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眼下写什么书能畅销?请看两位作家的心得

眼下写什么书能畅销?请看两位作家的心得

Rachel King 2020年07月11日
《财富》杂志采访了洛杉矶的两位畅销书作家,她们的作品被多家出版社提名为今年暑期最受期待的书之一。

对作家们来说,压力最大的是新书上市之前的几个月、几周和最后几天。新书预订量对于一本新书能否成功至关重要,因为出版商和图书商可以通过新书预订量来了解哪些人愿意买这本书并预测销量,这也会决定出版商和图书商会投入多少资源为其进行营销推广。

由两位时尚记者同时也是商业合伙人的希瑟·考克斯和杰西卡·摩根著作的新书《继承人情事》(The Heir Affair)在7月7日正式发行,已经有多家出版社提名这本书是今年暑期最受期待的书之一。来自洛杉矶的两位作者最近接受了《财富》杂志的采访,谈论了这本书的出版过程,并分享了当一本小说如此成功以至于读者希望(甚至要求)出续集的时候,重新走一遍出版过程是什么感受。

为明确起见,以下采访内容经过精简和编辑。

作家希瑟·考克斯(左)和杰西卡·摩根。图片来源:Moksha Bruno/Linc Imagery

《财富》:有许多评论文章说多年以来,大银幕上的浪漫喜剧已死,但在文学界,浪漫喜剧似乎变得比以前更热门。你们认为为什么会出现这种情况?

考克斯:我真得不清楚。但我想是不是因为浪漫言情小说和浪漫喜剧小说更有代表性。出版业在多元化方面显然仍有很长的路要走。但即便如此,它在这方面的表现也要远胜过好莱坞。长期以来,主流电影业从未认真对待浪漫喜剧题材,而且通常情况下,即使电影人敷衍地拍一些浪漫喜剧作品,也只是很俗套地从性别化的角度把浪漫题材理解成“小妞电影”,而且为了吸引传统的男性观众往往会曲解浪漫电影的真谛。而出版业似乎至少能够尊重和了解喜爱浪漫爱情故事的忠实观众的影响力,而且这些观众的数量远远超过好莱坞划分的观众类别,他们理应欣赏到精彩的内容。

摩根:是的,正如我们所说,出版行业显然并不完美;总体上来说,出版商需要出版更多黑人作者和其他有色人种作家的作品,增加给这些作家的报酬,用更大的力度推广他们的作品。但与好莱坞的做法相比,他们为浪漫喜剧文学提供了更多空间,使其变成了一种可靠的收入来源。浪漫喜剧类图书在传统海滩读物中有很大的发展空间。这个领域的读者已经成为出版行业的可靠销售来源。

你们能否向出版业的外行解释一下图书的出版过程?你们的上一本书《皇室》(The Royal We)自始至终一共花了多长时间?

考克斯:不同作者和不同项目之间的出版过程是不同的,我知道这个模糊的答案令人讨厌,我会具体说明,但这也确实是答案的一部分。我们两个都是白人女性,这意味着与黑人作者或其他有色人种的作者相比,我们不公平地享有一些便利。我们无法忽视这一点。我们的图书出版过程有些不同寻常:我们有一个公共平台Go Fug Yourself,我们会定期在上面发布一些语音和文章(有时候会发表一些我们自编的对白)。除了这个平台以外,我们还发表了许多自由撰稿人文章。所以我们算是有一定的知名度,凭借详细大纲和几个样章就能卖掉我们的青年图书和《皇室》。除了个别例外情况以外,没有出书经历的人或者新人作者通常需要在完成初稿后,再由经纪人提交给出版社。这是在出版流程开始之前要花的时间。

我们在2013年夏天开始写《皇室》这本书的样章,并编写了情节大纲,同年9月卖给了出版社。我们从感恩节开始创作,并在2014年年初去英国进行了一次调研。真正的创作过程大部分是在随后六个月里完成的。之后六个月里,我们进行了一次大量删改(初稿的Microsoft Word文档有800多页),然后根据编辑意见进行了修改,之后创作进入了最后阶段。我记得2015年1月才出了预读本。4月下旬精装本出版,从预读本到图书出版,这中间的时间非常紧张。所以我们的书从概念诞生到出版花了大约两年时间,但中间除了创作以外还有等待和谈判的时间。

