London Industry Insiders Event Report: An Evening with Amber Caraveo and Clelia Gore - 16 January 2017

Panel: Clelia Gore, Amber Caraveo 
with host Mandy Rabin
Photo: Allison Friebertshauser
London Industry Insiders kick-started 2017 with a fantastic event last week at The Savoy Tup. SCBWI were fortunate to welcome an agent from the UK and one from across the pond to discuss children's publishing across the world. Cathy Bee was in attendance and reports back on the inspiring evening.

It is often commented that America and Britain are two countries separated by a common language. The most recent London Industry Insiders event proved that we may have more in common than we think, especially when it comes to children’s publishing. The guests for the evening were Clelia Gore, Head of Children’s and Young Adult books with Martin Literary Management, based in Seattle and Amber Caravéo from Skylark Literary. Clelia was in town for a visit and had very generously enquired if there were any SCBWI activities she could join in with. Her proactive engagement with SCBWI was a recurring theme in the discussions – more of that later!

Amber Caraveo answering a panel question
Photo Credit: Allison Friebertshauser
Having settled down with a very welcome post-work aperitif, we were treated to an in-depth Q and A session, ably hosted by Mandy Rabin. We began with an overview of what Clelia and Amber were looking for. This is always good to know and both had very specific likes and dislikes. Amber is definitely “looking for the gem” in Children’s or YA to add to the phenomenal talent on her current list, “but if it was an amazing picture book she wouldn’t rule it out.” Clelia helpfully includes a list of all the things she wants on her website, which took us into the tale of the kraken. Having tweeted her desire for a kraken story, an editor tweeted their agreement. Clelia then approached SCBWI in Washington to see if anyone had one, resulting in 50 kraken related submissions! So listen up picture book writers; Clelia says, “Okapis are my favourite animal. I’d love to do a quirky, funny book about an okapi!”
When asked about how an author should submit if they write for a wide range of ages both Amber and Clelia were in complete agreement; always submit your very best work. As Amber commented, if she connects with one piece it’s odds on that she will like your other work too. Equally she talked about a submission where the story didn’t hook her, but the quality of the author’s voice shone through. This resulted in a request for any other work and a second manuscript became the published book. Voice and writing talent will show but plot can always be worked on.
The issue of timing and process was discussed in detail. Read the submissions guidelines was the evergreen guidance but both Amber and Clelia work hard to ensure successful submissions are responded to in a timely way – something I’m sure we all appreciate. What was surprising was the lead time in America. Clelia is currently selling books which will hit the shelves in 2019 and even 2020! Typically in the UK publication can be around a year, but wherever you publish, assume it’s going to be a slow process.

Event attendees listening intently to sage advice 
Photo Credit: Allison Friebertshauser
The difference between American and UK Young Adult writing was another fascinating question. Amber felt that current innovation in YA literature is coming from America and maybe UK YA writers are not quite capturing the zeitgeist. They both agreed that there should be, “No more dead or alcoholic parents!” There was also some variation in the age ranges and word counts that might be expected. I was very excited to hear both Amber and Clelia suggest 1000 words for a picture book, being a champion for the longer story but in my later discussions with Clelia, she felt that most books would be much lower than that. Back to the editing for me.

The audience also wondered why a British writer might want an American agent. Clelia felt that for YA, middle grade and picture book writers (yay!) the market is very strong. She has clients across the globe but even in America much of the work is done remotely anyway. Transatlantic promotion might be a bit tricky unless you can afford long road trips, so being social media savvy would be very handy.

Attendees mingling with event organiser Tania Tay
Photo Credit: Allison Friebertshauser
The evening ended with mingling and meeting new and known SCBWI members and for some members a little light pitching. Now I hate pitching, so for anyone who shares that feeling, here’s a great piece of advice from Amber. “In the end they want to see the writing. Nothing in your pitch will change the impact of your actual submission. Nothing you say will spoil your chances.” I am going to keep that as my preparing to pitch mantra.

Big thanks to the organising team for yet another great evening. I think we all discovered it is our common love of language that really matters.

Born in Cornwall but currently living in S.E. London, Cathy Bee has worked in education for (gulp) over 30 years as an early years teacher and local authority advisor for the under fives. In her lifetime she has read thousands of books to young children and has now started to write her own (as yet unpublished) picture books. She believes every child should have a book which reflects their own life experience. She has been a member of SCBWI for several years now and finds the friendship, advice and support invaluable! 
Cathy also has an increasingly well read blog about her cultural escapades near and far. Twitter: @chezlabeille
Blog: Chez l'Abeille at

A M Dassu is a member of the Words & Pictures editorial team, she manages the Events team and SCBWI BI events coverage. 
Contact her at if you'd like to report back on an event or follow her on Twitter: @a_reflective 

1 comment:

  1. Great wrap up of what looks like a very enlightening evening. Fascinating insight about UKYA - I wonder if there's a cultural divergence rather than a zeitgeist. Thank you for the report.


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