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How I got shortlisted for the Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship

Hi fellow writers

Hope your writing is going well.

It’s hard to believe it has been six months since I last posted. In my last post ‘Pitching to the Market’ I mentioned a few tips for helping you to get your book published. Today I wanted to report on how I got a little closer to that goal myself by, of all things, following my own advice (not something I often do!).

In  ‘Pitching to the Market’ I mentioned an excellent workshop I attended given by Meg Vann, CEO of  the Queensland Writers Centre. Meg talked about how important it is to develop an author’s platform, including building an online presence. Reluctantly I followed her advice and opened a Twitter account (to me it all seemed like superficial time-wasting. I just wanted to get on and write.). Anyhow I started following on Twitter people who interested me – other writers, authors, publishers, anyone tweeting about my passions of writing (and reading).

Then one day, a tweet popped up from one of my new twitter-aquaintances – a literary agent in Victoria, Australia, called Virginia Lloyd. In this tweet she mentioned the Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship. As it turned out, the late Ms Rowley’s work had been a key resource for my writing project. My book is about the love lives of philosophers, and she had written an amazingly well-researched and gripping book called Tête-à-Tête about the love lives of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. The Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship had been set up to further the legacy of this great author by providing up to AUD$10,000 for emerging or established writers writing biography. I thought I might as well have a go.

So I submitted my manuscript to this Fellowship, and just found out two days ago Lovers of Philosophy had been shortlisted, as recently announced on the Writers Victoria website.

I hope my story inspires you to reach out and share or submit your work to one or more of the large number of fellowships and competitions out there. I’ve submitted my work to other comps and fellowships and had mixed success. The key is getting your work as good as you can get it (including by running it by beta-readers for feedback-more on that in a future post), and persevering.  Joining your local writers’ organisation is a great way to hear about the many opportunities that are available.

I’d love to hear your experiences of whether tweeting, blogging and what I still consider as other necessary evils that distract me from my writing (if I’m honest I’d always rather be writing!) has helped you to further your writing aspirations in any way.

Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

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Pitching to the market

books

books (Photo credit: brody4)

In my last post I reported on a blogging workshop I went to at the Reality Bites Writers Festival in Cooroy. I also attended another great workshop called Pitching to the Market. This was delivered by Meg Vann, CEO of the Queensland Writers Centre. Meg had lots of great advice about how to get your manuscript published. The publishing industry is going through an interesting and difficult period right now, with fewer and fewer people reading books, and more and more people writing them. Many publishers won’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. I’ve certainly been disappointed to find, on visiting my favourite publisher’s website for information about submitting my manuscript, words to the effect of: ‘such-and-such a publisher no longer accepts manuscripts.’ What is the poor budding writer to do?

Well, some of the major publishers have pitching days every week or month when they do accept manuscripts. Examples include Penguin’s Monthly Catch, Pan Macmillan‘s Manuscript Monday and Allen and Unwin‘s Friday Pitch. As Meg highlighted in her workshop, a good pitch should include not only a pithy and enticing few lines capturing what your book is about, but where it would sit in the market, and a little bit about yourself as a writer/author.

Remember, publishers need to make money by selling your book, and along with the book they need to sell you as an author. So building an author platform, including an on-line presence, is important to help your prospective publisher place you in the market. More about building an author platform in a future post.

But in terms of your pitch, it’s important you create opportunities for yourself to meet publishers, agents and other people in the ‘book industry’. You can do this by attending writers’ festivals, conferences and events. I’ve certainly found this to be a useful way to meet publishers and editors whose submission link on their websites may be closed but whose minds may open up a little bit if you present them with a sellable publishing opportunity. That’s where the so-called ‘elevator pitch‘ is needed when a publisher or agent you meet at one of these events asks you ‘So what is your book about?’. This is where it’s best if you don’t stammer or turn pink but say something clear and engaging about your book. It’s important you don’t bore the potential publisher with the whole story of your novel. You just need to whet their appetite and engage their interest, and help them to see there might be a market for your ‘product’.

If you want to learn more about pitching to publishers, I highly recommend you consider doing what I did and join your local writers’ centre, where you can get a wealth of support, advice and opportunities to publish your masterpiece. If any of you have any experiences with pitching to publishers, both good and bad, that you’d like to share, please leave a comment. I — and I’m sure other new writers who read this blog — would love to hear from you.

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