Reassurance and Validation: These Are the Things That Publishers Are Made of?

Posted on 13/08/2013 by


I spent four days last week at the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA (writers, agents and publishers, oh my). It’s a conference I always enjoy. In large part because it’s one of the only places I can stare at the twelve hundred people surrounding me and mutter, My people. (I mean, obviously, I could do that anywhere but at a SCBWI Con it’s true and also nobody looks at me funny.)

The best part of the conference though, in my opinion, is the manuscript critiques. This is where, if you want, they’ll hook you up with an agent or publisher they think is appropriate to your work and said agent or publisher will give you feedback.

People go to these critiques looking for lots of different things (magic, salvation, reassurance, guidance, a contract). This year I just wanted someone with standing in my field to agree with me. What? Don’t look at me like that. My instincts are pretty good when it comes to writing, but sometimes I have doubt.

Drink Me is just about finished and I’ve been thinking more and more that it’s not a young adult book after all. This probably shouldn’t come as such a surprise. I mean, I’ve never really set out to write for any particular demographic. I just started writing and a string of people told me what I was writing was YA.* But last year a particularly well-respected agent told me something I was working on was middle grade.

And this year the delightful publisher I had for my critique looked relieved when my first question was, Do you think it reads like adult fiction? and said, That’s exactly what I was thinking.

So apparently my instincts are still working for me. Sadly this means that Drink Me is outside her jurisdiction but she said a number of lovely things about it anyway, including (more than once), You clearly know your craft. And then asked if I had anything else she could look at. (And told me to send her Path when it was finished.)

Reassurance and validation. This is why I go to these conferences. I mean, okay, the books, and getting the chance to hang out with people like Jon Scieszka and Henry Winkler. And the career-progressing nature of having an agent or publisher say, I liked this; send me more. But mostly — reassurance and validation.


* And, okay, then I did a doctorate that incidentally made the point that my personal obsessions dovetail beautifully with the obsessions that ground the YA genre.