Thursday, 6 November 2008

Answers to Questions - Part One - Sally Nicholls

A long time ago (last time it was my turn to blog) I offered to answer any of your questions. Dan Metcalf asked:

Once the publisher says OK, and you do your happy author dance, what then? Do you always agree with the publisher over how the book is going to go out to readers? Or could you cheerfully throttle them some days? Oh, and do you manage your publicy (school visits, readings in shops etc) or do they?

OK. When the publisher has said OK, the first thing that happens is edits. You'll go in and meet your editor (if you haven't already done this) and she will tell you everything she thinks needs changing about the book, from big structural changes to smaller line edits.

The amount of editing required varies - with my first book, it was just line edits and a few extra chapters. With my second it was much larger edits which took several months, in two separate drafts.

The editor can't force you to make any change you don't want to make, although she can refuse to publish you. My editor is very good at making the sort of suggestions it's hard to disagree with. "I think the adults need more character." (What are you supposed to say? "Er, no, I like them character-less.") She's also very good at saying thing like, "I think there's a problem here. How can we solve it?" and letting me come up with solutions myself. With line edits, I tend to agree with about three quarters of the things she flags up, and she's happy to let the others slide.

After edits come copyedits, which are spelling and grammar mistakes, consistency errors, repetition and making sure that everything fits Scholastic's style guide (ie changing all my okays to OKs and my alrights to all rights).

At some point in this journey, you should get your contract to sign and then your money, but this can take several months to come through. Don't panic. They will appear.

The cover and the blurb come next. All of the covers I've had have gone through several radically different versions, and it's probably best to let them get on with this. You don't get much say in your cover, although you can set your agent on your publisher if you really hate it, and I have had friends who've managed to change theirs. I've liked two of mine, and disliked one.

Next comes the bound proof, which looks and smells like a book - it's been typeset, it may (or may not) have illustrations and it has a cover which may look like the book's final cover or may be much more simple. Scholastic do very plain, very similar-looking proofs. These are sent out to booksellers, librarians, reviewers, enterprising bloggers, book scouts, prize committees, foreign publishers and anyone else who might help the book sell more copies. You also get one to stroke, take photos of in your bookcase and generally feel like you're a real author at last.

Foreign sales will hopefully be happening at this time as well - either through your agent or your publisher's rights department, depending on whether your publisher bought foreign rights or just English rights. A lot of these come through at Bologna and Frankfurt, the two big international book fairs, but they will also trickle through throughout the year.

Your book will feature in the publisher's catalogue, which is also sent out to booksellers etc. Sales reps will go round individual bookshops trying to persuade the children's buyers to stock it. You may be asked to do some publicity work before the book comes out - I had to come and talk to sales reps and booksellers, for example. Your book will appear on Amazon with your name under 'Author'.

At last, (and for me this was a year after I got the offer, although for some people it's even longer) you get that box through the post with the real, live author copy of a book with your name on it.

Happy days.

In answer to your other questions ... no, I don't always agree with my publisher, but I usually do. I've been very lucky in that Scholastic have worked really hard to promote my books, which has been fab. I know it's not always that easy, though!

Publicity ... there's some publicity (like putting you in their catalogue, sending copies to reviewers, pitching for festivals, paying for you to be in 3-for-2 promotions and submitting you for prizes) that only publishers can do. They've also arranged other things, like talking to librarians' conferences, arranging interviews and printing a lovely sample booklet with the first couple of chapters.

Some publicity I've done myself - I arrange most of my own school visits through, also through my website (Scholastic made me a beautiful website to promote the book -, and I made myself a beautiful website to promote me - I also arranged my own book launch, mainly because I wanted to invite all my friends, and I didn't think Scholastic would pay for everyone I know to drink champagne. Scholastic turned up and helped sell books, though. And I did interviews on quite a few friend's blogs etc, which was nice.

Phew! I think I'll have to answer the other question in another post. Do continue to ask things, though. And other people - please chip in if I've left something out, or if your experience was different. Everyone's is.


Dan Metcalf said...

Wow. That was comprehensive! Thanks a lot Sally. Hopefully I'll get to go through the whole process myself soon...

Sally Nicholls said...

No problem ... and fingers crossed ...

Candy said...

hi sally! this is a great post! i hope to quote this in my blog sometime when i'm procrastinating - except my writing is going so well at the moment, it might be a while!

Jon M said...

There's champagne!!!? And here's me just thinking beer and skittles! Interesting stuff. I think I would be the proverbial nodding dog by the time I got to the meet the editor stage! It must be quite hard to be a little assertive especially with the first book.

Anonymous said...

Sally, roughly how long do you spend stroking your book?

How much champagne?

Sally Nicholls said...

Sadly, I had to buy my own champagne. Enough for everyone there to have a glass, and a few bottles left over.

I made them all buy their own beer - cheapskate that I am. And there were no skittles, but there was a lovely airship that my friend Sarah made for me.

I spent far too long stroking the book. All the way home on the bus ... and whenever I bumped into it in bookshops for a good while afterwards. Actually, I say 'bumped into it' ... I still pop in and visit it now. Just to make sure it's doing OK and the bigger books aren't picking on it.

Feel free to quote anything you want on your blog - although a link back here would be appreciated!