Bitter Orange is Published in the UK



My third novel, Bitter Orange was published in the UK last week. It was a crazy and exciting week, with a launch in London at Waterstones Covent Garden (they have lots of signed copies), and another in my home town of Winchester. I also went on a walk around London signing copies in other bookshops including Daunts, Heywood Hill, and Hatchards. It was hot! DSCF9056

The book has been getting great reviews:

“Fuller is an accomplished and serious writer who has the ability to implant interesting psychological dimensions into plotty, pacy narratives.” The Observer

“It is rare for me to put down a novel and then immediately consider rereading it to see what cleverness I might have missed. This time, though, I am tempted.” The Sunday Times

“Fuller is a master at summoning the atmosphere of a heady, hot summer, that thrums with tension.” Stylist Magazine

HatchardsRead more reviews here.

Bitter Orange has been longlisted for The Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize. Which books are shortlisted depends on a public vote. If you’d like to vote for Bitter Orange, you can do that here. (And thank you!). Voting can be from anyone anywhere in the world, and closes at midnight on 6th August (UK time).

If you’d like to buy a copy of Bitter Orange it’s available in most UK bookshops now, or online as an audio, e-book, and hardback. Click here to see options.


Bitter Orange UK Cover Reveal

Bitter Orange jacket: Oranges and dark leaves, with smashed plate

I’m very excited to be able to let you see the UK cover design for Bitter Orange. The book will be published by Fig Tree, an imprint of Penguin on 2nd August. I absolutely love the oranges design and the broken plate (very relevant to the story), but I’d really like to know what you think. I’m also very grateful to Gabriel Tallent (author of My Absolute Darling), for his wonderful quote.

The book is already available to pre-order from your friendly local independent book shop, or from those online places (you know where).

Here’s the jacket copy for the proof (the final wording is likely to change)

Description of what Bitter Orange is about.

If you’d like to see what the US cover will be, click here.


UK Paperback of Swimming Lessons Published Today

SL Paperback

Today the paperback version of Swimming Lessons is published in the UK by Penguin. If you’d like to win one of two copies head over to my Instagram account: @writerclairefuller to find out how to enter.

If you’re thinking about what book to read next, and you’re considering reading Swimming Lessons in your book group, get in touch if you would like some questions to help get the discussion started.

And if you’ve already read Swimming Lessons and enjoyed it, please do tell your friends, or leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Thank you!



I have been busy doing events and signing copies of my second novel, Swimming Lessons. There are signed books in New York, and Philadelphia, and many in bookshops in the UK. One of the themes of the novel is the things that people leave behind in books, and so in the books I’ve been signing I’ve also inserted a piece of ephemera – a receipt, an old letter, a photograph. My friend, Bridget said it would be nice to have a place where I can show some of the things that readers find. So, here is that page.  Continue reading

Publishing Interviews: The Publicist


This is the last in my series of publishing interviews. I’ve discovered so many things about how this world works including answers from a publishing director, to an art director to a literary agent, and many roles in between. And of course there are a lot more people who help get a book written, published and on the shelves that I haven’t managed to talk to: booksellers, writing course teachers, sales reps, editorial assistants, and many more. But I need to take a break because I have lots of Swimming Lessons events coming up; if there are any roles in particular you would like me to interview, just drop me a line, or comment below, and I’ll store up the suggestions for later in the year.

Continue reading

Publishing Interviews: The Publishing Director


Time for the third interview in my series where I talk to people from the publishing industry. I’ve already asked a reader in a literary agency, and a literary agent about their jobs, and in the coming weeks I’ll be speaking to editors, designers, publicists, sales people and many others. This week I’ve interviewed Juliet Annan, Publishing Director at Fig Tree, an imprint of Penguin. (Juliet is my editor, and Fig Tree / Penguin publishes my books.)


Claire: Hello Juliet. When I tell people my books are published by Fig Tree, an imprint of Penguin, they don’t always understand how that works. As Publishing Director at Fig Tree, can you explain what your role is and how Fig Tree works within Penguin?

