Publishing Books: Myths, Markets and Manuscripts

A practical insight into the work of editors and the real-life conditions of publishing

2 - 5 July 2018, 10:00 - 18:00

SE room 5, Department of English

2st, 3 ECTS

max. number of participants: 25

This workshop can be credited as: 

- BA: Alternative Erweiterungen
- BEd: M10 Wahlbereich/Electives
- MA Anglophone Literatures and Cultures: M07 Transdisciplinary Module
- MA English Language and Linguistics: M03 Electives
- Diplomfach UF Englisch: freies Wahlfach (2st)  

Content and assessment

Books can be so many things: good, bad, ground-breaking, controversial, canonical, of the moment, literary, commercial, inspiring, funny – but to be any of these things they first and foremost need to be – published. A book has a two-fold nature: it is both creative content and a product to be sold. Publishing provides the link between the artistic work of the author and the reading public. This workshop will explain and illustrate the real-life conditions and parameters of publishing, describing the productive arc of books and offering an insight into the creation, production and intended reception of fiction and non-fiction books, We will examine the key aspects of what publishing is about and what publishers do to transform an author's vision into a marketable product for readers to buy. The workshop will present an overview of the current situation in the German-language book market and the literary globalization that governs international bestsellers. We will concentrate on publishing in the German-language territory, i.e. Germany, Austria and Switzerland, comparing its original and translated titles with the international publishing situation, placing particular emphasis on the markets in the United Kingdom and the United States. The overall aim of the workshop is to provide authentic and direct insights into the work practices of the non-academic literary world and to enable students to do practical work on ongoing real-life publishing projects.
We will be looking at how we find new authors, at the acquisition process, at publishers' profiles and programmes, at marketing, publicity and distribution, at booksellers, internet platforms and customer reviews. The practical focus will be on what editors do in publishing, in particular their relationship with authors and their editorial involvement: evaluating exposés, textual and editorial work, finding a title, writing blurbs, slogans and sales pitches, presenting the author, interacting with readers.

The instructor:

Dr. Cordelia Borchardt is editor-in-chief for General Fiction at S. Fischer Verlag in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Having studied in Munich, London and Oxford, she is holding a PhD in English Literature and has taught at Frankfurt, Marburg and Heidelberg Universities as well as Stanford. Concentrating on upmarket commercial fiction, she has worked with a wide range of German and international authors like Graeme Simsion, Rohinton Mistry, Roddy Doyle and Jörg Maurer.

Background reading:

An interesting case study is Clayton Childress, Under the Cover: The Creation, Production, and Reception of a Novel (Princeton Studies in Cultural Sociology 2017). Using a US example, the book describes many facets of publishing in general. A good way to prepare for the workshop is to look at current issues of The Bookseller, Publishers Weekly or Buchreport. Following the current bestseller lists is also instructive.

Ziele, Inhalte und Methode:

The aim of the workshop is to give you authentic and direct insights into the work practices of publishing, particularly into editorial tasks and the pressures of economic viability. You will learn how to develop pitches, write blurbs and formulate slogans, sales points and book titles using ongoing real-life publishing projects in English and German. You will gain a hands-on understanding of publishing processes and the current situation of the book business.

Art der Leistungskontrolle/erlaubte Hilfsmittel:

Regular attendance; regular preparation of assigned reading material; active participation in class; active in peer-feedback; writing blurbs and slogans; writing a reader's report.

Mindestanforderungen und Beurteilungsmaßstab:

Attendance: 5%
Active participation: 30%
Specialist task: 25%
Reader's report: 40%

Students must attain at least 60% to pass.


There will be no written exam.

Preparation for the workshop (March to June)

-    Once students have signed up for the workshop they will receive a full manuscript of a novel currently under submission with publishers. They have to write a reader's report on this manuscript, using a template provided by the instructor. The report is due on June 30th, 2018.
-    They should prepare to present the results of their reader's report in a five-minute pitch for the workshop.
-    Students should read one book that is in the top 20 of the German/Austrian bestseller lists (hardcover or paperback) between March and June 2018.


Registration runs from 6 to 26 April 2018.

To register, please send an e-mail to Ms. Zillinger including the following information:

1) name

2) matriculation number

3) course of studies

4) Please indicate if the manuscript you are to receive has to be in English or can be in German as well.

5) In order to receive a manuscript you have to print, fill in and sign this Non-Disclosure Agreement. Please scan your signed NDA and attach it to your registration e-mail.