Editor-Consultant Juliet Ulman on Publishing, Editing, and SF/Fantasy Literature


Unless you've been on vacation without access to the Internet for the last year, you know that traditional New York-based commercial publishers have faced some daunting challenges due to a changing landscape and outdated business models. Unfortunately, the casualties of this situation have included several uniquely gifted editors. One such editor was Bantam Spectra's Juliet Ulman, who now runs Paper Tyger, a consulting firm.

Over a period of a decade at Bantam, Ulman carved out a reputation as an editor who took chances and published high-quality science fiction and fantasy, usually in trade paperback. In addition to providing a safe home for my own books in the North American market, Ulman published M.J. Harrison's award-winning Light, Crawford Award-winner K.J. Bishop's The Etched City, two well-received novels by Christopher Barzak, phenom Catherynne M. Valente's Orphan's Tales duology, the first work by the talented Felix Gilman, Tim Pratt's urban fantasy, and much more. Attention to detail, precision, a fierce passion for the fiction she edited, and thinking outside of the box were just some of Ulman's attributes while working for Bantam Spectra. Gilman remembers in particular her "ingenuity, acuity, tact and good humour."

"She never let me get away with being lazy or taking the easy way out," says Pratt, whose Blood Engines recently went into a fifth printing. "I'd always heard that editors these days don't really edit, that they just acquire, but Juliet put the lie to that cliche. She showed me how to be a better writer, and I did my best to write books that wouldn't just satisfy her, but actually impress her."

According to Bishop, "Ulman strengthened my own internal editor and made me better able to see a work from a reader's point of view. I also appreciated her involvement with the cover and marketing. I think she has a lot of knowledge about how to target a book towards the right readers."

Given the situation in publishing today, Ulman's role in championing innovative fiction, and her new role as a consultant and freelance editor, it seemed appropriate to ask her about her stint at Bantam and her thoughts about the future of the industry...

    Bishop    Light    Palimp    Barzak

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Comments (6)

If you were to survey two hundred editors, you would come up with two hundred different quotes for manuscript editing.

Posted by: Writing Professional | Thursday December 2, 2010 at 10:31 PM

One industry's gain is another industry's loss.
She is going to impart a lot of good wherever she is and whatever she does.

Posted by: armil at editing and proofreading | Monday November 15, 2010 at 2:29 AM

Interesting interview and even though I only know Juliet by proxy through M John Harrison, I recognize the points she makes. Publishers may feel safer with more traditional fiction but readers may pester for more spark. At least some European editors such as Neil Marr, continue to be bold.

Posted by: Geoff Nelder | Thursday June 11, 2009 at 11:24 PM

Lovely interview, Tim. Thank you!

Juliet bought my first three novels and I could not, in my wildest dreams, have hand-picked a better, more insightful editor. She was always a delight to work with, even when she had to be tough and nudge my books deeper into themselves, and she made me a stronger, more confident writer who loves being edited. I cannot thank her enough for all of the drive and passion she brought to the process. I tell everyone how amazing she is, and how blessed I was to work with her. Thank you, Juliet, for everything.

Posted by: Tamara Siler Jones | Thursday June 11, 2009 at 2:05 PM

Great interview--and I can second Tim. By the time my debut novel was acquired, I'd had my expectations thoroughly calibrated by veteran writers, who warned me that editors no longer edit. But Juliet is an editing MACHINE--she called BS on me where I needed it, and made my books WAY better than they would have been otherwise. Can't thank her enough--a total pro, and her current status says volumes about the crisis the publishing industry is in.

Posted by: David J. Williams | Thursday June 11, 2009 at 10:54 AM

great interview

Posted by: sir jorge | Thursday June 11, 2009 at 9:25 AM

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