A Most Technical and Thorough Study of Successful Children’s Authors

Firstly, apologies for the lack of post last week – I was halfway through writing this one, thought I had loads more time to finish it, and then accidentally filled that time with other stuff. My bad.

anyway

‘An original idea. That can’t be too hard, the library must be full of them’ – Stephen Fry

Okay, I was fresh out of blog ideas this week, so have fallen back on the age-old contingency of just nicking stuff from other people. I picked a list of authors by the extremely professional method of ‘the first few that popped into my head’, and put my not-inconsiderable cyber-stalking talents into trying to find their respective rejection / getting published stories. I also tweeted all of them to ask how many rejections they had received for their first novel. I didn’t really expect any replies because, like, these people are busy and my Twitter feed is looking increasingly desperate (which, to be fair, I pretty much am) – but did actually receive two responses!

So, here is my totally random and none-too-comprehensive list. They’re all at least partly children’s authors because that’s my area of interest (also that’s just what I read), and all are award-winning, highly respected and some of my faves.

Jonathan Stroud

Best-selling author of the Bartimaeus Sequence and Lockwood and Co., founder of creativity campaign Freedom To Think, and my all-time favourite children’s author.

I couldn’t find loads of information from Jonathan Stroud on his road to publication. He published a book of word puzzles aged 23, first novel at 28 and two years later became a full-time writer (still two years before the first Bartimaeus book – The Amulet of Samarkand – was published) – so we can safely assume he did pretty damn well. His advice to writers with a completed novel pursuing publication was ‘When you’re confident you’ve got something worth showing, send your material to several publishers at once, so you don’t waste time if it’s rejected. […] Don’t worry if you get rejections, but listen to any advice.’

(To be honest at this point I got sucked into a tragic hour of re-reading loads of information about the Bartimaeus books that I already knew, so let’s move on…)

Patrick Ness

Carnegie-award winning author of the Chaos Walking series, A Monster Calls (novel and screenplay), The Rest of Us Just Live Here, various other slices of fabulousness; but more importantly, another member of my Top 3.

There’s actually LOADS of advice / info from Patrick Ness about getting published, due to his 2009 Booktrust residency, but I’ve picked out the bits that gave my personal ego the warmest hug. He says that his original list of agents to submit to had sixty people on it (mine, after a quick headcount, has 58), and that he kept a spreadsheet of every agent, listing the date the submission was sent and a note on their response. Dude is my spirit animal. He’s non-specific on a stark, cold number of rejections, but does state that he had two ‘very snotty’ letters, a majority of form responses, and five or six requests for the full MS. Of all the author research and reading I did (and I really got quite sucked into it), nothing made me feel as reassured and soothed as this; jokes aside (sickly alert), I can’t express how much better reading this made me feel.

Sarah Crossan

An Irish writer, known mostly for her young adult novels – many of which have won awards, most notably perhaps last year’s One, which won the Carnegie. (Hilariously, I kept typing ‘one’ instead of ‘won’ there…not that I’m jealous or anything.)

Rejections: 0

raspberry

And I quote ‘the journey has been a long one, as it is for most writers […] I wrote privately and with no feedback for ten years before I wrote The Weight of Water, and luckily it was picked up by the first agent I contacted’. Now, Sarah Crossan is extraordinarily talented and seems like a bit of a legend, so I don’t want to undermine that casually understated ‘luckily’, but damn. I think this is one of those ‘exception, not the rule’ situations, but it’s mostly depressing to think about, so let’s just move on…

Matt Haig 

Author, journalist, mental health advocate and all-around dude. Writer of, amongst others, The Last Family in England, The Radleys, Shadow Forest and the upcoming How To Stop Time, about which I am excited.

Rejections: 37

Again there wasn’t a ton of information about Matt Haig’s road to publication – his road to writing a novel was so fraught it presumably is quite overshadowed. He does have a blogpost on how to get published[http://www.matthaig.com/how-to-get-published/], though, written in a typically hilarious series of undercuts and contradictions. Mostly I came across him assuring aspiring writers that being published and successful as a writer will not ‘alter your brain chemistry’ and automatically make you happy. Which I’m sure is true, but, y’know, I’d rather have a crack at it.

Philip Reeve 

Bestselling author of the Mortal Engines series, Carnegie-winner for Here Lies Arthur (my favourite) and recently nominated for Railhead, Philip Reeve actually responded to my tweet!

Rejections: and I quote, ‘LOADS’

I’m just going to let this sequence of tweets speak for itself: “Oh, LOADS of agents rejected Mortal Engines, or just ignored it.” – “This was before steampunk was a thing, I think the retro-tech element just confused them.” – “One said I needed to make it more futuristic, ‘like Independence Day’.” – “(I was trying to sell it as grown-up SF/F. When I redid it as a kids book Scholastic were interested straight away.)” – “The best bit was after it was published, when some of the agents who’d ignored my letters got in touch asking to represent me.” WE CAN ONLY DREAM.

So that was fun and educational for all! I would highly recommend giving these authors websites a good look, and if you’re into YA and haven’t read any of their respective novels then it’s only really sensible that you drop whatever you’re doing and get on that.

Next Post: How good do you actually have to be to get published? Hell if I know, but since when has that stopped me writing a blog post on it?

Submissions Last Week

Just one, but I’m still waiting on Full MS Request #3 so even that one was probs a bit cheeky…

Current Rejection Tally: 14

 

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