An interview with Sam Eades – Senior Commissioning editor at Orion

I’m very happy to welcome Sam Eades, senior commissioning editor and associate publicist at Orion, to the blog today, answering some questions and offering some great advice!

Hi Sam, and welcome. Can I start by asking you to give us an insight into your day to day role?
I am a senior commissioning editor and associate publicist at Orion. I’ve been here seven months now, following stints at Transworld, Headline and Macmillan in the publicity department. I have an unusual role in that I both commission fiction AND publicise it! And no, I don’t publicise my own books, I think I’d annoy myself too much. No day is the same but some of the day to day tasks I might do include on the pr side: circulating coverage to agent, author and sales team; pitching for media; accompanying an author to interviews and events; pitching a book at an internal meeting; organising an author tour and on a really good day lunch with a journalist.

And on the editorial side: taking new business to the acquisition meeting; following up on submissions from agents; preparing an offer and a pitch letter for someone I want to take on; checking over a contract; briefing covers; checking metadata to make sure books feature in the right categories on Amazon; responding to an agent query about an existing author; looking at trends and anticipating trends in the fiction market for future commissions and on a really good day lunch with an agent!

As a child, was there a book or a series you returned to over and over? What was it that drew you in?
I’m embarrassed to say I owned every Goosebumps novel ever published. Ahem. I was a big Agatha Christie fan, I read lots of classics, Enid Blyton, Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, Anne Fine before moving on to all the books on my parent’s shelf, Virginia Andrews, Jilly Cooper, James Herbert!

At what point did you know books were, or had to, feature heavily in your life?
My mum took me to the library once a week, and a voracious love of reading began. The first Brownie badge I got was a Book Lover badge which may have been a clue as to where I would end up.  I didn’t realise publishing was an actual industry where people had jobs until a work experience placement at Little Brown.

What advice do you give to those wishing to pursue a career in publishing?
Apply to internships at big publishing houses, small publishing houses, literary agents, scouts and freelance pr agencies. The more placements you apply for, the more experience you will get and the more likely you are to be in the right place at the right time when a vacancy comes up. Don’t limit yourself to editorial; there are a number of creative and exciting departments and individuals, who are responsible for bringing a book to market. Read Make Your Mark by Aliza Licht, it will teach you how to make the most of an internship and be remembered without being pushy. Once you land a placement, have a look at the publisher’s catalogue and familiarise yourself with their list. A heads up that entry level jobs involve admin and support work.

What book have you read most recently that you just can’t get out of your head?
Most recently, I really enjoyed Amy Cuddy’s PRESENCE *power poses at desk*. Over Christmas I read a ton of classics I’ve always wanted to read including Shirley Jackson’s WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE and COLD COMFORT FARM. I also was very lucky to get a proof of Curtis Sittenfeld’s ELIGIBLE and I loved every single word of it. I’m remembering that book now with a huge smile on my face.

What submissions would you love to see arrive in your in-box? / What’s your current wish list?
Where to begin! I would love to find a British suburban Ripley, a bit like Phil Hogan’s A PLEASURE AND A CALLING. Having read so many psychological thrillers, I’m leaning towards something warmer, a vintage set or vintage feel cosy crime series would really hit the spot. I think JoJo Moyes is a genius, and would love to find women’s fiction that packs an emotional punch like ME BEFORE YOU. I really enjoyed books like THE SHINING GIRLS and FIRST FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST, so a high concept crime/sf thriller. Basically I like twisty, high concept novels, a good weepy or to channel my inner Poirot. And despite reading psychological thriller after psychological thriller I still can’t get enough of them! Finding the new Ruth Rendell would be nice. I like multiple voices, deftly balanced past and present narratives, mysterious prologues where we don’t discover who is narrating until the end… etc etc!

Did you ever want to be on the other side and write a book?
NO!

What is your favourite / least favourite part of your job?
Hanging out with your favourite authors and reading is the best bit. Eating sausage rolls at train stations in the middle of nowhere is the worst bit.

Is your taste in books the same as your taste in films or do you find they differ?
I love twisty American thrillers like INCEPTION and SHUTTER ISLAND, so there is some crossover there. I’m a real Netflix addict and enjoy PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, REIGN, THE GOOD WIFE etc. I’d love it if fiction could be as addictive!

