I recently attended a fantastic forum for children’s writers held as part of the Portobello Book Festival in the upstairs room at Portobello Library in Edinburgh.
The room was full and the session started with an introduction from everyone in attendance – a variety of hopes and dreams were disclosed all waiting patiently to be achieved in the publishing world and beyond.
This forum was intended for writers/interested parties looking for more information on how to approach an agent, what a publisher looks for in your submission, screen writing and some handy hints and tips from two very well respected literary professionals: Eleanor Collins, from the amazing Edinburgh-based Floris Books and Emily Dodd, a writer for the BBC – mainly Scientific programmes for children such as Nina & The Neurons.
I was in awe. Slightly overwhelmed that I was in the same room as them as an unpublished writer gets in the company of Those That Know What They Are Doing, but nonetheless, still in awe.
Words of wisdom were sent flying around the room as they bombarded us with information from what not to write in a covering letter, spreads relating to submissions for children’s picture books and using stage direction on a submission if you are as bad an illustrator as me.
Along with submission guidelines, here are a few golden nuggets of points to consider, to be learned and to understand before embarking on the treacherous path to publishing your own work:
FOUR BAD REASONS TO WRITE (a foresight into the dragons den of publishing by Eleanor Collins):
1. It will not give you the oodles of cash you think it will – unless you are the next JK Rowling or you win the lottery – very slim chance of either happening…BUT YOU NEVER KNOW! What’s for you won’t pass you by.
2. You think writing looks easy. It’s not. It’s very, very hard. Formatting, word counts, page spreads…
3. You only like spending time alone. Once you have been published a lot of hours are spent promoting your book, travelling, meeting with publishers/agents – do you have the stamina/gumption/nerves of steel?
4. A sense that there aren’t many writers out there – the publishing world is saturated with children’s writers, does your book have the Unique Selling Point required to bypass the slush pile? Honestly…
EIGHT THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN WRITING (a humorous look into why you have decided to join the merry band of hope by Emily Dodd):
Publishers and agents want to be made aware that you have done your homework from the very first line on your submission letter. They don’t want to be just another company you have sent a standard letter to that you have copied 100 times to send your submission with.
Treat them like your valentine date: I don’t mean send them flowers just show a bit of interest in their House, research the contact as best as you can without turning into a stalker, look at their past publications – are they the same genre and type as your submission? Do you have the 11 or 14 page spread required?
Be a stealth-like ninja submitter and catch them by surprise.
Good luck, break a pencil…