Be the first to know about new releases - and even read them early!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Publishing Christmas Shindigs that White People Like

I went to a Publishing Christmas Party on Monday night and it was oh-so chic.
I didn't know it before going but there was a theme for the night, of Mad Men, the TV show which I just happen to have gotten a little obsessed with at the moment (I'm up to season three!) and there were oodles of suits and beautiful sixties styles to be seen. There were also people in jeans, like me. But I was wearing a floral top so it was okay.

I had a chat with and spied across the room fantabulous people such as Steph Bowe, Lili Wilkinson, Gabrielle Wang, Corinne King and Cath Crowley and there were lots of other publishing folk there who I don't necessarily know by sight.

It was lots of fun and the Swing Dance performance by some dancers from Swing Patrol (which just happens to be the school I go to. You know. When I go) was an awesome touch. And then whoever wanted to had a quick lesson in the super-hot Bella Bar which consisted of lots of jiggling around on the spot and sometimes dancing as a girl and sometimes dancing as a guy but just keeping on with the dancing.

Those who know me know that I have a soft spot for swing and this feels like the perfect opportunity to show you all one of my favourite routines from the 2009 Lindy at the Light charity performances in Leeds, UK that I was a part of, though I wasn't in this performance. But I totes thought they were awesome. I got to see this (and a bunch of other routines including the one I was in) once an hour for five hours.

It was winter. And SNOWING in England. This year I have heat and plethora of bugs to contend with.

Anyhoo - enjoy!

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's Book Review Time! (1) Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evie's always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she's falling for a shape-shifter, and she's the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours, but still. Normal.

Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie's dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths. Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures. So much for normal.

Paranormalcy was lotsa fun, a book you just want to keep reading and reading and reading until it's gone.
Evie has a great voice, she's a bit flighty, loves her soap operas and all things pink (like her taser) and will not hesitate to bring down a paranormal with it before tagging, bagging and reading it it's rights. She's pretty badass, but at the same time she's just a sixteen year old girl who wants to be a normal sixteen year old girl. She may be able to handle herself and kick some butt in some areas of her life but White created a well-rounded character in Evie: she is pretty damn terrified of her ex, Reth, a Faerie who is essentially stalking her and there's nothing she can do about it. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, right?
There was a great mix of paranormal creatures here and Kiersten added her own spin to the regular myths about them. I love it when writers come at known stories from new angles.

I really enjoyed reading Kiersten White's debut novel and look forward to more from her.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ford Street Books and Sarah: Sales Force Extraordinairre

I can't believe it was nearly a month ago but it appears it was. 
After my last day as an intern with Black Dog Books (but before I started my temporary work with them) I started the first part of a placement/internship/work attachment with Ford Street Publishing. The task for the day was to run a successful book launch for a beautiful new picture book, The Glasshouse text by Paul Collins and illustrations by Jo Thompson. 

I was the sales force, in charge of the money and the merchandise.
I have to admit, I haven't been to many book launches, but the ones I have been to in the past were boring. I learnt that I did not like book launches. Since The Glasshouse launch I've changed my mind though. I met so many fantastic people who love writing, love illustrating or just love reading! It felt like the Aussie kid-lit crowd all turned up. I was among kindred spirits, you might say, so  I definitely want to go to more launches.

The launch of the book about a girl and her pumpkin growing glasshouse was held at the end of October (clever, right? Because of Halloween?) not in a bookstore, but at Prahran Market which was a creative choice in venue. Families were already out in force, enjoying their Saturday morning together, therefore the launch attracted parents and kids (sometimes kids without their parents, and the odd dog) to just wander over and check out what was going on since they were there already.

The speeches were a bit hard to hear over the noise of shoppers shopping, especially as Paul was ill so couldn't speak loudly if he wanted to. I think a microphone is all they need for next time.

There was supposed to be book-signing after the official launch and speeches but guests just couldn't help themselves and as soon as I sold them a book or two they had to get them signed!

Above is some of the artwork from the picture book, and paper pumpkins for the kids to have a crack at making! (Photo courtesy of Megan Burke)

And here are Paul and Jo (Photo also courtesy of Megan Burke). 

All in all, it was a great day with great people. I am taking a bit of a break after finishing up with Black Dog Books, finishing my assignments and finishing my novel. Getting into my summer job routine and then I'll be heading back to Ford Street for more learnings! And either revising a novel or plotting my next one.

Ciao for now,


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When Identity Theft Happens To You

I thought I was done with this blog. Thought I had posted on it for the last time.

