Category Archives: behind the book

Behind the Book: Library assistant Sarah Barnard + #YAShot blog tour

More in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter | Editor | Library Assistant  | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager | Blogger |Scout |Translators | Book charity | Copyeditor

I’m really excited to say that I’m going to be appearing at YA Shot on 28th October in Uxbridge, London. I will be chairing a panel about Hopeless Romantic: Doomed lovers and ideals of romance with Lucy Saxon and Catherine Doyle. You can check out the rest of the programme here, and I really suggest you do – there are nearly 70 authors running a variety of YA and MG events, and it’s going to be an incredible day!23524522

YA Shot is an event organised by author Alexia Casale (whose new book House of Windows just came out, hurray!) in conjunction with Hillingdon Borough Libraries and Waterstone’s Uxbridge.

The event is specifically aimed at bringing access to library events for disadvantaged schools, to encourage a passion for reading, creative writing and libraries.cropped-yashot6small It will also show attending students how a love of reading can actually turn into a career.

As I’m running my Behind the Book interview series to highlight the different professions related to publishing, I thought I would take the opportunity to talk about YA Shot for their blog tour. There was no better person to discuss why libraries and outreach is so important than someone who works in one, so today I’m interviewing Sarah Barnard.

Sarah is not only an old school friend and valued beta reader, but she’s also a Library Assistant at Coventry Libraries. She runs a really excellent and diverse review blog as well, where she articulately discusses all manner of UKYA related issues. Her interview here is no exception!

What does your job involve?

My job title is “library and information assistant”, so primarily, I assist. I’m out on the floor, interacting with the public and very often putting books into hands. I also get to do displays, outreach work, and the great joy of modern libraries that is rhymetime. Things my job does not involve: shushing people!

How did you get started as a library assistant? Did you do any work experience?

My English degree is relevant, but enthusiasm and good people skills have been more important to success in my role. Being a passionate reader helps as well. When I joined the relief register (a list of people who can be called in to cover short term absences) it was my first ever ‘proper’ job, and having that foot in the door was crucial for getting a permanent contract.

Why are libraries so important?

Books. All the time, books.

But apart from that… A library is a safe, welcoming community space where you can find information and entertainment, and all you need is a library card, not a credit card. Something like three in ten UK children own no books, making libraries a lifeline when literacy levels are such vital indicators of future success. booktrust_logoWe work with wonderful organisations like Booktrust and The Reading Agency to promote reading for pleasure at all ages and stages of life.

It’s not just about books, either. In 2014, 84% of households had internet access – but where does that leave the 16% without, when everything from bills to shopping to job searches to visa applications needs to be done online these days? For a lot of people, library computers are the only computers they can access.

Libraries are community hubs. They’re inclusive spaces and aid community cohesion. Whoever you are, whatever your situation, when you walk in, you’re guaranteed to find a friendly person who wants to help you. (That’s me!) For some, going to the library might be the only social interaction they have that day. Google is no substitute for the human touch.

What did libraries meant to you growing up?


I was (obviously) a very bookish kid, so the library was heaven. The excitement of progressing from the children’s section to the teenage section… and then, eventually, the impossibly vast adult fiction section… I’ve never lost that sense of wonder over packed bookshelves. I also did my fair share of homework in my local library, which was a five minute walk from my house. The alien glories of the microfiche and the clunkiness of early internet are things I never would have had access to without the library.

What do you think libraries can do in the future to ensure they reach people who need them? And how can people support their local libraries?

We have to do more outreach work. We need to reach out to young people – there’s a real lack of programmes for 12 – 25 year olds, which I’ve spoken about with other people in other UK libraries. If we’re talking about improving prospects through promoting literacy, that’s such an important age and I really don’t think we’re doing enough. YA Shot is an amazing step in the right direction, and I hope it blazes a trail for others to follow.