摩根:把书交给出版商之后就是一个让人感到焦虑的等待过程,这一点是因人而异的。我知道有些作者的书上市销售花了几个月时间,而且非常成功。但这不能成为未来成功的标志。还有些作者的书只用了几天就开始发售。这是一个充满变数的过程,即使书与书之间也会存在差异。这就是为什么当你选择传统方式出版的时候,找一位你信任并且能够良好沟通的经纪人非常重要。

《继承人情事》是摩根和考克斯的第四部作品,前一部作品是2015年出版的《皇室》。她们还出版过两本青年小说《宠溺》(Spoiled)和《混乱》(Messy)。图片来源:Courtesy of Hachette

2015年出版的《皇室》以2010年左右的英国皇室家族为背景。其续集《继承人情事》将在本周出版。中间似乎间隔了很长时间,因为现在许多读者都已经习惯了热门图书在一两年内出续集的做法。你们是否早就有出版续集的计划?出版商或者读者希望你们创作续集,这是否让你们感受到了更大的压力?

考克斯:我感受到的压力都来自我自己!我很不安。现在依旧如此。人们对《皇室》的评价很高,他们是发自内心地喜欢这本书。所以近两年来,我一直非常焦虑,害怕是否会让读者失望。我们从来没有创作续集的计划。我们经常说《皇室》的结尾就像是讲述滑冰运动的电影《冰上奇缘》(Cutting Edge)的结尾一样,在看完这部电影后,你不需要知道所有情节如何交织在一起,因为最重要的是,它们促成了故事的结局,这是无法改变的。但读者似乎越来越希望有续集,出版商也有这样的想法。

在哈里王子订婚的时候,我们萌生了为弗雷德(第一本书的主要人物之一)写一本Kindle电子书的想法,讲述他在《皇室》里的事件之后邂逅某个人的故事。我们把它发给经纪人,她说:“我觉得,既然你们想继续创作这个故事,不妨写一本完整的续集?”而且我想《冰上奇缘》也有续集,所以我们并不孤单。

摩根:出版商从来没有给我们施加压力。我们的经纪人也没有给我们压力,但我想我们推迟创作新书肯定让她非常焦虑。这本书的创作之所以花了这么长时间,是因为我们很难构思一个故事,让人感觉原有的角色都有了新的突破。我不确定我们是否做到了,这一点还有待时间的检验。

但实话实说,我和希瑟都是慢性子的创作者。我非常敬佩那些每年(甚至更短时间)出版一本书的作者;只有才华横溢和技术娴熟的作家才能如此多产。我们写作的速度并不慢,只是在坐下来写作之前寻找创意的过程会花掉我们一些时间。而且说实话,这本书的创作难度很大。我们曾经许多次错过了交稿时间。我们曾经多次匆匆忙忙地调整作品的结构,有些情节直到写到一半的时候才确定下来。所以《继承人情事》这本书的创作过程之所以用了这么长时间,是因为我们为它做了大量工作。

考克斯:而且人物角色也确实需要有有趣的生活。《皇室》故事结尾的时间恰好就是书出版的年份和月份,所以书里的人物需要一些时间和空间来展开自己的生活。

许多作家计划在3月以后出版自己的作品,但他们提前几个月计划好的推广活动和图书宣传活动将被取消,这是他们不得不面对的事实。有些作家把图书出版的时间提前,有些则推迟到了2020年年末甚至2021年。《继承人情事》早已计划好在7月出版,但情况并没有恢复到2月甚至3月前几周的正常状态。这些因素对于本书的营销策略有哪些影响?你们有没有做任何调整?