Why? Because Nigerian hackers got into my google email account (so my whole Google account, including Blogger), changed my password and then sent this email to nearly everyone I have ever emailed.

Subject: Horrible Experience!!

Sorry I did not inform you about our trip.We actually made a quick travel to Brighton and unfortunately we were attacked at gun point on the way to our hotel,all cash,credit card and cell phone were taken away from us but luckily we still have our passport with us.

I`ve been to the embassy here but they're not helping issues at all and our return flight leaves today but we`re having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let us leave until we settle the bills

Am freaked out at the moment and i need your help right away

Yeah, I mentioned the EVER part, in "they sent this email to anyone I had ever emailed. Ever." right?
Considering I had 1600 emails in my InBox which doesn't include Facebook or Twitter notifications or anything, they sent it to a lot of people.

The publisher I am soon to be interning with left a voicemail for me while I was at work about it. Today I got a call from my property agent. My parents had international phone calls from friends and family overseas.

The people that replied to this email were then asked to send between $1300-1800 via Western Union and though the people I have managed to contact know it's a scam (though some were worried) I don't know how to contact others.

Though I doubt anyone would have sent money - I sure hope they wouldn't - I have no way of knowing who it went out to. Oh yeah - did I mention they deleted my contacts list too? I imagine it went out to all of the agents and publishers I have queried over the years. I'm so sorry. My records of who I queried were in my Google account.

Oh - and when I say I HAD 1600 emails in my inbox, I say HAD because they are not there anymore. Every email I ever sent or received was deleted. I don't know why they would do that. Anyone? Do you know why hackers delete your emails and contacts?

So I finally managed to get back into my account today. The hackers had changed the email address to send a security code, and they'd changed the phone number for it as well. They had set it so that all of my emails were being forwarded to another email address, but when they replied it would look like they were coming from me.

I had to give a statement at the police station on Sunday, and their (under-resourced and under-funded) E-crimes division are on it. Mind you if it's international there's nothing they can really do.
Google recorded the IP addresses of some foreign activity, and there were 3 different IP addresses in Nigeria and 1 in the United States that had been accessing my email. I've forwarded them to the police but I doubt they can do anything.

I have to say, it made me feel quite vulnerable. I had no control over stopping these a-holes from scamming my friends. And they got into my facebook and deleted any mention of them as well when I had been warning my friends not to email me. They changed my passwords in Facebook as well but I managed to get back in. I must be more computer-savvy than they anticipated.

Anyway, that's my story. I'm sorry everyone, and I hope no one gave "me" any money to get me home.

Be careful on the internet everyone. It's not always your friend.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bad stuff happens in threes, right?

So I'm going through a bit of a "don't let Sarah touch your computer, she'll break it" phase right now.

My lap top's power cord is busted so I sent it away to get fixed. It's cool, I still have my 3 month old netbook, it's shiny and new and a novelty so I do most of my work on that anyway. I can totally get those last four assignments for the year done. It'll be fine.

Yeah well while the laptop was away my computer is hacking its guts up because it sure has one doozy of a virus.

But I managed to back up all my documents onto the usb drive on my key ring, so it's fine. It's still good. I don't physically have a computer of my own to use but I could use somebody else's (like my sister's right now) if I could get my hands on it. I'm getting the assignments in. It's happening.

And then my usb drive fell off my keyring and disappeared into oblivion.


I'm currently working two jobs, (as Maryann at Black Dog Books said the other day: "This is Sarah, she was here on work placement but she just never left") and GETTING MY ASSIGNMENTS DONE.

My sister found the USB though - thank God it fell off in the house. But my bad computer karma is over now right, that's three. It has to be over. And let's not mention the fact that Black Dog use Macs and I'm a PC girl through and through (how do you use a Mac, anyway??).

Anyway, sorry for the no new expose's. I'm a little tied up.

I have lots of things to tell you about the fabulous Ford Street Press book launch for The Glasshouse by Paul Collins, illustrated by Jo Thompson. It was lots of fun and I met some fab people. I was the sales department. But I'll tell you all about that later.

Oh! And I found the notebook! So there are writing pearls of wisdom from Steph Bowe, Lili Wilkinson and Penni Russon coming your way.

Hope you're enjoying the sunshine if you're in the southern hemisphere like me, or the cold and snow (if its started) up north. I can't believe it's that time of year again.

How are you NaNoWriMoer's doing?

More later,


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Getting Published: With an Agent vs Without an Agent PART 2

Okay so yesterday I spoke with Robin Mellom about the process of getting published WITH an agent.

