SMART – A Tale of Publication

February 27th, 2014

I thought other writers might find it useful to read about what happens on the often long road between your initial book deal and the fully-edited manuscript being sent to the printers.

On its journey, Smart had a total of FOUR full edits. That’s counting the first paid-for professional edit that I commissioned when I was sending the book out to agents. The second was done with my agent Clare Wallace and agency editor Vicki le Feuvre at the Darley Anderson Literary Agency and the final two edits with Rachel Kellehar, my editor at Macmillan Children’s Books (MCB).


The two edits prior to the ones I did with MCB focused largely on beginnings, endings and tweaking the main characters. This left the manuscript (ms) quite ‘clean’ as they say in publishing, ready for the intensive publisher edits.

Before we began, Rachel Kellehar gave me a written timeline of the proposed edits, so I would know what to expect. It gave the date she would submit each edit to me and the date she would ideally like it returned by. These dates weren’t set in stone, I was free to adjust them if I needed to.

Rachel edited the ms meticulously, pulling out details, questioning and making suggestions. We worked in a collaborative way, Rachel always emphasised that I didn’t have to change anything if I didn’t feel happy doing so.

My personal take on editing is that if my editor or agent feels strongly about something, then it is in my own interests as a debut author with limited experience, to listen and take their advice on board. There was no occasion when I felt pressured or reluctant to make a change, it really was all for the good of the manuscript.

Changes that Rachel flagged up in the first edit, included clarifying details about a computer game that one of the characters plays in the book. Young readers are astute and will quickly pick up on inconsistencies, so it’s important to get the small things right.
Rachel was also keen to establish the legal perspective of our young protagonist, Kieran, entering a suspect’s property. As Kieran is a huge fan of the TV series CSI and is very knowledgeable when it comes to investigative procedures, we had to ensure that his actions mirrored his beliefs about what is right and wrong.
Rachel also exposed the occasional inconsistency with chronology of timeframe and the odd lapse of tense within the narrative.

A massive help with the editing process came from our use of Track Changes within Word, which Rachel introduced me to. I could clearly see all of Rachel’s comments, observations and any highlighting of the text. Likewise, when I submitted the completed first edit, she was able to follow exactly what I had done.

When I embarked on the first MCB edit, approximately eight months had passed since I first read the full ms. So it was a great chance to read with fresh eyes and I was able to suggest my own small improvements, picking up the odd wrong spelling or weeding out a redundant word here and there.

The second MCB edit was just a small one where we picked out small details to debate and happily, Rachel felt we didn’t need a third edit, as was originally planned.

After the editing stage was complete, Rachel sent the ms to a copy-editor. He read through Smart, on the lookout for things such as a character exiting the room in paragraph one and still sitting in the the room on paragraph five! The copy-editor ensures the chronology, names and language of the ms are consistent throughout. A few issues came up but nothing major.

Rachel then submitted the ms to a proofreader with an eagle eye, who looked for spelling and grammatical errors. Rachel was very happy to report that again, the ms was very ‘clean’ and needed little tinkering.

During this last stage, the publisher’s house style is also taken into account. For instance, in Macmillan books, a ‘z’ is used instead of an ‘s’ in words like ‘realize’.

From day one, Macmillan have been fantastic in involving me as the author in the process. Rachel even sent me the font and layout to be used throughout the text, before a final decision was made.

I submitted my dedication and acknowledgements for the book and finally, a full pdf of the entire manuscript was emailed to me for final comments before submission to the printers.


The cover process has been fascinating and SO exciting because it has culminated in an amazing, iconic wraparound jacket for the Smart hardback edition.

Full SMART wraparound jacket

Rachel and I talked initially around six months ago, about what we envisaged the cover looking like. We both had very similar ideas – maybe a back view of the main character Kieran with his notebook and Lowry-esque characters, because the art of LS Lowry is a big theme in the book.

Rachel passed on our ideas to the McB Design team who in turn scouted for a suitable illustrator. All things taken into consideration, the team came up with an initial draft cover and sent it over for our comments.

I loved the concept from the start. It was eye-catching, colourful and contemporary, like a sketch from Kieran’s notebook. The illustrator, Helen Crawford-White has perfectly captured the essence of the book.

In addition, the final cover has evolved into an amazing wraparound extravaganza of colour and detail. Foil overlays will be applied to the river and a few trees and beautiful endpapers have also been designed, picking out the key features of the book to complement the whole project.

Endpapers for SMART

I’m sure you will understand how totally chuffed I am that my publisher has gone to such great length and effort to produce such a beautiful piece of artwork.

AND NOW . . .

The hardback edition of Smart will be published on 5th June 2014 and it will also be available in Ebook format. The paperback edition will follow next year and MCB may change the cover slightly for that edition. My agent is currently waiting to hear from my German publisher DTV Junior, as to what their final publishing date will be.

Last week I had a really informative meeting with my Macmillan publicist, Catherine Alport. We brainstormed some ideas about PR and marketing for the book, involving local and national media and school visits/author talks.

I am currently editing my second YA novel with my agent and agency editor at Darley Anderson.

A Writing Lesson from…..ITV!

