batterrrr up! the pitch, ewf15

 

On Wednesday night, four brave editors and publishers faced a huge Wheeler Centre audience of eager writers, all wanting to know how to go about making their publication dreams come true.

Welcome to The Pitch, with Hachette’s Robert Watkins (sporting his trademark bow tie in a spiffy shade of baby blue), Allen and Unwin’s Eva Mills, Erik Jensen, editor of The Saturday Paper and Adrian Craddock, editor of Smith Journal.

If you’ve ever wanted to know how to impress editors and publishers, The Pitch was pretty much…perfect. Ha?

Here’s a highlights package, with a basic rundown of what each panellist had to say. I hope you find it useful!

 

Robert Watkins

Publisher of literary fiction and non-fiction, Hachette Australia

 

What’s Robert looking for right now?

Hachette is on the lookout for everything from children’s books to narrative non-fiction, literary fiction and illustrated books.

 

There’s every possibility we’re looking for what you’re writing

Robert Watkins, Hachette

 

Biggest submission faux pas?

Books are long and publishers read outside working hours, so it pays to be patient once you’ve submitted your work. Don’t email Robert every week to ask if he’s read your book yet. That’s a one-way ticket to Rejection City. Also, avoid sending crazy gifts along with your manuscript. They’ve seen it all before. No, really – you have been warned.

 

Are there any alternate routes to being published, other than by sending your manuscript in and hoping for the best?

Hachette has a close relationship with the Queensland Writers’ Centre, as well as a number of rural writers’ centres. There’s also the new Richell Prize, announced at the Emerging Writers’ Festival Opening Night Gala! It’s worth keeping in mind with prizes that it’s not just the first-place winning manuscript that finds its way onto a publisher’s desk. Often shortlisted manuscripts are picked up too.

 

We look at [blogs] but in all honesty, everyone has a blog now. If you’ve got a really big platform with lots of readers, you’ve already got people who’ll be interested in your work, so that’s a plus. I think everyone, if you’re writing, should be in the digital space doing that sort of stuff.

– Robert Watkins on the importance of blogs, Wattpad and other online platforms

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Erik Jensen

Editor, The Saturday Paper

 

What’s Erik looking for right now?

The Saturday Paper specialises in longform journalism that lives slightly outside the news cycle and trusts in the ‘serious and mysteriousness’ of its readers. In terms of what he’s after, it’s as simple as good storytelling.

 

Before you submit…

Read The Saturday Paper to get a feel for what interests TSP’s readers. Erik receives around two to three hundred pitches a week. Around fifteen will end up being published. To stand out from the crowd, keep your pitch short, and base it around one or two ideas.

 

Don’t assume that an editor doesn’t understand how vastly complex and important your story is. We do.

Erik Jensen, editor of The Saturday Paper

 

What’s the best thing a writer can do when submitting?

As far as Erik’s concerned, it’s all about the story. He’s not concerned about your background or even your publication history:

 

I’ve taken really long, rambling submissions that have turned out to be good stories – and worse, I’ve taken really badly written stories that have turned out to be really good, because sometimes you just have to work on things

Erik Jensen, editor of The Saturday Paper

And don’t let lack of experience hold you back. Last year, five of Erik’s ten favourite pieces came from first-time writers. One first-time contributor landed a book deal after their article was published.

 

Alternate routes to being published?

Don’t get too obsessed about being published in one particular masthead, says Erik. Publish elsewhere and you’ll be noticed. Also, it helps to find someone who’s slightly more experienced than you are to act as a mentor; someone who’ll be on your side and namedrop you when it matters.

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Adrian Craddock

Editor, Smith Journal

 

What’s Smith Journal all about?

Smith Journal is founded by frankie press, but it’s more than just the male version of frankie. Adrian sees Smith as more as a unisex magazine than specifically as a men’s magazine. Like frankie, Smith Journal came from a feeling of dissatisfaction with the men’s magazine market. Adrian says of Smith’s founder, Rick Bannister:

 

He was sick of boobs and…well, not sick of boobs – sick of reading about boobs and the usual men’s magazine tropes.

Adrian Craddock, Smith Journal

 

Before you submit…

Grab a copy of Smith Journal and take a look. Pitches often land in Adrian’s inbox that are vastly different to the kind of thing his magazine usually publishes. You won’t find much in the way of short fiction, travel stories or first person perspectives in Smith Journal. Do your research before you pitch.

 

Biggest submission faux pas?

Don’t ask Adrian to send you a free copy of the magazine. We all laughed, but he said it happens regularly…

 

What’s the best thing a writer can do when submitting?

Adrian’s dream pitches include some kind of consideration as to how he can best present your work visually in his magazine. He’s also a stickler for organised pitches. Group your ideas into sections with subheadings and you’ll have Adrian’s attention.

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Eva Mills

Publisher of books for children and young adults, Allen and Unwin

 

What’s Eva looking for right now?

If you write junior fiction for kids aged between 8 and 14, you’re in luck.

 

It’s really quite hard to write the perfect children’s novel because it’s pre-romance, so to drive the plot, you can’t use romance or sexual tension – you’ve got to have an adventure.

– Eva Mills, Allen and Unwin

You can submit to Allen and Unwin every Friday, during their Friday Pitch session.

 

Biggest submission faux pas?

Cover letters that begin about how much your grandchild or child loooooved your book when you read it to them. Plus, she personally hates books about talking animals.

(At this point, the man sitting to my left begins to shift awkwardly in his seat. Later, during question time, he reveals that he’s writing a book about talking animals…)

 

What’s the best thing a writer can do when submitting?

Eva wants to know a little about you and what inspired your story. Include a brief section to let her know about you and she’ll be so charmed she has to publish your book!

 

Alternate routes to being published?

Allen and Unwin has ties with the Faber Academy, so taking a Faber Academy course is definitely one way to get noticed. There’s also Allen and Unwin’s Vogel Prize, awarded annually to an unpublished Australian writer under the age of 35.

 

So, what’s trending right now in children’s fiction?

Actually, Eva’s not a fan of following trends. ‘Going and looking at what’s in bookshops is a good place to start,’ she says, ‘but don’t try and copy it.’

 

The Hunger Games wasn’t written because [author, Suzanne Collins] wanted to write a dystopia, she wrote that book from the heart. Be true to what you want to write and don’t worry about trends

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Finally, one thing about pitching to publishers and editors is constant across the board: keep your submission simple and whatever you do, don’t ramble.

You’ll find submission guidelines for Hachette, Allen and Unwin, Smith Journal and The Saturday Paper on their respective websites. Make sure you read them thoroughly, because that’s another thing Robert, Eva, Erik and Adrian all have in common: if you don’t follow the submission guidelines, you’re making things even more difficult for yourself.

In summary, getting your words published takes dedication and serious hard work (especially when it comes to books!) but if your manuscript stands out from the crowd, for all the right reasons, you’re in with a fighting chance.

Godspeed, brave writer…

Next on my EWF adventure, I ventured Inside the Publishing House with Hachette for an even closer look at how the publishing industry ticks. And I’m just back from a great first day at the EWF Writers’ Conference.

Tomorrow afternoon, at day two of the conference, Sam van Zweden will be chatting with Meghan Brewster and I about blogging. It’s going to be great. I’ll see you there, I hope?

Michelle

Reader, writer, wannabe. Literary critic (with training wheels on). Blogging my way through the 20th century's classic novels in chronological order.

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