I attended the Commonword Diversity Writing for Children Prize workshop in Manchester, earlier this year featuring agent Catherine Pelligrino and here are the notes I took on the day and details of the competition, but you must be quick as the deadline is midnight tonight.
Catherine has been a children's lit agent for 9 years and her agency has 5 agents. She has been there for a year and a half and there are 20 writers on her list, but they are constantly looking for new voices. She is looking for things that excite her, fresh voices and exciting stories that stand out . She loves MG (a quarter of what they publish) 8-10/9-11, commercial, literary voices and humour, as it is very important for children. She like a multi-layered concept and clever, crazy, funny ideas with pacey narrative and a character that you engage with from the first page.
She feels she is there to get her writers a publishing deal, publicise, marketing, sales etc. after that and if you are successful, they will throw money at it, if not, they allow it to sink/swim. The editor sends book they love to his/her colleagues to acquisition meetings (imprints) with a one-line pitch. Sales and marketing have to support it, then they will run with it (does it conflict with another title etc?). Need to sell it to booksellers, will retailers support it? Particularly tough in YA as all have to believe in it, so much transparency (book data to see what's sold etc.). But editors can be overcautious. It can be wonderful, but if you can't place it, they will not take it.
Be careful of writing to trends, e.g. vampires/werewolves have been done to death. No-one knew Harry Potter or Twilight was going to happen. £2k for book one of HP, Barry Cunningham. Editors talking about at the moment are fantasy and sci-fi (dystopian). Children (MG) read more physical books but Amazon have their own publishing arm for ebooks and print-on-demand. YA/Cs not set up for that really as they like having the physical copies of books. Genre fiction, e.g. crime, lots of ebook sales. Self-publishing is taking off and several of the winners of prizes are self-published, e.g. Francis Harding, Costa book prize winner. New adult is YA with sex.
She suggests you send 3/4 lines in your covering letter for your submission, as short as you can, what age your book is for, what it is about and a short writing history. Interesting titles catch the eye. They get 10-12 submissions a day, so be succinct. A synopsis is working out what is the core of the book. A submission synopsis should be a page and you can submit simultaneously to 6/8 at a time.
COMMONWORD DIVERSITY WRITING FOR CHILDREN PRIZE 2016
Are you an unpublished writer of children's fiction?
Commonword, Penguin Random House Children's and Marjacq Scripts literary agency are looking for novels from unpublished children's authors resident in the United Kingdom whose writing embraces ethnic diversity either through their own ethnicity and culture and/or in their writing.
The winner will receive a £500 cash prize, an Arvon writing week of their choice in 2016 (subject to availability), professional and detailed feedback on their text from Marjacq Scripts and books of their choice from Penguin Random House Children's to the retail value of £100.
Closing date: 6th June 2016
There is a £10 entry fee to help with administration costs
Full information can be found at the dedicated prize website: www.ihaveadream.org.uk
All enquiries to: email@example.com or 0161 832 3777