考克斯:实话实说,大中央出版社(Grand Central Publishing)从未建议取消出版。至少他们没有给我们这样的建议。我不知道是不是因为我们的出版日期在7月,在疫情爆发初期感觉还很遥远,所以他们乐观地认为这本书能够顺利出版发行。我不知道;我们没有参与这方面的讨论,这或许是好事,因为我们不知道会说些什么。

疫情期间,我们仍然在努力适应隔离的生活,所有人只能翻看旧书,所以如果可能的话,我希望这本书可以更早出版。但这样的想法很难实现,因为读者买不到实体书,所以我们和大中央出版社都希望独立书店能够参与销售。因此书的出版时间没有变,现在想来这是好事,因为人们依旧在纠结户外活动的安全性,而独立书店可以解决这方面的疑虑。不过,我们确实被迫取消了在书店进行现场宣传的计划。这让我们很失望,因为我们喜欢与读者见面,但我们不想成为超级传播者。能在Go Fug Yourself平台上宣传这本书,至少给我们带来了一些安慰。

摩根:是的,我想我们都在快速学习。这有点讽刺,因为在疫情之前,我认识的所有作家都希望作品出版的时间距离大选越远越好,原因是我们都知道大选会(没错!)占据大量媒体空间。现在,大家把图书出版的时间推迟到接近大选,希望能有机会做一些宣传。这个问题不容易回答。

我想人们只是在尽自己的努力而已。但我认为虚拟推广活动的兴起,未来会带来好处。许多读者住在偏远地区,或者他们所生活的城市不受传统图书宣传活动的青睐,他们可以参加虚拟活动,而且他们对此很感兴趣。我希望未来书店能把现场活动和虚拟活动相结合,让这些读者也能参与进来,比如在Facebook或Instagram上流媒体播放现场活动。我知道一些书店已经在这样做。

你们的日常收入都来自时尚网站Go Fug Yourself。在疫情之前,你们的许多文章和幻灯片里所描绘的都是从独立电影节到奥斯卡颁奖典礼等红毯活动。自3月中旬以来,这些活动都被取消,你们也调整了内容的方向。有批评者可能认为,当下娱乐并不是重点,但你们的网站依旧是一家小企业。在此次疫情期间,你们的经验起到了哪些作用?娱乐给一些读者带来了轻松的心情,这是他们所急需的,你们对此有什么想说的呢?

摩根:我们确实做了一些调整,我想在这个人们所说的前所未有的时代,每家公司都会有所调整。除了没有任何时事内容,广告销售也惨不忍睹,而广告销售是我们(以及所有在线网站)把工作变现的主要途径。我们需要用广告收入来支付服务器和照片的费用、我们的工资、法务费、会计师和网站开发者的费用,以及与我们的类似的企业需要承担的其他后端成本。所以我们现在确实承受着前所未有的压力。

但我们非常幸运,因为这终究是一份可以在家里做的工作。我们不是抗疫一线的工作者,我们所从事的职业也不需要经常与公众接触。所以我们确实压力很大,但我想所有人都有压力!但从许多方面来说我们是非常幸运的。

考克斯:我们基本上只能希望当我们在向人们推送上世纪90年代和本世纪初的服装潮流时,没有人会感到厌倦,因为我们要在很长时间里推送此类文章。有趣的是,这种“现在并不重要”的观点很久以前就一直存在,尤其是在2016年11月之后。当世界不太平的时候,许多新闻里都有人在对谈论时尚话题表示不满,我对此完全理解。但人的大脑一次可以处理许多事情,而且每个人都需要摆脱只能对着虚空呐喊的状态,即使只是对着詹纽瑞·琼斯的裤子或者其他东西大喊30秒。时尚可以极具颠覆性,时尚是一种艺术,而且也很重要,但在人类世界的进程中,总是会发生一些比人们穿什么更重要的事情。自我关注和释放压力的需求是真实的,理论上这也是我们这样的网站存在的原因。

摩根:有些人从事的工作比我们的工作压力更大、更重要。我们总说我们的工作就是为他们提供拖延的借口。所以我们只是在尽我们所能做好这件事。(财富中文网)

译者:Biz

对作家们来说,压力最大的是新书上市之前的几个月、几周和最后几天。新书预订量对于一本新书能否成功至关重要,因为出版商和图书商可以通过新书预订量来了解哪些人愿意买这本书并预测销量,这也会决定出版商和图书商会投入多少资源为其进行营销推广。

由两位时尚记者同时也是商业合伙人的希瑟·考克斯和杰西卡·摩根著作的新书《继承人情事》(The Heir Affair)在7月7日正式发行,已经有多家出版社提名这本书是今年暑期最受期待的书之一。来自洛杉矶的两位作者最近接受了《财富》杂志的采访,谈论了这本书的出版过程,并分享了当一本小说如此成功以至于读者希望(甚至要求)出续集的时候,重新走一遍出版过程是什么感受。

为明确起见,以下采访内容经过精简和编辑。

《财富》:有许多评论文章说多年以来,大银幕上的浪漫喜剧已死,但在文学界,浪漫喜剧似乎变得比以前更热门。你们认为为什么会出现这种情况?

