Emily is a sales assistant in the accounts department of a major Australian publisher and works part-time in a Sydney bookshop. She is also an avid reader and blogs at www.emilythebookaddict.wordpress.com. Her opinions and experiences of the Australian book industry are wide and varied. I caught up with Emily to learn more about how these two key parts of the industry intersect.
Jordan and Melissa are tea-drinking book lovers who each have a Masters degree in Publishing. Together, they run Bookcase Australia, a quarterly book box which seeks to share new releases from great Australian writers and enhance the reading experience by sending related items from Australian small businesses and sole traders.
Allison is a bestselling middle-grade author from the south coast of NSW. She has published five books with Hachette in Australia, with another release due in March 2018. Her first book, Race To The End of The World, was named a notable book by the CBCA Book of the Year 2015, and shortlisted for several other awards. Allison also works as an online tutor for courses with the Australian Writer’s Centre.
Vanessa Williams is the Children’s International Associate Publisher at HarperCollins. HarperCollins is Australia’s oldest publisher, in operation for more than a hundred years, and has its Australian office in Sydney. Vanessa currently manages the Australian publication and sales of children's and YA books from international authors.
Elizabeth is an author whose debut novel, Esme’s Wish, was released in October 2017. She was born in Brisbane and now lives in Sydney. In addition to her novel writing and other work, Elizabeth writes reviews for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Reading Time.
Zoe is Managing Editor of Ventura Press, a small independent publishing house in Sydney. Ventura Press publishes adult fiction, children’s picture books and non-fiction including memoir and self-help. Zoe has been with Ventura since 2016, having previously worked as a freelance editor and an in-house editor for a small educational business. She has also been President of Editors NSW (formerly the Society of Editors (NSW) Inc.) since March 2015.
For a couple of years now, my husband and I have had a deal: I will stay home full time until our youngest daughter starts school (including the days she's at preschool), and if I don't "make it" as a writer by then, I need to go back to some kind of paid employment. This was decided before she was born, but only recently did we have a conversation about what "making it" actually means.
Does it mean a publication deal? One with an advance? Earning enough to survive on my own? Earning as much as I did in teaching? Becoming the next Matthew Reilly?
If it's the last one, or indeed any of the last three, my odds of doing this full time are pretty terrible. A study conducted by Macquarie University in Sydney showed that the average income of an Australian author from writing is AU$12 900 per year. To put this in perspective, I would have to work just one day per week as a casual relief teacher to equal that. Just 5% of the writers in the study were able to earn above the national average from their creative practice alone. Most supplement their income with additional work, both related to their writing (such as school visits) and unrelated. Nearly 45% said they relied on a partner's income or loans from a friend or family member to make ends meet. And these findings include scholarly or education writers, who earn more, on average, than fiction writers.
For shorter work, the website Duotrope tracks thousands of publishers (literary journals, websites, contests, newspapers, magazines etc) around the world for response times, pay rates and acceptance/rejection/withdrawals. Markets are listed as paying professional rates (5c/word or more), semi-professional rates (1c/word to 5c/word), token rates (less than 1c/word) or as no monetary payment. There are more token paying journals than semi-pro, more semi-pro than pro etc, because these endeavours are expensive and time consuming for the publishers and rarely bring in much money themselves. Most are funded by grants or patreon-type arrangements. About 25% charge fees to submit. And then there's the likelihood of selling your work to them at all. Overall, from over 86 000 reports for all fiction markets (including non-paying), only 4.8% of responses are acceptances. The pro-paying markets accept less than 1% of submissions. So to eke out a living as a writer of short fiction, rather than novels, certainly takes just as much work.
Suffice it to say, if you're thinking of becoming a writer, don't expect to be raking in millions.
Evidently, my husband's idea of success was about income. This of course led to a new discussion about our expectations and budgets, but it didn't change my dream, or the effort I'm putting in to achieve it. For me, "making it" has never been about earnings. I'm a realist. I know that this is an incredibly difficult industry to break in to, and I know it's by no means a lucrative one. Making it as a writer is about becoming like the people I admire most.
When I read a good book, I feel something. I think differently. I walk around in a "book-drunk" haze for a little while afterwards. I want to talk to someone about the story and the characters. I want to go back and rest in the fictional world somehow, see things through the character's eyes again. I empathise more readily with others and I think harder about things I might not have cared to question before.
I want to make someone feel that. For me, the day I will call myself successful is the day I get to sit in a bookshop and sign one of my own books for someone who calls themselves a fan.
So, I'll keep writing and I hope you keep reading ;) Gabi
When a young writer wants to take the next step and publish their work or submit it to a contest, often the first person they will ask for advice is their English teacher. Unfortunately, unless that teacher also happens to be a writer, they may not know where to start either. I've compiled here a list of places that accept submissions from teenagers, but before I get to that, a few things to keep in mind (or tell your prospective writer):
"Previously Published" This is very important to know if you intend to submit your work for publication: most magazines and journals do not take previously published material. If the submission guidelines say "first publication rights" or similar, it means that they will not accept work that has been published elsewhere, including work that has been self-published. Wattpad, tumblr, personal blogs and websites count as "previously published". If you want to submit your work later, do not post it on a public website or blog!