To support your local library, pay it a visit. Talk to your librarian. Borrow books, CDs, DVDs. If they don’t have a book you want, request it. If you haven’t already, go to your local library with proof of your address, sign up for a library card, and use it!

nld-logoNational Libraries Day was 7th February this year – make sure you celebrate it next year. Be loud about it if you’re passionate about library advocacy, through social media, or writing to your local newspaper or MP.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

13249650The best thing is when someone walks in and asks me to recommend a book. Have you ever seen a small boy’s face light up when you hand him a Doctor Who book? I’ve had so many great conversations about books I love. There are loads of littler things I love about my job (is there anything more therapeutic than tidying?) but there’s something incredibly potent about being able to hand someone a book that could change their life.

Is there anything you feel particularly strongly about working towards with your career?

I’ve become obsessed with literacy advocacy. Being able to read and write well is an invaluable skill that improves not only your job prospects but your quality of life and facility of self expression and understanding. I really want to find a way to harness the energy around the UKYA movement and translate it into more young people reading for pleasure. I’m also interested to see libraries moving into social media and the ways that can work for us, which is again about reaching that demographic of young digital natives.

KbIsAL1rI try on a personal level to promote diverse books, and I would love the opportunity to work towards the goals of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement in the further stages of my career.

Has being involved in publishing changed how you read books for pleasure?

I read far, far more now than I did before. Of course, this is partly because I’m no longer an English literature student! I’m more likely to be aware of the current big releases, which doesn’t always lead to me reading them (you should see the length of these reservation queues) but means I know what issues well, what’s got everybody talking. Surprisingly, I think I buy more books than I used to. I suppose I’m constantly engaged with them.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to work in a library?

Remember that it’s as much about the people as it is the books, if not more. You won’t actually have any time to sit around reading!

See if your local library is taking on volunteers. A lot of libraries are volunteer-run now, so if you volunteer you’ll be getting valuable experience at the same time as helping keep a resource open for your community.

There are courses offered at universities across the country in Library Studies, at undergraduate and postgraduate level, which are worth considering if you want to be a qualified librarian. CILIP (Charted Institute of Library and Information Professionals) has a thorough jobs and careers section on its website, with a list of accredited qualifications.

21805717What are your favourite children’s books now and from your childhood?

Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising sequence is close to my heart, a magisterial and beautiful fantasy series that I always, always return to. Harry Potter and His Dark Materials are no-brainers, and Animorphs is also very important. I’ve somehow become entangled in UKYA, and read a lot of fantastic books-for-teens which are just plain fantastic books, like The Accident Season and Only Ever Yours.

Sarah Barnard is a writer and library assistant who lives about as far away from the sea as it’s possible to get in the United Kingdom. When she’s not reading, she likes to gaze adoringly at her succulent plants or practise the ten or so ukulele chords she knows.

You can follow her on twitter @slouisebarnard

Occasionally she even writes for her blog: Sarah Likes Books

Tickets for YA Shot will be on sale from August 19th at 4pm here for £20 (adults) and £15 (students) or £30 for a family ticket. All proceeds will go to YA Shot and its Year-Long Legacy Programme, which will provide the Borough’s libraries with free events like writing workshops or author talks for disadvantaged schools in the area.


Behind the Book: Editor Annalie Grainger

More in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter | Editor | Library Assistant  | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager | Blogger |Scout |Translators | Book charity | Copyeditor

I am very, very excited today to be talking to my editor at Walker Books! Annalie is one of the most genuinely nice people I’ve ever met, as well as being an editing genius.

Her editorial notes are always spot on, to the point where I’m just nodding my head as I read them, saying obviously I should have done that! under my breath every other second. I’m convinced her line editing abilities are actually magic (she can find 10,000 unnecessary words to remove from a manuscript and completely change a plotline from slow to pacey in seconds – all without taking out a single scene. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?).

She also writes her own novels – Captive, a thriller about the Prime Minister’s daughter being kidnapped, is out now. I had to get her perspective on publishing, from both sides of the field.

What does your job involve? 

Acquiring books for the children’s and YA fiction list at Walker Books, then working with authors on edits as well as supporting them throughout the whole publishing process. I also work closely with the design team to create a cover and liaise with our marketing and sales teams over campaigns and pitches to booksellers.

How did you get started in editing?

My first job out of uni was as a marketing assistant at a children’s publishing house. I fell in love with the books but knew that I wanted to be more hands-on with their creation. After getting some editorial experience at a magazine, I became assistant editor to the fiction publisher at Walker.