Do you have any advice / top tips for writers?
These four books have been helpful to me on the editorial side. 1. INTO THE WOODS by John Yorke. It will help with plotting and examines the plot structures of famous books, films and tv series. 2. WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL by Donald Maass. There are some great sections on landscape, character development, coming up with a theme and creating tension. 3. ON WRITING by Stephen King. Will fill you with pride at being a writer. 4. SAVE THE CAT. A book on scriptwriter than can be applicable to books (and recommended by @Mushenska no less). It will help you come up with your pitch, which will be invaluable when contacting agents.

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For anyone dreaming of being published by Orion, do you have any advice?
Do you
accept unagented submissions? 
Have a look in the acknowledgements for your favourite books and books you feel are similar to your WIP and see who the author’s agent is. Get a copy of the WRITERS AND ARTISTS YEARBOOK, find those agents and check out their guidelines and look at their websites too. Here are some great articles on how to submit and land an agent:
https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/writers/preparing-for-submission/how-to-find-a-literary-agent
http://www.torbooks.co.uk/blog/2014/05/27/juliet-mushens-on-how-to-approach-an-agent-dos-and-donts
If you can’t get an agent, don’t think all is lost. We have periods of open submissions at Orion with Gollancz and have a creative writing competition with Good Housekeeping. Authors we have published include Eva Holland and Diana Bretherick.

Thanks Sam for taking the time to come and chat with us!

Roving Romaniac – Jill Mansell’s You and Me, Always Book Launch

Jill Mansell & Laura

Jill Mansell & Laura

As I write this post, I am still in recovery.

The event was THAT GOOD.

Jill Mansell has been a huge source of inspiration for me as a writer ever since I read Good At Games seven years ago, and I was thrilled to be at the launch of Jill’s 27th book, You and Me, Always.

The event was on the sixth floor of Carmelite House on the Embankment, London, a fantastic venue with a stunning view.

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The view of the Embankment

I was excited for two reasons – I was celebrating a book launch with one of my all-time favourite authors, and I was meeting up with friends from the writing and blogging world, some of whom I was meeting in real life for the first time.

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Jill Mansell

The evening kicked off with a warm and charming interview with Jill, followed by the launch and a book signing session, which led to the party part of the ‘launch

Alison May & Laura

Alison May & Laura

party’. I was on orange juice and sparkling water, but the drinks, including wine, and the canapes were in abundance, and the staff were attentive and friendly.

Laura & Julie Cohen

Laura & Julie Cohen

Sue Moorcroft & Jan Jones

Sue Moorcroft & Jan Jones

It was a great evening, with a fab opportunity to talk books, with Jill’s name never far from people’s lips, as we discussed our favourite Jill Mansell book, and the reasons we love to dive in to her fictional worlds. I remarked that I recently read Jill’s Three Amazing Things About You, and as soon as I started reading it, my husband asked why I was smiling. I replied it was because opening one of Jill’s books was like coming home.

Thank you so much to everyone, bloggers and authors, who took the time to chat with me. The evening will stay with me for some time.

I missed my train home, despite the gallant efforts of the lovely taxi driver who did his best to get me to Waterloo on time. I paid for another ticket and caught the later train, which was the most entertaining carriage in which I’ve ever ridden. Six strangers partied. Oh yeah.

And I’d do it all over again.

Laura x

 

 

 

 

Life Cycle Of A Writer – Face Palms, Facebook Adverts and PowerPoint Presentations

Keyboard

It’s been a challenging few weeks in the James household, with the male of the species succumbing to the awful flu virus, and the females under pressure to learn and relearn skills, be it for forthcoming exams in my daughter’s case, or me putting together a slide show for a talk.

I also had to contend with my PC being absent from my desk while Gajitman upgraded it, and my laptop throwing a hissy fit, presumably because it was brought out of hibernation. At one point, I wrote a blog post from my phone. Thank goodness for apps.  And thank goodness for a teen and an IT engineer husband who made everything all right.

Upon the return of my PC, I had to get to grips with Windows 10. For the first two days, my grasp was weak, but I’m pleased to report, it is acquiring strength. It is a matter of time, as one of my friends told me. I will get used to Windows 10 and everything being in a completely different place …

In the meantime, my second Choc Lit novel, Follow Me Follow You was, and still is (until 31st January), on promotion, so I thought I’d try my hand at creating a sponsored advert for Facebook.

