Meeting editors and publishers

Recently, I booked myself in for three editor/publisher appointments. One was a critique with an editor from HarperCollins Children’s Books in New York through the 20 pages in 20 minutes masterclass at the Brisbane Writers Festival, while the other two appointments were through the CYA Conference.

Before this, I had heaps of questions that I couldn’t find answers to. What kind of questions were they going to ask? Should I bring other examples with me? So, I thought I could tell you about my experiences in hope that it helps you along the way.

Every meeting will be different, so prepare as if you are going to run your fifteen minute appointment. Know how you would pitch your story. Consider how you would pitch yourself and your background. Think of the relationship that ties you to your story, like how did you discovered the idea or how your day job lends authority to the story.

You might want to write notes down and practise talking them through. Or maybe you want to go for a walk with your writing buddy and talk out your pitch. Pitching your story to a publisher isn’t that much different to how you would have first described the project to your writing buddy. If you’re like me, then you’re better just knowing your work inside out so you can ad-lib. I think it’s more honest and personable, which is what you want to aim for.

As for written preparation, I was guided by my wonderful friend (and CYA co-ordinator) Tina Marie Clark who suggested to bring in a page of short pitches for other w-i-p’s. I prepared what ended up being a two-page document with my photo and contact details, a bulleted list of my projects and their blurbs (approx 150w each) in case they sparked any interest.

This was a great idea and something I will continue to do. If a publisher is interested in your story, then they’ll definitely be interested in knowing you’re working on others. Conversely, if the publisher likes your writing but not your w-i-p, they have the opportunity to see if you’re working on something that catches their attention. Obviously, don’t shove this in their face. Ask them if they’re interested and they’ll tell you.

I could go on forever, but I’ll finish with this. Don’t go into it thinking, ‘Will they sign me up on the spot because I am so damn fabulous?’. It’s about relationship building and gaining direction. If you come out of your meeting with a little more insight than before, then you’ve won.

CYA Conference 2010

The CYA conference is quite special to me. I remember turning up at the 2008 conference, knowing absolutely no one and with no idea what to expect. Many of the people I met that day are now close writing friends of mine and are there to support me through setbacks and success.

I suspect this is what conferences are really about: luring writers, emerging and published, out of their hidey-holes and throwing them together in a room to catch-up (with food and coffee, of course). It almost sounds like a social experiment, but it is one I am more than happy to be a part of.

The great part about CYA is that everyone there loves writing for children and young adults. We all charge towards the children’s section in a bookstore no matter what our age and we are all salivating over the recent releases. (Mockingjay = devoured. Mortal Coil = to read.) Also by writing for children and young adults, we have similar passions but write completely different things from Steve Cole’s Astrosaurs series to Gabrielle Wang’s Little Paradise, and I find that this is an amazing learning process in itself.

This year, I entered the competition and received a highly commended in the YA section for an extract from my mermaid book. I’m really happy to have such encouragement for the project and it’s come at a nice time as I had finished the first draft a few days before the conference.


Thank you to Tina and Ally for CYA and for your continued support. And another thank you to Sheryl and Katherine, for your friendship when I was wide-eyed and nervous-like at my first conference. I’ll never forget that.

AUTHOR LABELS

I’ve noticed there are a lot of things that unpublished writers get distracted by that really don’t matter. Lately, the notion of labelling or branding yourself as a ‘type’ of writer keeps popping up.

At the Somerset Celebration of Literature I attended a session called Grown Ups or Growing Up? which discussed YA fiction in comparison to Adult and Children’s literature and how the authors perceived their work.

From the audience, I found that people had very passionate views about how books should be categorised. Marcus Zusak was part of this panel and many people were upset that his novel, The Book Thief, was shelved in Australia as a YA book. What I got from the authors was that the labelling and shelving was for their agent, publisher and the bookseller to decide. That wasn’t their job. Their job was to write a good story, rather than worry about how to market it.

