Claire King

Author

Archive for the ‘publication’ Category

We Need to Talk about Amazon

Posted on: November 27th, 2013 by Claire - 15 Comments

While my first year being a published author has been going great guns in the UK, things have got off to a fairly quiet start in the USA.

That’s pretty much par for the course for a debut British novel, I’m told, and The Night Rainbow hasn’t done too badly. Considering there was no ‘launch campaign’ as such, around release time in April there was some great coverage in book shops, and I’ve had a modest royalty cheque, so hurray!

Then this week, Amazon.com chose The Night Rainbow for their Kindle Daily Deal. I don’t know how that works, but I am thrilled they did.

As a rule I don’t follow my rankings on Amazon, because

  • a) Frankly, I can’t actually affect them.
  • b) The numbers swing wildly about and it’s pretty unfathomable how they relate to actual books sold.
  • c) They change every hour. Can you imagine how distracting that would be to a writer if you let it?

But yesterday I made an exception, because I was interested in how the promotion – which saw the ebook price fall from around €9 to $2.99 for 24 hours – would go. Looking over the months since launch, sales on Amazon of both the printed and the e-book appear to have been close to non-existent. Yesterday my sales ranking in the Kindle Store shot up by 954,681%  (apparently*). From roughly #250,000 to #25 in the paid kindle store. That’s pretty close to the top of the list.

And at the end of the day I got to see this, which although a fleeting phenomenon, is no less exciting and, most importantly, gets The Night Rainbow noticed by readers who otherwise wouldn’t have ever come across it:

2013-11-27 at 08.40.53

Amazon USA Literary and Contemporary Fiction: #2

And also this:

Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 16.42.31

Amazon Canada Literary and Contemporary Fiction: #6

I don’t know what my sales were for the day exactly (they certainly didn’t increase by a million percent) but they did shoot up quite remarkably and continued for a while after the Deal had finished, when the ebook was back to full price.

The Daily Deal was November 26th 2013, so if you’re interested in seeing how the ebook is ranking now, click here.

I also followed the ‘noise’ around the promotion. And it’s not just Amazon who market it. They publicise the deal onsite and send out emails to Kindle users, but I also noticed that on twitter and on the web in general there are lots of accounts set up to catch these deals and shout them out to their followers and readers, magnifying the effect. *It was one of those accounts that tweeting the amazing 954,681% leap in ranking. It’s a machine that works very effectively.

So far so good. Has anyone got to this point yet without screaming,

  • “Yes! But it’s AMAZON!”
  • “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Franzen etc”,
  • “Bookshops closing!”
  • “Death by ebook!”

Or something similar?

Well, yes. So to the thorny question of Amazon. As a reader, I’m a bookshop girl. I love bookshops. I love choosing books in bookshops and chatting to people who work there. As an author I also love bookshops. I love the warm welcome you get from the dedicated, passionate independent booksellers and from their customers, who they often know by name.

But Amazon have about a 30% market share of books in the USA. Many people now go straight to Amazon when they want to buy a book, and an even greater percentage when they want to buy an ebook. And obviously book shops don’t sell ebooks for Kindle (although Amazon are offering them the chance, which is a whole other debate).

Some people do prefer reading books electronically and the people that took a chance on my book yesterday because of a promotional price point and a big shout out from Amazon are not people who would have bought a paper copy from a book shop. Otherwise they’d have done it sometime in the last 7 months, I’d have thought. They are, however, people who will read it, hopefully be delighted by it, and hopefully tell that to other people.

Sometimes, as authors, it’s suggested that when we ‘self-promote’ we should limit that to encouraging people to go to bookshops. When the question of Amazon, or indeed supermarkets, comes up, even if they’ve helped market and sell actual quantities of our work, we are expected to hum and ha and shuffle our feet nervously. I did tweet several times yesterday to let people know about the offer. And every time I did, I must admit I felt worried that people might judge me for inadvertently ‘supporting’ Amazon.

But in the end, is it we authors who are responsible for the struggles that bookshops face? I don’t think so. Most authors I know would happily do signings at bookshops, support library reading groups etc., even if they find public appearances rather painful (the authors not the reading groups).

Nor are we responsible for where readers choose to shop. We have excruciatingly little influence, quite frankly, over who buys our book and from where. We can tweet our little hearts out, but unless we seriously set about a time-consuming social media campaign, it’s just not our call. The greatest influence we have is in the quality of our writing.

So, if a retailer stocks our books and readers buy them, enabling us to feed our kids and write more books, then we are happy. And if we can give that income a little boost along the way, then generally we will, as best we can.

Yesterday’s Amazon promotion was a great opportunity to boost awareness of The Night Rainbow in the USA and Canada. It’s the kind of novel that thrives on word of mouth recommendations, and as many authors can tell you, it can be frustratingly difficult to kick those off.

I hope the people who picked up the e-book for $2.99 yesterday will love it, and that they’ll consider giving it as a gift (wherever they choose to buy it) or just tell others what they thought.

And also that they will want to buy the next book. Speaking of which I’m off to finish it. Hopefully there’ll be news on that soon.

UPDATE:

Since posting this a couple of good articles have shown up on this topic, so links are here:

New York Times tongue in cheek, what Amazon is to a modern author 

New online retailer opens up in UK to offer online alternative to Amazon (The Bookseller)

 

 

We’re in the Business of Selling Dreams.

Posted on: November 19th, 2013 by Claire - 17 Comments

I want to talk about becoming an author. About publishing a book.

So you’re a writer. You get up early in the morning and you write. You drop the kids off at school and you write instead of doing the hoovering. You commute to work and you write on the bus. You stay up late at night and you write. And your dream is that one day, hopefully very soon, you will see your work published. In a book. A book that you can hold in your hands. If that’s you, I’m talking to you.

If what you dream of is your book being available in ebook format only, I’m not talking to you. Because you know that there are many options now for doing that. And personally I know very little about them, and you too have Google and Twitter. You will find your way.

But back to you, the dreamer, the one who wants to hold the solid block of pages in your hand and see your name on the cover and the printed words inside that you created and pulled together and spun into a story to be told to thousands of readers. You, who wants to be paid for your work, perhaps even for writing to be your actual job. You would like to make a living from it. Yes, well I’m really happy you’re here. Because that’s what I want to talk to you about.

Without money

If you are anything like I was, you’d be delighted to hear that somehow there is a shortcut. That agents can see through a first draft of a manuscript to the dazzling novel you know it eventually will be. Or that publishers right now are trawling the electric interweb for rising stars to pull under their wing and lead through the golden doors of literary fame and fortune. Or how the publishing landscape is changing and that now the gatekeepers have left and you are the most powerful person in the publishing supply chain, if only someone could explain to you how that works. You might even be willing to pay for that advice.

