I’ve just spent the weekend with a lovely group of aspiring writers who are all eager to have their work published. The course I ran was called Secrets to Publishing Success and, while I don’t know any secrets about the publishing industry that are worthy of a potboiler, I have put together quite a lot of information about the process of getting published that I thought some of you might be interested in. So over the next few weeks, I thought I’d share some of that info with you on my blog.
This week, I’m sharing a list of helpful links to different articles about aspects of the industry, links to different writers’ publication stories, as well as the all important links to agents, publishers etc. This list is great, I think (of course I think that, I wrote it!) because it covers some of the less obvious ground about getting published, but ground that it is still really important to know.
Let’s start with some humour
Without humour, the only other option when trying to get something published is tears, and we don’t want that!
Slushpile Hell: This blog is laugh out loud funny. An American agent puts up some of the worst examples of pitches he/she (who knows?) has received and responds to them with his/her typical dry humour. If you want to know that there are many worse writers out there than you, you will find encouragement in this blog.
Call My Agent: Not quite as funny as slush pile but an absolute gem for showing you what to focus on in your pitch is the Sydney agent’s website Call My Agent. She also shows you pitch letters she’s received but provides helpful and insightful feedback about what each person could have done to make their pitch more attractive. It’s a great resource if you’re struggling with your pitch.
A recent development in the writing world is the need for the writer to have a platform first, before they are published. A platform is any social media combination of Facebook page, twitter account, blog etc. It’s worth knowing that, while you’re writing your book, there are other things you can be doing now to help make your submission stand out when you begin searching for an agent or publisher. Here, some writers and publishers talk about the importance of platform and why you need one.
- Kelly Exeter: http://www.kellyexeter.com.au/should-a-writer-have-a-blog/
- Life in a Pink Fibro: http://lifeinapinkfibro.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/fibro-q-how-to-write-book-proposal.html
It’s also good to meet other writers, which the virtual world makes possible. You never know what might come out of contact you make via social media. Most writers have either a blog, a Facebook page or a Twitter account, although Twitter does seem to be the place to be if you’re a writer. Publishers and agents can be found on Twitter too, which makes it a good place to lurk. If you want to get on to Twitter and want to know which writers you should follow, here’s a great list that Allison Tait of Life in a Pink Fibro has put together: http://lifeinapinkfibro.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/50-of-best-australian-authors-and.html
As well as having a platform, some kind of writing experience helps, that is, some background of having short pieces published in print or online. Sometimes it’s hard to know where you can send your work but the lovely folk at the Emerging Writers Festival have put together this comprehensive list of journals, blogs etc in Australia that accept work, such as short stories, essays etc, along with the pay rates you can expect. Check them out and see which one might be worth submitting to: http://www.emergingwritersfestival.org.au/2012/05/get-money-get-paid-pay-rates-for-emerging-writers/
Getting your manuscript ready
Publishers and agents always say send don’t send your work until it’s ready. But how do you know if it’s ready, if it’s been redrafted and edited enough and if it’s as good as it could be? Getting a manuscript assessment or editor’s report can be costly, but here are some other options that are more cost effective and which will give you feedback and direction as to where you need to focus in your re-write.
- Queensland Writers Centre 90 minute mentorships
- Varuna MS Consultations
- Australian Society of Authors paid mentorships
I recommend only approaching agents who are members of the Australian Literary Agents Association as they are all credible and will do the right thing by you. The only agency I would add to is list is Zeitgeist Media, who represent the likes of Craig Silvey and local WA author Dawn Barker, and who are also a credible and highly regarded agency.
This is a great interview with literary agent Sophie Hamley, who talks about common mistakes writers make when approaching agents, as well as how to pitch to an agent.
Publishers all have their submission guidelines on their website and sometimes following these guidelines and submitting through the slush pile can mean waiting for 6 months or more for a response. Luckily some forward thinking publishers have developed a new way of approaching the slush pile. You can now submit your work at certain times of the month and receive a response back within a fortnight or even a week. Here are three of the main such programs:
- Penguin’s monthly catch: http://www.penguin.com.au/getting-published
- Allen & Unwin Friday Pitch: http://www.allenandunwin.com/default.aspx?page=462
- Pan Macmillan Manuscript Monday: http://www.panmacmillan.com.au/manuscript_monday.asp
Obviously there are many more publishers out there, but these are the only ones I know of that have short turn around times on submissions.
Get in through the back door
There’s always a back door way. If you’ve tried all the agents and publishers, here are a few other routes to publication; major prizes that come with either access to publishers, access to people in the writing indusrty or publishing contracts.
- TAG Hungerford Award: http://www.writingwa.org/programmes-services/2012taghungerford/
- Vogel Award: http://www.allenandunwin.com/default.aspx?page=442
- TEXT Prize: http://textpublishing.com.au/about-text/the-text-prize
- QWC/Hachette MS Development Program: http://www.qwc.asn.au (info will be posted at this link in April 2013 when the program opens, until then you can read about last year’s program here)
- Varuna: http://varuna.com.au/varuna/index.php/programs
- ASA Mentorships: https://www.asauthors.org/annual-mentorship-program-for-emerging-writers-and-illustrators
There aren’t a lot of stories from writers about their journey to publication, or if there are, they’re not easy to find. I plan to rectify this in a couple of weeks by sharing some stories form writers I know, but in the meantime, here are some stories I did find. It’s always good to know that others have suffered the pain of rejection, and then achieved success. It gives us all hope.
- Kirsten Krauth: http://wildcolonialgirl.wordpress.com/2013/03/04/do-you-remember-the-first-time/%23comments
- Fleur McDonald: http://fleurmcdonald.com/writers-club
- Jacqueline Wright: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-02-21/the-long-and-arduous-journey-to-getting-published/1951940
As I’ve said, I plan to do a few posts over the next few weeks focussing on aspects of getting published. So if you have any questions, please ask in the comments section and I’ll take all questions on board and answer them in next week’s blog. Until then!