‘It’s not about good books any more…

… it’s about the hook.’

This quotation comes from a very recent Hodder Children’s Books Acquisition Meeting courtesy of Beverley Birch.

Beverley presented an illuminating talk, followed by a Question and Answer session, to the Hampshire Writers’ Society at Winchester University on Tuesday 10th January 2011. It was a sobering presentation.

The essential point for us as aspirant writers in the current market to grasp is that our chances of being taken on by commercial publishers have very little to do with the readership. It is not about children.

It is about the buyers from Tesco, Asda et al and to a lesser extent, W.H. Smith and Waterstones. If we do not have a ‘high concept’ pitch ( think ‘Snakes on a Plane’) that will appeal to these buyers, then we may well be better off self-publishing.

It is not enough to have a coherent plot, engaging characterisation  and a well-conveyed setting. There must be pace and suspense, of course.The voice of the piece also must be distinctive and vigorous – and it must be commercial.

It is this last that shrivels my heart.

What do you do if your imagination runs to less easily marketed ideas?

What do you do if you’ve never been attracted by the mainstream?

Any thoughts?