SMART – A Tale of Publication

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 EDITING STAGE

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

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.


2 Responses to “SMART – A Tale of Publication”

  1. Julia Lund says:

    First of all, congratulations! I can only begin to imagine how thrilled you must be on the publication of Smart. Secondly, thank you for such a comprehensive account of the journey with your agent and editors to publication;reading it has been like taking a peek through a secret door. I cannot wait to get my hands on your novel and read it. When I’m not writing, I work as a TA supporting a couple of teenage boys who have Asperger’s; I love the view of the world they give me.
    As for my own writing, I am looking for an editor to go through a couple of manuscripts I hope will one day find their ways into the hands of readers. It heartens me to read that you went down that route when you were looking for an agent.
    Good luck with your future projects and heartfelt best wishes that you are living your personal writing dream.

    • kimslater says:

      Thank you for your lovely comments Julia, I’m so pleased you found the post useful. I certainly think that independent editors can be an excellent way of honing a manuscript in order to attract an agent. One caution I would add, now two and a half years down the line of doing that, is to carefully check and understand the contractual obligations you are agreeing to at the time. Not all editors demand ongoing commission if the book is successful but some do and payment can seem very expensive and never-ending, long after your interaction with the editor has ceased.