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.


Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Good Things Come by Sophie Claire

I’m so pleased to tell you I’ve signed a three-book deal with Hodder & Stoughton.

There have been tears of joy, celebrations, and just a few nerves at the prospect of deadlines. 

It’s a dream come true, but it didn’t happen overnight. 
Oh no. 
There’s been so much waiting, nail-biting and doubt along the way, but I hope my story gives comfort to others that there is always hope. 

So here’s how it came about:

A brief background

My first novel, Her Forget-Me-Not Ex, was published in 2015 by a small press. It sold well, much better than I expected in fact, but it had always been my goal to have an agent, so when I finished my second book I sent it out. I signed with Megan Carroll of Watson, Little Literary Agency in March 2016. Megan loved my second book, a summery friends-to-lovers story set in Provence. She approached publishers with it, and although we had a few near misses and really positive feedback, it didn’t sell. I won’t lie, this was disheartening (for both of us – it’s easy to overlook how passionately agents represent their clients and how much work they do on their behalf).

During months of not hearing anything, I had to keep the faith, be patient (I’m not very good at that) and keep writing. 

And then…

On the bright side, the submissions process is a slow one, and by the time Megan had exhausted her list of publishers, I had almost finished writing my third book (a Christmas story, set partly in England and in Provence). I’m glad I did because book 3 attracted more interest, including offers from two publishers. 


I was utterly thrilled and, after Megan’s call, I confess there were a few tears. This was what I’d been working towards for the last fifteen years, after all.

I signed with Hodder & Stoughton, who will publish The Christmas Holiday in October this year, re-release my first novel (under a new title) next year, and publish a third book which I’m currently writing in time for Christmas 2020. 

Yet to come

I’ve already begun working with my editor and her team, and I’m thrilled with how it’s going. Although I’ve been published before, Hodder & Stoughton is a large traditional publisher, and a lot of the process is new to me. I never realised so much work went into bringing a book to publication beyond the author writing ‘The End’. It’s exciting to be getting input from so many experienced professionals, and I know my book will be all the better for it.

The Novelistas have asked me to blog about the process of bringing a book to publication, so over the next few months I’ll be sharing my experiences with you.
One of the things I love about writing is that I’m constantly learning, and I hope that never stops.


Monday, 7 January 2019

Recipe from the Book: Mincemeat Flapjacks by Trisha Ashley

Introducing a brand-new series: recipes from your favourite Novelistas' books!

So, Christmas is over, the decorations are packed away, every mince pie has been eaten... and you find a half-eaten jar of mincemeat lurking at the back of the fridge. What do you do?

(a) Reach for a spoon?
(b) Chuck it in the bin?


(c) Make more mince pies?


How about trying this recipe for mincemeat flapjacks from Trisha Ashley's The Magic of Christmas. They are easy to make, taste good all year round, and are not just for Christmas!

Trisha Ashley

Mincemeat Flapjacks

4oz butter
2 tbsp golden syrup
2oz Demerara sugar (or a soft, dark brown sugar, if you want a slightly ‘treacly’ taste)
5 heaped tbsp of mincemeat, either bought or homemade
5oz rolled oats


Preheat oven to gas mark 3, 160⁰C, 325⁰F and grease a seven-inch baking tin. If using a cake tin instead, then I would line the base with baking paper, too.

Melt together the sugar, butter and syrup in a pan over a low heat, then stir in the mincemeat and, once warmed through, the oats.

Remove from the heat and mix well, then spoon into the baking tin and spread it out, flattening the top.

Put into the oven for about half an hour: it should be slightly golden brown. Remove and leave to cool for fifteen minutes before marking into squares or slices.

When cool, store in an airtight container.

The Magic of Christmas by Trisha Ashley

In the pretty Lancashire village of Middlemoss, Lizzy is on the verge of leaving her serially unfaithful husband, Tom, when tragedy strikes. Good job she has welcome distractions in the form of her Christmas Pudding Circle, a circle of friends swapping seasonal recipes, and a simmering rivalry with cookery writer Nick Pharamond – a rivalry set to come to boiling point after he snatched the Best Mince Pie prize away from her at the village show.

Meanwhile, the whole village is gearing up for the annual Mystery Play which takes place on Boxing Day. But who will play Adam to Lizzy’s Eve? Could it be the handsome and charismatic soap actor Ritch Rainford, or could someone closer to home win her heart? Whatever happens, it will certainly be a hard act to follow next year!