In November 2015, over the course of a weekend, I met seven publishers and two agents – who had all read a sample of my manuscript – to discuss their thoughts on my writing. Among the guests were some of the biggest names in Australian publishing, including Henry Rosenbloom, founder of Scribe, and representatives from Hachette and Random House. The 30 minute discussions were daunting, nerve-wracking, and incredibly enlightening. This was round two of the ACT Writers Centre’s HARDCOPY program.
It began the previous March when I was procrastinating and found a link from a QWC email to the HARDCOPY application page. It was due in a few days, but I pulled together an application and found out a month later that I had been accepted. Then I read the fine print: the program would involve at least two trips to Canberra.
“[HARDCOPY] is the only national program that combines manuscript development, industry awareness, and feedback from agents and publishers.”
The timing, the distance (from Far North Queensland), my financial situation and my children needing childcare for days I would be away, all presented problems as to why I might not be able to attend. But this was the opportunity I’d been craving for years while I’d been working on my book about the Daintree blockade, an environmental protest that happened at Cape Tribulation in 1983-4. I applied for and received an Artslink Quick Response Grant to cover one of the trips to Canberra, and stumped up the cash for another.
Then, in May, I dug out some winter clothes and braved the Canberra cold. The first long weekend entailed a masterclass in nonfiction writing. Among the 25 participants were many memoirists, and a scattering of historians, philosophers and science writers. The masterclass facilitator, editor Nadine Davidoff, helped create a trusting and creative environment for us to share our stories. I particularly enjoyed Nadine’s discussions about finding your voice and staying true to the story.
The second long weekend took place in September (another cold month in Canberra). Billed as a mini writers festival, Intro to Industry exceeded my expectations. We received insights from a variety of industry insiders, including an agent, Penguin’s digital marketing guru, and a book reviewer, among others. The quality of the presenters was exceptional, and there were ample opportunities to chat with them during breaks.
Before reconvening in September, participants were invited to resubmit their work. This time, our writing was vetted by respected publisher and editor Mary Cunnane. Ten writers were chosen by Mary to attend round two of HARDCOPY 2015. I was fortunate enough to be selected. We then got feedback from Mary before sending our work in again, this time to be assessed by the publishers and agents. I found this process of submitting and resubmitting the work one of the most rewarding aspects of the program.
So, to round two, and a third trip to Canberra to meet the agents and publishers. Nigel Featherstone, HARDCOPY program coordinator and published author, and Mary Cunnane were on hand to mentor us through the weekend. It was intense, but extremely satisfying. The feedback was very diverse, but overwhelmingly encouraging. If there was a universal thread, it was to get to the heart of the story a little quicker and stick faithfully to the main theme of the story. My next edit reduced the word count by 10 000 words.
HARDCOPY was a life changing experience for many participants: for me it led to an offer of representation from an agent. In the end I declined the offer and went ahead with plans to self- publish. Only time will tell if this was a good decision, but I’m proud of the book I’ve created. Being involved in HARDCOPY pushed me to make The Daintree Blockade the best book it could be.
HARDCOPY is a unique program. As Nigel Featherstone says, ‘It is the only national program that combines manuscript development, industry awareness, and feedback from agents and publishers.’ As well as these experiences, I now have great writing network, most commonly accessed through the HARDCOPY Facebook page. Two of the 2015 intake also did thorough edits of my manuscript.
HARDCOPY alternates each year between fiction and nonfiction. Applications for 2017 have closed, but follow the social media feeds of the ACT Writers Centre for information about next year’s program. I suspect HARDCOPY will become one of the most well regarded programs on the emerging writer’s calendar.
Queensland participants are advised to take plenty of warm clothing.
Bill Wilkie lives in the small sugar town of Mossman, in Far North Queensland. his first book, The Daintree Blockage: The Battle for Australia’s Tropical Rainforests, is available to purchase online at daintreeblockage.com.au
Congratulations to Inga Simpson who has been longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award for her novel Where the Trees Were. Inga was a Hachette MS development program graduate and supports QWC through the Olvar Wood Mentorships as part of the Fellowships and Access program.
You don’t need convincing. The question is, how do you independently publish your work to the standard of a traditional publisher without feeling like you’ve been robbed and left in the desert in your underwear? As much as we like to think we’re super talented, chances are you’ll have to hire some help to get your work out in ebook and print. This article will take you through the key roles to fill to independently publish your work, the cost range, and how to evaluate if that service provider is the right one for you.
Many writers have been caught by dodgy contracts from providers who try to place authors under a traditional publishing contract when they are not a traditional publisher.