January 12th, 2013

I was lucky enough to be asked down to Elstree Studios on Sunday 6th January for the live ITV televised Dancing on Ice opening show. Taking a break from writing, I drove down with my (heavily pregnant) sister who filled my modest boot with copious hospital supplies and medical papers ‘just in case’ bump decided to kick off early!

I was keen to see my brother-in-law Mark Hanretty, who is one of the DOI professional ice-dancers, perform in the opening number and to see him with his celebrity partner, House of Lords member, the lovely Baroness Oona King….who has real skating potential!

I was also intrigued to see how a prime time show is put together for mass viewing and this was the really interesting bit from an authorial point of view.

Once I’d ran barefoot from the hotel reception back to the room for my make-up bag and then held on to my sister while walking outside to the taxi in my 6-inch heels – under the convenient guise of keeping HER stable and upright – we headed off to Elstree Studios.

We got fab front-row studio seats and when Kate tweeted this pic, fellow tweeters informed us we were sat in front of Corrie star Charlie Condou. Having given up watching soaps five years ago when I started my degree, I hadn’t a clue I was in the presence of such greatness!

Yes, I got to see and meet people like Pamela Anderson, Joe Pasquale, Anthea Turner, pop singer Shane Ward and TOWIE babe Lauren Goodger – as well as the very lovely presenter Christine Bleakley – and all that was fab. But as an author, I found the way the production team put together initially fractured and non-linear pieces, resulting in a smooth and thrilling final televised show, was somewhat of an analogy for the writing process.

For the opening sequence, Jane Torvill was filmed several times doing a brave jumping-from-a-great-height move (I’m sure there’s a technical term but I don’t know it) and then the professional skaters performed a dance before bringing on their respective celeb-partners. Phillip Schofield and Christine Bleakley did a couple of takes of their seemingly simple opening greeting and introduction.

In between all these takes, the lights came on, people stopped skating and the production team fussed around. Not very exciting, very disjointed and not particularly thrilling. So it was a great surprise to see on the big screen the live version, where everything ran smoothly, looked fantastic and with a complete change of order, was thrilling to watch.

I thought about the process of writing and how writers approach it differently. Personally, I am learning not to be afraid of starting in a different place to where I left the day before, if the mood takes me. Sometimes I find, even though not chronological to the plot, it can be far more productive to write a section that is to come much later in the book, depending on my mood and which character voices are strongest in my head. It’s okay to do rewrites if the initial prose isn’t up to scratch…I am a terrible perfectionist when it comes to my writing like many authors.

Thanks ITV for the valuable writing lesson….and good luck to Mark and Oona, who perform their first skate together tomorrow night (Sun 13th Jan), Dancing on Ice live on ITV 6.15pm.

Hurrah for Fab Friday & Super Saturday [...shame about the silly hat]

November 24th, 2012

Yesterday, far from being Black Friday, shall go down in my personal history as FABULOUS FRIDAY.

I got to meet the legendary Darley Anderson himself and discuss exciting new Adult Crime projects with my agent, the wonderful Clare Wallace.

A highlight was being ferried, in Darley’s chauffeur-driven Mercedes, to our lunch venue where Darley joined us for drinks. He is the nicest, most knowledgeable man and I felt absolutely privileged to spend over an hour with him, soaking up his pearls of wisdom and wonderful anecdotes collected from his many glittering years in the literary world.
Darley’s advice includes:

• Character is everything. He cited a Lee Child quote: Everyone remembers the Lone Ranger but nobody remembers the Lone Ranger’s story.

• Stick to what you do well. When a reader enjoys a book, they will go for the next one and be disappointed if it is very different to the first. The most successful authors know their readers and what they want…and they carry on writing it. Of course, as Darley sagely pointed out, the challenge lies in FINDING the thing you are good at, that pot of gold that millions want to read!

Darley then left for another engagement and Clare and I had a VERY long lunch meeting. We had a brilliant time, talked for England and I’m absolutely delighted that the decision is made that I will write Adult crime as well as Young Adult fiction.

SMART, my YA debut is already written and will be published by Macmillan (UK) and DTV (Germany) in 2013/14. My debut Crime novel is a psychological suspense thriller called Safe with Me. I have always written adult crime, particularly psychological suspense, up until writing SMART. Safe with Me started off life as a 12,000 word dissertation for my English & Creative Writing degree. I will be looking at it with fresh eyes and developing it into a full-length novel of around 80,000 words.

Words cannot express my excitement about working with Clare and expanding into Adult Crime at this early stage in my writing career. I will be writing under a different or amended name for my crime books, to clearly distinguish between my YA work. Trouble is, at the moment, I’m thinking more about possible pen names than the first draft of Safe with Me!

So, looks like the television is back to being off every weekday evening…thank goodness I’m a Celebrity Get me out of Here! is nearly finished as this could have caused a serious clash of interests.

Today, as I collected my award at my MA Creative Writing graduation ceremony, I felt truly thankful for the amazing developments in my writing career over the last six months. Best of all, my loving and supportive family were there to see me graduate.

Not a look I will be sporting on a regular basis...