What are your favourite children’s books now and from your childhood?

24463265 As a child, I loved A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, as well as Ursula Moray Williams’ Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat and Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch. Oh and The Witches by Roald Dahl. And The Deptford Mice by Robin Jarvis. (I loved so many books as a kid; I could write this list for ever.) As an adult, my favourite children’s books change, but at the moment I love Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and Eleanor and Park. For younger readers, Frank Cottrell Boyce and David Almond are great. I’ve also just read Katherine Woodfine’s The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, which is gorgeous.

What drew you to The Next Together? 😉

The epic love story – I’m a total sucker for romance. I also really liked the characters, and the writing was very funny! Plus, the use of ‘original’ historical documents to help tell the story was unusual and intriguing. I would have loved that as a teen. (Is your head getting very big now, Lauren?!)

Yes, yes it is. Keep talking….

What’s your favourite part of your job?

 Working with authors to make their book the best it can be.

You’re also a published author yourself. How does writing fiction affect your work as an editor, and vice versa?

I have definitely become more sensitive to my authors’ needs since becoming a writer myself. I like to think I’ve always been empathetic, but I really get it now – the insecurity and how exposed you can feel as a writer. It’s made me feel even more protective of my authors.

In terms of the way my editing affects my writing: I would say it has helped with structure. It has also made me less precious – if a scene doesn’t work, it has to go; that’s just the way it is. It can be hard to turn my editor’s brain off, though, so I can try to edit my work too early.

What are you proudest of in your career? 

I feel proud every time a book arrives from the printers. (I felt especially proud when it was a book I had written!) It’s also lovely when authors tell me that I helped them to create the book they had in their head. That’s pretty special.

How do you go about choosing books to acquire? Is there anything in particular you’re currently keeping an eye out for on your book wishlist? 

When I read a book that I want to acquire, I always get the same feeling – a desire to run around and tell everyone about it. However, acquiring a book is about more than just loving it. It’s worth new authors remembering that, as rejections can feel personal, but an acquisition is a business decision too. It’s about what else we have on the list, what is selling well and how we think this particular book might fit in.

I am always on the lookout for new and original voices and stories. I like books with complex characters, ones that surprise readers and make them think about things in new ways. And I like a love story too, but it has to have edge. Nothing too fluffy!

Has being involved in publishing changed how you read books for pleasure?

It certainly means that I don’t read as many adult books as I used to! If I’m not reading submissions, I’m reading published books to make sure I’m aware of the market.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into editing? 

Talk to editors – ask them as many questions as you can to make sure that it is the job for you. Connecting with publishing professionals is much easier these days, with Twitter etc. See if you can go into a publishing house, to get a feel for the job. Read a lot and widely. Being an editor isn’t just about loving books. You have to be aware of the marketplace, both past and present. And finally I would say don’t think of editing as the only way to work with books. The publicity, marketing, sales and foreign rights teams all have lots of interaction with the books we publish. The job opportunities can be more varied and there are often more of them – especially at entry level.

23121745Annalie Grainger is fiction commissioning editor at Walker Books. She joined Walker in 2007 and now edits a range of children’s and YA books by some very talented writers, including Jandy Nelson, Non Pratt, Zoë Marriott and Sarah Webb. Her authors have appeared on many award lists, including the Carnegie and the Branford Boase.

She is also an author. Her debut novel, Captive, written under the name A. J. Grainger, is published by Simon & Schuster. It was named ‘One to Watch’ by The Bookseller and was listed as one of The Telegraph’s best YA books of 2015. Her second novel is due out in spring 2016.

Find Annalie on Twitter  at @_AJGrainger or her website.

In other news: SAM_2373Final copies of The Next Together are in! Isn’t it pretty? A little birdy has told me that if you come to my panel at Nine Worlds, they may be available to buy a month early… get on that!

I wrote about my favourite Harry Potter moment for Jim Dean’s 50 Magical Moments celebration of the 35th birthday of Harry Potter.

I filmed a ‘Kiss/Marry/Kill’ based video with Alice Oseman, while drunk, called the Cinnamon roll challenge. You’re welcome.

