Part Two – CYA Conference Notes
Following on from last week’s post about the three-day CYA Event recently in Brisbane…
The actual CYA Conference started with a buzz! Competitions winners were announced and I was thrilled (and even relieved) to find that my trio of rhyming PB manuscripts won the published author competition, judged by Luna Soo (Hardie Grant) and Alyson O’Brien (Little Hare). A CYA win is a massive injection of confidence and affirmation, and I was so thrilled! It was wonderful to later have time one-on-two with Luna and Alyson, discussing my work, and hearing their thoughts/feedback. (They are both so lovely!) Thank-you to Alyson and Luna for their belief in my work, and to the whole tribe of CYA organisers and volunteer judges who bring this competition to fruition!
From there I went to my first editorial one-on-one, which was insightful, but also discouraging. It was a story I heard from a number of publishers throughout the conference – and have heard often before – about a reluctance to publish in rhyme. Rhyme is lost in translation – so it’s hard to ‘sell’ to Sales & Marketing. But kids (and parents!) love rhyme! And there are a lot of English-speaking countries in our world! And having written rhymed and unrhymed picture books, I know the time and tenacity taken to get rhyme right! I loooong for a Sales & Marketing department who will love (and value!) rhyming PBs like I do.
Then onto the sessions of the day – when I wasn’t popping out for one-on-one editorial interviews…
Dee White – Pitch Perfect
I have had the benefit of Dee’s attention to details in pitching. She knows her stuff – and nails it!
Elements of an Effective Pitch:
- Hooks the reader
- Connects the reader with MC
- Hints at what’s to come
- Sets context – genre/readership
- Shows where it might sit in a bookshop / comparative titles
Do’s and Don’ts
- Don’t introduce too many characters.
- Hint at story arc.
- Don’t try to tell the whole story – MC, story problem & why it’s getting worse.
- Include themes.
- Clear & coherent
- Why it’s unique and appealing to readers
- Establish personal connection – why you and why now?
- Be proud/passionate
- Be prepared for questions
- Practise your pitch
- Be prepared to take on feedback
- Try not to read too much if asked to read a sample. (Start at the start – and edit the text so that it is punchier than the actual start to the novel.)
Belle Brooks – Self-Publishing
This was the most enabling presentation I have seen about self-publishing. I took pages of notes, and started to see how it could be a viable option for me and a number of manuscripts I believe in, if I run out of options (or heart) with traditional publishers. Much of my notes would only make sense in context, but here are some takeaways…
• You must have a professional editor, who hears your voice and doesn’t try to change it – but helps you bring the story out.
• Don’t fluff your book with ‘content’.
• Know your strengths. Accept your faults.
• Not everyone loves your stuff. And that’s ok. Everyone judges.
• There’s a market for every book.
• Own your voice. Own your style. You are YOU.
• When you get bigger, Amazon works harder for you – because you make them money.
• Always work on your backmatter … Leading them where they need to go. Constantly leading them to your best work.
• Three stars is a good review.
Belle’s tips on blurbs:
- A blurb is critical to success – You can change your blurb on platforms.
- Appeal to your reader – not yourself. (Belle writes the blurb before she writes the books – which means there is no temptation to include too much detail.)
Isobel Carmody – Writing YA
Isobel spoke freely, with no notes. Some of the gems gleaned:
To write is to be. We are a tapestry of everything we’ve ever written.
- Or job is not to be constrained, but to stretch out beyond the edges.
- What do you want to give the world? Nothing.
- How do I write like a child? The child in me it’s still there. Same for YA.
- A relief to let go of the adult world.
- Write to your deep-seated questions.
- Write about the ideas that are in you!
- In children’s books, children grow – but they don’t grow up! (Margaret Wild)
- The choices we make as children/young adults inform the choices we make as adults.
- Writing is an attempt to believe that humans can get better.
- Issues books – Approach your craft/subject with a humility. Don’t use it to push an issue.
- Write your first draft. Then look for themes/issues.
- Write inwardly. Write the book. Worry about where it lands afterwards.
- If the story’s not working for you, don’t push through. Step away. Give your mind the fallow times.
- Editing is an essential part of the creative process. Dig down into it for themes, nuance, etc… Create the sense of reality.
- If you’ve written deeply from yourself, you will not get bored during editing.
- Go deep. Into yourself. Into the moment. In your writing.
- A great book will make it through.
CYA Closing Panel
- Market down 2.6% but children’s writing up 1.2%.
- Middle grade has been booming for 4-5yrs. Is doing really well.
- YA is down. Publishers trying to bring YA down to your middle grade.
Alex Adsett (Agent):
- It’s not an easy industry for author/illustrators. It’s not an easy industry for agents/editors either.
- Always write what’s in your heart. Let us worry about how to fit it into the market.
Debbie Lee (Ingram – Sparks)
- Wherever you’re at, work with professionals.
- You are a business.
Davina Bell (Affirm Press)
- Looking for more junior fiction.
- Trends: girl power / child activism/climate change / diversity
Mary Verney – Sydney office. (Penguin Random House)
- Lots of buyers are asking for good non fiction for kids.
Lucy Bell (Pantera Press)
- Has mostly acquired from the slush pile.
- Looking for activism/climate change. Haven’t published many PBs, but possibilities with non fiction/activism books.
Indie is often a stepping stone. It’s not an us and them. We’re part of the same conduit and can coexist.
Thank-you to the Bundaberg RADF committee that made attendance at all these conference events possible. There is still one day of notes to catch you up on – from the Everything is a Genre day of conference. Tomorrow (Saturday) from 10-11am I will be feeding-back in person at the Bundaberg Library. You can register here.
Margaret is collecting Poetry Friday links a Reflections on the Teche – with a teaspoon and a bit of string.