Well, my advice – which is free and you take it as it is – is that as far as I know there are no shortcuts, and you are certainly not the centre of the publishing world. Sorry. It’s not you. If I were to go out on a limb and say who I think does occupy that position, thinking about agents, publishers, bookshops, online retailers, authors, editors, and all the others, I would have to say that the most powerful person is likely to be…the reader. Maybe. But in any case it’s not you.

You are the writer, you are the author, you are the person who will create a story, and you will send it out into the world and you will ache with every rejection and bad review (and later you will soar with the offers and the delight of five fat golden stars). Or maybe you have thick skin or pure genius and that won’t happen at all.

But in the meantime I’ll tell you what you *are*. You are a market. Because of that ache for something that is out of your reach, because of your dream of something that is hard to achieve. Because there is something you really, REALLY want. Because of that, there are people out there ready to sell to you.
They are not there to sell you the magic formula, because if they had it, we’d all have it, and we’d all be hitting the jackpot, riding our fat advances to the top of the Sunday Times best-seller list. Oh but wait…
No. But what they are there for is to sell you back your own dreams.

They will tell you there are no guarantees. They will not promise you a publisher, or an advance, or literary prizes. But they will tell you that by buying something off them, a product or a service, you will be doing the right thing, putting yourself in the best position to publish that book, to be that person, the best-selling prize winning author who can give up their day job and set off on tour, gathering movie and foreign language rights as you go. They may throw in a lavish drinks reception or a star studded evening mingling with agents and publishers. Lovely. But the champagne is on you.

Do they have something that is worth your money? It’s your job to work that out. These people are in business. One of the many businesses that are set up to take advantage of the hungry market of aspiring authors. Legitimately. They are not there to take on the establishment, or create a new publishing paradigm, all for one and one for all. They are there to make money. For some that’s all it is, although of course some, often those run by well established writers, also have the very best of intentions and really want to help you succeed.

So if you are thinking of making money from writing, if that’s one of your goals, then before you pay out anything, *anything* to advance your career as a published author, be that writing courses, editorial services, social media publicists, conference fees, subscriptions to writing websites, publishing services or anything that wants your money, take yourself seriously. Make a business plan.

It doesn’t have to be complicated:
1) How much do you expect to earn?
Do you hope to earn a side-income or to give up the day job entirely? Do some research and find out how much an average debut novel earns, and an average second novel. Look into different genres too. Look at self publishing versus the traditional route. Look at advances and royalties and do some maths. Work out the probabilities.
2) How much are you willing to invest?
Do you have money to spend? If so, where is it best spent? Improving your craft; making new contacts; paying to be published, building an author platform on social media or buying a decent desk chair? Taking some paid leave in order to write, perhaps? What would each of those things give back to you and how would they help you to succeed?

I’m not suggesting at all that writing is all about making money. If you’re like most writers you do this because you love it. Because you can’t not tell stories. And sometimes we can buy things that help us along, even if it’s just a copy of Writers’ Forum or a copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. But as soon as the question of handing over your money to other people comes up, and you’re tempted, think about it. And whatever you do, don’t become part of someone else’s business plan just because they talk a good talk.

That’s makes them the salesman, and you the punter.

Paperback Launch and Marketing!

Posted on: August 1st, 2013 by admin - 10 Comments

It’s paperback publication day for The Night Rainbow. I didn’t think I could possibly be as excited as I was in February when the book launched in hardback, but I really am!

Before I forget I want to say a huge thank you to everyone at Bloomsbury who has been working hard on the paperback launch – updating the cover, planning the PR and marketing campaigns (of which more in a second), championing the book so enthusiastically with retailers and basically just crossing their fingers and being so lovely and encouraging to me.

The Night Rainbow Paperback

So, the paperback is out today – a nice small supple book at a lower price than the hardback edition. Perfect for summer holidays, reading in bed etc. There are a lot of exciting things happening, but what is *VERY EXCITING* for me in particular is that there is a marketing campaign running for The Night Rainbow paperback launch, which should get it noticed by more people and help get them into book shops to buy it.

As a debut novelist, having a marketing campaign was thrilling news that I wasn’t expecting it at all, and it all happened quite recently. Thanks to the hard work of Bloomsbury’s sales team, they won really strong advance orders and enthusiasm for the paperback from retailers, including The Night Rainbow being the August Book Club pick at Sainsbury’s; being selected for Tesco’s new New Talent slot; being promoted in WH Smiths high street, train station and airport stores.   I know already there are plenty of amazing independent book shops stocking it and Waterstones too.  So do pop into your local shop – there should be paperbacks aplenty. And of course ebooks are available in all the usual places.

Here are a few places you might spot Pea this summer:

  • At railway stations: There is a huge poster going up around London and South-East England. Here are a few examples. If you keep your eyes peeled over the next few days and send in photos, you could be in with a chance of winning a copy. Follow @BloomsburyBooks and #NightRainbow on twitter for more details, and find Bloomsbury Publishing UK on Facebook.
  • On The Daily Mail online – Takeover of the Books page, it’s worth a look! (I think you can only see this wondrous juxtaposition if you’re in the UK)
  • On Mumsnet  – the giveaway is closed now, but the discussion thread is open. Hopefully spoiler free!
  • At The Reading Agency where reading groups could win copies to review.

I took the opportunity to ask Tess Viljoen, who has been responsible at Bloomsbury for the marketing around The Night Rainbow, including this beautiful book trailer to answer a couple of questions about marketing books in general.

1) Would you say it’s true that publishers expect authors to ‘market’ themselves and their books now more than ever? What does this mean in reality?

The shift towards social media has, brilliantly, put fans directly in touch with the authors they love. It’s a powerful way of communicating with readers and exciting for everyone involved. The downside of this, given it would be disingenuous for a publisher to try and impersonate an author online by running a social media stream on their behalf, is it has shifted that responsibility back on to authors. Social media can be very rewarding but it can also be immensely time consuming and doesn’t appeal to all authors. At Bloomsbury we encourage our authors to have a go, and support them as much as we can from our social media platforms but ultimately, it’s up them if they feel it is a medium they can work in.

2) When I worked in consumer goods marketing (years ago!) there was a sort of ‘chicken and egg’ situation with smaller brands, whereby advertising support was minimal or non-existent until (hopefully) word of mouth took off. This also meant it was harder to get those products stocked in shops and positioned well. Does this apply also in publishing/book retailing? If so what factors help get the ball rolling?

The percentage of books that receive advertising spend is in fact very small and so the majority of books are sold into bookstores without that support which makes it a much more level playing field. We have sales reps that go into bookshops around the country and pitch our titles directly to the booksellers and with word-of-mouth still being the most powerful form of recommendation this gives our books a strong chance to being taken by a bookseller and in turn, recommended to their customers.

3) What is more important in book marketing, the author or the book?

They are entirely inextricable. Obviously an author who is happy to do events, to be active on social media and be widely available for publicity is a strong asset for a book, but we regularly work with authors from foreign countries who for all sorts of reason cannot give us their time or physical presence and we have found ways of working around this and still build strong marketing and publicity campaigns.