Juliet: I started a small hardcover imprint at Penguin ten years ago. I publish fiction and non fiction – some memoir, history and art history, some weird off beat self-help, and a few cookery books each year. I choose, edit and look after all the books I publish, shaping them and chivvying them through design, marketing, publicity and sales: the joy of having a small imprint is that it allows a control freak like me to do everything, while being able to rely on the might of Penguin to get them out into the world. Some of the books I publish each year are Fig Tree hardbacks, some the Penguin paperback edition of the hardback I published in the previous year, some of them are original Penguins – i.e. only published in one paperback edition.

Claire: Can you give a flavour of a day in the working life of Juliet Annan?

Juliet: I cycle to work – this is really important as this is the half hour a day where I really think in an off-the-wall creative way. As soon as I am in the office I deal with tons of things: email, I write and edit jacket and catalogue copy, talk to writers and agents, talk to sales people, publicists and marketing people who are working on my books, try to buy some books (if there is anything I want to buy – rare!), and edit my books. We work open plan and it’s noisy, but I don’t find it difficult to concentrate. There are the minimum of meetings at Penguin – really cover art and acquisition meetings are the only weekly ones.  But I may be meeting an author or an agent. The one thing I don’t do at work is read new material – you need to be lying down for that, I find, so it’s better at home.

C: Reading lying down is always good.img_4309

J: Sofa is best.

C: So, how did you get into this role?

J: I have been in publishing all my working life. I started as a book publicist in the UK in my early twenties and then moved to the USA, then moved back to England and into rights, then was invited to run a large imprint here at Penguin, before setting up Fig Tree ten years ago. But this is my dream job – I work with one other editor, so all my time is taken up not with managing upwards or downwards, but just picking, editing and publishing the books Fig Tree has.

C: And what part of all those things do you like the best? And why?

J: I like success! I get an incredible high when positive things happen: I love winning an auction; taking delivery of a non fiction book and finding it is BETTER than the outline on which I bought it;  seeing my books take off and sell; seeing the writers I publish get sublime reviews or win prizes. All the little things that happen, building toward publication are exciting: arriving at a cover look everyone likes; getting a quote from a well-known author; persuading BBC Radio 4 to take a book for Book of The Week. Perhaps the most exciting thing of all is spotting new talent: reading a novel and falling in love with it, getting that buzz that yes, this book is different. But then you’ve still got to successfully buy it and see off the competition.

C: And what do you like the least about what you do?

J: All of the above in reverse. Plus: turning down the new book by a writer you already publish.

C: Can we talk about the editing part of your role? How much much hands-on editing do you do?

J: I do more editing than when I was a publisher of a large imprint. I love it, to get into the guts of a book is fascinating, and to talk to the writer and simply help them express themselves better, get across the heart of the book in a more succinct and eloquent way, is so rewarding. I didn’t read English at university which means I don’t come at editing in a lit-crit way (which I think is an advantage). After twenty years doing it, I am definitely a better editor than when I started, and I have more time to do it, too.

figtree-logoC: I know you don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts from authors, only via literary agents. Can you tell me roughly how many you receive?

J: I can tell you exactly – 256 a year! We keep a log, and amazingly  it was the same figure two years in a row in 2014 to 2015.

C: And how many of those do you read?

J: The editor I work with and I read all of those 256. Or at least a part of all 256. And then I make an offer for about 10. And we publish about ten hardbacks and ten paperbacks a year, and everything as an e book too.

C: What are you looking for when you read a manuscript?

J: To be surprised.

C: You mentioned earlier, that you publish non fiction too, such as cookery. Does the acquisition process work same way with these, or do you see a proposal first?

J: With almost all non fiction, whether cookery or any other area, we buy on proposal. But sometimes – and this is exciting – we have actual ideas for books, seek out potential writers, have discussions with them and then offer.

C: Once you read a novel or non fiction book that you’d like to make an offer on, what then? Unpublished authors are often told that editors have to convince the sales team in the publishing house that a particular manuscript is worth buying. How does it work at Fig Tree / Penguin?

J: All publishing jobs are about selling. While ultimately what we buy is an editorial decision, I much prefer to buy projects where I have got everyone on side. So I ‘sell’ a new project to all my colleagues: it’s good practice because it forces you to think about how you would sell a particular book not just to your colleagues but also to the consumer.

C: Can we go back to editing for a moment. Tell me about the actual editing you do with your authors? How does it work?

