Tag Archives: publishing

Taking The Punches & Fighting For The Books

Part of my job, after I’ve bought all of the books, is to work out what cover we want on them. Gotta wrap the text in a nice package that tells you something about the book and makes you want to pick it up, yes?

And this week, trying to do that has just knocked me flat.

I’m lucky that Rebellion has quite a chilled-out covers process; we basically just figure out some directions, have a chat, email around, have another chat, find an artist…. and fucking hell is it hard work. I feel like for every punch I’ve stood up from, another’s come and knocked me straight back on my butt!

The problem with book covers is that there’s usually multiple directions they could go in. What’s popular generally? What’s hot in the genre? What’s going to be hot in a year’s time? What do readers expect? What does the US like, versus the UK? What’s going to suit the book? What looks good, great, fabulous? What’s going to make people buy this?

You’re also doing that within time and budget constraints, of course. Nothing new there.

Every time I thought I’d got something figured out, someone hit me with a new idea or a new direction. For every decision I made, I encountered another point of view. Every time I tried to get out of the rabbit hole, another four passages opened up…

And it was hard: stressful, anxiety-inducing and plain discouraging. I’m doing my best, and I keep getting told I’m not good enough.

But actually, that’s not true.

I’ve got to remind myself that I am fighting for my books.

A mediocre cover won’t do. A “meh” cover won’t do. I am not letting these books that I bought and I love out there in the world with a cover that doesn’t represent them. I want people to read these. I need people to read these.

And every alternative suggestion, every “not good enough”, every critique – it’s not aimed at me. It’s going into making the cover the best damn cover it can be.

That said, I still have to filter and refine and work out which suggestions are worth listening to, and which are Michael Rowley being bloody irritating. (I do adore him, but Michael can talk for England. Keeping him on track and away from pirates/chocolate/new book ideas can sometimes be very hard.)

And I need to take the knocks – because they’re not aimed at me. They’re aimed at my books: I am championing something bigger than me. And I am damn well going to make sure everyone knows that they need to read these ones.

A Thought About Voice – The Start

I had a piece of writing recently that I was editing, and it started with;

“Finally,” the young woman said-

What voice do you read that spoken word in? What tone?

Is it “FINALLY we have gotten round to THIS THING!” or “So, um, finally I get to say something?” or “Fiiiiiiinally in my very long list of shit…” or something else entirely?

It turned out, half a sentence later, to be a tremulous tone.

And so I did what editors do, and I crossed it out.

It’s too uncertain an opening. It’s a single word with too many different tones and meanings and phrases, and it brought in too much of an about-face in the reader if they read it the wrong way (“well FINALLY we’ve got to this point! HUMPH!”) and then suddenly had to switch to tremulous.

One of my core principles is that the reader shouldn’t have to re-read unless it’s a deliberate choice. If you’re pulling an abrupt switch or a big reveal, then a re-read is great! (One of my favourite parts of Skin Games by Jim Butcher comes after the reveal three-quarters of the way through, and you end up gleefully skipping back through entire conversations to get a hidden meaning.) But if you’re using dialogue and you’ve got a long conversation, I shouldn’t have to track back four lines to check who is saying what. I don’t want to have to return to the start of a paragraph to check when they actually moved location/opened the window/did the action. And I shouldn’t have to realise halfway through a sentence that my tone is completely (and I mean completely) wrong.

As an addendum to that; slightly wrong, I think, goes with the territory. No reader will read the characters in the same way that the writer hears them, and that’s fine. But you should be able to at least convey the general tone of the conversation: and that’s why “Finally” got a red line through it. There were other ways of conveying the hesitation and tremulous tone; in fact, all I actually ended up doing was suggesting the second half of the sentence went first, which conveyed the tone far better.

That said… you know this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, right? Maybe just a general suggestion to have a read of your openings, and check if there might be another way they could be read.

Imposter Syndrome, with added Imposter

I’m buying books.