Today I'm talking with Shirley Marr about the process of getting published WITHOUT an agent. I actually met Shirley the week before I started my placement with Black Dog Books, her publisher. It was some bizarre yet awesome coincidence.

This is Shirley

There's an awful lot of emphasis these days on the importance of having an agent in order to get your book into publishers hands. And it's true, it's pretty difficult when most publishers don't accept submissions that have NOT come through an agent.

Shirley Marr, however is a non-agented success story.

Let's see how she did it, hmm?

Was it an active choice to NOT employ an agent, or did you not really think about it?

I was quite naive when I decided to submit Fury. I didn't really know what an agent was or did. I was under the mistaken illusion it was for "famous authors" that dealt with huge publishing houses. I thought I didn't need one if I only aimed for the small indie houses.

You said you aimed to target smaller publishers, why was that?

I was unsure of my manuscript, but I thought it had potential and I really liked it. In my mind I thought if I found someone small, that maybe I would get a more "hands on" approach. When I saw on their website their goal was to foster authors and not just find one-off novels, I thought that looked perfect. As it turned out, my path to publication with black dog books was sort of like a mentorship. Just what I was after.

How many publishers did you submit to before Black Dog?

Black Dog was my first and only one! I'm a rejection letter virgin.

[Do you remember me saying yesterday that you would hate Shirley, readers? This is why. She is an author who has never received a rejection letter. She’s not supposed to EXIST. Let’s all glare at her some, shall we?]

How awesome was "the call" and can you tell me about it?

I was so surprised. I got an email from Melissa Keil. Below is the exact email. It wasn't an immediate fairytale "yes" though, it was a series of talks and revisions (I had to submit a new draft) before it became that way. Nevertheless, the first contact letter was still exciting!

From: Melissa

Subject: Submission - 'Fury'

Date: 25 March 2009 9:17:16 AM AWDT

To: Shirley Marr

Hi Shirley

Thank you for submitting the sample of your young adult novel 'Fury'. I have to say that your cover letter was one of the better letters I have received (it was nice to read something with a smattering of personality, something strangely lacking from many submissions!)

I would be interested to read the rest of your novel - it would be great if you could submit it electronically, preferably as a word doc.

Looking forward to finishing your book - and ps, thank you for the chocolates, they were much appreciated by a sugar-starved editorial team.


Melissa Keil


How did you find negotiations and contracts, going it alone. Did you struggle through it yourself or have a lawyer look it all over and negotiate?

It was easy because bdb is small, so there wasn't a lot of "red tape" - I met the publisher, Andrew Kelly, almost straight away. I did have a lawyer look at the contract and a few things were changed. A small publishing house meant I could negotiate everything with Andrew himself.

Do you feel you made the right choice for you?

For Fury, definitely yes.

Anything of particular interest happen/things you think were unique to your situation that you'd like to talk about?

My decision not to go with an agent was a personal choice. It felt right for the novel and for my situation back then as a writer. If I had felt I wanted to go international, or I felt I wanted to go with a bigger publisher, then having an agent would have been the better choice. I encourage people to go accordingly what their aspirations are.

Was Fury the first novel you wrote?

The first published novel yes, but I have written almost my entire lifetime so there are a lot of dodgy, unpublishable novels languishing on my hard drive!

How many times did you edit it?

About five times before I sent it out. With my bdb editor Melissa, it went through another four drafts.

Do you have a critique group/partner/go it alone?

I have one "beta" - Ee Von Loo. I trust her with my life. Nothing goes to bdb unless she's seen it first. I pay her in steak, alcohol and Pai Gow.

Were you on the slush pile or get picked up some other way?

I went on that slush pile! But bdb don't use the term slush, they call it "treasure chest" which is really nice!

Are you a pantser/outliner?

More of a pantser actually! This horrifies people. Including all of bdb.

How much editing was involved with your Black Dog editor?

A lot! So much in fact I had to blog a dedication to Melissa here:

If you're working on something new, can you tell us a little about it?

Yes! I am working on something new. It's not a sequel, I won't rule out calling it a prequel, but it'll be in the same universe. Maybe you might meet some "old friends" from Fury. But they might have changed (in a weird TV-show-Heroes way). Good guys might be more like bad guys and vice versa.

A Rejection Virgin and Slush Pile Success Story!


Let me tell you my story.
Not just the facts I know you want to hear.
If I’m going to tell you my story,
I’m telling it my way.

Strap yourself in...

Eliza Boans has everything.
A big house.
A great education.
A bright future.

