WHAT EDITORS WANT

what-editors-want-panel

 

WHAT EDITORS WANT

A SOCIETY OF CHILDREN’S BOOK WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATORS (SCBWI) PANEL AT THE EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL BOOK FESTIVAL, 18 AUGUST 2016.

 Panel   –      Barry Cunningham, Chicken House Publishing

                        Lauren Fortune, Scholastic

                        Sally Polson, Floris Books  

 Chaired By Louise Kelly and Sheila M Averbuch

I was lucky enough to attend an interesting and lively panel event at this year’s Edinburgh Book Festival in the esteemed company of an amazing panel of children’s/YA book industry heavyweights, so I thought I would share some of their comments and advice here.

Q. What does editing entail? 

Lauren          

How much work we do completely varies from author to author.  We are looking for something to identify with, or to be transported to a fantastic land, but the kernel is to find something you love and something similar to the feeling you had as a child when discovering your favourite books.

Barry             

Editors are far more engaged in the process now and think we look for a manuscript in all its possibilities and for how it works in its broader sense.  We could perhaps be seen as a ‘midwife for books’ but ultimately represent our readers and must look at how it will work around the world and in the context of how our other books work.

With debut authors we can tell if something has been worked on so much that the voice has been lost and so it is a case of having to go back to the beginning to re-establish that unique thing.

Have you got a good villain/problem/disadvantage?  Children’s books tend to be about struggle. Maybe change the POV?

Q. What personality traits do you like in your authors and book characters?

Sally               

I enjoy working with writers that like receiving feedback and are quite open minded in receiving criticism and are then able to go off and find their own way.  For example, Ross McKenzie of ‘The Nowhere Emporium’ and ‘Shadowsmith’ is good to work with as he takes feedback well and writes excellent villains.

Characters – are they memorable and will they stay with me?

A general comment would be that if we commission a book, the position in the schedule can determine how much/how quickly it is worked on.  We tend to do one structural edit – i.e. plot, beginning/end, characters, pacing…

Lauren          

Monsters and villains are so important.  An example would be ‘Robyn Silver: The Midnight Chimes’ by Paula Harrison.

Things that are not so good: are writers reluctant to make their characters suffer?  Would always encourage writers to put their characters in difficult situations.

Barry             

We have to see the main character change.  Linking back to the last question, ‘The Girl of Ink and Stars’ by Kiran Millwood Hargrave was originally written in 3rd person, but when Kiran changed it into 1st person it brought it to life.

Also, it’s important for characters to have some loss as well as victory.

Q. Would you encourage reading as ‘writers’ as well as simply for enjoyment?

Lauren          

Reading is an enormous part of writing, you absorb a lot, sometimes without realising.  Dialogue, for example, is hugely important and difficult to do.

Sally               

Reading also helps writers to understand the market.

Q. What are the new trends in illustration?

Lauren

MG illustrated fiction (black and white line pictures) is having a moment.   It is good for more reluctant readers and we are very keen on this at Scholastic.  David Baddiel and Jim Field are a great example of when an author and illustrator work well together.

Sally   

Floris are keen on it too, but don’t have an author/illustrator in that field at present.

Barry             

Chicken House don’t do picture books any more as are not keen on them and find a lot don’t have much story and leave the art to do all the work.

However, we are now seeing more illustrated content even in older books, including YA, which sit somewhere between the more traditional books and graphic novels.

Q. What about age banding?  Are there any issues/shifts occurring?

Barry

Older MG is different in America where it is up to 14 years of age instead of 12 here, but a lot of books are being bought by a wide range of ages.  For overseas markets we sometimes get advice to bring content down or similar and YA is fracturing into older and younger YA.

Age banding is more for publishing categories though rather than reader categories.

Q. Is there anything that you would like to see?

Sally   

More diverse, ethnic, disabilities, plus a series for 6-8 year olds, e.g. ‘Thorfinn the Nicest Viking’.  Are also looking for author/illustrators as don’t have a lot of these.

Lauren          

This can be influenced by the demands of the list.  Scholastic is strong on series fiction, so are more looking for standalone stories, and would also like to see a YA fantasy.  Anything page turning, cinematic, high concept.

For non-fiction we publish the ‘Horrible Histories’ books and would look at others to tie around an historical event or similar.

Q. What do you look for in a book?

Barry 

Humour, superlative villain or dark force, great dialogue.

Would recommend that authors write complete character studies even though a lot doesn’t end up in the book as you will get to know the character better.

