Friday, March 12, 2010

Contemporary Children's Publishing course

Ostensibly this blog is supposed to be about completing my MA in Writing for Young People. So I figure I should update you on my course work occasionally.

Along with this semester's writing workshop, I'm taking a course in Contemporary Children's Publishing. Bath Spa brags they are one of the few creative writing programs to offer this type of class and that past graduates have reported it to be quite useful. Of course, the program director, Julia, has also warned us to be careful not to lose our souls. I'm happy to report I have yet to start writing a vampire novel.

So what are we learning? Well, basically the ins and outs of the publishing industry. The syllabus for the semester includes the pros and cons of being represented by an agent, the acquisitions process, publishing contracts, marketing and publicity, how different genres are represented in the business, writing reviews, press releases, blurbs, pitches and author bios. We study The Bookseller's children's bestseller list each week and relevant articles written about the children's publishing industry.

The class is guided by the knowledgeable and entertaining John McLay, whose other job is as an international children's book scout (that means he is employed by various publishers to read advance copies of books written in English and to advise foreign publishers whether or not they should acquire the rights to these books). He's extremely critical of books, but also funny and happy to share all sorts of insider secrets (you should see me and my classmates around the table leaning in to catch every scrap of gossip!).

The best part? BOOKS! Every week John gives us a book and an assignment (write a Guardian-style review, a back cover blurb, a press release, etc). And we get to keep the books! I know I'm paying plenty in tuition, but still, a new book every week is very exciting. Especially since the books are proofs (ARCs), printed up to six months before the books are available to the general public. That's how I had the great privilege of reading THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson (which I adored!) before its publication date.

So far I have no complaints about the loss of my soul... though perhaps that's just because John has given me enough free books to keep me quiet. It's been interesting learning more about the industry and some weeks a welcome break from the writing slog.


  1. But if you do lose your soul, will Customs let you back in when your UK tour is over?

  2. hehehe. No problem, customs probably doesn't have a soul either! =)

  3. I followed your link from verla kay. awesome blog. how do I follow? I can't find the button.

  4. Awww, thanks Terry Lynn! I tend to hide the followers button cause I'm a little embarrassed at the number, but would love for you to follow! I believe if you're logged into blogger and visit my blog, the top left of your screen you should see a "follow" button.

  5. Oh I never knew there was such a course. It sounds awesome. I want to hear all about it! That sounds like an interesting book too. I'll need to check it out.

  6. Thanks for stopping by, Christina. I'll have to think about else to say about the course for future posts... any questions you have? Happy to talk more about it.

    THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE is lovely, hysterically funny and heart-wrenchingly sad all at the same time.


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