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Behind the Scenes Archive

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  • New cover look for Katie!

    17th January 2014

    My name is Richard Ogle and I’m an Art director at Random House, where Katie Fforde’s books are published. I head one of the Art Departments which involves coordinating a team of designers to produce all the covers and I also design some of the covers myself.

    When designing, my job is to take a brief and to develop it through to the print stage using a number of tools at my disposal, within a set timescale and budget. One of the main exciting parts of my job is getting the manuscript which has no visual identity (and reading it a year before publication!) to create a look that will hopefully become an integral part of the personality of the book. To achieve that, I could use various routes towards the final cover. I work solely on a Mac and usually I will design the type on it, whether using existing fonts or commissioned calligraphy. After that it may involve commissioning, and art directing, a photo shoot; or using and manipulating existing stock imagery in Photoshop; or, in the case of Katie’s books, commissioning an artist to produce an illustration.

    I have had the pleasure of working on Katie’s covers for over ten years. This is the third major redesign of the jacket look, which have always been timed to stay ahead of the competition, keeping the covers fresh and relevant for her current and growing readership.

    The first redesign was developed about 10 years ago with illustrations that were fun and naive in style. They were illustrated by Marie Claire Smith. We spotted her work on greetings cards and they were at the time totally on trend. While they may possibly look a little twee for our tastes today, they served Katie wonderfully for about 4 years.

    For the next redesign, in 2008, I worked with Justinia Baird Murray, a designer from a design agency called Head Design, to work with me on concepts and design. Sophie Griotto, a fashion illustrator by trade, brilliantly illustrated the whole backlist as well as the new front list book, at the time, Going Dutch. I can remember the unabashed excitement when the illustration first arrived, which was something very special.

    Back in early 2013, we were once again keen to redesign Katie’s covers. Following consumer research we were tasked with continuing to make the covers as appealing and relevant as Katie’s writing. With a flood of successful and aspiring authors, it’s important to stay ahead of the game, standout and reach the readers who would love Katie’s world. Our research identified the key elements that represent this world - the Cotswold’s life, wonderfully relatable characters and idyllic romantic settings.

    Katie’s personality is so important in her books that we wanted to represent this on the cover, with a signature based author type. I commissioned Ruth Rowland, a hugely creative calligrapher, who took samples of Katie’s actual signature and developed a brand logo type for Katie’s name that reflected her unique handwriting gestures such as the triangle flourish on the ‘K’ of Katie.

    To develop the design for The Perfect Match I brought Justinia on board. Following on from the market research, she produced a set of ideas/concepts that embodied Katie’s world and injected contemporary colours into the design. These sheets of ideas lead us to a concept we were happy with. Our heroine Bella in a beautiful English garden.

    The fashioning and styling also needed to be right so we considered many brilliant illustrators but we loved the work of Katrinn Pelletier, a French Canadian illustrator whose sense of style, movement and colour seemed perfect for us. We commissioned her back in July 2013. As with all covers, on books as key as Katie’s, a number of roughs were worked on solidly over a number of months until our vision was matched. We finalised the cover in December 2013.

    Katie is always closely involved at every stage which is great. She has a wonderful eye for what works well on her jackets and we always appreciate her input into the design process. As soon as the final cover is approved by Katie and the team, we’re happy and it really is job done and time to celebrate... but not time to sit back and relax. We have since redesigned the cover for the paperback of A French Affair and are waiting with baited breath for details of the new hardback!

    Here are the final designs:

    Richard Ogle
    Art Director
    The Katie Fforde Team

  • Katie the Digital Queen

    19th December 2013

    I have been working on Katie’s books now, in one way or another, for around five or six years. Originally I worked in sales, and still remember the giddy thrill when Summer of Love became an ebook bestseller in 2011. Ebooks were still a relatively novel thing (see what I did there!) and it spoke volumes to me and my esteemed colleagues that Katie emerged very quickly as one of our digital Queens. Here was a lady who’s fans were clearly early adopters. And so came Katie’s first digital short in the Spring of 2012, The Undercover Cook. 
     