So why is she sitting in a police station confessing to murder?

Fury is available in Australia through Black Dog Books right now. Go get it!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Getting Published: With an Agent vs Without an Agent PART 1

Hello gentle readers!

I have finished my internship with Black Dogs Book (sad face) but that is not the last they have seen of me yet. As bdb publicist extraordinaire Jess had a terrible accident last week and can't work at the moment (rest assured, to my knowledge she will recover shortly!) I have been asked to temporarily take over Publicity and keep it running smoothly until she is all mended and can come back to work, which for her sake (not mine) I hope is soon.

Oooh the power. I have lots of ideas, but maybe not enough time to implement them. We'll find out.

Anyway! Today we are talking about getting published, and the two routes you could take.

In today's entry and in the "With an Agent" corner, we have Robin Mellom, fellow Herman Agency client who just this year signed a two-book deal with Disney-Hyperion for DITCHED--in which a girl finds herself lying in a ditch the morning after her prom with no memory of the last twelve hours which includes a disappearing prom date and a punk Tinkerbell tattoo. It's set to be published in March 2012! It's being hailed as "The Hangover for teens" which to me means it will be hilarious.

Robin Mellom

So let's get cracking!

What made you decide to get an agent?

I spent years trying to get through the slushpile. Which, at the time, was through the actual U.S. mail system (i.e. it took forever!!) But after experiencing that whole “close but no cigar” thing, I realized an agent would guide me editorially and be my best bet for finding that right editor.

How difficult was that process?

Lots of form rejections but a couple of agents were willing to work on revisions without a contract. But Jill showed the most excitement. To me, nothing is more important than “excitement.”

How awesome was "the call" and can you tell me about it?

She was so cute…she emailed me with her thoughts on the manuscript as she was reading it throughout the night. “On p. 66. Loving it!!” Then page 132, etc. I was on pins and needles all night, but was so exhausted I fell asleep waiting. My husband came in around midnight to tell me the news that she had just sent an email that said “Offer of Representation!” I slept very well that night.

How did you find contracts and negotiations, with an agent?

Not a problem…her contract was pretty much industry standard, so no negotiations needed.

Do you feel you made the right choice for you, agent vs no agent?

Absolutely. She has pushed me in ways I never would have pushed myself. I think of it like having a personal trainer at a state-of-the-art gym versus using some hand weights in my living room. The personal trainer will whip my butt into shape, but there is a TV in my living room so…flabby butt.

Anything of particular interest happen/things you think were unique to your situation that you'd like to talk about?

I do think it’s important to share that the manuscript that landed me an agent was not the one that ultimately sold. In fact, the one that sold was the third book I wrote since working with her. And she was the one who convinced me I should try writing humor for teens. It simply had not occurred to me. But she was convinced I could do it—thank goodness I listened!

Was Ditched your first novel?

I’ve written other middle grade books, so DITCHED is the sixth book I’ve written.

How many times did you edit Ditched?

Maybe three or four.

Do you have a critique group/partner/go it alone?

In the past I’ve had a critique group, but for this one I worked on it alone. Usually Jill gives me editorial suggestions, but for this one she didn’t have any changes and we went out with it right away. (Sort of unusual for me, as she normally has LOTS of suggestions.)

How many rejections did you get before Disney bought Ditched?

About three or four rejections I think. Then we had interest from three houses.

Are you a pantser or an outliner?

I am both, actually. First I come up with a premise and a problem. Then I just start writing so I can see if I can get the voice and if I have insane amounts of excitement about the project. (Because you have to be insanely excited to devote that much time and energy to a book, right? Or just be insane.) Then when I get to about chapter three, I stop and seriously outline. I don’t detail chapter by chapter, but I outline events that occur from one turning point to the next—I use a screenplay outline and put it on big butcher paper on the wall. Color-coded and everything! (I used to be a teacher.)

How much editing is involved with your Disney editor?

I just finished the first BIG revision, which took me about three months. Then we may have one more smaller revision that I will have about a month or less to work on. Then we move on to line edits and finally copy edits.

If you're working on something new, can you tell us a little about it?

Right now it is “Un-named YA Title.” Fascinating, yes? Ha! I sent in a sample and synopsis and just have to wait for it to get approved before we announce the book. Soon, I hope! But it is another fun, rompy, romance adventure.

Thanks for having me, Sarah! Can’t wait to hear about news of your books selling!!!

Any questions I missed? Anything you wish I had asked? Let me know in the comments!

