Masterclass: Books that sell - and sell well, with Lil Chase.

Lil Chase, Senior Commissioning
Editor for Working Partners Ltd

Commercial Fiction SCBWI Masterclass – 16th May 2015 

Q&A with Author and Editor Lil Chase 

Lil Chase is the author of Boys For Beginners, Secrets, Lies & Locker 62 and The Boys’ School Girls series. Book 1 (Tara's Sister Trouble) and 2 (Abby’s Shadow) are out now, with the third (Obi’s Secrets) coming out in June 2015. 

Lil is also a Senior Commissioning Editor for Working Partners Ltd; a book packager that has been creating fiction for children and adults for over 20 years. 

Alison Smith caught up with Lil to ask her a few questions in advance of her upcoming London Masterclass - Commercial Fiction: Books that sell and sell well on 16th May in London.

What is commercial fiction? 

Commercial fiction is fiction published with the aim of making money. 

That sounds pretty grubby when you see it written down, doesn’t it? But publishing is a business, and like any other business, it needs to earn profits to survive. Publishers release books which appeal to the highest amount of people possible: the middle of the bell curve. The idea is to come up with an intriguing hook – one that can be explained with as few words as possible. 

Do you think the term ‘commercial fiction’ has a negative connotation? 

I think it does… and I don’t think it’s fair. Some books are published cynically, aiming to make money off a trend or topic or celebrity that’s popular at the moment. But often readers see right through this and those books don’t do very well. Or at least, their popularity is short-lived. Good commercial fiction tells the reader what it plans to deliver in the blurb – or ideally in the title – and then delivers it in a new and interesting way. The best commercial fiction becomes the classics of the future: Dickens, Austen, Hodgson Burnett

This is certainly our goal at Working Partners -

We unashamedly produce commercial fiction, but never cynically, and we never follow trends. 

As a team, we develop concepts that we think would have excited us when we were children. But our minds are on the publishers too; what they will think of it and how they would market it. 

Tell us a little more about Working Partners.

Beast Quest
We’re a book packager, not a publisher. We come up with concepts for books, setting out the whole story and what will happen in each chapter. These storylines can be a third of the word count of the full manuscript. Then writers – writers like yourselves – are commissioned to write up the novel. We then submit a pitch document – our storyline and some sample chapters – out to publishers. 

Working Partners is like an author with fifteen heads.

If you’d like to know more about Working Partners take a look at our website 

Do you read commercial fiction? 

Magic Animal Friends

I read it. I write it. I love it!

The joy of reading, of course, is that you can vary what you read according to your mood. I read literary fiction from time to time, but it’s often not as easy going. Reading is a hobby, and in my opinion, it shouldn’t be hard work. Children’s fiction especially. 

Yes we want to challenge kids, but we also want them to read for pleasure.

If a book’s too difficult, it can put them off reading for life. Studying Heart of Darkness at school stopped me reading until my twenties! 

What do you hope the masterclass session will have achieved by the end? 

We’ll be talking more about the definition of commercial fiction and some generalisations of it. (In fact, talking about commercial fiction is really talking about generalisations.) By identifying the generalisations we can see what sells well and start thinking about why it does. 

The session won’t tell you to what to write in order to get published. We’ll look at your idea, but honing it to make it more commercial. By the end you will hopefully be equipped with the tools to make your idea as appealing as possible so that publishers will be fighting each other to sign you up! 

Masterclass details: 

Commercial Fiction: Books that sell and sell well 

When: Saturday 16 May 2015 – 12 noon – 4pm 
Where: The Theodore Bullfrog Pub, First floor meeting room, 26-30 John Adam Street, London, WC2N 6HL 
Cost: £30 per class for SCBWI members, £37 for non members. (All prices include a pre-ordered light lunch and a beverage.) 
Booking: Places are limited and can be booked online at

Alison Smith works as a freelance PR and communications professional for part of her week. For the rest of it she is to be found in the guise of her alter ego, Ally Sherrick, clamped to her computer getting on with the edits for her canine caper set in Victorian London and working on picture book ideas. She recently broke her publishing duck with the acceptance of a short story by The Caterpillar Magazine and hopes this will help her brave the slings and arrows of future rejections.


  1. Great interview and I like that we have this kind of article before the masterclass so everyone knows what they would get in the workshops

    1. Looks to be a great Masterclass - and a great interview by Alison too!

  2. This Masterclass sounds really interesting...I'm checking my diary right now. Thank you, Lil and Alison!

  3. Really looking forward to this.

  4. Really looking forward to this. The previous one was really great.

  5. Just booked my train ticket - can't wait!


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