The popular image of a writer is of someone who works in solitude, perhaps in a study, the French doors opening onto a well-kept lawn. Or maybe in a cold garret scribbling away with a fountain pen, the ink freezing in the nib, fingerless gloves covering chilblains. Or even in coffee shop, eking out a cappuccino over three hours and bashing at a laptop. Wherever this writer works, they do so alone – just them and their carefully crafted words.
But that’s not how an author works.
In my experience, creating books is a team sport. A few days ago, Nicola Morgan wondered who it was we write for, ourselves, or an Ideal Reader. I’d suggest that those are only two options in a team of many. To use a rugby metaphor, it’s like asking whether the game was won by the fly half or the second row; not only does it ignore the answer ‘both’, it ignores the rest of the team. So, to continue my dubious metaphor, I’m going to share my publishing rugby team with you.
The Second Row, or The Copy Editor. They stand tall, they’re highly skilled and they work hard for team glory above personal pride.
The Flankers, your Art and Design Team. They give the book visual flair and lift. And if Waterstones don’t like the cover, they’ll go back to the drawing board. They’ll take the most painful tackles with a smile.
The Number Eight, otherwise known as Booksellers and Librarians. The hidden force behind the attack. Their support can make or break a career.
The Scrum Half, this is The Author. Smaller, nimbler, full of ideas. Puts the spark in the rest of the team.
The Fly Half, alias The Editor. The key decision maker, usually scores with the boot.
The Wings, also called The Marketing and PR Dept. Speedy, with an eye for the main chance.
The Centres, or Other Writers. The centres will rally in attack and support in defence, just as your colleagues will when you really need it.
The Fullback, your stalwart, The Agent. The last line of defence when everyone else is losing their heads
And what is this team aiming for? The Try Line, or, in other words, Readers.
When you write, you’re writing for all of these people. The ideal book will speak to each of them. This isn’t easy to pull-off. It needs a dollop of luck as well as practice and good judgement. But if you do get the whole team pulling in the same direction then you might just have a winner on your hands.
And for those for whom the start of winter means that the Six Nations isn’t that far away: