'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Blog Tour - Lara Morgan and the Publishing Process

Kids Book Review is delighted to welcome author Lara Morgan on her sensastional Blog Tour in celebration of her new book The Rosie Black Chronicles! Join Lara on her tour de force by following the links at the bottom of this article. Lara is treating us with a specially written piece on the publishing process. Enjoy!

People often ask me how I got published, what road I took, how long it took. Well the short answer is: I won a short story competition, I got an agent and she got me a publishing deal. How did I get an agent? I sent her a query letter and she had, unbeknownst to me, been a judge on that story competition and remembered me so that really helped.

How long did it take? I started writing seriously in 1997, won the competition in 2003 and started looking for an agent in 2004. I got an agent in 2007 and had my first book published in 2008. So yes, it does take a while. But you probably knew that already.

So I’m not going to talk about the details of getting an agent; there are plenty of places you can read about that, what I’m going to talk about is how publishing a book works and why, at the end you can feel a bit weird – like a cave dweller blinking in this sudden new light where people refer to you as ‘an author’.

Working with publishers on your book

I’m going to talk here about The Rosie Black Chronicles because I’ve just gone through the process and it’s easier to remember.

Firstly, everything in publishing takes longer than you might think. I signed the contract in June 2009 and Genesis is out in October 2010. I can see your raised eyebrows from here. But this is all perfectly normal. Publishers work to long timelines because there are lots of steps and people involved in publishing your book.

First, you work with more than one editor. What? Yes, you are that important. And it takes weeks, months. There is the structural edit from your new best friend, your main editor. All my editors have been lovely, and I’m not just saying that because they might be reading this. As a general rule - although publishing is business, big business, everyone involved in it is actually really passionate about books. They love them and they want your book to be the best it can be.

So you get a ten page editorial report telling you firstly that your book is wonderful, and then in great detail the bits that might distract the reader from its wonderfulness, often suggesting large changes or cutting entire chapters.

At this point, I usually dissolve into an angry shell-shocked heap. I am now convinced that I have no idea what I’m doing, that I’m a fraud, that what I submitted to the editor was akin to something written by a dyslexic monkey with two fingers and I will have to write and tell her just to can the whole thing.

Instead, I put the report aside for a few days until I can read it like a relatively sane person. After this, and a day spent eating my weight in chocolate and watching Buffy re-runs, I see that maybe the report is actually going to be helpful and make it a better book. So I get to work.

This happens twice, but with a reduction in panic attacks each time so that by the time I’ve cut the ten thousand words (as suggested) I’m glad I did. Then there is the copy edit, which is less traumatic because the worst is over and it’s down to grammar, spelling and punctuation and the odd question here and there, until finally it’s done.

This whole process took around three months. Then there is a long gap while you wait. This is the phase during which covers are being made, unmade, argued over and decided on. At some point you will be sent a mock up of the proposed cover and asked what you think. Not all publishers do this. My publisher in Germany just sends me a copy of the completed book, but if your publisher does, you can have some involvement in the process, but no you probably can’t recommend your friend, the budding artist, has a go at it.

At another point, you will be asked to send in your acknowledgements and dedication. Now since you’ve known since you were three who to dedicate your first book to, this is easy. So you do that and wait again. Then, finally, you will be sent the typeset pages and you realise that it actually looks like a real book. You have an oh-my-god-moment and then, then it’s printed and a box arrives and inside are all these books with your name on the cover. And all your relatives declare they want a free one.

How does it feel to be published?

The first thing you should know about getting published is it’s kind of weird. Yes, I said weird. Wonderful, relieving, but also a bit odd. This is because before you are published you have all these dreams about what it will be like. I certainly did. You imagine that all your insecurities about your work will be washed away by the sight of your name on a book cover, that Oprah will want to interview you, that your hair will suddenly start to look like it’s not a home for dissident rats and that you will find inner peace and all your writing from then on will be easier.

You imagine all this because, like most writers, you are a manic, hopeful, overly imaginative egotist who day dreams incessantly. But you have also read a billion books on writing and publishing so you know, logically that this possibly isn’t true. Maybe even a bit mad so you keep it to yourself but still secretly keep an eye on the phone in case Oprah does call.

Does this sound familiar? Possibly. The truth – well my truth – is that for a while after my first book came out I felt weird telling people I was a ‘writer’. I only had one book out; surely it was too early to proclaim that? After all, aren’t writers people like Jane Austen or Tolkien? And people did look at me differently.

The most common thing people say when they meet me is ‘Really you’re a writer? I’ve never met a writer.’ Then they look at me expectantly as if waiting for me to say something profound, or as if I am a peculiar museum exhibit. Then they ask if they’ve heard of me, which I just know they haven’t, and I try to direct the conversation to a different topic – like the provenance of the cheese on the snacks platter.

Yes, being a writer is kind of weird. It’s lovely, but weird.

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Let's hope Lara gets used to her role soon - Genesis is just the first book in the Rosie Black Chronicles - there's more to come! If you'd like the chance to win a copy of Lara's new book, she is having a giveaway on her blog. Head there now! laramorgan.wordpress.com

OR... you could win a copy of Lara's book right here! Thanks to Walker Books, we have three copies to give away! All you have to do is think up a fabulous name for a book heroine - just like Rosie Black. Email your fictional character's name here and make sure you put Rosie Black Comp in the email subject line.

Winners will be announced on 20 October and the comp is open to residents of Australia and New Zealand who are over the age of 18. The three best entries, as decided by the judges, will win a copy of the book. No correspondence will be entered into.

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Lara's Blog Tour

Follow Lara on tour!

Oct 11 Who is Rosie Black? Kids Book Capers
Oct 12 Writing tips on creating a futuristic world, Dee Scribe Blog
Oct 13 The Publishing Process, Kids Book Review
Oct 14 Writing YA, Ripping Ozzie Reads
Oct 14 Writing a Fantasy Series, Sandy Fussell's Blog
Oct 15 Interview, We Love YA
Oct 16 Interview, Book Gryffin
Oct 17 Writing sci fi, Rhiannon Hart's Blog
Oct 18 Heroines in YA, YA Reads
Oct 19 The Boy in this story: creating male characters in heroine driven YA, The Phantom Paragrapher
Oct 19 Rosie Black’s past & future, Tales I Tell
Oct 20 Interview, Sally Murphy's Blog