Unless you’ve published a book with a publisher, or you know someone who works in publishing, you probably don’t know much about how an idea is turned into a book – and how long it can take! Below is the timeline of Jelly…
Early in 2017: I’m under contract to produce a new book for my publisher, Piccadilly Press. This means that we already have an agreement in place, but they need to approve any idea I have before I write the book for them. I really, really want to write a particular story about a girl with parents from two different countries, but they’re not convinced I’m handling the story very well. I write two samples of 10,000 words each, but Piccadilly turns both of them down. In the end, I abandon the project because I can’t make it work. I need a new idea, and fast. But it isn’t until a chance conversation with another mum about her daughter that I find it…
23rd May 2017: I send the proposed synopsis to Fliss, my editor. She loves it and shows it to the rest of the publishing team (you have to get approval from everyone, otherwise the publisher won’t accept the book) and on 24th May 2017, it’s officially approved: : “Everyone is delighted with the JELLY proposal. A unanimous yes all round.” Hurrah! Jelly is scheduled for publication in July 2018, and Fliss suggests I should get the first draft to her by early October.
June-July 2017: Fliss and I discuss ideas for the front cover. The publisher has a Design Department, and because you have to start telling people about the book several months before it is published, they sometimes have to come up with a front cover before the book is even written! We also discuss the title. At this point the book is called JELLY but we wonder if it should tie in better with A LIBRARY OF LEMONS and A STORM OF STRAWBERRIES. Trouble is, we can’t come up with anything that goes with ‘Jelly’ and doesn’t sound stupid! In the end, the sales team likes ‘Jelly’ on its own, so we go with that. Over the next few months, I see rough versions of the front cover which I can comment on, though the final version of the cover is decided by the publisher.
August 2017: I start writing the manuscript. I’m late because of personal circumstances, and in the end I have to ask for an extension to my deadline because I am writing more slowly than usual. Publication date is brought forward to 14th June 2018.
5th November 2017: I send the first draft of Jelly to Fliss.
1st Dec 2017: First editorial notes from Fliss. I start work on the second draft.
Jan 2018: discussion of the strapline which is the extra sentence on the front of the book. A good strapline can take AGES to figure out! I suggest ‘It’s better to laugh than to cry, right?’ which is the one we eventually agree on.
30th Jan 2018: I send the second draft to Fliss.
1st Feb 2018: Fliss sends an email headed ‘JELLY second draft is wonderful!’ and I am SO relieved.
13th Feb 2018: Full editorial notes on the second draft. They are pretty minor changes, which is great because Feb-March are the busiest months of the year for authors who do school visits. World Book Day is the first week in March and everyone wants an author then! I manage to make all the necessary changes in one day’s work and I also make small changes based on feedback from two friends who have read the second draft and made useful comments that are different from the things Fliss picked up on. Everyone has a perspective, and I asked these two friends because I knew they would have personal experience that would be helpful to me.
15th Feb 2018: I send the third draft to Fliss. We also have a discussion about the poems in the book. I want to use photographs of my handwritten poems, but Design says they come out too dark on the printer paper, and so (reluctantly) I send typed-out versions which Fliss says they can put into a ‘handwriting font’. Fliss approves the third draft and so it goes to copy edit.
19th Feb 2018: I correspond with my lovely friend Cathy Cassidy, who agreed to provide a quote for the front cover and is incredibly generous with her praise. I pass on her quote to Fliss for adding to the final front cover design.
12th March 2018: I get the go-ahead to announce the final cover of JELLY on my blog, even though an early version of the cover has been around on the internet for a few weeks!
16th March 2018: Copy edit notes in from Talya. (The copy editor is always a different person from the editor because a fresh pair of eyes picks up more errors and has a useful second perspective: for example, things that might seem quite clear to you and your editor might confuse a new reader!) Talya says “LOVED it! Great voice, great character, really universal emotions” which is very nice for me to hear. I go through the manuscript again with Talya’s comments, and make small changes or agree with her changes, and then I send it back to Talya. It takes me a couple of days.
Around this time, Fliss and I agree that the ‘handwriting font’ isn’t all that great, and instead, we decide that my handwritten poems can be scanned. So I do that, which takes aaaages, and send over all the files (which are big!). And then I also have to send in a few random handwritten words because I’ve made small blotches in some of the poems…oops!
29th March 2018: Proof pages arrive. This is where you get to check over your book one last time before it goes to the printer. At this point, the layout has been set, so you can see how your words will actually look on the pages. It’s really important to check them carefully – sometimes tiny typing errors slip through, or a missing speech mark, things like that. I always ask my parents to read my proofs because they’re really good at spotting things!
15th April 2018: I send back my proof comments, based on my own thoughts and the comments from my parents.
April-May 2018: Fliss, Talya and Tina (who works in Publicity) discuss ideas for promoting the book to readers and booksellers and librarians. I write an article about periods that never gets used. I also design a flyer to go out with the review copies (publishers send free copies of books to people who write reviews, either online or in newspapers. Not many newspapers review children’s books, so if you get a review in the Guardian/Times/Observer etc, everyone is VERY happy!) and I spend my evenings making jelly decorations out of felt, to go out with the review copies too. Reviewers like to feel they are getting something special or personal because basically, we’re asking them to do us a favour, so it’s only fair to offer them something in return!
14th June 2018: Jelly is officially published!
15th June 2018: I hear that my lovely Chinese publisher Beijing Publishing Group (who publish Lemons and Strawberries) has offered to publish Jelly in China!
July 2018: Jelly is reviewed in the Metro newspaper (fantastic!) and also SELLS OUT and so, within three weeks of publication date, it has to be re-printed. The five-star reviews on Amazon are coming in, and I am so, so grateful for each and every one of them (and yes, I do read my reviews!) Jelly has got off to a flying start!
October 2018: I hear the wonderful news that Jelly is to be published in the US! Little Bee, who are to publish another of my books, A Storm of Strawberries, in 2019, have offered to publish Jelly too! I am over the moon 🙂