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Being Published – tips for you: insights from writing Women and the Royal Navy

Jo Stanley



Being published –tips for you


My new history book is just out. I’ve got some insights (from this and previous books), and I now see what I should have done ages ago. So I thought it might be useful to share thoughts on the process with WHN members who are yet to be published.

The book is Women and the Royal Navy (IB Tauris/NMRN). It’s a trade book (sometimes called a cross-over book), which means it’s accessible AND written with scholarly rigour. For example I had to find simple ways to say ‘patriarchy’, ‘hegemony’, ‘the gender order’ and ‘agency’.  Trade books usually have more pictures than an academic book. This one had a generous 92.  A hardback and e-book, Women and the Royal Navy will be paperbacked when 1,000 are sold, probably within a year. The good thing about a trade book is that more are published. A university press prints an average 100, although e-reading rights are different. Also a trade book gets more thoroughly edited than an academic book. The publisher tells the copy editor the required grade of editing. For trade books it’s ‘interventionist’, not ‘light’.

Much of the information in my book was gleaned from interviews (as well as documentary sources). This means I owe a lot to people I barely know, but also that they have a stake in it and want to buy it and tell their friends about it.

Things to enjoy


This is the two-week window when the book has to be quickly brought to as many people’s attention as possible. In a fortnight you’ll be chip-wrappings.

My book has now been out for 4 days. A box of 50 sits in my living room. (If you buy 50, you can get them for half the RRP, which enables you to make money but also give away some freebies). By this stash on my carpet are the jiffy bags, parcel tape, stack of flyers and Amber, the cat, who is waiting for me to make enough space in the box for her to nest in.

I’m in the process of thanking all my interviewees and advisers (for hours a day). Mainly this stage involves emailing them with info about how to get a discount copy (including via ethical online booksellers The Hive), telling them what pages they are on, showing how they specifically helped, snail-mailing them signed copies or just bookplates … and longing for a lie down, with a Yorkie bar and a cuppa. I’ve just done a local author interview with a newspaper.


Things to think about for next time.

Also check the selling price will be as agreed. Succeeding in being allowed to write extra words will be a hollow victory if the selling price is then hoiked too high for your punters. Waterstones won’t order in a book over £20 on spec. That’s the cut-off point in consumer spending. Waterstones will order a copy of the book if an individual requests that, but the shop won’t have a stack available if it costs over £20.

But also you need to expect to do some of the publicising yourself, because you know your field and your possible readers, whereas the publishers are generalists. Many publishers have an advice sheet on how to publicise your book, including on your blog, via twitter and via Facebook. You can make life easier for yourself if you set up these social media resources in advance. Hastily learning website editing is too stressful at this stage. Have copyright-free pictures available to send out on request, both small versions for the web and 300dpi versions.

I say this because having the lists ready in advance frees you to write properly fulsome thank you letters, rather than brief dutiful ones as you scrabble round looking for mislaid addresses in different places in your filing systems. Cutting and pasting such lists can take up an annoying amount of time when you should really being basking and sharing your pleasure with those who’ve helped you create the book.

You can’t thank people enough. Sending a suitable thankyou greeting card in an envelope with a picture stamp, and enclosing a signed bookplate, and at least 2 flyers, is a tactful and productive way to proceed. If you’ve time you can get the enevelopes and the draft emails ready in the weeks just before publication – or pay someone to take the routine bits of such tasks off your hands.

Dear WHN member, I wish you well in the process of enabling your book to reach the widest possible public. Here’s to reading it – and seeing it win prizes.