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I went to my second SCBWI conference last weekend and it was double the fun and info this time around. Things kicked off with the illustrator showcase on Friday night, it’s about time illustrators got their chance in the sun with publishers ­čÖé

The conference moved over to the NSW Writers Centre, combining with the KIDYA festival. I got my first big break at this festival 4 years ago, so it holds a special place in my heart.

US Agent, Jill Cocoron kicked things off with a keynote address that became the theme of the day. How do you get published? Great writing and original concepts. But more so, agents and publishers are looking for emotional connections. They need to find the heart in the story.

Something that challenged me was Jill’s advice of letting go of ideas. How the first idea isn’t necessary the best one, you can brainstorm ideas and eventually you get to the original one. For me, when I find a good idea, I hold onto it and cultivate it instead. Other ideas come to me but I let those slip instead. Mmmm, something to think about.

She also suggested to plot the heck out of the story. Even if you don’t plan, go through the revision of a manuscript with the plot in the forefront. Makes sense to me.

As for what’s selling…the future ain’t bright for dystopian books. And ‘normal’ is the new paranormal. Of course, you should setting trends, not following them. So hope that the MS you’re writing now because the next big thing later.

Other publishers followed suit. Random House’s Zoe Walton wants an emotional response from manuscripts, something the reader can carry over. She’s right, you may not remember the plot of the book you’ve read but you still know how it made you feel (that’s a clue for my next book hehehe)

Chris Kunz, also Random House, said that she felt for a book, she would fight for it. That means, she’ll fight the marketing teams, other editors within the company, to see it on a bookshelf. It reminds me of my own editor, Heather and publisher Laura Harris from Penguin, doing the same with Thai-riffic! They really believed in me from the very start and I’m doing everything I can to repay their faith ­čÖé

The day ended with a pitching session. I sat in the room, remembering how I read the first paragraph of Thai-riffic!, winning the competition. Pitches and the aspiring writers have come a long way since then. Most of the pitchers were professional in their approach. But they all learnt something through their shortfalls. Jill Cocoron’s blog has a great thing on pitching. It needs about the story. Forget about the themes, comparisons and emotions. Don’t mention other authors, it raises expectations. You have to tell the agent or publisher what the story is about-in 3 sentences or less…

It got me thinking about Bookish…can I sum that up in 3 sentences or less. I’m trying as I write the┬ásynopsis. It’s all systems go for Project 2017…basically the next 3 books after Nothing’s Prefect (books 6-8) At the end, I still need to pitch these books myself, so all this advice was GOLD!

More on the conference next time, including what publishers expect from authors, agents’ roles and how to brand and market yourself as an author!

O.W

About the author

I'm an author, stand-up comedian and teacher. My books include Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd, Punchlines and The Other Christy. I'm a massive Nintendo fan and love eating burgers. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram @oliverwinfree