First up was a discussion about Book Packaging, which Catherine had experience from a publishing company’s point of view: “I love working with Book Packagers because they're very focused, and very creative. They have SO many ideas, and they are also brilliant planners which helps an editor immensely - not just schedule-wise but with plot holes, etc.”
We asked Rosie to tell us more about Book Packaging. “I've always thought Book Packaging is a funny name for it as the one bit we have almost nothing to do with is the physical publication. It’s about an editor, or a specialist business (like us at Working Partners), creating stories, then hiring writers and selling the result to publishers. I work in a team of around 15 editors to create storylines together (think of a TV writers’ room, but for books). We tend to work on series fiction.”
Anyone interested in this area can check out the Working Partners website and fill in an application form. You’ll be added to the database and different editors will look at the forms when different projects arise. Then, Rosie says, “We ask several writers to do a few chapters from a storyline (unpaid but we give great feedback) and pick the best.”
Book Packaging isn’t the only overlap between Rosie and Catherine. They’re both involved with the Undiscovered Voices project. As Rosie described it, “It’s AMAZING competition for unpublished children’s writers and illustrators.” Submissions open on July 1st, and are open to all unpublished and unagented children’s writers and illustrators in the United Kingdom and Europe! What happens if you get selected? Catherine explained, “The selected finalists have their extracts compiled into an anthology which is distributed to all children's book agents/editors. We have an incredible success rate from previous anthologies.”
One Undiscovered Voices area that’s usually under-represented by good quality submissions is for the youngest (5-8) age group. “We'd loved to see more of those,” Catherine told us. “Funny is often the key - and something obvious, like a timeless theme that works, such as fairies, witches, dragons, beasts, princesses, and animals.”
After talking Book Packaging and Undiscovered Voices, lots of questions focused on editing. Here’s just some of what was discussed:
Feedback: “I’ve read manuscripts that are stunningly good and a joy to read, none are ever 100% perfect. Everyone makes mistakes” (Rosie)
Editing Your Own Work: “Put it away for at least 3 weeks, then take a step back by looking at each element in turn. Start with the big things first - plot, drivers, characters - and then other things flow from that (pacing, style, dialogue)” (Catherine)
Editing Tricks: “Changing font, size and colour helps make the text seem like a different work” (Rosie) and “I always send my MS to my Kindle and it helps surprisingly well - a different screen!” (Catherine).
The Road to Publication: “Authors should definitely expect structural edits, even after they've self-edited their MS, and their agent has given them editorial feedback. In most publishers, the commissioning editor will also edit it with the author. The editing process can be very long (but fun!)” (Catherine)
Working with an Editor: “Editors are there to make books better, we want to help authors - shouldn't be adversarial even though it's sensitive” (Rosie) and “I like to be honest and direct, so yes, I'd tell an author if an MS needed a complete rewrite. Not doing so helps no one” (Catherine)
Final Writing Tip: “My biggest tip would be to read, read, and read some more. And write, write and write. Every day & persevere - there are so many stories of now successful authors getting rejected lots. Dedication and resilience key!” (Catherine)
Final Writing Tip: “Pretend to be an editor! How would you have changed that book, show, or movie? What one line would efficiently fill that plot hole? Also, enter Undiscovered Voices - as a past winner and now helper on the team, it can be a life changer, do it” (Rosie)
These are just some highlights of the discussion – we hope they inspire you to check out book packaging and think about entering Undiscovered Voices (www.undiscoveredvoices.com). We’d like to thank Catherine Coe (Twitter: @catherinecoe) and Rosie Best (Twitter: @rosiejbest) for taking the time to talk to #AskSwanwick. And thank you to Benjamin Scott for moderating the discussion.
Join us next time on Twitter when we’re talking to author Kate Griffin, Friday 10th July at 8pm (BST).