Published today: what our editors did for us.

Retiring with Attitude: approaching and relishing your retirement, by Caroline Lodge and Eileen Carnell. Published by GuardianBooks, TODAY 24th July 2014, currently a best seller on the Guardian Bookshop list.

In the last post in the series about publishing out book called Holding our Nerve, we reflected on the difficulties we had in finding a publisher. It was a long process, nearly two years. It took another 20 months from the publisher’s expression of interest to publication, and we have learned a great deal more about writing, mostly about editing and the invaluable role of editors. Without them, if we had self-published, our book would not have been as well crafted.

So what did we get from the editors?

113 Guardian passBefore our first meeting, before we even knew if GuardianBooks were going to publish, we had sent the sample chapters requested by the editor. It was a memorable meeting. It was hilarious. We were nervous as hell. We had barely sat down at a table in the first floor café of the Guardian offices when simultaneously we received our coffees and the fire alarm went off. Every person in the Kings Place building, from all nine floors, evacuated and ended up in the Pret a Manger café 200 yards down York Way. It was a damp November day, and within seconds the whole place was filled with steam and people talking.

73 KPAdding edge

Caroline had had a sneaky look at the editor’s copy of our sample chapters and noticed one word jotted at the top. EDGE. When we resumed our conversation Katie told us that they were interested in our book, but wanted to see more ‘edge’ in our writing. And she demonstrated how to do it. We learned how to make our writing more direct, stronger. She used the word manifesto, so we wrote one for ourselves, and used it to strengthen the introduction. And to our surprise the writing improved.

Addressing the reader

On our return she asked for more direct inclusion of the reader in the text. ‘Address them, use the word you more frequently.’ This went against our previous style of published writing, but again we could see how it improved the text by making it more inclusive.

Less ‘academic’

Once we had a contract, a title, an advance and an editor to take our book through to publication we had two more revisions to do. Our new editor explained that she wanted us to take away anything that got between the reader and the material. That included removing the boxes in which we had examples as well as the references, (we come from research backgrounds). Lindsay described this style as ‘less academic’, although it hadn’t seemed especially academic to us, just good practice!

More of our experiences and beliefs

Finally, she suggested that all these revisions had removed us from the text, so we should put ourselves back in. So we did.

101 RWA pileAfter that it was a question of proofreading, by which time we never wanted to see it again – until our copies of the bound book arrived, and then we were excited all over again.


More things we learned from the editors

Editors helped the book become better than our original text, better for the reader. They have helped us publish the book we wanted to publish. And we learned some useful writing skills in the process.

Editors helped with the title and sub-title, and ideas for the cover – all of which make the book more appealing and attractive to readers.

113 AchnowlEditors are young and female. Nearly everyone we met in relation to our book is young and female. And very, very good. Our acknowledgements are not adequate.

We met every deadline, which meant that copies were available before the publication date for people who had pre-ordered, and for advance events, such as Ways with Words.

And …

We were delighted to learn last week that our book was number one on the GuardianBooks webpage and that on Saturday in the Guardian Review it was at the top of the bestsellers list through Guardian Bookshop.

Our meeting with our editor was the subject of blogposts in January. They were Preparing to meet our editor and A Meeting with Attitude.


You can order Retiring with Attitude at the Guardian Bookshop or at Hive and other on-line stores. It is also now available from bookshops.

Caroline Lodge and Eileen Carnell


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Filed under Books, Publishing our book

9 Responses to Published today: what our editors did for us.

  1. Eileen

    Congratulations Caroline – you are a brilliant collaborative writer. I am proud to be your co-author on this book. And … Super Duper we are Number One Again!

  2. Congratulations Caroline, it’s been fascinating to read about your ‘adventures in the book trade’. I look forward to catching up with you soon!

  3. Congratulations to you both. Even at this distance I got a thrill seeing your book at the top of the Guardian chart last weekend before it was even published, so you must have been dancing round the room. Thanks for these insights into the editorial process. I imagine it might have felt quite scary at times, particularly when you were asked to go against what you’d learned as good practice, but seems to have been worth it in the end.

  4. Thanks Anne. It wobbles about a bit, but when I last checked it was back at No1 on the Guardian Bookshop bestseller list. The cliche ‘Never in my wildest dreams’ comes into my mind.
    And mostly now i recall all the fun we had doing it, the research and talk and how much we supported each other as it went through its long journey from idea to drafts to submissions to redrafts (lots of those) and eventually publication.
    I hope it adds something to people;s lives now – a bit pious, but that’s why we wrote it and went through all the above!

  5. Pat Clark

    Eileen and Caroline -hello! I have been away and just sitting with a cup of tea reading Review section of Guardian and saw your book at number two! How exciting -I ordered it immediately and now look forward to many more cups of tea as I learn how to acquire even MORE attitude in semi-retirement. This could possible send me over the edge into be incoming totally strident. I hope so.
    Many congratulations to you both – A wonderful achievement. Pat

    • Caroline

      Hi Pat,
      thanks for your enthusiastic congratulations. I doubt whether you lack attitude, but I’m all for the buying of our book and having more cups of tea and more reading the paper. Hope you are well.
      Let us know what you think of the book!


  6. Sheila Dainton

    What a terrific achievement – and what brilliant co-authors you are. I just wish you had written it 11 years ago when I first retired. Never mind. I’ve bought a second copy for my long-suffering school teacher neighbour who is planning to retire at Christmas.
    Many congratulations to you both.
    Sheila (now rising 67, still waiting to grow up and learning that retirement is a bit like mixing colours …).

    • Caroline

      Great to hear from you Sheila. I hope your retirement is going well. I’ll pass on your mixing colours comment to Eileen.
      Thanks for buyiong another copy and passing it on.

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