Publishers have always been a slightly mysterious entity to me. I don’t suppose it helps that they are often called “Publishing Houses”, from which I imagined somewhere not too different to my own home. Perhaps the person who did the front covers sat at the kitchen table, and the person who packed up the books to go to the bookshops worked in the shed? I imagined the editors typing away on old-fashioned typewriters up in the attic.
It wasn’t until my own book was published that I began to understand a bit more about what publishers do, and all the jobs there are within a publishing house. It wasn’t anything like I imagined!
In general it is editors who find stories that become books. Once, an editor has shown a story to all the other people who work at the publishers, and they’ve all agreed they like it, it’s the editor who works with an author to get the story shipshape (or bookshape, should I say). I suppose it’s a bit like the job of a coach, working with a runner to get them ready for a big race. While the runner is the one doing the actual running, they need training and advice from the coach. In the same way an editor helps the author find the best ways of telling their story. Thankfully I had two wonderful editors to work with at Kelpies, but I worked most closely with Jennie Skinner. I have been so lucky to have her clear thinking and enthusiasm channelled into my book.
At the beginning of the process we started off by talking about the magical world my characters live in and some of its history. This helped clarify aspects of my story which had been a bit woolly. I suppose I’d just hoped no one would notice! But let me tell you, editors notice everything.
Once we’d got that straight we moved onto Structural Edits. Structural Edits are about plot, pacing, and cutting out the flabby bits of the story. Scenes and characters are examined and if they don’t pull their weight they’re sent packing.
The next stage is Line Edits. This is all about looking at the words you use to tell the story. During Line Edits your editor wants to make sure that your writing is clear and effective.
Then on to Copy Edits. This stage is about making sure your writing is consistent and accurate, and often a different editor may be asked to review the text with fresh eyes. It feels like you’re nearly there, but even at this stage your editor may discover a glaring plot hole which will need sorting out before you can go on.
Finally there’s the Proof Reading stage, and by now, you really are nearly there. This stage is about spotting typos and any sentences that don’t make sense.
The Design team have the job of turning a lump of white paper and black squiggles into something someone is going to actually pick up off a bookshop shelf. They are responsible for page layout, cover design, use of illustrations, and other non-text elements. Leah and the team at Kelpies came up with the brilliant ‘cat’ font for the cover of Avery Buckle. They found and commissioned the very wonderful Xavier Bonet, the illustrator who illustrated the incredible front cover. They’ve also worked on a few little surprises in the story itself, but you’ll have to read it to find out what they are!
The production team are all about quality, schedules, and costs. Headed up by Morag at Floris, the production team liaise with printers and distributors to make the book become a real, hold-in-your-hand, object. Wow!
I feel exhausted even just thinking about what the marketing team have to do – they wear so many hats. I had a big panic about marketing because I’d read a lot about how a debut author must go out and ‘sell’ their book. I thought the success of Avery Buckle was all on me, and that felt very big, and very scary. Would I literally have to stand on street corners waving my book in people’s faces until they bought it? Thankfully the marketing team at Floris are fab-u-lous, and once the wonderful Kirsten had told me to calm down because they really did have it all under control, because it is actually their whole job, I stopped panicking (I do still panic occasionally). The marketing team work on branding, publicity, and promotion. They work with editors to produce sales copy (that’s the words you see on websites and in brochures that make books sound so enticing). They work on promotional material, deal with the press, arrange publicity events, and manage and develop promotion for the publisher. See, I told you, time for a lie down.
The office team are like the mechanics who keep the bus on the road. They do lots of very important jobs to do with finances, dealing with distributors, contracts (that’s the legal bit), and the buying and selling of rights (for example a publisher might want to sell the right to publish a book in a foreign country). This all sort of happens under the bonnet. You can’t see this machinery going around underneath the bus, but if it doesn’t happen, the wheels fall off, and there are no books. They would probably work between the garage and the kitchen in my idea of a publishing house.
So, there you are, the team behind a book! They all need a round of applause I think 🙂