Awake at 4.30am with excitement, the big day had arrived. Saturday May 19th; Meet the Publishers KidLitVic Conference 2018. With manuscripts, business cards, notebook and space on my phone for plenty of photos, I arrived at the beautiful Melbourne Town Hall at a bright and chilly 8.20am. Feeling organised. Feeling pumped!
Happy familiar faces certainly eased the nerves. But it was upon meeting long-time online partner-in-crime, confidante and good friend, author Renee Price that I was able to step into the kidlit world of adventure and anticipation feeling supported and comforted. A truly surreal moment!
The formidable, Australian Children’s Laureate and utter legend, Leigh Hobbs opened the day with his brilliantly inspiring, and witty, account of his winding path to publication of his mangy-looking cat, Old Tom. The message; keep persevering with what you love to do.
The first panel of the day was entitled, What to Expect When You’re Expecting… A Book! Run by the inexhaustible, Michael Wagner (Bear Make Den, So Wrong!), Michelle Madden, Suzanne O’Sullivan and Clare Hallifax took us through the fine art of the author – illustrator relationship, how the pairing usually comes together and the collaborative workings of the whole publishing team. They went on to explain the benefits of marketing, as per the role of publishers and what authors can do to promote their book.
I went off for my manuscript assessment towards the end of this session – the most highly anticipated event of my day! With two picture book stories under the professional eyes of Amy Thomas, Penguin Random House, I braved the elements with an upturned tummy, dry mouth and sweaty palms. Needless to say, she had the most encouraging and positive things to say, which certainly left me feeling empowered and confident to take that next step towards my goal of becoming a published author some day. Yay!
Other amazing workshops were held throughout the day, including The Art of Editing, Pitch Perfect and Submission Ready, Marketing for School Visits, Deconstructing Story Structure, Direction in Art Direction, Finding Your Voice, and masterclass Talking Shop. I hear they were all valuable and insightful.
The Perfect Picture Book Partnership had Anouska Jones, Sarah Mummé and Miriam Rosenbloom on its panel. What you should expect from the publishing process: Enjoy a creative experience. Have an open mind and heart. It will take longer than you think. Communication is key, so ask lots of questions.
During the Creating an Appetite for Series panel with Kimberley Bennett, Marisa Pintado and Lisa Berryman, topics covered the commerciality of series for junior to older readers. Have a clear direction in where your plot is heading when submitting the first title. What is the difference between episodic and serialised series, and how do these best fit each target market? Publishers are looking for a point of difference. ‘Voice’ is the most important!
Getting a Foot in the Door included publishers Amy Thomas, Davina Bell and Susannah Chambers; a lively bunch of panel speakers, to say the least! They gave valuable tips in what to do, and what not to do when starting out. DON’T send undeveloped work to publishers. DO participate in writers’ groups and refine your craft. Read it aloud to yourself and others, check your voice, plot, characterisation, etc. Let it sit for a while, but NOT forever!
To sum up, KidLitVic 2018 was spectacular. The illustration portfolios were out of this world, the relationships formed with friends old and new were priceless, the generosity of knowledge and expertise shared by publishers was incredible. Lastly, but certainly not least, the planning and preparation by the organisers was faultless, so thank you Alison Reynolds, Coral Vass, Jaquelyn Muller and Nicky Johnston (plus assistants) for your amazing efforts. Success!