Writers On Writing / Getting out there: Felicity Castagna on the art of submission


Felicity Castagna is a Parramatta-based writer and teacher. Her work has been produced for ABC Radio National and Triple J. Her stories are widely published in Australian literary journals including Heat, Island and Going Down Swinging. Her first collection of stories is Small Indiscretions: Stories of Travels in Asia (Transit Lounge). She is currently developing […]


Felicity Castagna is a Parramatta-based writer and teacher. Her work has been produced for ABC Radio National and Triple J. Her stories are widely published in Australian literary journals including Heat, Island and Going Down Swinging. Her first collection of stories is Small Indiscretions: Stories of Travels in Asia (Transit Lounge). She is currently developing a resource for writers looking to submit to literary journals.

At a recent NSW Writers’ Centre event, she gave some of her top tips for submitting to magazines and getting your work out there. Here’s our summary:

  •  It’s important to start building a writing CV as early as possible so that editors can see that there are other people out there who think you’re good, too.
  • Don’t be ashamed to start small. Some of the best places to start submitting to are university literary journals, which often accept manuscripts from people who aren’t even students at that university.
  • Keep a journal of all the submissions that you’ve made, and the results of all those submissions. Editors get very grumpy with you if you submit the same story to them twice.
  • When you’re pitching a story to an editor, keep personal details about your life and your biography to a minimum. Let your writing speak for itself, and don’t try to over-compensate with university transcripts or funny anecdotes.
  • Submit, submit, submit! Get your writing out to as many different people and places as possible. If you put your hand up a hundred times, you’re much more likely to get picked than if you only put it up once.
  • If someone shows an interest in your writing, go and annoy them. It’s very unlikely that people in the literary industry are going to pursue you, so it’s up to you to take the initiative and create opportunities for yourself. Ask someone to have a chat to you, have a look over your writing, edit something you’re submitting, recommend you to people they’re in contact with.
  • Look at- and follow to the letter- a journal or publisher’s submission guidelines. If something is submitted with incorrect font or spacing, it makes the writer look lazy and careless, and editors often won’t bother reading their manuscript. And look at the name of the person who is likely to be looking at your manuscript, and address your submission to them by name. It makes you look more eager and attentive.
  • If you’re publishing short stories or poetry, don’t bother trying to find an agent, because there just aren’t agents out there interested in working with short stories. Go straight to publishers with your proposal. That being said, if you’re a novelist or non-fiction writer, always try to find an agent first. If you get rejected by a publisher an agent cant then approach them with your work.
  • Get good, honest criticism from people who know what they’re talking about. Incorporate that into your writing. Be ready to accept criticism. 
  • Don’t send off anything to anyone until you have it as good as it could possibly get. You only get one chance; publishers aren’t going to look at second attempts at a story
  • Write good, brief, relevant cover letters. If you’re submitting a short story to a journal, it should be maximum 4-5 lines. If you’re submitting a novel or a collection to a publisher, write a one page cover letter:

•    Dear (name of person reading submission).
•    CV paragraph. Publishing history, previous awards won, so on.
•    Pitch of your book.
•    Explanation of why your book is marketable
•    Promises about what you’ll do to market you’re book and why you’ll be able to do it.

  • Use whatever community you have to get your writing out there: Local councils, schools, family members, writers’ groups- whatever is available to you as a person and as a writer.

This blog post was adapted from Felicity Castagna’s talk at The Library of Unwritten Stories. We will be hosting similar events over the next 3 weeks at the Newtown Library.


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