Megan Farr and Sarah Mussi PowerPoint Presentation January 2014

How to write a children’s book that editors know they can go for…

What do editors want?

  • This is a total mystery to most writers , so we have to be cunning sleuths…
  • What might they go for? … Pick up your magnifying glass – let’s start to see if we can find any clues…
  • Start by examining the crime scene…
  • Checklist
  • What do children like reading
  • What will parents buy/ librarians stock?
  • What has succeeded before?
  • Why has it succeeded before?
  • Others?

Red herrings…

  • Editors go for some books that include factors which are totally beyond your control.
  • So don’t be side tracked…

Things beyond your control

  • Being famous like David Beckham
  • Already being published by the editor
  • Having entered the canon like To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • others?

What does that leave?

  • YOU
  • So only look at books that:
  • Are written by a writer like you
  • Have no extraordinary advantages in terms of editor-go-for-ness.

So what DO editor’s think they can go for?

  • I’m an author –so I don’t really know – so I have to make an educated guess: a book that they can:
  • Sell rights to?
  • Get into festivals?
  • Interest bloggers?
  • Get into schools?
  • Create a buzz about?
  • Take to book fairs?
  • LIKE ? (that’s pretty vague!)

Hopefully Megan can tell us more!

Back to the crime scene…What did those successful books do?

  • Pleased librarians
  • Engaged       child readers
  • Were age appropriate
  • Educational ? Or dealt with interesting issues?
  • Page turning
  • High concepts
  • Original and unusual USPs
  • Well written
  • Saleable…

What do I (The Mussi) do?

Before I try to get that killer contract I…

  • Research books being currently published (by publication house if possible)
  • I try to create a data base of the interests of editors (don’t often get very far with that)
  • I read new books out
  • I interview children on their likes and dislikes

4 Key Ingredients – I always try to include in a proposal

  • Some depth in the story
  • Page turnability
  • Original and exciting concept or a new original exciting take on an old one
  • Interesting voice or narration

So how do I set about doing that?

  • I brainstorm ideas that suit
  • I eliminate any idea that are not original enough
  • I check the idea against the list /data base I’ve created
  • I write a story pitch for the idea
  • I repeat this until I have a portfolio of possible ideas
  • I send them out to other trusted readers for feedback (I am only interested in negative feedback)
  • I redraft the ideas

What then?

  • I can go straight to my agent…
  • but if you don’t have one…
  • You will need to write up the first few thousand words. (If an editor is interested in one of my ideas I have to do that too.)
  • And send it out or pitch it – at a one to one.

And what if nothing happens?

  • I do it all over again.
  • My philosophy is very simple
  • If at first you don’t succeed – give up (with that idea)
  • Where there’s a will there’s a way (and if there’s no way there’re always excuses)
  • if they aren’t interested in an idea, and don’t think it’ll sell – then why the heck should I be?

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