A wonderful day by the Dock was enjoyed by a full house of writers and illustrators at the SCBWI VIC Professional Development Day. We listened to industry experts share information and experiences and had some laughs along the way.
Sally Rippin in Conversation with Caz Goodwin
Sally talked about her journey to becoming a children’s author. The editor assigned to work on Sally’s first book was the legendary Margaret Wild. Through the process, Sally learned that there are many skilled people involved in getting a book on the shelves and that she was just one part of that team.
In her early days of writing and illustrating children’s books, Sally was so despondent about not being able to earn an income from her beloved storytelling, she considered giving it up. That was before the success of the Billie B Brown and Hey Jack series of books. They have gone on to become best-sellers, selling over four million copies in Australia and New Zealand alone.
Sally’s advice when writing for young readers includes:
· Visualise your readership and how children will engage with your story
· Read drafts to children and study their reactions. Edit where they are bored or losing interest
· Use accessible language, but don’t ‘dumb down’ the writing
· Ensure the story is relatable
· Strive for good character development
· Connect with your inner child
· Use memories from your own childhood
· Seek children’s feedback on books after they have been published.
· Trust your editor/publisher
· Seek advice
· Make your story the best it can be before submitting
· Be humble. There is a team behind every successful book
School and Festival Visits
The panel on festivals and school visits included Adam Wallace, Meredith Costain, Serena Geddes and Gabrielle Wang, facilitated by Claire Saxby. Their advice about preparing for visits included:
· Ask about parking
· Encourage the teacher or organiser to discuss the books with children beforehand so they have questions ready
· Ensure the goals and format of the session are clear and agreed in advance
· Clarify the times for each session and how many children will be in attendance
· Don’t expect to engage with every child. There will always be ‘that kid’
· If possible, interact with your audience
· Have a back-up plan in case technology fails
· Quote ASA rates (but negotiate depending on the capacity of the school to pay)
· If selling books, have postcards or bookmarks to giveaway for children who are unable to purchase books
· Keep modifying your presentation based on experience and what does and doesn’t work
Back Care for Writers and Illustrators
Chris Bell led a Q & A session with Adam Rowlands, an expert in back health. Adam spoke about the importance of caring for your back when you spend a lot of time sitting, as writers and illustrators often do. Adam’s main message was to move regularly. Sitting for long periods of time without moving is bad for you, as toxins build up in the body. Adam suggested moving every half an hour or so. Standing desks are becoming popular as standing engages more muscle groups than sitting.
Adam demonstrated the correct posture to assume when sitting at a desk, ensuring the knees are below the pelvis. Screens should be positioned with the top just above eyebrow level. Ergonomic equipment such as adjustable chairs, sit and stand desks and devices that adjust the height of your screen can help maintain the correct working position.
Adam showed us some stretches to do to relieve tension which, as well as being very useful, raised more than a few giggles.
Bad Backs offer ergonomic assessments which are free to individuals but are charged if requested by a company. www.badbacks.com.au
Plotting and the importance of Story Structure with Sherryl Clark, facilitated by Jo Burnell
Sherryl Clark provided a comprehensive yet succinct overview of the key elements of story structure and how to use it, whatever you’re writing. Sherryl compared story structure to a house holding everything in place. Other elements, such as characters and setting, can then be added. A strong structure keeps the tension rising, surprising the reader and avoiding saggy middles. Without structure, stories can be episodic or rambling.
Sherryl discussed the three-act structure and the stages of the Hero’s Journey.
For more information on plotting and story structure, Sherryl suggested the following references:
· Write Your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell
· Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
· Write Away by Elizabeth George
· The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
Sabine Bolick: Pearson Education facilitated by Corinne Fenton
Sabine gave an interesting overview of the education market, including the role technology is playing in learning. When deciding what topics to publish, consideration is given to what is currently available in the market, hot topics, sustaining current series, filling gaps in the market and responding to competitors.
Sabine said they do not do book launches, and that royalties are a thing of the past. Payments are flat fees and Pearson retains copyright.
Illustrators are all freelance rather than in-house, so illustrators can send in samples to go on file for possible future work. Pearson can be contacted through their website via the contact page. Pearson often uses in-house authors, but interested authors can also send in their CV’s which will be kept on the author data base for possible future consideration, but it is important to state your experience, knowledge and specialties.
Tye Cattanach: Marketing Manager for Hardie Grant Egmont
Tye was a teacher librarian before accepting a role in marketing with Penguin. She recently joined HGE as their Marketing Manager. Tye organises publicity events for authors and liaises with sales representatives to maximise sales and was happy to share her knowledge and advice during the Q & A, facilitated by Deb Abela.
Tye believes it is important to get the author in front of booksellers as well as their target audience. The visibility of the author or illustrator is key to selling books.
Sales can be influenced by a lot of different factors, including:
· Book reviews
· Current trends
· Social media presence and activity
· Word of mouth
· Publicity tours and campaigns
· Festival appearances
When using social media, Tye recommends creating a brand and staying on brand.
Finally, thank you to the team who worked behind the scenes to put the day together, including Caz Goodwin, Chris Bell, Jo Burnell, Sherryl Clark, Serena Geddes and Jess Racklyeft.
Written by Kaye Baillie