All in One Services
For as long as publishing has existed, there have been services who claim they can do it all for you. What sets these ‘all in one’ services apart from traditional publishers is they expect you to pay for all (or part) of the publication process, while a traditional publisher won’t charge a cent. In many cases, you can piece together what you need more cheaply with individual service providers. However, if you insist on going with an assisted publishing service, ask the following questions before you sign up:
- Are they asking you to sign a contract? Why? If it locks you into only publishing with them, or all payments go through them rather than your bank accounts, get legal advice. Many writers have been caught by dodgy contracts from providers who try to place authors under a traditional publishing contract when they are not a traditional publisher.
- Do they provide a full structural- and copy-edit? You will need both. Will they fix missed typos without additional charges? If not, be wary as this expense builds quickly.
- For cover design, you want the design, as well as the rights to it (and the images/fonts on it). Ask them how many revisions they include in their price (unlimited is best, but you need a minimum of 3 and 2-3 initial choices).
- Do you own the ISBN? It is better that you do as you may want to switch printers later.
- Do they offer to do print copies? Ensure you own the rights to everything you pay for (including files and ISBNs). You don’t want to be locked into an expensive printing option when cheaper ones become available.
Editor – $200-$2000
You’re not the best judge of your work (sorry!). Each book you produce will need a structural edit a line edit and a copy edit. Each of these edits is a different pass through the story. When considering potential editors, make sure they edit regularly in the genre you write in. Ask for a sample edit of five pages to determine if their style suits yours (expect to pay for their time to do this). Get them to quote for the entire project rather than by the hour. Editors work at different speeds, and you can’t guarantee how quickly they work. Ask for two contactable references for their work, and ask those references how easy they were to work with, whether they stick to timelines, etc.
Formatting – $0-$300
You will need to format your manuscript to produce the two major ebook files, epub and mobi, and a PDF file to create print copies. There are many providers who can produce these for you for a fee, or you can do it yourself (I do!) using easy tools like Pressbooks, which will create all three files at once. The advantage of something like Pressbooks is you can fix or update text easily. If you hire a formatter, you’ll have to pay for their time for the update. When hiring a formatter, ask for a sample copy of their work. Again, get them to quote for the project, not an hourly rate.
Cover Design – $50-$350
When hiring a cover designer, make sure you’re familiar with their work and that it fits with the style of the books you’ll be competing against. Ensure the cover designer hands over the copyright for the cover and images/fonts used (you will use them for promotional material). You want at least 2-3 initial covers to choose from, and then 2-3 (or unlimited) cover revisions to get it perfect. If you want both an ebook and print book cover, it will cost you a little extra. You will normally be asked to pay 50% upfront, and 50% upon completion.
ISBN – $44-$88
You require an ISBN to sell your books in stores. These are purchased from Thorpe-Bowker. You need one ISBN for your ebook formats, and one for your print book. A single ISBN costs $44, and a block of ten costs $88. Buying ISBNs yourself means that you can use the same number across multiple platforms or printers, as you own it and can decide what services to use it with.
Print on Demand – $30-$80/year
Thanks to Print on Demand technology (POD) it’s cheap to have your books in print. Examples of POD include Amazon CreateSpace and Lulu, but I recommend Ingram Spark. Ingram Spark has printers across the world and will print and ship in the closest country to the customer, cutting costs for the reader. To use a POD service you will need your print cover (which includes a front, back and spine) and the interior PDF with your text. You will be charged for the initial upload of the book (around $50) and a yearly catalogue fee. If you choose to update the files at a later date, you will be charged for that change. The POD company will put your book on an online catalogue which makes it available to online bookstores worldwide. You can also order boxes of your books at cost price to sell direct to readers.
Hopefully with this guide you’ll be able to pull together your crack commando team of book producers which you can use time and again as your backlist grows.
NOTE: QWC does not endorse any particular service mentioned in this article. Always read your contracts closely and seek legal advice if you have any concerns.
Emily Craven is a YA author (The Grand Adventures of Madeline Cain) and the previous Digital Producer for QWC. She blogs about ebooks and indie publishing and runs Story City, an interactive, real-life choose-your-adventure project for which she was awarded the Brisbane City Council Innovation Award and the QLA Young Writers & Publishers award.
The Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) will partner with The Party People, the market leader for party supplies online in Australia, to celebrate CBCA Children’s Book Week 2017.
CBCA Children’s Book Week is an iconic event in Australian children’s literature and begins immediately after the announcement of the CBCA Book of the Year Awards in August. This year’s theme of Escape to Everywhere will see children of all ages, as well as teachers and some parents dressing up as their favourite book characters to celebrate story telling and the joy of reading. Libraries, schools and communities across the country will showcase Australian literature with imaginative book displays.