It’s nearly publication day! Fifteen years ago I started submitting children’s book manuscripts to publishers. Five years ago I decided to share my list of publishers I was submitting to by putting it on my blog. I never dreamed it would be such a popular post, with nearly 800 comments, queries and even success stories. It’s been great sharing the ups and downs of publication with so many people. Finally, on 28 January this month, my own dream will come true and my rhyming picture book, Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip, illustrated by Julia Patton, will be published by Maverick Books.
To say thank you for everyone’s support, I would love to give away a signed copy. If you would like one, please share your new year’s writing resolution below! On publication day I’ll print out the comments and pick one at random. I’ll then be in contact to ask you for your address and dedication.
If you are still submitting, don’t give up! I made this promise to myself and I’m so glad I did. I will keep updating the publishers and agents lists and keep encouraging you all. Maybe your success story will be the next one on here? I hope so! Have a brilliant 2016 and keep writing.
It’s an actual Professor McQuark illustration by Julia Patton! I love it!
Probably the most exciting part about getting a picture book accepted is seeing the illustrations. More than any other book, a picture book has to grab the reader’s attention from the very first glance, so the illustrations really are the most important part of the package. I can appreciate much more now why most publishers ask for text only. They may have illustrators they are waiting to work with, they have their own house style to pursue, they have access to agencies with hundreds of artists… in short, they are much better placed to make a decision about an illustrator than you are. The exception is if you are an author-illustrator (a rare but amazing breed!) or an already established partnership such as Hedgehugs‘ Steve Wilson and Lucy Tapper (husband and wife as well as writer and illustrator). Having an illustrator chosen for you also gives you a wonderful chance to see your book elevated to another level, as your illustrator brings a whole new level of interest and fun to your text. This has certainly been the case with the illustrator my publishers, Maverick, have selected for Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip: the amazingly inventive Julia Patton.
Normally Maverick will select perhaps three artists and ask for sample spreads before comparing them and selecting their favourite. The author is consulted as part of the decision but is not in charge of making the final choice. In this case, however, they were keen to work with Julia and knew she would be the perfect choice for a book about wacky inventions. I only had to look at her sample spread to instantly agree!
The next time the author will see illustrations is usually when pencil-drawn drafts are produced for each spread, to give a rough idea of how the finished book will look. There is an opportunity for input but again the editor and artist will be making the main decisions. After the pencil stage, it’s time to sit back and try not to fidget too much while the artist puts in the hard graft. As I mentioned in my previous post about promotion, this is a good time to do those pre-publication jobs such as creating a website and Facebook page. When the finished drawings come in and you have picked yourself off the floor in amazement and awe, there is a chance for some typo-hunting, as by now the text will have been laid out on the pages by the editor. At this stage you may get a digital copy, which isn’t actually a virtual book but the real thing. It’s just not the actual book yet. Yes, I don’t understand either. One last check and then it’s off to be printed for real, a process which takes three long months. Time to get very excited indeed!
In my next post I’ll be interviewing Julia Patton about inventions, inspiration and interpretation via parrot. Back soon!
I am so happy to tell you that a picture book I submitted to Maverick Books has made its way up through the slush pile and has been accepted for publication! You will know that this is a dream come true for me and I am still afraid I will suddenly walk into an exam hall without my trousers on and realise it is a dream and I have to retake my physics O level instead.
I sent the manuscript at the end of April 2014 but I knew there was a big backlog and Maverick was my first choice so I decided to wait and concentrate on other material. I have a lot of manuscripts of different age ranges and genres all whizzing about at once! Then at the beginning of February I received an email asking if the manuscript was still available and for more information about myself. Funnily enough Maverick had already heard of me due to the number of click-throughs coming to their site through the list of publishers on this blog! I was thrilled to hear they were interested but tried not to get too excited as I have been at this stage so many times before. The next email invited me to visit their offices in Horsham. It was a two-hour drive but nothing was going to stop me!
It was very interesting seeing inside a publisher’s office and I learned a lot about the process as we talked about how a picture book was put together and how Maverick works. Although it is a small team they have big ambitions and really high standards. They also like to work closely with their authors and get them involved in editorial meetings, which sounded great. Contracts were mentioned, hands were shaken and I left the meeting walking on air and hoping I wouldn’t crash the car on the way home!