Thanks, Tess!

For more information around paperback launches specifically, see this post  for an interview with Trâm Anh Doan, my paperback editor at Bloomsbury, when I talked to her about the launch last year of another Bloomsbury novel, The Cowards Tale.

 

The Night Rainbow Launch, USA & Canada!

Posted on: April 7th, 2013 by Claire - 4 Comments

I’m very excited that this week The Night Rainbow is being published in the USA and Canada.

Here she is, complete with beautiful new cover, about to whizz off to bookshops everywhere Stateside.

The Night Rainbow USA Cover

I feel a little wistful that I can’t whizz over the Atlantic to celebrate, but I have been raising a glass here in France, and lurking on twitter doing US & Canada pub-day high fives!

And look what the lovely Rachael Dunlop just sent me:

The Night Rainbow on store shelf

On the shelves at Barnes & Noble, New York City

I’ve also been busy meeting book bloggers:

  • I answered 11/20 questions at Linus’s Blanket, including what my favourite books are set in my local region of France.
  • What’s in a first line? Find out as I take part in the Friday First Lines series over at Books on the Brain.
  • I have been interviewed by Mariam Kobras over at #amwriting
  • Daria Anne DiGiovanni hosted me on #writestream, with an interview on blog talk radio which you can also find archived here, and a twitter chat – the summary of which is now here.

Thank you…

Thanks already to some of the lovely reviewers and book bloggers who have reviewed early copies:

Ilana Teitelbaum, who says, in her review in Shelf Awareness “King’s story of a young child’s quest for a light in the profound darkness of her life reaches deep into the complexities of human consciousness. As it explores adult grief through a child’s eyes, The Night Rainbow also underscores the need for stability and love ever-present in children’s lives, yet at times nearly impossible to attain.”

Catherine at Gilmore Guide to books who says “The Night Rainbow is soft, sweet, scary and immense.” *****

Nicola at My Good Bookshelf gave it 9/10 and said “I would happily recommend this book to readers interested in contemporary fiction or family dramas; this was a beautifully written tale with a shocker of a twist that I definitely did not anticipate- just brilliantly done.”

Ionia at Readful Things said “Claire King has done such a supreme job of making you want to hug these children and tell them everything is going to be okay, that it is sometimes hard to believe they are not real…I would recommend this elegantly written novel to anyone. Really a beautiful book.”

Shannon at River City Reading – Richmond, VA said “Writing from the perspective of a child, particularly one so young, without relying on cliche phrases or coming off childish is not an easy task. Claire King does it masterfully.”

Patrice Hoffman says “Claire King writes spectacularly from a child’s point of view using vivid imagery with fantastical qualities only imagination can provide.”

and Cayacosta72 calls The Night Rainbow “A story of love, loss and grace.”

The Pin Map!

In celebration and anticipation of meeting lots of new people in the USA and Canada through the launch, even only virtually, I have put together a pin map.

To get it started I’ve added places I have visited in person (the red pins).

I’m going to add new pins on the map for everyone who tells me they’ve read The Night Rainbow, so do please leave a comment or say hi on twitter, telling me where you are, and you’ll get your own purple pin.

Also, if you have a book group that would like me to call in by Skype for a few questions, don’t hesitate to contact me!

Pin Map

The travels of Claire, Margot & Pea

 

 

10 Things People Say to Published Authors

Posted on: March 8th, 2013 by Claire - 35 Comments

Two years ago I wrote the post – 10 Things Children Don’t Say to Writers – where I talked about confidence, and other people’s reactions when you say you’re a writer. It proved to be one of the most popular blog posts on this site.

Mummy is Writing

We can only see the back of your head.

At that time, March 2011, I was newly signed up to Bloomsbury, but The Night Rainbow‘s publication was still two years away.

This last month I have, at last, been enjoying celebrating publication, including launch parties, signings and a lot of chatting to a lot of people, mostly about being a writer. And things have changed. People say different things to me now that I have an actual book available to buy and read.

Broadly, they seem to fall into three categories:

 

Things people say that make me feel proud and happy. E.g.

1) I’m so impressed.

2) What a great achievement.

3) You’ve inspired me to get back into my own writing.

Hearing this is like the clouds clearing and the sun shining right onto my little patch of Earth. When you’re an unpublished writer, you don’t get enough of this food for the soul. The struggle is the thing, and it can be a lonely one.

 

Things people say that make me want to run away and hide. E.g. 

4) When is the film coming out?

5) When is the next book coming out?

6) Have you stopped work altogether now?

There’s nothing really wrong with the questions in this category. They are well-meant and show enthusiasm and a high expectation of success. So I tried to work out why I feel agitated with them rather than flattered. I think it’s that I worry I feel the bar marked ‘Success’ is being set too high and that in the end I am going to disappoint people after all.

Signing a book

Chatting at a book signing

And most notably, a *lot* more questions about my writing. E.g.

7) Have you always wanted to write?

8) Who are your favourite authors? (Note – if you ever put me on the spot with this question, be warned that I’ll expect you to reciprocate with your own list!)

9) What inspired your novel?

10) What else are you writing?

They are the kind of questions that often don’t get asked to unpublished writers. Which interests me because it’s not the same for other artistic pursuits. If someone says they are a painter or a sculptor, even on an amateur level, people seem interested and feel free to ask about it. Why is that?

It’s as if, for some, I have passed through a kind of fine, mysterious membrane that separates writers who are interesting (or approachable?) from writers who are not. But I think that membrane only exists if you believe it does. So I suggest next time you meet someone who says they are a writer, why not take the time and ask them about themselves and their writing? You could be surprised what you find out.

 

Meanwhile, for those who read the 2011 post, what are my children now saying about my writing?

– My mummy wrote that book!

– You’re in a book shop / newspaper / magazine! That’s so cool!

– I’m so proud of you, Mummy. 

…And, after they have spotted the book in the umpteenth bookshop I take them into ‘just to check’…

– Please can we choose a book now?

 

Child's drawing

A child’s eye view of a book launch party

A Launch Party Mingle

Posted on: February 1st, 2013 by Claire - 4 Comments

I’m having (whoopee!) an actual launch party in London on 13th February, on the eve of The Night Rainbow’s official publication date, but not everyone can be there, so I’ll be doing some virtual mingling over the next couple of weeks with some very smashing people indeed.

I’m hoping it will be like being at a party on the web, where you wander around chatting, you meet some new people, ask some questions, have a bit of a laugh. And all this without having to wear heels. So come on in, help yourself to a drink, and I hope you have a good time!

Champagne glasses

Take a glass and mingle

Who I’ve met so far:

Kate at For Books’ Sake, where we talk about the portraying pressures of motherhood and how long a story should be.