Tomorrow, in the "Without An Agent" corner we have Shirley Marr, fellow Australian writer who had her first novel Fury published through Black Dog Books. I have a bit of a girl-crush on this lady, but there is a reason you, budding authors, will want to hate her. Find out why tomorrow.

Friday, October 29, 2010

More tales from the slush pile

After that depressing post about the blahness of the slush pile, and how the editors don't really NEED to find your masterpiece in it but they'd really like to if only it was easier to wade through the muck to find it....well after THAT post I want you to eavesdrop with me for a moment.

On the other side of the room, with my back to the editors, I am work work working away on something else. I can't remember. It was either a post for the blackdogbytes blog or line editing a nearly finished book or reading another and trying to come up with poetic and haunting titles for was one of those. While I had my back turned, the two editors were bracing themselves to attack the slush filled email together.

They started with my "Under Consideration" folder.
A couple of things happened. If you say in your cover letter that you are published, they are going to Google you. They might even check Nielsen to see how many copies you have sold (so don't lie!). If they think your work sounds remotely interesting, they're also going to Google you. If they think your work means surely you must be a crackpot, then that will make for the funnest Google ever.

There were giggles behind me. And then I realised it was because, like me, they liked a story. It was cute, they could see it had something, a spark. One particular story had a cast of international characters and that is something ELSE Black Dog are trying to do, represent a real Australia, which are not all white people.

So they liked it and set it aside. Then there was another one (one I loved) with totally attitude filled illustrations that they printed out to make sure to show the publisher.

And there was another from the physical slush that they liked too.

So there's all this stuff HAPPENING. Books are ACTUALLY under consideration, not just sitting in an inbox waiting to be read.

But you'll never know about all this stuff that's happening. They might discuss your book, talk about how they could market it, where it would fit in the marketplace, which types of shops would carry it.

And you might be at home getting annoyed at how fricking long it takes for them to finally reject you.

In the end, these books might not get published by bdb, lord knows the stats aren't looking good, but you never know.

Stuff is happening. The editors are talking. And it might be about you.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Slush Pile and Meh

Gotta tell ya, the slush pile was a different experience to what I was expecting.
If you don't know what a slush pile is, read briefly about it here. If you're hoping I'm going to mock some of the more attrocious submissions from the Black Dog Books treasure chest, you'll be disappointed because I don't want to do that. But you can find someone who does here (though they're not from the BDB slush).

I was looking forward to the slush pile! Delving in, finding something amazing, or even learning from the shockingly appalling.

But mostly what I found wasn't terrible, but it wasn 't amazing either. And it has to be amazing to be published. They have to be able to see who they could sell it to, and how they could market it to booksellers.

I probably found more that I put in the "Under Consideration" pile than one of the editors would, because I was hoping to find gems and give everything the benefit of the doubt, whereas the editors know they have X amount of spots on their list for new works and it's gotta be amazing if it's going to be considered.

A little bit of background about BDB. Black Dog Books - like all publishers - are busy. They have authors that they work with a lot and if they want a book on a particular topic they can go and ask one of those authors if they could write something.
Similarly, they have a stable of authors who write successful books, so they keep publishing more by those authors.

They like fresh new writers and ideas - absolutely they do - but they don't need them.

So when looking through the slush (which is all done in their own time, and considering they work overtime anyway, I now, when I have my writers hat on, will cut editors way more slack when they take awhile to get back to a submission) though they dream of finding that next big amazing book, they don't need it. And often it's just not in there.

That said, my pal Shirley Marr's first book Fury was one of the FOUR BOOKS EVER found in Black Dog's slush that they have published.

A lot of the slush doesn't meet their needs.

Black Dog Books are currently looking for longer works, so junior fiction and YA novels. Junior fiction they prefer series, otherwise stand-alones can get lost in the overwhelming number of junior fiction titles out there. They're moving away from really thin junior fiction books, and they're really not into rhyming picture books. The picture book market isn't amazing at the moment anyway.

Most of the submissions in the physical slush, are for picture books. So they had a pretty slim chance of making it through. I found several 2000 word picture books (if you don't know, picture books are generally 500 words or less) and many lacked illustration advice so I couldn't really picture what their stories were about.

Most of the submissions (that I got to) in the email slush, were junior fiction and YA. I found a couple of YA that sounded interesting, but didn't really fit with the type of YA Black Dog are publishing at the moment, which are a bit darker, edgy, serious books. About murder (Shirley Marr - Fury) a car accident in which one of the characters dies (Karen Tayleur - Six) and the danger of taking dares too far (Sue Lawson - Dare You). They have more great dark serious stuff lined up for next year (I know because I read them).

