How to be discovered

Undiscovered Voices 2016 launched last Thursday. Read on to find to find out exactly what it is the judges are looking for, to appear in the new anthology. 

Chris Snowdon, Managing Director, Working Partners Ltd

Undiscovered Voices is about cracking the problem of discoverability, which is an issue at every stage of publishing. The final anthology is read by a rarefied group of people and acts as the first stage of curation – the most valuable part of content management.

Illustrators  ~ Top Advice 

Catherine Coe, Will Steel, Jodie Hodges, Ed Burns and Anne-Marie Perks

Ed Burns, CEO and Illustration Agent, Advocate Arts Agency

Because Black and White illustration lends itself to older age groups and fiction, it needs to be full of energy, humour and 'line'. It's worth going straight to ink instead of pencil to capture the quirkiness, imperfections and occasional smudges. It should feel slightly aspirational for the reader of that age group as though it's something they might be able to achieve. Humour and funny line work is always sought after, but play to your strengths – recognise your own illustrating super power (whether it's warmth or even gore).

Jodie Hodges, Agent, United Agents

Great black and white illustration is telling something in addition to the text. It has to be saying something and be easy for the reader to know what is happening. Humour is good, but an emotional response is also vital. 

Will Steele, Senior Designer, Faber and Faber

A black and white artist needs to add something to the story and act to pique the interest of the reader. The illustrations act as a pivot point between scenes and help invoke the text for the reader. 

Writers ~ Top Advice 

 Caroline Sheldon, Rachel Mann, Polly Nolan, Barry Cunningham, Kate Shaw, Jon Appleton and Anna Power
Jon Appleton, Fiction Editorial Director, Hodder Children's Books

Voice is important, but that's all in the telling. The reader needs to feel safe in your hands. What is vital is to have something to say. I need to feel that it is an essential story that had to be written and written in that way. 

First person can't be relied on for an intimate POV, you still have to work to create the intimacy. 

Barry Cunningham, Publisher and Managing Director, Chicken House

Identify the outcome and the overall threat. I'm looking for villains and the evil to fight against. Where is the conflict driving the story? 

Describe emotions rather than showing it and use dialogue to bring out more emotion (your audience is used to it). 

Rachel Mann, Children's Fiction Editor, Simon & Schuster UK

Aim for immediacy. Most editors will cut out the beginning of your story more than any other part. Weave the set-up into the story as it goes along. Instead show me your character and what the story is about from the very start. 

It took a long time before John Green was published in the UK, even though he was doing well in the states, so take heart that sometimes some projects need to wait for the right time. 

Polly Nolan, Literary Agent, Greenhouse Agency

A good opening page will lift me out of a bad day and take me to a new place. It might be a story that is similar to others, but a new voice can lift it. A good way to think about voice is to imagine Frank Sinatra and Pavarotti singing the same song – you can still recognise their unique sound. It's the same with authors. 

A big pitfall is submitting work before it is ready to go – always put a draft away for a month, preferably a year, then read it. The stuff that leaps out at you will be things that will put an agent off. 

Anna Power, Literary Agent, Johnson & Alcock

Remember a writer's job isn't done when the book is finished being written. The business of writers is also to reach out to the reader, so they need to be willing to help out with publicity and promotion. 

It's best not to talk about series when pitching as it's hard to sell, so instead talk about the book being stand alone but make comparisons to authors who are similar and are known for their series fiction.

Kate Shaw, The Viney Agency

Golden Rule: Always look at what you write again. If you work on screen, it's hugely important to print it out and read the story aloud. Read it aloud twice, first without a pen and then with a pen. If you don't have someone to read to, read to an inanimate object or a poster of someone! (Jon Appleton added that changing the font will make it read like a new manuscript too!). 

Caroline Walsh, Literary Agent, David Higham Associates

Don't send off work with lots of spelling mistakes, but if you're not a good speller ask someone who is to proof-read for you. 

These nuggets of advice were kindly passed on by Benjamin Scott - thank you!

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