I spent my Saturday at the fabulous Austin SCBWI conference, which offered a great lineup of speakers. Over the next week, or as long as it takes to cover them all, I’ll post what I heard.
First up is literary agent Mark McVeigh, who has his own agency, The McVeigh Agency. Mark knows something about children and the children’s literary industry. He taught sixth grade for four years and was in editorial at Golden Books, Scholastic, Random House, HarperCollins, Dutton and as the editorial director at Simon & Shuster’s Aladdin imprint. There’s a great interview with Mark at Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Cynsations blog.
Mark gave a candid but encouraging talk about the current state of the publishing industry. “There is good news,” he said, explaining that the industry is in a time of transition.
Middle-grade, early chapter books and young-adult are on the verge of breaking out in digital books, he said, adding that he thinks people will ultimately make more money and sell more books in digital. He buys e-books himself, and said that if he likes it, he also buys the hardcover to have on his shelf.
He encourages people, if they can afford it, to buy books, whether digital or print editions, to keep the industry going.
That said, he’s still busy. Mark was late to his presentation because, he admitted, he was working on his speech in another room. He explained that he has been getting up at 7 am and working til 3 am.
He advised that, especially now, writers need to defend their muse. “Rejection is not necessarily a reflection of your work,” he said, pointing out that good books are getting turned down right now because publishers feel that they can’t afford to take any chances.
To defend your muse, he said, be true to your writing. “I want clients who are warriors,” he said. Be brave. And, he said, write every day.
He also said to have tough love in critique sessions and choose writing friends carefully with an eye toward learning to get better.
He suggested writers keep up with what’s going on in the industry, for example, by reading Publishers Weekly, and network at conferences and online, through blogs and community forums. He even said writers can make a name for themselves by creating and posting videos on YouTube, whatever it takes to make yourself known.
Other advice Mark offered:
- Sign with an agent because publishing houses are becoming less and less inclined to buy from writers who are not agented.
- After they’ve got a deal, writers shouldn’t turn down paperback original. Despite the fact that some reviewers still refuse to review paperback books, people are buying paperbacks more than any other format right now. “Genius will show through no matter what the format,” he said.
- Have a good lawyer read your contract.
- And most of all: “Keep working on your craft.”
Tomorrow, Andrea Cascardi with Transatlantic Literary Agency.