Starting Out – Festivals Uncovered

Starting Out – Festivals Uncovered

September 3, 2014
The Edinburgh International Book Festival is the world’s largest celebration of the written word, but away from the signing tents and bookshops there are events to support and encourage writers at the beginning of their career. If you’re starting out, getting yourself noticed in the book world can seem the hardest job. M Louise Kelly is co-coordinator for the Southeast Scotland Network of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI British Isles), the world’s largest professional organization for writers and illustrators of children’s literature. At this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival, SCWBI hosted a reception to offer advice on this very topic.

Where to start?

“When you’re starting out on your literary career it soon becomes clear that festival appearances and author visits are part of the deal, especially if you’re aiming for the children’s and YA market. But how do you get yourself noticed and how do you do you make these events work for you and your audience?

A lively audience of SCBWI members and other invited authors, illustrators and industry professionals engaged a panel of experts in some robust discussion of the tensions and benefits of the author/illustrator appearance experience. Panelist Falkirk Librarian Yvonne Manning reminded authors and illustrators of the importance of getting their names on Scottish Book Trust Live Literature list and Chani McBain, Sales and Marketing Manager of Floris Books, encouraged authors to engage with storytellers to enhance the ‘performance’ aspect of their events.

Appearances are beneficial, acknowledged literary agent Lindsey Fraser, but she also reminded authors to strike a balance between event appearances and protecting writing time. Lucy Juckes, literary agent and co-founder of Picture Hooks – set up to encourage emerging Scottish illustrators – highlighted the benefits of being involved in organisations such as her own and SCWBI, where like-minded professionals can share good practice.

Variety is the spice?

Author Nicola Morgan, whose non-fiction work such as The Teenage Guide to Stress and award-winning fiction mean she is called on to provide an astonishing variety of authors visits, emphasised the need for authors and illustrators to value their own work and command appropriate payment. Wisely, knowing that there wouldn’t be enough time to discuss anywhere near as much as we’d have like, Nicola generously prepared a blogpost on the topic.

Finally we were honoured to have coaxed Janet Smyth, Children & Education Program Director at EIBF away, from her duties to offer a huge array of insights into the nitty-gritty of selecting authors and illustrators.  As Janet said, we’re living through a renaissance of live literature events, so if ever the there was a time to be informed on how to do it well, this is that time.”

M Louise Kelly (@mllouisekelly) was an Edinburgh City of Literature Story Shop author in 2013, writes mainly YA and is represented by Fraser Ross Associates. She is co-coordinator for the Southeast Scotland Network of SCBWI British Isles – the world’s largest professional organization for writers and illustrators of children’s literature.