Thursday, 27 January 2011

I met a publisher

On Tuesday evening I went to the first of the British SCBWI Professional Series talks. It was a talk by 2 editors from Egmont, who are the biggest children's publisher in the UK. First they talked about what they do. Peter Marley is editor for picture books and Ali Dougal is editor for fiction. Egmont do take care of their authors and do workshops for authors. They deal with fiction for all ages and all genres. And what I particularly liked is that Egmont is a founder of an organisation who does ethical publishing and they make sure all their books are printed from sustainable forests. Yay.
They first talked about the digital age. They said that now it is only a small proportion but it is growing. Any new books that they publish from now onwards will go out as an ebook and as print together.
Peter then talked about what he likes in picture books. He likes memorable characters with great personality, appeals to parents and it has to have concise text. Up to 800 words is preferable. The text can be lyrical, clear, the plot obvious and easy for children to understand. The text also has to flow, rise and fall with a strong ending. It should have a symmetry, the start and the end is the same. Think of The Gruffalo.

Ali then talked about fiction. She likes all fiction from 5 - YA. The text has to grab her, with a clear hook. She has to believe in the characters, whom you can champion. She can love the book but if she feels she can't champion it in-house then she might pass on to another editor.

Submission - they accept unsolicited mss. But beware, in the last two weeks they have had 180 emails. A junior reader first reads the ms and if they like will pass it on to the relevant editor. They also get mss from agents. They feel that agents have better idea of whom to submit to in publishers.
If you are established or have a series, then you can send sample chapters with a chapter breakdown. But she has to have belief in the concept to accept it.
When submitting don't rely on gimmicks such as sending chocs to them. They are editorially led. The sales and marketing teams have to feel they want to take it on for it to be accepted. You have to think when submitting, is it commercial and how well will it sell? They have to think when it's best to sell it. If it's seasonal. So they have to have a vision to package it. Eg branding.
They do accept series but it depends on the type of series it is. If it has a specific arc or niche then they can accept it, and they can commission 2-3 books as a series.
In the query letter I found you can put that you do talks to children, as it gives them an idea that you can communicate as children and know how to promote yourself. So this is what I will add to my next query letter out.
If they feel the author has potential they can nuture them. Eg Peter had a picture book submission which he felt had too adult an angle so gave it to Ali to look at but liked the author's voice and asked them to come in to talk about more work.
They then talked about the Banana series they do, for younger readers who just started reading. They rarely accept new authors for that, but to be accepted the book has to be very appealing, with a bit of a message, and it borders on being educational. The word length is up to 2000, which is the longest they take.

After that we all went back to the bar but I went up to Ali. After waiting I asked her 2 questions.
1. How long is the synopsis they want? A: 1 page.
2. Have heard that agents have been inundated with YA novels and now short of middle-grade, is this true with them? Answer. Yes. So one more possible publisher to send Allie it.

Meantime have printed synopsis and first 2 chapters (chapter one split in 2) and will be sending that off to the Slushpile Challenge.

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