Jen at The View From Here literary magazine, who asks me what are the important things, and where did the idea of a night rainbow come from?

Roz Morris, about the Undercover Soundtrack to The Night Rainbow – the songs that were part of its making.

Joe at the Bristol Short Story Prize, the home of my first published short story, who asks “What has it been like?”

Dan at Dog Ear Discs  – who asks about the environment of the novel and the surrounding countryside. “It becomes as important as the characters. Was it based on an actual place?”

Simon Savidge, who pokes around my bookshelves and asks “Are there any guilty pleasures?…”

Jen Campbell – Bookshoppist and author, who I may have made happy-sad.

Caroline Smailes, who wants to know about being a debut author and asks “How has your following your dream influenced your daughters?”

Isabel Costello on her Literary Sofa, where we talk about the pleasures and challenges of writing in a child’s voice.

Waterstones blog, where I talk about the inspiration behind The Night Rainbow

Alison Bacon, who asks about my experience of the publishing process with a top publisher, as well as life on twitter!

Vanessa Gebbie, who asks “How much did you want the novel to explore notions of non-belonging?”

Alison Wells – Who has been running a series of posts exploring ways of keeping our head above water in physical, mental, emotional and creative areas. I talk to her about keeping the joy in writing

Rumjhum Biswas at Flash Fiction Chronicles where I chat about how writing short fiction has influenced my novel, and what I looked for as an editor of a literary magazine

 

Spotted across a crowded room! I’m heading towards…

Chris Mosler  over at Thinly Spread, who has things to say, and a giveaway!

Nik Perring, about getting started and keeping going on a novel and…

… Jonathan Pinnock, who wants to know how I managed to wait out the two years from signing a book contract to publication…

and other people too…I hope there’s enough champagne.

The-Night-Rainbow-front

Paparazzi!

Marie-Claire selected The Night Rainbow as one of their top reads for the month.

Marie Claire Book Review

“An original and beguiling debut.”

Stylist magazine tipped me as one of their 4 soon to be bestsellers (alongside Maya Angelou and Dan Brown!)

You'll be on tenterhooks throughout

You’ll be on tenterhooks throughout

Good To Know magazine have listed The Night Rainbow as one of their 2013 book club picks (alongside Jodi Picoult, Yann Martel and Jojo Moyes!). If you post a review here you could win an e-reader.

 

Overheard…”Have you read it yet?”

Dan at Dog Ear Discs – The picturesque setting of Southern France in the midst of a heat wave is almost hypnotic.”

Nettie Thompson – “Pea and Margot are characters who stay with you, long after the last page is turned “

Teresa Majury – “…a narrator who will grab your heartstrings and never let go”

Tracey Upchurch – “Favourite character? Margot — little sister, voice of reason, bearer of night rainbows.

Laura Vickers at For Books’ Sake – Recommended for… Dreamers, mothers, lovers of the rich landscape of the south of France, and those in need of warming up.”

See more reviews on this page.

I’ll update the page with links as they happen.

For mingling in person, please see my events page here.

Champagne photo (c) Chris Chapman

 

 

 

Christmas at the Printers

Posted on: December 20th, 2012 by Claire - 15 Comments

Some of you might know I had a Big Adventure this week.

Last week the Night Rainbow started its first print run, and on Monday the very first finished copies were born.

I had been asking the team at Bloomsbury if it would be possible for me to visit the printers with my daughters. I knew it was a long shot, because of many things – the chance of getting to the UK to coincide with the print schedule, the fact it’s time-consuming for Bloomsbury and the printers to arrange that kind of visit, the fact I was asking to bring my children. But my girls are so curious about books, my writing, and how what I do turns into a book, that I had to ask, just in case.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, thanks to the special efforts of my editors at Bloomsbury, the production people there and the people at CPI printers, I was told it could happen. Astonishment! Wheee! Cue mad booking of flights.

The Night Rainbow was being produced at CPI Mackays in Kent. Liz from Bloomsbury was meeting me there. There were to be books printed, and sandwiches.

It did feel odd arriving with children in tow, but everyone was so welcoming and kind to me and my two girls. We asked lots of questions about the printers: Q. How many books do they print a day there? A. 300,000-500,000! Q. Do books really come hot off the press? A. more warm than hot. Q: How is recycling managed? A. Error and therefore waste is kept to a minimum. Q: What about quality control? A. Happens at every step of the way. Some is human, some is computerised. Q: What is the impact of e-books? Q (daughters): How do the shiny bits get onto the book covers and please may we have another cookie? Etc.

Then Liz and I were taken into the factory. It smelled like new books. If only you could bottle it…And there, there were big piles of inners, boards, covers with purple foil stars, purple stitching…it was The Night Rainbow being born. Author swoons.

inners

Then Jonathan whipped a finished book off the line and handed it to me.

“Can I hold it?” I said.

He looked at me. “Um, it’s *your* book!”

So there is was. 3 years after first putting pen to paper. *My* book.

I learned all sorts of interesting things about how the books are put together, including how the spines become curved not flat, how books are born as twins and separated at birth and how the thousands of covers are so neatly folded onto the hardback books.

The other thing I learned is the thought that goes into producing a book that is durable and beautiful.

And here are the first copies coming off the line.

books

My oldest daughter, who is 7, was planning on doing a talk when she goes back to school about what she learned. The children were allowed into a restricted part of the plant but no further, as obviously it’s too dangerous (but it was enough to cause dropped jaws and excited exclamations).

Since they couldn’t see as much as we did, as we went along the line, watching the book go from one step to the next, Jonathan from CPI kindly put together a pack of the book at its different stages of the process, so that Amélie could take them in to show her class. How kind and thoughtful is that?

All in all an utterly magical day for us all. What a special privilege none of us will forget. Thank you so much to Bloomsbury for making it happen, and to CPI Mackays for hosting.

Book-bits

Symbols and Ceremonies

Posted on: November 27th, 2012 by Claire - 9 Comments

I’m planning a book launch. A proper, raise a glass, face to face, huggy, happy book launch. And here’s why.

Symbols and ceremonies see us through life. Through births and deaths, through graduations and marriages, through summer and winter solstices, through war and peacetime. We mark the anniversaries of events that have only the most personal significance as though they matter. Because we know that they do.

They mark a point in time when we recognise some step of our human endeavour, with the people who want to share that with us.

My first novel is about to be launched into a sea of books, an endless tide of literature from the beginning of history to far into the future. One book in millions. I  know my book and I are small fish in a great ocean. But for me this book marks a moment of triumph, of striving and hoping and of sheer good luck.

I really, really, want to celebrate that, and if you do too, you’re welcome to join me.

My launch will be held on Feb 13th 2013 in a beautiful bookshop in London. I’ll be signing books and there will be wine. If you’re a reader of this blog or a Twitter follower and would like an invitation, please do contact me.

