What has my publisher done for me – part 2

In my previous blog post I wrote about the process of turning a manuscript into a book. In this follow-up I want to share what the marketing and publicity team at Little, Brown hIMG_0159ave done subsequently to get the word out.

To get published by a traditional publisher seems a long process to many of my self-published friends. I signed the contract in November 2014 and my book will be published almost exactly 12 months after. The editing process that I described in my previous post finished in January. As a first-time author, it wasn’t clear to me in advance what the publisher does to get the book in the shops and in the hands of readers. A big Thank-You goes to Kate Doran and Florence Partridge at Little, Brown for guiding me through this.

Kate Doran, Senior Marketing Manager at Little, Brown explained the process to me as follows:

  • 9 months out from publication there is a planning meeting to discuss positioning and strategy for the book. At this point the cover should have already been briefed.
  • 6 months out we present a digital sales brochure to the key account managers for each retailer and also to our reps. The key account managers cover every retailer from Waterstones, WH Smith and Amazon to the supermarkets. Our team of sales reps also look after different areas of the country and visit individual bookstores to hand-sell titles – Little, Brown is one of the few publishers still to have a strong field sales team and this can make a huge difference in getting support for a book from the grass roots up. At this point we will also meet with the author to discuss initial marketing and publicity ideas.
  • 2 – 3 months before publication we will try to finalize our plans. Not all books are supported by a big paid advertising campaign so we are increasingly looking for more creative ways market our books, working closely with the author to do so.
net galley

35 people liked the cover of my book on Netgalley

One of the creative ways that Little, Brown uses – and this is worth checking out for self-published authors too – is NetGalley, where bloggers, librarians, reviewers and (more and more) buyers from bookstores can download an ebook version of the book for free, once they have been approved. For my book this has meant that I got a number of Goodreads reviews before the book was even released and 35 people liked the cover. Clearly having a publisher is a huge advantage as they have built an audience on Netgalley – with 800 followers – which gave my novel instant visibility.

In addition, Florence, my publicist, sent out ARCs (Advance Review Copies) to a group of reviewers, followed by a wider mailing once she got the hardback. This happens about five weeks before the launch. We won’t know how many (if any) reviews we’ll get until much closer to the launch date (fingers crossed).

Being published by Constable, which is part of Little, Brown, has given me access to a lot of wonderful people who help me with publicity and marketing. The publisher’s presence on sites like Goodreads, Netgalley and Crime Vault – their own crime newsletter- showcases my book to a captive audience, which a self-published author has to (and can!) build themselves through blogs, twitter, Facebook and Goodreads. But as marketing budgets have shrunk, it’s as crucial for traditionally published authors to build up their profile and have a digital presence.

Of course time is limited and when I’m writing blog posts, I’m not working on my next novel. But being part of a discussion about publishing has been really gratifying. I hope that sharing my experiences has helped other authors out there. Do get in touch if there’s anything else you’d like to know. If I don’t have the answer, at least I can ask some people who do!

What has my publisher done for me?

There are many debates going on around traditional publishing vs self-publishing. I feel fortunate that I will be published by Constable, who are part of Little, Brown. Not least of all because it’s a great feeling when people who are passionate about books are passionate about yours. But what did my publishers do to turn a manuscript into an actual book? Here’s an honest account of that process.

The first major change started before the contract was even signed. They didn’t like the title of my book (no, I’m not going to tell you what it was called before). Via my agent, they emailed words that might work and in the end suggested A Cold Death in Amsterdam. I wasn’t immediately sold on it, the book had lived with that other title for so long, but I came to realise how perfect it was for the story I was telling.

With a new title, my manuscript was passed on to a copy editor. I was told that Joan (whose surname I never found out) still liked to work on paper and that I would get the manuscript back in the post. I guess I didn’t know what to expect, but when I saw how heavily all the pages were marked up (see photo below), I had to take a deep breath and wait for a day before I could look at her suggestions properly.

Just an example page with Joan's notes. Most pages looked like this.

Most pages looked like this.

I travelled to Asia for work and took the thick padded envelop with me. I studied words, lines, sentences and pages on long-haul flights and in hotels in Singapore, Kyoto and Tokyo. I could see that the majority of her suggestions made perfect sense. I could kick myself for having overlooked some of the things she pointed out such as repeated words within paragraphs. I also got the impression that she liked the book. There were a few places where she asked plot-related questions and I wrote extra material to make sure everything was clear. I marked up any changes that I wanted with red pen and sent those pages back to my publisher.

