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How to get published: secrets revealed at the Perth Writers Festival


I am EXHAUSTED and I didn’t present a thing today!

Instead I attended the Perth Writers Festival’s day-long workshop, the A-Z of Getting Published, and it was great! There were 200 people there and the entire session was MCed by Angela Meyer of Literary Minded, who kept things cool, calm and interesting all day long, despite Perth’s heat, the bright lights and the long hours.

‘D’ is for Don’t Give Up

The lineup was terrific, with info on how to get published, trends in publishing, how to get an agent, how to work with an editor, how to choose a publishing house, etc, etc. (See below for my fave moments from each presenter).

Many people may have come away from the day depressed by the reality of how hard it is to get published.

To these folk I say: don’t give up! All this doom and gloom is just part of the process of testing how badly you want to be a writer. The weak will fall by the roadside but the passionate will drag themselves from their knees and keep writing.

The publishing secret they didn’t reveal: Writing competitions!
I think one huge (and encouraging) thing was missed during the day: Writing competitions! Entering legit competitions is a great way to get your work under the noses of publishers and out of the slushpile.

There are heaps of great competitions out there, but also some less reputable ones that charge huge fees and offer little in return. The big rule is: do your research before you enter!

Some great writing competitions that are well worth the price of entering (or free to enter), spring immediately to mind (but there are a gazillion more and many are genre-specific…just Google):

  • The TAG Hungerford Award (West Australian writers)
  • The Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Childrens Book Award (International)
  • The Chicken House Childrens Fiction Competition (International)
  • Also interesting is the annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (International)
  • And the Voices on the Coast Childrens Writing Competition (an award with both I and Briony Stewart, who is also presenting at Sunday’s family day, have won in our time)(which goes to show it’s a great way to get a start in the industry :-))

But back to the A-Z of getting published…..

Favourite moments from the day.

Meredith Curnow, publisher from Random House:
“Some people have voice. Some people can long-jump. We all have things we wish we were good at.”

Mandy Brett, senior editor with Text Publishing:
“You have to ‘hear’ what is wrong with your work. Like music, you can develop your ear. You need to know what good writing sounds like.”

Clive Newman, foreign rights manager at Fremantle Press:
Fremantle Press don’t mind taking risks: they picked up Elizabeth Jolley after she had been rejected 57 times; they published Craig Silvey after his manuscript had languished on the desk of an unnamed major publishing house for two years; they took time to edit and trim A.B. Facey’s A Fortunate Life and gave it a life when noone else would.

John Harman, writer:
“Which is more important, plot or character? That’s like asking Cathy Freeman, which is your most important leg?”

Lyn Tranter, agent with Australian Literary Management:
Agents are worth their weight in gold: L M Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables, apparently sold her copyright to this work for a pittance and spent the rest of her life trying to get it back. So book contracts were complicated even back then! As Lyn said: “What she needed was an agent.”

Terri-ann White from UWA publishing
Terri-ann gave an interesting breakdown of where the money goes when a consumer buys a book: 10% to the author; 20-27.5% to the book distributor; 40% to the book seller and the rest to the publisher (0ut of which comes expenses including printing, design, editing, etc). The average number of copies sold when it comes to Australian fiction is 919. A good seller sells around 3000 copies.

Amanda Curtin, freelance book editor and writer
Amanda recommended authors create a style guide for their work, listing the correct spelling of character names, a family tree and chronology. This, Amanda said, not only helps you write your book, it also helps the editor who will be assigned to edit your work once it is accepted.

Emma Morris, publicist with Scribe
Emma’s message: Do any interview that comes your way. Forget your nerves and talk about your passion: the book. And embrace social media: Twitter, blogging, FaceBook.

Any other tips?
Do you have tips to share from today’s session or from your own publishing journey? I’d love to hear what you think!

Author: cristyburne


6 thoughts on “How to get published: secrets revealed at the Perth Writers Festival

  1. Pingback: How to get published: a second year of secrets at the Perth Writers Festival « Takeshita Demons: Cristy Burne

  2. Pingback: Becoming A Fiction Writer » Blog Archive » Tips on getting published from the Perth Writers Festival

  3. Thanks guys…see you both tonight for the closing reception!


  4. Great write up, thanks Cristy. Sounds like a huge day!


  5. Pingback: Perth Writers Festival 2011: The A-Z of Publishing – LiteraryMinded

  6. Fantastic write-up, thanks for coming!


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