The Rise and Rise of Shelly Unwin Part 2

Here is part two of my Just Write For Kids interview. It includes why I signed with my literary agent Alex Adsett and also how I chose Allen & Unwin as the home for my upcoming Picture Book Series.

Source: The Rise and Rise of Shelly Unwin Part 2

The Rise and Rise of Shelly Unwin Part 2

shelly unwin jwfkzoo shelly unwin

Today is Part 2 of my interview with Shelly Unwin – newly signed author. For part 1 go here

(I’ve highlighted some themes to pick up on at a later date)

So Shelly, you had an editor interested from the Sutherland Shire Writer’s Festival editor consultation, and you had sent the manuscript to an editor you had met at a SCBWI conference. What happened then?

With an interested editor the pressure was on to really polish the other four first drafts. My critique group was fantastic, agreeing to give me email feedback as I worked, as well as face to face during our meetings. The other four manuscripts were also very compliant and came together very willingly. The publisher from the Southerland festival was excited by the two manuscripts and asked for the other three.

I was also booked in to the Literary Speed Dating event through the ASA on the 15th November and I wanted to have five polished manuscripts by then. I pitched the series to two publishers at this event and both were keen to see the full series. I also pitched it to (my now) agent Alex Adsett, who could see the commercial potential of the series and after some additional dialogue agreed to represent me. In the mean time I was also doing a course at the Faber Academy for my Young Adult novel, and I was asking my tutor for advice on signing with Alex. My tutor asked me about the series I was discussing with Alex and then asked if she would be able to pass the series on to the Children’s Publisher there at Allen & Unwin – of course I said yes. So it was now in the hands of five publishers, all of whom were showing an interest.

Wow! Five interested publishers how exciting! But with five interested publishers why did you feel you needed an agent?

Having it in the hands of five publishers was a dream come true, in fact it was beyond what I’d ever let myself dream. But I was suddenly dreading the phone ringing. What did I do when one of them made an offer? If more than one house made an offer how would I manage that process without upsetting anyone? The fear of the next stage was taking the shine off what was otherwise an incredibly exciting situation. So an agent really was the answer. Alex has great industry knowledge, and specializes in contract negotiations so she was the perfect agent to provide me with unbiased, commercial guidance.  So at this point I really handed the reigns over to Alex. Once the first offer came through, which was fantastic, Alex gave the other four publishers a week to respond. By the end of the week we had two publishers who had put offers on the table, and the exciting decision process started there.

How did you decide who to go with? That couldn’t have been easy?

It wasn’t! Both offers were from incredible publishing houses. I would have been happy to sign either contract the minute it arrived on the doorstep. That’s where Alex really helped. We discussed both of the offers in great detail and really worked through what was important to me. I then had a meeting with both publishers to get an understanding of what they were hoping to achieve with the books and how they envisaged them looking and feeling. Allen & Unwin were so aligned with my thoughts, but not only my thoughts, also with my enthusiasm and ambition for the books. I also met with the CEO there, who had read my blog!! And who told me how excited he was by my work, I walked away from the meeting buzzing! And slightly apprehensive about writing my next blog piece – the pressure was on! Alex then led the contract discussions, and walked me through the complexities of world rights, film rights, discount sales percentages etc – all of which were new to me. And from there it was done. Allen & Unwin was home to the series and it feels so right. Should I point out here that although my surname is Unwin, I am no relation!

You may not be a relation, but it’s a great fit with your name! Do you have an illustrator signed?

No illustrator signed just yet, but some very exciting conversations in progress. I’ll tell you as soon as I can!

So now you just twiddle your thumbs until the books come out?

Yes, I might head off to an exotic island and relax for a year or so 🙂

No. I have another picture book that is looking very promising and I am also working on a new manuscript that I am totally buzzing about. Plus I have atonne of manuscripts that I have been working on over the last few years that I continue to tweak. I have also written a Young Adult novel that is currently going through the re-writing, re-writing, re-writing phase, and one day it might be ready to leave the nest. I will continue to take courses, network, critique and do all things writerly in the mean time – it’s all so much fun!

 

I appreciate Shelly’s willingness to be interviewed for this blog – we may still be able to squeeze another post out of her experiences next month!

By Debra Tidball September 4015

For Shelly’s website: http://shellyunwin.com

For Debra’s website: http://www.debratidball.com

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Lothian looking for Junior Fiction

It is always good to get an insiders view on the publishing industry and this morning was no exception, with the delightful Suzanne O’Sullivan from Lothian sharing her thoughts at the NSW Writers’ Centre, First Friday Club.