Putting together a picture book is a lengthy process, so I won’t see Professor McQuark come to life fully until 2016. But there is the editorial process to enjoy, plus the excitement of seeing sample illustrations from three different illustrators before a final style is selected to suit the Professor and her amazing inventions. I think that’s what I’m looking forward to seeing most of all.
I’ll keep you up to date with my publishing journey as it happens. But for now, keep submitting, keep writing – you never know what might happen!
It’s an exciting month for me, fellow scribes. My short play The Voices is being performed as part of Ghost Dog Productions‘ new writing night at the Horse Bar, London, while previous play Love in the Time of Magicka is currently ‘on tour’ at the Little Black Box Theatre in Bristol and then next month at the King’s Arms in Salford, with a new director and cast for each location. All three venues are fab ’boutique’ theatre spaces that love new writing.
Theatre space at the Horse Bar – small but perfectly formed.
Meanwhile my article on decoding the mystery of blogging stats is in this month’s Writing Magazine (misleadingly labelled April issue, as magazines are from the future).
Exciting times! Meanwhile I’m working on a full length play for a competition, plus some more short pieces. But never fear, I shall still be watching out for opportunities to submit to children’s publishers and for writing tips to share with you. My main tip this month: take every opportunity that comes your way. You never know what might happen!
A couple of interesting indie publishers featured in Writing Magazine this month.
First is Fledgling Press, a Scottish company that focuses on debut authors writing a variety of fiction including YA. If you’re Scottish too that will help! You should send three chapters and a short synopsis by email and they aim to reply within 6 weeks. If accepted your book will be placed on a longlist for possible publication. Note they do not want sci fi. Full submission details at www.fledglingpress.co.uk/submissions.
The other indie that caught my eye this month is Ghostly Publishing which has been founded by a paranormal investigator, no less! The premise gets even more intriguing as the submission process involves peer review on the site, so you need to register then upload your submission – first three chapters and synopsis – rather than emailing or posting it. There is also a free ‘manuscript checker’ which apparently can instantly score your book to test if it is ready for publication – the closer you get to zero, the better! Take a look at these details on the site to familiarise yourself with the process. As you might expect, Ghostly wants fantasy and sci-fi for child to teen readership.
And finally, if you do buy Writing Magazine this month you’ll find my article on how to interpret your blog stats nestling happily on page 28 under the pun-derful title Stat’s Amazing!
Happy submitting everyone!
Actually it’s not me who’s pint-sized but my script! My short play ‘Brought to Book’ is a winner in the 2013 Pint-Sized Plays competition. Pint-Sized Plays bring theatre into pubs by staging performances of the ten finalists’ scripts in various pubs around Tenby in Wales as part of Tenby Arts Festival. They then go on to take part in a ‘script slam’ with the winner taking home the coveted pint trophy. There were 250 entries from all around the world so I feel a great sense of achievement in being a finalist. I just wish Tenby wasn’t four and half hours away so I could go and watch!
The win marks a bit of a change of direction for me. I’m still writing (and submitting!) children’s fiction but my involvement in amateur dramatics has sparked a flurry of playwriting activity. I’ve discovered that it’s ideal if you like writing dialogue and hate description, like me! Searching for opportunities to submit is very different from finding a publisher. When you write a script you are writing for performance rather than publication, and there are plenty of young theatre companies looking for new scripts, either at certain times of the year or through competitions. Entry fees are rare but so is payment. The reward is getting your play performed rather than monetary recompense. The most useful site I have found for opportunities is Playwright’s Competition Calendar. You can browse by month according to when the competition expires. Well worth a look if you’re interested in script writing.
You! Yes, you! Back up your work!
Today I’m going to play the parent and nag you. Whatever writing you’re doing, wherever you are, stop now and back it up. Whether it’s on a memory stick, an external hard drive or a paper printout, make sure you have an extra copy of whatever you are doing. (Even if you don’t value it much now, you may do later on. A novel lost always becomes a masterpiece in retrospect!)
My latest article on backing up and storing your work is published this month in Writing Magazine (May 2013 edition). There’s lots of other useful stuff in there as well including a special on writing picture books and an insightful interview with three very different literary agents.
Have you backed up your work yet? No? Shame on you! Yes? Good – I won’t stop your pocket money. At least, not this week.