Friday, December 29, 2006

New Year Resolutions

The new year is nearly upon us and I've been looking back over the Christmas break to see if I'd achieved everything I intended in 2006. I came to the slow realisation I hadn't. Maybe my goals were too high. Maybe I did not try hard enough. But, I did achieve some of the things I wanted to and maybe this is enough.

I have re-evaluated my goals and aspirations and made a short list of what I would like to achieve in 2007.

  1. Attend the SCBWI Professional Series 2007 - I only managed about about two last year, as most clashed with family events and birthdays.
  2. Write more articles and short stories and have them published - I made a lot of new contacts last year and was able to extend my CV but, let a lot of the original publications I had work published already lapse, which was probably a mistake. I need to contact them and get my foot back in the door, so to speak.
  3. Find an agent / publisher for my children's fiction - I failed miserabley at this one. Not due to lack of determination.
  4. Keep going with the sequel to my children's novel for 9-11 year olds. I have let this lapse too, due to deadlines and other work commitments with my teacher resources I am writing.
  5. Continue writing teacher resources. I did very well at this last year and may have found my niche. I hope to continue writing teacher resources over 2007. I have now written and had published eight books and have got commissions for one more already to be written in 2007 and got fingers crossed for a few more that I'm waiting for replies on proposals. But, I never reached my target. My aim was to have ten books by the end of 2006 (five books a year).
  6. Stop wasting so much time. I have to concentrate on one task at a time and not get distracted.

So, do I feel successful? A little bit. I suspect I will never truly feel like I've hit the big time.

Anyway, I wish you all a productive 2007 and may all your wishes come true.

Love Anita xxx

Monday, December 18, 2006

Tag Me!

Hi All,
Just thought I would mention today, that in the left hand margin is a rather large white square. It says 'Tag this blog!' in it. If you click on this you go to a BlogVia - Review page, where you can review and rate my blog. If it's not there hit the refresh button and it should appear. At the moment, the only review I've got is the one I wrote myself, which is a bit like cheating. So if you've got a few minutes, why not review my blog? I know time is precious but I'd love to know what you think - good or bad.
Love Anita xxx

Here is link if the large white square is still missing after you've hit the refresh button:

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Agent v Publisher Debate

There has always been the debate of whether to submit manuscripts to agents or to publishers first and from my experience there is no firm answer to what to do. Some of this has been discussed before in previous posts. See: What Does an Editor Do?

Much of the problems lie in being unsure what the boundaries are between an agent’s job and a publisher’s / editor’s job. There is a lot of crossover and the boundaries are not clear.

I was once told at a SCBWI meeting:

“Literary agents reject almost everything they read.”
Is this true?

I have also heard that many already published authors have submitted work to agents and publishers under pseudonyms and been rejected. We are often told they are business people and we should approach them in a business like fashion. See my post on Submitting a Manuscript. We have also read before they are looking for that sure-deal. See the post on World of Children's Publishing

But, does this mean they are not interested in new authors?

Both agents and publishers reject a lot of manuscripts, but I’ve always assumed this is because of the quality of the writing, and the market for the story. Obviously, bad writers are of little use to them, they are looking for good writers. I like to remind myself, all authors are new at some point.

Agents and publishers are both knowledgeable readers who love books. Why else would they become an agent or a publisher? Many agents are former editors.

There are plenty of books I don’t like and can’t get past the first page of. I may recognize their value, but for whatever reason, they don’t speak to me. That doesn’t make them bad books. They might even be great books. Just not for me. I can imagine this is exactly true for agents and publihsers as well. Everyone has different tastes.

Take a look at the wide selection of agent’s blogs around, as they can help determine a particular agent's taste. Most of them are American. This is what Jane Dystel from the Dystel & Goderich Literary Management says about being an agent: Jane Dystel's blog

In an effort to try to unbury the boundaries in my own mind, I have worked out:

An agent’s job is to sell manuscripts, do deals, and make money for the author, publisher, and themselves. To do this they have to believe they can sell your book. Who would take on a book if they think there’s no way they can sell it? But what gets overlooked is the other part of the equation - they also have to love the book. If they don’t, it’s not necessarily a reflection on your writing, or even your salability. Agents get hundreds of manuscripts every year; they can’t love them all. It takes too much time and effort to work on a book you’re not passionate about.

