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Meet the publishers: SCBWI

February 3, 2017


Goldsmiths Writers’ Centre in association with the SCBWI holds a panel discussion on children’s writing with industry insiders

If you are aspiring to be a writer then this was a valuable event to attend at Goldsmiths University in London. Entitled; Meet the publishers: Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, it consisted of a panel of leading contributors. Polly Nolan, a literary agent from the Greenhouse Literary Agency, Sam Smith from the fiction publisher, Scholastic, Felicity Trew, literary agent from the Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency, Liz Banks, editor at Egmont Publishing and Sara Grant, Goldsmith’s lecturer and founder of SCWBI’s undiscovered voices.

The discussion focused on issues and opportunities in the children/teen publishing industry. The contributors were passionate about what they call The Voice in writing. It has to be authentic. It has to be original said Sam. It is the one thing I look for, she went on to say, when I receive manuscripts. As I’m reading I ask myself, are the voice and characters shining through. Polly gave an example. Take Bruce Springsteen and Frank Sinatra, she said. Give them the same song to sing and you will find they sing it differently, they sing it in their own unique style. The same is true for writing. Think about what makes your work a piece of writing, your writing. Liz said even if you create a different world, a world of fantasy, a historical world, even then your voice must shine through. It must feel like you’ve lived in that world.

Next they talked about the common pitfalls writers make when they approach agents. Felicity said if you are writing for children then please write for children. Think about who you are writing for. Is it a picture book? Is it a for a young adult or is it for teens. Make sure your voice is not patronising. Know that a jarring phrase can break the spell for agents and your manuscript does not get a further look. Liz added if you are writing comedy, write what makes you laugh. It has to have authenticity. Never sacrifice yourself for the publishing industry and be confident about your writing. Polly stressed that writers should not send their scripts before they are ready. Revise it as often as you can. Put it away for six months, go back to revise more. Revise, revise, revise. And once you are ready, put it aside for another two weeks, revise one final time and then send it off with a query letter and synopsis and allow yourself to work on them. Sam talked about feedback and critiques. Publishing, she said was a collaborative process. Think about the advice you are given but don’t follow it slavishly.

And finally the contributors touched on what they described as print reading and e-reading.. Liz pointed out that agents, editors and publishers still think it’s important to hold books in your hand and read them. She said, however there’s been a huge shift towards the digital market in adult reading..

and a link has been put up for further reading if you’re interested:

The contributors then chatted about a writer’s profile on social media. They all agreed the old idea of an author sitting alone in a shed writing away is gone. With technology increasingly taking over our lives, readers want to see more and learn more about an author’s life. So It is important to have a social media profile if you are serious you want to be a writer.

They ended with a quick look at e-publishing. They said it had opened up the publishing market and presented writers with a huge opportunity. They said embrace the opportunity to get your book published.

I hope this is helpful. It was well worth attending and gives you an insight into what agents, publishers and editors are thinking.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Buzz About Books permalink
    February 3, 2017 11:43 am

    Thank you Sunita. I was very interested to hear about this event.

  2. Alison Allen-Gray permalink
    February 3, 2017 11:04 pm

    Thank you for this post Sunita. Polly Nolan was editor for my YA novel Lifegame, published by Oxford University Press, and I found her to be really perceptive as she patiently walked alongside me in the re-drafting process. I agree, voice is all-important. It’s what we all aim at and it’s incredibly rewarding when you begin to feel you may be getting it right!

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