Suzanne confirmed that with blockbuster titles from the likes of John Green helping the market along, children’s book sales continue to be very healthy. And the area of the children’s publishing market that Lothian are keen to see more strong submissions in, is Junior Fiction. Series books for 6-9 year olds, with an approximate word count of 15,000-20,00 words. Suzanne is also always on the look out for great picture books.

However getting your work in front of Suzanne is no mean feat, as she only accepts agented submissions, or submissions following on from consultations at conferences or literary speed dating.

But if you are lucky enough to make it into her pile of submitted manuscripts, these are her tips for how to stand out:

  • Have a really clear sense of the market, “this book fits into this trend,” or “this book fills this gap,” (but be careful that the gap really is a gap in the market and not a gap in your knowledge of the market!)
  • Really hone your writing. Make sure it is fully workshopped and edited before you send it.
  • Let your writing be the star, regardless of your other successes the writing needs to speak for itself.

And what themes is she looking for?

  • Humour, she loves a story that makes her laugh, but the humour must be supported by a good story with heart.
  • Friendship, friendship themes are always very popular in junior fiction.
  • Adventure based stories.

So according to Suzanne, what can writers be doing to help them achieve publication?

  • Be active on social media.
  • Be active in writers groups and attending conferences etc
  • Show a willingness to get out there and promote yourself.

Suzanne also mentioned a preference for authors who have a body of work targeting one area of the children’s market, so that they can build a strong readership and utilise this readership for the authors other books.

And there is a small glimmer of hope if you are not lined up to attend a conference or event where Suzanne is meeting writers- Lothian are currently thinking about opening up submissions for one genre at a time, probably early next year, so make sure you follow Suzanne on Twitter @Suzanne_OS and keep your eye on the Hachette website http://www.hachettechildrens.com.au

Happy writing everyone!

 

8

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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The Next Generation of Authors

As I sat at my computer today reading the work of the Year Five and Year Six children that were selected for the Writing Masterclass at my local Public School last week I was blown away. Some of these kids have an astounding amount of talent. In some of the stories I read (all capped at a 600 word limit and with the guidelines of being based around a 10-12 year old protagonist who suddenly finds themselves in another country) I found myself swept away by brilliantly crafted images, strong story lines and authentic dialogue.

It is a wonderful experience to see the plot lines and characters that are oozing from our next generation of authors. In some it is possible to see influence of currently popular middle grade books, and in some the influence of current affairs and the media. Some follow the traditional spy book format and others find something that feels new and unchartered. In each case there was a glimpse of something special and it was a privilege to work with such gifted children.

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Scallywags

I Just spent the most delightful morning at East Lindfield Community Pre-School. Armed with a Pirate ship and a pirate manuscript I hit the classroom for some Jolly Roger fun.                                  Pic 4  Pic 3

The kids walked the plank, scrubbed the decks and climbed the rigging and we also chased a scurvy pirate around his boat before leaving him marooned on an island and steeling his ship and his crew.

Pic 5

The kids had all made themselves eye patches, hats and flags leading up to my visit, so they all looked the part and played the part beautifully. So much fun. Arrr!

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Maurice Saxby Lecture

Last night I navigated my way through the maze of Sydney University campus to attend the Maurice Saxby Lecture. This year’s lecture was delivered by the very accomplished Libby Gleeson. After a moment to reflect on the life, work and achievement of the wonderful Maurice Saxby, Libby went on to discuss the topic of STORY. Leading with a quote from Maurice himself. ‘We are all largely governed by and at the same time enriched by story.’

Libby spoke on how our lives are saturated by story, and how the existence of story in every Age and Culture is indisputable. It penetrates every corner of the Earth. It is used by Societies to bind communities, for example the Bible, a collection of stories used to guide Christianity. Folk tales, passed down through the generations used to pass on instructions of how to live in their world, all neatly wrapped up in story.

Libby talked about the magic of story and the ability of story to transport us to unknown places and times, to capture our imagination and to transport us to other realms. Story has the ability to evoke such strong reactions. And as writers we have the opportunity to take people to places they would never otherwise experience, what a joyful privilege that is!

Thank you to the NSW CBCA and Libby Gleeson and for a fabulous evening.

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An Announcement Here Soon!!

Apologies for my silence. I am swan-like at the moment, with everything happening like crazy under the surface. I look forward to sharing my news with you soon!

But whilst I’m here, I’ll do a couple of quick recommendations.

Girl Online by Zoe Sugg. Whilst I haven’t quite finished this fabulous Young Adult novel I am thoroughly enjoying it, and planning to lend it to my gorgeous step daughter Zoe before she heads off to New York for Easter (It is set mostly in New York)
And my Picture Book pick of the moment is Dangerous! by Tim Warnes, such a clever concept to deliver an important message to young children; appearances can be deceiving.