This weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Lexington, Kentucky to attend an Editor's Day. Speakers were Maggie Lehrman from Abrams/Amulet Books and Kate Larken from MotesBooks. Now I've been to at least a dozen conferences, but I can honestly say I learned a lot from this one day event. Maggie Lehrman was absolutely exceptional. Her two sessions were so informative I dare-say I learned more from her than any other speaker. And Kate Larken, who represented a small, independent press, was a riot. I ate lunch with her and enjoyed our table's conversation. I feel like she'd be my buddy if I was a Kentuckian. (wink)
So I thought since you did not get to travel with me, that I'd bring snippets of the conference to you. I do have to be careful. SCBWI is big into intellectual property, so I will try to summarize the sessions, giving credit to the editors for doing a stellar job.
The first session, Maggie Lehrman really hit home about what stands out from the others in that infamous "slush pile". She pointed out four things that really catch the editor's eye: Voice, Grasp of Story, Originality, and Reader Appeal. Voice is more than just point of view, language and word choice, it's also attitude and emotion. It's about authenticity. Grasp of Story is simply HAVE A PLOT. Have a story that BUILDS. She also mentioned how every scene should be necessary to the furthering of the plot. Avoid predictibility. Plots should be inevitable but surprising at the same time. For originality she discussed how you need a unique perspective to keep it fresh. For Reader Appeal (which I found interesting), she said that there has to be an ideal audience for the book. Who is the book written for? Will it sell to that demographic?
These were the main points of the first session. Kate Larken then discussed the world of small presses. She is more into niche markets, such as biographies of prominent Kentuckians. She also explained how and why she created MotesBooks. The key from this presentation is that even though small presses don't have the powerhouses behind them, they provide an open door for writers who fit into their niche. She also joked that she hadn't gotten rich yet off of any book, she's published, so a writer shouldn't expect to get rich from a small press either.
The last session I found soooooo informative. Maggie Lehrman described what happens behind the scenes at Abrams/Amulet Books. She started from the point of being interested in a book, then walked us through every step and detail of how that book gets created and put on the shelves. There was actually so much to this session, I don't know where to begin as far as summarizing it! Let's just say that getting a book published takes a lot of "behind" the scenes work. (I'd love to have her come to a SCBWI-Michigan event; she was fabulous!)
Throughout the day, they had first pages. This was so much fun because they were able to get to everyone's first page. If I could be blunt, many of the first pages were very, very rough, and I felt bad for the two editors who were asked point blank if they would keep reading. But I will refrain from being judgmental because there were a lot of first-timers at the conference, and I was once a first-timer too.
Excellent job to those behind this fabulous Editor's Day! I really learned a lot and enjoyed myself. If you have any specific questions, respond to this post, and I'll answer as quick as I can!