This is the third year I’ve given this award out. The past two recipients were Jeremy Lassen and Jo Fletcher, two editors with smaller presses making a go at it with progressive and interesting novels that weren’t necessarily right for the larger houses. I rewarded them strictly for editorial direction, for trying to push the envelope. I felt like 2013 called for a slightly different approach.
Among the first editors that came to mind, when I was considering the whole gamut of what the editor is responsible for, was Lee Harris of Angry Robot Books. He’s putting out good books, most of the time, but he’s also taking on publishing in an attempt to find market inefficiencies. Angry Robot needs to find those angles to flourish in an environment designed to kill the small guy. This year Harris rolled out Clonefiles, a program where Angry Robot and certain independent bookstores partnered up to send a free eBooks to match purchased hard copies. Harris has also grabbed a hold of open submissions to great success, publishing folks like Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu. Still, despite their nimble business model and willingness to push boundaries, Angry Robot still hasn’t had a break out commercial success.
There are other names that came to mind, of course. Hodder’s Anne Perry has already made a huge mark in her first year. Michael Rowley at Del Rey UK is starting something interesting. And the big houses continue to do what big houses do. But, there was another name who stood out — 2013 Juice Box Award Winner for Editor of the Year — Devi Pillai, Executive Editor at Orbit US.
I invoke her name knowing full well that she’s actually not the editor of record for most of my favorite Orbit novels. DongWon Song and Tom Bouman bought books like Robert Jackson Bennett’s American Elsewhere, Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, and Will McIntosh’s Love Minus Eighty. She didn’t buy Daniel Abraham or Mira Grant either. But, she is responsible for Brent Weeks, and Joe Abercrombie, and Michael Sullivan, and Mur Lafferty, and Jaye Wells, and Brian McClellan, and Rachel Aaron, and N.K. Jemisin, and Gail Carriger, and… well… you get it. More to the point, as Executive Editor, presiding over three different associate editors in three years under her, I have to believe that the overall direction of the press has her finger prints on it.
Beyond a brilliant list, and I really don’t think there’s any other way to describe Orbit’s 2013 list than brilliant, Orbit is also actively involved. They are, in my mind, the most in touch of the big five publishers with the pulse of the genre and its readers. I firmly believe that Pillai has an innate sense of treading the line between where the genre needs to go, where it wants to go, and where it’s willing to go, all while keeping the bottom line in mind. She has had a huge number of commercial successes without sacrificing more progressive titles.
If I were an author or agent looking at the science fiction and fantasy marketplace, Devi Pillai would be my first call and I’d wait until she said no before looking anywhere else. Is there a better standard to judge Editor of the Year by? I don’t think so.