Report – Market and Build: How New Voices and New Properties are Guided to Market Success

Posted on: Friday 17 March 2017 4:36pm by Helen Dugdale

The session took the audience through a whistle stop tour of the steps that take place from a book being commissioned by a first-time writer, to acquisition stage to the marketing and PR teams getting involved.

Moderator John Lomas-Bullivant


Katy Cattell – Hachette Children’s Group

Lucy Upton – Hachette Children’s Group

Ruth Tinham – Kings Road Publishing

Rebecca McNally– Bloomsbury Children’s Books



  • Writers need to ensure they send the manuscript to the correct person at the publishing house and ideally should use an agent.
  • Don’t second guess the market, write what excites you.
  • First time writers should read the Writers and Artists year book.
  • First time authors don’t need to be showbizzy, just nice people.


Winning over the Editor

Rebecca McNally – Bloomsbury

For first time writers: how does a new author get through the door?

Have a great idea! It’s very difficult to find your way to an editor without being represented by an agent or media company. If you’re a first-time writer it’s advisable to send a full manuscript or first three chapters and a well thought through proposal. It can be very disheartening from a first timer writer’s point of view, but keep trying.

Editors are mostly creative people and are good at spotting the potential in manuscripts that may need additional work. You’re most likely to get it accepted if you’ve got an amazing idea and your writing is hooky. The editor may ask to see more.

Once the writer has the editor on side, the next step is getting through to the acquisitions stage.

For media companies: how to get through.

The process is different if you’re a media company – the editor is a hub and joiner of people and matcher-up of talent. If you approach the editor with a script that they think needs work, they will find a suitable writer for it.

At Bloomsbury, we’re interested in creating books that can grow and expand – obstacles can be overcome.

It all comes down to whether it makes a good book. A script is just a framework and it needs to be creative. Everything always comes back to the quality of the writing.

Schoolboy/girl errors to avoid:

  • Get the name right of the person you’re sending the work to.
  • Do the research.
  • Don’t try and second guess the market.
  • Don’t try to write what is already there.
  • Be true to yourself and write what excites you and what you feel passionate about.
  • Don’t keep checking the best seller list every week or be too clearly inspired by something that is already working.  By the time your book comes out the trend will have passed.

There are always trends around. People are commenting on celebrity books for middle graders, but they have always been there, they are just currently being talked about

How much does it depend on an individual editor to take it forward to the next stage?

The editor needs to be the ambassador for the book. Editors’ choose what they buy carefully, what will make money and make people excited. Plus, lots of very boring business things – costings, negotiating the deal, sometimes we have to fight off other people for the book. So, the editors’ advocacy for the book is core.

Can the passion of the editor get through even if the story is like marmite to people?

This all depends on the company. If the PR team aren’t convinced it probably won’t get the same level of service.

Do the authors get a say in the meetings

I like to meet an author before I make a commitment – it’s like a blind date otherwise. It’s very rare that I want to publish something straight away. You need to be able to work with the authors. It’s hard to publish a first book, and even harder to publish a second. Agents often facilitate meetings with publishers.


The Sales Team’s Job

Ruth Tinham – Kings Road Publishing

The biggest challenge is when there is no track-record for a new writer, so it’s hard to forecast. This is when you need the passion of the editorial team to take it to the trade. Is it new? Is it exciting? What’s special about it? You need to think practically about where we’re taking the book and who we have to sell it to. How will the book stack up against what else is on the shelves?

With seasoned writers, you can check how well the first book did with sales using the TCM system. TCM is a massive part of the argument. But with a first-time writer what do you compare it to in the market? Every book on the shelf has a TCM figure. If something has sold well it’s a great tool to use.

I’m very wary of comparing new books from a new author to other books. Sales rely heavily on marketing and PR (and the author) to do a lot of work.

The book jacket is a massive battle ground. It’s a tool to help the sales team encapsulate the work in one image. The jacket is the dazzling “must have” thing.

What is the strategy when you take it to market, who do you talk to?

Wholesalers – easier to work with they are happy to buy anything

High Street – they don’t have to buy everything, so the sales team should work harder to convince them that the author will do the work.

Supermarkets – brutal! Buyers have lots of things competing for their attention

Book cover meetings can be a blood bath. The creative vision is a fantastic thing, editors and designers take a leap of the faith, but the sales need it to be right.

At what point do you warm up the market?

Selling usually begins six months before and then three months with the supermarket.  However, if the book promises to be massive we do it as soon as possible.

Selling to supermarkets it all comes down to the cover. To the high street it’s all about the publicity hook and the marketing budget.


Marketing the book

Lucy Upton – Hachette

The marketing team works closely with the sales and PR team.

I always recommend that first time writers read the Writers and Artists yearbook. We deal with media companies in a different way because their books are licenced products.

What’s your biggest challenger for the marketing team?

We try to get everyone in the company reading it to create an in-house buzz and then we get it out there with the influencers including the trade, bloggers, librarians and gatekeepers, including head buyers and the floor staff in the shops. We try to get Waterstones buyers engaged who talk to the shoppers. Also, independent book stores are vital as people ask for their advice.

What do you produce as part of the marketing plan?

Proofs are important, advanced reading copies. It needs to looks smart and represents the finished book and branding, it needs to be impactful.

We produce presenters, – point of sale, posters and window kits, etc. The more the sales team have the better.

Where does social media fit in?

Social media can start as soon as possible. We expect authors to participate. There’s lots of touch points that we can use for social media. You can’t talk about something too many times.



Katy Cattell – Hachette Children’s Group

Marketing works with PR. I started in books and learnt three things very quickly about selling:

  1. People decide quickly.
  2. Knowledge of kids’ books in general is not very good. They ask for the latest Julia Donaldson and what they really is “I want a picture book that rhymes.”
  3. You learn that you can’t stock everything – even if you love them. If you’ve met the author and you like them … you’ll choose to stock the book.

I took this into publicity – work in conjunction. We start with the acquisition process, with a press release. We send press releases out during book fairs, which is a key time to identify the audience/core reader and how they buy books. Who is the audience. Who does the audience trust and how to I get to that trusted advocate?

The nuts and bolts of the PR plan

Usually it begins 6-9 months before publication. We meet the author and chat with them to decide the next step, whether they’ll be great at a book fair or whether we think bloggers would love them.

If it’s a middle grade debut book then librarians, teachers and book sellers are our targets so we’ll send the books for review.

How much must the author do?

You don’t need to be showbizzy. Often you need to be a nice person, who enjoys meeting people. Writing is a different skill to meeting the press and the trade. You need to be excited about your book.  You’ve created it. You’re the best advocate for it.

How do festivals work?

We have yearly pitching meetings to discuss authors at the events. It’s important to maximise the big events like Edinburgh.

Festivals are more about publicity. Authors could be on a panel at festivals rather than be on a stand if they feel more comfortable with that.

Start off small with the new author, then build up to more.

CMC Rights Exchange @LBF 2017 Blog

Helen Dugdale

About the author

Helen Dugdale

Scribble, Writer/PR Consultant

Helen is founder of Scribble the little, but mighty PR and writing agency based in Altrincham. She has over 18 years experience writing for and promoting events and brands aimed at children and families. Helen has written and created content for children’s books, educational resources, TV and radio and (fun!) corporate literature.… Read more