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Posts tagged ‘UK teen fiction author’

On Getting A Novel Published, by Pauline Francis

When I visit schools and festivals, the most frequent question I am asked is: how do you get a book published?

Of course, there are plenty of stories now of writers who publish only on websites and have been spotted by publishers, who make it their business to trawl the internet in search of new talent. I’ve never done this, because I was taken on by my agent and then published conventionally very quickly. So I’ll leave it to somebody else to tell you what they know about Internet publishing and the websites involved.

It is becoming more difficult – but not impossible – to be published without an agent, as publishers receive so many unsolicited manuscripts (that is, sent on the off-chance by writers). Some publishers admit to only having the time to read manuscripts sent to them by agents. The rest pile up on the floor (‘the slush pile’) and are often given to a junior or work experience intern to trawl through.

Somebody told me to use any contact I could. I refused. I wanted to do it my way.

The agents I contacted refused me because I wasn’t published. Some didn’t reply. Raven Queen was as perfect as I could make it. What else could I do?

My husband came back from the famous Book Fair in Frankfurt, Germany. On the flight, he found himself sitting next to a very well-known literary agent. They talked. He mentioned that I’d just finished my first teen novel. The agent gave him her card. I sent in my manuscript, mentioning that they’d travelled together.

It was the stuff of dreams! This agent read my manuscript straight away and rang the same day, offering to represent me. My husband tries to take all the credit – but, of course, it was the manuscript itself that takes the credit.

An agent will send out your manuscript to publishers and, if they place it with a publisher, you will pay them 10% of what you earn from the book. An agent will also read your contract, decide on who will sell the rights to the novel overseas and/or for translation, films, etc. Publishers will give writers an advance (which can vary) and they receive a royalty (which is usually up to 10% of the book sales) with which they have to pay off their advance before receiving anything.

What’s it like to work with a publisher?

Wonderful!

Raven Queen needed only three small alterations, so I had very little revision to do with my editor. Since it was a two-book deal, I had a nine-month contract to produce the second novel. This manuscript needed more revision. My editor was always careful to give her reasons for changes and I was never put under pressure. All cover and back page blurb suggestions were discussed with me. This is my only niggle. I’d love to write the blurb myself. But what interests an author might not attract buyers. I have to admit that Sales and Marketing know that better than I do.

I love launch parties. I was given a wonderful launch at the Shakespeare Globe theatre in London for Raven Queen, attended by people connected with the world of children’s books: reviewers, writers, school and public librarians and people who ran children’s book groups. I asked if I could have young people to do the readings – the same age as my characters – and had two marvellous people from a youth drama company.

I’m telling you this because it is good to create as much buzz as possible with the first novel. The launch parties get smaller and smaller each time because, hopefully, the writer will have gained readers by then.

Winning a prize always helps sales and to increase the fan base. Like many writers, I dream of winning the Carnegie Medal… but meanwhile, I am happy to receive regional prizes. My first novel won the Scottish Highland Book Award. It means that from then on, the publisher can use the blurb ‘award-winning novelist’.

It’s really important for writers to accept that the Marketing and Sales departments have a huge job to do – and sometimes they know better than the writer. My last novel, Traitor’s Kiss, was given a cream cover, which I loved. Then purple came into fashion in a big way and they changed the cover to purple. I didn’t like it very much, until I heard that the posters in schools were being vandalised!! Why? The purple was exactly the right shade for graduation ball gowns and students were tearing little bits of the posters to take shopping with them. Now that’s a winner!

For me, being published is the best thing that’s ever happened in my working life. However, a little voice keeps whispering, “You’re only as good as your last book.” There are masses of talented writers out there, so I never take being published for granted.

