Smart Quill Editorial About the Editor

New Year, New Books

Posted on January 30th, 2012

This is not, strictly speaking, a post about children’s books. But do not let that deter you… One forward-thinking agent has interviewed 24 editors working in all sorts of publishing, for all sorts of companies, and compiled this extremely useful article:

http://www.andrewlownie.co.uk/2012/01/10/what-editors-want-2012.

No matter what you write, I think the article is relevant for two reasons. First, the editors talk about the book trade in general, and this sort of context is important if you are looking to land a publishing deal. Knowledge is power and all that. Second, they use the “language of commissioning”.  This is how editors speak, how they pitch, and how they communicate. As a writer, you need to understand this language. It will recommend you to agents, smooth any transition from agent to editor, and ensure you are kept involved in their conversations from the outset.

Maybe I’ll interview some friendly editors and do a children’s book version…!


SQ Favourites: Picture Books

Posted on January 12th, 2012

Selecting children’s books can be a right task. There is a daunting amount of choice, and covers that look similar, and not every child likes reading what everyone else is reading (a bit like adults really!). I thought it might be a handy to start a list of Smart Quill Favourites, covering  a different age range every couple of months. So your bookshelves will be always well-stocked, and your references for good writing sorted. To begin, let’s have a look at some excellent picture books.

  1. Stick Man by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler – Well, actually anything by Julia Donaldson. She is the Queen of the picture book.
  2. Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg – Or Burglar Bill. Or The Jolly Postman. All equally brilliant.
  3. Leaf by Stephen Michael King – No words; so evocative, it is a wonder.
  4. The Bog Baby by Jeanne Willis and Gwen Millward– A lovely and moving story. I will confess it made me welly-eyed the first time I read it.
  5. The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr – It’s a classic, and was made into a rather successful play last year.
  6. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – Who hasn’t heard of the Caterpillar?!
  7. I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child – Charlie and Lola, endearing little things, and this is their best I think.
  8. Fluff and Billy by Nicola Killen – A newbie, but it’s a corker. Penguins are perennially popular because they are SO cute.
  9. Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears by Emily Gravett – Her illustration style is just iconic, a pin-up for picture books.
  10. Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers – Critically acclaimed and for a very good reason.


Top Advice from Top Literary Agents

Posted on January 9th, 2012

How exactly do agents judge unsolicited manuscripts? It is true that the tone and content of a covering letter, as well as the quality and amount of submitted material can mean the difference between a Yes and a No. And there is no substitute for thorough research. You should investigate the agent and the agency whom you wish to represent you: their list of titles and clients, their specialities, requirements, predilections and literary successes.

On point, Conville & Walsh (one of London’s leading literary agencies) has just posted this article:

http://www.convilleandwalsh.com/index.php/news-views/comments/the-reader-reports.

Happily, they refer to unsolicited manuscripts as the talent pool (rather than the slush pile) and canvas it fully for new writers.  Unhappily, they received just under 4,800 submissions in 2011 of which only 144 were recommended for further scrutiny. Yikes. That’s not many, but the article helpfully goes on to say what two key elements were used in making this decision: narrative flow and memorable characters. Spot on I say, and as applicable to children’s books as any other sort of fiction. So does your work have these X Factors?