Jo Dickinson (Publishing Director, Fiction) has a BIG announcement. Big… huge!
I love a list. In our quick-fire, non-stop world, having a ‘to do’ list on the go at all times makes me feel just a little more in control. And near the top of my list for a while has been: commission a book for the fab BATC #DigitalOriginals list. We all know that BookMinx and the rest of her team are the best in the business, I want to be in their gang. And whaddya know, thanks to the brilliant Penny Parkes and her debut novel Out of Practice, I’ve only gone and done it! High fives all round.
Out of Practice is for all readers who like funny, heartfelt, warm novels with a brilliant cast of characters – that’s most of us then! Meet married mum of two and successful GP Holly Graham as she relocates her family to join the team at The Practice at Beckerford, hoping to find the peaceful life she craves, despite the chaos that comes with her two year old twins and the troublesome state of her marriage. It will certainly be a challenge to keep her private and professional lives separate in such a tight-knit community.
Her colleagues have their own issues to contend with. The gorgeous Dr Dan Carter is struggling to focus on work and the last thing he needs is any more stress; having his ambitious ex-girlfriend Dr Julia Channing working alongside him isn’t really helping. Thankfully, the rather delectable Dr Taffy Jones is on hand to distract Holly from the escalating situation at home. Meanwhile feisty octogenarian and resident celebrity, Elsie Townsend, is Holly’s favourite patient and saving grace. Elsie’s inspirational ‘Life Lessons’ come at the perfect moment, as The Practice is suddenly under threat of imminent closure and Holly rediscovers her voice and her priorities just in time …
Penny will be out and about to promote, revealing the cover (soon!) and generally making people laugh – follow her on twitter @CotswoldPenny to find out what she’s up to. We are very excited indeed to publish this book and can’t wait to tell you more about our plans as we head towards publication in summer 2016.
And I can put a satisfying tick in one box of my ‘to-do’ list. Next challenge: climb Everest or learn to fly a plane ….
The Big USA Trip of 2015….
In a few weeks, Mr BookMinx and I will be jetting off to the USA for our long awaited and ridiculously expensive Big USA Road Trip of 2015 taking in San Francisco, driving down the Big Sur to LA, then a hop over to Vegas culminating in an overnight stay in the Grand Canyon. The stuff of dreams, right? Or….
Several things are playing on my mind if truth be told.
Firstly, have I left it too late to get my body ‘beach ready’? And yes, I do already know the answer to that.
Secondly. Inbox fear. I haven’t even compiled an appropriate out-of-office yet, but I’m already at Panic Level 7. Do I give in and just take the blinking blackberry with me? How else will I be able to relax knowing the High Importance mails are pinging through at an average of 742 a day? What did we all do before we were CONSTANTLY 24-7 available? I’ll tell you, shall I? We did NOTHING. We were on holiday. Out of contact. Not out-of-the-office, because there WAS no out-of-the-office. No email. No mobiles. No ‘devices’. We went on holiday, and had a bloody good time….
Then, there is the fact that despite being together for 16 years, living under the same roof for 7, and married for 6, Mr BookMinx and I have never spent more than 7 days ‘away’ together before. And the Big USA Trip of 2015 is going to take nearly 3 weeks. 19 days. Together. 24 hours a day. Together. I mean, come ON. Really? Most days, what with our jobs, his Open University and my obsession with seeking out the perfect Espresso Martini, we spend about an hour MAX sharing the sofa in quiet companionship. An hour a day has, in no way, prepared us for 24 hours a day for 19 days. In no way at all….
Next up. Books. I’m still trying to work my way down the 2013 AND 2014 Summer Reading TBR Pile of Dreams, let alone some 2015 crackers I’ve already missed. With so many sights begging to be instagram-med, how the chuff am I going to power through over 100 novels?
… then of course is the fact that I don’t understand Instagram anyway.
Or know how to use my camera….
And I’m missing Jackie. Collins that is. Her annual trip to London coincides, in a cruel and evil twist of fate, with The Big Trip. So whilst I’m sipping her favourite Asian Pear Martini at RockSugar in LA, she’ll be sipping my favourite Espresso Martini at Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane wowing the Literati crowd. Oh fate! You evil monkey.
Do you see what I mean? Lots to fret over. So think of me, won’t you? Whilst you are all struggling with Back to School… and I’m ‘struggling’ with this….
DigitalOriginals #oneday OPEN SUBMISSION DAY!
Well, there you go. Our ‘for #oneday only’ chance to submit the first fifty pages/first three chapters of your Commercial Women’s Fiction manuscript as part of our #digitaloriginals publishing programme has now closed for another year!
Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to send us their WIP. We are aiming to respond to everyone who submitted within 60 days, and will provide feedback where we can.
If we are interested in seeing more – we will get back to you within the next 6 weeks, at which time we will be asking you to send us your complete novel (around 80,000 – 100,000 words, as a word document (or equivalent) double spaced) – so now is the time to get out that red pen, and make any last minute changes you think the manuscript needs…
Right. I’m off. These chapters won’t read themselves now, will they! If you want me, I’ll be face down in half a forest….
How DID I get here? – PART THREE – Sara-Jade Virtue
You know those highlights that stick in your mind, long after the moment has passed? The Big Deal things? A marriage perhaps? A birth? Finding the perfect pair of shoes, in the sale… in your size. Laughing about NOTHING, with your mates, till you pee your pants.
I have a whole library of these types of things from my days at Waterstones. Up there in the mind bank. Amazing, incredibly, fantastic moments like meeting President Bill Clinton… and his team of Secret Service men. Working the midnight opening party at Oxford Street for the launch of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and being in charge of the actual sorting hat! Breakfast with Gillian McKeith. Lunch with Jenny Colgan. Dinner with Janet Street Porter. Cocktails with Big Brother 6. Going to the Nibbies (British Book Awards). Special events with heroines like Marian Keyes. And Lisa Jewell. And Bernie Strachan. And Cecelia Ahern. And Louise Candlish. And Jackie Collins. And Sophie Kinsella. All up there… all on a replaying loop of gloriousness.
And then there are the other things. The littler, but just as marvellous things. Boxes and boxes of Galaxy chocolate turning up – and I have absolutely no idea why. Incredible restaurants and bars. Boat trips. Theatre trips. Parties galore. Learning about books. How they are written. How they are published. How they are sold. Meeting readers and customers. Meeting authors and celebrities. Scoffing ‘family’ packs of chocolate éclairs under the desk to avoid sharing. And the book themselves. Don’t let’s forget the books… four fabulously happy, happy years immersed in the world of books.
Next time: I’ve been head shrunk… by Vogue!
How DID I get here? – PART TWO – Sara-Jade Virtue
So. I was IN. In Product. And I didn’t have a scooby doo what I was doing! Luckily a team of cracking chaps (Rodney, Peter, Gabrielle, Suzie, Jenny and Scott – I’m looking right at YOU) explained, patiently, over and over again how Product Buying at the head office of the UK’s largest book chain worked – all the in’s and the vast amount of out’s. Visual planograms. The infamous Front of Store Checklist. Core Range grading. Promotional Marketing Agreements. The Weekly Product Bulletin. The weekly sales reports for our Publishing chums… the list of tasks I was responsible for went on. And on and on. The particular needs of our Academic stores. The specialist teams that looked after children’s books. And the different genres within non-fiction. And Fiction. Ah, fiction… of course cookery books and kids picture books and everything else in between are fabulous, FABULOUS I tell you, but with fiction I knew I had found my spiritual home….
So whilst beavering away at the Day Job, I set about ingratiating myself with the Publishing Houses behind the authors I loved the very most – Jackie Collins, Lisa Jewell, Chris Manby, Adele Parks, Bernadette Strachan, Josie Lloyd & Emlyn Rees, Marian Keyes, Catherine Alliott, Freya North, Jennifer Weiner, Cecelia Ahern, Harriet Evans, Jenny Colgan, Jane Green, Katie Fforde, Louise Bagshawe, Mike Gayle, Penny Vincenzi, Sophie Kinsella, Veronica Henry… the list was many and magnificent!
And internally, I worked hard to push the wonder, the importance, the fabulousness of my favourite genre (commercial, mass market, women’s fiction, chick lit – call it what you will) higher up the To Do Lists of the key decision makers in the business – those who could Let Me Make Stuff Happen.
And slowly, slowly catchy monkey, I was given the green light to kick off my Big Fat Strategy Plan that included increasing our core stock range of a Hit List of over 300 titles, launching a Reading Group made up of other fans of women’s fiction who worked within the business, building a community on Waterstones.com (we even had a logo!), asking Marian Keyes to select HER favourite women’s fiction and then rolling out the entire list as a price promoted Shelf Offer across the entire estate, asking publishers for exclusive competitions and content and samplers and previews and interviews…..
And then, my hold-your-breath moment in the sun. My first ever estate wide Offer of the Week. We were going to go hard (or go home) on the film-tie in edition of The Devil Wears Prada. A HUGE order. Advertising in Heat, Hello and Closer. In store POS. All the bells and even more of the whistles. And I crossed my fingers and toes… and you know what? It was our best selling Offer of the Week. EVER.
