I wanted to put in a piece about the world of publishing because I think that is what first started me as a blog-reader (apart from the research I did for Destroying Avalon). I wanted to read about Aussies who’d got a deal, recently, in Australia. I wanted to know WHAT to do, HOW to do it and what was the likelihood of success?
Let’s wind the clock back…..
It’s 1997, I finish my first manuscript (about 45 000 words YA Lit) and looked into getting published.
To my horror I discovered MOST publishing houses won’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. To have a solicited manuscript you must have a publishing history, or an agent. To get an agent you must have a publishing history or a contract. To get a contract you must have a publishing house accept your manuscript. Most publishing houses won’t accept unsolicited manuscripts…..
Looks futile doesn’t it? But read that first sentence again- it says MOST. There still are publishing houses who will read your manuscript, you need to get online and carefully read their submission guidelines and prepare yourself for rejection. (I know YOU think you’re different- you’re the one who’ll defy statistics and get plucked from that first slush pile and given a three book deal. And you SHOULD think that way- because DETERMINATION is the key to the publisher’s door!!!)
Anyway, send off the first three chapters (or whatever they ask for), synopsis, covering letter- check out Miss Snark’s blog if you need some direction in what NOT to put in a query letter!!! If you get a rejection letter keep it in a file so you can laugh at it later when you’re richer than JK, but remember this- if the publisher takes the time to address you personally (instead of the standard proforma) take encouragement from that. Not all rejection letters are bad. Some (and it’s not often) come with a bit of critique- know this- you got that little bit closer.
The other way in is to win a competition! Enter everything you can (afford to)- short stories, essays etc. Not only do you stand the chance of winning, and learning to write to a deadline, but you can also create a publication record too. Contact your State Literature Centre http://www.writerswritingwa.org/ and join a local writer’s group. That way you get notified of upcoming competitions and Writer’s groups often offer mentorships and workshops. If you’re serious, take on anything you can that will give you an insight into what’s going on in Australian literature and how to be a part of it.
In most states there is an award for an unpublished manuscript with the prize being money (handy??) and publication (the golden snitch!!) In WA it is the TAG Hungerford Award http://www.fremantlepress.com.au/ – which was just won by Alice Nelson. Of course if you’re still under 35 there is the Australian Vogel Prize http://www.allen-unwin.com.au/Vogel/entry.asp – this country’s richest award for an unpublished manuscript- and you don’t even have to win to make publication. Some of the runners up have gone onto successful literary careers. Also if you get noticed you can be invited to join a workshop (I think they still run that- it’s a Masterclass). It’s all acknowledgement and development of you as a writer.
Join the Australian Society of Authors http://www.asauthors.org/scripts/cgiip.exe/WService=ASP0016/ccms.r (you don’t have to be published) and enter their Mentorship program. Look up Varuna http://www.varuna.com.au/ and see what they’ve got to offer writers at the moment. But know this. Publishers DO want new work, exciting writing, fresh talent, it still is possible to crack into the world. If you keep refining your craft, and keep writing, and keep submitting you will get the acknowledgement you deserve. Be prepared to toughen up, accept criticism, be open-minded- maybe this story isn’t very good, or that suggestion might make it better. But whatever you do persevere.
Someone once said to me “writing is 1% insipiration and 99% perspiration!”