The Publishing Process: Producing a Sample of a Chick-Lit Novel

Unlocking JulietteOn my publishing course at the University of Stirling, my big end-of-year project was to produce a sample of a book. I acquired the first two chapters of Jackie Lambert’s chick-lit novel, Unlocking Juliette, and over the course of nine months I illustrated and designed the cover, copyedited and typeset the text, researched the target market and devised a marketing campaign, and worked with printers to produce a sample publication. This project taught me how to take a project through from conceptualization to completion, and even though I felt daunted and frustrated at times, the process ended up being extremely rewarding and now I have a sample product that I am very proud of.


Here are some of the highlights of my publishing process for Unlocking Juliette:

  • I managed a working relationship with an author.
  • I learned how to use new computer software including Adobe InDesign and Illustrator.
  • I gained experience in copyediting and typesetting.
  • I developed a cover designed for a researched target market.
  • I worked with a printing company to produce a final product.


I contacted Jackie Lambert, my sister, about providing the content for this project because I had read a sample of Unlocking Juliette and knew that it would have a ready audience in the UK as a chick-lit title. Working with Lambert was extremely easy because she is a fantastic writer and was easy to keep in contact with throughout the process. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from this project is that maintaining contact with your author is crucial for creating a smooth process through the copyediting, design and production stages.


Using Word’s “Track Changes” feature, I fixed small grammatical errors in the text and queried the author regarding inconsistencies in the content. After copyediting, I prepared the Word document for streamlined importation into InDesign by adding character styles in Word and using the “Find & Replace” tool to get rid of unwanted spaces or line breaks before I migrated the text to InDesign. This was a very straightforward and easy process because my author was exceptionally easy to work with, but I noted that another author might need very clearly stated expectations about how this process works and when to meet deadlines – each author has their individual and unique ways of working and communicating, and it is up to the editor to determine the best way to collaborate with that author.

Cover Design

I conceptualized, illustrated, and digitally rendered the images using Adobe Illustrator Choosing the right fonts, colours and sizes was extremely difficult, but overall I am very pleased with the final design. I wanted the cover to be identifiably chick-lit without being too stereotypically feminine (ie shopping bags and bright pink colours). I also wanted to subtly identify Edinburgh as the unique locale for this book without suggesting the novel is exclusively Scottish. From the design process, I learned how challenging it is to convey the correct tone and setting for the target market using only the space allowed on the front and back cover.

Unlocking Juliette Cover Design


Although you may not think so by looking at it, typesetting a text-only publication is actually a very difficult process. There are many decisions you have to make including font size, grid lines, margins, and format size. I started out with a B-format paperback but ended up having to redo my entire typeset when I decided an A-format would be more suitable for this type of publication. Using Tracking, I also worked diligently to make sure there were no “widows or orphans” in the text; this turned out to be quite time-consuming and I can only imagine how much work must go into typesetting a complete novel.


Upon conducting my market research, I looked into consumer purchasing trends, chick-lit sales trends, marketing campaigns run by other publishers for chick-lit/romance titles, readership attitudes, and typical competitor pricing to determine how to position Unlocking Juliette within such a competitive, yet popular, genre. In order to distinguish Unlocking Juliette from its chick-lit peers, I determined to set a low RRP, give it a marketable cover that featured its uniquely Scottish setting, and to choose a publication date near the start of summer to attract consumers looking for holiday reading material. In my marketing plan, I devised a strategy for generating a substantial amount of first print-run sales while launching Lambert’s career in contemporary romance fiction. The marketing mix included building a social media presence, attending literary romance festivals, using a pull strategy on readers by obtaining reviews from a variety of sources, and using a push strategy on retailers by highlighting the title’s features and benefits in the summer catalogue.

Final Production

My publishing dummy’s greatest strengths are solid copyediting and typesetting along with content that has a viable place in the chick-lit market while its weaknesses include novice design mistakes and an inconsistent print job. Overall, I am very pleased with the production and design services I have provided for my author’s exceptional story.


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