Next time: Chocolate Éclairs and the Nibbies.
How DID I get here? - PART ONE – Sara-Jade Virtue
Welcome to a brand new feature from @TeamBATC! If you’ve ever wondered exactly what we do, other than drink cocktails, eat cupcakes and read, READ, READ, and how we came to be where we are – read on! First up, me…..
This year marks my 30th as a member of the full-time 9-5 treadmill, and my 13th in a profession that, if I’m honest, I didn’t really even know existed till I rocked up with my brand new squeaky shoes and Woolworths pencil case at Waterstones Head Office in 2002 to begin my brand new job as Office Services Manager.
Looking after the envelopes, managing reception, ordering the loo roll etc wasn’t, if I’m honest, my dream job, but as an ex Waitress, ex Cocktail Bar Manager, ex Client Servicing Manager, ex Editor, ex PA, ex Customer Relations Officer, ex Human Resources Exec, and ex Estate Agent, if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that with a modicum of street smarts, adaptability, and downright blagging, most people can turn their hand to most jobs and get away with it…
So, there I was, with my new pencils, squeaky shoes, and three floors of bright, clever, terrifyingly well-educated literary types all beavering away with just one thing on their minds – BOOKS. Teams of people planning and designing and maintaining shops. Hordes of creative types sketching out the images for POS (point of sale) material – the posters and headers and shelf talkers – and adverts and marketing campaigns. A whole floor of bean counters working out how much everything costs. PR teams. HR teams. IT teams. The Board. And then a floor of chaps called Product, surrounded by (and swimming in) shelf upon shelf, row upon row, pile upon pile, of books. And I was hooked. Led by a notorious fellow called Scott Pack – Product Buying was where the magic happened.
20 incredible people who chose the books that were put on the shelves of the Waterstones stores up and down the country. The books in the window, on the tables at the front, the books ‘spine out’ at the back, and everything in between. And these people were called Buyers. And that’s exactly what they did. They bought all the books that ended up on the shelves from the hundreds of publishers that would come into Head Office, with their little wheelie cases, and huge AI (advance information) kits and SOLD the books to Waterstones. And I had no idea that this was a thing. No idea at all.
So through a combination of badgering, tea making, harassing, lemon drizzle cake making, hassling, begging and pestering, I managed to wangle my way into the team as starting-from-the-bottom Buying Administrator and embarked on two of the most fulfilling, fascinating, hilarious years of my life….
Next time: Publishing Schmoozing, Hello magazine and the Chick Lit Forum…
DIGITAL ORIGINALS NEWS – ANDY JONES
February 12th 2015 was the eBook publication day of our first ever #digitaloriginals novel – the brilliant The Two of Us by Andy Jones! Obviously we had to celebrate, so in typical @TeamBATC style we headed down to our friends Bea’s of Bloomsbury with 100 red balloons (if you’ve read the book already, you’ll know why!), 100 FREE eBook download codes from the lovely chaps over at Kobo, and a tray of 100 special Valentine cupcakes….
Thank you to everyone who came down to celebrate with us, and if you haven’t already bought a copy of this wonderful, heartbreaking and emotional story about Fisher & Ivy – love, life and everything in between, you really, really should…
DIGITAL ORIGINALS NEWS – HOLLY HEPBURN
I can’t BEGIN to tell you how excited we all were here at Books and the City HQ when we announced our second acquisition under the DigitalOriginals banner!
Here is the initial acquisition news from Clare Hey…
‘Here at S&S we’re always looking for great new writers and brilliant books for you to enjoy. And so I am delighted to announce a new addition to our Books and the City DigitalOriginals programme which I know you’re going to love! It’s a series of ebook novellas set around a lovely little village pub called The Star and Sixpence, which two sisters inherit only to discover that it’s not quite the idyllic dream they thought it might be… and moving to the countryside is not quite what they imagined either. Between nosy neighbours, a pub that’s seen better days, and their pasts coming back to bite them, life at The Star and Sixpence isn’t going to be a walk in the park. The author is the very talented Holly Hepburn – you can follow her on twitter @HollyH_author. She’s busily putting the finishing touches to the first instalment, called Snowdrops at The Star and Sixpence, coming out in November 2015. A long time to wait, but it will be worth it! There will be lots of news and updates from Holly here and we know you’re going to love her.’