考克斯:我真得不清楚。但我想是不是因为浪漫言情小说和浪漫喜剧小说更有代表性。出版业在多元化方面显然仍有很长的路要走。但即便如此,它在这方面的表现也要远胜过好莱坞。长期以来,主流电影业从未认真对待浪漫喜剧题材,而且通常情况下,即使电影人敷衍地拍一些浪漫喜剧作品,也只是很俗套地从性别化的角度把浪漫题材理解成“小妞电影”,而且为了吸引传统的男性观众往往会曲解浪漫电影的真谛。而出版业似乎至少能够尊重和了解喜爱浪漫爱情故事的忠实观众的影响力,而且这些观众的数量远远超过好莱坞划分的观众类别,他们理应欣赏到精彩的内容。

摩根:是的,正如我们所说,出版行业显然并不完美;总体上来说,出版商需要出版更多黑人作者和其他有色人种作家的作品,增加给这些作家的报酬,用更大的力度推广他们的作品。但与好莱坞的做法相比,他们为浪漫喜剧文学提供了更多空间,使其变成了一种可靠的收入来源。浪漫喜剧类图书在传统海滩读物中有很大的发展空间。这个领域的读者已经成为出版行业的可靠销售来源。

你们能否向出版业的外行解释一下图书的出版过程?你们的上一本书《皇室》(The Royal We)自始至终一共花了多长时间?

考克斯:不同作者和不同项目之间的出版过程是不同的,我知道这个模糊的答案令人讨厌,我会具体说明,但这也确实是答案的一部分。我们两个都是白人女性,这意味着与黑人作者或其他有色人种的作者相比,我们不公平地享有一些便利。我们无法忽视这一点。我们的图书出版过程有些不同寻常:我们有一个公共平台Go Fug Yourself,我们会定期在上面发布一些语音和文章(有时候会发表一些我们自编的对白)。除了这个平台以外,我们还发表了许多自由撰稿人文章。所以我们算是有一定的知名度,凭借详细大纲和几个样章就能卖掉我们的青年图书和《皇室》。除了个别例外情况以外,没有出书经历的人或者新人作者通常需要在完成初稿后,再由经纪人提交给出版社。这是在出版流程开始之前要花的时间。

我们在2013年夏天开始写《皇室》这本书的样章,并编写了情节大纲,同年9月卖给了出版社。我们从感恩节开始创作,并在2014年年初去英国进行了一次调研。真正的创作过程大部分是在随后六个月里完成的。之后六个月里,我们进行了一次大量删改(初稿的Microsoft Word文档有800多页),然后根据编辑意见进行了修改,之后创作进入了最后阶段。我记得2015年1月才出了预读本。4月下旬精装本出版,从预读本到图书出版,这中间的时间非常紧张。所以我们的书从概念诞生到出版花了大约两年时间,但中间除了创作以外还有等待和谈判的时间。

摩根:把书交给出版商之后就是一个让人感到焦虑的等待过程,这一点是因人而异的。我知道有些作者的书上市销售花了几个月时间,而且非常成功。但这不能成为未来成功的标志。还有些作者的书只用了几天就开始发售。这是一个充满变数的过程,即使书与书之间也会存在差异。这就是为什么当你选择传统方式出版的时候,找一位你信任并且能够良好沟通的经纪人非常重要。

2015年出版的《皇室》以2010年左右的英国皇室家族为背景。其续集《继承人情事》将在本周出版。中间似乎间隔了很长时间,因为现在许多读者都已经习惯了热门图书在一两年内出续集的做法。你们是否早就有出版续集的计划?出版商或者读者希望你们创作续集,这是否让你们感受到了更大的压力?

