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Children’s Book Blog: Ask the editor – Jenny Glencross, Orion Children’s Books

Rebecca Davies

jenny glencross 224x300 Children’s Book Blog: Ask the editor – Jenny Glencross, Orion Children’s BooksSometimes it’s hard to be an author – especially when you feel like you’ve written a really brilliant story and no-one seems to want to know. To those outside the industry, a publishing house can seem like an impenetrable fortress full of hidden trapdoors and brimming cauldrons waiting to pour boiling oil all over your ego.

While there’s no single right or wrong way to go about hooking a publisher, there are definitely things you can do to up your chances – and there are also things you definitely should not do. I asked Jenny Glencross, Commissioning Editor for Orion Children’s Books and their YA imprint, Indigo, for her top five dos and don’ts when it comes to getting your children’s book published.

DO know your market and read, read, read. Who are you writing for? What is it about your book that makes it different and special from everything else out there? If it’s a vampire love story for teens (yawn), what spin can you put on it to make a publisher fall in love with the genre all over again? If it’s a funny story about a naughty little boy for over fives, is there room for it next to that other book about a naughty little boy that’s sold millions of copies? Why? Don’t forget that you don’t only have to convince an editor, but also their sales, marketing, publicity and rights teams, and having a unique selling point (USP) will give you that edge.

DO write and re-write. Get feedback from someone you trust who will give you an honest opinion. Listen, consider, re-write and re-write until you’re happy. Then leave it alone for at least a month. Then try to read again – as objectively as you can. Re-write. Repeat. Yes, it’s a long process, but you want your work to be the best it possibly can before you start submitting to agents, because that’s how you’ll improve your chances of getting published.

DO target agents before publishers. We receive hundreds upon hundreds of unsolicited submissions, and while we’d love to read them all, sadly it’s just not possible. Agents are the brilliant, talented gatekeepers to the publishing world and manuscripts from agents whose judgement we trust will always go straight to the top of the reading pile. Check out the Writers and Artists’ Yearbook 2013 for more information about exactly the right agents to target and how to submit to them.

DO make sure you have a killer opening. I always open submissions straightaway and have a quick skim of the first few lines. If it doesn’t pique my interest then, it’s unlikely I’ll go much further. If it does, it’s the first thing that goes on my Kindle for the journey home. And in a digital world where readers can download first chapters for free, this is even more important!

DO remember to think about plot, place, pace and character. The four biggies. Does your plot hang together from beginning to end? This may sound like a stupid question but some don’t! Is there a sense of place and atmosphere of the world your characters inhabit? Is it fast-moving and exciting? Every scene, conversation, needs to move the plot forward. If it doesn’t, why is it there? Are your main characters appealing and engaging? They are the ones guiding your readers through the story and if we don’t care about them, we most likely won’t bother. Get inside your main character’s head so that we feel what they feel, see what they see.

DON’T bombard agents or publishers. You’ll just end up annoying people. Yes, we’ll remember you, but for the wrong reasons. And by the same turn, don’t forget to say thank you for any feedback. If we do take the time to give you constructive feedback, that’s generally because we’ve seen some potential there, and ignoring that is rude! Who knows when your paths may cross again should you continue to pursue a writing career?

DON’T overdo description or overload your readers with information. Complex is good. Complicated is bad. It’s great that you’ve done your research, but too much description or background is just like excess baggage. It weighs down your story, slows the pace and eventually your readers will give up.

DON’T forget there is a wealth of writing resources on the internet. You’ll find forums in which to share your work with other aspiring writers, get useful feedback and tips. Take advantage of it.

DON’T immediately reject feedback that isn’t what you want to hear. Of course it’s difficult to receive criticism of something you’ve put your heart and soul into, but being so close to a novel can make you lose perspective. That’s not to say you have to take every criticism or suggestion on-board (in fact, don’t!), but do take some time to consider it carefully, and then decide objectively whether or not it’s a valid point.

DON’T give up! It’s tough and you will get rejected, probably more than once. Develop a thick skin and don’t lose heart. The wonderful thing about the publishing world is that editors and agents are basically just people who love books and love stories. We’re passionate about what we do and all it takes is for one person to see a spark of potential, to be your champion, and you’re off. Good luck!

Rebecca Davies is a journalist and children’s author and completed her middle-grade novel, Shirley Smart and the Nix’s Curse earlier this year. You can read more of her children’s book blogs here

Follow Rebecca on Twitter @TheStoryMonster

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