Advice from Author David Greenberg

by alexwalborn

Yesterday David Greenberg, author of successful children’s poetry books, “Slugs”, “Bugs!”,”Snakes!”, “Skunks!”, “Don’t Forget Your Etiquette! The Essential Guide to Misbehavior” and others, visited BYU-Idaho campus. He held a couple of Q&A sessions throughout the day and addressed questions posed by students, including how to find an agent, and other queries about the current writing/publishing industry. He gave a lot of good advice. One of my favorite points of advice was “Go to conferences!” He said that’s where all the agents are! In fact, writing conferences are teeming with agents! “They want you to be successful,” he said. “Each one of them dreams of finding the next J.K. Rowling, and for all they know it could be you!” One example of one of those said conferences is S.C.B.W.I. (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.)

One student asked, “If someone like me were to submit some of my writing to a publishing house, what would be the likelihood of it actually being read by someone who works there, before getting dumped in the slush pile?” Mr. Greenberg boisterously answered, “You’ve got to know someone on the inside! You’ve got to put together a packet of materials, (things you’ve written) and write a letter asking for feedback. That’s what I did!” He proceeded to tell us a story about the letter he wrote to a publishing company, and he got a response from someone very famous: Maurice Sendak, author of “Where the Wild Things Are!”

“Out of all the head hauncho’s who were too busy to respond to me, he took the time!”

He mentioned other useful tidbits, in regards to putting yourself out there and finding an agent/PR person to help you. The “Children’s Writer’s and Illustrators Market” is a definitive publishing guide for anyone who seeks to write or illustrate for kids and young adults, inside which you’ll find more than 650 listings for children’s book markets (publishers, agents, magazines and more) – including a point of contact, how to properly submit your work, and what categories they’re looking for. A similar source, “Writer’s Market” is essentially the same concept, but targeted at an older reading audience. I asked, “Is the contact info for your agent and editor in those ‘Writer’s market’ books? He said, “Not mine. The accessibility of that information is dependent on the policies of the publisher.”

He went on,”But whoever you submit material to, when it comes to query letters–keep ’em short! Absolutely NO typos or mispellings.” I was inspired when he said, “Write with excellence! You’re not going to get a free pass for something that’s pretty good, or okay, or something you slapped together the night before–BE TENACIOUS!”

I got a chance to ask, “What’s the difference between an agent and an editor? Isn’t the agent your main PR person?” He said I was correct, but he surprised me when he responded that the agent also acts as an editor at times.”

Thus, I learned a little more about PR in the book publishing world. Not only does an author’s agent work to make them look good, they are also very involved in helping to polish the author’s work.

Here is the last thing Mr. Greenberg had to say to us before the Q&A session ended, in response to a student asking what the process of getting published was like for him in the beginning:

“I am resolute. I am resolute. I am passionate; I don’t give up when it seems impossible.”