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?

Hot Key Books Submissions


About Hot Key Books

Hot Key Books is a division of Bonnier Publishing, publishing books for 9 – 19 year olds. We started publishing in 2012.

We publish stand out, quality fiction that people like to talk about.

Many of us come from a background of traditional publishing, looking to do things a little differently, focusing on top-notch author care and actually talking to readers who love books just as much as we do.

Who Are Hot Key?




Having fun

Book lovers

A Good Publisher Gives You



An audience


A happy feeling



Pitches internally

Edits, works closely with authors

Promotes internally

Bottom line:

Starts the process


Concepts the cover

Commissions the cover

Company/imprint branding

Typography, inside & out

Bottom line:

Makes it look good


Negotiates pricing

Deals with special effects

Manages scheduling and logistics

Bottom line:

Makes it real


Involved in acquiring

Builds list of pre-readers (bloggers/media)

Commissions promotional materials

Books events, especially festivals

Bottom line:

Spreads the word


Works with retailers

Gets books into store

All around the world

Manages stock

Bottom line:

Puts it where readers can get it


Pulls together all the costs

Makes recommendations

Bottom line:

Keeps us all in line


Not a separate department

Infused into everything

Blurs the lines between all the departments

Bottom line:

The saviour of (some) publishers


Thinking about submitting? Great! First, make sure your manuscript is amazing. Then, send it in full to us at Please include a full synopsis too! We don’t mind what format files are sent to us in (although we prefer Word and PDF) but please note that we only accept electronic submissions. We will always try to get back to you within three months.