J: I read a physical print out of a manuscript (probably for the second time, if I have read it before acquisition) and make notes on the page. Then I make those changes as track changes and comments on Word at my computer: that gives me the opportunity to read the manuscript a third time, and refine and elaborate on my scribbles. I write what I call big notes separately – things that can’t be addressed on the page – bigger issues like character, or narrative arc, or plot detail (although I pick these up on the track changes too).

C: Can you give an example of when it works well, and when it doesn’t?

J: It works well when the writer is open to change and improvement. Most writers are. It doesn’t when the writer won’t make the changes you suggested, or works on it but doesn’t make enough or makes too many changes; or, an increasing problem in our industry, when there are several editors (US, Canadian and UK) all simultaneously making comments. I think that’s insane for the poor writer… but some writers (ahem, Claire) actually like that.

C: Well, I’m not sure I like the juggling of working with three editors at once, but I do love having my work edited, and then making those changes – or sometimes rejecting them.

C: And finally, what’s it like when a book you’ve bought and edited is published? Does it feel like your project?

J: If you love your writers and their books, (and I do) yes, totally!

C: Thanks so much for these fascinating answers, Juliet. I’m off now to lie on my sofa for a while…


I’d love to hear what you think of these publishing interviews. Is there any particular role you’d like to read about?

Read myinterview with a Reader in a literary agency
Read my interview with a Literary Agent
Read my interview with an Art Director at Tin House
Read my interview with a Foreign Rights Agent in a literary agency
Read my interview with an Editor at Tin House
Read my interview with a Translator


 Swimming LessonsMy second novel, Swimming Lessons, will be published in January 2017 in the UK, and Canada, and February 2017 in the USA. Click on the country links to pre-order.

To stet or not to stet


I read an article recently in The Guardian about how the UK and US versions of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell have large sections which are different to each other.  Mitchell is quoted as saying he ‘didn’t go to the trouble of making sure that the American changes were applied to the British version (which was entering production by that point probably) and vice versa’.  To be honest I wasn’t that surprised.

I have just come to the end of about four months of checking copy edits and making proofreading decisions for my novel, Swimming Lessons which will be published early in 2017. The work calls for precision, meticulousness and reading the whole book somewhere between ten and twenty times, and that’s after the main edits have been signed off.

For me, the issue is complicated because I have different publishers in both countries: Fig Tree, an imprint of Penguin in the UK, and Tin House in the US. And both publishers have their own schedules, their own ways of doing things, their own style guides.

Juliet Annan, my editor at Fig Tree, passes copy editing and proofreading management to a Penguin Editorial Manager, while at Tin House, this process is managed by my editor, Masie Cochran (although both publishing houses use an external copy editor and proof readers).

Fig Tree bought Swimming Lessons first and consequently its publishing process started and ended sooner than Tin House’s, which meant that I wasn’t able to work on the text for both countries at the same time.

You might think copy editing and proofreading would be as simple as checking for errors and changing British English spelling and phrases to US English spelling and phrases. But writing and editing books is never that easy. Swimming Lessons is set in England, and I am an English author, so quite rightly Masie didn’t think for example that ‘pavement’ should be changed to ‘sidewalk’, or even ‘colour’ to ‘color’. (Although a fellow author who wrote a book set in England told me that her US editor did want her to change ‘pound’ to ‘dollar’. She resisted.)

This is the process:

  1. I work with my editors to make the book as good as it can be in terms of structure, plot, character; all those things that make a novel a novel
  2. The manuscript is sent to a copy editor who feeds back changes which I work on or reject (with the editor getting involved in major decisions)
  3. The manuscript is laid out as a book
  4. The book is sent to two proof readers
  5. The copy editor (in the UK) or Masie (in the US) checks the proof readers’ changes
  6. I’m sent a print out of the book on A4 paper (UK), or a pdf (US)
  7. I accept or reject the proof readers’ changes (involving the copy editor or Masie in any large decisions) either actually on the page, or in a Word document

As I write this list of actions, it still sounds simple. But there are up to 10 changes per uk-proofreading-picpage in a novel that’s approximately 307 pages long, with over 86,000 words. And the changes made by the UK will often be completely different to those made by the US.

