Tag Archives: Publishing

Meet the Team – Rebeka Finch

It’s the start of 20Beka Headshot20, so to ring in the new decade we’re doing a Meet the Team series. The final years of the 2010s brought lots of changes to the Agency and a number of fresh faces have joined the ranks. In this series of posts, you’ll get a little insight into who we are and what we all do here at Darley Anderson.

So, without further ado and to start us off, we speak to Rebeka Finch, assistant to Darley Anderson himself.

First of all, what is your role at the agency?

Newly minted at the Agency, I have just started as Darley Anderson’s Assistant. I read through and engage with the numerous submissions made weekly, as well as with editors, publicists and authors to keep Darley up to date on the latest news. I also work with my colleagues across Children’s Books, Rights and with our other Adult Fiction agents to help ensure the smooth running of the Agency as a whole.

How did you get into Publishing?

I’ve always wanted to get involved with Publishing but I had no idea where to start, especially in such a competitive industry. However, after doing some initial research into the types of areas that I found interesting, I realised that working at an agency means that you are right at the centre of author and publisher relations, as well as working with publicity, contracts and rights. I also love that as an assistant I have the opportunity to engage with submissions, to see the development of new novels, and to chart the progression of new authors at the Agency. Fresh out of university, working at Darley Anderson is a fantastic place to start my career.

Which book changed your life?

Whilst a great many books have stayed with me far beyond the final page, there is only one that holds the place of ‘game-changer’. Prior to my discovery of The Thieves of Ostia (the first in the series), reading was a daily chore that consisted of parental negations back and forth that forced me into opening a book, let alone enjoying it. However, Caroline Lawrence offered a unique take on ancient roman mysteries that 15 years later has still maintained a coveted place amongst my shelves. For a more adult appropriate read, I loved Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches. The storytelling and the historical settings offered a unique take on fantasy and historical fiction, the perfect way to lose yourself for an afternoon.

What do you look for in a book?

I love historical fiction, having studied History at university. I love books that really engage with the historical setting and are thoroughly researched. I find it fascinating to think about the streets of London in the 15th century, or Paris during the Revolution. However, I also look for books that don’t attempt to rewrite history, but to engage with it and accompany the events of the day.

A. M. Howell on the highs and lows of the submission process and her journey to publication

In case you misseAM Howelld it (if you’re living under a rock, or have become a hermit, or get all your news delivered by snail), last week was the Frankfurt Book Fair. It’s where everyone announces their big books, and it’s easy to get lost in the buzzy deal headlines and general excitement. And that news is great – but it isn’t necessarily normal.

What we don’t talk about is how many titles don’t get published, or how long it can take agents to find a home for their authors’ books. Publishing is an industry peppered with failures and it’s safe to assume that every single author out there will have faced rejection at some point in their careers.  

Someone who knows this better than most is middle-grade author A. M. Howell. In this week’s post, A. M. Howell gives a brave and honest account of her experiences submitting to agents and of her sometimes difficult journey to publication, as well as some invaluable advice for aspiring authors.

I often think back to summer 2015 when my internet search history mostly consisted of terms like ‘how to get an agent’ and ‘my journey to publication’. I picked up quite a few tips when I was submitting my first book to agents, and since then, and thought it might be helpful to share them, as well as talk a little about my own (quite lengthy!) route to publication.

It’s really tempting to start submitting to agents as soon as you’ve written those magic words ‘The End’ on your manuscript. But it can be really helpful to put your book aside for a few weeks and then re-read with fresh eyes. You may find ways to tighten that tricky ending, develop a character a little more or correct some annoying typos, all things that will help make your story shine even brighter before it goes hurtling out into the world.

Buy or borrow a copy of the latest edition of the Writers and Artists Handbook. It contains a wealth of information on literary agencies and the types of manuscripts they accept. I created a spreadsheet of my top twenty ‘dream agents’ then also visited the individual agency websites to see what was required for submission – normally a full synopsis (detailing the ending), the first few chapters of the book, along with a covering letter.

Do your research and spend some time tailoring your submission – a little personalisation can make you stand out from the crowd. If an agent tweets that they are looking for a comedy about unicorns, and that is what you have written, then you can mention that in your covering letter!

