Yep, I thought I should write up a little on the latest SCWBI meeting I attended a couple of weekends ago. I was meeting again with my new 12×12 writing buddies. Kim came up from down country (a two hour drive) to my place and we took off and met Allie at the library where the meeting was held after a coffee. The quest speaker was Katie Haworth, editor of Publishing house, Penguin New Zealand.
Before our quest arrived Francis had a couple of things to share with us, one being that American writer Marion Dyson was going to be here in New Zealand in late January, giving a talk in Wellington, and on her way home via Auckland, Francis was organising an afternoon get together for us to meet her. Another interesting titbit was an article in the SCBWI’s latest newsletter on preparing for your school visits. Sending an old school photo of yourself and getting the kids interest in trying to guess which one is you, a unique idea.
Katie commissions for Penguin Publishing NZ an imprint under Puffin. Appearing younger than her vast experience and no-nonsense approach to her work, I was very aware that editors do have their preferences, and while it may appear harsh or sad to have to say no to an author’s work, they do have limitations and expectations to adhere to, and there is a very small margin for publishing of new works, both children and adult here in New Zealand. Out of fifteen hundred children’s manuscript submissions per year, roughly five picture books are published per year, maybe two to three junior fiction and one to two YA with somewhere out of this one to two of these authors will be new authors. While I was sure others gulped as I did, Katie ensured us that editors are always on the lookout for writers, with that special story. That special something that grabbed your attention, was fun, had an unexpected twist. “Make your story entertaining, after all this is an entertainment business you are in” was a constant message she brought to this meeting. What surprised me was hearing her mention that a story did not necessarily have to have a moral. If the first sentence does not grab us, let’s face it, with fifteen hundred manuscripts we will not look past the first page. Katie shared with us some tips on the dos and don’ts in attracting an editor’s attention.
– Synopsis- to be edgy, interesting, funny, with no spelling mistakes. Make no mistake it is an art.
– First paragraph – no clichés, and there is more ways to write raven black hair.., must hook.
– Writer – where they want to go in their career, have to emerge from behind book and prepare to sell.
– Be passionate about your book.
– Kiwiana is good. Maori works is popular in German market. So know your market.
– Look to trends –i.e.… kids ten to eleven years have strong moral values, take conflict, don’t be soft, good concept, language over plot. Also watch for topic, remembering by the time the book is out trends change.
– Let publishers know where you want to go. I.e. YA writing or MG etc…
– Like acting you will get typecast. Prepare.
First print is usually two to three thousand copies. They also do approach offshore, such as USA, Australia and English market.
When asked what length of time from submission to publication Katie mentioned with YA it could be as soon as six months otherwise longer. For picture books however, it could be 12 months before approach to an illustrator, then again to final draft ready for publication.
It is a long road but a worthy one if your book is the $50,000 manuscript they are looking for.
It was a very interesting and informative afternoon and I enjoyed catching up with my 12×12 writing buddies. I had to admire Kim when I asked about her work. She has sent it out to a couple of editors and received rejection letters. “Yes!” she said with such enthusiastic joy and beaming from ear to ear. Her wonderful approach to at least getting her work out and doing something about it was infectious. I must interview her one day so you too can enjoy her positive attitude in this writing journey we are on.
Oh and one more thing. When the three of us were talking to Francis later, she was delighted to hear we were involved in a writing group getting that encouragement, and working together on our manuscripts, critiquing, revising, and perfecting them as best we can, before sending them out. Something that is music to an agent’s ear…..
Lots of wonderful insight! I love this post. Kim has it right. Nothing will get published inside the computer. Get it ready and get it out there. Give it a chance!!
Thankyou Genevieve. Kim certainly has the right approach. When I get my first rejection letter, before I open it I am going to give her a call, so we can both scream with delight….lol.
Thanks for sharing, Diane! I like that quote that writing is an entertainment business! How neat you were able to meet with this editor!
Hi Tina, yes Katie said some surprising things and I supose when you look at it, it is an entertainment business. Yes I am lucky that we get to meet some amazing people and being such a small group, it allows us to get up close and personal. This was an interesting meeting alright.
Cool! The tips are helpful. 😀
Glad you found this post helpful Erik. I try to share what I learn. Thanks for stopping by.
What a lot of great tips! The statistics are a little daunting (the same picture as here in Canada) but the advice is so helpful. And the suggestion that this is an entertainment business, and the mention of typecasting, was interesting and helpful. Thanks, Diane! (How wonderful for you to have some 12×12 chums so close at hand.)
Thankyou Beth. Yes the statistics had jaws dropping and Katie did not mince words. But if your story has that “X Factor,” then they will pick it up . Yes, I am lucky to have some 12×12 chums near me.
Fantastic post, Diane! I know that the simple tips you shared will help…knowledge is power…and you gave us some important info! It’s super that your group get to one-on-one with editors/publishers…hope it helps you get a foot in the door. 🙂
Can’t wait to enjoy your ms…I’m heading over to the International Kidwriter’s posts now. 🙂
Oh golly gosh! Hope my ms isn’t too much of a headache…lol!
Thankyou for your kind comments Vivian. I am very lucky that our fearless leader arranges some super guest speakers for us and they happily hang around to talk to each of us afterwards. It’s all very informal. Getting the foot in the door, is always a possibility…. we can only hope! Catch you later.
So happy you took away so much. This really ounds like such a supportive group for you. The tips you shared were good. Kids like to be entertained. Good point for those of us who tend to be more serious. Thanks for sharing.
Thankyou Pat. Yes the two things I was very aware of and stuck with me was that It has to be entertaining, and the other was, not every story has to have a moral, or if it did, then it must be very discreet. Good points! Your Welcome as always!