On Wednesday I attended the Queensland Writers Centre presentation “To Market To Market: Pitching to Publishers”, at the Somerset Celebration of Literature (thanks Amy for the tip!)
The Celebration is geared towards young people interested in literature and writing, but there are also various sessions and events for adult writers of children’s and YA literature.
Wednesday’s session was facilitated by Sarah Gory from QWC, and featured children’s author Tristan Bancks and YA author Belinda Jeffrey.
The authors talked quite a bit about their redrafting processes, how they choose test readers to give them feedback, and what kinds of things happen during redrafting (eg. changing from third person to first person POV, or vice versa, might unlock a number of problems at once). There was discussion about what an agent does, how to approach publishers, the need for researching your specific niche in the industry, dos and don’ts of submission, and author platforms.
What interested me most were the questions asked by some seminar participants, to which answers are readily available online, through a plethora of resources. I don’t mean to sound supercilious about this – I’m no digital native myself. But I was surprised to find writers unaware of the online resources available to them with just a click or two.
For example, appropriate word lengths of books targeted at specific age groups. Guidelines are readily available on the websites of major publishers (eg. Pan Macmillan, Penguin, Scholastic, Allen & Unwin, Harper Collins – see Links page). You can also find advice and discussion through any number of blogs and forums just by Googling the topic. I looked up “word count age groups”, “word length age groups”, and “novel length”, and got similar sites each time (eg. Literary Rambles, Kidlit, Novel-Writing-Help). Most of these are blogs by authors, agents or publishers, or specialist resource sites for writers, so the advice is up-to-date and useful.
Then there was a question about how to write a query letter. Sarah offered the QWC Writers Guide on this topic. There are many of these Guides on the QWC site, very helpful, and not Queensland-specific so they should be useful to any writer (certainly any Australian writer). But there are also many other sites where you can learn the accepted structure of a query letter, dos and don’ts of querying, even have your query vetted by an agent (the amazingly generous site QueryShark, for example).
Why are so many writers seemingly unaware of these resources? Are many people still intimidated by the internet? Is it the sheer volume of available information that seems overwhelming? Or are writers wary of wading into these deep waters, knowing they’ll be tempted to swim around all day when they really should have stayed on the island keeping their notebooks dry and writing? (I know – me too).
I have to recommend Writers Digest’s Best 101 Websites for Writers. They make a new list annually, it’s divided into handy categories, and I’ve been delighted to find many sites on there that I’d already discovered through trial and error. I do try to add new links to my Links page if I think they’ll be helpful to others, but I can’t always keep up. The Writers Digest list is a good starting point.