    Since then I have moved upstairs to the third floor, with my own window now thank you very much, to become Cornerstone’s Digital Publishing Manager, and one of the many perks of this is that I get to work even more closely with lovely authors like Katie. It’s a real pleasure to be involved in helping making Katie’s ebooks happen. Since The Undercover Cook, Katie has published two more direct to digital shorts, last year’s Staying Away at Christmas and this year’s20festive offering, From Scotland with Love. Digital shorts are a great way to allow authors to connect with readers, as well as acting as a tasty morsel to new readers. One of Katie’s great strengths is her relationship with her readers, she really cares about what they think and loves to engage with them through Facebook and Twitter. Digital shorts are also a lovely treat for fans who just cannot wait for Katie’s next book. 
     
     
     Team Katie catch-up on a very regular basis so we are all aware of what the other is doing, and I always ensure I am up to speed on where things are progressing with the full length novel, and how we can build the digital short around it. This year Katie wanted to write a short story with a snow filled New Year setting. Now experience tells me that this kind of story is best published sometime in December, than say at Easter! So in terms of finding the right time to publish, Katie’s decision to write a festive tale helped steer us in the direction of December. In the digital world, the length of time needed to publish a book is much shorter than that of a physical book. Obviously we don’t need to factor in printing schedules, and as these direct to digital ebooks tend to be short stories, there is less time needed for editing and setting. 
     
    Next we wait for the story. In the meantime, I ensure everything is scheduled correctly and that all the right people – sales, design, marketing, publicity, international colleagues – know we have a digital short in the pipeline from Katie. Once the story arrives, and Katie is very prompt, we all have a first read. This is the exciting bit, getting something literally hot off the press and being among the first to read it. We all like to read the story as it helps us get to grip with how we want to communicate the essence of it to Katie’s fans. It’s very important that design read it as they need to come up with something beautiful that conveys the heart of the story on a screen. Much more of challenge than a physical book as with a digital short, you can’t pick it up and marvel at the lovely illustration. Though you can squint up closely against the screen if the mood takes you. 
     
     
     
     In this instance our design team have come up with a cracker, a Christmas cracker (groan). It’s a cover image which immediately transports you to a wintery, festive landscape. And we had to get Griselda in there, she is the star of the show. It perfectly encapsulates From Scotland with Love
     
    Finally we get to publication day, by which point we should, fingers crossed, have everything in place and ready to hit the magic button and make From Scotland with Love available to download. 
     
    Vincent Kelleher
    Digital Publishing Manager
    The Katie Fforde Team
     
  • Katie's Publisher

    8th November 2013

    I have always been a big fan of Katie’s novels, so when I moved over to Random House two years ago to run the Century and Arrow imprints, and was asked to be Katie's publisher, it was a dream come true.

    I guess you could liken my role to that of a conductor - though this makes it seem rather more grand and important than it really is. The role is principally editorial, though the hands-on editorial work is done by Katie’s long-term editor, Georgina. But because I manage the publishing process of Katie’s novels in hardcover and paperback, I also make sure that the right covers go on her novels (we have decided to change her cover look for her new novels so there’s lots of work being currently done on this by our Design team) and that her publicist and the marketing and our sales departments all have what they want when they need it. I talk to Katie herself throughout the whole process so she knows what’s going on with her books and is happy; and I talk to her literary agent, Bill Hamilton, who keeps a keen eye on all details, big and small. I like to think I keep all channels of communication between us open and humming.

    Katie’s new novel, The Perfect Match, will be published in hardcover on March 13, and her paperback, A French Affair, two weeks before this - both in good time for Mother’s Day. In both novels, Katie has chosen specific backdrops, which is one of the things we think make her books so special. In A French Affair, we learn about the world of antiques, for example (think Antiques Roadshow with a large dollop of romance and a very sexy if rather short-tempered hero). And The Perfect Match is set in the property world. As an estate agent, its heroine, Bella, has a talent for finding the perfect houses for all her clients - but she’s a good deal less clever when it comes to finding her own romantic perfect match. It’s the perfect Katie Fforde novel with a complicated love trajectory and the most satisfying of endings.

    Because Katie is such an important author for us, and because every year we publish two full-length novels and very often a digital short-story as well, a dedicated team meets regularly to progress-check where we are in the publication process, and to set objectives of what we want to achieve with each novel. Being part of ‘Team Katie’ is a real privilege as we all love her and want to do our very best for her novels.