As hard as it may be, try and prepare yourself for some straight rejections. I don’t know a single author who hasn’t received some. It’s natural to be upset, and by all means rant and rave internally, but try and resist firing off an email to the agent saying they are missing out on the next big thing. Agents do, of course, know other agents and word is likely to get around! Focus your efforts on taking on board any feedback you get, grit your teeth and send off another submission.

Many writers and authors I know have had their first book rejected by agents and/or publishers. Try not to be disheartened. If you have received positive feedback it might be worth re-writing. But the best thing might be to start something new. Don’t view that book as wasted work though, as every word you type helps to hone your skills as a writer.

If you do get a full read request from an agent it is time to celebrate! If this is followed up with an offer of representation, your instinct may be to accept immediately and go and eat lots and lots of cake. But perhaps take some time to consider if this agent is good fit for you and your book. When I began submitting my first book, I got some straight rejections, then one agent asked if we could meet. She offered to represent me and I was over the moon, but when we met there was something that just didn’t quite click.

I chased up the other agents who were still reading the full manuscript and then Clare Wallace from The Darley Anderson Children’s Book Agency, an agent at the very top of my wish list, asked if we could chat. We shared the same vision for the book and I didn’t hesitate in saying yes when she offered to represent me.

Clare went on to submit that book to publishers but even though it had positive feedback sadly it didn’t get picked up. I was very upset, but dusted myself off and got back to writing something else to take my mind off the disappointment. But then the very same thing happened with my second book! It wasn’t until my third book that I got to the stage of talking to an editor at a major publishing house on the phone, with the book subsequently going to acquisitions. Clare and I felt quietly positive, but then we got the sad news that while overall they loved the story, the sales team had concerns about sales of similar types of contemporary teen fiction and so they would not be making an offer. This was another real low point and I wondered what to do next. After a few weeks off and chatting things through with Clare, I decided to try something new – historical fiction, something I have always read and enjoyed. I remember sending Clare the first three chapters of what was to become The Garden of Lost Secrets and she emailed me straight back. ‘I love it – just write it,’ she said. So I did.

In the end it was my fourth book – The Garden of Lost Secrets – that was The One that eventually got me the book deal of my dreams with Usborne this year. I guess the moral of this is to stay determined – both at the ‘trying to get an agent stage’ and the ‘trying to get a publisher stage’ but also don’t be afraid to experiment with different genres and styles of writing if what you are writing doesn’t seem to be working. While my first four books will always have a place in my heart, the switch to historical fiction was the best decision I ever made and now I can’t imagine writing anything else!

The Garden of Lost Secrets was published by Usborne in 2019 and has gone on to experience great success. The Times chose it as their Children’s Book of the Week, calling it ‘an impressive debut … [with] an effective twist that goes off with a bang’. It’s also had rave reviews in the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, and the i, and it was picked by The Bookseller as One to Watch, who described A. M. as a ‘brilliant new voice’.

A. M. Howell’s latest book, The House of One Hundred Clocks, will be published in February 2020. It’s full of dark secrets, ticking clocks and mysterious ghostly figures, and you can read an extract here. You can follow A. M. on Twitter and Instagram or visit her website where she shares her future projects.

Fiction_GardenCover_edited

 

Rashmi Sirdeshpande’s Tips for Picture Books

BSvKfVSh_400x400

Rashmi Sirdeshpande is a picture book author, writing both fiction and non-fiction texts, and is our partnering author for picture books for the #DACBaccess month. Here are her thoughts on why the open month is important, and her very best tips for picture book writers and illustrators.

 

A note about the open submissions month 

 

The agency is ALWAYS open to writers and illustrators of ALL backgrounds and they actively seek them out too (I can vouch for that bit!). But this is a shout-from-the-rooftops kind of initiative to make the whole process feel more accessible to underrepresented groups. Sort of a “yes, I mean YOU”. Before I was selected for Penguin Random House’s WriteNow programme, I didn’t think children’s publishing was really open to writers like me. WriteNow was my “yes, I mean YOU” moment. I hope this can be yours! 

 

Rashmi’s top tips for new picture book writers and illustrators 

 

1. READ! Oh my goodness, if you do nothing else, READ, READ, and READ! Pull apart picture books you love to really understand what works. Get a feel for the language, the page turns, how the words and pictures work together. If you’re a writer, you need to leave space for the illustrator to work their magic. Leave out anything that can be expressed visually. By reading lots, you’ll get a sense for how this is done. There are also some brilliant blogs out there with lots of guidance like SCBWI’s Words and Pictures, Notes from the Slushpile, and the Picture Book Den!  

