This week, I’ve been working on the copyedit for The French Photographer. As well as that, there have been quite a few behind-the-scenes things happening with the book, so I thought it might be interesting to talk about the process of getting a book ready for publication.

The Back Cover Blurb

When you’re browsing in the bookshop, how often do you pick up a book and turn to the back cover and read the blurb? Most of us do this often. Therefore, the blurb has to be captivating and convince the reader that this book is worth their time and their money.

With my books, I usually put together a blurb of sorts and send this to my publisher. My blurbs are always far far too long so my publisher then takes what I’ve written and massages it and cuts it and polishes it until it’s just the right length. The aim is for it to succinctly convey to the reader what the book is about and seduce the reader into buying it. I’m pretty happy with what we’ve come up with for The French Photographer over the last couple of weeks and hopefully you’ll be intrigued and interested by it!

The Front Cover

At the same time, my publisher usually asks me if there are any key motifs from the book or any key images that I’ve come across that can be used as inspiration for the front cover of the book. I always like to read the copy edit with this in mind, considering what elements of the book might be visually appealing on the cover and which might also be images that reflect the story, the setting or the characters in the book.

I came up with three motifs, plus a few pics that have the right feel about them. From there, my publisher will brief cover designers and, in many months time, we’ll have a cover to show you!

The Permissions

When you read a book, do you notice the quotes that some writers use as epigraphs at the front of the book, or at the beginning of a new part of the novel? I always do, and, when used well, I think epigraphs can add to the story. I didn’t use them in my previous books but I was so inspired by some of my research material this time that I wanted to use it for epigraphs.

Of course, if you’re quoting someone else’s words, you need to ask permission. And, often, you have to pay for that permission. You must get permission to quote anything from any other work that is in copyright. Songs are very expensive to quote and I had to delete two lines from a song that I desperately wanted to quote in The Paris Seamstress because it was just too expensive. On the other hand, one publisher allowed me to use a very short quote from Elizabeth Hawes’ memoir for nothing, as long as we acknowledged the publisher and the book, which of course I would always do.

It’s the author’s job to both source and pay for any permissions. It’s a fiddly process; you need to double check your work to make sure you’ve quoted correctly, locate the page number of the book in which the text you’re quoting from originally appeared, find out who published the book, and then go to their website and work your way through their permissions process.

How it Works

This is usually pretty streamlined these days and major publishers have an online form for you to complete and upload the quote in the context of your book. Others will simply ask you to email them, providing information such as the name of the book you’re quoting from, page number, how you’re using it, your print run and territories etc.

The trouble with historical fiction using original sources is that, sometimes, the publisher no longer exists. Or, if you’re quoting from an old magazine or newspaper, it isn’t immediately obvious how the permission process works so you really have to go digging to find a contact who you can email and who can hopefully send you in the right direction. It’s at least a day’s work to send out all the requests, and then many more hours work to respond to each publisher and provide more information and finalise the permission.

I have about fourteen permission requests currently out and they usually take about 6 weeks to come through. You mostly end up paying around $50-$100 for a small amount of text and then of course it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it!

So, that’s what I’ve been doing over the last week! Not so much writing, but lots of still very important things that need to happen when getting a book ready for publication.