Thursday, October 8, 2009

Advice to the Underpublished

Lately I have been getting requests for publishing advice from friends, friends-of-friends and complete strangers who have written a book and want to know where to go next. Well. I say that ten minutes in front of Google will send you in a hundred different directions that have (mostly) the same information. But maybe that all feels a bit Choose Your Own Adventure.

Here's what I told X.

1)Anyone interested in getting published must make some effort to understand the basics. Like, it's really important that the ms (manuscript) you send off is 'clean' as in proofread, double-spaced in 12point font with page numbers, with a title page with your name and address and a wordcount. The only outside case I have heard of this is Eric Dando who reportedly sent his novel Snail to Penguin bound between two slabs of hardwood. This could just be a rumour. Snail is a great read regardless.

2)This site has info about how to find an agent
3)For Australian punters here are some agents of quality - this list is not definitive.

Australian Literary Management

Drummond Agency

Curtis Brown

4) The Australian Society of Authors runs a mentorship program which is fabulous. Not many people know that the early draft of Notes from the Teenage Underground was written under the mentory auspices of one (brilliant) Linda Jaivin. I learnt SO MUCH from that experience, I can't begin to tell you. You have to join and this does cost money, but it's not exorbitant for the return...

5) Also Varuna, the Writers House has a mentorship scheme with a direct line to publishers.Some fantastic books have been refangled at Varuna - think Cate Kennedy, Kathy Charles, Fiona Wood, Kirsten Reed, and that's just off the top of my head in under a minute. Again, there is a small fee.

Would-be writers - there is often a small fee. But just beware if it's a publisher or literary agent asking for it. And if someone IS interested in your book this could be a sign that you should shop it around. After all, you wouldn't sleep with the first person who put their hand up, would you? WOULD YOU? And if you DO get an offer then do your research, you gots ta KNOW who you're getting into bed with.

Okay, I'll stop with the horndawg analogies. It's late, and I've had a glass of red.

6)The Victorian Writers Centre runs seminars ALL YEAR on the ins and outs of the industry. You're on a need-to-know basis. If you want to be part of the publishing world it behooves you to have some idea of how it works.

I love the word behooves.

NANOWRIMO is upon us and literary agents are probably all planning to go on big holidays under rocks for November ...

For the record, I first became a member of the Victorian Writers centre 20 years ago. 20 years ago! Writing takes time, not every one gets it in first go. My excuse is now that I've been doing it so long I've eclipsed all possibility of other careers, not that this gives me much joy around tax time.


  1. hmmm, im kinda glad i didn't email you my MS.... i was thinking about it tho!

    hahaha just kidding :P

    great advice! am going to link it to my blog :D

  2. you are a wealth of information and your wealth behooves applause and thanks!

  3. I need to join the Victorian Writer's Centre, methinks.

    If Aus writers want their work published overseas, they can always look for a US agent. I just signed with Ginger Clark at the American Curtis Brown. I'm not sure if all agents are willing to work with a writer in another country, though.

  4. congrats to you steph! That's exciting. I think in the end if it's the right agent then it doesn't matter where he/she is - australian agents have sub-agents generally ... one thing to think about is not selling all your rights off at once, generally *again, generally* agents will prefer to keep yr rights separate - the UK are often sneaky buggers who want oz rights as part of 'commonweatlh' which just feels a whole lot of colonial - but I think it'd good to have your own 'home' publisher - otherwise it can all feel very far away...

  5. Fabulous advice, Simmone.

    And of course, for anyone writing romance or even 'women's fiction with romantic elements', we have Romance Writers of Australia which is a fabulous support network with an annual conference, individual groups and e-loop groups, newsletters, and a great blog at LOL! Can you tell that I'm now their Social Media Manager?