Thursday, June 29, 2006

Fictional Blogs

Yesterday, I started a new blog. It is a fictional blog and I've created a character Moira Miller who is eleven years old. Take a look at it:

This new blog was inspired by fellow writer, Wordpool and SCBWI memeber, Addy Farmer, who has been writing a fictional blog for ages. Her blog is about a boy called Wilf. You can see Addy's blog at:

Addy has also started a new Yahoo group for fictional bloggers. If you are interested in joining or just want to take a look the link is:

Now, I don't know how I'll get on with my fictional blog, as I probably wont get to fill it out every day. Blogging does tend to take up a lot of time, when I should be working. However, it has got me thinking about a new book based on the character of Moira Miller. I'm making it up as I go along, so it will be interesting to see how she develops. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Interesting Article

Seven Keys to Writing a Children’s Book that Sells Like Hotcakes

I came across this article during a search for something else and thought it would be relevant to compare to the other posts I’ve added about what makes a good children’s novel. I hope you find it interesting.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Book Selling Debate

Today, I read my copy of The Author, which I receive as a member of the Society of Authors. I was fascinated by the debate on HMV, the owner of Waterstone’s, buying out the Ottakar bookchain. The Society of Authors have expressed opposition to the bid because it would mean a monopoly over the bookselling market.

This has been mentioned in previous posts. (See The World of Children’s Publishing and What Does An Editor Do?)

It is argued that this merger is against public interest, as it will reduce the range of books being sold. Specialist books will not get the publicity or shelf space they have previously had. This is why educational publishers tend to sell direct to schools rather than in bookshops.

One thing is clear the retailing of books has changed dramatically over the past few years. Supermarkets, such as Tesco, can sell books at discount prices and buying books over the Internet, as e-books or second hand, has meant it pays to shop around for the best deal. Then surely this must be better for the reader.

As a reader, if you prefer trade fiction, sports books or general literature the contraction in range won't affect you, as prices will remain low. But, if you prefer the more specialist books, your choice will be drastically diminished and the prices will rise. And if you're someone who just likes to browse, you're likely to find your browsing range restricted to the choice Waterstone's, and W. H. Smith’s have decided to offer.

Robert Cole, acting business editor of The Times, argues that one large bookseller is better than none, as Waterstone’s and Ottakar’s need to combine to compete with the price wars instigated by Amazon and Tesco. He says authors should not expect to make any money from writing, as most will never succeed. He argues that the publishing companies should commit to publishing fewer books, even though this will make it more difficult for new authors to get published. He claims that you are fighting a losing battle to oppose the merger.

So, is the book market expanding or shrinking? Tim Hely Hutchinson, the chief editor of Hatchette Livre UK ltd, reports high street booksellers’ sales have plunged, despite their aggressive discounting, whilst bestsellers are breaking records, due to monopolising shelf space. Consequently, new authors will find it increasingly difficult to place their books with publishers, as mainstream publishers are concentrating on finding and promoting the ‘big hits’.

To combat this maybe, we should be supporting our smaller local bookstores but it is easier, and more convenient, to buy books online or to buy them with the weekly supermarket shop. If books were sold at fixed prices, I do not believe it would change this buying trend.

I think we will be seeing an increase in specialist markets emerging and publishers and authors should be encouraged to promote their books to these specialist markets, in the same way as educational publishers do, bypassing the traditional retailer. This means new authors would be better advised to target appropriate specialist markets and smaller specialist publishers with their manuscripts.

This is my opinion. What are your views?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

John Jenkins – On Writing A Bestseller

The highlight of my year is going to Caerleon Writer’s Holiday. It is the best Writing conference I have ever been to and being a bit of a course junky, I’ve been to quiet a few. Not only are the courses and seminars good but also, the atmosphere is brilliant. There is no comparison. Everyone is so friendly and approachable.

Last year at Caerleon, I heard John Jenkins the editor of Writer's Forum magazine, speak about 'Teaching Yourself To Write A Bestseller'. He said that The Di Vinci Code by Dan Brown is the best teach yourself manual you could buy. It is a masterclass on how to write a bestseller.

