Karen Returns!

Last week, I interviewed my good writing friend, Karen Philips. She's back today to talk a little more about writing conferences and the publishing world in the UK.

1. You went to last year's Swanwick Writer's Conference. Tell us about it!
Oh, yes. The Swanwick Writers’ Summer School is in Derbyshire, UK. The annual conference lasts a whole week in August. Over 600 writers, published and pre-published, plus agents, famous authors, (yes, I’ve stood in the bar with Iain Banks), all sharing meals, talks on the lawn and generally hanging out. Pretty mind-blowing if you’ve never been to anything like that. Jealous!

I didn’t know many writers beforehand and wrongly assumed the place would be full of introverts, who prefer reading to talking to people! Couldn’t have been more wrong. Which just shows what I know!

Everyone was very friendly. The excellent back-to-back lectures covered everything from self-editing to Sci Fi writing, and you could dip in and out as you wanted. I also had two agent one-to-one sessions. One with John Jarrold (Iain Banks’ top agent) and one with Benjamin Scott (a YA writer, teacher, SCBWI organiser-person). They both went through my chapter one and gave very insightful feedback. I think that was a turning point for me. Their positive encouragement, as professionals in the industry, made me realise that perhaps I could actually do this writing lark, and be good at it.

Of course you can, silly!

One of the best bits of the course was being immersed with other people like me! All talking about plotting, character development, book recommendations, and wanting to discuss the writing problems they needed to find solutions to. I loved it! Welcome to Planet Writer. It’s a blast.

Love the "Planet Writer" phrase. I need to use that one more often.

2. What differences have you noticed between the U.S. and U.K. publishing markets?
That’s a really good question. There are some big differences as far as I can see. And it’s swings and roundabouts for writers in either country.

My understanding of the U.S. market, especially in my genre, YA, is that it’s bigger and much more established. There are ten times as many agents representing YA, so you have more to submit to. Here in the U.K. there are perhaps twelve agencies that I can/want to query. Once I’ve gone through all twelve, I’m stuck. 

However, on the plus side for the U.K., we’re in an expanding market. YA is only just getting going, and all the U.K. agents are open for submissions from British writers. 

The other lucky thing about being a U.K. writer is that the submission process to agents is easier than in the U.S. We are required to send an email query letter, a one page synopsis and the first chapter/three chapters depending on the agency. So we get to send them our work, before being rejected! You guys sometimes only get to send the query letter without being able to send any of the actual work, until it’s requested. That’s tough.

But, hey, you guys have better weather and cool language. So you can’t complain. Meanwhile, it’s peeing down here in England.  It is June, after all. ;-))

Haha, noted.

Good luck with the writing!

Thanks again for the great insights, Karen, and for generally being all kinds of awesome.


  1. That's really interesting about the differences in the YA market between the US and the UK. That writer's conference sounds phenomenal!

  2. Sending more than just the query is a definite advantage!

  3. I agree with Cherie on the writing differences. Very interesting. I love writing conferences. SO FUN!

  4. OH! And thanks for joining our blogfest! So excited to have you! :D

  5. Great continuation. It's interesting to hear about the market differences. Thanks, Karen and Nicole!

  6. Peeing weather - that made me smile. And the comment about the great language. Too bad we don't have the great accents too!

  7. OK, I have to get to the Swanwick Conference. Maybe not this year, but soon! I have no clue about UK conferences though I know about a lot of US ones (lol). I do think it's good that UK agents let you send chapters, as I find query letters extremely hard, but then we do have *less* agents. Swings and roundabouts, yeah. And I'm staring out of the window at the peeing rain in Scotland right now!

  8. Hi guys!

    Thanks for your comments. Great to interact. If you fancy chatting more, connect with me on facebook and twitter and I'll follow you back. We're all in it together, so let's help each other out.

    Thanks again, Nicole. This guest blogging lark is FUN!!

    Best wishes