When Scammers Infiltrate Modern Publishing – Emerging Writers Beware

Hi all,

this is concerning, to say the least:

Scammers used to operate at the edges of the publishing business, but have wormed their way into its heart. And the entire industry is in denial. An unintentionally revealing aspect of the tiresome Amazon-Hachette dispute was a series of statements from an organization purporting to advocate for authors’ rights. One of the heinous crimes Amazon […]

via This Is The Modern Publishing Business — David Gaughran

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Things I Took Away From the NSWWC Open House with Penguin Random House (Apart From Valuable Manuscript Feedback)

Hi all,

Last Friday, I attended the New South Wales Writers Centre (NSWWC) Open House with Penguin Random House Australia (PRH). I thought I’d share some of the key points I gleaned from this day, as I know there were some who, unfortunately, were unable to attend due to the limited number of seats on offer.

After the introduction of representatives from the departments of publishing, editorial, sales, marketing and publicity – including an overview of their respective roles – the group launched into a mock acquisition meeting. Those stating their case on why a book should, or should not, be given the green light included (from left to right in the pic below):

  • Catherine Hill, Deputy Managing Editor, Random House Books
  • Belinda Connors, Key Account Manager, Penguin Random House
  • Karen Reid, Publicity Director, Penguin Random House
  • Sarah Hayes, Editorial Assistant, Random House Books
  • Lex Hirst, Commissioning Editor, Random House Books
  • Tom Langshaw, Editor, Random House Books, and
  • Meredith Curnow, Knopf Vintage Publisher, Random House Books

This session was very insightful – and entertaining! Key points included:

  1. When a manuscript reaches the acquisition stage, a lot of work has already been done to get it to the level required to offer (of course, this doesn’t mean the author will accept any offer made, and a project can still be shelved by PRH for a multitude of other reasons. So while a lot of work has been done, there are no guarantees, my friends!)
  2. An author’s ability to adapt is a definite plus when determining whether to acquire his or her work. Have they demonstrated this adaptability already?
  3. An editor may be passionate about a book, but if the sales or publicity team don’t share that enthusiasm, things can get interesting.

But saying this, acquisition meetings don’t usually end up in a war of words or a brawl on the carpet. Participants are really quite friendly to each other 🙂

The next session discussed children’s publishing with Laura Harris, Publishing Director with Penguin Random House Young Readers. I could have listened to Laura speak for hours, she was that enthusiastic about kids’ books. I was also interested to hear that Laura has worked with Mem Fox, Melina Marchetta and Morris Gleitzman, three of my favourite Australian authors.


Laura Harris

Key points Laura made:

  1. PRH receives about 3,000 children’s submissions per year in Australia, and publish about 100 (to be honest, the latter figure is higher than I thought it would be but I assume it includes agented submissions – I didn’t think to ask for clarification, sorry).
  2. The top four books for 2016 were all children’s books. And all for middle readers.
  3. Four times as many middle reader books were sold last year in Australia compared to YA (yet YA gets the lion’s share of attention in the children’s book sector).

Then it was on to discussing the editorial process, with Catherine Hill, Tom Langshaw and Lex Hirst returning to the stage to discuss books they have worked on. Key points included:

  1. A “really, really good book” can still require pages and pages (15 was mentioned in the example) of initial editing notes.
  2. Cover design should never be underestimated – it should communicate in a glance what the book is about.
  3. Editors love spreadsheets and graphs. Or so it appeared 🙂

Next was the art of promotion, with Karen Reid back in the chair. The key message for me from this was “SUB PLUS THREE”. What does this mean, I hear you ask? It means that the most effective time to promote your book is from submission until three months after publication. It’s much harder to achieve good results after this time. Something to do with modern society’s short-term memory problem, perhaps?

Now, where was I? Oh, that’s right. Karen’s other key points were:

  1. Authors must be able to speak in front of an audience, and must be able to describe their book succinctly. They should also have a professional photo taken for inclusion in promotional packs, review pieces, etc.
  2. Sale projection numbers influence the extent and breadth of any book tour to be undertaken.
  3. Never underestimate the influence of SEO (search engine optimisation)/SEM (search engine marketing) and Google ads.
  4. Write other pieces to place in newspapers and magazines – remember what was said about adaptability above? Include your blurb at the end with your online contact details. It’s another way people can learn more about you and your work.

The last session before lunch covered rights and distribution with Nerrilee Weir, Senior Rights Manager for PRH.


Nerrilee Weir

Nerrilee had a key message of her own: that your narrative must resonate with readers world-wide. You must “find the universal” in your work, so that it is able to travel. Other points I took away from her talk included:

  1. Selling rights to international publishers is all about pitching. This involves a lot of rejections which read similar to the ones you or I may receive as authors such as, “We didn’t fall in love with the voice” or, “We didn’t feel passionate enough about it”. Sound familiar?
  2. Audio is everywhere now and the Australian film industry is on the rise, providing other avenues for income.
  3. There are clauses in contracts to ensure that “lost in translation” issues do not arise when rights are sold to non-English language markets.