 

2. WRITE/ILLUSTRATE LOTS and if you do, call yourself a WRITER or ILLUSTRATOR (drop the “aspiring”!). It sounds like a tiny thing but it’ll make a big difference to how you see yourself and your work. We all have other commitments so don’t beat yourself up if you have a slow patch but you know what works for you – get that practice in. Writing/illustrating is a learned craft. Don’t let anyone scare you with the idea that you either got it or you ain’t. If you ain’t got it, you can go and get it. The more you do, the better you get. 

 

3. DON’T WORRY ABOUT TRENDS or if someone is doing something similar. If you’re a writer, write the story YOU want to write. If you’re an illustrator, work in the style or styles that speak to you. Publishing takes AGES and by the time your book is on submission or even on the shelves, everything will have changed. Be yourself. Tangent: if you’re looking for an agent, find someone who really gets you, someone who can back your entire career. I’m lucky to have found that here at The Darley Anderson Children’s Book Agency. 

 

4. SEEK OUT HELP. Surround yourself with writers and illustrators you look up to and with people who love and believe in you and your writing. When Imposter’s Syndrome strikes (and it will!), go back to those people. Find mentors who can bring out the best in you. Find other writers on similar journeys – look for them in groups like the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Join a critique group (online versions work too!) – it’s a great way of getting fresh eyes on your work but ALSO, reviewing and commenting on someone else’s work will fine-tune your own skills. Win, win. Just make sure you work with people on the same page as you. Fit is everything. 

 

5. BE PATIENT. Publishing takes time. Pictures books can take two years to publish even after they’re acquired by a publisher. A lot depends on book fairs and illustrator availability but also what else is on the publisher’s list. So many factors out of your control. The one thing you can control is this: keep working on your craft. It’s not a race and it’s not a competition. Well, OK, it’s business but there really is enough pie for everyone. Keep writing and illustrating, and keep believing in yourself. Somewhere, somehow, when the time is right and the stars are aligned, it WILL happen for you. And when it does, be prepared to keep LOTS of secrets. Publishing is full of them! 

 

Can’t wait to see what you come up with! Good luck! 

8 Pictures of Kerry Fisher’s Début THE SCHOOL GATE SURVIVAL GUIDE Going from Paper Roll to Publication

To celebrate the publication of Kerry Fisher’s brilliant new novel THE SCHOOL GATE SURVIVAL GUIDE Clare Wallace took a trip with editor, Helen Bolton, the author’s father and the author herself to Clay’s Ltd in Suffolk to see the paperbacks coming to life.

Ever wanted to see how a book is actually made? Here are 8 pictures that show just that.

1. These fat rolls of paper will soon turn into Kerry’s début novel
1. Once upon a time...

2. First, the words are printed onto the reams of paper
2. The very first printed pages

3. Here the freshly printed covers wait on the pallet to receive their pages
3. Covers waiting on their pallet for pages

4. The books are printed out in pairs, still attached end to end…
4. Cleverly printed in pairs

5. … and chopped down the middle to make two separate books
5. Here they come...

6. Here come the freshly baked books straight out of the press
6. Freshly baked books straight out of the oven

7. One very proud dad hugs his newly published daughter as the books journey on behind
7. One very proud father as the books journey on behind

8. And the whole happy team hold up the finished copies
8. The whole happy team

So now you know how it’s done.

After the eye-opening trip Kerry Fisher said, “Watching 
THE SCHOOL GATE SURVIVAL GUIDE coming off the presses was very special indeed. Everywhere I looked there were little red books zooming round the factory in various stages of completion.

“It really was that ‘WOW’ moment, when getting published suddenly felt so real. I was also very privileged that I was able to take my dad with me – he loved it and so did I.”

81ek+Rtfg9L._SL1500_

THE SCHOOL GATE SURVIVAL GUIDE, a hilarious, straight-talking read for fans of Fiona Neill and Gill Hornby’s The Hive, is out today!

Visit Kerry Fisher’s website and follow her on twitter for further updates.