考克斯:我感受到的压力都来自我自己!我很不安。现在依旧如此。人们对《皇室》的评价很高,他们是发自内心地喜欢这本书。所以近两年来,我一直非常焦虑,害怕是否会让读者失望。我们从来没有创作续集的计划。我们经常说《皇室》的结尾就像是讲述滑冰运动的电影《冰上奇缘》(Cutting Edge)的结尾一样,在看完这部电影后,你不需要知道所有情节如何交织在一起,因为最重要的是,它们促成了故事的结局,这是无法改变的。但读者似乎越来越希望有续集,出版商也有这样的想法。

在哈里王子订婚的时候,我们萌生了为弗雷德(第一本书的主要人物之一)写一本Kindle电子书的想法,讲述他在《皇室》里的事件之后邂逅某个人的故事。我们把它发给经纪人,她说:“我觉得,既然你们想继续创作这个故事,不妨写一本完整的续集?”而且我想《冰上奇缘》也有续集,所以我们并不孤单。

摩根:出版商从来没有给我们施加压力。我们的经纪人也没有给我们压力,但我想我们推迟创作新书肯定让她非常焦虑。这本书的创作之所以花了这么长时间,是因为我们很难构思一个故事,让人感觉原有的角色都有了新的突破。我不确定我们是否做到了,这一点还有待时间的检验。

但实话实说,我和希瑟都是慢性子的创作者。我非常敬佩那些每年(甚至更短时间)出版一本书的作者;只有才华横溢和技术娴熟的作家才能如此多产。我们写作的速度并不慢,只是在坐下来写作之前寻找创意的过程会花掉我们一些时间。而且说实话,这本书的创作难度很大。我们曾经许多次错过了交稿时间。我们曾经多次匆匆忙忙地调整作品的结构,有些情节直到写到一半的时候才确定下来。所以《继承人情事》这本书的创作过程之所以用了这么长时间,是因为我们为它做了大量工作。

考克斯:而且人物角色也确实需要有有趣的生活。《皇室》故事结尾的时间恰好就是书出版的年份和月份,所以书里的人物需要一些时间和空间来展开自己的生活。

许多作家计划在3月以后出版自己的作品,但他们提前几个月计划好的推广活动和图书宣传活动将被取消,这是他们不得不面对的事实。有些作家把图书出版的时间提前,有些则推迟到了2020年年末甚至2021年。《继承人情事》早已计划好在7月出版,但情况并没有恢复到2月甚至3月前几周的正常状态。这些因素对于本书的营销策略有哪些影响?你们有没有做任何调整?

考克斯:实话实说,大中央出版社(Grand Central Publishing)从未建议取消出版。至少他们没有给我们这样的建议。我不知道是不是因为我们的出版日期在7月,在疫情爆发初期感觉还很遥远,所以他们乐观地认为这本书能够顺利出版发行。我不知道;我们没有参与这方面的讨论,这或许是好事,因为我们不知道会说些什么。

疫情期间,我们仍然在努力适应隔离的生活,所有人只能翻看旧书,所以如果可能的话,我希望这本书可以更早出版。但这样的想法很难实现,因为读者买不到实体书,所以我们和大中央出版社都希望独立书店能够参与销售。因此书的出版时间没有变,现在想来这是好事,因为人们依旧在纠结户外活动的安全性,而独立书店可以解决这方面的疑虑。不过,我们确实被迫取消了在书店进行现场宣传的计划。这让我们很失望,因为我们喜欢与读者见面,但我们不想成为超级传播者。能在Go Fug Yourself平台上宣传这本书,至少给我们带来了一些安慰。

摩根:是的,我想我们都在快速学习。这有点讽刺,因为在疫情之前,我认识的所有作家都希望作品出版的时间距离大选越远越好,原因是我们都知道大选会(没错!)占据大量媒体空间。现在,大家把图书出版的时间推迟到接近大选,希望能有机会做一些宣传。这个问题不容易回答。

