Monday 28 February 2022

World Book Day special - what does a publisher do? by Catherine Randall

You’ve found a publisher for your book. What happens next?

Sadly, a publisher will never take your manuscript and say, ‘Great, that’s perfect, we’ll send it to the printer!’ It has to be worked on by quite a few people first. The good news is that all these people will help to make your book the best it can possibly be.

 Firstly, an EDITOR will read the manuscript carefully and suggest any changes they’d like to make to big things like the plot or the characters. They may even ask you to change the ending or get rid of a whole character! These suggestions can be difficult for you as the author, but I’ve found that however hard you’ve worked on a book yourself, it will always benefit from having a fresh pair of eyes looking at it, especially when those eyes belong to an experienced editor.

Once both you and the editor are happy with any changes, the book is sent to the copy-editor.

The COPY-EDITOR is responsible for going through the manuscript line by line, checking for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and over-used words. The copy-editor makes sure that the story you want to tell is clear for the reader. They also check for consistency so, for instance, if a character has blue eyes in chapter 2, they can’t have brown eyes in chapter 10.

While the copy-editor is doing their work, the manuscript will be sent to the DESIGNER. The designer makes decisions about how the finished book will look. Here’s a double-page spread from Barbara Henderson’s book Black Water to show you the sort of decisions the designer has to make.  

The DESIGNER will then combine the finished, copy-edited text with their finished design and produce proofs showing what the book will look like when it is printed. After these have been checked again by everyone, including the author, the book is finally ready to go to the printer.

But you might have noticed that there’s something very important missing! Ally Sherrick will tell you all about that tomorrow ….


The Time Tunnellers are five authors who write historical novels for
children and young adults -
Susan Brownrigg, Barbara Henderson, Catherine Randall,
Ally Sherrick and Jeannie Waudby.
Every Thursday we share a new blog article on a different topic
and a youtube video with a writing challenge for young people and teachers.

Sunday 27 February 2022

World Book Day special - How to get published by Susan Brownrigg

This week on the Time Tunnellers blog we look at the different stages a book goes through from manuscript to bookshelf!

How do books end up bookshelves?

How do you find a publisher for your book? by Susan Brownrigg

So you've finished writing your novel - Congratulations! Make sure you celebrate this amazing moment because it can be a bumpy road to publication for writers.

What next? Have you edited your book or is it still a first draft? Writers will often re-read their book many, many times looking for spelling mistakes, errors, plot holes and ways to make their writing brighter and tighter! 

It is of course very hard to spot all your mistakes or to see where readers might get confused by your story. This is where it can be great advice to find someone you trust to read your book and give you honest feedback.

Think carefully about who you ask to do your 'beta read' - a family member may tell you 'I loved it. It's perfect,' because they love you, think you are incredibly clever for finishing a book (you are!) 

A good place to get honest feedback is at a writing group.

If you write for children/young adults like the Time Tunnellers there is the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI.)

Once you have your edited book it will be ready for submission. This is what sending your book to an agent or publisher for them to read and consider is called.

Most publishers will not accept unsolicited submissions direct from authors - this means if they have not asked you to send your book they do not want to see it.

Beware of any publishers who want you to pay towards the cost of the publication - this is called vanity publishing. If you are unsure about a contract offer, you can join the Society of Authors who will offer you free legal advice. 

So many authors will try to find an agent who will represent them.  Agents pick the very best books (often the ones they think are very commercial - e.g will sell in big numbers!) they are sent (from the 'slushpile.'. They will then submit the book to editors they think will like the book as much as they do.

Agents take a cut of the money the author is paid, usually 15%.

Agents are very busy people and they haven't time to read everyone's complete manuscript, so most will only want to read the first three chapters and a synopsis (usually a one page breakdown of the entire plot.) You can find a list of agents and publishers in the Writers & Artists Yearbook and by doing a google search.

Agents and publishers will often have a page on their website that gives precise details on how to submit to them. Make sure you follow them to the letter. 

Some agents and publishers have certain dates when they are open or closed to submissions. Look out for competitions too as they can offer publication as a prize or an opportunities to meet with agents and/or editors. Examples include SCBWI's Undiscovered Voices competition and Slushpile challenges and publisher Chicken House's annual competition and 'open coop' submission day.

You will need to include a covering letter - make sure you address it to the agent by name and not Dear Sir! Your letter should explain what your book is about, how long it is, what type (genre) it is e.g sci fi or mystery and why you wrote the book - especially if you have a personal connection to the theme. When submitting my book Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest I wrote about my love of Blackpool, and explained that Gracie has limb difference like my great grandfather. 