    Earlier this year, we decided that our principal objective should be getting her paperback, Recipe for Love, to number one on the Sunday Times Bestseller chart. Katie had never achieved a number-one listing before although her novels had got to number two a few times, so this was an exciting challenge: it meant that everything had to go right on the week in question, and the books, sales promotions, publicity reviews and marketing campaign had to be in place exactly when it counted.

    As publication day drew nearer, Team Katie started to feel nervous. We knew we’d done our best for Recipe for Love - but would it be enough to ensure that every single one of her fans knew that it was out in paperback and available for purchase? And would it tempt new buyers to pick the book up and enter Katie’s unique and very special world?

    We began to think we might have done it when the book sales started to come in the Tuesday morning after publication, and we saw that Katie was leading the field, ahead of the other paperbacks published on the same day. We knew though that the sales would not be confirmed until early that same afternoon, so apart from giving ourselves some surreptitious high-fives, there was nothing we could do but wait.

    When it was duly confirmed our whoops of joy could be heard around the company. Katie was delighted too, and thanked us the next day by sending us a huge basket of her famously delicious brownies.

    But in truth, we didn’t need thanking as for so many of us at Century and Arrow, Katie is our number one favourite author with her own unique brand of romance, friendship, relationships that endure, and the possibility of happy endings.

    What more could any publisher want?

    Selina Walker
    Publisher, Century and Arrow
    The Katie Fforde Team

  • Editing The Perfect Match

    20th September 2013
    The Perfect Match manuscript

    As we come to the end of summer and The Perfect Match enters the final stages of the editing process, I have been reflecting back on why I enjoy working with Katie so much.

    I was a fan of Katie’s novels before I had the pleasure of working on them. What I love about Katie’s books is their sense of joy. And they really are like curling up on the sofa with a cuppa and a slab of chocolate. They are comforting, fun and deliciously romantic and one can imagine oneself as a character in her books. I often do!

    I've been working with Katie for many years now and each year I really look forward to the new Katie Fforde and entering into that world once more - it’s better than any tonic. I can’t help but be cheered. Her light touch, the gentle humour, the keen observations on life, the luscious heroes I fall in love with. I’m very lucky to be one of the first to read a new Katie Fforde.

    And Katie is a delight to work with. Always open to suggestions, not precious about her prose, incredibly generous, warm and funny. Appreciative too. And her chocolate brownies are legendary at the Random House offices. Everyone looks forwards to those!

    What more could an editor want.

    And so to the editing process itself. Katie usually sends the publisher, Selina Walker, and me her early thoughts on her new novel in the autumn - we’re coming up to that time now. Sometimes we meet to discuss it or we’ll chat on the phone - exchanging thoughts and ideas - and the basic structure of the novel is put in place. Not so rigid that there isn’t room for manoeuvre. I often find that as an author starts writing they veer slightly off track as the characters and plot develop - creativity needs to be able to flow. If they go too off-piste I might worry, but Katie never does.

    For The Perfect Match we asked for a much more detailed synopsis than we would usually do and at an earlier stage. Katie had her wonderful trip to Australia and New Zealand coming up and although her most productive time can be when she’s away from the distractions of home and family this was the holiday of a lifetime and we wanted to ensure she had a comprehensive document to refer back to if she wasn’t able to write for any length of time.

    Once the outline is in place, Katie then starts writing in earnest and early the following year she sends us the opening chapters to check she’s on track and we’re happy with how it’s progressing. She delivers in chunks, Selina and I read and have a quick chat and I edit. I like to work with an author in a way that suits them best but I also have to bear in mind deadlines. A certain amount of flexibility is essential - authors and editors are human after all and there are times when a little extra time is needed either way - but it’s also important to be firm when I need to be. As the editor I am responsible for ensuring that we have finished copies of the book in time, so I keep a constant eye on my schedule - when the jacket needs to be briefed, when the manuscript needs to be with the copy-editor and then in production and so on.