Not only do you have to write something amazing, dear writers, but you have to write something amazing that complements the other amazing books they publish.

It's a difficult business, is it not?

That was all a little depressing, wasn't it. But fear not! Today I sat in on a meeting in which a debut author was offered a book deal! She was calm and collected and in control in the meeting but if the minute she was out of sight she didn't do a happy dance, I will be sorely disappointed. I expect she grinned all day.

Tell you about it later.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Victorian Premier's Reading Challenge Reception

On the one morning I was running late and literally threw on anything to wear, I received a wonderful surprise as part of my placement with Black Dog Books this week, and scored an invitation to the Victorian Premier's Reading Challenge Reception at the National Gallery with Publicity guru Jess, in which there were primary and high school kids, their teachers and parents there to receive awards from the Premier himself, John Brumby. And there was media there, oh yes. The media were representin' too.
Some of the kids were too adorable and I must say I was a bit inappropriate when they went on stage and, though I clapped, really I just wanted to pat some of them on the head. Especially that little guy. But I didn't. I was a representative of Black Dog Books. I was all poise all decorum all the time, baby. Even if I WAS wearing odd socks.
Jess and I met several important people from the Education Department (whose names I have unfortunately...erm...forgotten) and even some of the Reading Challenge Ambassadors that were present. Jess and I joined the queue of kids and had a chat with and posters signed by these and other wonderful Australian childrens writers and illustrators.

I was especially excited to meet Michael Panckridge as I had JUST finished reading one of his manuscripts that morning. Weird coincidence if you asked me. And it was cool to meet Carole Wilkinson because, if you recall, I attended a fascinating, informative workshop with her daughter Lili recently. So I told her as such.

In the next post, I will talk to you all about my experience with the slush pile...from the OTHER SIDE.

Oh! And if you wander on over to Black Dog Books author Shirley Marr's blog

you will find us discussing what we like and dislike about being a Pantser vs Outliner when it comes to writing. And our warning to all kindergarten/primary schoolers to never accept the role of Mama Bear in a play. The role is cursed, we can both vouch for that.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Infiltrating a Publishing House...mwahahaHAHA!

I have done it, readers. I'm IN.

I wrote on their blog yesterday, and then I updated their Facebook. I have their passwords. I have the POWER. I could have written ANYTHING! I could have written that the office smells like blue cheese! Or that the Publisher has power a coffin!

But I didn't. I am sheer professionalism. I also didn't, because the above are not true. Just so you know.

I have also infiltrated their MANUSCRIPTS, everybody. I have read that shiny new American YA with the fancy new cover and written a report with my opinion of it.

I have read the manuscript of an Australian YA they are considering purchasing and written a report with my opinions and RECOMMENDATIONS about what could be edited, and whether or not they should buy it. The commissioning editor (as in the editor commissioning this specific project) has not even read the entire thing yet.

I have nearly finished reading a draft of the first in a series of Junior Fiction books that they are publishing next year and have been line editing and making comments and writing questions in the margins, just as I do with my critique partners.

I will finish it on the train (much more productive than crawling in peak hour traffic on the freeway) and read the second one today - both of which I will write reports on. With OPINIONS. And RECOMMENDATIONS.

As one editor and the two publishers are off in Sydney at a Publishing conference, another editor sits behind me finding images and tinkering with the design of a non-fiction book, and filling up excess pages at the end of a book (for some reason - she doesn't even understand why - it was cheaper to make it with more pages than less) with awesomeness, I will be growing bolder, still.
Not only are my opinions (perhaps) going to sway how already under consideration and commissioned books will turn out, but I will attack THE SLUSH PILE*.

MwahahahAHAHA indeed**.


*If you are IN the slush pile at Black Dog Books, don't worry, nothing I read will be deleted before being seen by an editor, but I do have 2 fancy inboxes, 'Sarah - Consider' and 'Sarah - Reject' (I don't think those are the actual names, but that's what they mean).

**I am not a coffee drinker in my daily life but with all of this reading, I have had to indulge in a foamy cup or two and I don't think it's doing any favours to the stability of my mind.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Inside an Editorial Meeting at Black Dog Books

Black Dog Books

Today is Day One of my internship with Black Dog Books, who are a fabulous Melbourne based childrens and YA publisher and I'm learning loads.

My first task was to read an international manuscript that there has been lots of buzz about all over the interwebz, and write a reader report because Black Dog are considering purchasing the Australian rights.

