The book deal

Posted on: 7th July, 2014

Category: Arts & Entertainment

Contributor: West Cork People

Louise O' Neill is from Clonakilty. Her debut novel ‘Only Ever Yours’ has been described by Marian Keyes as 'magnificent' and is available to buy nationwide. Louise will be launching ‘Only Ever Yours’ in Astna Square, Clonakilty on July 12 from 6.30 to 8.30pm. All are welcome to attend.

They say the greatest moment of any author’s career is when they hear that a publisher wants to buy their debut novel. This is understandable – although personally I’m saving my ‘best day’ for when JK Rowling decides to return my undying love and get rid of that pesky restraining order — as it is a validation of you, your work, and your belief in yourself when everyone around you thought you were having some time of mental breakdown. (Only me?)

After signing with my agency in February 2013, I completed another quick polish on the manuscript and my agent sent me an email in mid April saying ‘The eves were in the world’. The response was almost instantaneous, with many publishers expressing their interest in the book but asking if I could change the ending, or if I would consider editing it to make it a little less bleak. Luckily, there were others who disagreed, and less than a month after submission, I was in London for meetings with three different publishers, ultimately choosing to sign with Quercus. This was not because they were the company that offered me the most money, but because I was so impressed with how enthusiastic the editorial team was about ‘Only Ever Yours’, and I felt their vision for the book perfectly aligned with my own.  Of course, there will be compromises that have to be made. I had to change the original title, I wasn’t totally sold on the first cover they showed me, and my editor wanted me to delete a passage that she felt was too graphic. Some of these changes I agreed with, and was glad afterwards I had done so, but there were other suggestions that I refused to consider and because I had signed with a publisher who were keen to support me, my editor graciously accepted my decision.

So, how will you know whether the publishing house you are meeting with is the right one for you? Here are some questions that you should ask in order to find out.

What is the book going to look like? Will I have any control over the cover?

I would recommend checking out other titles from the publisher to see how you feel about the covers they have chosen for previous books. Most publishers won’t give you complete control over this, but Quercus reassured me that they wouldn’t proceed with any cover that I absolutely hated. I rejected the initial image they sent me, but I absolutely adore the image we settled upon in the end.

How are you going to market this book?

Ask them what their marketing budget is like for a debut novel, and what exactly that money will be spent on. Check out their social media presence — are they active on Twitter, Facebook etc? Ask about how they intend to get the book reviewed in the traditional media, and what their relationship is like with the every growing book blogging community. Will they pitch you for book festivals and conferences?

How long is it going to take?

It was almost a year from the time I had finished my first draft to when I signed with Quercus, and I’ve been told this is fast for the industry. I’d like to think it was all the novenas and candles and prayers to Jesus/Krishna/ Mohammed/Anyone Who Would Listen. (I’m an equal opportunities employer when it comes to religion.) Ask for an approximate breakdown of how long they expect it to be until your book is ready for publication.

How much are the royalties going to be?

Don’t feel awkward about asking these sorts of questions. Publishing is a business, the editors are business people, and it’s absolutely acceptable for you to behave in a business-like fashion.

Who will I be working with directly on this?

One of the most crucial aspects of my decision to sign with Quercus was the connection I felt with my prospective editor, Niamh. She was young, she laughed at my jokes (ESSENTIAL), and she was endearingly passionate about ‘Only Ever Yours’. I felt I would be comfortable working with her, and asking her for any support or advice I might require. You should feel that your editor is available to speak with you when you need it.

I suppose it’s easy for me to say that you, as the author, need to remain true to your vision for your novel, and to wait until you find a publisher who is eager to work with you to make that vision a reality. But it’s really true. After all the work you’ve put into writing the book, don’t you deserve to have it published by someone who cares about it as much as you do?

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