#198: Endure until Awesome

We’re still on our journey through last Saturday, at the CYA Later, Alligator writing conference in Brisbane.

Kids, I’ve been to university. I know what it’s like to pay loads of money to sit in a room listening to someone’s monotone and ultimately learn nothing except how to sleep sitting up.

. . .

I swallowed my tears to stay at the conference, and – to my Shock and Awe – I learnt stuff. Probably the most interesting tip was from Rebecca Johnson (who writes for those Steve Parish picture books*) who checks her stories for fatal flaws by telling them aloud to her family.

No-one will read your 200,000 word opus and say, “I didn’t really like the main character, and I think the story should be set in China, not America” (well, Ben would). That’s telling someone to throw away their year’s work and start over. But they’d do it if you described the story verbally.

I also really enjoyed talks/workshops by Chris Morphew, Steve Cole (a manic Brit), and Gabrielle Wang.

But here’s the thing. Remember the girl I accidentally ran into in Melbourne? She’s from Publisher D. I knew another Publisher D person was in Brisbane, so when I saw her I went and said hello, and that I was about to send a book to the original person. They said, “Oh!” and let me know the head of the kids’ department was two seats away. So I talked to both of them.

That’s three useful contacts at one publisher (a big one, and one Publisher J specifically recommended for me at the pitch). Yay!

So, here’s how I stand with my top 12 publishers (letters are assigned randomly, although all the biggies are represented here):

Publisher A – I didn’t get into their editorama competition (not even the long list), but I DID meet a physical person from the company while in Melbourne. And I made her laugh. She’s not from the kids’ department, but she should be able to vouch for my personal hygiene and/or charm.

Action: These guys really liked “Stormhunter” (their freelance reader said, “I unconditionally recommend this for publication”) but rejected it because the marriage plotline was no good for YA. Now that I’ve cut that plotline, I plan to resend it – after Publisher B is done with it.

Publisher B: I’ve met the head of adult fantasy (through a pitching competition at a con in New Zealand, then again at a con in Canberra) and the head of the children’s depatment (in July, in Sydney). They still have both “The Monster Apprentice” and “Stormhunter” after 9/15 months. They still haven’t responded to my gentle reminder email on 11 August (usually they reply in 24 hours). Publisher B gives comments, so I’m not sending them elsewhere unless I get desperate.

Action: I’ll email them again tomorrow (their acquisitions meetings are every second Tuesday, so it’s hypothetically possible they’ll reply today).

Publisher C: Met one of the adult publishers in Melbourne, and asked for the email address of the kids’ department head, which he gave me.

Action: I just sent her the first three chapters of “Waking Dead Mountain”, making sure she knew who I’d met so he can vouch for me.

Publisher D: Met one of the children’s publishers at Sydney, and asked her for her email address for “The Princess and the Pirate” (the one book I haven’t already sent them). She gave it to me. I ran into her again in Melbourne, and said hi (and that the book would be ready soon). I ran into an adult publisher and the head of the kids’ department in Brisbane, mentioned I was sending the original person “The Princess and the Pirate”, and made them laugh.

Action: Finish editing “The Princess and the Pirate” and send it, mentioning all those I met along the way.

Publisher E: No actual contact, but they gave me comments when I sent them a book.

Action: Keep in mind.

Publisher F: No actual contact, but they always reply within 3 months.

Action: Keep in mind.

Publisher G: I didn’t win their editing competition.

Action: Keep in mind.

Publisher H: Chatted to one of their people in Sydney (I was moderately charming, if memory serves). Talked about “Farting my ABCs”. She said to up the word count by 3000, and submit it when they’re open to submissions again.

Action: Up the word count by 3000, but no hurry – they’re not gonna re-open for a long time. I may even send it elsewhere in the meantime.

Publisher I: Listened to a really cool publisher guy’s talk at Melbourne.

Action: Send something to him someday. Ideally this year.

Publisher J: Very literary and no fantasy. Met one of the two publisher people in Brisbane (a paid pitch, so she’ll definitely remember me, and she already knows I write well). Told her about the realist novel, and it sounds like none of the off-putting aspects are off-putting to her (but they’re closed to submissions).

Action: Send her the realist novel – but not until they’re open to submissions.

Publisher K: Rather literary. Listened to a really cool publisher girl’s talk at Melbourne.

Action: I just sent her the opening of my realist novel.

Publisher L: No connection.

Action: Keep in mind.

So! That’s my current status. It should keep me busy for the next few years. My most urgent jobs are editing “The Princess and the Pirate” (I’m very excited about that company) and the realist novel (K is likely to request more within a month).

Here’s another killer robot from the site I mentioned yesterday:

Tomorrow: Stay at a backpacker. . . is there room at the inn? Is the only bed available in a 12-person room full of drunken Norweigans making grunting noises? Was I killed in the train ride home? I will tell you that encephalitis was involved.

*And only gets royalties for the most recent ten or so! Arg!

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