Yesterday, I attended the annual KidLitVic 2017 conference at the State Library in Melbourne along with my illustrator friend, Luisa Gioffre-Suzuki. If you have not attended before, its a mecca for children's book writers and illustrators hoping to glean some inside knowledge on how to get the attention of publishers. Sounds easy right?
250 writers and 26 industry insiders jostled between picture book and YA fiction panels, portfolio displays and buffet queues, editing workshops and manuscript/illustration assessments. Surely, there would be an opportunity to win a publisher's heart with a cheery story of a lost rabbit? I am sure some advanced writers might have some further communication with agents or editors, but not me. This emerging writer, however, did receive some warmhearted praise and encouragement from the very smart and passionate Claire Hume, editor at Affirm Publishing. She assessed Toy Mountain and provided excellent feedback to get it to the finish line. She loves its originality and my unique style. Thank you, Claire!
Other tips and takeaways received were;
- Its okay to add illustrator notes to picture book manuscript submissions. Editors cannot read the writers mind and would like more context around stories submitted without illustrations.
- Storyboard your manuscripts if they are high concept
- The online submission success stories are rare. Penguin Random House receive around 2,500 unsolicited submissions each year. Penguin's commissioning editor, Kimberley Bennett, confirmed she has published one picture book from the 'slush pile' in the past three years.
- Scribe Publishing is 'over' receiving stories on Australian animals.
- YA fiction readers look for protagonists that are slightly older than them.
- Publishing houses do not have a crystal ball for the next big genre (goodbye vampires and dystopia) but are seeing waves of stories centered on Ancient Egyptology and Cli-Fi (climate fiction)
- Publishers are looking for stories with a unique voice and incredible writing. Superstars need only apply. And they, generally, publish books from their established author book, networks or via agents.
I would recommend this conference to emerging writers and those without an agent or book contract. I can guarantee you'll make some new friends, as I did, and I also recruited two new members into my children's writing critique group. All big leaps in the right direction.