Monday 7 November 2016

Publishing Secrets by Em Lynas

Have you ever noticed how many secrets have to be kept in publishing? 

My children's author friends are forever spilling the beans with a - Don't tell anyone but... Either face to face or in secret groups on facebook. 

For instance:

Don't tell anyone I'm on the Undiscovered Voices longlist until the Official Announcement.
Don't tell anyone I'm on the Carnegie shortlist until the Official Announcement.
Don't tell anyone my book has been optioned (film/tv deal) until the Official Announcement.
Don't tell anyone I'm the Children's Laureate until the Official Announcement.

Ok, the last one wasn't a friend but our NE scoobie group met Chris Riddell the day before his Official Announcement and he never said a dicky bird to any of us. The man is an excellent secret keeper.

Don't tell anyone we've taken you on until the Official Announcement.
Don't tell anyone we're doing a deal. Ok, tell family. Ok, tell friends. But DON'T tell social media!

Don't tell anyone we're publishing your book until the Official Announcement.

I'm beginning to wonder if it's a good career choice for me. I'm really good at keeping other people's secrets but hopeless at keeping my own. People ask questions which force you to lie in order to keep the secret and I am a hopeless liar.

For instance when I was lucky enough to be win a place in the 2012 Undiscovered Voices I had no strategy in place. I wrote this for the SCBWI Bulletin and it says it all really.

'When Sara Grant and Sara O’Connor announced the opening of the 2012 Undiscovered Voices. I entered. I waited. And one day… ‘You’ve been shortlisted,’ said The Saras. ‘Please don’t tell anyone. Especially not other SCBWI members.’ They zipped my lips.

Friends emailed, texted and twittered. ‘Have you been shortlisted?’ they asked. ‘My lips are zipped,’ I said. ‘Yay! You’ve been shortlisted!’ they said.

After a few weeks of eating through a straw, another message came from The Saras, 'You’ve won! Please don’t tell anyone. Especially not other SCBWI members.’

Friends emailed, texted and twittered. ‘Have you won?’ they asked. ‘My zipped lips have rusted shut,’ I said. ‘Yay! You’ve won!’ they said.

Eventually I decided on a no comment approach – ‘I am unable to use my voice for it is, as yet, undiscovered.’ This still resulted in, ‘Yay! You’re in! We knew it!’

At last, the result was announced to the world. I’d won! I was *famous! (*relative term!) An extract of To Destiny or Death! would appear in the UV anthology. Alongside the work of 18 extremely talented authors and illustrators.  

So, how do you NOT spill the beans if you have a MEGA BIG SECRET? Mega big secrets are exciting and amazing. They represent the culmination of years of hard work, resilience, determination and talent. How do you not burst?

I'm reminded of a story the children in my class loved but can't find the source.

A King had donkey's ears (don't remember why) and he summoned a barber to cut his hair. Before he revealed his donkey's ears he threatened the barber. 'If you tell anyone about my ears I shall chop off your head!'

The barber agreed not to tell and he cut the king's hair but the secret gnawed away at him and he just had to say it out loud. So he went into the woods and found a tree with a hole in it and he whispered the secret into the hole. 'The king has donkey's ears!'

A few days later a woodcutter chopped down the tree and made a drum from the wood and sold it to a musician who was to play for the king. As the musician played, the drum sang, 'The king has donkey's ears! The king has donkey's ears! The king has donkey's ears!' Soon the whole court was singing along.

I can't quite remember the end. Did the barber lose his head? I hope not.

Perhaps it's good that I don't have a MEGA BIG SECRET to keep. 


Em Lynas is represented by Amber Caraveo of Skylark Literary. 


  1. I love a good secret and how much more delicious to have your own yummy secret. Ooooooooooooooo!

  2. Maureen's got donkeys' ears! Maureen's got donkeys' ears! Teaser... x

  3. So when is the OFFICIAL announcement?!

  4. You're so right! It's horrible to have to lie to close friends who've shared the long writing road with you, especially when timescales involved can be very long. Perhaps we need a writers' whispering tree where we can anonymously share our great secrets & everyone can guess who's just whispered.

    1. A secret writer's whispering tree, obviously.

  5. As an excited family member it is very tempting to tell people MEGA BIG SECRETS, sometimes it feels like I might accidentally tell people...something. Luckily this as all hypothetical.

    1. ...and just an ordinary blog post about an intetesting aspect of the publishing industry.

  6. Ooh Maureen! You are such a tease! I'm so pleased for you - at least I would be if there was something to be pleased about ;) xxx

  7. You lot need to practise your unsociable side. Don't share everything!
    As for what to say, consider what you'd say if you hadn't been chosen and knew nothing. Then say that. Look a bit sad. Ask previous lucky chosen ones when they knew. Confuse matters. Make things up. It's what you do.

    1. Great advice. I shall practise this in front of the mirror in case I have a secret in the future.

  8. You mean we still have to wait!!

    1. That is the problem with hypathetical secrets.

  9. I am no good at keeping secrets. I have tell.

    1. Honesty is always the best policy, Julie. Eventually :)


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