Picture Books with David Mackintosh, Sarah McIntyre, and Chris Judge
- Back up your work! And don’t write on your illustrations. David Mackintosh noted that for translations, publishers will want to keep images as is, just change the text.
- Sarah McIntyre talked about the importance of finishing things, moving on, starting new things, finishing those. She also noted that so much of publishing is about personal taste, which the panel agreed with, but pointed out that if you keep going, success with later works can spark interest in earlier stuff as well.
- Both Sarah and Chris Judge emphasised the need to put in the hours, the work.
- Picture book submissions differ slightly from novel ones – you can package your work attractively, Sarah McIntyre notes, but sending glitter in envelopes is still not cool.
Publishing panel (children’s fiction) with Eoin Purcell, Elaina O’Neill, Helen Carr, and Philippa Milnes-Smith
- Elaina O’Neill advised to approach submissions like a job interview – always trying to get to the stage of the interview, then the job – and also really put yourself in the editor’s shoes. A short letter and a short synopsis are best. And you need someone really passionate about your work in the publishing house.
- Philippa Milnes-Smith spoke about the importance of getting the pitch letter right and being sure to read it out loud before sending.
- Helen Carr reminded everyone of some basics – spell the names right, make sure the letter is tailored to the publisher and people (both in the address and the body), don’t hassle people for a response, and be civil and polite to everyone at the publisher.
- Eoin Purcell cautions everyone to ensure their manuscript is genuinely ready for submission and will grab an editor right from the beginning. In a similar vein, Philippa emphasised the need to spend time working on and developing your writing – the most crucial thing.
- There was some talk about the pros and cons of agents – agents are problem solvers, handle the business side of things, can handle the money/business issues rather than an author (particularly useful if the author has a very good working relationship with the publisher). Depending on the publisher you may not necessarily need one – O’Brien have been very good at handling international deals, for example.
- The e-book chat happened, inevitably. The sense was that at the moment really it was ‘same content, different format’; still plenty more that could be done.
- In response to some crazy lady’s (okay, my) question about writers working in different age groups, Helen devised the beautiful phrase ‘the self-harm/baby lamb dichotomy’ (what to do when writers are writing for different age groups, with possibly very different subject matter). Ensuring books for different age groups go through a different editing process, and are released at different times, is useful. Helen also noted that with Eoin Colfer’s work, his stuff with O’Brien for younger readers hasn’t hugely benefited from his later success, whereas his stuff for 10+ certainly has. Philippa noted that with picture books, the author tends not to be noticed so much – it’s more the characters, the drawings, so not so much of an issue. Mags Walsh, who was chairing, reminded us of Julia Donaldson’s teen fiction, which tends to be underappreciated given the huge success of her picture book work.
- On self-publishing – it can be useful but only if there’s success there. Eoin noted the importance of proving yourself with it before approaching a publisher, developing your track record.
- On social media – Eoin said social media wasn’t essential, but some kind of internet presence is useful. Publishers will Google, and it helps to ‘control the message’. Helen noted the importance of being consistent, and Elaina pointed out that Twitter etc is very useful for writers communicating with each other, rather than necessarily readers. Do what works for you in terms of connecting with readers and make sure to keep on writing, was the general sense.
Kevin Barry and Maeve Higgins
- Kevin Barry talked about writing quickly, especially the first draft of his novel City of Bohane, which took three or four months; it was very intense but also he wanted to make sure he kept enjoying himself. If he’s not being entertained, chances are the reader won’t be.
- Maeve Higgins noted a sort of surprise at actually having a book, as with her stand-up comedy there’s a lot of making it up on the spot or responding immediately to events of that day, rather than having a script.
- Kevin does very little research – sees it as procrastinating, putting off the actual work. But he does eavesdrop and observe a lot.
And… think that’s it! From my own perspective it was lovely to meet readers at the Monster Book Lunch and elsewhere (unexpected encounters, hurray!); I also got to catch up with three former summer-programme students over the weekend which was a delightful bonus. And wonderful just to hang out with writerly-types as well, both before the Book Lunch and at different events.
On the kids’ side of things, Sarah Webb and Tom Donegan did a stellar job; must also mention Maureen Kennelly, overall curator, and all the others involved, including the team of volunteers. Really well-put-together festival, and an absolute joy to be a part of and to attend. Catch you all in 2013.