I will also be doing an event in Yorkshire a couple of weeks later, with the lovely people at this independent bookshop in Ripon. Please get in touch if you’d like to see me there and when I’ve more details I will let you know.

If you’d like to be part of my book launch in some other way, then please do also get in touch.

 

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I don’t know this man but I like his style.

The post in which I hug Hugh

Posted on: November 23rd, 2012 by Claire - 7 Comments

I was lucky enough to be in London on Wednesday for another drinks reception at Bloomsbury.

Authors who are releasing books in January – June 2013 were invited to meet each other as well as the Bloomsbury team who have been (and still are working on their books). Yet another wonderful evening, made of course by the people who were there – diverse, brilliant and lovely.

You might think (I did) that going to something like this might be a little scary – you know there will be authors there who you really ‘ought’ to recognise, or at least when introduced you should know of and ideally have read their work. (In reality of course no matter how well read you are this just isn’t possible). On the other hand there might be people who you read avidly and admire, but you worry about telling them so without gushing and looking like a bit of a stalker.

 Seychellen 2008 fish

But it seems that most established authors seem to know your fear, and everyone is very relaxed and usually find ways to turn the conversation a two way chat about both of you. No-one asked, for example, “Have you read any of my books?” Authors really are lovely people.

Another thing is that you can’t possibly meet everyone. Walking into a room full of authors is like walking into a bookshop – where do you start? There were so many other people in the room I would have loved to talk to, or even just say hello, but time just flew by.

My highlights of the evening:

  • Meeting the delightful grandmother turned snail-scientist, Ruth Brooks, who was bustling about the room meeting as many people as she could and finding out as much as possible about everybody. Ruth’s non-fiction book is ‘A Slow Passion’:

When BBC Radio 4’s Material World programme announced a search for the UK’s top amateur scientist, little did anyone expect that the winning experiment would comprise one of our humblest garden pests. Ruth Brooks posed this question: Do snails have a homing instinct? The nation was gripped by the unexpected thesis and by Ruth’s online diaries, which catalogued her trials and tribulations as she got to grips with these slimy little gastropods. A Slow Passion is Ruth’s story, with anecdotes and misadventures galore. What starts out as a ruthless vendetta against the snails that are decimating her hostas becomes a journey of discovery into the whys and wherefores of snail life. When Ruth dumps a group of the worst offending snails in a far-off wood, she decides to paint their shells with nail varnish, just to see what happens. And guess what, they come back home. This is the beginning of an obsession that sees the grandmother-turned-scientist prowling about and pouncing on the snails in her garden, sneaking off on night-time missions to repatriate bucketloads of painted snails, reading up on the sex-life of snails (which turns out to be unexpectedly romantic) and, eventually, sending off the application to a national competition for home science. With charming illustrations, A Slow Passion is a sweet, funny and surprising investigation into the hidden life of snails, which will change the way you look at the smaller (and slower) things in life.

Snail

  • * Chatting to wise and witty  Elisabeth Luard, food-writer, journalist and broadcaster, whose memoir is ‘My Life as a Wife :  Love, Liquor and What to Do About the Other Women’

They met in the back offices of Private Eye. He was the proprietor, the man the press called the Emperor of Satire, who every girl in London wanted to date. She was the reluctant debutante, an art student, and the office typist. Their affair was secret, and passionate, and days at the office were followed by nights in her Pimlico flat. When things got tricky, she swapped London for Mexico. He followed and proposed. She was just twenty-one when they married.

Luard’s fascinating, witty and often brave memoir charts forty years of marriage to a man who was as cavalier and unreliable as he was charismatic and charming. Good-looking and athletic, with a keen intelligence and a deep understanding of and love for women, Nicholas Luard was also an absentee father, a philanderer, a wheeler-dealer whose numerous harebrained business schemes usually lost rather than made money, and ultimately a man whose love of the bottle was all-consuming. But while life with Nicholas was never going to be easy, it was also never going to be dull.

In My Life as a Wife, award-winning writer Elisabeth Luard tells the story of her life with this hugely glamorous and extraordinary maverick of a man. She traces their years spent together in London, Spain, France, the Hebrides and Wales, with four children, one of whom died tragically from AIDS. It is a journey littered with numerous eccentric friends and innumerable escapades, often staying just ahead of the bank, through to the grim days of her husband’s terrifying descent into alcoholism and insanity, his liver transplant and ultimately his death.

Yet this is a story of laughter and hope as well as sadness – the healing power of children, the comfort of the kitchen table, the delight of good food and the simple joy of making life work – written by a woman of spirit.

 

  • * Making a bee-line for William Sutcliffe, whose book ‘The Wall’ is one of my must-read novels for 2013. William was telling me about his trips to Israel and Palestine to research his novel, and about how he managed to keep a focus on storytelling rather than political ‘tubthumping’:
 Joshua is thirteen. He lives with his mother and step-father in Amarias, an isolated town on top of a hill, where all the houses are brand new. At the edge of Amarias is a high wall, guarded by soldiers, which can only be crossed through a heavily fortified checkpoint. Joshua has been taught that beyond the concrete is a brutal and unforgiving enemy, and that The Wall is the only thing keeping him and his people safe.
One day, looking for a lost football, Joshua stumbles across a tunnel which leads towards this forbidden territory. He knows he won’t get another opportunity to see what is beyond The Wall until he’s old enough for military service, and the chance to crawl through and solve the mystery is too tempting to resist. He’s heard plenty of stories about the other side, but nothing has prepared him for what he finds…
The Wall is a novel about a boy who undertakes a short journey to another world, to a place where everything he knows about loyalty, identity and justice is turned upside down. It is also a political fable that powerfully evokes the realities of life on the West Bank, telling the story of a Settler child who finds there are two sides to every story.
That’s just three of the amazing people in the room. And it was wall-to-wall with them!
  • I also got to catch up with some of my fellow 2013 literary debutants, as well Stephen May whose brilliant novel ‘Life! Death! Prizes!’ has just been nominated for the Costa Award 2012 and meet some other fellow newbies, like Hannah Evans, whose book MOB Rule (January 2013) talks about her lessons learned as a mother of 3 boys.
  • Finally, Roshi Fernando and I plucked up the courage to go and ‘mingle’ with the very approachable Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Here I am hugging on him like some kind of groupie, as we told him how we admired his work on sustainability, food integrity and eating seasonal produce and chatted about literature, France and figs.

Hugging Hugh

Last but by no means least, I had the chance to catch up in person with the lovely people at Bloomsbury involved with The Night Rainbow as well as other editors, designers, marketing, sales, PR and rights people, all of whom are working hard on all our different books with such passion and care.

I feel really privileged to be a part of this Bloomsbury family.

 

 

 

 

What if you couldn’t see the words?

Posted on: October 18th, 2012 by Claire - 4 Comments

I’m delighted and proud to say that The Night Rainbow large print rights have sold today to F.A. Thorpe, meaning that my book will be published in a format accessible to visually handicapped readers (1st September 2013).

