Each month we aim to bring you a question which tackles some of the Big Questions in the world of writing. This month, we’re focusing on how to get published.
This is the number one question we get asked, and like all Big Questions, it doesn’t have an easy answer. Hopefully we can point you in a few directions to get you started on your journey.
First, though, it’s best to make sure you really have ironed out all those kinks and polished it to a high sheen. If you need a fresh set of eyes, members of the Australian Society of Authors can access their Proposal Assessment Service, for help proposing your book to literary agents or publishers. The NSW Writers’ Centre offers Assessment Services to help fiction writers, poets, and writers of works for young adults and children.
The Writers’ Centre offers a number of courses to help you get your work up to scratch, or to help you understand the mystical process that is getting published. In the near future, we have Laurel Cohn’s Revision: Your Path to Publication course on March 24, and our own Linda Funnell running her The Essentials of Getting Published Seminar on March 9 & 10. Further into the future, Tony Spencer-Smith will present his highly sought after Essentials of Editing course, and in June we have the Business of Being a Writer with Judith Ridge and guests.
Another place to start is to have a look at what Australian publishers have to say, and what they have to offer. Many publishers state quite emphatically that they do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. Others will accept them, provided they adhere to certain guidelines. Make sure you read and follow these guidelines carefully – you’re competing with many others out there, and if you don’t get the basics right, it’s possible no one will even look at your work.
Penguin have their Monthly Catch – the first week of every month, they happily accept unpublished adult fiction manuscripts electronically. They also accept submissions for their Children and Young Adult division, and offer a handy guide to the areas they’ll be focusing on over the coming months. Allen & Unwin have their Friday Pitch – simply follow the clear instructions on their site to send in material for consideration. Pan Macmillan have Manuscript Monday. Pantera Press welcome unsolicited manuscripts on any day, and offer some useful guidelines on their site.
Casting the net a little wider, the Australian Society of Authors offers some excellent advice, including information about agents. The Children’s Book Council of Australia also has some excellent advice for writers of all kinds, not just those who write for kids. Self publishing might be a path you wish to pursue: it’s not easy, but you might prefer doing things this way. There are a number of technical details and logistical matters you need to master, though. We suggest having a look at the highly detailed information on how to get a US ITIN or an EIN (for Amazon and the iBookstore) written by MummyK at her site as a start. Thorpe-Bowker also have extensive information about getting an ISBN, ISTC and more on their identifier services page. Balboa House (affiliated with Hay House) may offer you some solutions to the self-publishing conundrum, too.
Published authors also offer a lot of advice, from the general to the specific. American speculative fiction author Chuck Wendig offers an expletive laden and cheeky (non-)answer to our question, or for something more gentle and possibly less up to date, Australia’s own Jackie French offers some advice. If you write in a specific niche or genre, there are places that can help, such as the Australian Horror Writers Association, who have some basic advice on their site. No matter what genre you write in, there’s probably an organisation, website or association who can help. Find them, and find the blogs or online presence of authors who are in your area of interest. Maybe they have some information on their website that can help.
There’s no simple answer to this question, but if you can write compelling, well crafted work and pitch it to the appropriate places or audience, you’re well on the way.