我想人们只是在尽自己的努力而已。但我认为虚拟推广活动的兴起,未来会带来好处。许多读者住在偏远地区,或者他们所生活的城市不受传统图书宣传活动的青睐,他们可以参加虚拟活动,而且他们对此很感兴趣。我希望未来书店能把现场活动和虚拟活动相结合,让这些读者也能参与进来,比如在Facebook或Instagram上流媒体播放现场活动。我知道一些书店已经在这样做。

你们的日常收入都来自时尚网站Go Fug Yourself。在疫情之前,你们的许多文章和幻灯片里所描绘的都是从独立电影节到奥斯卡颁奖典礼等红毯活动。自3月中旬以来,这些活动都被取消,你们也调整了内容的方向。有批评者可能认为,当下娱乐并不是重点,但你们的网站依旧是一家小企业。在此次疫情期间,你们的经验起到了哪些作用?娱乐给一些读者带来了轻松的心情,这是他们所急需的,你们对此有什么想说的呢?

摩根:我们确实做了一些调整,我想在这个人们所说的前所未有的时代,每家公司都会有所调整。除了没有任何时事内容,广告销售也惨不忍睹,而广告销售是我们(以及所有在线网站)把工作变现的主要途径。我们需要用广告收入来支付服务器和照片的费用、我们的工资、法务费、会计师和网站开发者的费用,以及与我们的类似的企业需要承担的其他后端成本。所以我们现在确实承受着前所未有的压力。

但我们非常幸运,因为这终究是一份可以在家里做的工作。我们不是抗疫一线的工作者,我们所从事的职业也不需要经常与公众接触。所以我们确实压力很大,但我想所有人都有压力!但从许多方面来说我们是非常幸运的。

考克斯:我们基本上只能希望当我们在向人们推送上世纪90年代和本世纪初的服装潮流时,没有人会感到厌倦,因为我们要在很长时间里推送此类文章。有趣的是,这种“现在并不重要”的观点很久以前就一直存在,尤其是在2016年11月之后。当世界不太平的时候,许多新闻里都有人在对谈论时尚话题表示不满,我对此完全理解。但人的大脑一次可以处理许多事情,而且每个人都需要摆脱只能对着虚空呐喊的状态,即使只是对着詹纽瑞·琼斯的裤子或者其他东西大喊30秒。时尚可以极具颠覆性,时尚是一种艺术,而且也很重要,但在人类世界的进程中,总是会发生一些比人们穿什么更重要的事情。自我关注和释放压力的需求是真实的,理论上这也是我们这样的网站存在的原因。

摩根:有些人从事的工作比我们的工作压力更大、更重要。我们总说我们的工作就是为他们提供拖延的借口。所以我们只是在尽我们所能做好这件事。(财富中文网)

译者:Biz

For authors, there may be no greater pressure than the few months, weeks, and final days leading up to a book launch. Preorders are crucial to the success of a book release, as it gives both publishers and booksellers an idea of who is going to buy the book and how many copies it might sell, which in turn fuels how much both parties want to continue to sink into a marketing push.

On sale July 7, The Heir Affair, by fashion journalists and business partners Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, has already been named one of this summer’s most anticipated reads by a variety of publications. The Los Angeles–based pair recently spoke with Fortune about what goes into the book publishing process…And what it’s like to do it all over again when a novel is successful and readers want (or even demand) a sequel.

The following interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Fortune: There have been countless think pieces claiming that the romantic comedy has been dead on the silver screen for the past several years, but in the literary world, rom-coms seem hotter than ever. Why do you think this might be?

Cocks: I truly don’t know, but I wonder if it has to do with there being better representation in romance and rom-com novels in general. Publishing as an industry still has a long way to go, obviously, in terms of diversity. But even so, it still seems like it’s doing better on that front than Hollywood. The mainstream movie industry hasn’t taken rom-coms seriously in a long, long time, and too often when it makes a cursory effort to do so, it’s with a stale gendered perception of romances being “chick flicks” and how they can twist them to get traditionally male butts in seats. Whereas publishing at least seems to respect and understand the power of a loyal audience that values a laugh and a love story, and that said audience is much bigger than how Hollywood defines it and deserves smart content.

