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The Rise and Rise of Shelly Unwin Part 3

The final interview in the series. We look at the events and associations that helped me achieve my publishing goal.

Just Write For Kids Blog

Today is the last interview with Shelly Unwin in which we look at some of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of her steps to her publishing dream. They include practical advice for anyone who is interested in getting published.

The things that impress me loud and clear from your story, Shelly are:

  1. although these books are only a very recent thing for you to be working on, the process of having written other things over several years (despite rejections and setbacks) helped you bring these ideas together at the right time.
  2. Having good networks and an understanding of the industry also developed over time and brought you into contact with the right people at the right time.Shelly 1.3

You’ve mentioned a few key steps in this process about building up networks and putting yourself in the right place at the right time. Can you comment further on these?

Faber Academy and “Stack…

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Signed, Sealed and so excited!

Finally I can announce my exciting news!

I have been offered and accepted a publishing contract for a five book picture book series with Allen & Unwin. It is a dream come true. I couldn’t be happier and I couldn’t have found a more passionate, consultative or engaged publisher for this series. I am beyond excited. I can’t say much about the series, other than that it is aimed at 1-5 year olds and at this stage we are hoping to release all five books at the same time. I will be able to give you more details closer to the release date.

But for now I have taken down the affirmation poster that has been on the door of my tea cupboard for the last two years!

affirmation poster

Because I have indeed just signed A Great Publishing Deal!  I’m still pinching myself.  I wanted to share my news with all of the friends, old and new, that have supported me along the way. And I wanted to say a huge thank you, particularly to my critique group, Picture This, for your invaluable help and insight, to my family for your belief and support and to my agent Alex Adsett for helping to pull everything together and coach me through a nerve wracking decision process.  Yippeee!!!

 

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How I Got My Agent

Firstly woohoo!! I have an agent!

Now that’s out of the way, here is the story behind my signing with Alex Adsett of Alex Adsett Publishing Services.

It all started three years ago, when I decided that I was going to be a writer. I threw myself into this decision whole heartedly, signing up for many courses, attending as many conferences and networking sessions as possible, and most importantly finding myself the most awesome and talented critique group with which to workshop my work.

I was starting to get wonderful and encouraging feedback from editors and publishers and a couple of manuscripts came very close. But then I had an idea. It was on the 18th October, so really not very long ago. I was in bed and I suddenly sat up, woke my husband up and told him. Despite being woken, which as a bit of an insomniac, really is his pet hate, he was enthusiastic. He even threw in some suggestions before letting his head hit the pillow again. The idea is for a picture book series, and it is so obvious now that I’ve thought of it, it’s amazing that it’s not already out there.

I threw together a first draft for the last book in the series. I was a jittering bundle of excitement. Fortunately I didn’t have to wait very long until my next critique group session. I needed to test the water and make sure I wasn’t over-reacting to my idea. The good news was; the girls agreed it was the start of something big, and that golden word ‘commercial’.

So I worked that one book until it felt solid and sent it off to one of my favourite publishers, with a very excited letter. Then I went to work on the other four books. They all came out at great pace and with a really joyous voice, not one was difficult to work on, they all felt like they wanted to be written.

Time was of the essence to get them to a presentable state as I had a conference on the 1st November where I was meeting with an editor and I wanted to have the whole series ready to pitch. Happily she loved the idea and was keen to take it back to her publisher.

Then came the ASA literary speed-dating event. I had avoided this event the year before because I didn’t feel confident that I knew how to pitch. But following an ASA course focused on pitching, I felt I had a much clearer grasp on what to include in a pitch and how to deliver it. I was armed with my picture book series pitch and my YA novel pitch. It was a nerve-wracking experience, but I have to say all of the publishers and editors were very supportive and encouraging. I had a very enthusiastic response to my series from the two publishers I pitched it to and came away feeling kind of floaty. Having run out of people to pitch that to, I decided to pitch my YA novel. It had been away resting for about 3 months, so I was a bit rusty, and I don’t think my first pitch did it justice, however, the questions the editor asked made me evaluate and improve how I delivered it. The second time was much better!

The second time was with Alex Adsett. I hadn’t planned to pitch to Alex, because she had stated that she was looking for ‘well polished’ novels. I was just about to embark on an editing course with Faber Writing Academy, which I knew would mean a re-write, pushing my ‘well polished’ back by about 4-6 months. But I decided I would be upfront about that and pitch anyway. Alex was interested. She was such a pleasure to talk to and she gave really great insight and feedback. So I took the opportunity, and asked whether she ever represented picture book authors. ‘Occasionally,’ was her response. So I pitched my series, and left a copy of all five manuscripts with her.

Alex emailed me on the Tuesday to say that she had thoroughly enjoyed reading them and could understand why there was so much interest in them. And so we began a discussion. Having more than one publishing house interested in a piece of work is an absolute dream come true. However, the idea of having to negotiate with them was really taking the shine off the excitement for me. The idea of Alex taking over the communication, and helping me through the decision making process took a huge pressure off my shoulders, and I am now living in the moment again. Of course this is still the very beginning of my journey, and there are never any guarantees of what will happen from here. But needless to say, I am very excited and hopeful.

And the moral of the story is to always ask. You have to put it out there. If I hadn’t taken the opportunity to speak to Alex, or asked the question about picture book representation I would still be a bundle of nerves, desperately waiting for the phone to ring, but also dreading the conversation.

Good luck everyone. And I’ll keep you posted about the series.

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When I’m a famous author….. (I live in hope)

…. I want to be like Markus Zusak!

I don’t mean I want to be as successful as Markus – although obviously that would be nice! I mean I want to remain grounded, generous and honest.

I’ll elaborate…. Last night Catherine and I were lucky enough to attend the ‘In Conversation with Markus Zusak’ Evening at the Australian Society of Authors in Ultimo. Markus was amazing, so laid back and humble, he could have been speaking to any one of us on a one on one basis in his living room, such was his demeanour, he’s also pretty funny too. One of the things that I loved was that he didn’t build a mystique around his writing process, or make it sound like a higher art, he doesn’t consider himself super intelligent, or ridiculously well read, he is just very passionate and dedicated to what he does, clearly very talented and he has worked very hard. And he is still working very hard. It took him 7 years to get published, but he knew it was the one thing he really wanted to do and he stuck at it.

Catherine and I hung around to get our books signed at the end and Markus chatted to us for a good 15 minutes, he didn’t have to, we grilled him, it was all take an no give, but he was happy to give – I hope I can remember his generosity in years to come, when I’m pressed for time, have a book to finish and want to get home to the kids, but have two aspiring authors soaking up my every word. (Again, I live in hope 😉 ) I may sound like I’m gushing, but I suspect if you asked any of the attendees last night, they would all be gushing too! Thank you Markus! Now back to my novel!!

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