BBC Books Publishing Information

Updated information for prospective authors

June 1999

Subject: NEWS: BBC DW Book commissions

Steve Cole recently announced a couple of changes in the
commissioning process for the BBC's range of DW books.
He also asked that they be posted on the net, so here they
are. I hope you'll all think they're positive changes.

Although I'm not party to these decisions, I do think
they're sensible and practical. (I found out about them
because, obviously, I'm corresponding with the Beeb as I
write "Frontier Worlds" for the EDA range.)

1. Unsolicited Eighth Doctor novel proposals are invited again.
2. New person working on the Past Doctor novels series.
3. New timetable for commissioning the EDAs.

1. Steve Cole will be considering unsolicited Eighth Doctor
   proposals again, for titles published in the second half of
   2000. No-one unsolicited will hear anything back about
   their proposals until after September 1999, in line with the
   new commissioning process (see below).

2. From now on, all submissions for Past Dr Books will be looked at
   by Justin Richards. He will then advise commissioning editor Ben Dunn

   on what to commission, and will undertake the first structural edit (just
   as Steve Cole does for the EDAs). Steve says: "Justin is an obvious
   choice - in addition to his undoubted writing abilities, he has proven
   editorial skills from his Decalog and In-Vision projects."

3. The commissions will be considered twice a year. The deadlines are:
   Published in         Submit before
   ------------------   -----------------
   June-November 2000   September 30 1999
   January-June 2001    March 31st 2000
   ------------------   -----------------

   People will be contacted as soon after the closing date as possible.
   I believe this change is to allow for the continuity in the EDAs,
   while the PDAs will (AFAIK) continue to consider submissions throughout
   the year.

Peter Anghelides

Generic Form letter from BBC for prospective authors:

Thank you for your interest in Doctor Who publishing.

BBC Worldwide is very committed to a long-term future for Doctor
Who and we hope we are succeeding in creating a series of
books that will appeal both to the new generation of fans brought
to the property by the Eighth Doctor and the loyal readership
which has supported Doctor Who over the years.

We are currently accepting submissions for the range of books
featuring Doctors One to Seven (and their companions), and for
short stories. At the moment, we are not looking at proposals for
the Eighth Doctor books, or for non-fiction.

These novels will generally stand alone independently of each
other, rather than forming an on-going series. References to past
events won't be completely eradicated and there may be sequels to
some stories, but in general the reader needn't have read all
previous books, or seen a lot of Doctor Who stories, to
understand the nuances of the plot. Each novel will be around
75000-80000 words in length (around 288 pages in printed
paperback form).

If you wish to submit a proposal, please use the following
guidelines. This will enable us to give the fullest possible
consideration to your idea.

Proposals should be clearly typed in black ink using a legible
typeface, double-spacing and 30 mm margins on white A4 paper.
Paragraphs should be indicated by a double line break rather than
indentation. The same rules apply for short stories, although
they may be submitted in full if under 5000 words in length. You
should enclose a large, stamped, addressed envelope.

Please do not send in full manuscripts as we simply
won't be able to read them. Synopses up to 3000 words in length
are fine, plus one sample chapter of no more than 4000 words. It
might be wise to include a very brief precis of the plot so we
can tell at a glance if we are planning anything similar If we
feel that the plot might be suitable for our list, we may ask you
to submit further sample chapters.

Please take care with spelling and punctuation. Even if your
prose is wonderful, errors are a distraction and do not create a
good impression. Watch out especially for its/it's, your/you're
and there/their/they're.

If you are a first-time writer, please buy or borrow a book on
how to write a novel. There are many excellent guides on
the market by authors who have written successful novels
themselves and these give good advice on how to structure
plot and depict character - take a look at How to Write
Science Fiction by Bob Shaw, for example.  
Writers' groups can also be very helpful,
giving you the opportunity to discuss your work with other
authors; if you wish to join one of these, your local library
should have a list of when and where they meet.

We are looking for strong, credible plots that hang together.
Each novel must have a storyline that makes the reader want to
know what's going on. If the plot is either too simple or too
complicated the reader will lose interest. The reader needs to
wonder how the characters are going to get out of the sticky
situation and whether they're going to do it in time. Your main
plot will need a subplot(s) to help raise the stakes and increase
tension. A strong final conflict/showdown is a must.

Remember, as well as looking for novels that tell a good story
in a strong, imaginative way you are aiming to write a Doctor
Who book. The submissions most likely to be looked upon
favourably are the ones that have that elusive Doctor Who feel
to them as well as being original in style and tone. Remember
your medium! A novel and a television show/film are obviously
different things, so think big! Think of what you can do in a
novel that you couldn't pull off on screen.

Please keep to the character of the Doctor as depicted in the
TV series. You should not use characters from Virgin's New
Adventures series (Roz, Cwej, Benny, Kadiatu, etc.). If you
are reusing former companions from the TV, they should also
remain true to their TV personae. Bear in mind that the reader
may not necessarily know the TV series and may never have
read another Doctor Who novel before. You will need to
bring out your players' characters, without inserting long
character sketches. Bad language should be kept to a minimum. If
in doubt - leave it out!

It is a good idea to feature the Doctor and his companion(s)
in your prose sample - we need to know if you can write for them.
Write your opening so we can gauge pace and how arresting your
style is as the plot unfolds.

All characters you use should be welI-drawn and must act in a
consistent and credible manner. Motivation should also be clear
and consistent unless your characters are double-crossing, or
lying, or hiding something for a reason, etc.

Obviously, references to past events or characters in Who history
must be accurate. If in doubt, there are a number of good
non-fiction reference guides to the series available from
bookshops or libraries (a comprehensive work is Doctor Who:
The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James
Walker. Please remember that many of the aliens
featured throughout the series were created by scriptwriters and
retain their copyright. Although we have published a number of
books featuring returning characters/races, we are very keen to
go in wholly original directions in the future - as the TARDIS
can go anywhere in space and time, there are an infinite number
of beings and places the Doctor can visit. Please note that
Cybermen and Daleks are now off limits.

Whether it is part of a belligerent race of beings or some
force of nature, the adversary's objectives initially need to
clash with those of the Doctor - whether or not he realises this.
If you are creating a new adversary, make sure that it is a
well-rounded character or alien race with clear aims.

There are also certain things you should try to avoid. Many of
these are common mistakes in synopses sent to us:

Having a good idea for the theme of a novel and using this as
the hook rather than a strong plot. Even the best idea or
character or setting needs a good plot in which to function.
Although it's possible to be wildly experimental in a short
story, to do so in a novel requires a lot of experience and/or

Having a story in which the Doctor is more-or-less irrelevant
- the events would have evolved in the same way with or without
his presence. Don't just tack on a character called 'the Doctor'
to your science-fiction idea - it always shows! These are Doctor
Who books, and the Doctor is the person the readers are most
interested in.

Revealing the Doctor had a psychic insight into his
adversary’s mind and knew what would happen all along. This
tends to destroy tension and can be very frustrating to the
reader. Many excellent books have hinged on psychic powers, but
they are all too often used as devices of convenience.

Too much reliance on coincidence. This usually indicates a
plot that hasn't been thought through very clearly and will soon
irritate the reader.

Explaining the ancestry of the Doctor Please don't do this. He
is a being of mystery and should stay that way. We don't need to
know too much about him - nothing too concrete, anyway. Leave out
his family members too - no grans, dads or maiden aunts. No
revelations about Gallifrey's past or future either, please.

Parallel/alternate universes also feature quite often in
synopses. Again, these have formed the basis of some excellent
novels, but can be difficult to sustain. If you are going to
include a parallel universe in the plot, you should make sure
that you work out the boundaries and stick to them. In general,
we'd rather you just stayed in this universe. It's big enough!

Another favourite plot idea concerns the Doctor meeting up
with the Brigadier. Please note we have our fill of
Lethbridge-Stewart-with-Doctors-other-than-the-third stories at

A lot of synopses concern the Doctor on Earth. We are keen to
move him out into space as well. This is more challenging for the
writer, as there are fewer familiar points of reference, but can
(if handled well) be more rewarding for the reader.

If you send in a synopsis, we will try to respond within two
to three months. Please send all correspondence to:

Doctor Who Books, 
A3114, Woodlands, 
8O Wood Lane, 
London W12 OTT.