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Time To Call In The Experts

One of the things every new writer is told, is that they need an editor. If they ask why, the response is usually something along the lines of 'because you can't afford not to have one'. However, if you look at the acknowledgements in any book, it's easy to see how many people it takes to actually create a book. This is true of whichever form of publishing an author chooses - self, independent or traditional and it's important because ultimately, all authors want to put out the best possible form of their work.

When it comes to getting a book out there for people to read, there's a lot to consider beyond simply getting the thing written and it's one of the things people often express surprise about when you talk to them about what's actually involved before you release a book. I speak from a self-publishing standpoint, but there will be many similarities to other publishing routes. Take my latest book for instance. 'The Reign Of The Winter King' began life as a book written for my eldest son. I wrote it, did a basic edit, created a cover using a template, stuck it on Amazon and then pretty much forgot about it as I moved on to write the next book.

Fast forward a few years and I was going through old books I'd written and taking them off Amazon and I decided that there was the core of a good story in there if I could just re-work it. I spent a few months doing some research and thinking about the new direction I wanted to take it in, then started going back through it chapter by chapter to see what was salvageable and what needed a complete re-write.

I ended up with a basic story arc but it still wasn't right. I worked on it some more but eventually, I got to the point where I couldn't work out how to fix it in any further. That was when I called in the first expert. Jenny ( went through the manuscript with a fine tooth comb and highlighted all the places where I'd written things that were for my son, rather than for the purposes of plot. She also highlighted where I'd referred to things that in my head were part of Robin Hood canon, but were in fact inventions of the late (and great) Richard Carpenter. That all went out and several more rewrites happened.

Once that was finished, it was time to call in the services of a professional editor. I wanted someone who specialised in the genre I was writing in and I found Shona ( via Sam Missingham's brilliant website She agreed to take on the job and two weeks later, I had an annotated manuscript and an editorial report. It took three more rounds of editing over the course of as many weeks, to get the book to being publication ready. After seeing a thread on twitter about the importance of sensitivity readers, I decided to engage one - two of my characters are gay and I wanted to make sure I'd portrayed them properly. I also went and spoke to a group of teenagers to make sure that the reactions of my teen characters to certain situations were authentic - I'm a long way removed from my teenage years and as friends keep reminding me, I have u u u unusual children and therefore their reactions can't be relied upon!

Sorting out a cover was another mammoth task. I had an idea of the image I wanted, but also knew I was on a limited budget. The artist who'd designed the cover for 'Unforgettable' didn't do the style of cover I wanted for Winter King, so it was back to trawing through countless portfolios, looking at style, genre specialism and cost, before making the decision who to approach. The other point that I was very aware of was that I had to get it just right because I knew there were going to be two more books in the series and so it needed to be someone I could work with again.

Then it was time to publish. Yet more decisions to make. Researching other books in the same genre to decide which Amazon categories to market it under. Creating social media adverts. Following other authors in the genre on Instagram and Twitter in the hope of making connections that way. The list of jobs goes on and on.

Don't get me wrong - none of these are complaints. On the whole I love the fact that I have complete control over everything, but as with everything, it always seems to be a surprise to people to discover exactly what goes on behind the scenes and why it takes so long to move from 'I've finished the first draft of the next novel' to 'Yay, it's coming out!'

I would estimate that it's taken eighteen months to go from the first re-drafting I did, to being ready to publish and of course, in that time I've also done paid work, made sure my kids don't kill each other, kept my family functioning, done a fair amount of home schooling, released a book for adults (, co-founded and produced five issues of Makarelle (, written the first draft of another novel, begun its sequel and started my role as Writer In Residence at Brightlingsea Lido, with all the work that entails.

Actually, when you look at that list, there's no wonder I'm exhausted!!

Seriously though, I love what I do and I can't wait to see what the next eighteen months brings.

'The Reign Of The Winter King' is available here.

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