Saturday, December 17, 2011

Your chances are as good as ever...

In response to my last post, Kath lamented that getting published in NZ today as a newcomer seems impossible. What are the chances?

From where I sit Kath I have to say the chances seem as good as ever. Chances were never good, but newcomers still do get published every year. In the wake of the recession, publishing lists were cut and several boutique publishers (Mallinson Rendel, Longacre) were absorbed by a couple of the big international publishing names (Penguin and Random respectively). Publishers across the board were tightening purse strings and Scholastic NZ, the biggest children's-only publisher here closed to unsolicited submissions, an uncommon position in this country. And it certainly may appear that the same names are turning up on the covers of the books in the bookshops.

However if you know your local authors well you can spot the new ones too. Anna Gowan and Leonie Agnew are new faces in the junior novel area. Juliette MacIver is new in picture books as is Chris Gurney and Belynda Smith. I'm sure there are others that have slipped my mind.

Several avenues exist for new writers such as the Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon and Tessa Duder Awards for junior and YA fiction. You cannot enter for these awards if you are previously published. While the Joy Cowley Award for a picture book is open to the previously published, this is how many new writers are noticed by Scholastic who participate in judging the entries and publish the winners of the Joy Cowley and Tom Fitzgibbon (Harper Collins publish the winner of the Tessa Duder Award). Scholastic have published the books of other finalists as well. I was twice a finalist in the Joy Cowley Award and while this didn't result directly in publication of my entries at the time, it was a huge boost for me as a writer and resulted in some fantastic feedback which has seen both stories being published more recently. Entries close on October 31st for these Awards every year.

And we now have new boutique publishers springing up. David Ling's Duck Creek Press  has taken on a new picture book writer and new illustrators in the last few years and Pear Jam Books, just launched by author Jill Marshall, is publishing 14 titles this year of which 5 are by previously unpublished authors and another couple are by newish authors.

I got my break with Learning Media and Australia's School Journal who first published several short stories I had written during a Writing for Children paper I did at Massey University as part of my English Degree. One of the most important things I did to help myself along was join several writer's organisations (Storylines, NZSA, Kiwiwrite4kidz) which introduced me to other people experiencing the same difficulties and challenges that I was on my quest for publication. We share triumphs, disappointments and tales of survival. We also share tips and information that make our journey easier.

So don't despair. A blog I follow in the UK by the much published author Nicola Morgan recently featured a post in which she spoke about her twenty year journey to publication. She was first published well before the global recession but it still took her twenty years to reach that first contract. It is very tough to get published. Sometimes it takes a while to find your niche, your voice, your style. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right story for the right time - the one that starts you off. If you are serious about being published as a children's author then you have to hang in there. Keep writing. Take heart. Join with the rest of us and we can hang in there together.


maureen said...

Very Wise Words....hang in there...and the other thing to remember is to write for yourself....coz while you are hanging in there it helps if you are happy with what you are producing...or consciously striving to learn more about what you are producing. Discouragement in this game is very easy...

Anonymous said...

Thanks Melinda! You've given me back some hope :) Thank you for sharing your journey and advice - I'll try to be patient... but it's so hard waiting months for publisher responses. There must be a better, less tortuous way!
Maureen, you're right. My attempts to second guess what's 'hot' might be better applied to writing what I like, in the hope that others might too.