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F.A. Thorpe are an historic publishers having pioneered large print in the 1960’s. Frederick Thorpe also founded the Ulverscroft foundation, which receives all the profits and uses them for research into visual impairment as well as supporting libraries.

Did you know that only seven per cent of books are accessible to  the almost 2 million blind and partially sighted people in the UK (in large print, braille, talking books etc)?  Can you imagine (if you are fully sighted like me), as a reader how frustrating that must be?

And imagine the challenge for blind and partially sighted children – how to overcome the difficulties and inspire a love of literature that will last a lifetime?

For the next three days (October 18-20 2012), The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) is holding Literary Wonderland on London’s South Bank, for children and families. Events and workshops will be run by children’s authors to raise awareness of reading services for blind and partially sighted people. Please have a look at the link and share it with anyone you think might be interested.

For more information, there’s a good article on Bookbrunch today.

Photo above thanks to Quinnums via Flickr Creative Commons.

 

There’s no time…

Posted on: October 3rd, 2012 by Claire - 10 Comments

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The clocks go back this month. And tonight my taxi driver commented that the nights are drawing in. Indeed on a recent post on this blog, Pete mentioned that the sun is setting around 2 minutes earlier every single day. And as we lose daylight we say the days are shorter. As though having less sunlight means we have less time somehow. Maybe it’s to do with having less motivation? After all our bodies think this is true: when it’s dark they want to sleep, right?

Meanwhile, my absolute most popular search term leading to this blog is…

“How long until a literary agent responds?”

Which is closely followed by:

“How long after submission until I hear from publisher?

“How long after agent to get book deal?”

and

“How long to publication?”

Funnily enough, not one person has ever arrived here by searching “How long will it take me to write my book?”… (although The Guardian now has one answer to that question)…or “How long will it take me to become a good writer?”

If you want to see my post on how long the agent thing took, you can click the link. And yes, it took over two years from signing my contract to my book launch, which is still 4 months off. And do you know what? 21 months ago, my launch date seemed like an eternity away. Now it’s four months off and looking back on those 21 months – during which time I have been writing book two – I wonder why I still haven’t finished my new novel and packed it off to my agent. Why? Because from a writing perspective time has flown.

So what I want to say is this. The answer to all of those questions above is out of your control. Don’t let yourself get into ‘The Waiting Place’ as Dr Seuss called it. Because what you can control is the time you spend on writing (or whatever else it is you want to achieve).

How much time? Can you manage an hour a day? You’d be amazed how much progress you will make if you can. If not, what about half an hour? If not then why on earth are you here spending time reading my blog?

In conclusion, I thought I would share with you something that I first read almost 20 years ago, when I was younger and thought I had all the time in the world. I don’t know who to attribute it to, but I like it. Hope you do too.

The Value of Time. 

If you want to know the value of one year, ask a student who failed a course.

If you want to know the value of one month, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby.

If you want to know the value of one day, ask the editor of a newspaper.

If you want to know the value of one hour, ask the lovers waiting to meet.

If you want to know the value of one minute, ask the person who just missed the train.

If you want to know the value of one second, ask the person who just avoided a serious car accident.

And if you want to know the value of one hundredth of a second, ask the athlete who won a silver medal in the Olympics

——

The gorgeous photo above is by Neal Fowler, via Flickr Creative Commons

 

Bloomsbury Debutants 2013

Posted on: September 27th, 2012 by Claire - 15 Comments

This is where I try really hard not to gush.

This week I went to a party at Bloomsbury, held in the honour of the authors of their 11 literary debuts of 2013…and one of them was me!

The idea was to introduce us to some of the people who will be selling and hopefully talking about our books over the next year, over drinks and nibbles, and it was so much fun! I met so many lovely people who work at Bloomsbury that I’ve not had a chance to meet so far, as well as book retailers and people who work in radio, or newspapers or magazines. I talked about The Night Rainbow of course (elevator pitch, no pressure…) but also about things like the future of book covers, about the difference in reading ebooks and paper books, about the journey to publication. It didn’t matter who I found myself standing next to in the room, conversation was easy and passionate because the magic in the room was that everyone loved books. Utter, utter bliss. So much so that despite being scheduled to run until 8pm, I eventually left at 9.30, and there was still a lovely kind man that kept coming and refilling my glass of champagne. So much so that I was sad to have to go, because I still hadn’t chatted nearly enough to people, particularly my fellow authors. So much so that I didn’t tweet one single tweet, and I only took one photo. Here it is:

Debutants

In this pic you can spot Ciarán Collins, Seb Emina (or is it Malcolm Eggs?) and D.W. Wilson.

At one point, Alexandra Pringle, madly glamorous doyenne of Bedford Square, declared herself to be a little woozy after having just flown back in from launching Bloomsbury India, but then promptly ditched her heels and stood on a chair to give the most thoughtful and heartfelt presentation of the authors and our books.

Surprise! As part of the evening, a booklet anthology of each of the first chapters (or so) had been put together and all the guests got to take a copy home. What fabulous reading for my flight back to France!

It is such a privilege and a huge treat to read these extracts, from novels, memoirs and non-fiction books. Honestly, 2013 is going to be a Very Good Year.

Goodies

So, (ahem) I would like to introduce you.

Debutants, these are my blog readers.

Blog readers, these are my fellow debutants:

 

January 2013

Melissa Harrison (@m_z_harrison) whose novel Clay, we are told, whilst set in the city, has similar echoes to The Night Rainbow: a central child character, an unlikely friendship, a connection to the natural world. The first chapter is so compelling, thank goodness I only have to wait until January.

Lara Feigel‘s The Love-charm of Bombs looks intriguing. A chronicle of wartime London as experienced by five writers – driving ambulances, fighting fires and falling in love. the taster already hints at glamour, drama and fascinating insights.

 

February

Seb Emina (@sebemina) – along with Malcolm Eggs (@malcolmeggs) the editor of The London Review of Breakfasts – whose ‘The Breakfast Bible’ appears, from the extract, to be a work of culinary magnificence. Forget innaccurate and unhelpful egg timers. Now you have…SONGS TO BOIL AN EGG TO. Genius.

 

March

She Rises by Kate Worsley (@KHWorsley). What Alexandra described as a rollicking novel is vividly descriptive and has such a confident and unique voice. Can’t wait to read the whole book!

Servants by Lucy Lethbridge. An original and fascinating portrait of domestic servants in twentieth century Britain.

 

April

Ciarán Collins (@ciarancollins77) – The Gamal. I never even got to say hello properly to Ciarán, but I’ve read his first few pages and, oh boy.  Shades of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime, but in a bold, irreverent adult voice and the hint of something very dark to come. Set to be a star.

 

May

Maggie & Me by Damian Barr (@Damien_Barr). I don’t know what I was expecting from the ‘manhattan swigging, chicken loving salonnière’ but it wasn’t this. In the space of a couple of pages I am nine again, as if by magic. I now have a bit of a crush on this man.

