I am slowly sifting through some of the information put in my brain last weekend at the conference. Here are some thoughts I have had following this fab event.
1. If you are serious about being a writer and/or illustrator one of the most useful things you can do to help yourself is to join at least one (if not all) of the professional groups available in NZ. Kiwiwrite4kidz or the WCBA (Wellington Childrens Book Assoc.), the NZSA, Storylines, The NZ Book Council and Te Tai Tamariki. When I finally got up the nerve to give the writing thing a shot I joined Storylines and the NZSA. Becoming part of the children's book community is the best way to find out how it all works. If I'd stayed alone in my study tapping away on my computer, sending things out in the post to publishers I would be years behind where I am now. Talking with others who share the same goals is inspiring, motivating and educational. I have since joined Kiwiwrite4kidz and intend to join the NZ Book Council as well. It is an essential part of your development.
2. Martin Baynton gave a stirring keynote speech on the opening night of the Conference where he urged everyone to take control of their intellectual property and exploit it for maximum benefit. He does not automatically assign all rights to publishers who contract his work. Can that publisher actually exploit that right and maximise the income for that work? The publishers panel the following day gave a mixed reply to his advice. Some argued for their ability to make use of these rights. Others stated which rights were non-negotiable (thereby implying that the others were?). Many publishers are part of a global company or are affiliated with overseas publishers, some of whom have the necessary skills and corporate machinery to make use of these rights. I never asked them how often these rights are exploited and how lucrative they were. I appreciate that a small proportion of published work would ever be deemed suitable for film or merchandising (or other similar) rights but I now know I shouldn't forget about them during the contract process. Baynton's vision is broad and his ambitions, global. He borrowed millions to exploit one of his works and it paid off. Of course this kind of investment is a) not for the faint-hearted and b) not suitable for everyone's work. I'm not sure if I'll ever go down that route but his talk certainly opened my eyes.
3. I was extremely honoured to be invited to participate in the Speed Date The Author event held at Island Bay School in Wellington on the morning of the opening day of the conference. I did a 15 minute presentation on tone to 5 different groups of intermediate aged children who rotated round 6 different authors and illustrators each assigned their own topic. I hope the children enjoyed it. I loved the format and once I warmed up I enjoyed it. Congratulations to Sarah Forster from the NZ Book Council who came up with the idea and thanks for including me. This concept could easily be used anywhere in the country.
4. Pitching. Huge kudos to Maureen and Fifi for including this in the conference. Pitching has, as I understand it, been a part of writing conferences for some time in the US. A writer or illustrator makes an appointment to pitch their book idea/completed novel/pb to a publisher or agent. It has never been formally done in New Zealand before. There were 7 publishers and 2 agents (one Kiwi, one from Oz) available at Spinning Gold. Appointments were 3 minutes long with 2 minutes for the pitchee to recover before the next appointment started. I applaud the publishers and agents for agreeing to do this. It would not be easy to listen to up to 12 individuals trying to sell you their idea/book. We were all newbies at pitching and everyone looked terrified. Rescue remedy was being passed around. Some faces were a worrying shade of pale. There was a lot of nervous joking in the stairwell before we were let through for our appointments. I had three appointments and through sheer luck (and being completely brazen) I managed to get myself a fourth. Some publishers would be ideal poker players. Some were probably overwhelmed by the all the things I thrust at them and were wishing they were better at poker. I was grateful for the opportunity to just meet these people face to face. I think my pitching needs an awful lot of polishing. Although one is talking about one's own work which we theoretically should know intimately, it is easy to forget the salient points and go heavy on the waffle. I think I did better at talking about my shorter works - lets face it - its a lot easier to summarise a 700 word pb then it is to summarise something in excess of 45,000 words. Thank you to the Spinning Gold team who organised this and who, on the day, despite a huge chance of mayhem had it all running like well oiled clockwork. Thank you to the publishers and agents who gave up their time to participate. I am hoping, like dating agencies that publicise any resulting unions, that Spinning Gold will mention any successful deals struck as a result of their inaugural Pitch Slam.
Educational Resource: A Winter's Day in 1939
- Educational Resource: The Were-Nana
- Educational Resource: The Half Life of Ryan Davis
- Educational Resource: Made With Love
- Educational Resource: The House That Went to Sea
- Educational Resource: A Winter's Day in 1939
- Educational Resource: While You Are Sleeping
- Educational Resource: The Song of Kauri
- Educational Resource: Fuzzy Doodle
- Book List - Complete List of my Publications