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The inside word from Penguin, Random and Panterra

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

 

 

 

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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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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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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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How Audio Books have improved my self-editing

I find School holidays leave very little time for writing. However as we approached this six week long break I committed myself to as much reading as possible. And I discovered the wonder of audio books. What is so brilliant about audio books is that you can watch the kids on the beach whilst listening to a story. You can iron, fold washing and even make dinner whilst listening to a story. So I probably doubled my book consumption by way of audio books.

Having just completed the Editing Essentials course with Faber Writing Academy I was ‘deep reading’ and critically evaluating everything that I read, or listened to. And a brilliant thing happened. I always read my work aloud, but having listened to audio books I have developed a much stronger ear for when the rhythm and pace are working, or not, and when the dialogue feels authentic, or not. I feel that it has greatly improved my ability to asses my own writing.

So I am now an official advocate of the audio book. Not only does it double your reading time, it also improves your writing (Well mine at least :)) Just don’t all jump on board at once, audio books via the library are very limited and the best books have quite a wait time.