Edinburgh International Book Festival Panel Asks: How to survive being published?

Speakers and delegates chatting after the event.
 L-R Katherine Lynas, Christina Banach,
Barbara Henderson

How indeed? 

Well, the industry panel at the SCBWI event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on 20 August certainly had a lot to say. 

The panel was diverse, ranging from recently published Christina Banach and established writers Nicola Morgan and Elizabeth Wein to veteran author Jane Yolen and Skylark Literary agent Amber Caraveo. Our own SE Scotland volunteer organisers Sheila Averbuch and M. Louise Kelly provided the introductions. 

Our fabulous panel and awestruck facilitators L-R Louise Kelly, Amber Caraveo, Christina Banach, Nicola Morgan, Jane Yolen, Elizabeth Wein, Sheila Averbuch. 

As a SCBWI newcomer and with no other SCBWI members in my area, it was a chance for me to connect, to listen and to mull over the collective wisdom on that platform. Add to that the inspiring atmosphere of the Edinburgh International Book Festival - and the wow-effect of a Scottish evening minus rain - you know you’re on to something special. 

The Illustrators Showcase at the heart of the EIBF festivities

It’s the nature of panel events: everything comes in bits and snippets, as varied as the people crowded into our packed tent. 

Luckily, bits and snippets are my brain’s native language. 

More mingling. L-R Jo Moult,
 Miriam Craig, Amber Caraveo,
Maureen Lynas

Here, in no particular order, are the bits and snippets which resonated with me. 

  • For those of us who are not natural extroverts, try thinking of your audience as readers, not enemies. 
  • As a published writer, you may have to broaden your portfolio to make your writing career sustainable. The trick is to stay faithful to your brand – not a false persona, but a concise summary of the kinds of things publishers and readers can expect of you. Then keep yourself ‘out there’ – it just makes sense! 
  • Social media and an online platform can be challenging. Newly published Christina Banach had it all to do at once: dealing with agents and publishers, making final edits, planning book launches, setting up a website as well as getting to grips with Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. She said she wished she had tackled some of this beforehand which would have made the whirlwind of publication less daunting. 
  • There will be a huge temptation to say yes to everything. Be prepared to re-evaluate all the time. If in doubt, you could always check Liz Kessler’s scarily logical Is-it-worth-it-formula (recommended by Nicola Morgan
  • Resist the lure of social media and switch off the router if necessary. Treat writing as a job – if you do, it becomes easier. Don’t lose your momentum or your passion for writing. If you need headspace, take it. 
  • Too much feedback can be harmful and confusing. Listen to editors and agents you trust, but be sure to filter all comments through yourself – otherwise it isn’t your book anymore. And never send a knee-jerk response to an editor after receiving feedback – always give it a day. 
  • Be aware of copyright issues. If you can avoid quoting other works of literature (even the Bible) or song lyrics, do: it can be a long process to track down permissions and these may vary from geography to geography. The same goes for images – the best way to make sure you don’t run into problems is to take them yourself or commission images from illustrator. 

The Illustrators Showcase which was exhibited throughout Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Above all, being a successful writer means ensuring that agents and publishers can work with you. Make this easy for them. 

Publishers have the LTS test – “Life’s Too Short to bother with that writer.” 

Behave online! Be open to discussion! Communicate! Show integrity! Trust your instinct…… The list is endless. 

Louise and Sheila looking
relieved that the event was

But among the million pieces of good, constructive advice, don’t forget good old common sense and enjoy the ride. 


Barbara Henderson lives in a chaotic household in Inverness (she blames the stories in her head!) with her family. She teaches Drama but finds that writing is what she loves most. Making the Kelpies Prize 2013 shortlist boosted Barbara’s confidence to pursue her goal of writing for a living. She blogs at write4bairns.wordpress.com


  1. Thanks for a great write-up on the evening!

  2. Barbara thanks - and belated thanks to Miriam and everyone else who helped take photos for this! We are really grateful to the panellists and the all the Scoobies who turned out for this. Thanks folks!

  3. Wish I'd been there. Sounds like a fantastic event. Good write-up

  4. You captured the mood very well, Barbra. Such an inspirational line up of speakers.

  5. Great insights thank you Barbara!

  6. Thanks Barbara. It was a well organised event with an amazing panel. It was great to meet lovely people who I had already 'met' on Facebook and Twitter.


We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.