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Paulines Francis’s author website: www.paulinefrancis.co.uk

Pauline Francis bio page

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The Raven QueenA World AwayThe Traitor's Kiss     The Gypsy Crown (Chain of Charms)My Brother's ShadowThe Night She Disappeared

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

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Some Themes For Teen Novels, by Elizabeth Wein

I sat down to write these blog posts armed with some thoughts about writing, reviewing, themes I deal with, and literary tips that I think help make the story vivid.  And then I found myself stuck because I realized that none of these ideas were specifically connected to writing for teens.  So, I am going to start my entries with a disclaimer.  I don’t write teen novels.  Most of my novels are about teens, but I have never once in my life set out to write a ‘teen novel’.  As a teen – and into adulthood – I never set out to read a ‘teen novel’.  I just read!  So, as a novelist I can probably give some good advice about how to write a book, but I haven’t thought much about writing a ‘teen’ book.  These posts are going to make me think about it!

My first ‘teen’ novel, The Winter Prince, has a narrator who is pushing thirty.  In my third and fourth ‘teen’ novels, The Sunbird and The Lion Hunter, the hero is 11 and then 12.  In Code Name Verity the heroines start at 18.  I don’t consciously sit there thinking, ‘Ah, this time I’m writing for teens, so I’m going to have to do things differently.’  I just write the book that I am writing.

However, my books, despite my protests and the wide age range of their protagonists, are very solidly Young Adult.  So maybe I need to think about why.  I think it has to do with the themes I deal with in my novels.

1) The age of the protagonists.  Okay, so the narrator in The Winter Prince is 27 or whatever.  In fact, it’s the teenagers in the book that the reader really cares about—the narrator’s 14-16 year old siblings and his relationship with them.  In The Sunbird, where the hero is a little younger than a teen, and in Code Name Verity, where the heroines are a little older than teens, their age doesn’t get mentioned.  The implication is that they are teens, or close to it—and also, that teens reading the books will relate to these characters in spite of the slight difference in age.  This is not only an authorial decision but an editorial one.  In crafting the book, we are consciously aiming it at teen readers—giving them characters they can relate to because of their age.

2) The emotional maturity of the protagonists.  There are a couple of themes that resonate throughout my books and, I think, throughout all YA fiction, and one of these is that the heroes or heroines have to mature in some way.  The events of the book help them or force them into growing up.  In a true YA novel, the main characters will be changed forever by the end of the book.  This isn’t necessarily true of ‘adult’ fiction.  To my mind, the change ought to be for the better in teen fiction—even in fiction where the ending is bleak, the protagonist should have had the opportunity to grow somewhere along the way.

3) The acquisition of skill.  This is also key, I think, to teen fiction: the characters are thinking about What They’re Going To Be When They Grow Up.  In an adult novel, that’s no longer necessary, and in a book for younger readers, they’re not yet worrying about this.  So figuring out who you are and what you’re best at, and how you’re going to use that in later life, is critical to teen fiction.

4) Figuring out your body.  I don’t really want to say ‘sex’ is a driving force in teen novels, because it isn’t always, but certainly there has got to be some aspect of the protagonist facing and dealing with his or her changing body.  In The Lion Hunter and The Empty Kingdom I took this on both metaphorically and brutally by making the hero have to deal with losing an arm.  In Code Name Verity the two heroines are physically mature, but they are pretty sexually innocent, and though that’s not the focus of the book, their growing awareness of their own attractiveness and desires does affect the plot.

5) Building relationships.  Moving from the limited relationship of family life into the broad and complex relationships of society, including friendship, conflict, and romance, is another key theme that characterizes teen fiction.

These five points probably aren’t the only defining themes in teen fiction, but they are the ones that leap out at me.

For further reading on this topic, Jo Wyton has an interesting discussion on her blog about what makes teen fiction, using my book Code Name Verity as an example.

***Write with New York Times bestselling novelist Elizabeth Wein in Hobart, Australia in November 2014

Elizabeth Wein’s author website: www.elizabethwein.com

Elizabeth Wein’s bio page

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United States (and beyond)

   

United Kingdom (and beyond)

   

Australia (and beyond)

Code Name VerityA Coalition of LionsThe Empty Kingdom    My Brother's ShadowGenesisA World Away

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

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