A rebloggable version of this post can be found here

Behind the Book: Ghostwriter Tom Easton

More in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter | Editor | Library Assistant  | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager | Blogger |Scout |Translators | Book charity | Copyeditor

Following on from the first post in my new Behind the Book interview series, where I interviewed my agent Claire Wilson, today I will be talking to an author who is also represented by Claire, Tom Easton. As well as publishing his own fiction, most recently the award-winning and hilarious Boys Don’t Knit series, Tom works as a ghostwriter – writing novels behind the scenes that are credited to a different person when published.

I’ve been intrigued by ghostwriting ever since it was revealed that Zoella’s first YA novel was written by a ghostwriter. This received a lot of backlash from the publishing community, mainly because it wasn’t stated upfront that the novel was ghostwritten.

Tom was patient enough to answer my many questions about this topic at a party. The discussion was so interesting that I knew immediately when planning this series that I wanted to include him. Luckily he agreed to talk more about his own experiences with ghostwriting in an interview with me.

What does ghostwriting involve?

From my perspective, there are two main types of ghostwriting. The more visible ghosts are those that work closely with a named author to produce a work of non-fiction, often an autobiography or a fact book about the celebrity’s area of expertise. A ghost is often required because the celebrity has neither the time or experience to write a book as well as it needs to be written. These ghosts are often journalists who know the celebrity well in any case and have the contacts, the writing ability and the journalistic know-how to get the job done. Many autobiographies are written in this way and the ghost will need to get the story not only from the ‘author’, but also interview family, friends and colleagues.

The other type are those who write fiction under pseudonyms, or on behalf of a named author. There are a number of popular fiction series ‘written’ by made-up authors. These tend to be written by many different authors, working to a pre-prepared storyline, being careful to follow characterisation and world-building as laid down by the publisher. Some big-name authors also employ ‘studio’ writers to flesh out novels in their trademark style. The amount of input the ghosts get from the named author can vary a great deal. Some named authors form a close relationship with the ghost and are very hands on, in other cases the publisher will come up with the story idea, the ghost will write it and the named author does nothing more than pick up the cheque.

How did you get started in ghostwriting?

An editor asked me to write a book that was part of a series written by a number of different authors but all using the same pseudonym.  I’ve have a lot of contacts in the trade and am asked from time to time to submit sample writing for various projects under other people’s names. Some of these I like the sound of, and if I have time I’ll write a couple of chapters and send them along. Sometimes I get the job and sometimes not.

What do you enjoy most about ghostwriting?

It can be quite liberating, not having to be concerned with plotting my own story. That part has already been done and I can concentrate on telling that story in the best way I can. It also forces me to write in a variety of different styles, forms and voices. I have written books for first readers right up to adult fiction which is good practice.  Also, the books I’m asked to write tend to be quite short. I can fit the jobs in around my own books and it provides useful income.

How much guidance do you tend to receive on a new project?

It varies, but for the most part I’ll receive a detailed chapter breakdown. Sometimes the length of the breakdown might be as much as half the length of the book. For established series I’ll receive a ‘bible’ telling me what I can and can’t do with the characters and their world.

Has being a ghostwriter had any impact on writing your original fiction?

I’d like to think it’s made me a better writer. I think it’s helped me learn to write from different perspectives and for different audiences. It’s also taught me a lot about keeping the plot tight, something that hasn’t always come naturally to me.

Has being involved in publishing and ghostwriting changed how you read books for pleasure?

When I read YA fiction I tend to have a more critical eye than when I read adult fiction. I also get very jealous when I read authors who do things better than me!

How long does it usually take you to finish writing a first draft? Is this different for original fiction?

Usually much less time. The schedules I’m given are often very tight and because I don’t have to stop to think about plotting I can write very quickly.

After writing the manuscript, do you tend to have any involvement in the project further – editing, sequel, etc?

Like any manuscript, the editor will ask for changes to be made. But I’m unlikely to receive structural edits as I would when writing my own books. Unless I’ve gone wildly off-piste, we’d just go direct to line edits. If I do a good job I’ll likely be asked to write follow up books, but I wouldn’t expect to have any involvement in cover design, sales or marketing.

How do you feel about ghostwriters publicly receiving credit for their work in the finished book?

