State of the Nation Panel: It's a Mad World

 By Katrina Charman

Nicola Morgan
The State of the Nation panel was held on Saturday morning at the conference, and was chaired by award-winning author, Nicola Morgan, sporting a pair of fabulous spiky red boots! The panel consisted of Imogen Cooper from the Golden Egg Academy, Templar's designer and paper engineer Nghiem Ta, picture book writer and founder of Plaister Press Gillian McClure, multi award-winning Young Adult author Teri Terry, and winner of the 2010 Brit Writers Awards, Catherine Cooper. 

The panel discussed how to avoid the pitfalls and make the most of the opportunities in publishing today. They were asked first of all to answer the question of where we are now in publishing.

Gillian McClure
Gillian McClure noted that she had seen many changes in publishing since the 1970's, and that there had been a shift in power in the 1990's from the editors to those in sales, marketing and rights. With the emergence of the global mass market, Gillian decided in 2010 to start up her own publishing company - Plaister Press, as a platform for her books to be free of the constraints of the global mass market. She has now been nominated for the Greenaway award, maybe a sign that self-publishing is coming of age.

Catherine Cooper
Catherine Cooper, a successful self-published author, moved on to be traditionally published after she won the Brit Writers Awards with her book, The Golden Acorn. She noted that being traditionally published has taken her to places she could never have imagined or have been able to visit, such as the London Book Fair, Frankfurt and also being able to sell foreign rights to her book. When you self-publish, she said, you can do what you want, but you have to sell yourself, nobody else is going to do it for you. One of the biggest changes she has noticed in the industry in the last four years is the introduction of the Kindle. It has changed what she does and how she does it, being able to produce interactive teachers notes to accompany her book, for example.

Teri Terry
Teri Terry said that you need to do what works for you. Using social media such as Facebook and Twitter as a virtual watercooler, if you enjoy what works online. She also said that it is okay to say "no" every now and then to a marketing/promotion request if it is not for you. She initially began engaging with reviewers and bloggers online but now engages a lot more with the actual readers. When asked what an author can do on social media, she replied that it is more important to have a book that is good - the writing is more important than social media.

Nghiem Ta
Nghiem Ta said that good quality work is a combination of good teamwork. (Nicola Morgan noted that some publishers have forgotten about the importance of the author within that team.) For Nghiem, the role of the author is to perform various functions to various degrees. For the books that she  produces through Templar, especially with design-led books, her role is similar to that of a film director - she puts everything in the right place, and the writer writes to fit. Her job is to make sure that the story is told in the best possible way. But, she said, it is the authors name on the front of the book and they have to make sure that they get their name out there.

Imogen Cooper
Imogen Cooper from the Golden Egg Academy noted that there has been a change in the authors that publishers are interested in now. She said that showing the ability to get out there and that you understand the market, and what is happening in the market place, is desirable. With a fall in the sales of physical books and an e-books plateau, publishers are having to look into other streams of income, from world rights, TV and film companies, gaming and audio. Novels need to be able to be translated into exciting new ideas, and so the novel has to be focussed. The central concept is really important.

Nicola Morgan then opened up to questions from the audience. 
One question asked was 'Who are the new gatekeepers in publishing?

Nghiem - The public hold more sway than they used to.

Gillian - Self-publishing has opened the floodgates and it will be hard to sift between what's good and what's not.

Catherine - The book is key.

The panel were also asked 'What did they like best about the industry?'

Catherine - She is the master of her own books.

Gillian - There are more openings now for self-published authors.

Teri - The validation of traditional publishing.

Imogen - Being allowed inside writers' minds.

Nghiem - The privilege of working with creative people.

Nicola and the panel offered a fantastic insight into the ever-changing world of publishing, and the main thing that I came away with was that the industry is constantly changing, and with more options out there, it is an exciting time to be a writer.

Katrina is a member of the Words and Pictures Editorial Team, and lives in a small village in the middle of nowhere with her husband, three daughters and a manic-depressive hamster. She writes mostly YA Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and tweets sporadically  @katrina_charman.


  1. This really was an interesting session at the conference and gave considerable reason for cautious optimism, I felt.

  2. Great round up of the panel - thank you Katrina!

    1. You are most welcome! It was a really interesting panel - I came away with a lot to think about!

  3. Thanks Katrina. As someone who plans a self-published book next year, I found the comments from the panel encouraging.

    1. I think it was very encouraging, especially as it seems now that self-publishing can be a viable route to becoming traditionally published. Sorry you couldn't be there, David.


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