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 🙂