How My Book Became A Book
It seems a bit of a mystical process, sometimes – how an idea makes it all the way into being an actual book on the shelf. I can’t speak for every writer, but here’s the way it happened for me and my debut YA novel, Love, Lies and Lemon Pies. Or at least, this is how it seemed to me. I suspect my editor might tell a different story!
Stage 1: The Idea
Ideas are all around us, and I’ve got ideas for stories from all sorts of places. But in this particular case, the idea came to me over coffee and cake with my agent, Gemma, during a conversation that went something like this:
“What about baking? You like baking. You could write a book about… well, baking.”
“Like a bake club? An after school baking club?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
It wasn’t much of a starting point, but sometimes that’s all it takes.
Stage 2: The Writing (and rewriting. And rewriting again)
This part involved even more coffee and cake. Over the next six months, I wrote draft after draft of the book, sending it over to Gemma in chunks to get her feedback. I also baked a lot of cake, all in the name of research of course. Eventually, after a lot of revising, we had a book we felt ready to send out.
Stage 3: The Waiting (also known as the submission process)
In the past, before I had an agent, this was the part where I’d be sending off sample chapters to my carefully selected shortlist of agents who represented the sort of books I write, and who I thought I could work well with.
This time, it was Gemma doing the submitting, but it followed the same sort of process. She has detailed knowledge of which editors are potentially good fits for which books, so she was able to work up a shortlist of publishers and editors to send it out to.
And then we waited. For ages.
Stage 4: The Acquisition
I’m not qualified to talk about what happens behind closed doors at the publishers’ offices, but I can tell you that the world of publishing moves very, very slowly.
Still, eventually, people started getting back to us. Lots of people liked it, which was great. Lots of people also didn’t think it would be a good fit for their list, which wasn’t. But, in the end, the most perfect publisher for my book ended up buying it, as so often happens.
And then, the next round of work started.
Stage 5: Content Edits (and recipe testing!)
My lovely editor Ruth had some great ideas on how to make the book even better. So, while I worked on revising the book again, the whole team at Stripes tried out all the recipes in the book to make sure they worked right.
Stage 6: Copy Edits
But that’s not the end of the editing. After the content edits come the copy edits, where you go through the whole thing again and address all the little typos and continuity errors that have crept in – things like the main character’s eyes changing colour halfway through the book. In my case, this was also the point where we standardised all the measurements and temperatures throughout the recipes.
Stage 7: The Art Work
Also known as The Most Exciting Bit Ever! Yes, it turns out that all that hard work was worth it because at some point you’re rewarded with Your Book Cover. Needless to say, this is unbearably awesome. And it’s not just the cover – it’s all the little bits in the book that go together to make it look truly fantastic, like the mixing bowl doodle on the recipe pages and the fact my name is on a rolling pin.
Stage 8: The ARCs (Optional Extra!)
Sometimes, but not always, a publisher will print up Advance Reader Copies to send out to bookshops and reviewers before they go ahead and print the real thing. The ones for Love, Lies and Lemon Pies looked so great I assumed that was how the finished thing would look. I was wrong.
Stage 9: More edits, more artwork, and lots of tweaking
By this point, you’re into the endgame. The book is pretty much there, so from here it’s making sure all the little things work. Things like making sure you remembered to thank your mum for all her recipes in the acknowledgements, and fixing those last, tiny errors you missed the last time around. It’s also the time when the artwork gets finalised – we actually had a whole new photo shoot for the cover art, even though the basic concept stayed the same, it looks a thousand times better on the real thing. Also, my entire inside cover turned pink, which I love, and even better it now includes quotes from people who read the ARC copies and loved the book.
Stage 10: Publication
This is the really scary bit. The point where you say ‘okay, that’s it, no more changes. This is the book.’ And then some brave person (luckily not me) presses go, and the book whizzes off to be printed. It’s a real live book at last!
Now, of course, comes an even more exciting phase of my book’s story. It’s out there on the shelves in bookshops and people are actually reading it. I can’t wait to hear what they think!