Morgan: Yeah, as we noted, publishing is obviously deeply imperfect; publishers in general need to be publishing more books by Black authors and other authors of color, and paying them, and marketing them, much, much better than they do. But they do seem to have made more of a place for the rom-com as a reliable moneymaker than Hollywood has. The tradition of the beach read is something that has a lot of room in it for books that are romantic comedies. That is a specific space for readers that is already baked in as a reliable source of sales in that business.

For the uninitiated to the publishing industry, could you explain a bit about the book-pitching process? How long did it take to complete your previous book, The Royal We, from start to finish?

Cocks: The publishing process varies from author to author and project to project, which I know is an annoyingly vague answer, and so I will get more specific, but that is also part of it. I would be negligent if I didn’t note that we are two white women, which means our experience will have been unjustly easier than that of Black authors, or other authors of color. Our personal road to publishing is somewhat unusual: We had Go Fug Yourself, a public platform on which our voice and our writing (and occasionally our made-up dialogues) were on regular display, and we had a fair amount of published freelance columns that went beyond what we did on GFY. So we were considered a known quantity and were therefore able to sell our YA books and The Royal We based on a detailed outline and several sample chapters. Unpublished or debut authors—though there are exceptions to this—generally need a completed draft of the book for their agent to submit. So, there’s that amount of time to consider before the process even begins.

We started writing sample chapters for The Royal We in the summer of 2013 and then turned that in with an outline, and sold it in September of that year and started writing around Thanksgiving, with a research trip to the U.K. in early 2014. Most of the earnest work was done in the ensuing six months of 2014. And then the next six months involved one very large trim pass—it was over 800 pages in [Microsoft] Word—and then proper editorial notes, and then the final phases of production before the advance reader copies [ARCs] came out in, I think, January 2015. The hardback came out in late April of that year, and that is considered a tight turnaround from ARC to pub date. So for us, it was almost two years from conception to birth, as it were, but there were some periods of waiting and negotiating in between bursts of work.

Morgan: There is also a lot of hurry up and wait when your book is out on submission to publishers, which can really vary. I know authors whose books have taken months to sell, and which went on to be successful. Nothing about this is a marker of future success, and others who have sold in mere days. It’s an incredibly unpredictable path, even from book to book. This is one of the reasons why, if you choose to be traditionally published, having an agent you trust, with whom you have good communication, is important.

Loosely based on the British royal family circa 2010, The Royal We was published in 2015. Its sequel, The Heir Affair, is coming out this week. That seems like a large time gap these days as many readers have become accustomed to popular reads getting a sequel within a year or two. Was there already a plan in place for a sequel? Do you feel more pressure from publishers or readers in getting the second book right?

Cocks: I feel pressure from myself about it! I was terrified. Still am. People are so nice about The Royal We, and have really taken it into their hearts, and I have had massive anxiety for almost two years now about whether we will let them down. There was never a plan for a sequel. We always refer to the ending of The Royal We as the Cutting Edge ending, after the ice skating movie, where you don’t necessarily need to know exactly how all the threads tie up, because the most important thing is that they’re in it together and that is cemented. But readers seemed increasingly open to it, as did our publisher.

Around the time of [Prince] Harry’s engagement, we toyed with the idea of doing a Kindle single about Freddie [one of the main characters in the first book] meeting someone after the events of The Royal We, and when we sent it to our agent, she was like, “I mean, now that you’re back in this world…what about a full sequel?” And I guess even The Cutting Edge got some sort of sequel, so we’re in good company again.

Morgan: Our publisher never pressured us, though. Our agent didn’t really either, although I have to think that the delay in us writing something new was making her very antsy. One of the reasons that this book took so long was because it was very difficult for us to come up with a story that felt like it was new ground for these characters. I guess it’s TBD whether we accomplished this.

But also, to be honest, Heather and I are very slow plotters. I have such huge huge respect for authors who can publish on a yearly (or tighter) schedule; that takes massive talent and skill to be so prolific. We are not really slow writers, but the creative process to get to the point where you sit down and write takes us some time. And to be honest, this book was a tough one. We missed some deadlines. We restructured it a lot on the fly, and there were some plot points we didn’t really figure out until we were halfway through. So one of the reasons The Heir Affair took so long was just that we had a lot of work to do to it.

