On Saturday, I attended the Missouri Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference. I would categorize this as more of an inspirational than a working conference. It consists of a series of keynote addresses with one breakout session. There was the option to attend an additional breakout session on Sunday morning, but as I have church commitments, I didn’t attend that part. Oh, there were also critiques available from two agents or an editor. Didn’t do that part, either. While I enjoyed the speeches, I’m going to focus on the two that gave me the most takeaways.
Krista Marino, Executive Editor, Delacorte Press
I’ve heard editors speak before but never with the approach Ms. Marino took. She centered her talk around books she’s purchased, starting with how she encountered the author and then unique aspects of the deal. It was interesting to hear the range of stories, from the traditional offer after an agent submission to buying an unfinished manuscript from an unagented author after a 10-page critique at a conference. It definitely brought home that each writer’s journey is different. Here are a few interesting things I learned from Ms. Marino.
- E-book serials/novellas are a lot of extra work for the editor. Digitizing a work is a complicated process, and these books still require publicity plans, covers, etc. They can be a great publicity tool when done well, but they are becoming so common the novelty is wearing off.
- Meta data and internet search marketing have become an essential part of an editor’s job. Book and series titles are extremely important when it comes to searches. Editors spend a significant amount of time considering what terms should be included to ensure the book shows up.
- Editors are willing to take on books they believe in, even when they know they won’t sell big right away.
- Editors will pass projects on to colleagues if they see something special but know it’s not for them.
- When a publisher signs a two-book deal with an author, the second book doesn’t have to be determined yet. Editors often work with authors to come up with the idea for the second book.
- While publishers do get input from booksellers, they will sometimes go against them if they really believe in something. For example, Ms. Marino is sticking with a cover one bookseller asked Delacorte to change, even though it may cost some sales with that particular bookseller.
I found her discussion of exclusive editions particularly interesting. An exclusive edition is sold to a particular bookseller with special content, whether an annotated first chapter, full-color illustrations that could be torn out, or an extra scene. An exclusive edition guarantees sales with that particular bookseller. It sounds like a great tactic, although a lot of extra work for the publishing team. Ms. Marino has worked with authors on as many as five exclusives for a single book. Once the exclusive deal ends–usually after a year–the content reverts to the publisher. In one case, Ms. Marino’s team compiled all of the exclusive content into a single package and sold it to fans with a teaser for the author’s new series. It was a successful promotion.
Lisa Yee, Author
Lisa Yee was hilarious. I haven’t read her books yet, but I definitely will now! I attended her revision workshop, and here are some of the gems I wrote down:
- Sometimes when you work too hard on something, you can ruin it. (I so get this. There comes a time when you have to stop revising and set your work free!)
- Cut ruthlessly. You can probably cut 20 percent of your manuscript. If you think it could be cut, try it, then re-read. If you don’t notice anything missing, it was the right cut.
- Read your work aloud, or have your computer do it for you. (I agree. Check out my post about reading aloud.)
- Change the margins and font so the manuscript looks different. It will force you to slow down and you’ll be less likely to skim.
- Sometimes we do what’s easiest instead of what works. Make sure you’re writing in the correct POV, tense, etc. for the story.
- When revising, take your work and turn it upside down.
Ms. Yee had us do an exercise in which we wrote a paragraph and then revised it several times from different viewpoints. It was a great way to see how different characters in the same scene might experience their surroundings, particularly depending on what baggage they bring to it. If you ever have the chance to hear her speak or do a workshop with her, I highly recommend you seize the opportunity.
While I could share tips from the agents or other authors, these two stood out the most from the conference. I hope they’re helpful/interesting for you, too!