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I just wanted to say hello 2014 and confirm that I’m back on deck, at my desk.

After visiting family in Sydney I returned to a chilly NYC and my usual mix of corporate and creative client work. This month I attended a Digital Book World conference workshop on ebook publishing for nontraditional publishers, in order to better advise companies on best practice use of ebooks for marketing and branding activities; and worked with a client on editorial revisions to her wonderful novel. In between that it’s contracts, pending queries, and — ahem — carving out time to come back to my own work in progress.

In 2014 I am looking forward to:

  • The following books by my clients being published:

Game, Set, Cash! by Brad Hutchins (Black Inc)

The new novel from Fiona Higgins, author of The Mothers’ Group (Allen & Unwin), title to be revealed later

Lesbian For A Year by Brooke Hemphill (Affirm Press)

… and potentially two others, which for reasons beyond their authors’ control might slip into 2015.

  • Finding publishers for other client manuscripts, currently in various stages of development
  • One or two collaborative writing projects, about which I must remain tight-lipped.

So don’t be shy: tell me in the comments what you want to know about attracting an agent, grants for writers, and getting published in Australia, so I can respond in posts here. As part of getting spoiled on my birthday, I received a spiffy new office chair, so I am disinclined to leave it.


Today I’m heading off to Sydney for a happy reunion with friends and family, which is why this blog will be quiet until the new year. My dear old dad turns 80 very soon so there’s a party for him in addition to the usual Christmas and new year festivities.

There have been some interesting discussions lately on some publishing-business topics in my Twitter and Facebook circles, which I will develop in new posts here in 2014.

In the meantime, thanks for visiting, reading and commenting on this site. I really would love to know your writing and publishing questions, so please drop me a line in the comments or via email. I’ll respond in early January. Have a wonderful holiday season and good health in the year ahead.




Reviewing my client list the other day, I was struck by the fact that they are really a fine looking bunch of writers. When I get around to updating my website, I must add photos. The chap on the left, for example, is Brad Hutchins, whose memoir Game, Set, Cash! will be published in 2014 by Black Inc.

Given that I typically find my clients on the quality of their query letters and manuscripts, without clapping eyes on anything but their prose, it’s a serendipitous result.

But enough of that. Some exciting things have happened for my lovely clients in November, such as:

  • Lily Brett’s novel Lola Bensky (of which I was the editor, not the agent) has been nominated for the prestigious IMPAC Dublin award. She’ll be appearing on Wednesday at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City.
  • Author of the bestselling The Mothers’ Group, Fiona Higgins, showed me her freshly baked novel and I can’t say much right now except IT’S FANTASTIC and will be published in September 2014.
  • Cartoonist Nate Neal is a guest of the inaugural Short Run Festival in Seattle, talking about his ‘silent comics’.
  • Naomi Cook has started blogging for leading health website  Health Engine. It was her popular Nurse Naomi blog that drew the attention of Australia’s #1 Health Directory as rated by Neilsen.
  • Kirsten Krauth’s debut novel just_a_girl got this thoughtful review by Angela Meyer to add to a heap of great reviews for the work, which I’m now shopping to US editors.
  • Jenny Ackland has submitted a very exciting new manuscript which is both literary and gripping — basically your Holy Grail for literary fiction publishers, who are skittish as cats these days.
  • And as of the last days of the month I’ve found a publisher for a fascinating work of nonfiction/biography which I won’t disclose until the ink’s dry on the contract. But the story of its path to publication is worth waiting for, and I couldn’t be happier for the author.

So why bother listing all of this? I want you to know that publishers DO want to publish great stories, well told. It’s just a lot harder to do than many unpublished writers think. I hate saying no to so many queries, but the truth is that most of them are not nearly ready to go out into the world. Even when the manuscripts are of a high quality, there’s still more editorial development work to be done, whether it’s with me or with the publisher, or most often, both.

Here’s my question for you: What sorts of things do you want to know about how the book publishing industry works?  I have the most experience in Australia — as an in-house editor, published author, and literary agent — but I’ll answer a genuine question from anywhere.


(Prospect Park, Brooklyn)

October is probably my favourite month of the year in New York. The leaves are falling, one suddenly needs to put on a jacket again after months of perspiring, and it’s the hectic social season of the travelling Australian  — specifically, the travelling Australian who works in publishing and migrates to the northern hemisphere to participate in a range of activities that surround the annual Frankfurt Book Fair irrespective of an actual trip to Frankfurt.