Q. What would be the main reason(s) to reject a ‘nearly there’ manuscript?

Sally

It could be to do with other factors, e.g. the existing list, or it doesn’t quite fit, or may need author to be in Scotland…

Lauren          

Can always work on plot, but is looking for an original voice and that bit of ‘magic’.  It has to stay with her.  Can pick up one page and recognise the author.

Barry 

Whether he thinks he can work with the author and share the same vision.  Mostly if don’t think they can work with the author to make it better.

Audience Questions

  • Should we use dialect or not?

Barry

Could use an element, but sustaining it for a whole book may be hard.

Lauren          

If it fits into a broader narrative would welcome it, but should always read dialogue aloud when writing it.

Sally               

Plus a child must be able to understand it.

 

  • What do you not want? 

Lauren          

Something you’ve seen before told in a fairly familiar voice.

Sally   

A misunderstanding of being unique, where people might think they need to be completely wacky and all over the place.

Barry

Would be scared of multi volume fantasy where the synopsis is longer than the first book.

Lauren          

“I’d quite like that!”

 

  • Should writers look at current themes?

Barry

There’s no point as publishers and agents tend to be inundated with these and they would be likely to be over too soon by the time any book was ready for publication.

Lauren          

Perhaps look at themes but then strip out the actual theme and see what’s left that works and has the broad appeal.

 

  • Would you advise authors to use freelance editorial services?

Sally               

Not sure you can tell which manuscripts have or haven’t used one.

Lauren          

If we see something that has come from Golden Egg then ears immediately prick up.

*****

So there you have it!  I found the event to be very useful and hope my notes are of some interest to you too.

 

 

 

Why Are Book Titles Important?

Does your book / work in progress have a title that makes it stand out from the slushpile?..

By Jasmine

There are many factors that will influence whether or not you get a book deal [including a good bit of luck that your book will land on the right desk at the right time].

Without a doubt, the most important factor is telling a compelling story as well as you possibly can but there is also a need to think about whether you are giving your book its best chance to be noticed with the title you have chosen.

Your book title is your calling card.  In a sea of submissions on an editor’s or agent’s desk it can help you stand out.

sub pile

It is surprising then how often I see titles that perhaps seem a little flat or generic—or maybe haven’t had as much thought put into them as might be expected.

Sometimes, you might luck out and the title will come to you easily—a sweet gift…

View original post 537 more words

hello again!

waving frog

Hi everyone, I hope all is well with you and that you have been very productive in your writing endeavours.  I realise it’s been a little while since I posted on here and apologies for the absence.  Sometimes I guess life just takes over and then, before you know it, the summer has gone and you’re sitting inside whilst it’s already pitch black outside and the rain has been falling all day!

I would love to catch up and hear any news from my fellow online writers.  For my part the summer has been a good one and I have been lucky enough to participate in a number of writing events, the highlight being a week’s Novel Writing course at Moniack Mohr near Inverness with Jess Richards and Rachel Seiffert as tutors.  What a luxury just to have the time and space to write, and what a fantastic venue and setting.  (I’m already planning a return visit next year!)

It’s here that I was able to spend more time on Sunk!, which is an upper MG novel that I started in the Spring, and which I am quite excited by.  It has taken me on a fantastic journey so far and, even though I think I know what’s coming next, I fully expect to hit a few surprises along the way.  I’m afraid that this has also been the main reason for my absence on the blog as, when I get a spare second to write, it seems to demand my attention.  I do plan to try and check in a little more often though and share/discuss all matters writing with people who I know similarly love the whole process.

I have now become a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and am looking forward to finding out more about the world of children’s books and meeting fellow children’s writers.  One such opportunity was a Book Bound Seminar run by Karen Ball, Sara Grant, Sara O’Connor and Jasmine Richards which a number of the SCBWIs attended and which was a really useful and fun day.

The next big push however is to write some entries for the Scottish Association of Writers annual conference in March, so I don’t see things slowing down any time soon.  But then, where would the fun be in that? 😉

So that’s me.  Hello again and hopefully it won’t be so long till the next time!

My experience as a writing competition adjudicator….

20120130-093459.jpg

I have just spent a relaxing few days in Crieff Hydro over half term break and have used the time to finish off adjudications that I am doing for the Angus Writers’ Circle flash fiction competition.  I have never adjudicated a competition before and I was a little hesitant to take it on at first as I wondered whether I was qualified enough to do it.  However, I am now very glad that I agreed to it as I have found the exercise to be quite an eye opener into just how involved and subjective these type of processes are, and I have also learnt a lot about what I like and don’t like quite so much in terms of writing style, which I’m sure I can also apply to my own writing.

Having entered a fair few writing competitions myself over the past couple of years, whether it be for the Scottish Association of Writers’ Annual Conference, or ones with my writing group, I have heard a lot of adjudicators say that it was difficult to come up with a final 3 (or 4 or 5) and that their top entries moved around a lot before they finally decided on the outcome.  Part of me used to just think that they were simply being polite/encouraging/motivational etc., however I can now totally see where they were coming from!  I have chosen a first, second and third place, with one highly commended and one commended entry and I think I am now fairly sure which entries will be in my top 5, but even now they are still moving around and it is very difficult to make a final decision and to just stick to it.

I read them when I first received them just before Christmas and have re-read them all a number of times since then.  I thought I had eventually cracked it, but then when I started to type up my comments for the various entries it made me look at them again in even closer detail (not just as a reader, but also as a writer), and things changed yet again.  It is also fair to say that most of the entries had something I liked, even if there were other parts of them that I was not quite so keen on, so the next time I am on the other side of an adjudication, I will have a far greater appreciation of just what is involved.

As for the outcome, I am due to give my verdicts this coming Wednesday and just hope that I will make the right choices.  However I think I feel more exposed than those who entered the competition in the first place! 🙂

And January’s winner is………………

wiinners cup

I am pleased to say that January’s winner, with her very authentic take on the writing prompt inspired by Christina Rossetti’s ‘In the bleak midwinter’, is lassfromlancashire.  A well deserved win and, once I have liaised with her, I will get back to you with the writing prompt for February.  (Scary that we are into February already – where did January go??)

Voting for January is now open!

vote now

Voting for the first mini competition of 2015 is now open so please vote and ensure that your favourite wins.  (With only 3 entries, I can’t promise the excitement of the Greek elections, but I’ll do my best! 😉 )

As usual, voting will remain open until the end of the month and the winner will then get to set the next writing prompt.

Who will you vote for?

And November’s winner is………………

wiinners cup

I’m very pleased to say that the winner of November’s mini writing competition is Jane Dougherty with ‘In the fields of the flat lands’.  Well done Jane and thank you for submitting such a moving and evocative piece of writing.  I will get back to you in the New Year for the next writing prompt if that is agreeable to you, and in the meantime I hope you have a lovely festive season.

Voting for November is now open!

voting slip

Thank you again to those who took part in this month’s mini writing competition with the writing prompt of ‘Memories’.  Voting is now open so please vote and ensure that your favourite wins.  As usual, voting will remain open until the end of the month and the winner will then get to set the next writing prompt.

As December is shaping up to be a bit of a busy month and, given that most people will have more than enough to keep them occupied over the festive season, I would propose that the mini competitions take a break until the new year.  Therefore the winner of this month will be setting the first writing prompt of 2015, and good luck to all.

Who will you vote for?

‘Miniatures’ by Bill Engleson

I’m very pleased to bring you another entry for this month’s mini writing competition before tonight’s deadline and I’d like to welcome Bill Engleson with his atmospheric poem, ‘Miniatures’.  Hear, hear to the ‘smaller moments’, that tend to get lost in the mix.

music notes

denmaniacs4 says:

Miniatures

I have loved the smaller moments,
the times so quick in their passing,
that memory seems to barely recall;
Yet there is a sense of importance,
a taste in the mind of sweet seconds,
like slightly tilted miniatures
resting peacefully, half asleep,
on a dusty mantle of the mind’s heart.

On this evening, naked in my room,
awaiting a lover who may not arrive,
the miniatures twirl in drowsy dance,
with a little help from the radio’s Strauss.
The taste of chocolate
and salt-sour yogurt and strawberries
supply the flavours of this night.
I covet, like a jealous child his toys,
the smaller moments I have loved.

(c) Bill Engleson

‘Home’ & Book Week Scotland

I thought I would make the effort and sneak in a last minute entry for this month’s theme of ‘memories’.  It’s a bit simplistic, granted, but I wanted to have a play with shapes and structure, and it hopefully still manages to get the (again simple) message across…..

By the way, happy Book Week Scotland 2014, which starts today.  Lots of exciting things happening, not least a trip through to Edinburgh with some writing group friends to pitch to an agent and publisher.  What a fantastic opportunity (if a slightly scary one!)  Pitch is prepared, so fingers crossed!

home

HOME

Home

A house

A dwelling place

Filled with children’s laughter

Warmth and safety

With love

Home

Home

Quieter now

Family all grown

With their own lives

But memories linger

And love

Home

 

(c) elizfrat