Book and Brew takeover, Writing

Catherine Hokin on the road to Authorland

In today’s Book and Brew takeover, Catherine Hokin tells us about her journey to publication and what lies on the road to Authorland.

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Do you remember that scene in Bambi when our eponymous little hero first steps onto the snow with a wide-eyed grin and a confident bounce? He falls through the snow and gets buried a couple of times but he gives himself a little shake and skips merrily on unbowed. Then he jumps onto the ice…

Well, Bambi, dear reader, is just like a newbie author.

One day you are a professional, competent person who understands the world and can even (sometimes) get your kids to do what you want. The next you are a wide-eyed ingénue staring at an email message that isn’t the expected rejection but contains the magic word yes.

Getting accepted for publication is a wonderful feeling but it is also the gateway to a world that resembles Wonderland crossed with The Hunger Games.

People, it’s strange out there so let me be your spirit guide and pass on a few things I learnt on the road to the publication of Blood and Roses and beyond.

Catherine Hokin
Catherine Hokin

Be clear on what a small publisher can do

My debut novel was published with a small publisher, without an agent. It’s really important to be clear on what a small publisher can really do: they may be able to provide lots of personal support; they are unlikely to have bookshop connections; they may not have budget for marketing.

Ask lots of questions before you sign – it’s lovely to be wanted but can they do what you want and can you live with what they can do? Just because they want you, you do not have to sign.

Define words carefully

My publisher told me I would have cover input but not control. Beware that phrase. My book is about the Wars of the Roses, more specifically a feminist revision of Margaret of Anjou. There is a lot of blood and no romance. I said that. A lot.

The ‘holding cover’ which appeared on the publisher site looked like a soft-focus gardening catalogue. Teeth were gnashed, changes were promised. We discussed crowns; we discussed blood (a drop, not a crime-scene); we discussed colours (black, red, gold). We agreed it wouldn’t be girly. At all. Timescales came, timescales went, then, with 24 hours to go before the wholesale catalogue needed the completed artwork, the cover came…

It was pink, the palest pink, with huge pastel blue flowery blood bursts. Toys flew out of the pram like nuclear missiles but – key message – in private. If they have control and they did the artwork, you need the diplomatic skills of the UN – I won, I know a lot of people who haven’t.

Throw yourself on the mercy of other authors

Other writers will explain things like hashtag days and blog tours. They will share their own war stories, they remember your pain and their scars have healed…almost. There are lots of communities out there so pitch in and make relationships and remember you’re new: pay some things forward.

Promise your family a dedication in the book

You’re about to ignore them for months and have meltdowns they were never allowed (teenagers have long memories). They will forgive all this on launch day when people point to their names on the inside front page. Also lie and tell them you sold the film rights and they’re going to be in it.

Have a plan for postpublication

If possible, that plan should be getting on with book two. My debut novel came out in January, my second novel was finished six weeks ago and is now signed with an agent – there was momentum, I wanted to build on it. I’m now working on book two. The biggest truism in publishing? The best way to sell books is to write more books.

Don’t forget to enjoy every mad moment and celebrate every success.

This is the best rollercoaster you will ever ride: when you finally get to the end, you will be sat in a bookshop, signing copies of your book, surrounded by people applauding your achievement – you will be in Authorland.

Find out more about Catherine and her books here.

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