I have been playing catch-up ever since the Austin Conference last month. Finally though, I've had a chance to sit down and look at my notes. I had a teeny bit of trouble hearing some of the speakers; I'm not sure if this is advancing age (my birthday is coming up) or the gymnasium acoustics, but here's what *I* heard.
Melanie Cecka - Co-editorial Director, Bloomsbury USA
Melanie pointed out that Bloomsbury is very author/book focused.
When asked what she is looking for, she said she never knows until she sees it. She feels that worrying about how to get published is the wrong focus; rather you should focus on ideas and writing. People work too hard at writing; write because you love it whether you get published or not.
She advised to stop trying to figure out what editors want or what will "sell" and write about what you are passionate about. If it's not from the heart, the editor will know. What sells today may not be what sells tomorrow; it's cyclical.
She likes strong voices and regional characters. She mentioned How to be a Good Dog, an upcoming picture book by Gail Page, as an example why picture books will continue to sell even though the market for them is down right now. She says it has a terrific character. This book went through 19 revisions.
Cecilia Yung - AD, Putnam and Philomel
She says that as an art director, she feels her responsibilities are to 1. the publisher, 2. the book, and 3. the artist. She prefers to work directly with illustrators rather than reps.
She said if you send your book dummy to an editor, you have one shot at them liking it. If you send it to her, she can show it to the editors she thinks will like it (she didn't mention that you still have only one shot at her liking it though).
When you're seeking feedback on your work, ask open ended questions. Don't ask, "Did you like it," but "What do you think about it?"
Stephan Fraser - Literary Agent, Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency
Stephan advised to write from your own experience. Writing that comes from experience or the heart comes forth with enthusiasm. A good idea can move mountains.
Good writing flows. It is not awkward and does not imitate. It is authentic.
He says do not be apologetic when you send out a MS; be confident. You must believe it is valuable and worthy.
Locate the right publisher...do your homework and really know who you're sending to, THEN locate the right editor. Stay with it; be stubborn. Persistence may even trump talent.
He looks for writing that is timeless, elegant, fun, and fresh. There is always a home for good, quality writing.
When sending to him, he prefers a cover letter that just states the facts (who, how to contact, publishing credits); he doesn't need a synopsis.
Mark McVeigh was there too from Dutton Children's Books, but I had to choose between his talk and Cecilia Yung's. I went with the art director, what can I say?