One moment, one morning, a photographer called Maddie, who lived by the sea in Vancouver, was drinking tea, when she noticed her tea always smelt of the sea. This set her thinking. So she fetched her teacups from her kitchen – she had some pretty vintage ones – and put them one atop the other, on a piece of drift wood she found on the beach. It was blustery and wet, and she kept getting seaweed in the cups and raindrops on the lens, but she knew this shot was special, and decided it had to be taken no matter what.
Meanwhile, another moment another morning, in Brighton, England, a writer called Sarah had finished a novel. It told of a man who died unexpectedly on a train, and the effect on three women – his wife, a friend, and a stranger. It explored grief, and talked of addiction and female sexuality, pulled together by the overarching theme of friendship. She’d set the book in her hometown, by the sea. She’d pushed herself too, and thought it better than anything she’d written before, and she sent her manuscript off to her agents, Vivien and Gaia. They liked it very much, and sent it to several publishers.
Imagine Sarah’s intense disappointment when, one by one, the publishers said that whilst they liked the story, they couldn’t see how to market it. It fell into no specific camp, they protested; it wasn’t chick lit, because it dealt with difficult subjects, yet the writing style was accessible, like commercial fiction. Sarah was frustrated, as she was convinced readers would connect with the book for those reasons. And as she’d worked in marketing herself, she felt she had some insight into what might be saleable.
However, one moment one morning, Sam, an editor at Picador in London, read the manuscript. She saw the potential and wanted to buy the book. But then all the people she needed to sign it off left the publishing house, and she couldn’t make an offer. For several months Sam and Sarah waited patiently (or in Sarah’s case impatiently) until a new publisher arrived, Paul. No sooner had Paul sat at his desk on his first morning than Sam rushed in clutching the manuscript, saying she wanted to publish this book. Paul liked it too, and signed it off straight away.
Picador set about releasing the novel as a Trade Paperback. Still, they were perplexed how to market it. In particular, they struggled with a cover. They didn’t want people to think it was too light, and were keen for reviews in prestigious publications, so opted for a serious interpretation – an image of a train station. Sarah expressed minor reservations to Sam, but had no better ideas. Above all she was happy her book was being published and might get reviewed by prestigious publications.
Over in Germany, thanks to agents Vivien and Gaia, another editor, Iris, was publishing Sarah’s novel, in translation. She too was pondering the cover, when one moment, one morning, a picture from a photo library landed on her desk, of teacups in the rain. And it was so beautiful and emotive that intuitively Iris knew it was perfect. So she emailed Sarah the jacket, and when Sarah saw this version, she gasped with pleasure.
Back in the UK, by now Picador were looking for an image for the Mass Market Paperback version of the book. Sam showed Sarah one idea, but Sarah didn’t feel it was right, so Sarah showed Sam the German cover, and suggested maybe they use that. And Sam talked to her colleagues, and Sarah talked to Vivien and Gaia, and they all agreed the image was perfect, so they decided to use it. By now the book had some very pleasing reviews from prestigious publications, so these were included too.
And so the novel went into bookshops across the land, and far and wide people saw it and liked the teacups as much as Iris, Sarah, Sam, Paul, Vivien, and Gaia. People picked up the book, read the pleasing reviews and decided to buy it. And when they’d finished the book, many of them told their friends about it, and their friends liked the cover and read it too. And as more people bought the book, so the displays got bigger and there were more teacups on shelves in shops across the land.
And Sarah remembered all those publishers who’d said they didn’t know how to market it, and (if truth be told) she clapped her hands in glee.
Then she remembered there was someone she should thank for helping make her novel a success. So she flipped the cover over and found, in very small letters, the name Madelyn Mulvaney, and typed the name into Google.
As if by magic, Maddie’s website came up straight away, so she sent Maddie an email saying what had happened and that her photo was on a bestseller in England…
And they have been corresponding happily ever since.
Sarah Rayner was born in London. She spent her childhood in Richmond, Surrey, then became a punk, spiked her hair and went to university in Yorkshire to study English and get chilblains. She returned to London in the late ’80s, flattened her hair and worked in fashion PR for a bit, before her boss told her she was better at writing than schmoozing clients, and suggested she become an advertising copywriter. She took the hint, and after ten years in various London agencies turned freelance, got some short stories published by Woman’s Own, and for many years combined life as an author and copywriter.
She’s written four novels, The Other Half and Getting Even, which were published by Orion in the early noughties, but it was her third novel, One Moment, One Morning, that proved her ‘breakthrough’ and has now sold nearly 250,000 copies in the UK and been translated into eleven languages.
Find out more about Sarah at thecreativepumpkin.com.