Last night I went to the Electric Monkey launch party. Electric Monkey is Egmont’s new YA imprint, and, I’m delighted to say, my new publishing home. It was thrilling to see Dear Dylan be a part of such a fantastic list.
|With my editor Ali Dougal|
After Dear Dylan won the Young Minds Award I was lucky enough for it to go to auction, which left me in the bizarre position of actually being able to choose a publisher (rather than my previous default setting of begging!) Last night underlined for me yet again that I had made the absolutely right decision. It was so nice to meet the members of the Egmont team, who have been so supportive and enthusiastic in getting the book ready for publication. (I just about managed to stop myself declaring my undying love to the person responsible for the Waterstones order!) After self-publishing Dear Dylan the first time round, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the fact that there are now other people working really hard to make sure the book gets into the shops, and that readers get to hear about it. Going it alone was exciting, and a massive learning curve, but it was also bloody hard work. Several people asked me last night whether I would recommend self-publishing over traditional publishing and I guess my answer is that I would recommend self-publishing as a way of getting a traditional publisher’s attention. And as a way of learning the nuts and bolts of the business of publishing. But ultimately as an author, you can’t beat the feeling of being part of a team, and having the support and expertise of a publishing house behind you.
|Electric Monkey Goodie Bag|
After drinks and canapes (I’ve now discovered that I’m able to eat an entire mini-burger in one bite) there was a panel discussion featuring three of my fellow ‘Electric Monkeys’ – authors Michael Grant (BZRK), Elizabeth Wein (Codename Verity) and Laura Jarratt (Skin Deep). Writing is obviously a very solitary process so it was great to hear the experiences and opinions of other YA authors. The points raised that really resonated with me were:
- Michael Grant saying that his main responsibility as a YA author is to entertain; that he wants his readers to stay up all night because they cannot put his book down. This is such a good tip for any novelist and it reminded me of a book I once read by an American editor called Sol Stein. He said that every chapter should start with a hook and end with a ‘thruster’, so that it becomes impossible to put down. To me, this is one of the most crucial (and fun) parts of being a novelist. Never forget who you are writing for, and challenge yourself to keep them thoroughly entertained – and sleep-deprived!
- Laura Jarratt talking about the importance of writing romantic novels that are empowering for female readers. Novels where the heroine learns that getting a boyfriend isn’t the be all and end all, and that if her relationship doesn’t work out she is more than capable of carrying on. She also spoke about the importance of challenging peoples’ prejudices when it comes to physical appearance and background – another issue that I think is of key importance to teens.
- Elizabeth Wein’s novel Codename Verity is set during World War Two, and she spoke about feeling a terrific sense of responsibility when it came to recreating that world, so that today’s teens could get a real sense of what it was like.
All in all, I came away feeling proud and privileged to write for young adults. It is a job that comes with a lot of responsibility but hopefully the stories you write and the characters you write about can really make a difference – whether that be to entertain, inspire or inform.