is the authors and their books. I love brainstorming ideas, solving knotty plot holes and helping a story to develop.
The worst part? Deadlines. They make the world go around, give me the motivation to get things done, I couldn’t live without them, but sometimes I wish they didn’t exist.
Can you tell us the last published book you read which you really enjoyed and why?
Wow. You mean a book I’m not shamelessly self-promoting or working on . . .
I recently re-read T.A. White’s ‘Firebird Chronicles’ series. I just wanted to go back to that world. It’s an adventure, it’s a romance, there’s strong female characters, and equally strong men, and there’s no sign of a pandemic.
Thanks so much for talking with us, Tara, and please go on championing romance there at Boldwood Books.
For more about Boldwood see:
Boldwood – Publishing Reimagined (boldwoodbooks.com)
STOP PRESS! Boldwood has a contender in the RNA’s 2022 Joan Hessayon Award, which celebrates debut authors published after coming through the New Writers’ Scheme. Watch out for the winner, to be announced on 16th July at the RNA’s annual conference
Tara was talking with Susan Leona Fisher (www.SLFisherAuthor.co.uk)