The stories behind the Books of the Year

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

Sebastian Barry's Days Without End, published by Faber & Faber and shortlisted for Fiction Book of the Year, is the author's second book of to win the Costa Book of the Year award. Here, Barry gives a little more insight into the creation of his novel.

What was your favourite part of the publishing process?
Faber and Faber are something of a joy to work with, start to finish. But certainly a favourite part of the process must be that sudden Saturday moment when my editor, Angus Cargill, rang me, after reading the manuscript over Christmas. I was genuinely shocked by his enthusiasm.

What ran through your head the first time you held a finished copy of your book?
That the story at least was going out in its best coat, was the thought that ran through my head - a lovely cover to brave whatever weather faced the book. To give Thomas McNulty the best chance for his story to be heard. A sort of mixture of Sunday best and dancing suit.

What was the most challenging thing about writing the book?
I read for a year, various books about the Indian Wars, the American Civil War, and more merciful books about Buffalo hunting and tobacco farming... The most challenging thing was that many times I thought I just couldn't tackle these matters, the utter cruelty of those wars sometimes dressed up as something other that what they seemed to me - endless moments of erasure and indeed ethnic cleansing.

What do you hope readers take away from the book?
I wouldn't like to outguess the reader in the matter of what they might take away from the book. I try not to read too many reviews myself because in a sense I need to delay knowing what the book is 'about'. I hope they get a sense of what it was like to live a life like Thomas's -- and that all in all and despite everything, it was a life worth the living.

Did you learn anything new about publishing during the course of this book?
What I seemed to learn, maybe anew rather than for the first time, is that anything is possible as regards the life of a new book. A novel of course is a story but there is also a story that begins to attach to the book itself. It has a sort of fate, like a character. When a book catches a fair wind it is a thrilling life-affirming experience.

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The Widow by Fiona Barton

Fiona Barton's debut The Widow, published by Bantam Press, is shortlisted for Crime & Thriller Book of the Year. She talks about unlearning a lot of things in order to write The Widow and the differences in publishing a book and a newspaper.

What was your favourite part of the publishing process?
Talking about The Widow with readers. I hadn't realised they would take ownership of the story and discover things about my characters I hadn't seen. It's like being part of a new family.

What ran through your head the first time you held a finished copy of your book?
Euphoria, terror, a desperate need for a glass of champagne. In that order.

What was the most challenging thing about writing the book?
Allowing myself to invent. It sounds ridiculous but I had to stop being a reporter in order to write a novel. I knew how to write - I’d been doing it for a living for more than 30 years - but it came from other people. Journalism is listening, probing, testing other people's words and telling a story concisely. So… writing The Widow meant unlearning a lot of things.

What do you hope readers take away from the book?
A sense of having been there for the ride.

As a journalist, how was the process of publishing a book different from publishing a newspaper?
Practically, everything changed when I stopped being a reporter; no more deadlines hanging over me, or strict word counts or editors watching every phrase. Oh, hang on… maybe nothing is different? Actually, the big change is that I suddenly have the freedom to decide what people think and say rather than recording people's thoughts and words. I can create motives and twists, inner voices, events and feelings.

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The Sellout by Paul Beatty

Paul Beatty's The Sellout, competing for Fiction Book of the Year, was the second consecutive Man Booker Prize winner for independent publisher Oneworld. Publisher Juliet Mabey talks about how she came across the novel and the work done to make Beatty a name in the UK.

I came across this novel quite fortuitously. I was attending the Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer of the Year Award party in December 2015, and The Sellout came up in conversation with Andrew Holgate, the literary editor of the Sunday Times, who expressed great surprise that no UK publisher had picked it up. It was published by Farrar, Straus Giroux eight months earlier, and had already been rejected by 18 British publishers, but that night I ordered a copy of the American edition and absolutely loved it. It felt so timely, and while satire is not a popular genre today I think when well done it is a very clever way of making an important point. You can read The Sellout as a funny book - and it is very funny - or as a book with some really serious things to say. It was exactly the right book at the right time, both in America with the race issues in the run up to their election, and here in the UK with Brexit and the rise in hate crimes.

Paul Beatty (right) talks to Matt Frei on Channel 4 News.

I immediately set about tracking down Paul Beatty’s agent. Within a week I had put in an offer with the Wylie Agency, and by early January had secured the deal. A week later we had bound proofs in the post to all and sundry.

Paul Beatty was hugely successful in the US, but his three previous novels had not sold strongly in the UK and were currently out of print here, but from the outset we thought this novel had something very special to say and had the potential to build a cult following. However, we also recognised that it would be quite a challenge to overcome Paul’s modest sales track to get this brilliant novel into the hands of reviewers and booksellers over here. We were convinced that if they read it, they would love it too, so we immediately designated The Sellout a superlead, rushed out proofs and entered it for both the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction and the Man Booker Prize. To our delight, two months later, and well before its May publication, it was shortlisted for the former, and was soon attracting the attention of the key literary reviewers and booksellers.

One of the highlights of publishing this book was definitely meeting and working with the author. As soon as The Sellout’s Man Booker longlisting was announced, I flew to New York to discuss in person the publicity opportunities a prize like this can offer authors, to make sure we maximised the opportunity to build Paul’s profile in the UK. Paul gamely agreed to come over 10 days before the award ceremony in October, and we were able to arrange a full week of events and interviews for him, including two television interviews - for Channel 4 News and the BBC World Service - prior to the ceremony. He was a real delight to work with, humble, gracious and wise.

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Dodgers by Bill Beverly

Bill Beverly's Dodgers is published by No Exit Press and shortlisted for Crime & Thriller Book of the Year. Beverly talks about being lucky when it came to writing the book, and how he doesn't like to instruct his readers.

Asked what my favourite part of the publishing process was, I'd say the wisdom of the book's earliest readers: my wife, my agent, my editor, the people who made suggestions that very quickly improved elements of the book I could no longer see. It was difficult to let the book go after spending so long conceiving it. When one has spent a long time writing only to fuel one's own self-dissatisfaction and occasionally to amuse one’s spouse, one feels a certain terror around the letting go. I do not take well to attention, much less praise. But the pleasure of sharing the book was undeniable.

The first time I held an advance reader's copy from Crown in the US, which they first distributed with a sort of sunset-gold cover, the entire exercise became suspiciously real. Then the day the first finished copies arrived in a sort of postal sack, I had my daughter tear them open with me. By then, I was trying to give the pleasure away, to be done with it. I still distrusted it. But it still blows in through the cracks no matter how I stop them up.

As far as writing the book, I was lucky. The story arrived nearly whole. Almost all of it came on the first boat across the water. And it was clear and straight and well-lit - there was little chance of forgetting it. The writer did not arrive that way. He was challenging: needed to be baited, coaxed out. He needed to be revised. It took a lot of work, getting him right.

