Today I have a fantastic post from UK debut author Rupert Wallis on the publishing process. This tour focused on the behind the scenes process of having a book published – read on!
On The Publishing Process As An Author
As a debut author the publishing process has given me a fascinating insight into how a book transforms from being a document on one’s computer to an actual book. So I’ll attempt to highlight some of the stages that have resonated with me.
Editing was the first step. I was pretty nervous about how much work there was going to be and what I might be expected to do to a story I had spent so much time alone with. Luckily, there wasn’t a huge amount to change with regard to the structure or the characters. What my editor, Jane, helped me to do was tease out some of the story elements that were lurking in the background, almost as if I was adjusting the equalizer settings on a stereo, toning up certain aspects such as: the relationships between the characters, the world of the story, and some of the darker, more magical elements. What I have learnt from this is that a writer needs to be very clear about how they want their story to be so they can justify its content when challenged. Having a good working relationship with an editor is key and I was very lucky to be able to work with Jane who helped me see things about my manuscript I had not noticed before.
Beyond the actual rewriting process (which in addition to an editor also includes a copy editor and a proof editor), other people in the publication chain start to orbit around the book - the cover designer, the sales team, the PR department. There is a requirement for an author to be able to let go of their book as more and more people take ownership of what is essentially a ‘product’ that is going to be sold. Because I have a screenwriting background I think I was probably more adjusted to this than if I had been a debut author without any sense of how much of an industry storytelling is. Whether it’s film, theatre, books or television the key element is usually the ‘bottom line’. In fact, from my limited experience of the publishing industry so far I have learnt that even if an editor loves a manuscript submitted to them by an agent it’s the sales team that usually has the final say on whether it’s purchased or not.* What it means when a publisher does buy something is that the whole team is on board and behind the book. This has certainly been my experience with Simon & Schuster who have been brilliant when working on the title and the cover design, as well as the PR, allowing for the sharing of ideas, with a view to coming up with the best possible incarnation for my book.
In addition to all the work that’s done by the publisher to build the book into something special an author has to commit to promoting it too. Not the easiest thing for me being a shy, retiring type but so far I’ve enjoyed being interviewed for various publications and meeting readers. Hearing and reading their reactions and opinions is fascinating and makes all the hard work that’s gone into writing the book extremely worthwhile. Of course no one likes everything and I have to begun to realise that the life of a writer will always involve a degree of rejection or criticism throughout one’s career, beginning when trying to find an agent, then a publisher (or publishers) and finally a readership, which is an ongoing task. It means that writers have to be fairly resilient. I think it helps to have written a book you believe in, which you can feel proud of, whatever the variety of responses.
Promotion will no doubt be a process that will continue long after the book has been published so in effect there is no cut off point where everything finishes. Allied to this is the need to complete the next book - in my case a contractual obligation. What I have come to realise about the publishing process is that books are important in their own right, entities to be enjoyed, but they also serve the purpose of elevating the author to becoming a brand. It is this to which I now have to aspire if I am to make a living out of being a writer.
*I imagine many factors go into deciding why a manuscript is bought or not but I would urge any aspiring author to ignore market trends and not worry about what other people are writing, and write a manuscript that is genuine and real because readers all along the publishing pipeline will connect with that. Hopefully, it means that your book will find the right publisher to love and cherish it (it only takes one!). Furthermore, only by writing something that an author genuinely wants to write can that author truly generate a feeling of empowerment.
Thank you so much Rupert! And to S&S for offering me a place on the tour. you should all go and grab a copy of The Dark Inside – it’s dark and atmospheric and a fantastic debut!