With reference to the Di Vinci Code, John Jenkins advice was:

  • If you want to write a big book, pick a big theme.
  • Write rich characters with rich backgrounds (and I don’t think he was talking about money.)
  • Finish each chapter on a cliffhanger.
  • The plot must race along at breakneck speed.
  • Mix fact with fiction so that the reader does not know where the truth ends and the fiction starts.
  • Be clear of all the underlying themes and what is going on in the background.
  • Look at the opening – does it grab you?
  • Think about the title.
  • A good story has a great plot and loads of action.
  • Be careful the ending is not an anti-climax.
  • Make up your own secret society if you want.
  • The ‘What if…?’ button, is the most important key on the keyboard.

I thought this was a very useful checklist when writing, or reading, any book or manuscript, whether it is for children or adults and considering it’s potential on whether it will sell. It is also interesting to compare it to what Tony Bradman said in his Summary of Common Pitfalls and Rachel Wade's Advice.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What Does an Editor Do?

“The truth is that the agency is the first place to go. If you do get taken by an agent you will get read by editors.”
Rachel Wade, Hodder’s Children’s Books

Rachel Wade’s words quoted in one of my previous posts (link above) are not just true of Hodder Children’s Books but were reiterated by Kelly Cauldwell, a Senior Fiction Editor from Random House, at the SCBWI-BI Professional Series talk in May 2005, although they do still accept unsolicitated manuscripts, Kelly recommends you submit to an agent first, as she has never bought anything from the slushpile.

Kelly Caudwell explained, “We don’t have the scope to build a writer up over a number of books in the way publishers use to, our job is to see the book all the way through not just to edit it.”

Kelly said, “We need to think what the big booksellers would like, as if they wont stock the book it wont sell. Talking about bookcovers and how good or enticing they look is an important part of my day. It is the cover that will give the book an edge with the booksellers.”

It is quite scary the impact the big bookstores have on the publishing world and when you realise they monopolise over 70% of the bookselling market it is understandable why writing for children has become more competitive.

Candy Gourlay in her blog, Notes from the Slushpile, discusses this is more detail:

Book publishing is becoming more commercial and it is true, the big publishing companies increasingly will not back a book unless it is a sure bet. This is probably why more authors are self-publishing - to prove they have a viable product. Kelly explained: “Being an editor is not only about getting the book into a child’s hand, but getting the book noticed by parents, trade, bookstores and libraries. We spend a lot of money on marketing. Being involved in the publishing process from manuscript to finish, completely changes the way you think about a book.”

Random House fiction department produce around 40-50 books a year. Kelly told us how she spends her general day: proof reading, copy editing, discussing potential new books, looking at the backlist and working out how they can revitalise these books for re-sale, going to endless meetings with the marketing department and finally a large majority of her time is spent in author care.

She enjoys working with an author through the process of the book. Some of the authors she works with are Jacqueline Wilson, Chris Riddel and Robert Swindell. Kelly said, “The most important skill of an editor is being a good diplomat.”

Nowadays, more gimmicks are being used to sell their books, such as collectable web cards, as with the Astrosaurs series, or glitsy bookcovers that catch your attention on the shelf. They have found that thin books, for the six-to-eight age range, do not sale as well as thicker books, as they are not so easy to see on the shelf. Random House’s response to this is to make fatter books. As you can imagine, this makes production more expensive.

Kelly’s advice to new children’s book writers is, “Be an original voice. Remember you are sending your manuscript to someone who reads over 500 a year. One of the questions I ask myself when I’m thinking of signing a book is, Would I jump off a bridge for this book? To spend so much time on a book, you have to be a fan.”

For more information on Random House visit:

Monday, June 12, 2006

More About Children's Writer's Forums

Before I start today’s blog, I must say a big thank you to Nicky Schmidt, who I’ve known for many years from Wordpool. She listed several new forums. Some of which I have previously been a member and some new ones I’m now thinking of joining, although it will ruin my only allowed to belong to three rule.

