My production journey
161 days ago
People talk about books being like babies, and I suppose I can see the parallels. I have stayed up all night with a book before now, though I’ve never had one throw up down my back as I was winding it. The email from the Book Guild offering to publish Dead Man Singing arrived in my inbox on Friday 13th January 2023 (lucky for me!), close enough to nine months before the book’s eventual publication.
The book itself had a much longer gestation period. I started writing it in the summer of 2021; the first draft took about three months and then it took another three months of re-writing before I started to think of it (wrongly) as finished. Over the following year, a relentless cycle of submitting it to agents and publishers, getting rejected (or ignored), re-reading with fresh eyes and polishing it before going again. Eventually, just as I was considering the possibilities of self-publishing, the Book Guild said yes.
Charlie Watts once described 25 years in the Rolling Stones as 5 years of being a Rolling Stone and 20 years of waiting around. The nine months since that ‘yes’ feels a lot like that. There was a flurry of initial activity: The Book Guild sent me lots of forms to fill in – cover design brief, author promotion form, marketing questionnaire – to help them bring my dream to life, and assigned a production co-ordinator (Liberty, whose emails were bubbly and enthusiastic). But then there was a long pause while I took my place behind the many other books on their production schedule. Sadly, Liberty moved on to a new job (not, as far as I can tell, as a result of having to work with me) and until the appointment of replacement Dan (more measured in his emails, but just as efficient and helpful) I was well looked after by Fern and Chloe. There were other things for me to do at my end, not least a photoshoot to produce author headshots (the ones on this website, courtesy of Skye Price-Elliot), but mostly a lot of waiting.
Eventually, it was my turn to receive copy-edited text to approve. Then came typeset proofs and – most exciting of all – the first glimpse of the brilliant cover designed by Chelsea Taylor. As a lifelong fan of Fulham Football Club, it’s slightly painful to be indebted to someone who shares a name with our local rivals, but the cover is so good that I have put footballing tribalism aside. The strapline on the front cover – ‘What happens when faking your death gives you something to live for’ was Chelsea’s handiwork too, and it’s a brilliant addition, piquing curiosity and drawing readers to the book.
By the beginning of August, everything had been approved and, with cover design now confirmed, a very patient and helpful man called Sam started work building this website. I travelled up to Market Harborough for a marketing meeting (four hours travel each way for a one-hour meeting, but totally worth it to be able to properly meet the lovely people I’m working with) and then everyone got on with getting the word out. Meera at the Book Guild and Liz Gordon at Brilliant Fish PR Agency set about stirring up media interest in Dead Man Singing, while Chloe (who sent that initial, game-changing email) co-ordinated promotion within the book trade. It’s still at a very early stage, of course, but the initial response seems to be going well – you can check out the latest responses to the book on the reviews page of this website or on my Facebook Author profile.
It was a long wait: nine months or so for the book, more than fifteen years from when I started writing fiction, but it was worth it. I’m fortunate to have been guided by people – those mentioned here, and others – who are more than able to steer me right and save me from schoolboy errors. Nothing prepares you for the changes that come with becoming a parent. Publishing a book doesn’t compare with that, but, as with parenthood, I’m sure the journey will take me in unexpected directions and usher in new experiences. It’ll be fun finding out.
So proud of you mate
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