Fiction & Drama

Friday Five: Miranda Jewess, senior commissioning editor at Viper


Answering the #FridayFive this week is senior commissioning editor at Serpent’s Tail, Miranda Jewess. Serpent’s Tail recently established a new crime imprint, Viper, which Miranda runs.

Tell us a bit about your job?

I am a senior commissioning editor, and I run Viper, the new crime and thriller imprint of Serpent’s Tail. Heading the list means I have great freedom to acquire books that I love, and to sign up both debuts and previously published authors. I principally buy psychological suspense, historical mysteries, police procedurals and upmarket thrillers.

What are the key ingredients for success?

Find the balance between creativity and structure. It would be lovely to spend every day editing manuscripts, but an equally important part of the job is giving the other departments what they need to design, sell and promote your books. That means making sure your metadata is accurate, that you brief covers on time, that you respect production schedules. Editors may often be the face of a book in-house, but every book is absolutely a team effort.

Describe a normal day?

A lot of emails, and there’s usually at least one meeting: cover designs, new acquisitions, or a team meeting to discuss submissions. Some days I go offline so I can concentrate on an edit, or if I’m going through an author’s outline for a new book. The best days often involve taking an author out to lunch or seeing an agent with a brilliant list.

For those trying to break into the industry, could you explain how you got to where you are today?

I was lucky enough to get a paid graduate traineeship as my first publishing gig back in 2007, but they are now increasingly rare. The SYP were an amazing resource for me, both as a way to meet people and hear about jobs, and also somewhere to commiserate over rejection letters. I think it’s important not to limit your job search to just the book category you think you want to be working on long-term. I started out in military and general history publishing, moved into sci-fi and fantasy, and now do crime and thrillers. Every genre can teach you something new and widen your skillset, and I think I’m a better editor for having done a range.

What are you reading, watching and listening to now?

I’m reading My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (I’m late to the party but loving it). I just finished watching Unbelievable and Succession, which were outstanding, and am currently becoming increasingly disappointed by The Crown, so am watching old episodes of South Park to cheer myself up. Listening mostly to the You’re Dead to Me podcast with @greg_jenner.

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