SCBWI Sydney Get Together

SCBWI Meeting Sept 8, 2019

Woollahra Library

We had a very inspiring afternoon at the beautiful Double Bay library where our very special guests treated us to fascinating info, insights and laughs!  

We were joined by Eve Tonelli from HarperCollins, we heard fascinating Google Online Strategies from Victoria Mackinlay and illustrator-author team of Katrina McKelvey and Kirrili Lonergan entertained us with their beautiful friend ship and books.

And to wind down, we continued the fun at The Sheaf lounge and beer garden next to the wonderful Woollahra Library, Double Bay.


Victoria Mackinlay

Google for authors and illustrators

In a previous life, Victoria worked at Google for 9 years. Partly in Dublin where Bono used to serenade them. Apart from the songs, Victoria filled us in on Google ideas and how to maximise your Google presence.

Google considers a publisher is anyone who has a website, which is most of us.

Google 101:

SEO: Search Engine Optimisation.

How do you get to the top of a search page? Algorithm…which is essentially Google code or a set of rules to solve a problem. It is hard to know how they work and how to get to the top, partly because algorithms can change and continually try to find the best solution to a problem.


SEM: Search Engine Marketing. This is simply where you pay to get to the top.

There are 2 situations where it might make sense to pay to get to the top:

a)    if you sell your own book or

b)    if you do author visits, but Victoria recommended to lock down a location, choose key words, which all cost a certain amount. The cost of keywords can change according to how many people would like to use that key word.

Google Digital Garage has a course that will give you more tricks to get to the top and outline the details of how it can work, but be warned it is complicated.

World Wide Web

Victoria likes to think about it as a spider’s web.

You need to help Google find your website: use the Google Search Console.

Go to URL Inspection click on ‘request indexing’. You can also find details of your website performance. Eg what key words are used to find you.

You can Google: Test My Site: enter your domain name and you can test how your site is working. Eg how fast your pages load. It can give you suggestions on how to make your pages load faster. Eg compress images.

You can also set up a Google Alert with key words to see if people are searching for you or posting about you.


Write engaging original text

Use words your users would search for eg ‘author visits’ and your book titles.

Link to quality sites eg booksellers

Link to your social media pages

Use Metadescriptions. Your metadescription and metatitle will be used by Google act as an ad and it will appear on the google search for you. It will be on your dashboard. It isn’t just keywords, but an ad for you. You need to do this for every page.

Use descriptive titles when naming images that you upload to your page.

Claim your Knowledge Panel: Google yourself and on the right side of the page, click ‘Claim this Knowledge Panel’ then you can edit the post. If you need a business to edit this, you can google ‘Google my business’. You can opt not to have your address on display. You don’t have to sign up.



Eve Tonelli  - Harper Collins senior editor

Interview with Susanne Gervay

Before Eve became an editor, she was sign language interpreter for years and then set out to travel around Asia. She landed in Australia and has been here for 20 years. She got a job at Thompson without any experience…she built up her skills and got a job at Blake, before moving into Kids’ books.


What type of story excites you?

Authentic stories…stories with their heart firmly placed. Feeling the storyteller is passionate.


How do you cope with stories submitted with an obvious commercial bent?

If you write to make money you will lose authenticity. If you just write to a gap in the market, it has to be with your heart as well. Otherwise it’s difficult to make it work.


Who are you working with?

Jackie French, PB and novels, and Matt Stanton. He was the head designer at HC and began creating books 2 years ago. HC are not interested in one off books but in a long-term relationship with creators.


Why do HC decide to reject some work from creators?

If the first book doesn’t do well, they will not sign up the second. Acquisitions meetings have to have sign off by all elements of the company. More often, books are now signed up as one book and they need to see how well the first one does before they consider signing the second. Kids books are the long game. The first few months with adult books are important. Kids books have longer longevity but the same aspect applies to kids and adults in the acquisitions meeting. Kids books can have a longer life eg when school picks it up or it’s used in the educational sector, but Eve says it can be hard to argue this in acquisitions meetings.

What should an author do to help their books?

You have to be in the business of selling. Eg author visits, social media. You need to work with the publisher to help that investment succeed. Do all you can to help them. Do not orphan your book on release. You need to commit to the marketing of that book eg Publishers no longer do launches as a rule, but authors can do their own.


Relationship between editor design and marketing team?

The editor is your new best friend. The editor is in the middle and every person in the company associated with that book will approach the editor with any questions. The small team of 10 all sit together. They have cover meetings every week and everyone has to be happy with it before it is locked in. They ask: is it beautiful, will it stand out does it speak to the story…everyone, including the author and illustrators has to like the cover. It is very collaborative.

Acquisitions Process?

The publisher will create a publisher proposal, eg pages, why it will sell, how many copies it will sell. A costing document is created to know how much the book will cost and how many books, realistically, the book will sell. They also try to consider international sales. This is a total guestimation and sometimes is wildly wrong. It goes to all the members of the meeting, CEO, head of sales etc. It is a really rigorous process and even well-established authors can be passed.

With author/illustrator submissions…would you prefer a range of styles or a clear direction?

Even suggest, they will take a strong image to the acquisitions meeting, which they would request before the meeting to show them to the rest of the company.

Best way to approach HC?

They don’t officially accept manuscripts. Getting an agent is the best way to get in. HC Kids team do have an exciting announcement in the next month! Please do not send angry letters to a publisher if you do not hear from them: understand that they are very VERY busy people and are often up against deadlines.

How can you approach a publisher as an illustrator?

Postcards are great. But don’t send in huge reams of work. Make sure you can draw people and animals. Pick a few great pieces and send samples. Make sure you are out there and can be seen. Eg Instagram, Stylefile, websites like SCBWI, SCBWI portfolio showcase, where you can post your work.


Heart-wrenching incident in your role?

The flawless and perfect book that doesn’t do well. ‘Publishing is the business of failure’ – you have to be an optimist because you will fail more than you will succeed, but you have enough doing well to invest in the ones who don’t. Have to work on the book as if it is the best book will ever be. Your publisher will do everything they can for your book to succeed when it is signed up. Publishers will continue to fight for your book long after it has been published.


Thank you to Katrina, Kirrili, Eve and Victoria for a fascinating afternoon.