    Another quality an editor needs is tact and sensitivity to an author’s voice. It is their novel and all authors have their own style - nothing frustrates an author more than someone fiddling with that style. And it was that style that attracted the editor to the author’s work in the first place. It is a rare author who doesn’t need some editing - they are very close to their work and most appreciate another pair of eyes. I always reassure new authors that edits are not a criticism of their work, they are there to help ensure the book is the very best it can be. I sometimes have to nudge and pull and push a bit, but always with a gentle hand - I would never want to cajole. And my editorial thoughts are suggestions rather than dictates. The editing process is very much a collaborative one - if I feel a scene isn’t quite working as well as it could be I’ll suggest how it could work better, Katie might agree that it needs reworking but have a different solution. As long as the end result is a scene that is much stronger, Katie and I are both happy.

    It’s also vital to give credit where credit is due. So often one is caught up in putting together one’s editorial suggestions, that one can sometimes forget all the many good elements of the novel, the scenes that are working really well, and the lovely romantic moments that make one go ‘Ah’. It’s important to say how much one has enjoyed the book, what one particularly likes about it. I never have a shortage of those with Katie’s books.

    I do a lot more editing on screen now, in part because my hand-writing isn’t the clearest! I have an initial read through, jotting the odd thought down as I go. Selina and I have a chat and then I have a second more detailed read and pull together our initial notes for Katie. This is what we sometimes call the structural editing of a book. We make sure the motives of the characters and the romantic plot for example are working as well as they can and flagging up any potential pot-holes ahead. The more detailed, line-by-line editing comes later - where I might flag up where we need a little more description - of a house, a character, a location for example - or a sentence that needs to be strengthened.

    The Perfect Match has now left my desk and is with the copy editor, Richenda Todd. The copy editor marks the text up for the typesetters, checks for any inconsistencies, and most importantly adds the final polish. Richenda is an invaluable member of Team Katie and has been working on Katie from the start. Whilst I work with a careful eye, I’m also concentrating on the big picture. Richenda is there with the eye glass, peering even closer. She is an absolute gem!

    Although my editing role is very nearly over, there is still plenty to be done. I can now whiz the manuscript off to any eager colleague who hasn’t already done so to read - they usually bite my hand off such is the air of excitement surrounding a new Katie Fforde! There are book proofs to prepare, the jacket to be finalised and jacket copy fine-tuned, and publishing plans to be discussed with our colleagues in marketing and publicity.

    I can’t wait for Katie’s legions of fans - and new readers - to enjoy The Perfect Match too. Soon you’ll be able to enter Bella’s world, see her working as an estate agent, walk round little cottages and vast mansions with her, and watch her falling in and out of love.

    Georgina
    Senior Editor
    The Katie Fforde Team

  • Katie launches new 'Behind the Scenes' blog

    29th August 2013

    Have you ever wondered about how Katie’s books get published? Are you excited about the prospect of her next novel and keen to know exactly how far away it is from hitting the bookshelves? Well we are delighted to launch a brand new feature on Katie's website called 'Behind the Scenes'. This is a new blog which will track exactly where Katie's  next book is in the publishing process. From Katie’s writing, working with her publishing team, to the jacket design, sales, marketing and publicity, right through to the bookshops, here you can follow her new book as it is prepared for publication! We hope you enjoy having a sneak peek behind the scenes. Click here to view Katie's first blog post.

  • A new book begins...

    29th August 2013

    I work in my study which, though small, has a nice view. I do have to stand up to look at it in full, but if I turn to the right I can see the Gloucestershire hills, and trees and sky. I spend quite a lot of time with my head turned to the right.

    I like to get up early and ‘get ahead’ - the mornings are my best time for writing - although I have to admit I often find myself playing Spider Solitaire on my computer while I get my thoughts in order. Sometimes I toy with the idea of taking Spider off my computer but the thought is so terrifying I never do it.

    If I get about a thousand words done a day, I’m happy. I’m even happier if it’s two thousand but that’s more likely towards the end of the book when I know what’s going to happen and I’m on a roll. If I’m really stuck I’ll have a change of scene. Sometimes just a walk round the garden will do it, or a walk with the dogs. If things are really bad it might take a shopping trip or tea with a friend so I can talk about it to get things going again. If none of these work, a day off is called for.

    I get ideas from almost anywhere. I used to worry about running out, but not any more. I know they are everywhere! I never know when they’re going to hit, though. It can be a bit inconvenient if I’m a mile from home and absolutely have to make a note of something that’s just popped into my head. I could carry a notebook but then I think the ideas wouldn’t come.