Though I had been writing and editing and I helped publish a small, successful journal for years, I was amazed to find I'd learned almost nothing about publishing. It was all a surprise. Booksellers: I buy books in shops whenever possible. But I had never thought much about the immense service a well-run bookshop renders - I mean a place that is more than a cash register and a bell on the door: a place where you could ask what to read and you'd get more good ideas than you could carry. And a few extraordinary experiences, like attending the American Booksellers Association's Winter Institute, opened my eyes to this whole joyous and contentious cooperation between publishers and sellers. I don't know why I ever imagined anything else: booksellers turn out to be wonderful and fascinating people.

As fortunate as I am to have readers, I am grateful to them, and loath to instruct them. But I hope, for a thriller, Dodgers also makes a reader think about the workings of human compassion, its mystery and its necessity.

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The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

Joanna Cannon wrote her first novel The Trouble With Goats and Sheep (The Borough Press), shortlisted for Debut Book of the Year, in her car in between shifts at the hospital where she worked. Here she talks about her favourite parts of the process, and M&S sandwiches.

I loved working with the team: editors, copy-editors, cover designers, publicity. Before I was published, I had no idea just how many people went into making a book. Being on the road and meeting booksellers and readers was also an absolute joy, and so very humbling.

When my mother first saw the finished copy of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, she said: "Imagine all that coming out of your head." And that was pretty much my reaction too!

Writing is very isolating, and such a contrast to being a hospital doctor on the wards and working within a big team. I had no idea if anyone would ever read it, so to keep going took some determination.

I hope readers take away from the book to be kinder to someone who stands at the edge of society, I think. To reflect more about on how that person came to be there, and how our own prejudice prevents us from seeing their value.

I learnt that M&S sandwiches and train tea will become 50% of your diet. That you will one day meet Lionel Shriver and accidentally call her darling. That you don't have to 'know people'. That you can write a book leaning against a steering wheel in the middle of Derbyshire, and still be published. That day dreams can become a reality.

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Night School by Lee Child

Lee Child's Jack Reacher returns in the author's latest book Night School, published by Bantam Press and shortlisted for Crime & Thriller Book of the Year. Child's editor Marianne Velmans on the publishing process.
This is Lee Child's 21st Jack Reacher book, and I have been his editor for 20 years now, from the first book, Killing Floor. You’d think it would start to feel a bit deja vu after all this time, but every time he sends me his new manuscript, it is like falling in love all over again with that great hunk of irresistible hero of his. I simply can't get enough of Jack Reacher – and nor can his readers, judging by our sales figures which just continue to grow and grow, book by book, also by the evidence of the Public Library Lending Charts. Of course it's all down to Lee, who manages to keep the story fresh each time, never allowing his standard to drop.

My favourite part of the publishing process is always that very first read of the completed manuscript – the secret, selfish pleasure of knowing that I have the privilege of being the first set of eyes on a story that is bound to have such an enormous global readership. When I first read Night School, I was impressed to discover that with this prequel, Lee had broached a more political subject than usual, of international terrorism, making this novel particularly topical.

The most challenging thing about publishing Night School was that we had to move publication from his usual slot late August/early September, which normally guaranteed strong sales right through to Christmas, to the beginning of November. This left us with a much shorter time frame within which to sell the hardback. However, in spite of our misgivings, and those of the book trade, it turned out that the book was still able to outperform sales of the previous year’s Reacher novel, with a full nine weeks less to achieve that; and it became the UK’s biggest selling hardback fiction title of 2016.

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The Girls by Emma Cline

Emma Cline's The Girls (Chatto & Windus) is shortlisted for Debut Book of the Year. Cline's editor Poppy Hampson, editorial director at Chatto & Windus, explains how she first came across the book and why publishing it was a team effort.

I got my hands on the manuscript of The Girls just before the Frankfurt Book Fair a couple of years ago, and there was an immediate buzz in the office. A book fair submission from agent Bill Clegg always gets attention, and the scouts were raving about it. Then we heard that a huge auction in the US was imminent, and that the film rights had already been snapped up by Scott Rudin. I read it immediately and several of my Vintage colleagues started reading over the weekend - fortunately, everyone else loved it as much as I did! It's so exciting (and rare) when a book comes in that sweeps up everyone - there was a unanimous and fierce desire to publish the book.

The auction here was quick and intense - a week after first reading it, we had acquired The Girls. It was so clear to us that Emma (right) is a writer of imposing talent, and that this book is the holy grail of literary publishing: an astonishing new talent, a serious literary achievement, with the potential to become a huge commercial success. We feel lucky, proud and very excited to be Emma's UK publishers.

Publishing The Girls was very much a team effort - right from acquisition we knew it would be Vintage's lead fiction debut for 2016, so we established a core team and started planning very early. Working with the designer Suzanne Dean, the picture researcher Lily Richards, and photographer Neil Krug was one of the most satisfying parts of the process for me - I really do love this cover! Seeing Ruth Waldram's stellar publicity campaign falling into place, and being lucky enough to have Emma over in the UK for three visits in the run up to publication was very exciting. Setting up a major publication of this kind, and launching a debut, without the author being in the country can be a challenge - but we overcame this by having Emma here as much as we could and making sure that each of her visits was valuable in terms of profile building, gaining early fans and getting key publicity set up well in advance. And of course seeing all our hard work pay off, watching the bestseller lists week after week, seeing the rapturous response - from literary reviewers to book groups and bloggers - was a very good feeling.

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My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal

Kit de Waal's My Name is Leon, published by Viking, is set in 1980s England and shortlisted for Debut Book of the Year. De Waal talks about how publishing her first book was a real eye-opener and how her story was represented visually.

My favourite part of the publishing process was seeing the brilliant artist at Penguin produce such beautiful and apt illustrations for the book. Both the hardback and the paperback are stunning and I couldn’t have asked for a better visual representation of the story.

The first time I held a finished copy of my book I simply couldn’t believe it was true. I opened and closed it probably 20 times. I flicked through the pages. I turned it over, back to front, front to back. I weighed it, put it down, picked it up. Looked at it from a distance. Smelt it. Put it on a bookshelf. Took a photo. Honestly, it was just fantastic.

The most challenging thing about writing the book was simply the not knowing if it was ever going to be read. I wanted Leon to be out there in the world. I wanted so much to be a writer and be published and as a writer you never really know if you work is good enough, if it will chime with anyone. So writing 80,000 words under those circumstances can feel daunting.

What I would like readers to take away from Leon is the hope and the humour, the compassion for those people who don’t make great decisions and great respect for people like Maureen who do. Most of all I would like readers to fall in love with Leon and enjoy reading about his journey.

Before I had my book published I didn’t know that there were so many people involved in the publishing process; publicists, artists, copy editors, proofreaders, digital sales, social media, foreign rights and so forth. I thought there was an editor and an agent and that’s it! It’s been a real eye-opener and a privilege to work with such talented and dedicated professionals.

Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant

Sabine Durrant's Lie With Me is published by Mulholland Books and shortlisted for Crime & Thriller Book of the Year. Durrant talks about her interest in delving into the complexity of human existence and how far you can misdirect a reader.

My favourite part of the publishing process is always one chapter in. After months of thinking and planning, just seeing a few thousand words down in black and white gives me a huge sense of achievement. I probably take much longer on the first chapter than any other part of the book and for several hours I am convinced it is a work of genius. The following morning, I usually delete the whole thing and start again.

It is an extraordinarily humbling feeling, holding a finished copy of one's own book. So many people have been involved along the way, from the first reader (my husband), to my agent and editor, the hawk-eyed copy editors, and the talented designers, that actually I feel a bit embarrassed that it's my name on the cover and not theirs.

The most challenging thing about writing a thriller in my experience is knowing how much to tell the reader, how far it is acceptable to mislead and misdirect, without lying or dissembling. In life I'm an over-sharer, and the writing process for me is one long lesson in keeping things back.

I've just been listening to "S-Town", the new podcast from the makers of "Serial", which begins like a murder mystery but turns into something much more textured and nuanced about character and unknowability, about the layers of experience that make us who we are. I think I always aspire, even if I don't always manage it, to do that in my writing. I'm not really very interested in black and white whodunnits; I'd love my readers to take away from my books a sense of the complexity of human existence, that things aren't always what they seem on the surface.

The one thing I have learnt about publishing since writing this novel is that selling books is harder than writing them. I have the easiest job in the whole process.

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Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon

Mad Girl is Telegraph columnist Bryony Gordon's second book, following The Wrong Knickers. Both are published by Headline, and Mad Girl is shortlisted for Non-Fiction: Narrative Book of the Year. Here, Bryony talks about her two books.

My favourite part of the publishing process has been the incredible response from readers once it was out there. When I wrote Mad Girl I thought: "If this helps one person it will have been worth it." So it was a case of: "Phew!"

The first time I held a copy of Mad Girl, all I could think was: "Oh god. I look mad." But then I remembered I am mad, and that I had a hardback book, so I didn't care! 

Gordon talking to a fan at a signing for Mad Girl.

The most exciting thing about writing the book was the realisation that a publisher was going to be brave enough to bring something out that told the truth about OCD and all the messy stuff in our heads. The most challenging thing was getting the stuff out of my head... who knew that writing a book about mental illness might make you feel mentally ill! I hope readers take away from the book that it's all going to be ok, that they are not alone, that it is perfectly normal to feel weird. 

In a way, there weren't that many differences between writing and publishing The Wrong Knickers and Mad Girl - although writing and publishing a book is always absolutely terrifying. But I feel that Mad Girl was necessary for me to write. The readers have given me so much. They've made me realise I'm not alone.

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Oi Dog! by Kes & Claire Gray and Jim Field

Oi Dog! by Kes & Claire Gray and Jim Field is the sequel to Oi Frog! Both are published by Hodder Children's Books, and Oi Dog! is shortlisted for Children's Book of the Year. Field and Kes Gray talk about how they work together and reveal that drawing fajitas is exhausting.

How does a collaboration between illustrators and writers work in practice?
Kes Gray: My collaboration with Jim Field is a joy. He gets me and I get him. We are both perfectionists and will worry every millimetre of every page till the 11th hour of every deadline. It's a pass the parcel kind of thing, I write a text and pass it to Jim, Jim thumbnails a storyboard and passes it back to me. I tweak the words, he tweaks the pics, I fiddle and twiddle some more, he twiddles and fiddles some more too. At every stage of our collaboration an incremental improvement is made and a whole lot of fun is had.
Jim Field: The collaboration between Kes and I works really well. Oi Dog! is the sequel to Oi Frog! so the structure and the main characters were already in place. The thumbnails for this book actually came to me quite quickly, they were drawn in a sketchbook on the Eurostar in fact. I then scan the sketches in and send them on to my art director Jen Stephenson and editor Emma Layfield, who share it with Kes. As I'm not living in the UK, feedback is generally all done via emails with Kes' thoughts and suggestions.

What was your favourite part of the publishing process?
KG: Sounds soppy, but my favourite part of the publishing process was feeling the love. Everyone in the Hachette Children's Group team clearly loves Oi Dog! and has put so much energy and enthusiasm into the publishing process. I've been writing picture books for 20 years but have never seen so many twinkles in so many eyes.
JF: I had reservations as did Kes to make a sequel to Oi Frog! I felt if we were to do a sequel we somehow had to try and better it. So trying to come up with funny scenarios and designs for the animals in their seating arrangements was a challenge but I loved that stage and would say this was my favourite part of the publishing process. If I can make myself laugh when I'm drawing the character then it's usually a good sign. The Dragon sitting on the Wagon of Adams Apples is probably my favourite character in this book.

What ran through your head the first time you held a finished copy of the book?
KG: The first time I held a finished copy of Oi Dog! I thought: "I like it even more than Oi Frog!"
JF: The first time I held a finished copy of Oi Dog! I thought: "I hope children will like it as much as Oi Frog!"

What was the most challenging thing about working on the book?
KG: The most challenging thing about working on this book stemmed from the fact that I've never written a sequel before and have always resisted any requests to do so. I believe that every book I write has to stand on its own merits rather than piggyback the success of a previous story. It was my wife Claire who encouraged me to man up and do the right thing. On a journey to Wales, she super glued me to the car seat, nailed a rhyming hat to my head and armed herself with a pad and pen. By the time we reached Cardiff we had all the rhymes we needed. Yes we; one or two of the rhymes are Claire's. Sigh. I did all the best ones though.
JF: "The most challenging thing about working on the book was the deadline. I was over running on completing another picture book beforehand and it was pretty tight to get it complete in time. Luckily Hodder managed to give me a couple months more."

Did you learn anything new about publishing that you didn't know before this book?
KG: I learnt how much fun being wrong can be; I never thought I would write a sequel and I did! Oh and never give a joint-author credit to your wife.
JF:  I learnt that drawing a pile of fajitas is quite exhausting.

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The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher, Shane Devries (illus)

Popstar turned author Tom Fletcher's first middle-grade book The Christmasaurus, is illustrated by Shane Devries and published by Puffin. It is shortlisted for Children's Book of the Year. Here, he talks about how seeing the first copy of the book was like Christmas Day, and the challenges of writing The Christmasaurus.

What was your favourite part of the publishing process?
I can honestly say I loved every part of it, I’m not sure I can pinpoint just one. Obviously writing the book itself was a real buzz, visually creating the characters with Shane, seeing the book designs come to life, planning announcement videos and convincing my heavily pregnant wife to pretend to give birth to a giant dinosaur egg…the whole process was a lot of fun!

How was the process of publishing The Christmasaurus different from publishing your picture books?
It felt massively different. The truth is that until The Christmasaurus came along, writing picture books was something I did with my bandmate Dougie as a really fun ‘side project’ to McFLY. That’s not to say that we didn’t take it seriously, we did, and we loved it, but it was clear from day one that The Christmasaurus was definitely going to be a lot more than a side project! I discovered that I felt just as passionate about writing books as I did about music.