A few weeks later, it was early December, I received the page proofs. It was the first time that I saw the manuscript in the page format that the book would have. It was the most wonderful Christmas present. I read it through and noticed what a difference Joan had made. She’d made my words and language truly shine. I read through the proofs and found a couple of typos that had slipped in. At the same time, a proof-reader (Louise Harnby) was working through the book again too. She fixed some more mistakes.

Now the manuscript itself was in great shape and ‘all’ that was left was to have a cover design. When I met with my publicist and marketing person, they showed me a preview of what the designer had come up with and I completely loved it. I had given no input but here was cover art that fitted the book so well.  With the cover and the title, it was immediately clear what kind of novel this was (picture of that in my previous post).

So what has my publisher done for me? Apart from fixing all my mistakes, my publisher has given my book what one of my friends calls ‘pick-upability’. Not a word, but it should be. Let’s face it, I’m a writer, a story-teller, not an all-round creative genius. I could never have designed a lovely cover. I couldn’t even think of a great title! My publisher did all that and in addition they are a pleasure to work with.

For those of you who self-publish, I cannot stress enough what a difference my copy editor, proof-reader and designer have made. There are quite a few blog posts out there by self-published authors who suggest that using them is well-worth the money.

P.S. Joan did a great job on my book. If you recognise her work from her hand-writing, pass this post on to her with my thanks 🙂

Three months to publication

It’s becoming real. A few weeks ago, two Advanced Review Copies (ARCs) of my first novel popped through my letterbox. It was a wonderful surpise, as I hadn’t known they were coming. Of course I had to take a picture of my new arrival and there might have been some celebratory jumping up-and-down. Because the book looFeatured imageks absolutely lovely. I love the cover, the title and little things that other people might not notice – such as that my name looks as if it’s being imprisoned by the bridge.

My publishers have been an absolute delight to work with and have been really helpful. However, I’ve come to understand that there were a lot of things that needed to be done that I was blissfully ignorant of. Foolishly I thought that writing a book was enough, but no! I have now organised my book launch, had one of my friends take  new author photos (as the old ones were not of the right technical quality) and we had to get author-quotes for the back of the book. Luckily both my agent and my editor have mainly taken care of that last step. More to follow on that.

I’m writing a series and that’s been both a challenge and a bliss in this pre-publication time. The first book will be out in three months, the second is with my editor right now and I’m getting the draft of the third to the point where I can send it to my agent.

However, I am telling myself to celebrate these milestones along the way. To do a little dance and open a nice bottle of wine when the ARC turns up. Here it was: my words in proper print for the first time. It felt extraordinary to open a page at random and see those familiar words that I had first written down a while ago. Writing the third book has been no easier than the first but if every book creates this amount of joy, it’s labour well worth undertaking.

The Lotte Meerman novels

A Cold Death in Amsterdam – The first Lotte Meerman Mystery

Set in Amsterdam, the novel introduces Lotte Meerman, a Cold Case detective still 9781472120595recovering from the emotional devastation of her previous investigation. A tip-off leads Lotte to an unresolved ten-year-old murder case in which her father was the lead detective. When she discovers irregularities surrounding the original investigation that make him a suspect, she decides to cover for him. She doesn’t tell her boss about the family connection and jeopardises her career by hiding evidence. Now she has to find the real murderer before her acts are discovered, otherwise her father will go to jail and she will lose her job, the one thing in life she still takes pride in . . .

Order it on Amazon

‘Frozen canals and deserted streets make an athmospheric setting for Anja de Jager’s debut A Cold Death in Amsterdam. Detective Lotte Meerman has become a celebrity after solving the disappearance of a young girl 15 years earlier. The suspect is due in court, and Meerman is dreading the trial because of a possibly disastrous error of judgement on her part.  She tries to distract herself with an unsolved murder, even though the investigating officer was her estranged father. Her painstaking police work is undermined by emotional turmoil in a novel brilliantly evoking the isolation of a woman with an unbearable weight on her conscience.’ Joan Smith in The Sunday Times.

A Cold Case in Amsterdam Central – The second Lotte Meerman Mystery

Having been shot in the shoulder in the line of duty, Dutch police detective Lotte Meerman isbn9781472120632-detailreturns to work after four months of painful recovery – yet not all her colleagues are happy to see her. But department politics take a backseat when Lotte is called to investigate a worker’s fall from the roof on a building site in the centre of Amsterdam. Frank Stapel’s tragic accident becomes suspicious when Tessa, his widow, discovers human bones in her husband’s left-luggage locker at Amsterdam Central. To Lotte, this changes the course of her investigation from fatal accident to potential murder. When forensics discover the skeleton dates back to the Second World War, the rest of the team are convinced that Lotte is wasting everybody’s time by insisting this somehow ties in with the Frank’s death, but then it is discovered that some of the bones are less than a decade old . . . and although vindicated for pursuing the cold case, Lotte finds that the investigation takes a dark and sinister turn, linking an old war crime to events in the much more recent past.

