Meet the Kids’ Publishers Conference Melbourne - May 2016
by Georgie Donaghey
You always remember your firsts; your first kiss, your first friend and your first day of school. They are important to us. They help shape our lives.
I was fortunate enough to get a weekend pass from my family and attend the recent Meet the Kids’ Publishers Conference in Melbourne. This conference was designed to cater for the needs of Melbournians who are eager to crack the publishing market. Once word spread, authors from all over the country were lining up for tickets.
The Meet the Kids’ Publishers team of Dee White, Alison Reynolds, Nicky Johnston, Jacquelyn Muller and Coral Vass devised the perfect program. The MC, Ian Robinson warmed up the room and Michael Wagner took interviewing to a whole other level. He was funny, sincere and an informative panel host.
160 kindred spirits filled the hall at the Victorian State Library, all of us ready to learn. There were the most gorgeous illustrator portfolios on display which received praise from the Publishers for such high standard.
Back to back assessments meant nearly all of the days attendees had the opportunity to pitch their ideas or work in progress.
The smorgasbord of publishers were only too happy to share their secrets and chat about their wish lists.
|Allen & Unwin||Elise Jones|
|Black Dog Books/Walker Books||Maryann Ballantyne|
|Hardie Grant Egmont||Marisa Pintado|
|Random House||Kimberley Bennett|
|Text Publishing||Jane Pearson|
|The Five Mile Press||Melissa Keil|
|Literary Agent||Jacinta di Mase|
- Find your voice. Find your DNA.
- Publishers want more girl characters including animal stories. Too often the protagonist is male.
- Publishers want more historical women characters, relatable characters, ones that emotionally touch you. Ones that are diverse, edgy but no too scary or dark just enough.
- Less picture books and more chapter books. There is a demand for well-written chapter books. Yes, yes, yes for series submissions.
- Board books are hot right now but there are few being submitted for consideration. There is a hunger for simple board books with bold pictures.
- Books that tie in with seasonal events are popular – Christmas, Mother’s/Father’s Day are commercially successful.
- Humour sells – characters that make you laugh, ones that are a bit off centre.
- Illustration notes with picture book submissions should be brief and not detailed.
- Have a hook, well told, be authentic.
- Poetry has a place but can be hard to sell. Rhyme if written well is great but can be restricting to the story.
- Don’t lecture - be in touch with your inner child and write for children not at them.
- Write stories that tell a child something about themselves.
- A key character that is recognisable and can be easily marketed.
- Write from the heart not to meet the trend.
- Action adventures, mysteries, thrillers and ideas that are unique are hot property.
- Never cold call a publisher, instead look for their submission guidelines and/or send an email enquiry.
- Publishers are always looking for a fresh voice.
- Target the right publisher – research their lists and find the one who best suits your voice.
- Keep your cover letters short. Your synopsis should be concise, with a well-written hook and one that is punchy of one to two lines.
- While you are attached to your manuscripts publishers look at them differently. Can they sell it? Can they sell you?
All the publishers shared, they were enlightening and they were most definitely approachable. There were friendships forged, ideas were born. The day was filled with electricity and inspiration.
I was lucky to meet several Creative Kids Tales members who I’ve only spoken with on the phone or by email. This was my first trip to Melbourne and my first one-on-one assessment with a publisher. It exceeded all my expectations.
I’ve been to quite a few conferences, but this was the first where all the sessions were publishing focused. Generally there is one panel sessions where publishers have the chance to discuss their side of the industry and the remaining day’s sessions are filled with author workshops or hearing about other authors journeys to publication.
I can’t wait to attend my next Meet the Kids’ Publishers Conference.
My favourite take from the day: We are the champions. We are the story tellers and we are where it all begins for children who develop a passion for books. We play an important role in a child’s life.
I hope you have been inspired too. Now go and write!