It hasn't even come out in America yet so I'm definitely on the INSIDE now, people. Are you massively jealous of me? I know you are. And think about it, the publishers and editors here get to read fantabulous new books before they come out, for a LIVING.

A Black Dog Book

Anyway - the editorial meeting.

There was discussion of the pros and cons of publishing the third book in a series. And there is a lot to be considered. There are added costs with a third book because the first and second would need to be reprinted. But if those didn't sell amazingly? The staff here love their writers and spend countless hours helping them craft their work. They're invested. But sometimes that personal investment isn't enough. There are so many other elements involved, like what size to make the book, and the sizing effects how many copies booksellers think they will be able to sell. So if BDB plan to produce something in C format and booksellers don't think they can sell it, but they could sell it at B+ (which would make the book cheaper for consumers), it will all effect sales and whether you can find books in stores. It has nothing to do with the content, or the author, it's just how much room it takes up on a shelf that can affect whether you can find it or not.

They decided to buy the rights to this international title with masses and masses of buzz, but are going to create their own front cover for it which is exciting, and I'm sure this book will do fabulously for them.

Another Black Dog Book

They discussed their line up for next year, and had some gaps in their list to fill so rearranged a couple of books, for instance they pushed one back two months because then it could be their lead title for that month, when it may have been lost or competing with another title on their list where it was. They moved a couple forward and negotiated the costings and what the move would do to their expected sales. For instance June is not a good month, sales wise, as booksellers are doing stock take and returning books. July is not amazing, but it's better because booksellers are needing to refill their shelves!

There were illustrations handed around for two picture books - one was a picture book that they had asked for some illustrations to be re-drawn to better reflect the story, and others were design ideas for updating some old stories with new illustrations.

Concept art for the protagonist in what looked to be a new chapter book series was looked at and everyone (there were five staff members plus me) could have some input and weigh in on the decisions.

They needed to pick a cover designer for a book coming out next year, and we had a look at some different designers, and also concept art for what the feel of the cover and the book should be like.

A brand-spanking NEW Black Dog Book

Although here at Black Dog each employee has their own job and responsibilities, it is most definitely a collaborative, team effort to produce the best books they possibly can.

I'm looking forward to Day Two!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Secret Publishing Business!

I went to the children's and YA division of awesome Australian publishing company Allen & Unwin with some classmates yesterday (A&U are the ones that scored the Australian rights to Harry Potter way back, so they've done pretty well for themselves) and I learnt lots of secret publishing business!

Firstly, I was shocked to find Allen & Unwin was NOT a huge building, but is in a terrace house like this:

This is NOT Allen & Unwin, but very similar, and for all you non-Melbournians, the yellow one is ONE house, and the white one is another house...they're little. And quite close to each other.

The Sydney office of Allen & Unwin is bigger, employing 100+ people, but the Melbourne office which is just childrens and YA has a mere sixteen employees, and they work on - I'm hoping I'm remembering this correctly - 40 or so books a month. Um..WHOA.

[EDITED TO ADD - Turns out, no I wasn't remembering this correctly - it's 5 books a month. But still WHOA, for 16 people!]

Gotta love the work to do it, don't you think? Still think it's for you? I guess you're wondering how one gets a job, then, huh? Well the lovely Publishing Assistant Julia Imogen who talked to us said something I totally wasn't expecting.

Eight years ago when she was employed there, she answered a small ad in the local newspaper looking for an administrative assistant. There was no mention of publishing or editing or books, it was all quite tricksy. But that's actually quite smart on the employers part. Think about it. The minute you put editorial, publishing, books etc into a job ad you have everyone with an English major applying. Can you imagine that stack of applications? That's a bit daunting, hmm? So don't discard those admin ads. They might just be the job you're looking for.

Another way you can get hired is by doing an internship there. They have had several interns who have been there at the right time and brought back in as temps or even like Penni Russon, freelance editors. Though taking on an intern is NOT like getting free help, Julia says. It's quite a commitment. There's training to do and depending on the intern, different levels of supervision required.

At Allen & Unwin they have a pretty intense database system in which everything that has been done for and about a book or author is recorded and can be accessed by all the different departments. For instance, a blurb will be needed by sales for a pitch to booksellers, publicity will need it for promotional items and designers need it for the back copy of the book. And they need the most recent version, too! The synopsis/blurb submitted with the original manuscript may be very different to what it should be for the final, edited book.

