About two weeks ago, I received an email from the publisher (Joe Gregory) for ‘How to Tell a Great Story’. In it, Joe wrote about a call for submissions for works of fiction and asked if we could help promote this via FB and twitter. Well, I don’t have either of those. So, I asked Lucy if she was willing to be interviewed for this column and she said yes. So, without further ado, here is the story of Lucy McCarraher …
Aneeta: Lucy, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Let’s start with a little about you. Tell me, please, where were you born, where did you grow up, what do you do for a living and where do you live now?
Lucy: I was born in London – I lived just off Chelsea’s Kings Road in the swinging sixties and moved further South through Kennington, Stockwell and Peckham until I ended up in the Crystal Palace area a few decades later. I took time out of London in my twenties, which I spent in Australia and became a publisher, a TV presenter and freelance journalist. It was an exciting time, but I was happy to come home to England and my family. Then I was in London again for a long time, but a few years ago we decided to move to the country and I now live in a village in rural South Norfolk where I’ve written all my novels and returned to publishing.
Aneeta: How long have you been working in the publishing industry?
Lucy: On and off, all my working life. I started my first publishing company while I was still at university in Australia; while I was in Sydney, I also worked for Currency Press and as Publications Officer for the Australian Film Institute. When I returned to London I did freelance editing for Methuen and worked as a writers’ agent. I then became Director of Development for an independent TV production company, Lifetime Productions International, and we published some books of the TV series we made. More recently I had my book, The Real Secret, published by Bookshaker, did some editing for them and then became their Commissioning Editor. Rethink Press has grown out of the Bookshaker experience and expertise.
Aneeta: What aspects of this industry to you enjoy? What do you not enjoy? And why?
Lucy: I love working with writers and their writing, so pre-production is my favourite area. I enjoy being in on the initial concept of a book, working as a coach or development editor. I also enjoy the nuts and bolts of editing a manuscript – I like to think my skill is to hone an author’s work so it is the best it can be whilst keeping their unique voice and message. I look on writing as as much a craft as an art, and I’m there to bolster the technical skills of authors who need it – with the tools of structure, grammar, punctuation, spelling… I also like working with typesetters and cover designers on the look of a book, but probably my least favourite area of publishing is when we have technical problems with printers or the distribution side. Any time authors aren’t happy, I’m not happy – and when they are happy, I am too!
Aneeta: How did you first get published?
Lucy: The first book I had published was The Book of Balanced Living. I was a work-life balance expert and had just produced The Work-Life Manual, a corporate publication. The publishers decided they wanted a personal, self help version and commissioned me to write it. But my first published novel, Blood and Water, was a real piece of serendipity. I always wanted to be a novelist and after a few false starts I wrote a synopsis and three chapters of something I thought was quite good – but didn’t have time to finish it. A couple of years later, Richard and Judy (British TV presenters) ran a competition called “How to get published” and entries were a synopsis plus one chapter of a novel. Some friends persuaded me to dig out my novel and enter it. Six months later, long after the competition had been judged, I got a letter from Macmillan thanking me for my entry and saying I hadn’t won. No surprise there! But they went on to say that out of the 47,000 entries they received, mine was one of another 10 that they wanted to publish. I had to admit I hadn’t finished it, but told them I would within six months. I stopped doing all my other work, finished and submitted my manuscript. Within two weeks they called me to accept it and a year later Blood and Water was published. I wrote a follow-up novel, based on a real life ghost story, Kindred Spirits; and then something completely different and much more light-hearted, set in Sydney, Mr Mikey’s Ladies.
Aneeta: I understand that you’ve embarked on publishing novels via a new venture, Rethink Press [http://rethinkpress.com]. Please tell me about this.
Lucy: Bookshaker publishes non fiction – mainly self help and business books; it is a niche publisher operating in a traditional way, ie contracting authors to publish their work and making money out of book sales (which are shared with the author). I am at heart a fiction writer and a voracious reader of novels, and I wanted to push the boundaries of what we could publish to include the many excellent novelists who don’t get their work published by mainstream publishers. The economics of broad-based publishing are very precarious unless you are a very big company, so Rethink Press shares the financial risk with authors who want to get their book (of any genre) published, and in return gives them a much bigger royalty on sales, from 50% upwards.
This means that authors pay a basic cost for the publishing services they want – for instance editing, cover design, publishing in print and/or e-book format; are supported by experienced professionals in getting their book published; stay in control of the timing, look and pricing of their book; and receive a great royalty on sales. I’ve checked the process by re-publishing my own three novels through Rethink Press, so I know it works for authors.
However, there are many authors who want to approach traditional publishers or agents first. We can support them too, by giving feedback on their manuscript or creating a presentation package with covering letter, synopsis and editing/formatting the first 30 pages of the ms.
Then there are other authors who want to take advantage of all the new technology and self publish their own books, either in print or e-book form. We can help them achieve their aims too. It’s generally agreed amongst writers and publishers that even self publishers should use a professional editor and cover designer, so we do these two services as a package, and also offer typesetting and e-book conversion. Rethink Press is about helping writers to get their books written and supporting authors in whatever their publishing choices may be.
Aneeta: As you know, this website is for storytellers. What advice would you give people who would like to venture into the world of storytelling and publishing?
Lucy: In terms of writing your story, whether it is autobiography, history or fiction; short stories or full length novels, my advice is don’t procrastinate – just do it. Get started and then work at it till you get it right. I always think about structure – the shape of my story, the interaction of my characters and the twists and turns of my plot – for a long time before I start writing properly, but everyone does it differently. Most importantly, if you get stuck, ask for help: there are professional writing coaches, mentors and editors out there, and we have some excellent ones at Rethink.
If your story is written, this is a wonderful time to get it published, as technology allows you to choose from so many ways to do this. It is really easy and cheap to put a book of any kind up on Amazon as a Kindle download. You can price it incredibly low, do your own publicity and see if it sells. If it does, or if it doesn’t, try another. If you want any advice about writing or about publishing, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and please come and “like” our Facebook page – Rethink Press Limited – and follow us on Twitter @rethinkpress. You’ll find lots of free, useful information, other writers and the Rethink Press team there.
Aneeta: Lucy, this is all I have to ask. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Lucy: I got started in fiction publishing through entering a novel competition and I wanted to offer other fiction writers the same opportunity. If any of your readers has a novel completed and unpublished, then please enter it in the Rethink Press New Novels 2012 Competition – the deadline is 10th September 2012. We are looking for three brilliant new novels to give three publication contracts to as competition prizes. Have a look at the Competition Rules and how to enter on http://www.rethinkpress.com/novelcomp/ and you could be one of our lucky winners with a novel published in print and Kindle on Amazon in the next few months.
Aneeta: Thank you, once again, Lucy.
Lucy: It’s a pleasure, Aneeta. Thank you for letting me tell your writers about Rethink Press.
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