    The idea for my latest novel, The Perfect Match, came at me from two directions. The first was my addiction to TV property programmes (because I’m terribly nosy) and the second was the fact my sister and brother-in-law were looking for a house in my area and they took me along for viewings. I just had to write a book about an estate agent. Apart from anything else, I wanted to make it clear that not all estate agents are villains - Kirstie and Phil, for example - but of course some of them are, for the sake of a good novel at least.

    If you’ve ever watched Location, Location, Location, you’ll know the whole thing about house hunting is compromise. What you can put up with and what you can’t. So we saw the near-perfect rectory with a lovely garden, a really interesting old house and within budget, but so close to the motorway you could hardly hear the birds. I can hear the road from my own house but even I couldn’t have put up with that. Quite often there was a lovely garden with a horrid house not even Sarah Beeny could make nice, or a really lovely house with a folded-pocket-handkerchief garden. My sister loves to garden and wanted one of a reasonable size. But I still came away with the conclusion that she is possibly the fussiest house buyer ever. I am pleased to say they have now bought a house near me and are very happy. (They chose a lovely large, level garden and are doing a lot of work to the house.)

    This was always going to be a difficult book because there was a long-planned two-month trip to Australia and New Zealand involved. Usually my books grow organically, one event following another, further ideas coming as I write, but this time my editors and I felt we should know what was going to happen from beginning to end even if I wouldn’t be doing as much writing as usual for a couple of months. This meant a fairly detailed synopsis.

    I’d been lucky up till then, and mostly avoided anything too detailed in the synopsis line. This was going to take a special effort. I needed reinforcements. So I called in my friend Jo Thomas. She is brilliant at ideas and she is also huge fun. We’d already had a few mad adventures together (mostly doing research for her books) and so she was up for coming to a health farm with me. I needed a place away from the usual distractions of home and family. A health farm would provide meals and pleasant surroundings and there would be no excuse not to work. Not everyone I told what I was up to was convinced we wouldn’t just lie around having our nails done, but hey, I knew what I needed to do.

    Thrashing out a plot with other writers, or one other writer, is always fun. There is an awful lot of arm-waving and finger-pointing and being unable to get out the latest idea because it’s too exciting. Then there’s some frantic typing and ‘What did I say happened then?’. I find it an incredibly productive part of my writing process too.

    Thus it was while we were at Cedar Falls, near Taunton, that we dragged out one idea after another for The Perfect Match. Jo has definitely paid me back for the times she took me husky racing (freezing cold Scotland) and oyster farming (also freezing cold Scotland and very wet but even more fun), all in the name of research.

    After that, armed with my synopsis and my laptop, my husband Desmond and I set off for the Antipodes. We travelled all through Australia, including a trip on a very small plane, and all through the South Island of New Zealand. Then, after a ferry trip to Wellington, disaster. My beloved husband spilt coffee on the keyboard. And no, I hadn’t backed up anything recently. Now I’m home and the hard drive has been at the specialist place for a while, I have resigned myself to rewriting the missing work. It’s a funny thing about authors: we always feel that any work we have lost was absolutely brilliant, but never feel like that about work we’ve saved and printed and sent off!

    It’s always terrifying sending work off to editors. It’s like really important homework. You think you’ve done your best work but have you? And when it comes back with red writing all over it you feel very fed up. This is because you feel you should have done a better job, you’ve been incredibly dense not to notice all those points they’ve made and, basically, you’re not very good at what you do. And then there’s the ‘No one understands me!’ bit, when you feel like a small child kicking at the floor with frustration.

    When giving talks and workshops, I always explain about the editing process, how it’s impossible to see your work clearly because you’re just too close to it. You must learn not to beat yourself up about getting edits, and realise that you need someone with a bit of vision to see what’s going on. So I like to think of the editor as the diamond-cutter. You offer them the rough (although I hope not too rough!) stone and they carve and chip it into something beautiful. Sometimes they make a suggestion and I think grumpily, ‘This isn’t all that good’, but make myself write the scene or use the idea, and then I’m amazed at how well it works. It’s one of the things that make my job the best in the world. Magic can happen at any time.

    Katie Fforde

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