A publisher’s job is to decide which manuscripts they would like to publish and whether to commission specific books and projects. A number of titles and series of books, particularly in education, are commissioned by editors with specialist knowledge of the market. Most of the books I have had published have been commissioned by such publishers who prefer to work direct with the author rather than with an agent.

Many manuscripts are sent via agents to publishers and I’ve heard publishers look at these first as they believe they have been vetted already. More and more agents in the Children’s Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook are saying they don’t take unsolicited manuscripts. And, more and more children’s publishers are saying they only accept submissions through an agent. We are told if they ask for no unsolicited manuscripts then send a query letter. If they like the letter they will ask to see the manuscript, but the entries seem to suggest an agent first is the way to go with children’s fiction.

During the SCBWI live chat with US agent Erin Murphy, who runs her own agency, she explained agents want authors who have more than one book to sell and who have manuscripts that are finished. She said that authors tend to find agents with their third or fourth manuscripts. It is very unlikely an author will sell their first book, as some sort of apprenticeship is required.

So should we submit to publishers or agents? I’m none the wiser. I think it depends what you are writing. In my humble opinion, I think we should hedge our bets and submit to both.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Blogs! I don't get it!

I was reading in the Writer's News how Caroline Smailes, an unknown author, got a book deal from her blog. I thought Wow! That's great! Amazing. She's so lucky...

The article said:
"The publisher, The Friday Project (TFP), stumbled across her blog and was so impressed by her quirky style and risky subject mater they emailed the next day with a one book deal."

Well I thought to myself... I need to read this Blog.

I want to see what they are raving about.

So, I did and to be quite frank - I didn't get it.

Call me mad but I didn't understand a word of it. The big bold type intermixed with normal type made
it really hard to read and I found myself only reading the bold writing and not
reading the rest, which is why it probably didn't really make any


Now I went to the site because I really wanted to learn something and was really disappointed I didn't get it. What was controversial about a load of fancy type? My eleven year old daughter does that all the time.

Anyway, whilst I was writing the above my daughter walked in and said, "I like that, it's really cool. She read on and said, "I'm twelve."

So I stand corrected - My twelve year old daughter does it all the time. See Chrisi's Blog.

Well, after playing around with font, size, colours, and position on the page I think I might have got it. She doesn't know how to work blogger. She played with the quotes and it all went wrong so gave up and left it like that.

Maybe it is sour grapes. Maybe a bit of jealousy. But, to be quite honest I don't think so. I'm always pleased to hear when an unknown writer has some success. It is my dream it will happen to me.

A friend of mine, Candy Gourlay, is meeting up with an agent who liked her blog on her novel - Volcano Child - and I think it is a brilliant blog. Easy to read, easy to understand and lovely pictures to support it.

My message to all you writers and bloggers out there is:

Blogging does work. It gets you noticed. Now all I have to do is think of something quirky and risky to write about. Any fun ideas? Let me know. Want to enlighten me about In Search of Adam? Please do.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Children's Laureate

The next Children's Laureate will be appointed in May 2007. This award acknowledges the importance of exceptional children's authors in creating the readers of tomorrow.

If you would like to nominate a children's writer and/or illustrator to be the next Children's Laureate click on the link below:

Previous children's laureates are:

  • Quintin Blake (1999-2001)
  • Anne Fine (2001-2003)
  • Michael Morpurgo (2004-2005)
  • Jaqueline Wilson (2005-2007)
The person you suggest has to be a living UK writer, poet or an illustrator who has written or illustrated many books and been published for at least eight years. Nominations are open until the end of the month, Sunday 31st December 2006.