 

June

Ballistics by D.W. Wilson. I only managed the briefest of chats with D.W.: “Do I have to call you D.W.?” “No, my friends call me Dave.” before being whisked off to meet someone else. Pity because I wanted to talk to him about his short story writing. But there’ll be another time I’m sure. Another really fresh voice, but with echoes of American classics, his opening pages grabbed me from the first sentence. June? Seriously?

 

August

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon (@say_shannon). You may have heard of Samantha, “suddenly” super-successful whilst still an undergraduate, ‘The next…J.K. blah blah blah”. Let us not forget that people who are “suddenly” successful have practised their writing, a lot, and written an entire novel (at least one, there’s usually a practice novel) and all of this before their “sudden” success. What’s interesting about Samantha is she’s managed to get a book published with Bloomsbury in a genre they don’t usually include in their lists. I bet a lot of fantasy fans will be deeply envious when I say “I’ve read the first chapter and it’s soooo good!” It’s a double edged sword though, as the launch isn’t until August.

See Samantha’s take on this party here.

 

September

Pig’s Foot by Carlos Acosta. As Alexandra pointed out, not only is Carlos one of the world’s greatest ballet dancers, he’s an amazing literary talent. It’s hard not to compare the feel of his narrative to Isabelle Allende or Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but at the same time it’s clear that this story is going to be unique, and uniquely told. A treat coming up in a year’s time.

A huge thank you to Jude and everyone at Bloomsbury for organising this fabulous evening. This is a picture of me flying over London. No, I am not in the plane. I am flying over it. I am whizzing and soaring through the clouds.

In the clouds.

[Ed.] Tess from Bloomsbury just kindly sent me this lovely pic of me with Tram-Anh and Erica. Thank you, Tess!

Claire at the party

 

Housewife with a Half-Life by A.B.Wells

Posted on: May 8th, 2012 by Claire - 4 Comments

Today’s post  is a blatant promotion for my lovely friend Alison and her newly published novel!

One of the things that goes on behind the scenes of novel writing is ‘Beta-reading.’ This is where you get a writer whose work you admire to read all or part of your work in progress and ask them for specific and honest critique of what you’ve written. These trusted souls are worth their weight in gold, and Alison, who I met via Twitter, was one of the lovely people who took the time and care to read part of an early draft of The Night Rainbow and tell me her thoughts.

In the same spirit I’ve also read extracts from her work, including her brilliant novel Housewife with a Half-Life. When I read it, it made me think immediately of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers books. It’s funny, it’s bizarre…in fact it’s a space romp. Can I call it that, A?

Alison is a superb writer, and has now developed a split personality, keeping her more literary (in genre terms) fiction under her own name, whilst her science-fictiony self is now going by the name of A.B. Wells. She has decided to self-publish this novel, and the paperback will be out in June. Meanwhile for ebook readers, you can find links below and read it right now!

About the book:

Susan Strong is a suburban housewife who is literally disintegrating. When Fairly Dave, a kilt-sporting spaceman arrives through the shower head to warn her, she knows things are serious. When she and her precocious four year old twins, Pluto and Rufus, get sucked through Chilled Foods into another universe it gets even messier. Where household appliances are alive and dangerous, Geezers have Entropy Hoovers and the Spinner’s Cataclysmic convertor could rip reality apart, Susan Strong is all that’s holding the world together.

In this lively space comedy, Susan and Fairly Dave travel alternate universes to find Susan’s many selves, dodge the Geezers and defeat evil memory bankers. From dystopian landscapes and chicken dinners, to Las Vegas and bubble universes, can Susan Strong reintegrate her bits and will it be enough to save us all?

About A.B. Wells, also known as @AlisonWells on Twitter

What is a housewife to do when she becomes 42? Write a book about life, the universe and everything. A.B.Wells is the mother of four children age 11 and under, three of whom are that particularly alien species called boys. As Alison Wells her more literary writing has been shortlisted in the prestigious Bridport, Fish and Hennessy Awards and she’s been published or is about to be in a wide variety of anthologies and e-zines, including the Higgs Boson Anthology by Year Zero, Metazen, The View from HereVoices of Angels by Bridgehouse and National Flash Fiction day’s Jawbreakers. She recently one the fiction category of the Big Book of Hope ebook with a flash fiction medley and has a litfic novel The Book of Remembered Possibilities on submission. She blogs for writing.ie in the guest blog: Random Acts of Optimism. One of the as yet unsolved mysteries of the universe is whether the B in A. B. Wells stands for barmy or brilliant.

In her former life she worked, among other things, as a clerk like Albert Einstein, as a technical writer (and a HR. Manager) and before that studied psychology and communications where, in the college library James Gleick’s book Chaos fell on her head. Her ambitions include a desire to travel to see the Northern Lights and to really travel with Dr Who’s David Tennant in a Tardis.

Download Housewife with a Half-Life…!

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Smashwords

And if you are waiting for the paperback, or if you are just nosy, stalk the author here: www.abwells.com and here www.facebook.com/abwellswriter or her alter ego blogging on Head Above Water here: www.alisonwells.wordpress.com

Potato, Potato, Tomato, Tomato, Book Covers.

Posted on: April 29th, 2012 by Claire - 21 Comments

Today we’re talking about that Special Relationship….

I’m in the amazing position of having The Night Rainbow being published in several countries, including the U.K. and the U.S.A., where the cover designs have now been developed (I had input into both). I’m delighted with both of them, but they are markedly different (U.K. on the left, U.S.A. on the right):

I’ve asked some very kind booksellers in both countries, and my editor from Bloomsbury U.S.A., to talk about the importance of a book cover, and to try and define what defines the differences in our tastes. Here are some of the first responses:

First, Robert Gray, who from 1992-2005 was a bookseller and buyer for the Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vermont.

He has also been a contributing editor and columnist at Shelf Awareness since 2006. As a writer, his work has appeared in numerous publications, ranging from Tin House to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine toPublishers Weekly. He has an MFA in Writing and Literature from Bennington College. Rob tweets as @Fresheyesnow

Rob says:

The cover was always a factor for us when buying in stock, though not the deciding factor (excepting, of course those counter books that could be sold as gift items on strength of their covers or titles alone). If a book with a lousy cover was still something I loved and knew I could handsell, content always trumped art. But if a book wasn’t so great and the cover was irresistible, then the decision came down to a question: “Is this a book I know there are readers for, even if I’m not crazy about it?” Another factor I don’t see discussed often: When booksellers are building displays, a great cover always has a better chance of being showcased.

I do think customers instinctively reach for a book with a great cover if it’s on a display or face-out on the shelves. If it’s spine-out, then the game is over before it starts. Ideally, what a great cover does is get the potential reader to pick up the book, maybe scan blurbs on the back cover, open the book and flip through the first few pages.

