Behind the Curtains: What Publishers Really Do

An awful lot of what publishers do for books, they do behind the scenes and prior to publication. Viking/Penguin  is going to publish A DANGEROUS FICTION in late July, and they are gearing up in all sorts of ways. I thought readers might be interested in a glimpse behind the curtain.

Editing: packaging is important, but you’ve got to deliver the goods. Good editing makes any book better and good books shine. Shortly after its acquisition by my delightful editor Tara Singh, A DANGEROUS FICTION underwent a series of first-class edits and emerged the better for it.

Cover: Positioning a book starts with a cover that conveys the message and ambience of the work. Because the cover is also a marketing tool, it exemplifies the approach of the publishers’ marketing plan. If the author and publisher are not on the same page, this is where the fissure usually appears first.

Viking’s cover, by London-based French artist Malika Favre was the most perfect face I could imagine for the book I wrote. If the tone of the book could be converted into a picture, that picture would be this cover. At this point in the process, I am feeling the love.



Blurbs: Many months before publication, copies of the manuscript were sent to writers who expressed a willingness to read and possibly write blurbs for the book. For me, this marked the first time this book had been read by anyone outside my agent, editors, and immediate family. One by one, reactions began to come in. I’m very grateful to the writers who took time from their own work to read A DANGEROUS FICTION, and I’m proud to share their comments with you now.

“A terrific read! A thriller with a psychological heart of mystery, a double-ended love story, and a fascinating look at the world of high-stakes publishing.”-Diana Gabaldon, New York Times bestselling author of Outlander and An Echo in the Bone

“Clearly, the most dangerous fictions are the ones we tell ourselves.” JA Jance, author of DEADLY STAKES and many other bestsellers

A Dangerous Fiction reads like a tell-all, inviting readers into the sleek, hallowed inner circle of literary Manhattan, then blowing that world apart with harrowing intrigue and a gripping mystery. Finally, as a bonus, Rogan offers a surprisingly sweet redemptive thread with which to stitch it all back together. A Dangerous Fiction blends deft prose with a pitch-perfect voice, and Barbara Rogan is a storyteller at the top of her game.”-Vicki Pettersson, author of Cheat the Grave and The Scent of Shadows

“Barbara Rogan knows the world of writers, agents, and editors, and in A Dangerous Fiction she offers a vivid inside look at both the glittering successes and the failures that breed feuds and obsession. As a stalker resorts to murder to destroy literary agent Jo Donovan’s life, readers will cast suspicious glances at everybody from a disgruntled former employee to a rejected writer to Jo’s most trusted friends. A Dangerous Fiction is great entertainment!”–Sandra Parshall, Agatha Award-winning author of the Rachel Goddard mysteries

“The backstabbing and cutthroat competition we imagine going on behind the scenes in publishing make it the perfect setting for murder, and Barbara Rogan has done it justice in A Dangerous Fiction. I loved every wickedly delicious page.”-Hallie Ephron, author of There Was an Old Woman

“Barbara Rogan’s A Dangerous Fiction positively drips with intrigue and delicious suspense.  I couldn’t put it down—and you won’t want to, either.”—Lorraine  Bartlett, author of the Victoria Square Mysteries.

“Rogan brings an insider’s keen view, pulling the reader into the New York publishing milieu with all of its jealousies, intrigue, excitement and larger-than-life personalities. At the heart of the story is a woman’s need to uncover the truths about her own life, even as she’s the target of malevolent foes she can’t identify. Danger, suspense, romance and the deep bonds of friendship–A Dangerous Fiction has it all. I couldn’t put it down!”-Darlene Marshall, author of Castaway Dreams


DickensI received a few other blurbs as well, from some Very Illustrious Writers, but for some reason my editor doesn’t want me to post them along with what she insists on calling “the real blurbs.” But you can read them anyway, right here.

Review Copies: Five months before publication, bound galleys are already out to long-lead reviewers. In a few months, the prepublication reviews – PW, Library Journal, Kirkus – will appear. I’m not thinking about that. Not a bit. Never read reviews. And if you believe that, I have a bridge that may interest you…


Sales and Marketing: I believe that the books are being sold into bookstores nationwide by the Viking’s terrific sales force even as I write this; so, being a somewhat superstitious person, I will say no more.

Online Marketing: Viking’s online marketing mavens have worked with me to help me improve my websites and FB author page, and to ease me onto Twitter, where I am known as @RoganBarbara–do look me up and say hi!   They’re patiently training an old dog new tricks, and I’m relieved to say they employ purely positive training techniques; not a whip in sight, no authors hurt in the production of this book.

