Saturday was the highlight of the Southerland Shire Writers calendar with the Writers Unleashed Festival providing the opportunity to hear from editors from various publishing houses. The event concluded with the Editor panel where we heard from:
- Heather Curdie, Children’s at Penguin.
- Beverley Cousins Adult Fiction Random House.
- Zoe Walton, Children’s at Random House, and
- James Read YA and Adult, Pantera Press.
Heather highlighted her tips and recommendations for manuscript submissions. She said that first and foremost she comes to a manuscript as a reader, looking to be engaged and entertained. She follows no firm rules and tries to clear her mind of preconceived ideas. But what it must have is;
- Quality writing
- A great voice (must be distinctive and original)
- Great characterisation (characters must come to life on the page)
- Compelling plot
- Engaging first few chapters (for children’s books this is so important, they won’t persevere if they are not pulled into the story in the first couple of chapters)
- A really satisfying conclusion
She’s currently looking for: Contemporary YA with a strong male protagonist & High quality stand alone Junior Fiction, that’s fun and intelligent.
Beverley spoke about what makes a manuscript publishable.
Things that are taken into consideration when looking at a manuscript they like;
- Balance of the list – do they need more or less historical fiction at that time, do they already have too many rural fiction pieces on the list etc.
- Profit potential – is the book commercially viable
- Publishability of the book.
It is a difficult balance because each book is a work of art, but it needs to make a profit. So there is no easy answer.
She looks for Quality;
- Well written
- Compelling story
- Ability to reach a wide audience
For commercial fiction, here is her advice:
- Plot is key
- They like a novel that promotes debate
- The author has a clear idea of what the novel is about and it is something that a large number of people would want to read about.
- Don’t go overboard describing everything you have researched.
- Don’t overload with stage management.
- Don’t over explain characters emotions.
- Everything on the page should have a reason for being there and drive the story forward.
- Make sure it is well edited before submitting.
Zoe used examples of books that they have recently published to highlight what they look for.
Starting with her best selling Rangers Apprentice series. She noted that whilst it was not an original concept John brought a really great sense of humour to his writing which kids love. He uses fantasy without magic which is unusual and makes his characters have to work hard for their success.
Next she looked at Alice Miranda. She said it is Jacqueline that makes these books special, she really understands and engages with her fans, and she works really hard for her books.
Lulu Bell was next, of Belinda she said that she really knows her market and knows what appeals to her readers. She is a great example of write what you know. Belinda’s dad is a vet and so is Lulu Bell’s in her stories.
Samuri verses Ninja, Here the title says it all. It is a high concept book with wide appeal.
Moving on to her Young Adult books she said that what makes a story stand out from the crowd is an original voice.
Are You Seeing Me? She couldn’t stop thinking about the characters in the story after she’d read it, which compelled her to acquire it.
James said that Pantera are a boutique press and they like to take on debut authors and nurture them, their writing and their careers. They are VERY unique in the publishing industry in that they pride themselves on a fast turnaround time. Getting back to authors within 3 weeks. Yes 3 weeks!!!! But you do need to follow their submission guidelines very closely.
They consider all types of fiction from Young Adult upwards and they are currently looking for commercial womans fiction. Ideally the next The Devil Wears Prada. Their submission guidelines are on their website https://www.panterapress.com.au/submit-your-manuscript