Thursday, 7 December 2017

Advice from Floris Books

This is the second overview I promised from the recent Society of Authors weekend conference, although it's taken me a while to post it! Hope some may find it useful. Meant to add that I was honoured to be invited to speak to some of the classes in wee granddaughter's school last week and I saw how enquiring and interested they are in all sorts of subjects - and they loved a 'real' author visit!

Floris Books is a well-established Scottish publisher based in Edinburgh and they produce some wonderful books for all ages of children. The best way to approach them for a couple of the age groups is to enter their annual Kelpies Prize, as they read all submissions for that. All books must have a strong Scottish theme but the author can be from anywhere!

I greatly enjoyed the talk Sally Polson gave at the conference as it was straight from the horse's mouth, if you excuse the expression. As well as showing us covers of their different range of books, Sally gave us very useful pointers for writing and submitting a book suitable for Floris.

Who is the Reader?

It is essential to decide to what category or age group you are aiming the story and ensure it is pitched at the correct level as below:

Picture Books: aimed at ages 3-6, these are usually 24 or 32 pages and under 1000 words

Young Readers: aimed at ages 6-9, these stories have a strong concept or theme and are around 100 to 150 pages long and about 10,000 words. They also tend to have line drawings to help a child move on from picture books.

Middle Grade: aimed at ages 8-12 and often submitted through agents. They should contain strong adventure and be around 30,000 to 60,000 words.

Teen/YA: aimed at the 12+ age group, with more adult content, danger and emotional impact

How do they Choose Books?

How does the writer get the editor excited? (Wouldn't we all like to know that!) Sally suggested the following:

  • Great concept
  • Beautiful or unique quality of writing
  • Memorable characters
  • Do we want to read about them again?

Editorial Questions

  • Who is the book for?
  • How can they sell it? For example: author events and promotion
  • Does it fill a gap on their list? They might have a similar one already
  • Is there a hook running through the main plot that could be marketed?
  • Is there series potential? A series with strong themes is good for the 6-9 age group.
  • Children like to read about other children saving the day so limit adult characters
  • Do the characters speak and act like a child of that age?
  • Is the content and language appropriate for the targeted reader?

Subbing to Floris

Sally kindly shared the following tips for submissions:

  • They accept unsolicited manuscripts
  • For the Kelpies range, about half the submissions are unagented and come straight from the author
  • The Kelpies Prize is a good way to get noticed - submissions are open for books targeted at the 8-11 age group and 12-15 age group and you can download the guidelines on the website
  • Read the submission guidelines on their website
  • The Synopsis does not need every detail - sum up the story in a couple of paragraphs and focus on main points
  • Include a letter with author details

All great advice - we just need to write the books now! I actually submitted a picture story recently and had some lovely feedback from the assistant editor. Although she said it was a lovely story with excellent writing, it wasn't quite Scottish enough in a crowded market where they have to be choose carefully.

This particular story is already included in an American anthology of Princess and Dragon books but I'd love it to be published as a stand-alone, and I completely understand that response as it could really be set anywhere, although I have castles and lochs in the story.

One of my writing colleagues, Elizabeth McKay, is the author of the brilliant Wee Granny books and that is exactly the kind of 'Scottishness' they are seeking, for picture books at least.

Good luck if you feel like submitting!


Patsy said...

I think writing for children is like writing for adults, except harder and it's more important to get it right (If I pick up a dull book, I'll put it down and choose a better one - a child might put it down and decide reading is boring and not voluntarily try again.)

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Absolutely, Patsy, and a very good point. I just remembered to add that I was speaking to several class in granddaughter's primary school last week - an inspiration!

Joanna said...

How wonderful to speak at your granddaughter's school, Rosemary, and wishing you all the very best with your picture story xxx

Carolb said...

Very interesting, and shows how much thought and work goes into a book for children, even a short one.

How lovely for you and your granddaughter, Rosemary.