Tips for Writers: Reflections From the Emerging Writers Festival

by Barbara Miller

It was an entertaining opening at the Edge, Federation Square with a singer who writes his own comedy followed by great speakers. The festival was a flurry of activity with lots of workshops to choose from, people hanging on every word of panellists, firing away their questions, looking for avenues to get published and comparing notes over coffee with other writers and industry insiders.

I would like to thank the Regional Arts Development Fund which is a Queensland Government and Cairns Regional Council partnership to support local arts and culture (www.arts.qld.gov.au) .It enabled me as a new writer to attend the Emerging Writers Festival in Melbourne May 23 to June 2 this year. I was able to share information about my book “William Cooper, Gentle Warrior: Standing Up for Australian Aborigines and Persecuted Jews” (www.barbara-miller-books.com) with others and most of all, learn tips from other writers, publishers, agents etc.

It was held at a number of venues, but mainly at the Wheeler Centre at the State Library. A conference was held the first weekend at the Melbourne Town Hall and on the second weekend, a writers retreat with workshops was held at Abbotsford Convent.

From a plethora of tips, I have extracted what I thought were the most useful:

  • Write now, edit later and write at least one hour a day.
  • Keep handy a book or tape recorder to record observations, events etc.
  • Use Australian Book Review, the Sydney Review of Books and get the online community of bloggers in your genre to review your book as literary editors of newspapers are not likely to feature independent authors.
  • Get friends to review your books on Goodreads
  • Use the Australian Society of Authors who look after the business side of writing and will do eBooks and sell them for you. The Australian Writers Centre looks after the craft side.
  • Editors have large slush piles and if you have an agent, it can get you near the top of the pile. There is an Association of Literary Agents. Agents usually take about 15%.
  • Go to the library and ask for a list of journals in your field and write for them.
  • Australian Writers Marketplace was recommended for all you need to know about the industry.
  • One publisher said they manage blogs and Facebook for their authors and they recommend Twitter but only use it 10% for self-promotion, 70% for relevant content and 20% for retweets.
  • Check bookstores for books like you want to write and check the publisher and find out their guidelines.
  • 10% royalty is common in Australia though it can go to 12.5% for sales of over 10,000 books and 25% royalty is common for eBooks. Advances vary but $5,000 is common and sales must cover it.
  • Lending rights mean the government pays you $1.90 every time your book is borrowed from a public library.

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