And because of the different publishing schedules, I don’t work on just one document for both countries; I work on two. The UK copy editing and proofreading changes for Swimming Lessons were finished and approved (or not) by me a few months ago, while I finished the work for Tin House earlier this week. Penguin’s copy is ready to go to print. It is up to me to decide which of the changes we incorporated in the UK version should get transferred to the Tin House copy and vice versa. Of course, it’s easy with spelling mistakes and major inconsistencies, but what about the grammar? Commas go in, and commas come out; colons change to semicolons and back again; speech marks are double or single, titles of books are italicised or they’re not…

But it’s also not just up to me. There are the style-guides to remember. These are documents the publishing houses use to create consistency across their own books. Interestingly, Penguin’s style-guide even for UK books mandates the use of z’s: realize, recognize, authorize. But because Masie and I decided that Swimming Lessons is an English book by an English author, we’ve used realise, recognise and authorise. So oddly, the book will have some US spelling in the British version, and some UK spelling in the American version.

The copy editor and proof readers at Tin House also use the Merriam-Webster dictionary for clarification. So, the UK version will have ‘sing-song’, whereas for the US version Merriam-Webster suggests ‘singsong’; and it’s up to me whether to agree that change or not. What about ‘candlestick maker’ or ‘candlestickmaker’, ‘mid-sentence’ or ‘midsentence’, ‘fish-like’ or ‘fishlike’? And on and on.

Luckily I enjoy dealing with this level of detail. (I prefer editing to writing a first draft.) But my spelling and knowledge of grammar is poor. When I’m deciding what changes to accept and which to reject, or ‘stet’, I try to consider clarity, consistency, syntax, (my) style, and rhythm before I think about whether the grammar is correct. (I rejected every ‘whom’ where it would have been technically correct in favour of the ‘who’ that I wrote.) And my overall objective when we’re down this deep in the text is to create words, and sentences and paragraphs that keep the reader reading.

If you’re a writer, let me know how copy editing and proofreading works for you, and if you’re a reader, did you know this already? I’d love to hear what you think.

But if you do read Swimming Lessons when it’s published and you spot any typos or grammatical errors, actually I don’t want to know.


Revealing the Cover Design for Swimming Lessons

I’ve reached one of the most exciting parts of having a book published – revealing the covers. I’ve known about them for some time, and I’m absolutely delighted with how they look. Here are the UK, US and Canadian covers for my second novel, Swimming Lessons. The original US jacket (on the right) was designed by Diane Chonette, the Art Director at Tin House (my US publisher).

My Canadian publisher (House of Anansi) has decided to use Tin House’s cover as it stands, while Fig Tree / Penguin in the UK has decided to tweak it a little (on the left). I love both of them.

The novel will be published late January / early Feb 2017, and you can read what it’s about here.

And although it’s still many months until publication, you can already pre-order it on Amazon: UK, US and Canada. Or you could wait and buy it from your lovely local independent bookshop.

I’d love to know what you think. Do leave me a comment.



Some things I’ve learned in my year of being published

DSCF4159A year ago today, my debut novel, Our Endless Numbered Days was published by Fig Tree, an imprint of Penguin. Many things have happened since then which I could never have imagined – my book won the 2015 Desmond Elliott Prize for debut fiction, was published in nine territories around the world (with a few more to come), and was selected for both the Waterstones, and Richard & Judy book clubs. But it’s not just the (mostly) great reception that the book has received which has amazed me, but the things I’ve learned along the way – some good, some not so good. Here they are in no particular order.

Good: People

The Prime Writers

The Prime Writers

This has to be the biggest and best thing that having my novel published has brought me – meeting others who love books. The list of these lovely people is enormous, but includes other writers especially The Prime Writers, The Taverners and the Friday Fictioneers; Book bloggers; Editors and publicists; My literary agent and foreign rights agent; and many many booksellers. But perhaps most lovely of all are readers. Those who have turned up to events, those who chat about books on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and those who have sent me messages.

Not so Good: Self-Comparison

Writers don’t talk publicly about this, but I’ve had enough whispered conversations to know everyone feels it: ‘Why is that book being promoted over mine?’ ‘How is that book doing so well?’ ‘Why him? Why her?’ And then we turn to face the crowd, sip our wine and smile. We barely even admit these feelings to ourselves, perhaps with good reason – they’re negative and can easily send us into a downward spiral, but I suspect all writers suffer from them. There’s always going to be writers many rungs above me on the publishing ladder, and sometimes they might have written a book that I think wasn’t very good, didn’t deserve the awards, the shortlisting, the publicity money allocated it.