What ran through your head the first time you held a finished copy of your book?
It's like Christmas Day and unwrapping the present that was top of your list to Santa. In fact one of the elves from Penguin Random House actually wrapped it up like a Christmas present for me so perhaps that had something to do with it. It’s a very exciting moment. Until that point your book has only ever existed on a computer screen and then suddenly it’s heavy, and shiny and smells like fresh paper. It’s brilliant! I found myself flicking through the pages pretending to read, trying to imagine what the experience will be like for children when they pick it up.

What was the most challenging thing about writing the book?
There were a couple of big challenges. I decided very early on that my main character was going to be a young wheelchair user. I made that decision purely from a creative point of view, thinking about telling a captivating story, I then realised the huge responsibility I had taken on in having my character represent young wheelchair users. I wanted to ensure I wrote about disability in the right way, it had to be honest and so I met with the wonderful charity Whizz-Kidz who were an amazing help in assisting me with research and supporting me throughout the writing process.
Other than that, the biggest challenge was the first edit. DEFINITELY the first edit! I wrote the first draft in about three weeks and was so pleased that I’d actually achieved what I'd set out to do. I had written a book…yay me! I didn’t really think about the next step. It caught me off guard! Between my own thoughts on the first draft and the notes back from my incredible editor - Natalie Doherty - I knew I had a lot of re-writes and major changes to weave into this story that now existed. The challenge was figuring out how to change the stuff I wasn't happy with without destroying the parts that were working. I needed to learn to be ruthless. I had to detach myself from the book as it was and trust that I’d eventually create something better by making these changes. When it’s your first novel that’s a little scary.

What do you hope readers take away from the book?
Two things - I would love for this book to have a positive effect on children's awareness and attitudes towards wheelchair users. I didn't set out to do that but it would make me immensely proud. I would also love to be able to play a small part in making Christmas magical for a new generation of kids...or even just one!

What did you learn about publishing that you didn’t know before this book?
I learnt that it’s a real team effort and just how important that team is. There are so many incredibly talented, creative people that put so much hard work into publishing a book. I’m just the name that gets printed on the front but there's a huge number of invisible people without whom the book just wouldn’t have been possible. I learnt just how much people in publishing care about what they do. It’s very inspiring. They’re all on the nice list!

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What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell

Garth Greenwell's What Belongs to You is shortlisted for Debut Book of the Year. Greenwell's UK editor Kris Doyle on how he came across the book and how the book's success was a team effort.

I first heard about What Belongs to You from our American scout, Mary Anne Thompson Associates, in March 2014. (I realise that not everyone knows about literary scouts and what they do, so briefly: they're the unsung heroes of the publishing world and their job is to keep editors informed about acquisitions in foreign territories, which they usually do by sending short summaries of these titles and then recommending the ones they think will be a good fit for your list.) I liked what Mary Anne's colleague had to say about Garth's book, so I requested the manuscript from his American agent. I read it that weekend and fell in love with it immediately; I can remember the experience very clearly because it was defined by that rare and thrilling sensation of feeling like one's discovered a truly exceptional writer.

I suppose it's a slightly glib thing to say, but my favourite part of the publishing process was how successful it was. And when I say that, I mean that this novel is exceptional and the author a delight; I'm very well supported by an excellent team, and people from Macmillan right across the world did the most brilliant job at all stages of the process, from production to publicity (especially publicity: Camilla Elworthy's blockbuster campaign was a thing of wonder); and the book exceeded our expectations in terms of sales, critical reception, prize recognition, readers' responses, everything really. If I had to pick out one thing, for me personally, I'd say it was having the chance to meet and get to know Garth. Aside from being a very fine writer and a brilliant ambassador for his work, he's simply one of the smartest, most generous and interesting people I've ever met - and he gives terrific hugs! We've just done a deal for his next works of fiction and from what I've read so far I can tell you he's the real thing.

Most of the process of publishing What Belongs to You was a constant delight. The main challenge, I suppose, is converting a book that is unquestionably successful in literary terms into one that is successful in commercial terms; we all know that many brilliant books sadly don't find the readership they deserve. With all the love in the world, very few people thought we'd do so well with a book that begins with a gay cruising scene in a bathroom in Bulgaria. And that's sort of fair enough. We're all engaged in the business of publishing and it can be easy to lose sight of what makes a book worth publishing as we focus on the business around it, but it's nice to have success with a novel like this because it reminds one of the possibilities. There have been a few stories like this recently, Grief is the Thing with Feathers for instance, and I think they're good for the industry.

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Conclave by Robert Harris

Robert Harris' Conclave, published by Hutchinson, is shortlisted for Crime & Thriller Book of the Year. Here, Harris talks about how even the unlikeliest of subjects can make bestselling books.

What was your favourite part of the publishing process?
I liked the first part the most: writing the book, feeling the characters come alive. That is a magical experience: the reason for being a novelist.

What ran through your head the first time you held a finished copy of this book?
Relief that it was done, and that it existed. Only seven or eight months before there had been nothing.

What was the most challenging thing about writing the book?
Getting inside the head of a cardinal. I knew the success of the novel would depend on whether the reader believed in Cardinal Lomeli, through whose eyes all the action is seen. I needed Lomeli to take the reader not only inside the process of the Conclave, but also into the heart of what it is like to be a man of God.

What do you hope readers take away from the book?
I hope they feel that they have been somewhere they have never been before. I hope they feel satisfied and entertained and sorry it is over.

You've published a number of books, did you learn anything new about publishing that you didn’t know before this book?
I learned once and for all that the most unlikely subjects can become bestsellers: 118 celibate old men locked away for three days praying to God hardly sounds like the most promising material…

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Cartes Postales from Greece by Victoria Hislop

Victoria Hislop's Cartes Postales from Greece is an illustrated work for fiction published by Headline and shortlisted for Fiction Book of the Year. Hislop's editor Mari Evans talks about how the book came together, and why after 20 years of publishing fiction, Cartes Postales from Greece was something new.

Originally, Cartes Postales from Greece was intended to be a short story collection in the vein of The Last Dance. However, as Victoria began to write, the idea of the short stories began to shift and change, evolving into interlinked stories that sit on the fault line between novel and stories and, thanks to the photographs, becoming something wholly other. I'm aware that for readers this book must feel a new proposition from Victoria and indeed the transformation into what became the final concept occurred when Victoria and Alexandros, the photographer who had been accompanying Victoria on her travels around Greece as she was writing, met with me and creative director Patrick Insole to discuss the stories and share the photographs.

Patrick took away a batch of photographs for the Meteora story, "Man on a Mountaintop", and crafted some page spreads that took everyone's breath away. In this one short section we could see the vast potential for the entire book. And Victoria’s writing - and work with Alexandros - took on a thrilling new energy as they travelled around Greece, matched with Patrick’s immaculate text design and typesetting here in London.