Monday, December 04, 2006

My Deal or No Deal Experience

Hi All,

Thought I'd write a little bit today about my brief encounter in the audience of Deal or No Deal. This is the game show hosted by Noel Edmonds and shown every afternoon on Channel 4. I went to watch my friend, Lynne Hackles, stand behind her box in the East Wing. As you can imagine, I was very excited and told everybody who cared to listen I was going to be on the telly.

I went to the studio in Bristol by train and incidentally got a lot of work done on the teacher notes of the plays I'd written for Hopscotch publishers. It was pouring with rain and I did get a bit stressy about my hair getting ruined, as I paid a small fortune getting it done the day before.

It was quite interesting learning about what goes on the behind scenes and the process of how they actually make a game show. They film three shows a day, which was a little confusing, as although I went to see Lynne on the Wednesday 11th October, the first show that was being filmed that day was Sunday 19th November.

Before the show started they had this comedian who warmed up the audience so they'd make loads of noise. I did manage to get in few close ups for that show and it was fun watching Lynne standing behind her box, clapping, cheering and stuff. In fact, it was a bit like being at a pantomime.

After the first show of the day, I was allowed to have lunch with Lynne and the other contestants in this large warehouse type place. I was already confused what day it really was, so could imagine the contestants, who had been there for over fourteen shows or more already, must have been totally confused. Lynne had already had Halloween and Bonfire Night. Also, my hands hurt after clapping so much and I’d only seen one show – I had two more to go.

When we'd finished lunch, all the contestants got changed and I was surprised to find out they do not get to choose what they wear. What happens is they all have to take about twenty outfits and hand them over to the production team, then the wardrobe people decide what each person wears for each show. I think I would have found it a bit daunting. Lynne told me her husband was coming down that evening and might make the last show.

The next show was Monday 20th November. I was sat right up in the far corner at the back. I was not particularly happy about this as I knew I would not get seen up there and I wanted to be on the telly. They'd made Lynne wear this awful browny green jumper that looked quite ancient. Now Lynne has some beautiful, bright clothes and I really did not think this dowdy, boring jumper suited her. I was a bit surprised she even packed it. But, never mind I thought she'll be stood behind her box, nobody will see it.

The comedian did another warm up. The contestants picked the ball out of the bag to show them which box number would be theirs for the show. Lynne picked number eight and I told the woman sat next to me that was a lucky number. Then the show begun. Noel did his intro and they flashed the names up on the board. Who would be next to come up?

To my amazement, Lynne was picked to take her turn against the banker. My first thought was 'Oh no, her husband wasn't there.' They called me down from the audience and thank goodness Colin had arrived. Apparently, for some unknown reason he'd cancelled his clients, left early and arrived just in time.

They took us both back stage and hooked us to microphones. They re-did all my make-up and hair. Put this bright red lipstick on me, which actually shocked me when I saw it in the mirror after the filming. I was seated in the hot-sit right behind Lynne, next to Colin, her husband, where I would be in camera shot for most of the show. Lucky I got my hair done the day before, although I was still stressing about whether the rain had made it go all frizzy. They used quite a bit of hairspray sticking it back down.

Lynne had an absolutely brilliant show. I was definitely on the telly; although I was a little disappointed they cut my big speaking part out, where I tell everyone who I am. You do hear me saying in the background she should stick with her box near the end of the show but, you don't actually get to see me saying it. Never mind, I still got my fifteen minutes of fame.

I never went in the audience for the last show filmed that day but, joined Lynne and Colin in the green room. I do have a very guilty admission here. I honestly thought the green room would be green and was surprised when it wasn’t.

Lynne Hackles with Noel Edmonds and her husband, Colin

To find out more about Lynne's show and whether she beat the banker, take a look at her website: Just thought I'd mention at this point I designed and made Lynne's website for her.

Let me know what you think of the show (if you saw it!), Lynne's website, how terribly vain I am, or anything else you want to tell me.

Love Anita