After lunch, I sat in a YA break-out group with four other YA writers, where we had an informal 30-minute chat with Zoe Walton, YA and children’s publisher with PRH. Zoe would have to be one of the nicest publishers I’ve met – and I’m not just saying that because she had good things to say about my writing in our individual session (see below). Anyway, in the group chat we discussed:

Offers – her recent YA offers are split 50/50 between agented and non-agented submissions, and most are contemporary by nature. Fantasy offers are scarce.

Synopses – she recognises how difficult synopses can be to write, and dislikes the style of All Caps when introducing a character’s name for the first time.

Trends – doesn’t see any dominant trend at present.

Individual fifteen-minute sessions followed the break-out group chat. One month previous, I had been asked to submit the first twenty pages of my YA manuscript, along with an author bio and synopsis, to Zoe. Although my manuscript is geared toward the US market, I was keen to hear Zoe’s thoughts on its merits.

I was extremely pleased that Zoe took the time to prepare assessment notes, which she discussed with me during our session and gave to me at the conclusion (thank you again, Zoe!) Her wonderful feedback was fairly consistent with that from US agents, who had received partial or full requests of my manuscript following my pitch to them last August. For those who don’t remember, it was at the Writers Digest Conference in New York City. Read more about it here:

https://rebeccajchaney.wordpress.com/2016/08/28/the-biggest-thing-i-took-away-from-the-writers-digest-conference-and-it-has-nothing-to-do-with-sessions-agents-or-networking/

So, where to now?

Zoe’s comments spur me to continue riding this roller-coaster life of writing. Although I’m still to hear back from three of the agents in NYC who requested partials/fulls of the same YA manuscript, I’ll continue to refine this piece and query elsewhere in the US market.

I’ll also complete my current WIP, a middle grade novel with a very unreliable narrator, to say the least. As Zoe seemed to like my writing style, I might even submit this project to her in due course 🙂

For now, and until next time,

Happy writing,

Rebecca

Does a Writer’s Gender Matter When Querying Agents?

Hi all,

I came upon the below post quite by accident but, as a writer with a manuscript currently out on submission, I found it very interesting. Read on to find out why…

In a perfect world, agents and publishing houses would judge authors based solely on syntax, characterization, plot, and other aspects of writing. But our world is far from a perfect one, and an author’s race, gender, and sexuality can still play a role in who is published. In particular, some of the recent discussions about gender […]

via Finding an Agent: When Gender Matters for a Writer — Kristen Twardowski

Six Words of Wisdom on Running a Crowdfunding Campaign

Hi all,

as someone not brave enough, at this stage anyway, to venture into the world of crowdfunding (I did recently pass on a publisher who raises capital to produce their books through crowdfunding means, but that’s another story), I thought I’d share the below post from a writer friend of mine who is.

So if you’re toying with the idea of running your first crowdfunding campaign, I suggest you read this post. And if you have used crowdfunding to achieve your goals, writing related or otherwise, I’d love to know about your experience.

And best of luck, Sara, on your upcoming trip to Iceland!

Until next time, happy writing,

Rebecca

Wow. Was it really two months ago when I launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for my trip to the 2017 Iceland Writers Retreat? Now, the “promotional” period is over (it ended this past Saturday), and thanks to people’s generosity I raised $2274. This falls short of the $3500 goal – but you know what? That’s still […]

via Six Words of Wisdom on Running a Crowdfunding Campaign (Plus, the “Final” Total for My GoFundMe for the Iceland Writers Retreat) — Sara Letourneau’s Official Website & Blog

What to Do (And Not Do) After Attending a Writer’s Conference

Hi all,

Attending last August’s Writer’s Digest Annual Conference is one of the best decisions I’ve made for my writing. Not only did I expand my knowledge on the craft and business of writing, but I met wonderful writers from around the world, and formed lasting connections with agents and other industry personnel. And I explored New York City for the first time!

top-of-the-rocka

Unfortunately, I am unable to attend this year’s conference but if you are (or are attending another), the attached post is worth a read – especially if you are pitching your work to agents and editors.

Literary agent Irene Goodman of Irene Goodman Literary Agency http://www.irenegoodman.com/ shares insider do’s and don’ts about what to do after you attend a writing conference to get the most out of your experience.

Source: What to Do (And Not Do) After Attending a Writer’s Conference

Until next time, happy writing,

Rebecca

The Gray Area Between Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction

Back in 2010, Mary Kole, who was then a literary agent, wrote a post called “Is it MG or YA?” on her excellent site kidlit.com.  I should note that the publishing market has changed between 2010 an…

Source: The Gray Area Between Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction

The Domination of the Big Five U.S. Trade Publishers

Hi all,five-palm

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the domination of the U.S. publishing industry by the so-called “Big Five” publishing companies: Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Simon and Schuster, and Hachette.

