Children's publishing

5 Reasons Why Editors Are AMAZING

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1) THEY’RE ON TEAM “YOU”. 

As a writer, the thought of getting comments back on your work is daunting. It’s like a flashback to school. But it’s not school. Red pen isn’t a bad thing (I say that but I’ve noticed many schools have now banned red because it’s too confrontational?!). When your editor sends your text back with scribbles all over it, THIS IS GOOD. Editors aren’t the enemy. They’re on Team YOU. They want the best for your writing, for your book, and for your career (which, they hope, will be a long and happy one with THIS as your lovely publishing “home”). When you look at it like that, pen is good. It means they’ve found ways to elevate and strengthen your story. They’re busy people. If they’re sending comments, it’s because they’re invested in you. A good editor will show you that. They’ll lift your spirits and their belief in you will be infectious. You’ll go to sleep with a smile stuck to your face. Writers are delicate creatures. LET’S BE HONEST - we like a bit of love. 


2) THEY’RE YOUR INTERNAL CHAMPIONS

At a publisher, your editor is the person who will be your internal HERO. They’ll pass your book around the team and rally up the troops. They’ll do all the strategising, number crunching and Excel wizardry you need to get through the Acquisitions meeting - a magical convention under the light of a full moon where books are bought and songs are sung (or something like that). Your editor LOVES your book and wants to make everyone else fall in love with it too. See? Team YOU. All the way. 


3) THEY READ WITH FRESH EYES

Fact of the matter is you’re too close to your work. We all are. We’ve read it a zillion times and on the zillion-and-second reading, the randomest stuff starts to make sense. Resting a manuscript can help but what helps even more is someone completely removed from it. Your editor comes at the whole thing with a fresh head. They can SEE the holes. They don’t know all that beautiful backstory. They don’t know what you were absolutely trying to get across. They see what’s on the page and (drawing on all their experience) what a reader might get out of it. And it’s not just the holes - they see opportunities too! After working on a story for some time, you take certain things for granted. They’re so deeply embedded in the story - things like the setting, the gender of your characters, the POV, the tense. After a point, you may not even play around with some of those. In swoops the editor with a “WHAT IF” you hadn’t thought about and MAYBE, just maybe, it takes the whole thing to a completely different level. My PRH WriteNow editor-mentor did this for one of my stories and it blew my mind.


4) THEY KNOW THEIR STUFF 

This goes without saying really. They’ve got their fingers on the pulse. They’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. If they’re a top quality editor, they have good gut feel for these things. They’ve mastered the art of reviewing a manuscript, analysing it, pulling it apart to stress-test it and putting it back together again. They can do that “rotate-a-3D-object-in-space” thing but with your story. They can IMAGINE the crazy structural edit that might just transform your book. I’m not saying you should do a blanket “ACCEPT ALL CHANGES”. Look at the comments with a cup of tea and a cool head. Take the things that you agree with, question the ones you’re not sure about. ASK about the ones you can’t wrap your brain around. They won’t judge you. They love you. See above.

Which reminds me - something they don’t tell you: EDITING IS A CONVERSATION. It’s a fluid, organic thing. There’s a lot of back and forth between editor and writer. You’ll settle into a routine with this and it’ll become more natural. Over time, you’ll be more confident challenging things where you feel like you’re losing the heart of your story or asking what feels like a silly, niggly, oh-God-I’m-wasting-your-time-type question. Challenge things and ask away. But also remember, we can’t be precious about everything - editors do know their stuff. 


5) THEY’RE CONDUCTORS IN THE ORCHESTRA THAT IS THE MAKING OF YOUR BOOK

Be nice to your editors, okay? The job title is misleading. They do so much more than edit (she says as if THAT in itself isn’t a HUGE thing).  If you’re a picture book writer, they’re working across the words and pictures, liasing with the designer (who is like an editor for the illustrator), agents (if any), the copyediting team, sales, marketing, and publicity. For some types of books, this is a LOT of work. And multiply that by “A LOT” because there will be a number of books in the pipeline + the glorious backlist to look after and refresh + more books coming through submissions channels. 


And despite ALL of that, they’re totally here (within reason and as far as practicable) for your individual clingy-writerly needs. They’re your product managers, your extra pair of fresh eyes, your champions. And no matter what anyone tells you, they’re on Team YOU. 

*This post is about editors at a publishing house but a lot of this applies to any professional editor. My Golden Egg Academy Picture Book Programme editors, for example, were amazing. With one lyrical story, my editor sent comments that took MONTHS to unpack but the result was incredible - more on that another day.

