Those who were unable to join us for the January meeting of the Hampshire Writers’ Society missed an excellent talk given by Beverley Birch titled Between a Rock and Hard Place; Keeping Faith with Your Writing Self in Today’s Stormy Seas. Hopefully you will enjoy this resume of her realistic and supportive advice.
As Senior Commissioning Editor of Hodder Children’s Books and author of more than 30 non-fiction books, most published by Egmont Publishing Company, she urged writers to strive for individuality, ‘Be passionate about what you are offering to editors and agents,’ was Beverley’s keynote message.
Find your voice as an author. Choose wild, wacky settings that will catch the attention of editors. Make sure that you know who is telling the story, that your plot is well crafted with peaks and troughs that will sustain the interest of the young reader.’
She explained the editorial process of selecting marketable children’s manuscripts and then having to justify them at Acquisition Meetings peopled by company accountants, rights teams, export advisors, design teams, bookseller representatives and publicists and described it as a ‘blood bath’. ‘Frequently,’ she said, ’this process denies children the pleasure of reading excellent imaginative books because the book business will not take the financial risk of promoting a new writer.’
Editors are now looking for manuscripts that ‘ get you by the throat’ by page 3. Beverley explained that if the author has not ‘hooked’ the editor by page 5, that it was inevitable that the editor would read no further. ‘The editor needs to grasp where the plot is going by page five’. The marketing watchword is to ‘suck the reader into the story with alacrity’.
To be published, books need to be buoyant, distinctive and quirky’. In her experience, Beverley explained that children learn by reading about other children’s lives; the good and the bad choices that they make and the consequences of these choices. She recommended both Anthony Horovitz and Robert Muchmore as authors who expose these themes.
Self-publishing, e-books and print on demand were attractive alternatives to marketing new books to traditional but recalcitrant publishers. She commented that many writers now successfully market their books through their own websites or by using Amazon and Kindle opportunities.
She reminded audiences that David Armand suffered 25 rejections before he became a publishing success.‘Don’t give up! Keep writing! Remember that the cycle of editors change. New editors come to the fore. They will look for fresh ideas Tuck away your rejected manuscripts for five years and start a new script’.
HWS member, Celia Livesey said, ‘Beverley kept everyone enthralled by her energetic performance that described the parlous state of the publishing world yet encouraged everyone to continue with their writing’. Others spoke of her passion to support writers and valued the time she gave to answering a multitude of specific questions following her talk. One delegate declared to me that she was more determined than ever to get published.
Barbara Large MBE