KidLitVic has to be on of my favourite days of the year. It's held annually in Melbourne's autumn, when it's time to pull on coats and stomp on fallen leaves. It's a mecca for children's writers and illustrators - mostly for creators of picture books and junior fiction, facilitated by author Alison Reynolds and friends. There's a chance you'll meet a favourite author or illustrator, as I did. Or you can book workshops and story assessments from a publisher that is generally hard to access. It can be a happy time or a tearful day, depending on how positive assessment feedback is. That didn't matter to me. I loved being with my writing tribe. There's much to get out of a jam packed day. Networking is a big part of it, but I also got a list of tips from YA Author, Melissa Keil in her workshop Pitch Perfect and Submission Ready.
Melissa talked us through her role as Commissioning Editor at (now defunct) Five Mile Press and how she 'pitches' hot queries to the acquisitions teams. There were many fascinating insights and a presentation of the complex template and business plan required. She works incredibly hard to sell her hot story to marketing, sales and finance. If it is not a unanimous, 'YES' from the acquisitions team, it's out. Eye opening insight into how the slush pile works.
Other takeaway tips from her workshop focused on how to write a standout query letter. Here's a summary;
- Refine your query letter as if it's a manuscript requiring draft after draft
- Keep it to one page.
- Include where it sit's in the marketplace - what books it would sit next to on a shelf at your local bookstore. State how your story differs from these books and focus on the internal conflict of the central character.
- Don't send illustrations if you not an illustrator.
- Story boards are helpful for high concept stories. They are not required otherwise.
- Sddress the editor by name - search for a name on Google.
- Include information on your commitment to your craft such as courses, publications (recent not a poem from Grade Two) and a link to your website.
- Summarise your story in one hundred words or less by setting the stage, discuss main characters and the central conflict.
- Send in the manuscript for picture books, paginated on one page (not one spread per page over 32 pages) or the first chapter for novels.
I've found it hard to find a great example of a query letter online, but there is some good advice on this website here. Overall, your story has to be the best it can be before submitting to a publisher.
I had the best of day's at KidLitVic 2018. I shared hugs and stories with many creators, finally meeting online creative friends face-to-face. A big day and a big drink at the end topped it off.
Can't wait for KidLitVic 2019.