Meeting Publishers at the Bundaberg Writers’ Festival, by Ben Marshall
Probably the one thing you don’t do when you’ve finally gained that most valuable and rare opportunity – a face-to-face meeting with a major publisher’s editor – is being late. The other thing you should avoid is obliging the person who set up the meeting to come and drag you out of a talk by a forensic psychologist to attend. The final thing not to do would be ‘explaining’ you were late because you were so interested in the talk you just got dragged out of. Because that would be like saying ‘sorry, but I was doing something interesting and forgot all about meeting with you’.
So, I think we’re quite clear about not doing any or all of those things. Only an idiot would behave in such a way. And, yes, that’s exactly what I did at the Bundaberg Writers’ Festival to the charming and courteous Rachael Donovan of Allen & Unwin.
We met to discuss the finer points of my submission of The Pyrate’s Sonne to A&U, and for Rachael to give some impressions of the first fifty pages of the manuscript. She was kind, generous and positive.
On the down side, she felt the word-count was too high (108,000), thought the book was for a younger age group because the protagonist is fourteen years old, and was gently dismayed by the racism of the characters.
Tricky. All the characters in The Pyrate’s Sonne are racist. Even the young hero. He doesn’t think Jews eat babies as some of his crew do, but he’s quietly convinced that seventeenth century Englishmen are the pinnacle of God’s creation and all other races inferior to them. The trouble is, apparently, that some parents, teachers and librarians feel that if a character expresses an opinion it’s also the opinion of the author. You and I might be able to distinguish between a fictional character’s words and their writer’s thematic discourse on, say, racism, but not so others.
So, a valuable insight into the real world, and one I’m truly grateful for.
I was also privileged to be able to pitch to Lindy Cameron, boss-lady CEO and all-round nice person of Clan Destine Press. This time I didn’t mess up. I arrived on time, I was generally coherent vis-a-vis The Pyrate’s Sonne, and in presenting myself as a focused writer keen to learn.
Lindy was positive. She even asked me to send the full manuscript. Win!
And once she digs her way out from under forty or so manuscripts currently on her desk, she’ll get to read my ripping yarn.
Even if she doesn’t enter into the fierce bidding war I expect to break out at any moment over The Pyrate’s Sonne, and offer me unfeasibly large sums of money to publish with Clan Destine, I’ll be truly grateful for any and all feedback from her.
Clan Destine are genre publishers, and my kind of folk because they focus on page-turning enjoyment. And that’s my aim – to produce writing that keeps them pages turning, and thrill the reader.
I hope Lindy keeps turning pages, and I hope she feels emotionally engaged with my protagonist and his scurvy crew as they fight their way out of the Caribbean, across the Atlantic, and into London 1666 for the denouement in the fire-blackened ruins of London.
Part of me wants to get this one published just so I can write a sequel, and enjoy the next stage of their adventures. I love my crew and miss them.
Sandy and Cherie Curtis, and the entire Bundaberg Writers’ Club, provided these opportunities plus a range of talks on a various topics to help us unpublished writers take another step forward on the learning curve. The BWC are a sweet bunch of people who made me feel part of the family. I can only suggest the reader consider the annual Bundy WriteFest a must-do on their writer’s calendar.