I stayed put and enjoyed a few refreshments courtesy of an $AUD expense account, which is about 10 per cent more valuable than it was this time last year. In between social engagements I did manage to keep track of what my clients are up to, and by the looks of things it was a busy month for many. Some highlights:

An added late-October personal bonus was waking up to find myself listed as a ‘Top 10 Oz-Lit Tweep’ — a person who Tweets — by novelist and fellow-Tweep Annabel Smith, who lists us, complete with reasons, here. Her novel Whisky Charlie Foxtrot has been shortlisted for the award of Most Underrated Book Of The Year and will be announced in a couple of weeks. Thank you Annabel, and good luck!



Below I’m cross-posting I Got A Book Deal, my client Brooke Hemphill’s account of how she came to land a deal with Melbourne-based Affirm Press, which will be publishing her book in late 2014. As her agent I will annotate Brooke’s post (the indented text) with some of my own observations (flush left).

I Got A Book Deal
This week something pretty crazy happened. I got a book deal.

I’ve been working on a manuscript for a year or more and despite people telling me I should do something with it, I did nothing. Partly it was because I was afraid and also, I wasn’t entirely sure what I had written was any good. But I got my arse into gear and bashed out a little more than 10,000 words, put together a chapter breakdown and a synopsis.

If you’re someone who is already published as a journalist or if you’re a commentator/subject expert of some kind, it can sometimes be sufficient to approach an agent with a nonfiction book proposal consisting of a chapter outline and project summary. If you can come up with 40-50 pages about your proposed topic without too much trouble, you might just have an outline for a potential book. (This approach does not work for fiction.)

But then what was I supposed to do? I contacted a published author who had been on my case to write the book for a while and asked him how to proceed. He had the great idea that I should write a feature  for Encore, the magazine I edit, about people in the media, marketing and entertainment industries who write books. And so I did. I Googled literary agents and found the website of Virginia Lloyd. Another agent had recently started to follow me on Twitter. I reached out to them and I spoke to three different authors about their experiences writing. You can read the feature here.

I’ve got to hand it to Brooke — in terms of approaches to finding a literary agent, this one was innovative and fail-safe. Even if she hadn’t particularly liked me or the other agent she interviewed, she would have a story for her magazine. Of course at the time I had no idea that she was ‘interviewing’ me for the potential role of Brooke’s future agent. I didn’t know she was writing a manuscript.

It was a sobering chat. I was told there wasn’t much money to be made in books and that the only reason you write them is to further your career or because you have something you desperately have to write about. While I wasn’t totally deterred, I sat on my work for a little while longer.

Perhaps the above paragraph is overly harsh, but first books often receive relatively low advances. The mainstream media report only the exceptions to this rule (The Rosie Project and Burial Rites are two recent fiction examples), which distorts the expectations of many aspiring authors.

A week before I was to jet off for a holiday in New York, I emailed Virginia to say I’d love to meet her while I was in the big apple where she is based. I also asked if she’d be willing to read my manuscript. She said yes but explained she was off to Melbourne and Sydney for a few days to meet with publishers and therefore might not get to it right away. A few days later, she sent me an email asking me to call her. Virginia had read my work and mentioned the book during her meetings with publishers and several were interested to see it. I was shocked and excited.

I should say at this point that I’m not always so quick off the mark. In this case, however, the timing of Brooke’s approach coincided with meetings I’d scheduled in Melbourne and Sydney with several decision-makers in the publishing industry. On reading Brooke’s partial manuscript I saw immediately the commercial potential in her subject (revealed below) and her credibility in publishers’ eyes (journalist = should be able to deliver manuscript to deadline), which made it easy for me to bring her up in casual conversations about current client projects. I was thrilled with the level of publisher interest and communicated that to Brooke straight away so we could set about developing the first 50 pages of manuscript and submitting a polished chapter outline.

We met up in New York and after a couple of glasses of wine, Virginia pulled out my pages and we went over her notes. What I had written of the book needed another draft and her notes were invaluable. I got stuck into making changes while staying in Venice Beach in California and had the second draft back to Virginia when I got home from my trip.

This was about the quickest turnaround of revised pages I’ve had by any author client. When Brooke and I met in New York, we talked about her overall goal in writing the manuscript, as well as drilling down into the detail of chapters, paragraphs and sentences. Fortunately author and agent were in broad agreement about the sort of revision needed. The knowledge of existing publisher interest was a strong tail wind for both of us.