As I mentioned earlier, agents are very busy and often they will state that if they have not replied withing 8 weeks then they are not interested in representing you. If you do get a reply, it may well be a rejection, and often a standard or 'form' letter. 


Some of my rejection letters

If your reply includes comments specific to your story you may want to follow the advice given if it resonates with you.

Some writers are lucky and get a yes the first time they submit their books, but many more successful authors received lots of rejections before their first book was accepted for publication. 

I clocked up lots of rejections for five books before I was offered a publishing deal by Uclan Publishing. 

Writers need lots of resilience and perseverence if they want to become an author - but dreams can come true! 

The Time Tunnellers are five authors who write historical novels for
children and young adults -
Susan Brownrigg, Barbara Henderson, Catherine Randall,
Ally Sherrick and Jeannie Waudby.
Every Thursday we share a new blog article on a different topic
and a youtube video with a writing challenge for young people and teachers.

Tuesday 22 February 2022

Guest blog: Claire Fayers on the Lady Charlotte Guest who translated the wonderful Welsh Mabinogi tales

Next week it will be the first of March. Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant Hapus. Happy St David’s Day! All over Wales, people will be celebrating the day with welshcakes (delicious), leeks (not quite so delicious) and daffodils (do not eat these!)

If you go to school in Wales, you may find yourself playing a musical instrument, dancing a traditional dance or writing a story for an eisteddfod competition. If you’re a girl, you may dress in traditional costume.

Claire in traditional Welsh dress

I’ve always been fascinated with myths, legends and fairy tales, and I’m lucky to live in Wales because we have loads of them. They mix together real places with extraordinary characters and happenings. The most famous of these stories come from a collection called the Mabinogi or Mabinogion. You’ll find stories of shape-shifting and magic, of heroes and battles, and you can read them all in English, thanks to this lady.

Lady Charlotte Guest

Lady Charlotte Guest was born in Lincolnshire in 1812. Her home life wasn’t happy. Her father died when she was young, her mother married again and Charlotte did not get on with her stepfather. Growing up, she spent a lot of time outdoors, and she loved learning new things – especially new languages. By the time she was twenty-one, she was fluent in Italian, Greek, Latin, French, Hebrew, Persian and Arabic.

Then, in 1833, her life changed forever. Charlotte met a Welshman: John Guest, the Member of Parliament for Merthyr. Within months, the two were married and Charlotte left her English country home for the ironworks of South Wales.

Her family were horrified, but Charlotte threw herself into her new life, learning to manage the ironworks, visiting schools, and setting up a library. Unsurprisingly given her love of languages, she was soon learning Welsh.

A few years after that, one of Charlotte’s friends loaned her a copy of The Red Book of Hergest.

The Red Book – so-called because of its red cover – is one of the oldest Welsh manuscripts, dating back to medieval times. It contains a collection of historical texts, poetry and stories, and the ancient tales that make up the Mabinogi.

The stories include four sets, or branches, each following the life of a different character. Pwyll, the prince of Dyfed who travels into the magical otherworld and later marries a fairy wife. Branwen, whose mistreatment by her Irish husband leads to a terrible war between Wales and Ireland. The knight, Manawydan, who helps save Wales from a fairy curse. Math the Lord of Gwynedd, who presides over a story full of magic. People changing into animals, flowers turning into a woman and plotting murder.

Along with these four branches, there are other tales, mainly recounting the deeds of King Arthur and his knights.

A few of the stories had been translated into English, but not all of them. Maybe Lady Charlotte liked a challenge, or maybe she loved the strange tales so much that she wanted everyone to read them, but she decided to translate them all.

Over the next seven years, the stories of the Mabinogi were published in seven volumes, with Welsh transcriptions by the poet John Jones and English translations by Lady Charlotte Guest. It was a huge task, especially as Lady Charlotte had to fit it around the demands of the ironworks and her family. She had no idea how many people would read these Welsh stories because of her, or that her translations became the standard version for more than a hundred years.

Her words have inspired many other authors: JRR Tolkien’s Silmarillion, Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain and Alan Garner’s The Owl Service.


And my own book: Welsh Fairy Tales, Myths and Legends. It contains several of the stories from the Mabinogion along with other tales collected from all over Wales.

John Josiah Guest died in 1852 and Lady Charlotte caused a social scandal by marrying a much younger man. She left Wales and developed a new passion for collecting. She and her new husband travelled around Europe and she built up a vast collection of porcelain, board games, playing cards and fans. Shortly before her death in 1895, she donated almost 12,000 pieces of china to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Lady Charlotte kept a diary from the age of ten through most of her life. I’m glad that her words, and her stories, live on.