With this in mind, I thought I’d share the chart at the link below as it allows writers to quickly and easily identify which imprints and publishers are owned by each of the “Big Five” U.S. publishing companies. Many thanks to Ali Almossawi for putting it together:

http://almossawi.com/big-five-publishers/

While viewing this list, it’s important to remember that not all U.S publishers are included, only those owned by these five publishing companies. For instance, Scholastic, publisher of the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series, and arguably the biggest children’s publisher in the world, is not included.

Would love your thoughts: how do you think this structure fares for the range of books we see on shelves? Or does it make little or no difference at all?

Happy writing,

Rebecca

Five Tips to Sustain You While in the Query Trenches (and to Stop You Drowning in Doubt)

Hi all,

Along with outlining my next work, I am currently dipping my toes in query waters in the hope that another writing baby, A.K.A. my completed YA manuscript, and I will swim.

img_0055

A writer friend passed the attached link on to me, which I thought I’d share with you:

http://writersinthestormblog.com/2016/03/5-tips-to-sustain-those-in-the-query-trenches/

It’s one of the best posts I’ve read on keeping the results of your agent search in perspective so that you don’t lose your mind (to put it mildly) while querying. In a nutshell, your reaction to things beyond your control can either help sustain you during this time, or help you unravel.

I won’t say any more about it, preferring the post to speak for itself – its comments are also worth a read – but would love to hear your thoughts.

And a special thank you to my friend, Lou Grimm, for passing it on to me (you can read more about Lou and her writing here: https://lougrimm.com/)

Until next time, happy writing,

Rebecca

Start Spreading the News, I’m Leaving Real Soon…

Hi all,

hawkesbury

In a few days, I leave my beautiful sun-burnt country and fly to the Big Apple for a trip nine months in the making. As well as seeing the sights and indulging in a much-loved pastime (retail therapy), I will also be popping up to Boston for a few nights to research my next book and to meet with an editor. While all of this is vitally important, the main focus of my trip is to attend the Writers Digest Conference in New York City, where I will pitch my YA manuscript to agents.

The story I have written has been more than five years in the making, in between writing magazine articles and short stories, and stints working in publishing and government. After countless drafts, input from beta readers and an editor, and nudging from my husband and children with words like, “You can do this. You should do this”, I am about to, well, do this.

Preparing to “Do this” has resulted in a lot of agonizing over the wording of queries, synopses, and 90-second pitches. This, in turn, has led to my eyes rolling to the heavens while I silently scream, “What am I doing?” on more than one occasion. There’s nothing left of my nails and the bags under my eyes have become a permanent feature. I’ve just had a visit to the hairdresser to cover the increasing strands of gray, and don’t get me started on the fear of failure raising its ugly head during the early hours of the morning…

But then I joined the conference Facebook group and discovered there are LOADS of fellow attendees feeling the same way. Nervous. Excited. Overwhelmed. Excited. Scared. And did I say, excited? And I realized that we are all in the same boat, all following our dreams off the proverbial cliff to see if they (and we) have wings. All heading to NYC with a pitch in our heads – mine’s starting to sound like a broken record. All ready to soak up the wealth of information and networking opportunities to be discovered during and between three days of jam-packed sessions. And all ready to meet new people in this sometimes infuriating but always wonderful world of writing.

We share the same insecurities and the same passion, no matter what genre we write. When we do finally all meet in person, it will be like catching up with old friends.

I, for one, cannot wait. I’ll let you know how I go.

Rebecca

What are the biggest things you’ve taken away from writing conferences you have attended? Besides books, that is!

How to Get Yourself Blacklisted by Agents

Hi all,

thought I’d share the below post as it highlights the easiest way for an author to get him or herself blacklisted by agents in this age of the internet.

So unprofessional and very insulting to the agents in question.

It’s worth reading.

Rebecca

In the Inbox

A man named David Benjamin was unhappy an agent rejected him. He wrote a bitter blog post.

I’m providing this because I want you to know that people like this exist. Agents frequently have to protect themselves from this kind of abuse. The industry is small and agents pass this kind of thing on to each other. Note that this is not his first bitter post about an agent who rejected him.

I’ve provided the 3 screen-caps of his short blog post and 3 screen caps of the 6 comments, taken at 11am, July 27, 2016.

A link to his original post is provided at the bottom of this post.

Warning to others blacklist david benjamin blog post screen cap 1Warning to others blacklist david benjamin blog post screen cap 2Warning to others blacklist david benjamin blog post screen cap 3Warning to others blacklist david benjamin blog post screen cap 4Warning to others blacklist david benjamin blog post screen cap 5Warning to others blacklist david benjamin blog post screen cap 6

Original post is on his blog here.

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