Here’s what I learnt:

The advert cannot possess more than 20% text.

FOLLOW ME_front highresThis became a problem when primarily I wanted to promote my book by showing its cover. A cover which consists of my name, title, and the publishers name and logo. Needless to say, on my first few attempts, I fell foul of the 20% text limit imposed by the Facebook rules and received emails inviting me to examine why I’d failed.

I even failed that task.

Face palm.

So I asked Google.

Phrasing the question took several attempts, but eventually I put all the right words in the correct order and was led to this very informative blog: http://bit.ly/1pukRrO from Jon Loomer, where I learned it’s all about where the text is placed. I tried using the FB grid, as suggested in Mr Loomer’s post, but as I IMG_2308mentioned earlier, I was having all sorts of technical difficulties and the grid would not load, so I drew my own grid to fit my laptop screen, and later, another to fit my PC monitor.

IMG_2314Using Canva, and it’s template ‘Facebook Post 940px x 788px’, I created my adverts, ensuring text did not take up more than five boxes. I had to move the image and the text around until I’d got it right, but the advert was approved and accepted by Facebook.

The trick with the text/sales pitch is to write it in the status box, including the links to the product, leaving the space for your advert free for a clean, clear image.

My ad read:

SALE. Digital download 99p.
http://bit.ly/1OsLFCT
‘Follow Me Follow You’, the second novel in the Chesil Beach series is on sale at 99p.
‘Original, uplifting, poignant, it’s a must read.’

With the risk of them breaking, will Victoria Noble and Chris Frampton follow their hearts?

If you like your romantic reads darker and set firmly in reality, the Chesil Beach books are for you.
Second in the series, ‘Follow Me Follow You’, can be read as a standalone.
A 2014 lovereading.co.uk Editorial Selection.

99p (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was my first advert success! Whether or not it made an impact on sales remains to be seen.

My next challenge was to produce a PowerPoint Presentation for a talk a writer friend and I were to give at the Weymouth Civic Society. Our title was ‘Inspired by the Jurassic Coast’, and photographs were required to enhance our talk.

It had been some years since I last played with PowerPoint, but I volunteered my services to create a slide show.

Actually, truth be known, I volunteered my daughter’s services, as she’s far more knowledgeable than I about techy stuff. Thankfully she didn’t mind and came to the rescue, giving me a crash course on how to create slide shows. Between my daughter, with her patient teaching methods, and Gajitman showing me how to connect the laptop to the projector, slide show presentations are GO!

I’m available for gigs …

Laura.

 

 

Follow-Up Friday

Every Monday, we’re posting our weekly targets, aiming to achieve them by the end of play on Friday.

This week, Sue and Laura posted their aims. How did they do?

Sue aimed to: 

  1. To write three chapters.
  2. To successfully negotiate the first week back at school by remembering all the after-school clubs that are starting back up and packing the appropriate equipment/kit for not only the right club but the right child.

IMG_6365Laura aimed to:

  1. Get up extra early on Monday to wish DS a happy birthday, before we all go our separate ways for the day.
  2. Be at my desk ready to write from 09:00 Mon-Thurs.
  3. Write 5000 words by Friday evening.
  4. Plan talk for the Weymouth Leviathan and Maritime Festival.
  5. Have earlier nights to allow for reading time.

Laura: I managed Monday’s targets and DS had a lovely day. I’ve also been ready to start work at 09:00, so I’m pleased with that.

I’ve not advanced the wip or planned my Weymouth Leviathan talk, but I did have news of a talk for the Weymouth Civic Society, which is happening on the 18th January, so this took priority. This week consisted of me trying to create a slide show for this talk, but my PC and laptop refused to cooperate. I am currently tapping this out on my phone … Thankfully, my husband is an IT engineer, so my PC and laptop are now being sorted. I will continue to aim for earlier nights …

Sue: I seem to have successfully negotiated the return to school challenge, so that’s good.

ms targetI ended up having a particularly busy week with lots of family commitments which took me away from the desk for as much time as I spent behind it. However, I did manage to write one and a half chapters of my novella, clocking up over 1700 words on Wednesday.

Thursday I began to seriously think about the edits for my next full length novel. These edits actually came in before Christmas but I’ve only just looked at them properly. There’s a fair amount of work to be done but generally, I do enjoy the editing process.  So, not a bad week, all thing considered.