Anything that inspires a customer to initiate that ceremony is critical.

Looking at your covers, I do think the U.S. cover will appeal more to American readers. I’m not sure I can be more specific than that. It’s an instinctive reaction for me, since I’m not a graphics or even a particularly visually-oriented person. I’ve just watched thousands of books being sold over the years. 

***

Anna J G-Smith has worked at Stroud Bookshop for the last 15 years.
Stroud Bookshop is an independent book shop, keeping books on the High Street and part of Stroud’s cultural heart. Anna is passionate about her job – even more so since she started writing, and rarely seems to have her bookselling hat off these days. Her writers blog is here and she tweets as @eryth
Anna says:
When ordering a new title in for stock, the most important thing is the write-up, and any advance reviews. Also if we like the premise, and feel it fits with the zeitgeist of the moment in which it is published. BUT, once the new titles arrive, then we can assess how best to display them, depending on jacket design (and heft!). I tend to be the one mostly responsible for the displays, as I am acknowledged to have a good eye for overall balance of colour/design. If I think a book looks particularly beautiful, then I will display it as prominently as possible, and especially if it is a hardback. With paperbacks it is slightly easier, in that the bestsellers tend to be displayed depending on how many we have in stock, and what the prevailing colours/designs in paperbacks are at the time. For example, Julian Barnes and Graham Swift look well next to each other at the moment:
Design is important to customers. Hardback design in particular: if they’re going to shell out on a new title they might not otherwise buy (unless they’re die-hard author-addicts who can’t help themselves!) then they like the idea that they are buying something beautiful. Smaller hardbacks in particular fit this niche, (Julian Barnes – again – was an example last year), as do books that they might like for themselves, but can only justify if buying a gift for someone else. Paperbacks are where the most committed browsing takes place. For backlist/classics it helps to have either a smart and recognisable livery (Oxford, Penguin, faber etc) or something beautiful and striking. Joanne Harris’s Chocolat still stands out years later, because of the rich purple; David Mitchell’s Thousand Autumns Of Jacob de Zoet is another good example.
When a title is new, and selling well, then it is more likely to be displayed face-out. This is where good design comes to the fore.
A good cover helps a book more than a bad cover hinders it. If a customer really wants to read a particular title, then a poorly designed cover will not put them off – though it does cause comment. This does happen a lot, and especially if the design is changed between hardback and paperback, or between trade paperback and A-format. Stephen Kelman’s Pigeon English is a good example here. The original design was very striking in red and yellow. The A-format paperback is less memorable, and especially when there are so many other blue covers around.
Now to your covers. They are BOTH beautiful. I much prefer the English cover for the hardback  – and it will look lovely stacked high in the middle of my hardback display, and in the window! – the U.S. edition is too much like other jackets I have seen, but will look very strong as a paperback cover, whereas I think – lovely though it is – the striking detail on the UK cover will be diminished once it is scaled down. And I’d be very surprised if my customers don’t greatly admire the hardback cover. It is unlike anything I have seen in a very long time, so will stand out well. Bloomsbury do have a knack for GOOD covers that buck the mass market; Susannah Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell being another example.
***

Rachel Mannheimer is my editor at Bloomsbury in the USA

Rachel says:

It’s difficult to pinpoint how important is the cover design for a novel. With the closing of so many bookshops, and the rise of online shopping – for print books and especially for e-books – I think there are fewer face-to-face encounters, as it were, with the book cover. There are new ways to find books, which are great, but it’s rarer for readers to discover books based solely on an eye-catching image. Still, when I’m in a bookshop, it’s definitely still my eyes leading me. (Then I read the blurbs or reviews on the back). And a memorable image still makes an impression if you see it online, in an advertisement, wherever. The cover conveys something about the style of the book before you know anything else.

When you consider the difference between what readers in the U.S.A. like in a cover, compared to the U.K., I think it’s a matter of a slightly different visual language, and just what the customer is accustomed to seeing – what connotations different visual cues have. Successful British book covers look like other successful British book covers, and successful American covers tend to look like other American covers. And I would say, to be supremely reductive, that British covers can look a bit schmaltzy to American eyes, while American covers can look stiff and boring. But sometimes something works perfectly in both markets! It just depends.

I love the cover we came up with for The Night Rainbow; it’s evocative and stylish. There was discussion early on about how difficult it would be to match the title literally (though the UK cover does come close). But it’s also such an interesting phrase, “night rainbow.” The designer had to work with both its sweetness and its mystery. Also, you had been clear about not wanting a straight representation of Pea; you wanted the reader to have space to imagine. This image the designer found, I love that it shows a little girl, but it’s a bit disorienting; you’re not quite sure what you’re looking at. You want to read and learn more.

***

Many thanks to Rachel, Anna and Robert for taking the time to comment.

For more discussion on UK versus US covers:

Here’s a link to a brilliant talk by Chip Kidd on Book Design on Seth Godin’s blog.

Some very interesting comparisons of the last year’s novels on The Millions.

Not just a wildly different cover, but a different title too, from Morag Joss

For more information/to see other work by the designers of my covers:

UK: Holly Macdonald

USA: Jennifer Heuer

Blurby be Kind

Posted on: April 25th, 2012 by Claire - 15 Comments

One of the most re-tweeted comments I ever made on Twitter, a couple of years ago, was this:

“When I’m a successful author, remind me to be kind to those still struggling to make it.”

It encouraged me, then, that Twitter cheered, ‘hear-hear’ed for kindness.

I was reminded of this recently when contemplating the fact that in a few months The Night Rainbow will be heading off to unsuspecting authors whom I admire, with a request to have a look, and  – please, Missus, if you had the time, if you could read it and then, if you like it that is, maybe you could say something positive that we could put on the cover, so that people in bookshops will see that I’m a good bet, what with me being new at this and not known and all…

*author blushes and backs out of room curtseying*

Can you tell I feel a bit bashful about this?

Bashful because I understand that asking (even indirectly via my publisher) for a blurb is asking people to work for free. And since I don’t have many actual real-world friends who are published authors, well then it’s asking someone I don’t know to work for free.

Of course I hope that they will not find it like work, and will really enjoy the read, but that’s not the point.

I also understand that not everyone has the time or inclination to to read a book to provide a blurb. Also that the more successful and respected you become, the more requests you get for blurbs and of course the more people you have to turn down. This brings me back to my question of kindness. Compare these two approaches:

This kind and eloquent approach from Margaret Atwood who explains why she no longer does blurbs. She has already blurbed with the best of them and now her doormat is exhausted. Contrast it with this  New Yorker article, which made me cringe.

So I just want to say this:

Anyone who writes a blurb for my novel will be doing me an enormous favour and I will be thoroughly, genuinely grateful.

What’s more, I promise, here and now, that I will pay it forward with good grace when the time comes. And you can hold me to that.

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