The room we had our meeting in had two walls of books (which we all had a bit of a drool at) and some books had more copies on the shelf than others. Why was this? The number of books on the shelf represented the number of print runs they had had, so you could immediately tell which books had been selling well and which ones hadn't.

There are gazillions of different roles and jobs within publishing and in this era of e-books, some employees have had jobs CREATED for them, because they were so good at that side of their work. Books have personalised websites now, facebook fan pages, someone is in charge of the company's twitter account, iphone apps and even more I don't even know about.

So there you have it. Secret Allen & Unwin business. Don't let them know I told!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Where did I put that...

Okay so um, my notes from the big grand finale of Express Media's YA mini-festival, which consisted of a panel with Steph Bowe, Lili Wilkinson and Penni Russon seems to have gone walkabout.
But I hope it comes back soon.
In the meantime, Lili posted something on her blog that she also talked about in her session, but really, there was so much knowledgy goodness crammed into that session that I couldn't talk about it all in one blog post.

So I direct you to Lili's blog, where she talks about characters and Wanting stuff Vs. Needing stuff. It's good, so go check it out if you're interested.

In the mean time, shall we all look under couches and on top of the fridge for my notebook? Please don't tell me your dog ate it...

Tomorrow I'm going along on an excursion with the first years to sneak a peak behind the scenes and meet the staff in the Junior Fiction and YA department of Allen & Unwin. I'm bummed Eva won't be there (who I have talked about in a couple of posts and look forward to one day meeting because she sounds like a woman of supreme awesomosity and she gave me such great notes on that book that time) but I know it'll be an interesting day.

And then NEXT week I start my two week placement with Black Dog Books. By November I'll be so full of industry secrets I may just die.

Now lets all stop stalling and start hunting. "Heeeerrreeeee notebook!!"


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

YA Mini Festival: Penni Russon talks Voice and Character

Penni Russon talks Voice and Character

From the blank looks on my family's faces when I read them my last blog post, about Lili Wilkinson's take on throwing rocks at your character and the three act structure, I'm going to assume my no-sleep loopiness was evident.

I'll be better here.

Penni Russon's session on voice and character was not simply about coming up with unique characters, but cementing their uniqueness through their voice.

We did several exercises in which we wrote letters from one character, swapped them with another workshop member and wrote the reply from another character.

It was about getting into someone else's head.

We looked at some poetry and how they may not have had a specific character, but they had a narrator and each narrator had their own voice.

When she first mentioned poetry, I inwardly groaned. And then I discovered that she knew my kind of person. The kind that just doesn't GET poetry, that in high school studied poetry that I just couldn't relate to.
I'm the kind of person that is all about trying to understand what the poem MEANS. What the writer is SAYING.

Apparently, this is not what poetry is about. Poetry is more about being comfortable NOT knowing what something is about. Appreciating it for what it is.

What do you all think about that?

Penni said that her poetry teacher claimed that unlike prose, "poetry is language that draws attention to itself".
I get that.

So our first exercise was to write some poetry. And you know what? I don't think I did half bad. I'm feeling much more comfortable with poetry than I used to. In critique groups I would receive comments like 'that's so poetic' and I would laugh nervously because I didn't quite understand HOW I had done that or what I had done.

I'm starting to get it now.


Our next exercise was to write notes from Mark, to Tia. Penni brought some kitsch looking notepads "Notes from Mark" and "Notes from Tia" and we each had to think about who this Mark who has these crap notepads would be, and what he has to say to Tia.

MY Mark wrote this: "Hi Tia, I'm just checking whether you got my email, my text and the letter I sent you. Did they get to you okay? Did you get them?" My Mark was quite needy.

Then we passed them around and someone else responded as Tia.

We did this with items as well, there was a message in a bottle, a suitcase with tags, a recipe and others. I got a black piece of card and a gold pen. So I had to think about who would write on a black piece of card with a gold pen, and what sort of thing would they be likely to write?

The responses that other people wrote to our letters were really surprising, and I would NOT have come up with the responses that I received to mine. Not in a million years.

It just teaches you a lot about character, doesn't it? The person writing the response was in a completely different head space to me. Just as your characters will be in completely different head spaces from each other, thinking about different things, having a different focus, different worries when in communication with each other, verbally or otherwise.

Penni's session was a different take on teaching character and I really enjoyed it.

Finally, tomorrow or Friday (sorry, lot's to do) will consist of my abridged notes from the panel session with Steph Bowe, Lili Wilkinson and Penni Russon talking about YA, their own process and experiences, and that weird gap between YA and Adult fiction.

It was a good session. Stay tuned!