CREATIVE WRITING MASTERCLASS
On Saturday 15th November 2015 we held our very first (but hopefully not our last!) Creative Writing Masterclass here at Books and the City HQ, aimed specifically at writers of commercial women’s fiction. The day was split into two, with morning one-to-one sessions with editors Jo Dickinson and Clare Hey and afternoon panels for a wider audience with uber literary agent Lizzy Kremer, bestselling author Milly Johnson, Peter Saxton (Publisher Liaison Manager at Waterstones Head Office), Isabelle Broom (Book Reviewer at Heat Magazine) and Lindsey Mooney (Content Lead UK & Ireland from Kobo).
We all had a fabulous time, our Panel Sessions were brilliant – with some cracking hints, tips and advice from the very best in the business, all topped off with fizz and cake at the end of the day. Perfect. Here are just a few of my favourite snaps from the day…
As a very special treat, our VIP Guest Milly Johnson has kindly jotted down her Top 20 Tips for aspiring authors…
- Don’t procrastinate. Dive into that book and make a start on it. Feel the fear and do it. The first 2000 words of a book are easy, the next 98,000 are harder but every word you write is one nearer to that 100,000 target.
- It doesn’t matter what routine you have writing a book; just make sure you have one. Find a system that works for you. There is no right or wrong way.
- Every chapter should progress a plot. There should be no ‘treading water’ just to make up the word count.
- Never start your book with a description – your reader will be comatose before line 10.
- Regional dialect can be really annoying. If you need to use it, sprinkle odd words through the dialogue as if you are seasoning a soup with sage. You don’t need much of it to know it’s there.
- Beware of sloppy research. If you don’t know something find it out and don’t guess it – you will alienate readers.
- If you don’t respect your writing time, no one else will. If you are working, your friends and family should treat you as if you are in an external office. Get them used to thinking like that.
- Make sure that when you are writing dialogue, your characters listen to each other and react to what is being said as they would in real life.
- Always carry a notepad to record interesting words or plots or thoughts or observations. Memories are unreliable and distort.
- Writer’s block? Don’t do a crossword or listen to your iPad or anything that engages your brain. Do some ironing, go for a walk – something that frees up your brain and lets it roam, not occupies it.
- Read. Always have time to read. Read for pleasure and sometimes read analytically. You’ll pick up so much vocabulary and style without even noticing.
- Beware that sometimes characters develop a mind of their own and however much you try to write them doing something, they rebel and say ‘I wouldn’t do this.’ It sounds bonkers but it happens. Listen to the monsters you have created.
- Sometimes big chunks of your work has to be cut out because it doesn’t fit anymore. Better that than have to force it to fit because it won’t read right. Nothing is ever wasted when you’re a writer – it will come in elsewhere. The phrase is called ‘Killing your darlings.’
- Write what you want to write and not what you think will sell. Chances are if a new craze comes along, by the time your book is done, the hype will have died down about it. And don’t pander to foreign markets either by doing things like forcing a transatlantic romance when your heart isn’t really in it. If you’re bored writing, it reads that way. If your home market sales are strong, that is the best way for the foreign markets to show interest. They like success stories.
- If you are writing to an agent – keep your introductory letter relevant. If you won a regional prize for writing – that’s relevant. Telling an agent that you are a middle-aged housewife who loves doing jigsaws is not. Don’t even bother saying that you want a book deal more than you want to breathe – that’s always taken as standard.
- And if you read that an agent should be initially approached with an introductory letter, don’t send them a full manuscript. They won’t think you are an admirable maverick, they’ll think you’re an arrogant idiot who can’t follow a simple instruction!
- Try to make your book fit nicely into a genre box for marketing purposes. A woman who travels through time and has an Edwardian vampire lover whom she accidentally murders with a poisonous mushroom stroganoff… well is that sci-fi, romance, crime, historical or romcom? That will cause everyone a headache, from the booksellers trying to place it on a shelf to the people trying to find it in shops.
- If you get a publishing deal, network network network. Join the RNA, meet other authors, tweet, facebook – get your name out there. Write articles for the local newspaper for free (you have to do everything for free in the beginning). Get in touch with local WI people – they are always looking for speakers. They pay you, feed you scones and buy your books – and spread the word to other WIs.
- If you are published, register as soon as you know what your ISBN number is for PLR, Irish PLR and ALCS (authors licensing and collecting service). It can be a nice chunk of bonus money arriving in your bank account every year.
- Do not go into this job expecting to be an overnight success. It is very hard work, mad, underpaid for years and you are always under pressure to be better than your last book. And if you thrive on that kind of challenge – you’ll never want to do anything else because this is the best job in the world.
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