Takeaway tips on children’s publishing from Hachette



The world of children’s publishing can seem elusive at times – what are publishers really looking for, and how can you reach them?! Thankfully, certain industry events can offer a window into the workings of publishing houses, and reveal some all-important inside knowledge. Enter – the free monthly members’ event at NSW Writers’ Centre called First Friday Club, where a staff member hosts a chat with an author, editor or publisher. The August event featured NSWWC Membership Officer Sherry Landow in conversation with Suzanne O’Sullivan, a children’s book publisher from Hachette.

Topics spanned Suzanne’s career history in publishing to the current state of the children’s book market, what she looks for in a manuscript and her thoughts on author platforms. Here are some of the key points Suzanne made on all things children’s publishing:


Thoughts on the market

+ Sales of kids’ books are very healthy, particularly due to blockbuster titles (e.g. Andy Griffiths’ books)

+ Middle grade and picture books are the healthiest sectors

+ YA authors have to compete with US authors, as many teens turn to the internet for book recommendations, and are exposed to US content

+ Meanwhile adults buying books for younger readers will often ask a bookseller for recommendations of Australian authors


What she is looking for

+ Always looking for picture books

+ Would like to see more junior fiction (emphasised this is the main area where opportunities lie, and is particularly interested in series’)

+ Interested in middle grade

+ Believes lots of people are writing and submitting YA, so it’s more competitive


Tips for working with Suzanne as an author or illustrator

+ Be a nice person!

+ Be open and communicative

+ Be conscious publishers are busy (i.e. don’t harass)

+ Be open to feedback but have a clear sense of how you see your work


How to stay out of the slush pile

+ Have a clear sense of the market and what’s selling, and know where your book fits a genuine gap

+ Honing your writing. Really workshopping and editing, and not sending something until you’re confident with it

+ In a cover letter, mention a bit about yourself but don’t include alot of supporting information, as the most important thing is the writing

+ Wants to know you have more books in mind or the potential to write similar books that appeal to the same audience


What she’d like to see more of

+ Humour, as long as it’s alongside story

+ Friendship themes, particularly in junior fiction

+ Adventure


Word count recommendations

+ Junior fiction (for more advanced readers): 15k – 20k words

+ Middle grade: 35k – 50k words

+ YA: 50k – 70k


Thoughts on author platforms

+ Being on social media can help – if you are already on social media but don’t have a large following, there’s a profile to build on

+ Having a web presence shows that you’re willing to put yourself out there

+ Your own website is a great place to keep all your information together, but the issue can be people finding it

+ It’s much less common for an author to just write and not promote

+ Honing your writing is still the most important thing


How to get your work read by Hachette

Hachette is currently closed to receiving unsolicited children’s book submissions. Suzanne receives manuscripts via literary agents, or by request following face to face contact, such as appointments at conferences and literary speed dating events.

However – she may have a one month opening for submissions later in the year or early next year. This will be announced via social media and Hachette’s website, so if you’re interested, keep an eye out!

Diary of a NaNoWriMo newbie – Part 3 (the aftermath)

The dust has settled on the month-long novel writing-fest that is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) – and… I finished!! The first couple of weeks weren’t too bad, but by week three I was stalling a little. If there’s one thing I learnt from participating in NaNo, it’s that consistency is key, and a little bit each and every day soon adds up to a lot. And if you stick to the doable word count each day without skipping a few, you won’t have any 7000 word days to get through (can I sleep now?!).

As for what my book is about – it’s a fictional foray into expatland in Southeast Asia, with the 20-something protagonist torn between life in Newtown with her ever-serious boyfriend, surrounded by friends who are starting to ‘settle down’, or heeding the call of a life of adventure, travel, exciting job prospects and potential new love against the backdrops of Thailand and Cambodia. I’m thinking it’s the literary lovechild of Emily Barr’s Backpack and Emily Maguire’s Fishing for Tigers(!) And that it also needs much, much work if it’s ever going to be seen by anybody at all…

Overall I loved the NaNoWriMo experience, as torturous as it felt at times. If you’re thinking of doing it next year, I would say go for it. It ultimately helps you develop a writing habit, and prove to yourself that you’re capable of churning out lengthy work, even if it’s not of the greatest quality – and a 1500 word essay or story will never seem daunting ever again.

Did you attempt NaNo? Here’s a few tips now it’s over:

– 7 things to do when NaNoWriMo is over

– 5 tips for NaNoWriMo: The post NaNo re-entry process

– 6 step program for life after NaNo

And finally, all is not lost on the ‘all things produced during NaNo are destined for the scrapheap’ idea. Here are 8 bestsellers started during National Novel Writing Month.

Diary of a NaNoWriMo newbie – Part 1

It’s NaNoWriMo eve, and I feel a strange sense of calm before the storm. I’ve decided to give NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, a red hot go. That is, to pump out 50,000 words in 30 days. A novel in a month. Almost 2,000 words every day in November. Here’s a little window into the process, if you’re thinking of joining:

Signing up

The first step in committing to NaNo is signing up (which you can do here – it’s (almost) not too late!). Then it’s time to navigate the forums. The event is a social one, in a virtual kind of way, yet all the ‘buddy’ making and ‘newbie’ meeting (so much terminology!) spills over IRL, with meet-ups and write-ins to attend, should you feel inclined. I sign up, full of trepidation on whether I can really do this. I discover another NaNo term is ‘winning’, which actually just means completing. Apparently if you reach the 50,000 word goal, you have ‘won’! Although the only pressure to do so is your own.

Finding your tribe

A peruse of the forums offers a fascinating insight into the world of writerly types. There are a lot of self-confessed introverts (no surprises there), participants racked with self-doubt, many gamers and many more with  ‘fur-babies’. I zero in on the Mainstream board where my story belongs, and so do I it seems, catless and all. In a world of dystopian this and paranormal that, I’m feeling slightly off-trend and commercial with my ‘real life’ fiction idea, but nevertheless find some like-minded souls. The forums serve to help you find your tribe, so you can send each other words of encouragement, tips, advice and also keep each other spurred on. I discover a diverse scattering of people whose story synopses resonate, and enter the encouraging world of NaNo buddies.

How to prepare

After signing up, buddying up and perhaps engaging in a bit of supportive emailing with other WriMos (I’ve found this interaction immensely helpful already!), preparation can be as little or as much as you think you need to feel ready for NaNo. I write out descriptions of settings, characters and plot, a brief overview of the story and a longer, more detailed one. I then try to break down the story idea into chapters, with a rundown of what will happen in each. My idea is something I’ve played around with for a while – a fictional account of, you guessed it, a girl in expat-land in southeast Asia. While I’m using some settings and scenarios based on my real life experiences, it’s going to be fictional rather than a memoir.


Another part of preparation is seeking tips from writers who have successfully tackled NaNo before. I’ve been trying to soak up as much advice as possible, and there’s a wealth of NaNo related reading out there. If you are doing NaNo or contemplating it, here are a few helpful posts in getting started:

10 NaNoWriMo tips

10 tips to help you make it through NaNoWriMo

5 resources to help you plan your NaNoWriMo novel

How to write a novel

It’s ok to wing it

A NaNo term flying around the forum boards and social media is ‘pantsers’. Pantsers are those who don’t feel inclined to come up with characters, settings and plots beforehand, and prefer to fly by the seat of their pants, letting their story organically unfold. I like this concept, but I’m going with a happy medium – a rough outline and chapter breakdown, but much leeway to let my story veer in various ways as NaNo gets underway. Which is tomorrow! Ok, maybe not feeling so calm now…

Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? Best of luck if you are,and if you’re contemplating joining, why not take the plunge?!