Cocks: And the characters did need to live a little, also. We ended The Royal We pretty much in present-day—the month and year that it was published—so they needed a little time and space for life to happen.

Many authors who had books slotted to be published from March onward have had to reckon with the fact that promotional events and book tours—which are scheduled months in advance and are critical to publishing revenue—were going to be canceled. Some authors pushed onward, but others have postponed their releases until late 2020 or even 2021. The Heir Affair was already scheduled to be released in July, but things aren’t back to normal like they were in February or even the first week of March. How has all of this factored into the marketing strategy for this book? Have you had to make any adjustments?

Cocks: Grand Central [Publishing] never suggested canceling, honestly. At least not to us. I wonder how much of that is because our release date, July, felt far enough out from the beginning of the pandemic that they were optimistic about being able to print and sell it. I don’t know; we weren’t part of those conversations, and that’s probably for the best, as we would have no idea what we were talking about.

If anything, I kind of wished we could have released it earlier for all the people who were tearing through all their reading material back when we were still adjusting to isolation. But it’s hard to do that when you can’t get physical copies into their hands, and we and GCP also both wanted independent bookstores to be involved here. So the release date stayed put, and now I think that’s a good thing, because people are still grappling with how much is safe to do outside, but indie bookstores are able to do fulfillment. We’ve definitely had to cancel all our plans for in-person bookstore appearances, though. It’s a bummer—we love meeting people—but we do not want to be super-spreaders. Having Go Fug Yourself on which to promote it mitigates a bit of that, at least.

Morgan: Yeah, I think we’re all learning on the fly here. It’s sort of ironic, because before the pandemic, all the authors I knew were desperate to get their books out as far away from the election as possible, just because we all know that it’s going to (correctly!) take up so much media space. And now people are pushing back closer to that date to be able to hopefully go out and do some promotion. There is no easy answer here.

I think people are just doing their best. I do think that the uptick in virtual promotions is going to be beneficial going forward, though. A lot of readers live somewhere that is remote or in a city that doesn’t get a lot of love from traditional book tours, and they can actually attend virtual events, and they’re excited about that. I hope in the future that it will be possible for bookstores to do a combination in-person/virtual event to include those people going forward, like streaming in-person events on their Facebook or Instagram, which I know that some do already.

Your daily bread-and-butter comes from your fashion website, Go Fug Yourself. Before the pandemic, many of your posts and slideshows covered red carpet events from indie film festivals to the Oscars. But with everything canceled since mid-March, you’ve gone in a new direction with content. Some critics might argue that entertainment isn’t a priority right now, but your site is still a small business. What has your experience working during the shutdown been like? And what is there to be said about entertainment providing some much-needed levity for some readers?

Morgan: It’s certainly been an adjustment for us, as I think it has been for literally every business in these, as they say, unprecedented times. In addition to not having any current content, ad sales have tanked, and that’s the prime way that we (and every online site) monetize our work. We need ad sales money to pay for hosting, photos, and our salaries, as well as stuff like legal fees, our accountant, our web developer, and the rest of the back-end costs that go into a business like ours. So it’s certainly been somewhat more stressful than usual.

But, ultimately, this is a job that we are fortunate enough to be able to do from home. We are not frontline workers, or working in a career that requires a lot of contact with the public. So while it’s definitely been stressful—I think everyone is stressed!—we are very lucky in many ways.

Cocks: Basically, we have to hope nobody gets tired of being reminded of how we all used to dress in the ’90s and early aughts, because we’re in for a very long haul of that. Interestingly, the idea of “That’s not important right now” has been kicking around for a long time, particularly after November 2016. There were any number of news cycles where people tsk-tsked the idea of talking about fashion when the world was burning—and I completely get it. But also, the human mind is capable of caring about multiple things at once, and everyone needs a break from screaming into the void, even if it’s just for 30 seconds of screaming about January Jones’ pants or something. Fashion can be brilliantly subversive and it’s art and it does matter, but yes, in the scheme of the world, there will always be bigger things happening than what people are wearing. But self-care and stress relief are real, and that’s theoretically where sites like ours come in.

Morgan: We’ve always said that our job is to provide procrastination material for people whose jobs are more stressful and more important than ours are. So we’re still just trying to do that as best we can.

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