 

How did you all get on?

 

SFTW: The Sparkle 2015 Premier!

First there was Star Wars – The Force Awakens

Then there was

ROMANIAC SPARKLE 2015!


And we’re all set for 2016.

We have one more post this year, but what an amazing year it’s been, and we’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your wonderful support and friendship.

Thank you.

The Romaniacs xxx

SFTW: It’s Sparkle Time!

Last weekend saw the second Romaniac Sparkle – an event where we Romaniacs travel from far and wide to gather in Church Stretton for a straight forty-eight hours of laughter, writing, shopping, eating, drinking, strategic planning, drinking, eating, partying and laughter. In that order.

We have our plan for 2016 and will be polishing the blog so it sparkles as bright as New Year fireworks … but no spoilers here :-)

Seven of the eight Romanaics were able to attend, with our lovely Jan holding the fort back at Romaniac HQ.

Our Sparkle video is still in production, but for this week’s Something For The Weekend, we thought we’d give you a sneak preview of what happened …

A new version of The Twelve Days of Christmas, perhaps …?

On the first day of Christmas …

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We started with some of this …

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Followed by quite a bit of this.

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Then we did some of this.

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Lots of this.

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Even more of this.

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Plenty of this.

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Sufficient amount of this.

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A few of these.

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Some more of this.

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Insufficient amount of this.

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And a little of this.

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And this partied hard, too.

 

LCOAW Round-Up

The last three months have been hectic here at Romaniac HQ, with multiple publication days, debut news and an award!

The 2015 RNA Media Stars award

The 2015 RNA Media Stars award

It’s a jam-packed round-up, and our last for the year, but we shall return in 2016 with our regular Life Cycle of a Writer posts.

Laura: My big news was the publication of my third Choc Lit novel, titled, What Doesn’t Kill You, which is spearheading a brand new imprint – Dark Choc Lit. I announced the news on my blog in October, here. I attended a Dorset Writers Network event as a panel member, and I had notifications through that I will be speaking at the Purbeck Literary Festival in February, and the Weymouth Leviathan Maritime Literary Festival in March 2016!

Vanessa: My highlight of the last few months was our wonderful media award win at the RNA winter party!

Jan: I had the thrill of seeing my debut Choc Lit  novel As Weekends Go  published this month, which rounds off a wonderful year for me. 

Catherine: I’ve been allowed into the HarperCollins offices TWICE! Once for the fantastic Carina Christmas Party and the other time for a meeting with my fantastic editor, Victoria Oundjian. Those, along with winning the Media Star Award, are moments I will treasure. After all, the rest of the time I’m perfecting the art of the slummy mummy/author. I also got to announce the title for my debut is Waiting for You and is available for pre-order

Lucie: The last few months for me have been a crazy whirlwind of writing – but unfortunately not of the fiction kind. I have been doing endless coursework for my degree. However, at the recent Romaniac sparkle weekend, I was able to delve back into my story and make some great headway with planning. I have the whole of January off university so I am planning to finish my edit by the beginning of Feb. So watch this space for 2016. Here’s hoping some Romaniac sparkle Will rub off on me next year…

Celia: Like Lucie, my writing year has been dominated by work-based projects such as reports, policies and school plays, but my third book, Living the Dream, somehow managed to pop out in July and my next, Moondancing, is due on January 12th. Onwards and upwards!

Sue: In the last couple of months I’ve self-published The French Retreat which is the first novella in a series of French based stories. Since then I’ve been working on the second one and waiting for news on book 4 which is out on submission. 

Debbie: My ongoing health problems (and domestic chaos) continued to put pressure on my time and mood to write. However my highlight of the year had to be finishing my first novel after a very long four years! I’m letting it breathe after a mixed NWS Report so watch this space to see whether it ever gets submitted … 

We hope you’ve enjoyed our weekly LCOAW posts. It’s interesting to look back over the last year and see our highs and lows, and to know we’re moving forward all the time. Our past posts can be found by scrolling down the page and clicking on ‘Life Cycle Of A Writer’ in the Categories column.

There will be plenty more to come in 2016, but for now, we’re heading off to decorate Romaniac HQ with a million sparkles.

Stay tuned for our Christmas blog …

The Romaniacs xxx