I am learning to switch off self-comparison, but it’s something I have to work at, especially when I see particular books all over social media. But of course I’m certain some writers will be thinking this about me and my book. One way I’ve found that helps overcome it is to talk publicly about the books I do love, especially those I think should have won the award, should have been shortlisted, or had more promotion.

Good: Getting out there

Talking with Rowan Pelling

Talking with Rowan Pelling at The Curious Arts Festival

In the year since Our Endless Numbered Days was published I’ve done nearly seventy events – literary festivals, university talks, book club appearances, and more. And all of them because I wanted to. Before I sat on stage at my first ever event at Cheltenham Literature Festival I didn’t know I could do public speaking, and had no idea I would actually come to enjoy it.

Not so good: Learning how books are promoted

Before I my book was published, and I was just a reader, if I thought about it at all, I would have assumed that good books simply get found by readers, and that bestsellers are discovered, not created. The reality isn’t quite so simple. There’s some luck involved, and some passion, but also an awful lot of business. It never occurred to me that books get reviews, get talked about, get promotions, and posters (mine included) because the publisher has chosen to invest in that book. And they’re probably investing in it because they’ve paid quite a lot for it.

Putting this under ‘not so good’, perhaps isn’t quite right. Promotion and marketing isn’t aren’t bad things, I’ve just had my eyes opened to how they work, and why some books get to the top of the pile.

Good: Writing

In this year I’ve learnt a lot more about what I like about my own writing (I don’t like to do it, I prefer editing), what I like to write about (I keep an on-going list of my favourite things), how I write (better with deadlines). And I’ve learnt the absolute pleasure of doing this for a living.

Not so Good: Something for nothing

This is a debate that still has a long way to run. Of the nearly seventy events I’ve done in the past year, I was only paid for about five of them. Of course I could have said no – I chose to go, unpaid. I haven’t counted up the exact number of interviews, articles and short stories I’ve written in this year (I reckon it must be about forty), and again the majority were unpaid. It’s promotion, right? Yes, of course, but some of those literary events, newspapers and magazines charge their readers and have decided for commercial reasons not to pay the people who provide the content.

Good and bad: reviews

There’s no point in writing a book that doesn’t get read. And not all readers are going to like the same book. But a novel is a creative thing that comes from inside the writer, and it’s difficult when something you’ve worked so hard on is criticised without thought. I read all my reviews and I don’t engage. I might, however, shout at the screen a bit, and then go and read a good one.

Good: Some wonderful moments

There have been lots of amazing moments in this year. Here are a few of them:

  • I still haven’t seen someone I don’t know reading my book, but during some hovering in a bookshop (as you do when you’re an author), I did see a stranger pick up a copy, read the back and buy it.
  • Hearing the announcement in a crowded room at the top of Fortnum andDE3 Mason that Our Endless Numbered Days had won the Desmond Elliott Prize
  • Watching a couple of teenage boys holding hands under the desk at a sixth form college event I was speaking at. (They didn’t know I could see.)
  • Finding the courage to go and say hello to David Vann (Legend of a Suicide), one of my literary heroes, at an event in Oxford, and before I could speak, him holding out his hand and saying, ‘You’re Claire Fuller, aren’t you?’

It has been a momentous year. Next year please can I have more of the same, and yes, I’m happy to take both the good and the not so good.


Swimming Lessons to be published by Fig Tree / Penguin


I’m so delighted and excited to be able to announce that Fig Tree (part of Penguin Books UK) has bought the UK and Commonwealth rights to my second book, Swimming Lessons.

It is the story of Ingrid Coleman who writes letters to her husband, Gil about the truth of their marriage, but decides not to send them. Instead she hides them within the thousands of books her husband has collected. After she writes her final letter, Ingrid disappears from an English beach. Twelve years later, her adult daughter, Flora comes home after Gil says he has spotted Ingrid through a bookshop window. Flora, who has existed in a limbo of hope and grief, imagination and fact, wants answers, but doesn’t realise that what she’s looking for is hidden in the books that surround her.

I’m not yet sure of the exact publication date, but it is likely to be early 2017.

To keep up to date with publication news, events and other writing things, you can sign up to my newsletter here.