David explained how important a good cover is to make a book stand out. He said what makes him buy a book for his stores is:
Word of mouth – the buzz around a book and early reviews and info from people he trusts
Originality – something different
He said if you want to know what trend to follow (when it comes to writing), you’re already too late. He will always push something original that may catch readers’ imaginations. But he can’t seem to sell PAF books – Posh As F*** hardback picture books.
Oisin Mc Gann said ‘You’re not going to make much money writing for children so you may as well have a good time doing it.’ He explained that modern children’s (and adults’) reading stamina is reduced and all writers need to think about this. He described reading stamina as ‘the time bomb in children’s books.’
David O’Callaghan gave great advice for writers:
For age 0 to 4 pitch (your marketing and publicity) at the parents and the bookselling community
Age 5 to 12 – work hard
Do school events
Your audience is kids and their parents
YA – get on social media and use it
Tumblr, Snapchat, blogging
Put in the work. He name checked Louise O’Neill and Deirdre Sullivan as writers who do this well.
Finally he said ‘Writing a book sounds like too much work to me. I’ll stick to selling them!’ And we’re lucky he’s such a passionate and devoted bookseller!
The final panel was called ‘Is It Me You’re Looking For?’ and featured Conor Hackett from Walker Books, Ivan O’Brien from O’Brien Press, Nicki Howard from Gill Books and UK agent, Penny Holroyde.
Penny said that picture books are the hardest place for a new writer to start. Many of the submissions she receives have no beginning, middle or end, are too long and are patronising.
She said it’s best not to try and write a rhyming picture book and noted the luxury non-fiction as a nice trend, books like Gill Books Irelandopedia with well curated content.
Nicki Howard admitted that she was surprised by the success of Irelandopedia. She explained how the idea came from Gill Books and how they commissioned Fatti Burke to illustrate it, after seeing her work in Cara magazine. Fatti brought her father, John on board as the writer, which Nicki explained was a great backstory for promotion.
Penny said the ideal word count for a picture book is 500 to 800 words.
Think of the book as 12 double page spreads, she said.
Conor said that Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton is only 90 words.
Early Readers – 2 to 3k words. Penny explained that publishers tended to have armies of set writers for this age group and rights were hard to sell.
Middle Grade – age 9 to 12