My favourite part of the publishing process was being on board for the wildly exciting imaginative journey – from a first conversation with Victoria about how adult fiction absolutely could be illustrated, to the initial page spreads that gave us a glimpse of what it might be possible to achieve with this book and through to the delivery of the first, beautiful page proofs. There were many variables at every stage and it felt as though every decision we took was meaningful and leading us to new heights of ambition. I've been a fiction publisher for over 20 years, but this project felt like a first for me and all the more exhilarating for it.

A key challenge in publishing this book was the need to be certain that every technical detail was perfect and so choosing the paper became crucial and was perhaps our greatest challenge. We spent hours poring over test sheets, comparing the intensity of the colour but ensuring at all times that we were publishing a book that felt like fiction, not a cookery book. A white stock would have made the blues sing out, but wouldn't necessarily have sign-posted Cartes Postales from Greece as the hugely entertaining piece of fiction it is at heart. I never thought I’d care so much about shades of cream...

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Nadiya's Bake Me a Story by Nadiya Hussain, Clair Rossiter (illus)

"Great British Bake Off" winner Nadiya Hussain's Nadiya's Bake Me a Story, illustrated by Clair Rossiter, combines recipes with stories. Hussain talks about how reading and cooking can go together, and how involved her children were with the publishing process.

Definitely my favourite part of the publishing was having my children involved in the process. All three of them are featured in the book - all the recipes and stories feature photographs of us together acting out scenes and then Clair Rossiter has enhanced these with her beautiful integrated illustrations. The whole design of the book is so clever. Even before the book was laid to page, the children were involved; I tested recipes on them and read them the stories to check they were engaging. All the team at Hodder Children's Books were so on board with the concept of the book; the idea of reading and cooking at the same time! And the team were so much fun to work with. I can’t wait to do it all again with Nadiya's Bake Me a Festive Story!

The first time I held a finished copy of my book, I thought "wow, this looks so good" and what a memory to have of my children at that age. I couldn't wait to show the book to my family. Although they were involved in the process from the beginning I'd not shown them any sneaks from the book at all until I got that finished copy. They absolutely loved it - especially showing it to their teachers and friends.

I actually found the book really enjoyable to write. I'm always experimenting and writing recipes so that part was easy. I guess the hardest part was deciding which stories I want to write in my own words, all with my own twist, and how these would fit with the perfect recipe. Once I had it planned out though, the story writing was so fulfilling and I was able to really get stuck in.

I hope readers take away from the book the idea that Nadiya's Bake Me a Story is intended to bring reading and cooking together. I’ve always loved cooking and my kids have always loved reading and one day they said: "Mum, why can’t we read and cook at the same time?" And I thought wouldn't it be fun to have a cookbook that has recipes families can have fun making together and then they can curl up together on the sofa and read a matching story while their bakes rise in the oven? I really hope that readers are doing that with their children.

I learned that publicising a book that is for children is a very different, and totally fun, experience. Children want to have a hug when they meet you, they want to ask funny questions. I did an event at my children's school which I loved. Adults always want to know what Mary and Paul are really like but children want to know if I've ever met anyone famous! And now I can say: "Well, yes I have. I actually baked the Queen her birthday cake!"

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The Outrun by Amy Liptrot

Amy Liptrot's The Outrun (Canongate) is competing in the Non-Fiction: Narrative Book of the Year category. Here, Liptrot talks about making shoddy writing better and what she learnt about the relationship between publishers and booksellers.

What was your favourite part of the publishing process?
There are many significant and exciting points along the way. Right now I am enjoying receiving copies of the foreign language translations of The Outrun and seeing my sentences in Finnish or Italian, alongside some untranslated words for Scottish placenames etc.

What ran through your head the first time you held a finished copy of your book?
I was so thrilled when I received the first copy that I slept with it in my bed for a couple of nights. I also remember feeling suddenly exhausted - like letting out a long-held breath.

What was the most challenging thing about writing the book?
I find writing difficult so the challenge was to keep enough faith in the overall project to put myself through it each day, when I usually felt what I was writing was shoddy. The after that, to keep the faith and take the shoddy writing and make it better!

Amy Liptrot at an event at Waterstones West End.

What do you hope readers take away from the book?
I would say that the broad message of the book is about the possibility of change.

What did you learn about publishing that you didn’t know before this book?
I didn’t realise how much relationships between publishers and bookshops could vary, and how much support from individual booksellers could help with the fortunes of a book.

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I See You by Clare Mackintosh

Clare Mackintosh's I See You is published by Sphere and shortlisted for Crime & Thriller Book of the Year. Here, she talks about how second books are tricky beasts and getting to grips with the difference between marketing and publicity.

My favourite part of the publishing process is always the same; it's when the book is finished, and the whole team meets to discuss the marketing and publicity plans. Publishing a book is such a joint effort, and I love being round a table with the people who help make it happen.

The day my first book, I Let You Go, was being printed I went to Clays, in Suffolk, to see it come off the production line. It was an incredible experience and I'm not ashamed to say that I wept buckets.

I See You is my second book, and it's no myth that second books are tricky beasts. When you've had a successful debut it's daunting to think about trying to replicate that success, and for a while I was too paralysed to write anything. Eventually I made myself ignore the pressure and concentrate on writing the best book I could.

I write commercial psychological thrillers, and my primary goal is that my readers are entertained. I hope that I See You provides people with a few hours, a few days, of gripping escapism, and that - perhaps - they look over their shoulder next time they travel to work…

I'm fascinated by the business side of publishing, and learning all the time. This year I've understood more about how my foreign rights team works (I'm published in 33 countries) and I think I've finally got to grips with the difference between marketing and publicity!

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Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain by Barney Norris

Playwright Barney Norris turned his hand from stage to page with his first novel Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain, published by Doubleday and shortlisted for Debut Book of the Year. He talks more about the process of publishing his book.

What was your favourite part of the publishing process?
I once heard the novelist Susanna Jones refer to the writing of a book as inflicting a two year nervous breakdown on yourself. I think that's about right, so this is a tricky opener! The moment of conception of the idea and the solitude and play of writing are two of life's greatest pleasures. The rest feels like an act of defiance - an insistence that this thought you believe has some value will see the light, no matter what. And I like all my colleagues. Do they count as 'process'? Oh, and I love how they look on the shelf. The books, not my colleagues.

What ran through your head the first time you held a finished copy of your book?
I have to confess that I felt very little - this moment is much fetishised, you hear it brought up a lot, but by then I'd been working on getting a book together for a decade, and there'd been proofs and readings, the book wasn't a new event but the continuation of an ongoing event. A lot of what I do with my life is done in memory of the boy I was, who wanted all this - I've come to realise how absurd and precarious some of his choices were and I wonder at their wisdom. But I feel like I owe him, so I try and live out his dreams. That leads to quite a poignantly distant relationship with everything that gets done. I hardly feel I wrote the book really - the writer of my stuff is still somewhere in a garden in Sussex in the early '90s, I'm just his representative, or executor, whatever the word is. So the book felt like a will well executed!

