Friday, 5 July 2019

Publishing Process Part 3 – Proofs & Cover Artwork

This is the third in my series of posts about the publishing process (you can read the first and second here) with a traditional publisher. As I take you through my journey, I hope to demystify the process and give you an idea of the work which goes into getting a book ready to hit the shelves.


Checking the proofs is the final stage in getting the text of a book ready for the printer's. The manuscript was sent to me and a proofreader simultaneously, and by now it was all laid out like a book rather than the word document we’d previously been working from.

Hodder sent me a physical copy as well as digital, which was really handy because I find it’s much easier to spot mistakes on a printed page. I picked up some little errors: missing speech marks or commas, the occasional word which had accidentally been left in after the copy-edit stage. Previously, these are the kinds of things that would have irritated me as a reader, but now I’ve seen how extensively a book is amended and tweaked, I understand how easily they can slip through. Hopefully, having been through the rigorous process of being checked and double-checked by different professionals, the text will be perfect.

The proofs were about checking the fine detail of the text, but meanwhile another team of people were working on a more creative element: the book’s cover...

Cover Art

This is the initial black and white sketch which my editor sent me, along with colour samples showing the wintery blue colours and warm glowing lights the team were proposing for a colour scheme. This layout was the work of the designer, Natalie Chen, and I was delighted to approve it.

An illustrator, Giordano Poloni, was then commissioned to produce the scene on the front and back of jacket. It focuses on the fictional English Cotswold village of Willowbrook, where my story begins, with the main characters depicted as silhouettes at the front. Again, I was thrilled with the design. My only request, when this came through, was would it be possible to incorporate sewing elements, since the main character, Evie, owns a patchwork and quilting shop? Sewing plays an important part in the story, and Evie’s quilts and handmade creations are woven into the plot, so I was keen for this to be included in the artwork somehow. The designer came back with this:

Isn’t it beautiful? My book is described as ‘cosy women’s fiction’, and I think this cover encapsulates that perfectly. And the buttons and sewing needle were a stroke of genius!

Here’s the back cover:

What do you think? Can you see how already a whole group of people have worked closely on preparing my book for publication? Their expert contributions have all helped to refine it and package it in the most compelling way possible, and I feel privileged to be part of the Hodder team. I can't wait to hear what readers think of it when it's released in September.


The Christmas Holiday will be published 19th September 2019 and is available for preorder here

Related posts:

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Publishing Process: Part 2: Copy-Edits by Sophie Claire

This is the second in my series of posts about the publishing process (you can read the first one here) with a traditional publisher. As I take you through my journey, I hope to demystify the process and give you an idea of the work which goes into getting a book ready to hit the shelves.

A few weeks after I’d completed the edits for my book, The Christmas Holiday, I received the copy-edits. These were totally new to me, and to be honest I wasn’t prepared for them. I'd heard writers talking about them, but what were they exactly? How did they differ from proofreading? I think I had expected a few scribbles here and there, pointing out repetition and the like, but not many; after all, the manuscript had been read in detail by four people now and, because I’ve done some proofreading in the past, I like to think my work is fairly polished. Oh how wrong I was!

Copy-edits involve so much more than just spotting repetition. ‘The copy-editor’s brief is to ensure the text is ready for publication in terms of grammar, syntax, readability and consistency,’ I was told. My copy-editor deserves a gold medal for how thoroughly she went through the manuscript. She had taken clumsy sentence structures and made them flow more smoothly, and removed unnecessary words (‘both’ and ‘suddenly’, for example).

She spotted that I overuse the word ‘shot’ (it’s not a crime novel, honest) and thinned these out, she also deleted a lot of raised eyebrows, and how had I never noticed that all my characters begin their sentences with ‘So’? These were pruned of course.

The eagle-eyed copy-editor also noticed inconsistencies. For example, my heroine Evie sometimes had two dimples when she smiled and elsewhere just one. I decided to make it consistent, and stick with two. In
one scene Evie lets the hero’s Dalmatian out into the garden, then in the next line the dog’s eating his breakfast in the kitchen: in the margin was a note saying ‘you didn’t let the dog back in!’ Evie then helped herself to tea, when the hero only had hot chocolate and coffee in the cupboard. All these tiny niggles were spotted and addressed so the book can flow smoothly and (hopefully) there’s nothing left in there to jolt the reader out of the story.

Of course, not everything was as straightforward as the examples above, and some amendments were a question of style or personal preference. Occasionally, I felt the suggested changes weren’t right for my book or my voice, and in these cases I wrote ‘stet’ in the margin so it would remain unchanged.

Because I was scared of falling behind on the novel I'm currently writing, I chose to do these edits in the evenings and weekends. It wasn’t as taxing as writing; in fact, I secretly enjoyed it. And by the end of the process I felt my novel had been checked so thoroughly that there couldn’t possibly be anything left for the proofreader to correct (ha!). Next month I’ll tell you about those proofs, and also how the artwork was developed for the cover.


The Christmas Holiday will be published 19th September 2019 and is available for pre-order here

Related posts:
The Publishing Process Part 1: Edits by Sophie Claire
Good Things Come by Sophie Claire

Friday, 26 April 2019

The Publishing Process: Part 1: Edits by Sophie Claire

Last month I blogged about the publishing deal I’ve just signed with Hodder & Stoughton (you can read that post here), and the Novelistas have asked me to write about the publishing process. Although I had a book published before with a small independent press and a couple of short stories in anthologies, this is my first experience of working with a large traditional publisher. A lot of the process is new to me, and I’m very excited about getting input from professionals: I'm certain that my book, The Christmas Holiday, will be all the better for it. As I take you through my journey, I hope to demystify the process and show how much work goes into polishing a book before it’s ready to hit the shelves.

First up: Edits

I had heard terrifying stories about writers who were asked to completely overhaul their plots or rewrite a character, and often in less than a month, so I nervously awaited my editor's email. However, when it arrived I was relieved because there was nothing major and no structural changes. (I’m lucky that I wrote The Christmas Holiday in my own time without any deadline pressures, and my agent Megan had also been through it and suggested minor changes to improve it).

I was asked to add a couple of new scenes, but mostly, my edits were about deleting repetition and adding depth; that is, revealing little snippets of additional backstory which help explain characters’ behaviour. I was careful not to fall into the trap of adding too much: I’ve learned over the years that a couple of lines or a paragraph are usually enough.

What I didn’t expect in my edits were little comments marking the bits my editor especially liked – a passage that was particularly tense or an emotional scene she found moving. I was grateful for these, because it’s good to know what you’re doing right. So I made the edits, read through the book again, making sure it made sense (any writer knows, the smallest change can have a knock-on effect: no one wants their characters referring to an event that’s been deleted, for example) and sent the book back.

Then I waited to hear.

I had told myself I’d get straight back to writing book 5 (this one does have a deadline), but it was surprisingly difficult to concentrate until I’d heard if my edits were approved. I forced myself to sit at my desk each day, but my mind was elsewhere, worrying. Was what I’d done good enough? Should I have added more? Would my editor send me a second round of revisions? And if so, how many rounds should I expect?

After two days I couldn’t bear the waiting (I know, I really need to learn patience!) so I emailed the Novelistas asking how long does it normally take – days or weeks? ‘How long is a piece of string?’, said Trisha Ashley. Everyone agreed: it depends on the book’s schedule, your editor and their workload at the time. I knew I had to be patient.

Later that same day my editor got back to me (see? I should have been patient!) saying she was delighted with my revisions, and there were just a few tweaks left. I did these the same morning, and sent them off. The next stage would be copy-edits, which I’ll talk about next month, but for now I could get back to writing book 5.