Rejections Rejections are just part of the game. You can't be a writer without a thick skin, and there are countless stories of famous books that were rejected dozens of times before a publisher finally took a chance on them. Students should know not to feel discouraged by rejection letters, many of which might be a "form" letter that doesn't include feedback about their piece.
Response Times Students who are used to getting their assignments back after a week or two may balk at common response times - a month is considered "fast" and some journals can take close to a year to send responses. It's worth warning in advance that it may take quite a long time to get even a simple "no thanks" email. Most (not all) of the markets on this list respond within 3-6 months.
"Simultaneous Submissions" A simultaneous submission means that you've sent the same piece of writing to more than one place at the same time. It's a common practice, because of long response times, and many journals don't mind it so long as you tell them immediately if the piece is accepted somewhere else. Check individual submission guidelines to see if they allow simultaneous submissions. If your work is accepted at one of several places you submitted to, the polite practice is to immediately withdraw it from the other journals - don't send any "Journal X wants to take this story, would you like to make a counter-offer?" type emails; it is considered incredibly bad taste to have a piece accepted somewhere only to turn around and tell them they can't have it anymore.
A Note About Pay Literary journals are mostly staffed by volunteers and unless they have a lot of paid subscribers, running costs tend to come from the editor's back pocket. This means that there are a number of quality journals out there that cannot afford to pay contributors, or only pay a token amount (e.g. $5). Higher pay does not necessarily mean more readers - things like government grants, fundraisers etc can impact pay rates on offer - but as a general rule, the higher the pay, the harder it is to get a piece accepted. Some journals also run competitions with prize money or offer additional pay to a "best of" each month or year. To my current knowledge (September 2015), none of the journals below charge a fee to submit work or enter competitions.
And with that, here's the list: Voiceworks (http://www.voiceworksmag.com.au) Voiceworks is a quarterly Australian literary journal that only accepts submissions from writers under the age of 25. It is exclusive to Australian writers and International Students who are currently studying in Australia. They accept fiction, non-fiction, poetry and art and pay $100 per piece. Voiceworks is committed to helping young writers grow and they send specific feedback to every piece they receive.
Vine Leaves (http://www.vineleavesliteraryjournal.com) Vine Leaves is an Australian based journal dedicated to the vignette, a short form of writing that differs from flash fiction in that its focus is on an element such as mood, character or setting, rather than plot. The journal has a "Blooming Vine Leaves" feature for writers aged 12-17. They pay $5 AUD per acceptance into the journal.
Spine Out (http://spineout.com.au/) Spine Out is an Australian website aimed specifically at a YA audience (12+). All work published on Spine Out is from school students in Australia. They accept creative works of all kinds, including fiction, non-fiction and poetry, but also music videos, cartoons and short films. I was unable to find any back issues on their website and the most recent edition (as of September 2015) was from March. Contributors are not paid.
Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things (http://emberjournal.org/) Ember is a US-based literary journal aimed at fostering a love of reading and writing in young people. Their website states that they accept work for "all age groups" but strongly encourage work from writers aged 10 to 18 and writing for a middle-grade or young-adult audience. They accept poetry, short stories, flash fiction and creative non-fiction. Ember pays 2c per word or $20 per piece, whichever is more. It is published semi-annually. The majority of their responses are "personal" (i.e. with feedback).
One Teen Story (https://www.oneteenstory.com/) One Teen Story is a US literary magazine that publishes one story per month. Of the twelve stories published in a year, four are from teen writers. They accept short stories between 2 500 and 4 000 words directed at a Young Adult audience (13+). They pay $500 but only accept one story a month, so competition is fierce.
Cicada (http://www.cicadamag.com) Cicada is part of a "family" of US-based literary magazines aimed at different age groups, the best known of which is Cricket. Cicada is the Young Adult member of the family and takes submissions by writers aged 14 to adult. From time to time competitions are held specifically for young writers (i.e. adults over a certain age cannot enter), but it is unclear whether Australian writers are able to enter these. Pay varies, but their rates for general submissions are some of the highest I've seen. Cicada accepts non-fiction, fiction, poetry and comics.
Young Adult Review Network (http://yareview.net) Another US-based journal, YARN is aimed at Young Adults 14 and up and accepts work from writers of all ages. They are looking for poetry, fiction, essays and interviews. YARN is published online and does not pay contributors.
Cast of Wonders (http://www.castofwonders.org) A UK-based podcast website, Cast of Wonders targets a 13-17 year old audience and specifies in their submission guidelines that they are interested in work from younger writers. They pay £5 per story, which they then post as an audio reading in 20-30 minute "episodes". They are seeking writing between 3000-4500 words in length but do accept shorter works and work up to 7500 words.
Other journals that do not specifically request young writers, but have been known to publish them: