Tag Archives: publishing

Fermez les yeux and brace for impact

I’m so excited today I can hardly string a sentence together. And that would be ok, because what I’d really like to do is to cut the prose and list, shamelessly, the places you can see my book online.

That’s MY BOOK.

My. Book.

Oh, but you’d be interested to take a look? So kind of you to say so! I don’t want to bore you. And I won’t be offended if you don’t click on any of the links. Though the cover art really is quite fab. Intriguing, even. Just the right sort of thing for a thriller.

Well go on then, you’ve twisted my arm…

Fermez les yeux 

Just - aggghhhhh!

Just – aggghhhhh!

Didn’t I say it was in French? Ah well, they have excellent taste, the French – everyone knows that. The Germans too – there may be a post on that subject coming up in, say, July or so.

So… here it is, at long last. I have the artwork and a publication date – 10 February – and in the next day or so I expect to get my hands on the book itself. That’s a real live, honest-to-goodness book, with an actual cover, and a spine, and pages with words on them. My words.

Not that I’ll actually be able to understand many of them, it being in French and all. I only have a GCSE and my characters don’t spend all their time telling each other what their name is, and that they live in London, and asking if they could they have a white coffee and a ham sandwich, and what’s the best way to the post office.

But still. They’re my words en français. At least I hope they are.

I’ll be honest: alongside the excitement, there’s more than a hint of trepidation. One part of me understands that this is a first book being published in translation. That it’ll be a pebble dropped into the ocean of new books. That it’ll be a struggle to get anyone to read it at all.

I know all of that, and it doesn’t matter: I’m still ridiculously happy to think that my characters will be let out to make their way in the world. At the same time, I feel the first faint stirrings of obsession and paranoia.

They’re feelings that aren’t entirely unfamiliar.

Because there were times when I hated this book. When I was so sick of rewrites I felt I knew every single word off by heart. That I felt like I never wanted to look at it again. It brought me some of the greatest highs of my life (getting an agent; hearing that the big five were taking it to acquisition stage) and some of the biggest disappointments (none of the buggers were offering).

After a while, the disappointment faded. I appreciated what I had – a brilliant agent who was passionate about my book and who’d given it as good a chance as it could ever have got; a deal for the French rights with an established publisher; the idea for the next book and a glimmer of an idea for the one after that. I might not have had Euromilions-winning levels of good luck, but it was definitely five-lotto-numbers-and-the-bonus-ball territory.

All my passion for Waking Sara – for that’s what it was called back then – both love and hate, subsided into a gentle affection. I looked back on the days of the rewrites with a head-shaking fondness. I regained a sense of perspective.

Until now.

The release date is 10 February (just in case you didn’t get it the first time). That’s a whole 24 days away. And yet – someone has already given it three out of five!

I mean, I suppose it could be worse. I think I’d rather have a boringly middling mark than out and out disdain.

I think.

But couldn’t my unimpressed reviewer even had added a few words of explanation?! I mean, that book was the result of three years of my life! But no, he/she (or possibly even the default setting on a computer programme somewhere – I live in hope) has just given me my mark and got on with their life as if it doesn’t matter. Hmph, I say. Hmph.

And then there are the discounts. Not that I mind them in themselves – €15.90 is a lot of money for a paperback novel – but it’s the indecent haste of it! My poor little book isn’t even out and it’s having 5% lopped off its price without so much as a by-your-leave. It’s as if it’s already on the way to the bargain baskets! (Mind you, though, it is a bargain. So if you want to brush up on your French…)

And then the final indignity. Amazon, whom I once bravely defended on this very site, have got my name wrong. How they’ve managed this, I’ve no idea, but I can say with absolute certainty that I have never, ever been called Clarence. Not even in a French accent.

Anyway, if you or anyone you know speaks French/would like to speak French/ knows someone called Clarence, there’s a book out next month you’d absolutely love.

After the End

After the EndThis weekend was spent at the Faber Academy’s two-day course, After the End.  Since one of the things I learned there was the importance of a good title, I thought I’d play it safe and stick with their example…

The “end” in question, as anyone else out there desperately trying to finish their first novel will already have deduced, is the end of the manuscript. In other words, how do you know when it’s ready to send out, and what should you do to maximise your chances of success with an agent or editor.

Two days of information and discussion on those questions were led by Sarah Savitt, an editor at Faber & Faber, and Nicola Barr, a literary agent at Greene & Heaton.

They were both brilliant.  Honest, open, empathetic and immensely knowledgeable. For anyone at this stage of their writing, if you can get along to a future course I’d highly recommend it. (And I’m not on commission.)

At £275, though, it’s a lot of money.  So here are a few of the things that I took away from the discussions:

Good writing is the single most important thing.  Both Sarah and Nicola described the feeling they get as they’re reading a first page and their shoulders drop as they relax because the author knows what he/she is doing. Having said that…

…there are a lot of people out there who know how to write.  That’s not necessarily the same thing as being able to tell a story.  No matter how beautifully written something is, it’s going to lose the reader if it’s not taking them on a journey, and if they don’t care about the characters.  Sarah said, “If I’ve read 50 pages and I can’t see what the story is, I’ll be impatient.”

Think about your “hook”. In other words, how would you describe your story in a way that would make someone interested to read it. That might be because it’s high concept, like the Time Travellers’ Wife; or perhaps something distinctive about the story telling.

Trends are important to publishers. The reality is that a publisher doesn’t just need to love your book, they need to believe there are enough people out there who are going to be prepared to shell out their hard-earned cash to buy it.  We talked about the success of Gillian Flynn’s brilliant “Gone Girl” and the trend that set for smart, psychological thrillers aimed at twenty- to forty-something women.  Publishers will, though, get twitchy if they think readers may be on the verge of getting bored of something – so timing will be important to the appetite for your book.  Given how long it takes to write and publish a novel, the conclusion I took away from this is that there’s little point trying to write in order to jump on a bandwagon (and if that’s the only reason for writing your story, your readers will probably see through it anyway); just be aware of the market and realistic about what this might mean for your book.

Both the market and the relationship between the industry and readers is changing.  Self-publishing and new ways of communicating, particularly social media, are having a massive impact.  Agents and editors are recognising that they are “no longer the sole arbiters of taste” and, encouragingly, both Nicola and Sara said they’d be completely open to writers bringing them previously self-published work.  Recognising what a difficult process self-publishing is, they also said that not having sold many copies wouldn’t be an automatic turn-off.  We talked a lot about social media, but the basic message was: get on Twitter, participate in things like #pitmad, and don’t be shy about approaching people in the industry through that route.  (My own observation on this would be that some agents are more responsive to this than others, so you might want to follow them for a while to see their response to new contacts before deciding to get in touch this way.)

The editing process can mean big changes. I’d somehow imagined this to be a case of cutting an adverb here, or changing the sentence structure there. Not so.  Perhaps the single most useful part of the day for me was seeing two examples of first pages that had been submitted by authors who now have publication deals, before and after editing.  This really brought home the importance of focussing on the action to keep people reading. The realisation that your material can be good, and can fit well at other points in the book, just not at the beginning, was a real light bulb moment for me. Seeing those examples alone was worth the course fee.

Of course, the other great thing about the course was meeting other writers, all at a similar stage. What a genuinely lovely group of people they were.  Here’s hoping we see our names on bookshelves one day.