First Rights

This is a promise the manuscript has not previously been published anywhere, through any media. Often this might read First Australian Rights, or First UK Rights and so on, which means that the work has not been published within the specified country or area before. Once you have sold a manuscript’s first rights in one location it is possible to go on and sell them to other areas, but not in the same area again.

Manuscript Format

Benjamin Solah brought this website to my attention. It’s called William Shunn : Manuscript Format : Short Story and is naturally telling us how to format our manuscripts.

I’ve read through the page and agree totally with what he says. Do yourself a favour, if you want to be a professional, learn to set out your manuscript correctly from the beginning. This site will tell you how, and show you how, so you have no excuses. To do anything different to what is said, is only tossing chances away.

Australian Writers’ Centres

Your local writers’ centre can be a useful resource. Not only can you find like minded people to talk to (if you live close enough to visit in person), but most centres also have a library, an assortment of workshops, regular talks by published writers and they can even provide advice on contracts, agents, and publishers.

Becoming a member means that you have something you can add to your writer’s resume too (which never goes astray).

Below, you will find links to a number of Australian centres, with a short blurb from the appropriate website.

ACT Writers Centre
The ACT Writers Centre has a Meeting Room available free for use by members and a computer, printer, fax and photocopier available for use by members. We have a growing library of books about writing and by writers. We also sell books by members on consignment. The noticeboards are full of information about publishing, competitions, writers’ rights, and writing courses.

Central West Writers’ Centre
The Central West Writers’ Centre provides development and promotion services for literary activity in rural Australia in the Central West of New South Wales.

NSW Writers’ Centre
The Centre offers literary resources and professional information to established and aspiring writers of all kinds. It provides a spacious venue for events such as book launches, readings, literary evenings and lectures as well as meeting spaces for writers’ groups and literary organisations.

NT Writers’ Centre
The Centre offers a range of activities and services for writers including workshops, literary events, manuscript appraisal, a regular newsletter, special projects and an annual writers’ festival.

Queensland Writers’ Centre
Provides writing tips and resources, advice on handling rejection and rates of pay, details for workshops, seminars, competitions and much more.

SA Writers’ Centre
The Centre acts as a resource centre for writers of all ages and experiences. They focus on writing activities and work with a wide range of organisations to promote and encourage writers and literature in society.

Tasmanian Writers’ Centre
The Tasmanian Writers’ Centre supports numerous initiatives that promote Tasmanian’s appreciation of literature. These include workshops, residencies and mentorships for Tasmanian writers, as well as providing professional advice to TWC members.

Victorian Writers’ Centre
The Victorian Writers’ Centre is dedicated to nurturing and promoting the diverse writing culture in Victoria. As the leading provider of information, resources and skills development, the VWC connects and supports writers and writing within the broader communities throughout Victoria.

Set Out Your Manuscript Correctly

Thanks goes to Yzabel for sharing a link to Joe Konrath’s A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing. Although the other posts are informative too, the post I’ve link to struck a cord.

Unlike Joe, I have never tried to work my way through 2000+ short stories trying to find “winners” (the mere thought makes me shudder), but I have judged 25 or so stories twice. The numbers do not compare, but it made me see that people do not follow simple instructions and are not professional in their submissions.

I did read the stories from first word to last, but some of them really got my blood boiling. One even made me want to turn violent and through something against the wall, it was so drawn out and boring.

It’s because of this that I can agree 100% with what Joe has said. Put in the same situation – remember, editors received hundreds of submissions a week – wouldn’t you find quick ways to get through the pile? I guarantee that you would.

No, it’s not entirely fair, because one of those stories might be a gem. That’s a shame, but the author of that story will hopefully learn the correct way to set out their manuscript. Being professional at all times is a must. Without it, you’ll never find your way off the dung heap.

The Rule of 12

This is something I’m seeing more and more – the rule of 12. In the last week, I’ve seen words to this effect on several websites, and once in a book I picked up at the library, and now I’m going to put them here.

Serious writers will have several submissions out at all times. This sounds really difficult but it means that you have to keep writing. Don’t write one manuscript only and think that’s enough and wait for something to happen with it before doing anything else. Keep writing. Work on the next idea, and the next, and the next. Once you’ve got a number of submissions out, then you must keep proper track of them and if you do receive a rejection, ensure you already have another publisher/agent lined up so that there’s a 24 to 48 hour turnaround getting another submission out again.