Yesterday, I attended a QWC workshop on publishing proposals with Sally Collings, and the same notion of labelling and marketing came up in a discussion on query letters. While there is no right or wrong, the agent or publisher should discover what ‘type’ of book you’ve written from your snappy pitch. (Think along the lines of a show, don’t tell for your query.)

Basically, you could begin your letter stating that you have completed a 40,000 word children’s urban fantasy or that you’ve written about a twelve-year-old girl who discovers an enchanted lake behind her grandmother’s house and becomes too attached to the dangerous creatures that live there.

Perhaps we can’t always do away with ‘labels’, but they’re not as important as some people believe and are such a grey area. What one person believes is Literary fiction, another might shelve under Young Adult. If you’re thinking too much about the ‘type’ of writer you are, chances are you’re dreaming of a marketing campaign for a book that hasn’t been sold when you could be doing something else. Like writing.

SOMERSET CELEBRATION OF LITERATURE 2010

Last Thursday = Melina Marchetta, Anthony Eaton, Derek Landy, Chris Bongers and Marcus Zusak. Impressive, huh?

I thought so too. It was my first visit to the Somerset festival on the Gold Coast and I absolutely loved it. There was a really impressive line-up of authors and the set up meant for a really intimate festival designed for Childrens and Young Adult literature.

I always enjoy listening to authors talk about how they became published or how they came up with the ideas for their novels. How could I walk away from Melina Marchetta’s inspiring talk or Marcus Zusak’s incredible storytelling with anything less than a head swimming with encouragement and new ideas? Though, more than anything, I love festivals for catching up with friends and indulging my inner fan girl.

I promised my friend, Katherine, that I wouldn’t hide the gushy fan side of me. So she would be proud to know that I had three books signed and snatched the opportunity for a quick photo.

Me and author, Derek Landy, with our vogue-ish faces (as he called it). Squee!

BEATING POST-HOLIDAY FUZZ

There’s part of me that loves my post-holiday fuzz. I’m not naturally a zen-like girl but after walking about Tokyo until my legs ache, climbing a gazillion stairs to see the shrines and a taste of snowboarding I’m feeling pretty damn relaxed. But even in the thick of my post-holiday fuzz I felt a niggle to sit down and write.

The first time I sat at my computer and opened up my work in progress was a shocker. The adorable madness of Tokyo had eaten away at my attention span and all my old procrastination techniques were making a comeback. I was on Facebook, then playing on the Wii, then watching just one episode of The Mighty Boosh (which turned into the whole disc) and ‘look at the time, that’s lunch’. It was ridiculous. Absolutely everything imaginable was shiny and distracting.

I realised that I needed to find my writing mojo asap, and I’ve found a few things that have helped me:

1. Catching up with other mad types
Last Saturday night, the 14th Annual Aurealis Awards
were held in Brisbane to celebrate Australian Speculative Fiction. I always find the award ceremony itself to be entertaining but afterward is the party where writers, illustrators, publishers and editors catch up and have a laugh. It’s always a great start to the year and I’d like to say a big thankyou to everyone I caught up with at Aurealis – you made it a memorable night indeed!

2. Music
I have a play list that I was writing and editing to before I went overseas and it feels natural coming back to the same songs. As soon as it starts playing I start to settle in to the project enough to remember the work I’ve already put in.

3. Repeating routine
Lately I’ve been having attacks of the shiny kind. This is basically a condition where everything is more fascinating than my own writing. Shiny, shiny
things = sucky word count. So I have a simple cue that tells my brain it’s time to calm down and write. I make a coffee, I check my email and my Facebook page, start my writing play list and get on with it. That’s all the cue is but it works.

Another part of this is choosing a set time to write and doing it everyday. I haven’t settled into a morning or night time pattern yet but I find that by writing everyday, I settle into a routine easier and my progress is much faster.

If you have another way for beating post-holiday fuzz,
let me know.