Event Report: Industry Insiders: How Does Your Book Get Onto Their Shelves?

Tales on Moon Lane
I had a lovely evening at independent bookshop Tales on Moon Lane last month in Herne Hill, south east London, venue and host of the first SCBWI Industry Insider event of the year. 
by Janey Robinson

Tamara Macfarlane set up Tales on Moon Lane thirteen years ago and joined the evening's panel alongside author Mo O'Hara ( My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish ), publishing director Bella Pearson ( David Fickling Books ) and author Clare Stanhope ( Brenda's Bottom and her Birds ).  We were welcomed by Mandy and Jess, SCBWI Industry Insider organisers, who led the panel. Here are the highlights:

 Once a book is ready, what happens next?

 Marketing and PR teams begin planning as soon as the publisher acquires the book. They want to form the idea early on of how the book will be pitched once launched. The book will be presented to bookshops and libraries. At David Fickling they present all of their books, as they're small enough to do so, a bigger publishing house will likely just take their shortlist. Waterstones have a lot of power and can influence a book cover change if they think the current one won't sell. 

How can an author influence promotion of their books? 

The first question Mo was asked by her publisher was “What connections do you have?” They also wanted to know what her profile was within SCBWI, did she have a blog, could she write articles, go on a road show, be put on a panel at events. There is a lot you can do, and will be expected to do, as the author. Bella admitted that an author shouldn't have to be all singing and dancing when it comes to promoting their book, but it makes a huge difference. You have to build your network including schools, bookshops, libraries, bloggers and book reviewers. Develop a workshop for children and put together your event profile, send this in paper format as emails often go unnoticed (check out The Society of Authors for rate guidelines). There is a lot of competition for author visits, particularly in London, so consider rural locations. Whilst workshops should focus on promoting reading, drawing and writing, you also want to sell some of your books. Remember kids and parents will forget to bring ​ money so either go back the next day or leave some books behind to ensure you don’t miss the opportunity.
Mo's first book, My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish.
 How is a bookshop involved in author publicity? 

Tamara runs festivals every half term that include author visits, promoting these to 7,000 children in her school's network. Schools are happy to send children home with a flyer. It takes a lot of prep work with schools; they need a long lead time. You want the kids to have done a lot of preps work themselves beforehand. Some schools will do a term's worth of work with your book in preparation. “We want to work with the authors we know are great at eventing,” Tamara. 
Tamara showing a cover (R) that Waterstones requested to change for a new cover (L)
How much say does the author have in the promotion plan? 

Bella noted that on the whole this is led by editorial. Then before anything goes public the sales and marketing team have final approval. Materials for workshops must only use approved copy and illustrations, and your agent approves all press copy. Once the press release goes out there’s no control on how that will be used or interpreted. 

 Who has a say in how bookshops display? 

How a book ends up on the shelf, a table or facing out, depends on the shop. Sometimes it's just about paying for position (WHSmith), other times it's what the bookshop loves and wants to promote - for instance if your book is featured in Waterstones, it's because they love your book - otherwise it's somewhere in between the two, and whether you or a fellow SCBWI does some opportune shelf shuffling. Tales on Moon Lane keep up to date on the key themes in publishing and are often guided by this when creating their window displays. They try to make the displays as inclusive as possible and change them constantly, often working directly with authors and illustrators. The window needs to be visually appealing to draw children in. 
The Panel, from left to right_ Clare, Tamara, Mo and Bella

The launch of Can’t Put It Down 

Finally we learned about Tamara and Clare’s new project cantputitdown.co.uk . Launched on the night this new platform is for independently published authors and small independent book publishers. The aim is to give readers a greater range of diverse and inclusive books, alongside a fairer deal for independently published authors and small independent publishers. Find out more and follow on Facebook and Twitter as they begin to grow this network and community.​ It was an enlightening evening book ended by wine and snacks in the private garden. Cocooned by children’s titles most of us left with a new book, it was impossible not to reach for those shelves that now symbolised so much hard work. For more information on the SCBWI Industry Insiders event series click here

Janey Robinson spent fifteen years writing poetry and short stories before becoming an aunt, four times, reawakening her love for the books of her childhood. She is currently working on fiction and nonfiction picture book texts with human nature at their heart. She joined SCBWI in 2015 and volunteers to help organise their London events. Janey lives with her husband Tom in Notting Hill and is pregnant with their first child.


  1. Victoria Woolfe28 July 2016 at 17:52

    Hey, this is great, thank you!

  2. Thanks for this Janey, I love getting info on events I can't reach here in Bristol. :)


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