Tuesday 25 December 2007

Happy Christmas!

Season's greetings from the Slush Pile on Boracay Island, the Philippines!

Wednesday 5 December 2007

Yes It's You: Good News Strikes

It felt a little bit like winning Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.


When the moment came, it took me ages to process what was actually happening, Rejection having been my default setting for so long.

The phone rang and I took a message. The message was: YES.

Yes, I like your book.

Yes, I want to represent you.

Yes, it’s going to happen.


Come to think of it, that was David Almond’s inspirational message this past SCBWI Writer’s Day. “It happened to me, It’s going to happen to you.”

I got the call last week and I’m only blogging about it today because today, I had my first meeting with My Agent.

I tried to explain to the Husband what a different experience this meeting had been from a previous agent near-miss that had ended in disappointment. Was it the way this agent expressed an interest in my other work? Was it the fact that she urged me to chase her on the phone when I needed to follow something up? Was it – ? The Husband stopped me in mid whinge.
There’s no point looking back. The difference between then and now is this book. You have written another book.
And that’s the thing.

I’ve written another book. And it’s better than the previous one. Which was better than the one before.

So after more than 10 years, three novels and dozens of rejections, I’ve got an agent.

One can only get better at it.

Tuesday 4 December 2007

Everybody Wants Series Fiction for Younger Readers

If you are a loyal attendee of British SCBWI's Writer's Day as I am, two things about children's publishing become clear:

  1. What comes up ("Fantasy is hot at the moment" – 1990s), must go down ("My heart sinks when I see yet another Fantasy submission"- 2000s).
  2. Series fiction for younger readers is always in demand

So here are the editors who were on parade for 2007's Writers' Day panel:

I was particularly struck by what seemed like a new look Walker list – I recall Walker editorial director Gill Evans at Writer's Day 2006 talking up exciting changes to the Walker list and here it was. Among other things, Walker's Emma waved around some very nice looking new series for younger readers: Walker Stories – with three linked short stories of 600 words each for readers from six years old – and Racing Reads for seven to nine year olds – four linked stories of 2,000 words each, with the emphasis on retellings and traditional tales.

Emma told me it was harder to sell one-off chapter books for seven, eight, nine year olds though there was "a lot of scope" for mass market series (Walker's big hitters are Megan McDonald's Judy Moody and Anthony Horowitz's The Power of Five series). But take note:

We are not particularly looking for fairies, ponies, unicorns and mermaids

Having said that, the editors all declared that they were not averse to mixed genres: ie. Mermaid Detectives … Astronaut Dinosaurs …

Meanwhile, Egmont is so keen on series that they actually do the brainstorming for series ideas themselves, going to schools to "road-test" ideas and then commissioning authors on a flat-fee basis.

The writer is provided with a story bible (plot, style) … some people might say it isn't creative but one of our writer's has gone on to write a series for Walker!

The consensus seemed to be that series for seven-to-nines is a sure thing – that is, if you can come up with something that ticks the boxes – "original voice", "that reaches out and speaks to you", "linking with the curriculum – things that work in the classroom".

Luckily I had managed to catch a breakout session with Diana Kimpton, author of the popular Pony Mad Princess series, talking about how to write the darn things. Diana has very generously put some of her notes online and anyone with a hankering to try series fiction out can have a look. It might be instructive though to mention Diana's key message:

The most important part of creating a series of children's books is coming up with a terrific idea – something with instant child appeal and the possibility of loads of plots.


Monday 3 December 2007

‘Tell Me The Future’ Guardian Piece Leaves Out Publishers

Vint CerfThe Media Guardian asked Vint Cerf, the godfather of the internet, to guest edit the MediaGuardian.

Vint Cerf's editorial describes how traditional media has always been vulnerable to new technology:

It is not often that a technological innovation changes fundamentally the way people communicate. In the 15th century the printing press made it possible to distribute the written word. In the 19th century, the telegraph enabled rapid point-to-point communication over long distances. Then there was the telephone. And we're still coming to terms with the social effects of radio and television.

It takes decades if not generations to fully understand the impact of such inventions. We are barely two decades into the commercial availability of the internet, but it has already changed the world. It has fostered self-expression and freed information from the constraints of physical location, opening up the world's information to people everywhere.

For the MediaGuardian's opening piece: Tell Me the Future Cerf selected a panel of commentators who can best tell us where technology is going.

Cerf's choices included Chris de Wolf of MySpace, Chad Hurley of YouTube, Peter Norvig, director of Google Research, and Biz Stone of Twitter. The presence of these social networking luminaries comes as no surprise.

Unfortunately, it also comes as no surprise that none of the seven experts he picked to predict the future came from the publishing industry.

Does traditional publishing have nothing to contribute to a discussion about the future of media?

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