Alysoun Owen boasts over 20 years’ experience working in the publishing industry, and is the editor of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. She will be one of eight guest speakers at the How to Get Published event on Saturday April 28th.
The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook (WAYB) is an inspirational guide that is updated annually. It is filled with advice and guidance concerning all areas of publishing and the media – a go-to for creatives.
What is the best way to utilise the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook?
If you are a novice and want some inspiration and advice from those who have made a success of their writing, then I’d recommend dipping into the vast number of articles included in the Yearbook. If you already have a manuscript that you think might be ready – or almost ready – to submit, then turn to the section on Literary Agents where you’ll find advice about what mistakes to avoid and a long list of agents you might approach. The Yearbook is very much a dip in and dip out resource. We aim to provide something for every writer and illustrator, whatever stage in their writing career they are at.
What would you recommend to someone striving to turn their writing into a career?
I’d invite you to take a look at two articles we have on this subject in the 2019 editions of the Yearbooks. Joanna Nadin in the Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook (CWYB), and Tony Bradman in WAYB. Both editions publish on 19th July 2018. In short, take advice, be strategic, practice – lots – and be determined.
Is there such a thing as an original idea?
Good question. Yes and no. Shakespeare of course was the master of borrowing: only two of his plots were totally original, but what he did was recreate existing stories and added his own particular style, wit, characters etc. So, an idea itself may not be original, but how it is creatively presented most certainly can be. Storytelling is all about grabbing the readers’ attention and using language, tone and structure to imbue a tale with your own unique voice.
Do you have any top tips for editing?
It’s easy to write long; trimming and cutting extraneous text is an art. Be ruthless: how essential to the advancement of the plot are all the scenes, explanations and characters you have introduced? Let your reader do some of the work filling in the ‘gaps’ in the narrative, don’t over explain and remember the classic advice ‘show’ in actions what’s happening rather than ‘tell’ through detailed description that might slow the pace.
What’s the most challenging thing about your job?
I wear several hats at once; in addition to editing the Yearbooks, I run a publishing consultancy business, so like most people, I crave more hours in the day. But the two roles allow me to keep abreast of what’s going on across the publishing industry and book world more generally. Making money in publishing – and writing – has always been a challenge, but I like that: thinking creatively and understanding what readers want by way of advice and support is a good discipline to adhere to.
Has anything really surprised you in your career?
I’ve had a varied and enjoyable publishing career and I think that amounts to taking opportunities as they arise. I’m still surprised that I’m still ‘doing’ books 25 years on from starting out as an editor at Longman. The biggest change has been technology. All those years ago I was sending instructions down to the company typing pool and the only computer in the department was used solely for looking up sales and warehouse data. I became involved in digital publishing early on and remain committed to the provision of content across all sorts of platforms and media.
What techniques can writers use when self-editing?
Be rigorous, be unsentimental about your work (though retain what you cull for potential use in another story yet to be written), put your work aside for days or weeks and reread it with a cool head: some infelicities may jump out at you. Make a checklist of things you know you are prone to in your writing and try to avoid them, for example, over-use of adjectives, clichés, repetition (other than for deliberate effect). You should consider how each chapter opens and closes. Are you enticing your reader? Will they want to turn the page to the next chapter? Ask a critical friend, for example in a writers’ group you might belong to, to read and comment. And read your text over and over; edit, rewrite and polish so it is the best it can be.
How did you get into the industry?
After a degree in English literature, I took a 6-month publishing course and was recruited directly from there. I did work experience in a publishing office during my university holidays and worked on a student literary magazine. I spent time reading the Bookseller magazine and went to meet editors to learn about life as a publisher. I realised pretty quickly that it was an environment I’d like to be part of.
What is special about an event like How to Get Published?
It’s an opportunity to network with like-minded individuals – with the other delegates and our speakers: to feel part of a writerly community. It’s a chance to ask questions about the industry, writing and submission process, to share experiences and ideas.
Who would benefit from an event like this?
Those who are at an early stage in their writing, who might just be dipping their toes in literary waters and need some encouragement, as well as those who have a manuscript they wish to edit further and prepare it for submission. This day is about the how, where, when of getting into print or ebook. It is suitable for those looking for a traditional agent-publisher deal and those interested in self-publishing too.
HOW TO GET PUBLISHED: EVENT DETAILS
There’s still time to get your ticket for Saturday’s event! Simply use the AUBWRITE18 code when booking to get £30 off the full ticket price.
Date: Saturday 28th May 2018
Time: 9am – 4pm
Location: Arts University Bournemouth
Price: £95 (before discount)