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SCBWI Retreat: From story board and manuscript to published book



From story board to published book: How to find your own way in the world of publishing - a talk by international literary agent Susanne Koppe

Susanne explained that she works as a literary agent in Hamburg, Germany mainly with German authors. She also does some “internship” work with teenagers in schools.

She spoke about her career in children’s books which has involved study of children’s literature, work as a scout for the publishing house Beltz & Gelberg and Random House and running of the children’s booklist for Rotfuchs at Rowohlt Publishers. In 2002 she founded her own agency for literature and illustration.

Susanne described her work as an agent. She suggested that writers and illustrators should be careful in choosing an agent and should not pay money for reviews as this practice is open to corruption. It is also important to find someone who shares your values and ideas about books.

Susanne showed some of the books that she has worked on. They included some interesting “pop-up” type books, picture books, a “story song” type book with its own CD, picture books with riddles etc. She has also worked on longer stories for young adults such as those by Lilli Thal. She tries to look at the market and publish what makes sense as well as what is good.

A threat to children’s books in Europe are the big bookshops with limited lists. More than publishers, these minimize variety. Often they will say that a book is out of print when it is available from the publisher.

Book Fairs
There are a number of book fairs in Europe . Susanne particularly recommended the Bologna Book Fair which is specifically for children’s books.

Branding yourself
It is a good idea to give something small to people whom you would like to work with, such as the stamps that she has made.
Royalties
In Germany these are normally about 15%.
Packaging
Packaging is practised in some countries by some publishing houses who put together a concept and try to sell this.
Submission of manuscripts
It is best to post, not email these. Emails can get lost and are impersonal.
Submission of illustrations
Jpegs can work very well. Original artwork should never be sent. It indicates lack of professionalism and creates anxiety for the agent who has to return it without damaging it. If an original piece of work is sent to make a particular point, it should be small and should be sent as something that does not need to be returned.

Covering letter
Give some background regarding why you wrote the book.
Summarise the plot.
Longer books - include about three chapters of the book. The exact number of words to send will vary according to the type of book.
Picture books - send the whole book.



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