Once the partial manuscript and complete chapter outline were ready, I composed my pitch on Brooke’s behalf and sent it to the shortlist of publishers who had asked to see it a month earlier.

This week, the offers came in. There were a couple of offers and we chose the one that felt like the best fit. I’m going to meet with the publishers next week in Melbourne. I’ll let you know more about that soon.

So what is the book? The working title is Lesbian For a Year and, as the title suggests, it charts my year with the ladies.

As the working title suggests, this is a very brave book for Brooke to write, even though her spirited and humorous tone on the page will make it very appealing to potential readers. I have some things to say about publisher responses to this book, which I will leave for a future post. In the meantime, I am delighted to have achieved a deal for my client with an enthusiastic publisher whose marketing and publicity plans for the book make me confident that  Lesbian For a Year has as good a chance as possible at being heard above the white noise of our 21st century lives.




Here are some US tour dates for the North American edition of Lola Bensky by Australian-born New Yorker Lily Brett. I’ll be at the Strand Bookstore on Tuesday 1st October for the launch and to hear her in conversation with Liel Liebowitz. Please say hello if you recognize the font.

Lily and I have worked together since the late 1990s when I was editing the Picador list at Pan Macmillan Australia. I’ve not worked as an in-house editor since 1999 but I’ve edited* all of Lily’s fiction and most of her nonfiction since then. I’ll let you count the number of years.

*I am Lily’s editor, not her literary agent. She is represented by Anne Edelstein.


My calendar is telling me we’re now at the tail end of September 2013. Feels about May to me. Of 2010. When I was a kid I hated it when adults talked about how fast the time was passing, but my only barometer of time was school holidays, Christmas, and my birthday in January. Now, with more projects than I can cope with and bills to pay, time roars along like the souped-up motorbikes that cruise my Crown Heights neighbourhood in Brooklyn at all hours.

So it feels great to be able to offer you some evidence that one’s literary labours are not totally in vain.

  • I just sold a client’s manuscript to Black Inc Books for publication in June 2014 – which is lightning-fast production in the book world. More on that exciting project when the ink’s dry.
  • My client David Rankin is exhibiting at the Sydney Contemporary Art Fair this weekend, where you can snap up copies of this beautiful book, freshly published and edited by yours truly.
  • Kirsten Krauth’s excellent reviews for her debut novel just_a_girl have boosted her successful social media activities to the point where she was invited to talk about what she’s learned on this panel. A Q&A with Kirsten is coming soon, but if you’re in Melbourne you can see her read from the novel on Monday 23rd September at the Wheeler Centre.

I’m also encouraged by the increasing number of inquiries I’m getting from authors to discuss the pros and cons of self-publishing versus traditional publishing.

If you’re reading this and have questions about any aspect of book publishing, please leave me a question or comment below. I’d love to know what’s brought you to this site and how I might be able to help.

And in amongst all of that my own revisions creep forward, far too slowly for my liking. I guess in that respect I’m still the kid waiting for Santa Claus, only in this case I’d be asking him for a finished manuscript. Please.


So great to see my client Jenny Ackland’s wonderful short story The Dead Man’s Cake included in The Big Issue’s 2013 Fiction Edition, this year themed ‘Make Me Smile.’

I hope I’m not too late with this post to encourage Australian short story aficionados to buy a copy of this wonderful fortnightly publication. Not only has the annual fiction issue become a highly visible event on the publishing calendar, but The Big Issue itself is such a remarkable and effective organisation.

The Big Issue is a not-for-profit social enterprise that finds solutions to help bring about change in the lives of some of Australia’s most disadvantaged people. The Big Issue magazine is an independent magazine sold on the streets by homeless, marginalised and disadvantaged people. Vendors buy copies of the magazine for $3 and sell them for $6, earning the difference. The magazine, which covers arts, entertainment, current affairs, lifestyle, news and opinion, is edited by Walkley Award-winning journalist and author Alan Attwood.

Jenny’s story is a gem among several shiny objects in this terrific issue. As she was too modest to mention publication on her own blog, I urge you to pay it a visit. Seraglio (not a pizza place) is another kind of gem — a witty and honest reckoning of one writer’s life, book by book and workshop by workshop — by a serious writer in the making. Congratulations, Jenny!