Friday, 29 June 2012

This book business

Without a doubt, the best news this week is that Transworld has offered Marcia another two-book contract. For those of you who don't know how all this works I will explain. If you do know, please skip the rest of this section.

The whole cycle takes two years. At the beginning of year one, Marcia starts brooding on a new book. She has no contract for the publication of this one so it a complete act of faith. Having brooded, travelled around finding locations, listened to all the voices, travelled down a number of dead ends, been thrilled when things start coming together and driving her long suffering husband completely mad, she starts writing. That will be in or around month four. The next six months are spent in the actual writing of the book.

The first port of call for the manuscript is Marcia's agent, Dinah Wiener. Dinah may or may not have some suggestions to make which she feels would improve the book. If she does, then Marcia will work right through making alterations as she thinks fit (for she does not always agree with Dinah's ideas). Once Marcia and Dinah are happy, the book is sent to Transworld and we all sit back biting our nails waiting to hear whether or not the manuscript will meet the approval of her editor, Linda Evans. There are a number of options. The first is that the book is turned down flat (although this has yet to happen to Marcia), the second is that Linda wants to see some major alterations to the book before agreeing to accept it. The third (and this happened this year) is that Linda is quite happy to go ahead straight away – but that does not mean that there will be no issues to deal with later.

Once the editor is happy, a presentation is made to the Acquisitions Committee. This will include some people from marketing, sales and accounts as well as the editors and they will have available all Marcia's sales figures as well as the manuscript. Assuming the committee agrees to publish, Transworld will make a two-book offer. We are now probably in month nine or ten.

Shortly afterwards, Marcia will receive Linda's 'editorial notes' which will offer various ideas – again for the betterment of the book. Once more, Marcia will work through the manuscript. She very rarely makes the exact changes that the editors request but she takes each comment as a pointer that something needs to be improved and she will ensure that each point is dealt with.

Once the manuscript is accepted, Marcia can relax and start to allow herself to relax. With any luck there will be a month during which she can chill out and build up her reserves. Meanwhile, the spotlight turns on me. In order to give Marcia a decent break between books, I do the majority of the work on the copy edited manuscript and also the proof reading when the time comes. The job of the copy editor (or line editor as this person is called in the United States) is to ensure that all the punctuation is correct, no grammatical errors, no stylistic errors such as unintentional word repetitions and that there are no mistakes of fact. This last can mean real facts – such as the author mentioning the Statue of Liberty in London – or fictional facts – such as the author talking about a two-year old seven months after the child was born. Yvonne Holland has been Marcia's copy editor for many years now and she is first class. My job is to bring to Marcia's attention and suggestions Yvonne makes which I feel may not be acceptable. There are very few of these, I should add, but the author always has the final say.

Then, at the start of year two, the whole process is repeated. The only difference is that now Marcia is working to a contract – something that she takes very seriously indeed. The last thing she wants is for the 'second book of the contract' to be in any way inferior to the first.

* * * * * *

Another country – another contract.

Marcia wrote four books under the name Willa Marsh. Willa is the spiky, rather cynical and definitely naughty side of Marcia and these books were published by Sceptre. Incidentally, it was as Willa Marsh that Marcia was reviewed in The Times.

Few years ago, a French Publisher – Éditions Autrement Littératures – decided to publish these four books. As of today, three are out and the fourth is in production. One of them, as I mentioned a while back, has caught the attention of a French film company and they have bought the rights and matters appear to be progressing satisfactorily.

If you want to watch a French television presenter talking about Willa in what, I am pleased to report, is a very positive and enthusiastic way then click here. He is, of course, talking in French which may put you off.

Anyway, EAL would have liked Willa to have written more books but she hasn't. So, they have started reading some of the ones Marcia wrote and have picked on The Children's Hour – but only on condition that it is written by Willa. After a lengthy and serious discussion, Marcia and Willa have now agreed that this may be the case.

Marcia's French agent, in an email to Dinah said, "Editions Autrement, part of Flammarion, have had considerable success with her Willa Marsh titles. They want to continue to publish some of Marcia's novels written under her real name, beginning with THE CHILDREN?S HOUR of which they say: They think French readers appreciate the "Willa Marsh qualities" (tight plot, lightly cynical humor, tenderness for her older characters)."

Marcia is especially pleased with the bit about her older characters!