Who let me get at the department’s budget?! I mean, I have to convince my boss first (which usually consists of me being enthusiastic at him, and not using the words “steampunk” or “fairy”)-

-which, on a side note, feels like an even worse method of buying things than anything else: I like it, therefore we need it-

I mean, who am I fooling? I should be doing Serious Market Research and throwing TCM figures around and looking at Amazon stats. Instead, I’m going “well, I really liked it and therefore I want to throw it out into the world in the hope that other people like it too.”

Ok, maybe that isn’t such a bad method of choosing books.

But then I have to negotiate for books. And then hopefully buy them.

I mean, that feels like an even worse method of doing anything. Someone’s letting me loose with a whole bunch of money and I’ve got to go ask an agent how much I have to give them to let me publish a really really good story all over the place, or maybe just in one or two places. I want to print pretty books, anyhow.

And then there’s a whole bunch of tedious detail, but I can’t have everything my way.

I just feel like…I need more experience. Or age. Or knowledge. Or just… it shouldn’t be ME.

Who let me do this?!

But I bought a really good book! It’s Jane Austen with magic (ok, there’s a lot more detail than that but you’re going to have to wait for it to come out, because it’s just so much fun) and eeeeeeeeeeh!

(Also, seriously looking forward to Chimera coming out. It gets more and more fun every time I read it!)

And I’m currently pondering another.

It’s terrifying, exhilarating, and I am both feeling major Imposter Syndrome and absolutely loving it. I still don’t know who let me adult, though…

If anyone needs me this evening, I’ll be in my blanket fort.

London Book Fair 2019 Roundup

I was at the London Book Fair 2019 as a Rebellion editor last week, and I’ve just about recovered…

David, Michael and I went as a free-range gang (although not corn-fed, as Ed Wilson joked) and essentially had back-to-back meetings for the three days; I think we had five official breaks in the whole time! It was hard and my feet hurt and I seriously hate people; the decision to put a bunch of people who have meetings in with a bunch of people who are Only Looking and then make the walkways narrow was not a great one, although not something that could really be avoided.

However, it was also really exciting; there were loads of good stalls and people, and apparently some really interesting events (although I missed them all!) It was so good to meet people that I’d either heard of or only briefly corresponded with, and also meet so many new faces. There are so many lovely agents, all of whom were really interested in what we do, and all of whom want to send us books! Yes, I know that’s their job, but still. They were all very enthusiastic.

The downside is that there were so many interesting-sounding manuscripts that we said “Ooh! Send it over!” to that I am probably going to be spending the next two months reading…

Things I learned:

  • Genre matters. It might be the best sci-fi book ever but if I’ve got enough sci-fi on my list at the moment, it’s not likely to make it to my pile…
  • Your agent uses your elevator pitch too!
  • It’s very interesting to see how many people dismiss the Junior Editor, and how many took the time to talk to me; it definitely made a difference.
  • Being a speed-reader is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to manuscript piles!
  • I have the best colleagues, who are all ridiculously supportive. It’s wonderful.

I have spent this weekend recovering (aka. sitting on the sofa playing Civ in between formatting jobs – the work never stops around here…) and now have a busy week that possibly involves reading manuscripts. I have the best job!

Out and About in London: London Book Fair 2019

fox fabricI’m off to the London Book Fair this week, which is partly terrifying as I have to Talk To People and Be Professional and Interact, and partly amazing – I’m going as a professional editor! I’m going to talk to agents! What The Hell?

And partly it’s just…argh. Work’s been pretty busy already this month and taking three days out is going to be frustrating…but then I do really want to go, so…

Space fabricAnyhows! I’m going to be the lady in the fox skirt – or possibly a space skirt if I get it sewn in time – and wandering around with two reprobates (Michael Rowley and David Moore, FYI) and talking to everyone. It’s going to be great!

Ps. Send chocolate, and don’t expect any interaction until, ooh, at least next Monday.