Confessions of Amanda Rutter – Editor at Strange Chemistry

May 2, 2013 Interview 7


Do you LOVE Young Adult fiction? Well then you definitely want to check out Strange Chemistry! They are the young adult imprint of Angry Robot.  Angry Robot happens to be my favorite fantasy publisher at the moment.  This is because there has yet to be even one book that I have picked up from this publisher that I haven’t enjoyed and they are all about finding new author talent.  Today the super fantastic, Jane of All Trades, powerhouse behind Strange Chemistry – Amanda Rutter, the Editor at Strange Chemistry joins us today and answers some of my burning questions about the industry!


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How did you get into your field? What sort of educational background do you have (or did they want) when you applied to the industry?

I had a rather unusual route into publishing, actually! Just over a year ago I was still working in my chosen profession, as a qualified accountant. I studied accounting at university and completed my professional exams in the field. Outside of work I started a book review blog and ended up being asked to do both beta reading and slush pile reading, and this eventually led me to my current role as the editor of Strange Chemistry.

Why did you choose to go into the young adult market?

I’ve always had a huge passion for young adult fiction. For me, it’s so fresh and exciting and not afraid to push boundaries. I have heard conversations about adult SF/F which complains that there are not enough female authors, or involving gay or POC characters – and I am always thankful for my position with the YA market, since we get this *so* right. We’re always trying different things, and exploring different genres.

I believe I saw that your title was lead Editor…so are you really the one that does the book editing for these titles?  If not – Do you read all of the titles that you do publicity for?

I do all the structural editing, yes! This is where you take an overall look at the novel and point out areas where the plot may lack some drive, or where you think there is an unnecessary character or something like that. After I have done the structural edit and the author has made the changes requested (or not – they might not agree with the suggestions I’ve made!), the novel will then be copy edited. This is a close line edit, checking for grammar, punctuation and dealing with continuity issues.

Tell us about your job! Other than the contact I’ve had with publicists I have to say I’m rather ignorant of everything else you do.

Okay, well, at Strange Chemistry I am in a rather unusual position, in that I do…well, everything! I’m involved in every step of the process to bringing a book to market, right from reading the submissions that come in from agents and deciding whether to bring them to acquisition all the way to checking over the final proofs and working on how to market the novel. I can safely say that when you work in publishing you will never get bored, and no two days are the same.

Now for those Cover Junkies among us!!

I’m particularly interested in Cover art – because well I’m a whackadoo nut for covers.  Often I’ll buy a book based on just the cover alone – same goes for if the cover completely lacks any appeal I’ll drop the book like a hot potato.

So can you describe the Book Cover selection process for us?

The cover selection process is one of the very hardest, yet most rewarding, parts of the job. It begins as you read the book and get a sense of theme, key scenes, feel of the novel. You start to think about whether you want to represent one of the characters on the novel, or whether a more graphical presentation will fit. Once these ideas have been cemented, you will draw up a cover brief – this includes all the details that you want an artist to think about. This will include whether the image is just for the front cover or whether it will wrap around. It might include sample pictures – say, if you’ve seen a character pose that suits exactly what you require. Finally, you decide which artist will be able to present the work best (this might be an in-house person, if you have an art department, or it might be a freelance professional artist) and approach them to see if they can fit in the work.

A lot of us readers sometimes notice that the covers on two different books will use the same stock photo. Where do you get the cover art? Is there a pool that all the publishers favor and have access to?

Stock photos come from places like or We’ve actually had a situation like this, for the cover of Broken by A E Rought. The female character presented on the cover – her stance and appearance – are based upon a stock image, and so anyone who wishes to buy the stock image themselves can have it as a base. It is not usually a problem, because the surrounding features of the cover will change that stock image into something very unique.

Or do you sometimes commission an artist for a cover?

Artists are always commissioned to work on stock images. The only situation where I think an image is taken in its entirety is as what happened with the cover for Cinder by Marissa Meyer. This stemmed from a very beautiful image on deviantart, and that artist was asked if she would sell the image to the publishers of Cinder.

So as far as publicity goes – are you of the mind that even a negative review is publicity? Personally I know I’ve read books just because I’ve read a flamer review on it and just HAD to know for myself.

I would rather have a negative review than no one talking about my books at all, definitely! Sometimes an articulate and well-written negative review is worth much more than a review that gushes, but doesn’t really say much about the book itself. You see, people read book reviews to get an idea about whether a book is going to interest them – if someone writes well about the reasons why a book didn’t work for them, someone reading that review may believe that it sounds perfect for them. So negative reviews can be incredibly useful indeed. I don’t like mean reviews. But that is something else entirely.

Do you have any juicy confessions for us? (I have no idea what I’m aiming at here with this one haha – maybe something funny?)

I have a couple of personal confessions – one is that I am extremely unlikely to ever commission a zombie YA novel, because I simply don’t like zombies. They don’t interest me in the slightest. The second is (bear in mind this is just MY view!) that gifs are painful in a review. I don’t mind gifs on tumblrs such as (that is an exceptional blog, by the way – absolutely bang on about lots of things!) but I just don’t feel they have a place in book reviews. I know some people love them, though, so I think they’re definitely here to stay!

Strange Chemistry Facebook | Twitter | Website

Here is a link to their Goodreads giveaway page.  They don’t have any currently active at the time I created this post but its always a good place to keep a look out!

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Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
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7 Responses to “Confessions of Amanda Rutter – Editor at Strange Chemistry”

  1. DannyBookworm

    Thank you so much for this awesome and super insightful Interview! Strange Chemistry has pretty awesome books and it was awesome hearing a little insights!

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      I didn’t even realize how new the imprint is until I looked up a list of their titles. I find it so amazing that Amanda pretty much has her hands in everything!

  2. Jesse @ Pretty In Fiction

    I’m not entirely sure how I feel about gifs. I don’t personally use them (that’s just my preference) but I’ve seen them used both moderately and excessively in reviews and sometimes they work well depending on the review itself. They can add a certain level of humor to the whole thing. But when a review is basically sentence, gif, sentence, gif… That usually doesn’t work well. I want to know what YOU think of a book, not see twenty random images that you found online that you thought were funny.

    Great interview! I love hearing more about the publishing industry from inside sources. I think it’s really cool Amanda has a hand in everything that goes on at Strange Chemistry!

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      haha the hand in everything is exactly what I just thought as well! It must be a very challenging but rewarding job. She will be at BEA this year and I can’t wait to meet her!
      My thought on gifs…I don’t particularly like them. In a review I feel they are inappropriate. I think they are ok in goodreads status updates.

  3. Tabitha the Pabkins

    No zombies! no zombies? *wails pitifully….no zombies* haha that is a major confession in my mind, especially considering zombie fiction is so popular right now. I admit I really enjoy it, but of course there really is only so much an author can do with it, and most of those things might already have been done before. I know a good handful of people that don’t have any desire to read about zombies either. My husband says I need to give it up because of the nightmares I end up with during and after every zombie read.

    Thanks so much for the interview!!!

  4. Bibliotropic

    Awesome interview, and some great insights into the publishing world. Structural editing sounds like both a lot of work and a lot of fun!