Order it on Amazon

Death on the Canal -The Third Lotte Meerman Mystery

Where do your priorities lie?51HJeX0Wj0L._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_

In her latest case, Dutch detective Lotte Meerman finds herself faced with a moral dilemma – does she investigate the murder of a suspected drug dealer … or does she stay silent to ensure that another man, responsible for the drug-related deaths of six tourists in Amsterdam, is successfully convicted?

Drinking outside a canalside bar on a perfect summer’s evening, Lotte is witness to the fatal stabbing of Piotr Mazur, a Polish security guard working in one of the city’s department stores. And as Lotte starts to investigate Mazur’s death she keeps finding facts that potentially link him to the case of the dead tourists – but soon realises that the head of the team investigating their murders is trying to bury the information just as quickly as she unearths it.

Lotte saw the victim in the bar moments before he was killed, and he was with a woman who passed him a photo of a child. She is now convinced that his death wasn’t a revenge-killing over drugs after all… but she has to think carefully about what to do for the best, especially as key evidence in Mazur’s murder comes from someone she knows she cannot trust.
Order it on Amazon

A Death in Rembrandt Square – The fourth Lotte Meerman Mystery


Guilty until proven innocent…

It’s hard for anyone to have their work scrutinised in public.  For Amsterdam-based detective Lotte Meerman, listening to the Right to Justice podcast as they dissect one of her old cases is made even more harrowing as every episode makes fresh accusations of a bungled operation.

As the podcast reveals hidden facts about the arrest of Ruud Klaver, the one thing Lotte is still convinced of is that it was Ruud who was guilty of the murder of a student near Rembrandt Square ten years earlier. However, when Ruud Klaver then dies in suspicious circumstances, only hours after the final podcast proving his innocence is broadcast, Lotte has to accept that maybe she was wrong.

With the dead man’s family passionately against her inclusion in the investigation into his death, the only way for Lotte to discover who killed him is by finding out where she went wrong all those years ago – and if indeed she did go wrong.  As Lotte digs deeper and involves colleagues from her past, it starts to look like the murder in Rembrandt Square was part of a bigger deception…

You can watch me talk about the book here at the 2019 Capital Crime Digital Festival

Order it on Amazon

A Death at the Hotel Mondrian – The fifth Lotte Meerman novel

When Lotte Meerman is faced with the choice of interviewing the latest victim in a string of assaults or talk to a man who claims he really isn’t dead, she picks the interview. After all, the man cannot possibly be who he claims he is: Andre Nieuwkamp was murdered as a teenager over thirty years ago, and it had been a police success story nationwide when the skeletal remains found in the dunes outside Amsterdam had been identified, and the murderer subsequently arrested.

Yet concerned about this encounter, Lotte goes to the Hotel Mondrian the next day to talk to the man, but what she finds is his corpse. And his passport shows that he wasn’t Andre Nieuwkamp as he said, but Theo Brand, a British citizen.

Subsequent DNA tests reveal that the man was Andre Nieuwkamp so now Lotte has a double mystery on her hands and needs to figure out not only why Andre waited so long to tell anyone he was still alive, but also who was the teenager murdered in the dunes all those decades ago.

“This is the best police procedural of the year” Barry Turner in the Daily Mail

Order it on Amazon

A Death at the Orange Locks – The sixth Lotte Meerman Novel

Keeping it in the family… After her painful divorce four years ago, Lotte Meerman has kept well away from Arjen, her ex-husband, and his new wife Nadia. So when they both visit her at central Amsterdam’s police station to report Nadia’s father missing, Lotte is shocked – but hides it well. Then two days later a dog walker reports the discovery of a body near the Orange Locks, built to keep the sea out of Amsterdam, and the missing man is identified as Nadia’s father.

Lotte wants to stay away from the investigation but his widow, Margreet, keeps searching her out as she has no idea it was her daughter who was pivotal in the marriage break-up. She wrongly identifies Lotte as a friend and tells her that Patrick had been a great husband and father, and a successful businessman. But when Lotte digs into Patrick’s past, she discovers instead a failing company and a man with a history of making unwanted sexual advances to his female employees.

Margreet is unaware of any of this. And the more Lotte investigates the dead man’s past, the more she finds to suggest that her ex-husband is somehow involved in his death…

Order it on Amazon