7.2.3 COUNTDOWN TO PUBLICATION: SIMON JAMES GREEN
So, you’ve got a deal? Congratulations! Once you’ve finished that bottle of champagne, it’s time to gear up for your countdown to publication. First of all, there’s going to be lots of people to get to know at your publishers. While your editor will be your main point of contact, there’s a whole team of people behind you. Here’s a handy list of who’s who:
As well as your editor, who will be working with you on your edits and is your in-house champion, there’s a wider team. There’s some variation between publishers, but these people will include an Editorial Director / Publisher who heads up the department; your editor, who may hold one of those roles or may be a Commissioning Editor; Senior Editors and Editors who look after certain areas of the list; Desk Editors who support the team; and Junior Editors or Editorial Assistants.
Design / Art
Each book will be assigned a designer who is responsible for the cover design and interior layouts. They will also work closely with marketing on sales and marketing material.
Once edited and designed, these people are responsible for having the book printed, bound, and delivered to the publisher’s warehouse.
Sales and Marketing
There will be a head of UK sales and then several other members of the team who look after certain areas, e.g. supermarkets, Waterstones, Amazon, and specialist accounts such as schools and book clubs.
The team work hard to place an author’s books with key retailers, but there are more books out there than slots available in promotions, so meetings take place far in advance, which is why the cover and marketing material needs to be ready so early.
The marketing department will originate all the sales material, including catalogues, order forms, illustrated sales material, posters, samplers and advertisements.
The PR department will work with you and the media on ‘free’ publicity – i.e. reviews, author interviews, bookshop readings, festival appearances, book tours, etc. You’ll probably get to know your publicist really well, and they’ll often accompany you to various events. A publicist’s work is designed to get the best results for each individual author and title, so if you have any local media contacts, know any journalists personally, or have a relationship with your local bookshop, let them know and they’ll be able to help you capitalize on that.
The rights teams will try to make best use of all the rights that were acquired when the contract was negotiated – e.g. foreign rights, and film and TV rights. This work is done throughout the year, although the book fairs (such as Bologna and Frankfurt) are a key part of the calendar.
That’s the team, so what will happen? Despite ruthlessly editing your work since (what will feel like) the dawn of time, there will be more editing to do. This is usually broken down as follows:
- Structural edit – which looks at the overall structure and narrative arc of the story. This is likely to have been outlined prior to acquisition, but now it happens in depth. Your editor will discuss areas that need work with you, and then you’ll edit and submit a revised draft. This process can be repeated several times, until you’re both happy the book is as good as it can be.
- Line edit – where your editor will go through the final draft carefully and suggest line edits to tighten and improve the tone and form of the book. It’s a detailed process which picks up on things like repetition and consistency.
- Copyedit – this might be done in-house by a desk editor, or by a freelancer. It’s usually done in Word track changes, and is a thorough, careful reading, looking out for the five c’s: making the copy (text) clear, correct, concise, comprehensible, and consistent. They make sure the text conforms to the house style and will check spelling, grammar and punctuation.
- Page proofs – this is the name given to the typeset version of the manuscript. A proof reader will read the proof carefully and mark up any errors for the typesetter to correct. Essentially the proof reader is checking for any mistakes, typos and inconsistencies that may have been missed in earlier stages. They also catch things that may have been introduced since the book was laid to page e.g. problems with alignment.
- Printing – when the proofs are signed off, the file will be checked and sent to the printers. Bingo! You have a book.
During all this, your cover will be being designed. You need to remember that a lot of people will be involved in this, as the cover is crucial to the success of the book – I swear to god, half the sales for Noah Can’t Even are just from people intrigued / amused by the big banana on the front. You may well have a ‘vision’ for the cover, but learn to trust in the team, and know that design, sales, marketing, publicity, rights, editorial, as well as retailers, are likely to all have input, as well as the final say. I’ve had elements of covers, as well as complete covers, changed or vetoed by retailers.
Further things to think about
As the day of publication approaches, your publicist will liaise with you about the plans. There’s a high chance you’ll be asked to do interviews, write blogs and articles, film videos and so on. You don’t have to do everything, but my approach has always been to do as much as I possibly can – after all, you only get one shot at being a debut author.
One other thing that I think is a good idea at this pre-publication stage is to start engaging with people on social media. Twitter is particularly good for connecting with teachers, librarians, bookshops and booksellers, as well as other authors, all of whom will champion your book, assuming they get to know about it. It doesn’t have to be a massive commitment, but following those people, and taking part in some of the conversations, can be a good first step to building your audience.
Another good idea is to create your own website. This can be relatively inexpensive (or even free) using some website builders, most of which are pretty intuitive, and don’t require huge technical knowledge. A good site would include information about your book, with links to pre-order, some biographical information about you, along with photos that people can download for use in articles and blogs, and a contact form. If you plan to offer them, a separate page about school visits is a good idea, and some authors also have an events page, so readers can easily find where they can see you. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but check out my page: www.simonjamesgreen.com – I built the site myself using Squarespace.
It’s a lot to think about, and learning how to deal with this, and all the demands of your debut year is key – and is the subject of my next article…
Simon is a Carnegie-nominated, award-winning author and screenwriter. After an eight-book deal with Scholastic, his picture book Llama Glamarama was published in June, with a Young Adult Heartbreak Boys and a Middle Grade Life of Riley: Beginner’s Luck to follow later in the year. His Noah books have also been optioned for television, and he contributed to the PROUD anthology.
Simon is also a Spark Mentor.