An interview with Nicholas Pearson

By October 14, 2013 Interview No Comments
[intro]Nicholas Pearson is Publishing Director at 4th Estate, where he has worked for more than fifteen years. The UK editor of Jonathan Franzen, he was this year voted editor of the year at the Bookseller Industry awards, with 4th Estate awarded imprint of the year.[/intro]
Describe your day-to-day job in 140 characters.

Commissioning, editing, publishing a range of fiction and non-fiction. Further responsibilities for the 4th Estate list as a whole, and in particular the editorial department.

How different is the experience of editing an established author from that of editing an unknown or debut author?

Not necessarily different at all. Some of the more established authors are very comfortable with the editing process.

What is your attitude towards the increasing emphasis put on data-informed decision making within publishing houses?

Nervous. Good publishing breaks the rules and creates the data of the future. Following the data can lead to imitative publishing.

You’ve worked for small independents and large corporate publishers. Do you think one publishing culture is more innately creative than another ?

I don’t actually. My colleagues and I have had freedom here to follow our noses. There is a sense that the corporate umbrella can give us cover to take risks. There are often mutterings from above – ‘No small books!’ – but we tend to be able to work around that. As long as some of our books are working, bosses tend to be happy enough.

With the ever greater reliance on the support of external freelancers, do you think traditional publishers are placing enough emphasis on training their employees in the skills that matter most to writers?

This is an interesting one. With the contraction of editorial departments over the last twenty years it is the case that it is harder for young employees to find a berth in publishing houses where they can watch and learn.  We have been good at 4th Estate with training up employees, some of whom over the past decade have gone on to find things elsewhere. But undoubtedly it isn’t as easy as it used to be.

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