Tag Archives: GuardianBooks

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

Holding Our Nerve and Finding a Publisher

It’s hard to remember – now that publication is upon us – how long it took to find a publisher for our book about retirement: Retiring with Attitude. It was frustrating, emotional and hard work. One of the blessings of writing collaboratively is that when one of us is ready to give up the other stays optimistic and we both go on having ideas about who to approach next.

photo by Robert Taylor

photo by Robert Taylor

Our first contact with a publisher was informal, asking for advice. She was very encouraging, even considered the book for publication, but decided it didn’t quite fit her list.

Another publisher advised us to find an agent. Using personal connections and the listings in the Writers and Artists Yearbook, we began to send out our proposal and chapter examples. BUT agents either did not reply – so rude – or said they didn’t want to represent us although they said it was a good book and worth pursuing. Then one told us, ‘you have a strong proposal for this book and you are published writers. I advise you to approach publishers directly. ‘ So we did.

The publishers were not as enthusiastic as we were. One problem was that there are plenty of books about retiring already on the market. Some publishers who had these in their lists did not want to publish a book that they saw as competition. They could not see how different our book was from the rest. And other publishers told us they didn’t take that sort of book. ‘Not for us,’ they said.

One publisher suggested a tie-in with a national newspaper. So our final idea for a publisher was the Guardian. If this approach failed, we decided, we would rethink our strategy. In anticipation we attended workshops on e-publishing and self-publishing. However, we did not need to go down this route. We heard from an editor at GuardianBooks:

I’m really interested to see more, as it looks like a really strong idea. It’s great to see an intelligent book about retirement; it would resonate really well with our readership.

Would you be able to send me some sample chapters? 

We did and although it was not all plain sailing after that, it was the start of the publication story. (More about the later stages in a subsequent blogpost.)

During the long period – two years – when we had to hold our nerve, believe in our project, write the chapters and keep on sending out the proposals, these were the things that helped us:

  • That initial favourable response from a publisher,
  • The advice from the agent to go direct to publishers,
  • Our belief in the book,
  • Our experience as published writers,
  • Our mutual support, courage and humour,
  • The response of people in our circle with whom we discussed ideas,
  • Encouraging responses from publishers even when they declined the book,
  • Redrafting the proposal for each submission in the light of comments received,
  • Publishing articles in niche magazines on the way,
  • Feedback and encouragement from our reader, Marianne,
  • Having an alternative strategy for publication in case we needed it, and
  • Repeating our Mantra: Hold Your Nerve! (Caroline had been to an Arvon fiction course, and this had been the advice from the agent to the aspiring writers who attended. He had reminded us that the publishing business needs our books!)

That agent was right. We needed to hold our nerve. On the eve of publication of this book, we are beginning again with another book. We’ll have to say Hold Your Nerve! again to ourselves. Marianne, our reader, has joined us as a co-author, by the way. It’s great!

101 RWA cover

You can pre-order Retiring with Attitude at the Guardian Bookshop or at Hive and other on-line stores. It will be available from bookshops from 24th July.

Caroline Lodge and Eileen Carnell

Do you have advice for writers seeking a publisher for their book? Or useful experience to share?


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Filed under Publishing our book, Writing

Ways with Words – part 2

Just to recap: Ways with Words is a ten-day ‘Festival of Words and Ideas’; the setting, a beautiful estate in Devon, Dartington Hall. And on Monday 7th July we featured in a session, the first public outing of our book Retiring with Attitude: approaching and relishing your retirement, published by the GuardianBooks on 24th July. (See previous post.)

109 WWW platform

We shared a session called Growing Older with Angela Neustatter who has recently published The Year I Turn … a quirky a-z of ageing. The chair was Lorna Bradbury, Deputy Literary Editor at The Telegraph.

It was stimulating to be part of a programme with so many eminent people, and where the audience are so lively. Angela Neustatter is an accomplished journalist, and able to speak with fluency, and at great speed, whether introducing her book or in response to questions.

About 200 people attended, and we sold 30 copies that evening and signed others for the bookshop.

What we noticed:

There was a reaction to four women sharing the platform. ‘Where are the men?’ someone asked, and so for a while men were picked out to ask questions and make comments. I shared the view of the woman who said it was refreshing to see four of us on the platform when a token woman is the norm. But the comment rather missed the point that we were introducing our books, not representing ageing and retiring.

The audience was lively, challenging even. Some of them wanted to take us to task for not writing a different book. This might have been avoided if the book at been made available in advance.

We learned a thing or two as well about literary events and presenting our book.

  • In future we might start with the purpose of the book.
  • You can’t please everyone. And there will always be someone who has their point to make.
  • The audience liked the interactivity – for example, what I call a Cosmo quiz. This revealed that the majority of the audience identified themselves as veteran retirees.
  • We could have planned to use more stories from the book because they provide good detail about retiring issues (that’s why we included them in the book!)
  • We could have read an extract. Angela did this and it was good to hear it.
  • People are interested in the Retiring Women’s Group, eight women who came together 9 years ago and has been meeting ever since.

Some of the audience have been kind enough to contact us, one saying people like all of us ‘are worth gold bars’! It was a very stimulating evening, and we admire people who can do it so well. We have more promotional events, so will have opportunities to explore different approaches and different audiences.

101 RWA pile

You can pre-order our book from Hive here, or from other on-line book sellers. Or buy it in bookshops after Thursday 24th July.


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Filed under Books, Publishing our book, Writing

We interrupt to bring you some breaking news …

We interrupt to bring you news of our new publication: Eileen Carnell and I have just received 10 copies of our new book: Retiring with Attitude, published by GuardianBooks.

101 RWA pilePublication date is 24th July 2014 (but available now for pre-order from on-line booksellers and bookstores near you).

Copies will be available at the Ways With Words Festival at Dartington, Devon. We are appearing with Angela Neustatter, author of The Year I Turn… A Quirky A-Z of Ageing, on Monday 7th July at 7.30pm in the Great Hall, for a session called Growing Older.

It is very exciting seeing the pile of ten actual books! We have published books before, but not a major trade book like this one.

We will be blogging more about the process of publication anon!

101 RWA cover

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Filed under Books, Publishing our book