Bookstore appearances, Book and Author Luncheons, conferences, etc.: These are already being scheduled, starting in July, for the New York area. I’m infinitely corruptible and shamefully approachable. If you have any offers, please direct them to Ben Petrone, Associate Director of Publicity at Viking.

The Readers’ Guide to A DANGEROUS FICTION has just gone live for use by book clubs and library reading groups. I think it’s terrific; it even taught me a few things about the book I didn’t know. Do have a look. I’m open to participating by phone or Skype in book club discussions of A DANGEROUS FICTION; just contact me at Barbara Rogan at Gmail dot COM.

So much of what publishers do is invisible and goes uncredited. I’d like to take this opportunity for a shout-out to the dedicated folks at Viking for their hard work and support. And next time someone asks, “What do publishers really do for writers?”, point them here.


A DANGEROUS FICTION is now available for pre-order;  and most vendors are offering early buyers  a 35% discount on the hardcover edition. While you’re waiting for that to arrive, my last three books, SUSPICION, HINDSIGHT, and ROWING IN EDEN,  have been reissued in ebook and paperback.


15 thoughts on “Behind the Curtains: What Publishers Really Do

    • Thanks, Tiffany, I can’t wait for it to come out. It’s sort of like being in the last months of a pregnancy…one that’s lasted a year. I saw that there’s already one review up on Goodreads–a very kind one, so I’m pleased about that; I just wonder how she read it. I guess, as the post said, copies really are circulating now.

  1. Great post. My editor decided my books were ready to go, but my agent’s assist is a marvelous editor. Grace Burrowes offered to do a cover comment, and I was so nervous she wouldn’t like the book, but she did and gave me some wonderful quotes. It was on Phoebe, now the Seduction of Lady Phoebe.

  2. Great post. My agent’s assist is a marvelous editor, so my editor at Kensington,decided my books were ready to go. Very scary.
    Grace Burrowes offered to do a cover comment, and I was so nervous she wouldn’t like the book, but she did and gave me some wonderful quotes. It was on Phoebe, now the Seduction of Lady Phoebe.

  3. Very valuable information–much of which I certainly didn’t know and I’m sure a lot of people who bash traditional publishers are ignorant of!

    One of the problems self-publishers face that has loomed large in my eyes that the process you describe finesses so smoothly is getting one’s books into libraries. I can’t tell you how many times I tell people about my books and hear — “I’ll look for it at my local library.” They don’t understand why my books are not in their local library. That problem was lessen in time, but right now it’s a major reason my plan is to try the old-fashioned t-p route for my next novel.

    • Peter, I’m so glad you raised that point, because after I posted I regretted not mentioning it myself. For most “midlist” writers–writers whose books sell, but not in bestselling numbers—the bulk of their sales has traditionally come from libraries. The fact that self-published writers don’t have access to that market is a real drawback to self-publishing, and one not often talked about.

      I’m not bashing self-publishing. It has useful applications already and will no doubt continue to develop. But right now, it’s a hard road for most writers.

  4. Good work on selling A Dangerous Fiction. I agree, the cover is a winner. My advice on Twitter: tweet about your insight into the publishing world, not about the novel per se. Maybe 1 in 20 tweets should be about yourself. However, your insider status gives you expertise and cred that most Twitterites don’t have. The key is to make your tweet stream a place to give (just like you do on your blog) and that’s the key. Just followed you to demonstrate #karma. Happy to answer any social media questions for the same reason 🙂

    • Thanks for the excellent advice, Cynthia, and the twitter follow. I will do my best! I have little tolerance for self-promotion in others—somehow it always seems so much less offensive when I do it. 😉 Readers, check out Cynthia’s website: chockful of smart networking advice.

  5. One of the reasons why I’d still like to go the traditional route…
    It’s hard to be told that our query letters have to read like back cover blurbs when there’s an entire staff waiting to write those blurbs for us! Though, of course, our sample pages should speak for themselves…
    But then there are agents and editors… Darn it! What if this is the best I can do and it’s not good enough?? (self-pity day)

    • It is really hard to frame a whole novel in a couple of compelling sentences, especially one that’s character-driven; and it’s hard that writers have to jump through so many hoops. But I think it’s like any apprenticeship in the arts, and the process makes us better writers. There’s no guarantee of success in the end, but I am certain of one thing–the more we write, the better we get. I just saw this graphically when I edited, for e-publication, a book I wrote over twenty years ago.

  6. Pingback: Diana Gabaldon Interview, Part I |

Your thoughts?