What was the most challenging thing about writing the book?
Paying the rent! Getting a statement together like this requires the sacrifice of a great deal of your youth, sans guarantees it will be worthwhile, and you do most of the work on the project with people on salaries, so their perspectives on the timelines of a project can be quite difficult to navigate and match up with your own hand to mouth lifestyle. Which is not a sob story at all, it's the deal you make to do the gig, but it takes some ingenuity, I tell you.

What do you hope readers take away from the book?
Without wishing to sound overambitious, I do hope the book will prompt for some people a clarity of awareness of the vastness and uniqueness and briefness of their experience here in the world.

How does writing a book differ from writing a play?
Everyone asks me this and I don't know. The primary difference is the collaborators you work with on the project, for books I work with different people. I'm aware of no substantive differences in my process beyond that.

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This Must be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell

Maggie O'Farrell's This Must be the Place is published by Tinder Press and shortlisted for Fiction Book of the Year. O'Farrell talks about weaving together the numerous locations and characters in the book, and how fast publishing moves.

The best part of publishing a book is always the writing, when you are cocooned in your study with a piece of work that no one has read, when anything could happen, when the book might take you anywhere. I've heard other writers say that they hate being edited but I can't relate to that. A good editor is worth her weight in perfect metaphors. What's not to like about someone looking out for your mistakes, someone who is willing to go over your words with a gimlet-eyed attention to detail, to make sure you are saying exactly what you want to say?

However many times it happens, nothing can dim the thrill of holding your finished book in your hand for the first time. The scent of ink and paper, the crisp feel of the cover, the idea that what you hold between your fingers came out of your head. It's only when you open it up that you start cursing yourself for that extraneous adverb, that uncut paragraph, the line of dialogue that now seems glaringly mundane. It's hard to let go of rewriting your work.

The biggest challenge I faced with This Must be the Place was keeping the different strands woven together. It's a long book, with numerous locations and voices. I wanted, with this book, to write something experimental, to try and push the medium of the novel, to seek new ways to tell a story. There were times when I asked myself, was I making things too complicated, too diverse? What I wanted most of all was for the structure to reflect the Louis MacNeice epigraph: "World is crazier and more of it than we think,/Incorrigibly plural." I hoped that readers would come away with the idea that we all, as individuals, contain multitudes; that there is no single truth about people or the situations in which they may find themselves.

Something I find fascinating about publishing a new book is discovering what has changed in the industry since previous publications. I've often had a gap of three or so years between books and it's always amazing how much things can shift in that time. Newspapers, magazines, whole book chains can have disappeared and new ones sprung up in their wake; publishing houses alter, appear, adjust; there are new forms of communication, advertisement, editing tools, interacting with readers. The world moves fast and publishing moves with it. I still remember the day when a marketing director sat me down and said: "So, there's this new thing called Twitter..."

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Hello, is this planet Earth? by Tim Peake

Tim Peake's Hello, is this planet Earth?, published by Century and shortlisted for Non-Fiction: Lifestyle Book of the Year, is a collection of the astronaut's photographs taken from the International Space Station. Ben Brusey, the book's editor, talks about the book's heartstopping schedule and how he met Peake nearly three years before the book's conception.

Hello, is this planet Earth came into being in September 2016, when I received a call from Tim Peake in Houston. He was there recuperating from his six-month mission on the International Space Station. We had first met nearly three years before to discuss the idea of a book, but he had understandably been quite a busy man, and the project was on the backburner. Now, to my delight, we were "go for launch"! Tim wanted to publish a book of his breath-taking photographs of Earth from space. Like his mission, he wanted it to inspire and educate, communicating the wonders of science and space to as many people as possible. The only catch? He wanted it to be ready in time for Christmas. The challenge was on: four weeks to publish something every bit as spectacular as his mission.

Tim Peake signs a book for a young fan.

My favourite part of the publishing process was working with Tim and the European Space Agency to select the mesmerising photos. With the difference in time zones Tim said the process was as bit like his shift work on the ISS. I would send over the latest draft in the evening, go to bed, and then wake up to his comments. From glowing cityscapes, to meandering rivers, to vast geological puzzles, it was a privilege to work on the images – and I learned so much about our planet in the process.

Seeing the books come off the press at the printers in Germany – one month to the day after the book was commissioned – was a close second favourite moment. It was an incredible achievement from the whole publishing team. Aptly enough the printers was situated in a town built in the base of a giant meteor crater.

The most challenging thing about publishing the book was the heart-stopping schedule – I’ve never worked on such a rapid turnaround. But if we did it again I wouldn’t change a thing. It was a monumental team effort from Tim, the European Space Agency and everyone across Cornerstone. The time pressure created a hugely exciting, galvanising energy around the book. I like to think that our enthusiasm was so infectious it spread to the trade and to the readers who made the book a bestseller. My colleague Charlotte Bush orchestrated a masterful publicity campaign when Tim visited the UK, and the impact he had on readers of all ages was astonishing – and the most heartening part of the whole project.

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The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Sarah Perry's The Essex Serpent, published by Serpent's Tail, is shortlisted for Fiction Book of the Year. Perry talks about wanting to write a "modern Victorian" novel and the alchemy of publishing.

What was your favourite part of the publishing process?
I hugely enjoyed editing the manuscript. Calling a novel into being 'ex nihilo' can be rather a lonely and anxious time, I find - but the moment I was able to discuss and debate themes, characters, language and so on with my agent and editor was thrilling. Coming a very close second was the moment of first seeing that extraordinary cover design by Pete Dyer: I had had a bout of hiccups that nothing could shake, but my sheer delight cured me immediately!

What ran through your head the first time you held a finished copy of your book?
I remember thinking: "I cannot believe the most beautiful book I have ever seen is MY book." I then thought: "Blimey it's long." (I've got a habit of avoiding reading long books...)

What was the most challenging thing about writing the book?
From the first I had wanted to write a "modern Victorian" novel - one that paid homage to the conventions of 19th century fiction and was true to the historical period, but one which also challenged readers' ideas about what the late Victorian age was like. So I often found myself treading quite a challenging line, wanting to foreground the modernity of the age without jolting readers too sharply out of the period.

What do you hope readers take away from the book?
As a proud Essex girl I'd be thrilled if readers replaced their TOWIE image of Essex with one of the real Essex: a place of long history, eerie landscapes, strange visions and so on. I also think of it as being a book about friendship, and I hope readers come away with ideas about friendship and intimacy in mind.