I wrote a blog post on this subject which you can read here.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into ghostwriting?

Ask your agent if he or she knows any editors or publishers looking for ghostwriters. I have had a number of very valuable contacts through my agent. Most agents will receive periodic requests from editors looking for writers interested in this sort of work. Also, check out the websites of Working Partners and Hothouse, two excellent publishers who sometimes use ghostwriters.

Tom Easton is an experienced author of fiction for all ages and has had more than thirty books published. He has written under a number of different pseudonyms in a variety of genres. Subjects include vampires, pirates, pandemics and teenage agony aunts (not all in the same book). He lives in Surrey with his wife, three children and two cats.18482265

In his spare time he works as a Production Manager for a UK publisher. His latest book is An English Boy in New York, the sequel to the award-winning Boys Don’t Knit, published by Hot Key Books. He is currently working on Our House, the first of an MG series to be published by Piccadilly Press in 2016.

You can follow him on twitter at @tomeaston or at his website

A rebloggable version of this post can be found here. 

Behind the Book: Literary Agent Claire Wilson

Previously in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter | Editor | Library Assistant  | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager | Blogger |Scout |Translators | Book charity | Copyeditor

I’m very excited to announce a new blog series today. Inspired by Samantha Shannon’s blog series A book from the beginning, I’ve decided to interview some of the many wonderful people who are involved in the process of taking a book from a writer’s early draft to a polished, published novel.

I had no idea how much work was involved in publishing before I became an author. Hopefully this series will be a useful resource for anyone aspiring to work in publishing, to give them an idea of all the different options available beyond just writing and editing.

There are going to be interviews with editors, designers, publicists, ghost writers and more, but I thought it would be apt to start with the person who made it all possible: my agent Claire Wilson of Rogers, Coleridge and White Literary Agency.

Claire is one of the most genuinely lovely, passionate people I have ever met, and I feel so honoured that such a prestigious agent represents me. She supports her authors with everything she has, and I don’t know where I would be today without her.

What does your job involve?

Representing authors through their entire careers – giving advice, fighting their corner when necessary, offering support. And staying up too late reading brilliant manuscripts.

How did you get started as an agent? Did you do any work experience?

I worked in customer services and sales for an educational publisher and then foreign rights for a trade non-fiction publisher, before joining RCW as an assistant and then moving on to build my own list.

Have you ever wanted to write yourself?

I always used to be sure I would be an author when I grew up. I’ve since come to realise that the job involves actually writing books (something I’ve never managed to do), and have become resigned to the fact that it’s not for me.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

The moment when a finished book first comes in is never going to stop being exciting. And now, thanks to Twitter, getting to see author selfies of that moment is probably even better!

529252You represent a huge range of different genres – what’s your personal favourite genre? What are some of your favourite children’s books from your childhood?

I’ve always read everything – when I was a child I was a completely indiscriminate reader and devoured everything I came across, from David Lodge to Sweet Valley High. I still like to read very widely, and that’s part of why I think the children’s publishing industry is the best. Some of my favourite childhood books are CATCHER IN THE RYE, A LITTLE PRINCESS, MATILDA.

What are you proudest of in your career?

I am really so proud to be part of RCW, and to have learnt from Deborah Rogers.

What would you love to see in a submission?

An arresting concept, humour or darkness (or both), strength of voice.

What drew you to The Next Together? 😉

What’s not to like?! Romance, comedy, epic concept, fascinating detail. The warmth and appeal of the characters struck me immediately.

Has being involved in publishing changed how you read books for pleasure?

I do read more analytically now, but if anything I enjoy it even more.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into publishing?

Get an entry level job in any department, rather than interning in the most popular ones. Getting a foot in the door is what matters, and being paid for it is important.

Claire Wilson is head of the Children’s Department at Rogers, Coleridge and White. She joined RCW in 2007, having previously worked in publishing sales and rights, and now looks after an eclectic list of talented children’s and YA authors there, from Katherine Rundell to Sally Green. The authors on her list have been nominated for or won every major children’s prize, including the Costa, the National Book Awards, the Blue Peter, the Carnegie, the Branford Boase and the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.

Follow Claire Wilson on Twitter: @cmlwilson