Get the manuscripts out there but be sure to study the market and only send them to places that are looking for material along the lines of what you’ve written. Don’t waste your time or theirs by sending a fantasy story to a publisher who only wants horror.

Ebooks, POD and Vanity Printing

To put it simply…for me, to be e-published or to have a book self-published is the same as not being published at all. Why? Because anyone can produce an e-book, anyone can go down the POD or vanity press road. Anyone!

I’m not saying that producing these types of books is a bad thing. Some people have gone down this road and have been successful. That’s great and good luck to them, but please remember that a large portion of self-publishered writers are not successful. Some people have manuscripts that only fit the guidelines of a very small percentage of publishers and they have no other choice open to them. And other people have collections of short stories or poetry that are also hard to get published the conventional way. My words are not aimed at these people, and I wish you all the luck in the world.

My statement is aimed at full length novels. Anyone can pay to have a book published, which means that there are many self published books out there that are sub-standard. It’s because of this that self-publishing has a bad name and the authors of these books are not taken seriously.

Many will argue that there is a lot of trash in tradional books too, and this is true. However, as a writer, we all have to make our own decision on what publication means to us. For me, being published the traditional way is the only way I’m prepared to go. It’s the only way that I’ll think of myself as an author.

Writer’s self-publish, authors publish.

Writing a Good Query Letter

Following a recent rejection I received on behalf of the 2004 Anthology stories, it’s time to hit the query stage again. However, I want to revise the query letter I was using so I’ve been looking around for some hints on letter writing.

Most of the following is common sense, but I’m going to make a small list as a reminder to anyone who has to write a query letter:

1. Be professional. If you look like an amateur you’ll find your manuscript in the slush pile.

2. If you email a query, it doesn’t mean you can be any less professional. If you are then you are wasting your time because you will be rejected.

3. A query letter should be no longer than one page. Get to the point quickly and clearly. Never waffle on.

4. This is your only chance to make an impression, don’t blow it. Proofread your letter until you know it’s 100% correct.

5. Always ensure you include your address, phone number and email address because if you don’t, how are they going to contact you? Sounds stupid really, but from what I’ve read some people forget these essential things and then wonder why they never get a reply. You should include these things when doing email queries too because some publishers will not reply in the form of an email, they only send out letters.

6. Never beg or try to make deals in your letter, and never ask for comments. You’ll be rejected faster than you can ever imagine.

7. Never use coloured paper or fancy scripts. This is a sign of an amateur.

8. Always address the letter to the right person – use their name but make sure you spell it right. One thing that gets up people’s noses is seeing their name spelt wrong.

9. Know your market. Don’t send a fantasy story to a publisher who’s only interested in horror. You’re wasting everyone’s time and making yourself look foolish.

10. Make your letter stand out from the rest. Publishers and agents receive thousands of letters a year, so you have to show them that you’ve got spark…writing ability…professionalism.

Oh, did you catch on by now that you must be professional at all times? Those who are not, will remain in the slush pile.

Following the Guidelines

Do people read the rules when they join an online community? I don’t think so because if they did I wouldn’t have to waste my time explaining why I’ve just denied their submission to join a private forum the day after they join the message board (which I no longer do because if they can’t be bothered doing the right thing then why should I be bothered).

This makes me wonder if people actually read the guidelines, given by an editor or publisher, before they submit their manuscript.

It’s important to remember that the guidelines are there for a reason and if we (in our wisdom) decide that we’re going to ignore them, then it’s a sure way to receive a rejection letter. That’s fine if your goal is to receive the most rejection letters in writing history but if that’s not the case then you’re simply wasting your time and money on countless submission that will never be read, let alone be accepted.

Most publishing houses receive dozens, if not hundreds, of submissions in a month and it would be annoying to see that their guidelines are constantly ignored. That alone would see your work returned unread. What’s more, and this is the most important part, if an author can’t be bothered following simple instructions before they are represented then how can the publisher be sure that they would follow editing instructions afterwards. That might be a risk they are not willing to take.

A serious writer will follow the guidelines. It will show that you’re a professional, that you know what is expected and this might get your manuscript off the slush pile into the editor’s hands.

What happens then will depend on your writing, but that’s a different post.