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Friday, October 21, 2011

The Truth About Publishing – 7

Lesson 6: Get advice – from professionals

Is my writing any good? My friends and family loved it, yet publishers keep rejecting my manuscripts and won’t say why. Or worse, they don’t respond at all. What’s the matter? Why won’t they tell me anything? What am I supposed to do now?

There are a number of reasons why publishers won’t tell you why they’ve rejected your manuscript. The main one: they don’t have the time to provide detailed analysis on the thousands of manuscripts that flood in each year. But also, a number of writers (clearly, suffering from a death wish) have threatened to sue publishers for giving candid advice about the quality of the manuscript, and it’s simply not worth the effort.

So, you need advice. But amateurs, no matter how well-meaning, cannot provide the kind of feedback you need to identify the flaws in your writing and fix them. Only professionals can. If you’re continually being rejected, seek them out. Look for people with experience in the genre you’re writing in. Suitable professionals include:
  • Experienced fiction editors. There are plenty of freelance editors around who have had experience in major publishing houses. To find them, Google “freelance editor fiction”. The state branches of the Australian Society of Editors (and its international equivalents) also have freelance editor registers.
  • Manuscript assessment services. An incomplete listing for Australia can be found here: For other countries, Google the keywords. But beware, there are sharks in the water, so check their bona fides carefully.
  • The various state writers’ centres provide writing courses and events where you can meet professional writers and other writers like yourself, attend seminars, obtain advice and mentorships, and identify manuscript assessment services:
  1. ACT Writers Centre:
  2. New South Wales Writers’ Centre:
  3. Northern Territory Writers’ Centre:
  4. Queensland Writers Centre:
  5. South Australian Writers’ Centre:
  6. Victoria Writers’ Centre:
  7. Western Australian Writers Centre:
  • Writers’ groups. These can be useful, in some circumstances. They can also be damaging, depending on the people who are in them. Check them out and see if they’re for you.
  • Literary agents occasionally provide advice on a manuscript, though normally only to writers in their stable. Beware of any agent who offers to provide advice for a fee.
  • Published writers. Rarely, you might prevail on a published writer to take a look at the beginning of your manuscript, though realistically, the demands on writers these days are greater than ever and few can spare the time. I certainly can’t.

When a professional gives you advice on your manuscript, act on it. A high proportion of writers can’t or won’t act on the advice they’re given. This is great! It means they’ll never be published and it thins the herd for you, gentle reader, who will act on your professional advice to the letter.

My next post deals with what to do when you are offered a contract.

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