What did you learn about publishing that you didn’t know before this book?
Of course I'd always understood that publishing is always a question of teamwork, but this book in particular seems an exemplar of what happens when a dedicated team of people in the publishing industry all put their love and skill into a book. A year ago we were all walking around bookshops and cycling to local booksellers with proof copies and hot cross buns from Tesco - and now there is a huge billboard at Victoria station. The Essex Serpent has taught me that there lies at the heart of publishing a kind of strange alchemy that's built on people working together. The fact that it's such an unpredictable process just makes it seem all the more magic.

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East West Street by Philippe Sands

Lawyer Philippe Sands' first book East West Street is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson and shortlisted for Non-Fiction: Narrative Book of the Year. Here Sands talks about the challenges of writing the book and what he learnt about publishing.

What was your favourite part of the publishing process?
The totality of the experience. From the handholding of my agents Gill Coleridge and Georgia Garrett (at RCW), to the acutely intelligent suggestions of my editors Vicky Wilson (at Knopf) and Bea Hemming (then at Weidenfeld & Nicolson), to the strategic nous of a highly professional publicity and sales teams.

What ran through your head the first time held a finished copy of the book?
I wished I could have passed it immediately to my grandfather Leon. Then I worried how he would have reacted, and wondered which bits - if any - he might have been willing to offer more detail on.

Sands accepts The Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2016.

What was the most challenging thing about writing the book?
Structure. I was faced with the challenge of interweaving four different lives and two complex legal ideas, over four decades and across a multitude of places called different things by different people. How can that material be presented in a way that doesn't lose the intelligent and interested reader after just a few pages?

What do you hope your readers take away from the book?
That life is complicated; that nothing is ever quite what it seems; that individuals and ideas can make a real difference; and that what was achieved in 1945 by way of new rules and a commitment to justice are matters to be valued, preserved and improved, not thrown away.  

What did you learn about publishing that you didn’t know before this book?
The singular importance of collegiality and trust, of working as a team. The process as a whole has to be seamless, and each part of it respected. Like an orchestra or a legal team, every part matters.

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Sidemen: The Book by The Sidemen

The Sidemen are some of the biggest YouTubers in the world and their first book, Sidemen: The Book (Coronet) is shortlisted for Non-Fiction: Lifestyle Book of the Year. Coronet publisher Charlotte Hardman, who acquired the book from Gordon Wise at Curtis Brown on behalf of The Sidemen’s manager Liam Chivers at OP Talent, talks about the challenges of publishing a book with seven authors.

We pitched for the book against other publishers in an author meeting that involved a dynamic pitch and which was very different in tone to our usual pitches. Online talent are successful by following a very different path with very different rules to traditional authors or celebrity and so we knew that the focus of what would matter most to the authors would be different. Having negotiated the deal, work had to begin straight away as there were just six months until publication and it was a complex illustrated project to put together. We commissioned a professional photo shoot and commissioned illustrations and design whilst the authors also contributed their own artwork too. We wanted to create something that took fans deeper and that offered an entertainment experience that is different to the prolific video uploads that the seven authors collectively upload. I edited and project managed the book which involved capturing seven distinct voices, a photo shoot, cartoon illustration, author illustration, commissioning illustrators, picture research and working closely with the designer to create a look that represented seven differing identities whilst also having a cohesive look throughout.

I have two stand out favourite parts of the whole publishing process. My first was seeing the ambition of the authors had no bounds. From the outset they knew they wanted the book to be a major success, an ambition shared by us as publishers. It was a joy to see that stars of new media who are used to things being instant and always with a focus on the new so fully embraced a traditional form of media such as a book. Seeing them adopt their role as authors and so effectively spread the message about the book was fantastic. The second favourite thing is a consequence of this ambition and hard work of the authors. The pre-order campaign was a huge success with over 13,000 pre-orders accumulated ahead of publication. The first week's Nielsen BookScan sales were 26,436 which put the book at number one in the week of the much-talked about Super Thursday and is more than double what the number two book sold.

The success surprised many but certainly not us - we knew we were on to something having conducted an author signing tour of epic proportions. The Sidemen met 4,000 fans in three cities, in three football stadiums (Old Trafford, St James' Park and Selhurst Park) across just three very long and Red Bull-fuelled days at experience-style events. Perhaps most remarkably all of this was achieved without a single traditional press interview or piece of publicity. This book is a triumph for new media and digital stars, it illustrates how well we as publishers can adapt to changes in the way people - especially young people - seek their entertainment today and begin their own adventures in reading.

The most challenging thing about publishing this book was the fact that there were so many elements and indeed so many authors! With a full colour book comes a tight schedule, many components to commission, coordinate and pull together and all of the work must be done to a tightly managed budget - in this case it came in well under budget. In addition, in this instance there are seven - largely nocturnal - authors, a ghostwriter and two agents to keep informed meaning that communication was constant. The book cleverly captures the seven unique voices of the individual authors and, where needed, a collective voice and it appeals to fans who in spite of being able to enjoy hours and hours of content online for free, still wanted to buy a book with something new in that they had never covered in video form.

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Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen's memoir Born to Run, published by Simon & Schuster and shortlisted for Non-Fiction: Narrative Book of the Year, was the bestselling memoir of 2016. Here, editorial director Iain MacGregor, talks about the experience of editing the book.

When I was told we would be publishing Born To Run and I was the editor, I thought back to when I was 18 years old, in my weekend job on the record counter at WH Smiths, and liking the latest album that had just arrived into the store – "Born In The USA". I have avidly followed his music for well over three decades and watched him live several times. This would easily be the BIGGEST project/memoir I had worked on in my 25-year career in non-fiction publishing. My hands were shaking when I read the manuscript and I excitedly thought: "This is going to be an amazing ride!"

Bruce Springsteen reads from Born to Run at the European Press Conference at the Institure of Contemporary Arts in London in October 2016.

My favourite part of the publishing was that every Friday, for over eight months, I circulated to the entire, global S&S staff an anecdote of Bruce's music back catalogue. I would choose a song and expand upon it to provide the back story to why it was written, what it meant to Bruce, and then add particular information on a specific recording (whether it be a live performance, or a studio recording). We slowly expanded this email to allow staff in all departments, across the globe to contribute a song choice. The point was to emphasise to everyone that this was an S&S global event, and we should all worked together to achieve our goals. I would argue it worked.
For all of us working on Born To Run, the main challenge was the fact Bruce's own words  - like his music – beautifully articulated his life. The fact he had not only dug down many layers of his public life to reveal to the reader and fan what really made him tick, but also how his ancestry, family life, and New Jersey surroundings had shaped him as a person and as a musician made this book very different from your run-of-the-mill celebrity memoir. For an established rock icon to show such bravery in revealing his innermost thoughts, via his own pen, is an incredible thing to be given responsibility for. We owed him the very best publishing campaign to create not just a bestselling memoir, but one that would be rightly lauded as a "once in a generation" autobiography. I feel strongly we have delivered on that promise.

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Golden Hill by Francis Spufford

Non-fiction author Francis Spufford turned his hand to fiction for the first time in his career with Golden Hill (Faber & Faber), which is shortlisted for Debut Book of the Year. Spufford talks about the difference between publishing fiction and non-fiction and what he hopes readers will take away from his book.