Claire Fayers writes fantasy adventures. Her books include The Accidental Pirates, Storm Hound and Welsh Fairy Tales, Myths and Legends








Thursday 17 February 2022

You had me at hello – Ally Sherrick reveals what it is that makes the opening of a favourite book so special

This tear-jerker of a line spoken by the romantic heroine in the 1996 Hollywood movie Jerry Maguire after her successful sports agent husband makes a last ditch attempt to save their marriage, might not at first glance appear to have too much to do with a roll-call of classic novels that have endured the test of time. But it does if you think about how some of the best of them begin.    

 ‘All children except one, grow up.’

‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’ 

‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.’ 

These are all great story openers. Whether for children or older readers, they are lines that draw you in, make you curious, even desperate to find out more.

Every one of us will have our favourites of course.

This is the one which resonates most with me. As with the others, you’ll know which book it comes from, I’m sure:

‘There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.’

With that line Charlotte Bronte pushes open the door to her story, inviting the reader to step inside. To find out who is speaking and why something as simple as a walk is such an impossiblity. And the person who lies waiting on the other side? Why it’s poor, unloved young orphan, Jane Eyre. She’s hiding behind a thick red curtain in a window seat, doing her best to escape both the rainstorm outside and the harsh treatment by her adoptive family within by burying her head in a book. But it’s not just any old book. It’s one full of shipwrecks, abandoned churchyards and ghosts. Pure catnip for any bookworm, especially if, like me, you enjoy reading stories with a gothic twist.

Caption: From film version of Jane Eyre (2011)

And now you’re in, there’s plenty more the author does to keep you there – to make you want to read on.

At first it seems that Jane has been successful in getting away from the scolding tongue of her Aunt Reed and the cruel taunts of her three cousins. But this is merely the calm before the real storm. All too quickly Jane’s hiding place is discovered by her nemesis, John Reed, the bully-boy of an older cousin who likes nothing better than to taunt and belittle his poor relation.

You’re well and truly hooked now. What is going to happen to poor Jane? Will she manage to slip past him? Escape his clutches and run to her room? But no. The beastly John has trapped her. True to form, he humiliates her, reminding her that if it wasn’t for them, she’d be on the streets begging. Then, after trying unsuccessfully to make her call him ‘Master’, he turns violent. Snatching up the book she’s been reading, he throws it at her, knocking her to the ground.

But Jane isn’t the sort of heroine to take things lying down. She gets to her feet and shouts back at him and when John raises his hand to strike her, she makes to defend herself. We’re well and truly on her side by now – but what will happen next? John is so much bigger than she is ...

It’s then that the author delivers her master-stroke. The door bangs open and in walks Jane’s Aunt Reed, a woman who we know already from what Jane tells us, refuses to blame her beloved son, John for any of his many crimes. Who calls him her ‘own darling’ and believes he can do no wrong. Jane’s troubles have clearly gone from bad to worse. We are compelled to stay with her, to find out what might be in store, though we have a nasty feeling already that it will not end well.

And of course, it doesn’t. Things become worse still. Jane is accused of starting the fight and on her aunt’s orders, the servants cart her away and lock her in for the night in the dreaded ‘Red Room’, a place Jane believes to be haunted by the ghost of her long-dead uncle. She falls down in a faint and ... Well, if you don’t know the story already, the author will surely have done more than enough by now to encourage you to read on.


I was lucky enough to have the chance to do my own
retelling of ‘Jane Eyre’ for schools

Jane Eyre was first published in 1847. It is a book of its time – the many credibility-stretching coincidences of plot, the unsympathetic portrayal of Mr Rochester’s mentally-ill wife, Bertha Mason, and the final third of the novel in which Jane comes perilously close to becoming the missionary wife of her devoutly religious cousin, St. John Rivers, are a serious test for our credulity and modern sensibilities. But all that withstanding, it is deservedly a classic, not least because of its brilliant opening pages, which for me, ensured that it did indeed have me at hello ...   

This week's YouTube writing challenge is available to watch here.

Ally Sherrick is the author of books full of history, mystery and adventure including Black Powder, winner of the Historical Association’s Young Quills Award 2017, The Buried Crown and Tudor-Set adventure, The Queen’s Fool. She is published by 
Chicken House Books and her books are widely available in bookshops and online. You can find out more about her and her books at and follow her on Twitter: @ally_sherrick

Ally's version of Jane Eyre is available to buy here.

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