Tuesday, 21 March 2017

We don't have to do it all! by Anne Booth

I have just read Joan's post from yesterday and recognise that procrastinating phenomenon! I think that fear of not, after all, being able to cut it when we do eventually stop procrastinating and write something, does strike at the heart of every writer, and continues even after being published. We are suddenly  aware of our weaknesses and forget our strengths.  We read the advice of dynamic individuals about how they made it and see they are marketing and promotional wizards as well as amazingly interesting people and we feel we can't possibly do or be everything that is needed.

Here is me procrastinating big time, hiding under my jumper. Please don't look at the Kit Kat wrapper.

But very recently I suddenly had a very lovely breakthrough - I've realised this getting published lark is really not ALL up to me and it is OK to be me with my weaknesses and strengths. I knew this before, but this is a re-realisation and I think I am starting to believe this, not just say it, and it is a big relief.

When you are a child handing in essays or stories it is essential that it is 'all your own work' and I think, as writers, this is vital and something which is very important to us. We want to be original, to stand out from the crowd. We don't want to plagiarise or be plagiarised. 'I've got here on my own merits, I've done this on my own, I have a unique voice', we say, and we are rightly proud.

But the thing is - and I am increasingly finding this a relief - once we are published we are not on our own any more, and it isn't just a question of  'all  our own work' -  it is also the hard work of others which will make our careers.

So for me, first and foremost there is my agent, Anne Clark. So far thanks to  Anne, I have book deals with Catnip, Nosy Crow, Oxford University Press and Lion.  I hope that I will work with more publishers too, and if I do, that will be thanks to Anne. I don’t know anything about publishing and approaching people and making deals and knowing the market.

This is me back in 2014 at the launch of 'Girl with a White Dog'.

Publishers take my texts and make them into desirable objects - books. Anne works with me to make sure that the texts we submit are as good as I can possibly make them, but then, thanks to commissioning editors and desk editors and copy editors they are worked on even more, and thanks to designers they are presented in the best possible way.

I am teamed up with amazing illustrators like  Rosalind Beardshaw, Sam Usher, Amy Proud, Sophy Williams, Ruth Hearson. Serena Rocca illustrated the cover of 'Girl with a White Dog', which was designed by Pip Johnson, and then Pip Johnson illustrated and designed the cover of 'Dog Ears'. Sophy Williams' illustrations on the cover of the Lucy books are so important to attract readers.

Marketing people have input on titles and even the colour of the background of the covers! Glitter is added, or not, as the case may be. Booksellers are consulted before the final decisions are made.

Then my books are printed (sometimes at great speed - as with 'Refuge'), and then they have to be promoted and sold, and although I obviously do my best to promote them, I really rely on the talents and hard work of marketing promotions and sales people in Bounce marketing, or OUP, or Nosy Crow, or Lion to get my books out there, and also turned into audio books, as 'Girl with a White Dog' and' Dog Ears' have been.

Then there is the person who deals with foreign rights sales in Anne’s agency, Margot Edwards - thanks to her my MG books are in 6 languages apart from English. Thanks to the foreign rights people at OUP, Nosy Crow and Lion, my picture books are sold in America and my first two Lucy books are translated and on sale in the Czech Republic. I could never have organised that in a million years!

Lastly, but certainly not least, are the book sellers and librarians - for my book to really exist in its fullest way it has to be read - so these people are vital. And then I suppose, the final person who makes the book is...the reader.

So, I feel more and more comfortable seeing myself as part of a team,  and it really helps to lessen the fear. I want to have a unique voice and have integrity and authenticity but I am really glad to remember that my writing is not the only thing which will make the book succeed or not. My job is to write as well as I can and do my best to promote my books - but I must remember that, thanks to Anne my agent and my publishers, I don't have to be (luckily!) an all- dancing, all- singing genius, beauty, promotional wizard or a celebrity, because other people in the publishing and book-selling world have amazing  talents and experience and different roles which are, and will be, vital for my books.  I know that we writers can feel a bit depressed by celebrity children's authors, but I think we have to hold our nerve. That isn't the whole story by any means. 

I found this video of a speech by Neil Gaiman to be inspiring and helpful when I think about the job of a writer.  The bit about imposter syndrome is particularly good.


P.S. You may have read in The Bookseller that the very respected publisher  Lion has just had to lay off two thirds of its wonderful staff and is operating for the time being with a drastically reduced budget. Unfortunately, just after all this has happened, my first picture book with them, ‘I want a Friend’ by Anne Booth and Amy Proud, is being published this month, so this is a case where an author DOES have to feverishly multi-task and beg the support of family and friends and fellow writers and illustrators to spread the word. SO - here am I, after all I have said, with an author-sized marketing hat on - ‘here is  the must- buy this month from the impossibly beautiful and talented celebrity team, Amy Proud and Anne Booth. Please spread the word about this INCREDIBLE book OUT THIS MONTH  via Twitter and Facebook and any other celebrity functions, radio call-ins or TV chats shows you may be involved in…. '

You may recognise this picture from my last blog post and from the background of my twitter feed - I am doing my best because I love this book and the illustrations Amy has done!!


Penny Dolan said...

I enjoyed reading your appreciation of all the people involved in creating your books and your book-sales, Anne, and hope that your I WANT A FRIEND book finds plenty of happy readers, despite that bad news from Lion.

Joan Lennon said...

Wise words!

Rowena House said...

Great post and v encouraging sentiments too. PB news duly Tweeted! Good luck wearing your new marketing hat!