The experience of publishing fiction was very different [to publishing non-fiction]. After 20 years of non-fiction, I had got used to the idea that there's going to be a certain pool of readers who are interested in a subject - plus maybe a kindly few who will follow you from book to book whatever the subject. But with a novel, I realised, there are no guarantees. It's all or nothing. It either flies or it doesn't. Very exciting when it does fly, like Golden Hill, but a little scary too.


When I first saw a finished copy I thought, this looks so *inevitable* now it's printed, as if it always had to be like this, and yet whole chunks of it came to me in the shower, and were first written down on damp backs-of-envelopes while I dripped over them, wearing a towel.

The hardest thing about writing Golden Hill was maintaining the mystery about my protagonist Mr Smith's motives, while keeping close enough to him that readers would care about him. I had to hit a peculiar level of half-intimacy with him, all the time.

I hope I leave readers entertained, and troubled, and slightly drunk on words - and with a vivid mental picture of New York when it was a small town where everybody knew everybody.

What did I learn about publishing? That the usual sequence of hardback and paperback releases can be artfully tweaked when an opportunity arises, like Golden Hill becoming Waterstones Book of the Month in October 2016; that the enthusiasm of booksellers is the most potent help an author can have; that it's a different world on the tables at the front of the shop.

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The Unmumsy Mum by Sarah Turner

Sarah Turner's The Unmumsy Mum started life as a blog before being turned into a book for Bantam Press. Here, Turner reveals why writing sometimes made her feel guilt, and what she hopes parents take away from the book.

I think my favourite part of being published was having the opportunity to be edited! I know that may sound strange, but having been blogging on my own for a couple of years with no help or guidance, I really enjoyed having my work tweaked and never felt annoyed or defensive when the edit notes came back. The suggestions always enhanced what I had been trying to say and I felt I learnt quite a lot, not least that I overuse brackets.

The first time I held a finished copy of the book was at Paddington station. My publicist, Sophie, met me from the train and handed it over. I felt like I wanted to tap all the people who were milling around the station to say: "This is MY book. I wrote it!"

The hardest part of writing was finding the time, particularly when the final deadline was looming. Trying to juggle a busy family life with finishing chapters and going through edits resulted in lots of late nights and early mornings and I often felt guilty for not spending as much quality time with the boys as I would have liked.

I hope parents reading the book realise that they are not alone in sometimes feeling like they are not cut out for the job. Parenting is wonderful and magical but it's also bloody hard work and my intention was always to offer an uncensored account of the good, the bad and the ugly in the hope that it would offer comfort to others in the same boat.

I was quite naïve about the level of work that goes on behind the scenes, outside of the actual writing process itself. It takes a massive team effort to make a book a success and alongside my lovely editor, Michelle, there were so many other people involved - a publicity team working on a schedule of events and press activity, a marketing team helping with clever ideas in the run up to publication and a sales team liaising with retailers (to name a few).

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The World's Worst Children by David Walliams and Tony Ross (illus)

David Walliams and Tony Ross' short story collection The World's Worst Children is published by HarperCollins Children's Books and is shortlisted for Children's Book of the Year. Ann-Janine Murtagh, executive publisher at HarperCollins Children's Books, talks about receiving the proposal for the book and the teamwork required to make it work.
This is a departure for David Walliams and Tony Ross, what was your initial reaction on hearing the proposal for The World's Worst Children?
Delight! The short story form is loved by children but short story collections are not often published successfully and, historically, haven't achieved significant sales. But we looked to do things differently. We knew that a Walliams collection could redefine this and break new boundaries. David Walliams' writing was pitch perfect throughout the collection – his genius for character, deliciously funny dialogue and fast pace are perfect for the short story form. He wanted this book to reach out to all children - even the most reluctant of readers. The stories themselves were highly visual and immediately called for full colour, creating a wonderful opportunity to publish Tony Ross' illustration in over 250 pages of glorious colour! We were ambitious in our publishing plans for this book - Walliams and Ross have now redefined the cautionary tale for a new generation and we've secured unprecedented bestseller status for a full colour collection published in spring.

What was your favourite part of the publishing process?
The sheer joy of receiving each of David's stories which were so wickedly original and funny and read aloud so beautifully. And the pure magic of seeing Tony Ross' wonderfully witty and irreverent illustrations bring these characters to life in full colour. The thrill of seeing the book hit industry number one for three weeks after publication, proving that a beautiful children’s hardback can sell year round.

What was the most challenging thing about publishing this book?
The schedule! We kept up a fast-paced, adrenalin-fuelled schedule through the process and across all areas - editorial, design, PR and marketing and sales - to make and launch a full colour book in record time. And securing a tuba for sound effects on the audio whilst David recorded the stories was no mean feat! It was a triumph of teamwork and shared belief in the book itself and the exceptional talent of our author and our illustrator!

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The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking

Meik Wiking's The Little Book of Hygge, published by Penguin Life, is shortlisted for Non-Fiction: Lifestyle Book of the Year. Senior campaigns manager Julia Murday and editor Emily Robertson talk about publishing the book.

How did this book come into being?
JM: I was on a run one cold December morning and was listening to BBC Radio 4 "Woman's Hour podcast" and Helen Russell was on the show talking about her brilliant memoir The Year of Living Danishly. While discussing her move to Jutland, she mentioned the concept of hygge – referencing hot chocolate, pastries, fire and the general feeling of cosy, and this is the first time I came across the term. I'd recently been hired as the campaigns manager for Penguin Life (a new list of lifestyle books at Penguin General) and we'd had some meetings around what we thought was going to be the next big wellness trend. Bingo! Joel Rickett researched the area further and came across Meik Wiking, c.e.o. of the Happiness Research Institute, and the rest, the say, is history.

What was the most challenging thing about publishing this book?
JM: There were two main challenges; firstly, we were acutely aware of the proliferation of other hygge titles out there, and therefore we had to strategise about how to cut through the noise and became the go-to book on the subject. We achieved this through lots of pre-publication activity around the book, working to position Meik as the hygge-expert based on his credentials and work at the Institute. Secondly, it was a challenge to maintain momentum from publication in September to Christmas but we did this through inviting Meik over to the UK three times over autumn and securing further TV and radio slots.

ER: The publication of this book was so time sensitive due to there being many other books on the topic publishing within the same month that the process really required all hands on deck. Every cog in the wheel had to work together to keep the book on time and on budget to publish ahead of the trend and at the £9.99 price point we required. Add to that the author was writing in a language that wasn't his first language and that demanded that we work with him chapter by chapter to get the tone of the book just right. Although working at speed to publish ahead of the curve on this trend, we were conscious not to just jump on the bandwagon but to lead the pack by creating a book of real substance, quality and something that we could all be very proud of. It felt like a real collaborative team effort and a very hyggelig experience.

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