Take a look at Nicky's comment at:

When writing back I got a bit carried away and wrote much too much and so it how become the topic for today's blog.When looking for the links to the forum’s Nicky mentioned, I noticed that the Children’s Writers forum is the number Yahoo group for writing for children. There are 1976 members and it was founded on September 21st 1998. Here is the link:

This list is for discussion of writing (and illustrating) for children in all media, including such topics as creativity, work styles and techniques, marketing and promotion, dealing with rejection, etc. They allow off-topic posts though we ask that they grow out of on-topic discussions. As Nicky said it is a very prolific list and the that is the reason I decided to leave the group.

The Children’s Publishers Group is the third top yahoo group for children’s writing. There are 421 members and it was founded on Dec 11, 2004. Here is the link for anyone who is interested in finding out more:

This discussion forum focuses on Manuscript Submissions and Children's Publishers. Feel free to ask about dealings with particular publishers, to seek URLs for Publisher Websites, to find out current editor's names, etc.Questions regarding "Who" to submit to must be accompanied by the steps you've already taken to research the marketplace and submissions you've already made. If you have searched, and are sincerely at a loss regarding who to submit to, you may find some suggestions here if it is evident you've made a sincere effort to research your market.

I left this group because people did not keep to the rules and I found that frustrating. In the end I found it to be much the same as Wordpool but I preferred Wordpool. They even suggest if you have no clue where to begin, begin with:

Generally speaking, other "How to write for children" questions can be found through other resources including the Colossal Directory website:

The cw-biz site is the fifth most popular writer’s forum for children. It has 355 members and was founded on Nov 10, 2004. Here is the link:

This is a discussion group for adults who write and illustrate for children. No politics, religion, flame wars or critiques allowed and culprits will be banned if they try to discuss these subjects.

The link for the Children’s F and SF Writers is:

They have 346 members and is aimed at those interested in writing Middle Grade and Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction. This list is for the discussion of craft, marketing and publishing Fantasy and Science Fiction for ages 8 through teens. No fiction may be posted on the list, but members are free to request off-list critiques or set up off-list critique groups. They were founded on Jun 21, 2000. I never knew this group existed and I am thinking of joining this forum.

Another group I have found today in my research into Yahoo groups is:

This is a newsletter that covers the business of the publishing industry for people who write and illustrate for children. There are 58 members and was founded on Jul 15, 2005. I am also thinking of joining this group and will let you know what I think at a later date.

If anyone would like to look through the Yahoo database at any of the other forums related to writing for children this is the link:


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Showcase Your Talent

There are a growing number of websites, which are arenas to showcase writing. Many of these websites include FREE membership. They involve uploading samples of your writing for critique or comment.

I have never used or tried any of these sites and personally feel quite dubious about putting my fiction on the web. This may seem a contradiction to some of you, since I've put many of my articles on this blog.

Today I have decided to list some of these showcase forums. I've put them in alphabetical order, which actually says a lot about me. Explore and develop your creative writing skills, get support from our editors, publish your short stories and poems online, get feedback and writing tips and meet fellow writers, all for FREE FREE online critique groups FREE writers' forum that allows budding authors to let others read and criticise their work FREE to join and set up on-line portfolio of creative writing. Contains discussion forums and a chat room Upload files to your own portfolio that can be viewed by members and others if desired Submit your writing FREE to a compilation of free-expression from passionate people for art, writing and photography Showcases short stories FREE Critique service and showcase Read finished or on-going stories and maybe have a go at contributing yourself Showcase your writing FREE Be published and be read. Writebuzz® has been developed to enable members to publish their writing, and to provide an exclusive resource for readers Forum for writers to promote, market and sell their work. Critique site, the more you critique, the more you get your work critiqued, and the better your work gets the higher your rankings get - with the ultimate prize being a critique from publishing professionals.

If you have ever used them or have opinions of your own about them, please do not hesitate to comment using the comment feature below. I have been feeling a bit disheartened that people rarely comment on my posts. I suppose I too am yearning for some form of feedback.