A shout-out to the HEROES: Inclusivity in Children's Publishing PART 2

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The Reflecting Realities report published by the CLPE earlier this week paints a bleak picture of inclusivity in UK children's publishing. I had my restrained rant when it came out but today what I want to focus on is celebrating the amazing work that is already happening to help effect positive change in this area. The champions of inclusivity, the changemakers. Please read, share, and add any projects I've missed. 

Finding and nurturing underrepresented voices

Publishers

The FAB Prize: Faber & Faber (Faber Children's) joint initiative with Andlyn Agency to discover and celebrate children's writers and illustrators of BAME origins. The winners receive a year of mentoring. (Another Faber Children's commitment: 40% of all children's book covers from picture books through to YA to feature underrepresented characters in order to reflect the reality of our society. It's something the team is really passionate about.)  

Little Tiger Press Illustrator Callout: have put out a specific call for illustrators from underrepresented backgrounds to submit illustrations for their Our Town series of books set in an inclusive town with a diverse population. In their callout, they mention the fact that underrepresented illustrators may not have the means or knowhow to put together a formal portfolio - this approach, like other programmes mentioned here, helps cast the net that little bit wider. 

The Penguin Random House (PRH) UK WriteNow Programme: a one-year mentoring opportunity for underrepresented writers and illustrators (not just children's). Siena Parker who runs the scheme at PRH puts a lot of energy into getting her team on the ground across the UK to actively seek out undiscovered writers and illustrators. Applications are still open for illustrators - deadline 23rd July 2018. I've been fortunate enough to be on this life-changing programme this year and have blogged about it here.

Knights Of: a new independent publisher with inclusivity at its heart. They publish books for ages 5 through to 15. Their hiring practices are diverse, their books are "windows into as many worlds as possible" and their most unique contribution to the industry is being supremely accessible - if you want to write for them, you use their Live Chat system to pitch your idea. It's a CHAT. Doesn't get more straightforward than that. I think that's a real barrier breaker right there. They also run the #BooksMadeBetter project to get fantastic diverse books into the hands of children around the country. 

Lantana Publishing: another young independent publisher focused on inclusivity. ALL their books are by BAME authors and illustrators. 

Agents 

Many literary agents have specifically reached out to underrepresented communities to welcome their submissions and offer support whether that's in the form of highlighting a submission (and perhaps bumping it up in the queue) or offering scholarships to attend writing festivals or courses, mentoring/support and advice re navigating the industry. I won't catch all of them (please tell me if you have more to add!) but here are a few that have particularly vocal in this respect. 

Alice Williams Literary 

Alice Sutherland-Hawes at Madeleine Milburn 

Andlyn  

The Bent Agency 

The Darley Anderson Children's Book Agency 

David Higham Associates

The Good Literary Agency 

The Lindsay Literary Agency

Other organisations and initiatives

Commonword: an Arts Council funded, Manchester-based writer development programme. Commonword runs the Commonword Diversity Young Adult Fiction Prize for unpublished MG and YA novelists whose writing embraces ethnic diversity. 

Inclusive Minds: a collaboration of consultants and campaigners around the themes of inclusivity, equality and accessibility in children's literature. They offer consulting, sensitivity readers and have brought a whole host of industry professionals together through their A Place at the Table event. A full report from the event can be found here

Megaphone: an Arts Council funded writer development programme to nurture new BAME voices in publishing.  The 2016-17 scheme was a great success - mentees have found agents and had short and long fiction accepted for publication and broadcasting. The scheme is due to be repeated in the near future. 

Quarto Translations/Golden Egg Academy Award for the Golden Egg Academy children's fiction programme (application deadline 31st July 2018) 

Tiny Owl: an independent publisher worth mentioning because their beautiful books all feature BAME characters and stories.  

Behind the scenes: changing the demographics in publishing

A number of publishing houses have made pledges around diverse hiring practices to make sure their internal demographics make them more reflective of society. 

Penguin Random House, for example, has pledged that its new hires and books acquired will reflect UK society by 2025. 

Hachette has recently hired its first Diversity and Inclusion Manager

There have also been a number of paid internships and publishing positions on offer with a specific callout to underrepresented communities. That the internships are paid is significant as income-related issues have historically been a huge barrier in this industry. Again, there are many more instances here that I've missed so please flag them and I'll update the list. 

Why stop to celebrate when there's work to be done? 

I know it's important to stay ambitious and focused and it's important we don't start thinking enough is being done because it's not enough. Still, sometimes it's also worth pausing to tip your hat to the heroes, the people who are already out there making a difference. Maybe there's somewhere we can fit in too. Maybe there's a gap that needs filling. Ideas spark ideas and action sparks action...

 

See here for Representation not Diversity: Inclusivity in Children's Publishing PART 1