Brisbane publishing information and tips

For editors

Melanie Saward of Little Red Writes spoke to us yesterday about Brisbane-based job prospects in the publishing industry. The forecast was not ideal.

Only three offices in Brisbane cater to those who wish to work with books, she said, including:

  1. University of Queensland Press (UQP),
  2. Brisbane Writer’s Festival (BWF), and
  3. Queensland Writer’s Centre (QWC).

For a word and communication-centric industry, there sure are a lot of acronyms.

Unfortunately, Brisbane is a black hole for publishing, with most of everything based in Sydney and Melbourne.

Melanie also told the class that hard work through university, work experience, internships, and networking will all contribute toward securing a role in publishing.

There’s no magic way, there’s no perfect degree that guarantees you a position, there’s no mix of skills that makes you a dream employee.

Melanie Saward

So although you have to work ridiculously hard to secure a job in publishing, and you have to continue working ridiculously hard to maintain your job in publishing, Melanie said awesome benefits await those who dare forge ahead.

Benefits of working in a publishing house

  • You receive a free copy of any book you work on in an editorial capacity,
  • You get a lot of free books,
  • When you do buy them, books are a tax deduction, because you work with them,
  • You get free books, and
  • Did I mention that you get free books?
The best perk of working in publishing? Free books! Photo source.

The best perk of working in publishing? Free books! Photo source.

Assuming that someone working in publishing does so because they love books, receiving free books sounds like the best job perk ever invented.

Despite these obstacles, Melanie encouraged us to follow our dreams, if we dream of working in publishing, because it is a really rewarding job.

For authors

The flip side of this discussion was trying to break into the publishing industry as an author. Melanie gave us some top tips on what not to do when sending in a manuscript.

Melanie Saward’s 10 ways to not get a publisher’s attention, or to get their attention for all the wrong reasons

  1. Sending an unedited manuscript (ms)
    Never send in your ms straight after you’ve finished writing. Always take the time to draft, edit, proofread, and perfect it before sending it to a publisher. You should be showcasing your best work when you submit it for publishing.
  2. Sending an ms without a cover letter or synopsis
    This is like applying for a job and sending a resume without a cover letter. Use the cover letter and synopsis when submitting your ms to summarise and categorise your writing. As well as promoting your work, this ensures that it goes to the right person for consideration.
  3. Sending an ms in an envelope full of glitter
    Apparently, yes, this does happen. Melanie said this has happened to her several times. Her point here was to make sure that your writing speaks for itself and to not rely on fancy packaging or document layout to get the publisher’s attention, because all they want to read is your words.
  4. Sending cards, flowers, or other gifts
    Similar to point number three, sending gifts with your ms submission can be seen as bribery, which is never looked upon favourably. Again, your words need to speak for themselves.
  5. Sending reviews from friends and family
    Although it is fantastic that those who love you love your writing, these opinions may not be the most subjective or accurate representations of your work.
  6. Sending detailed marketing and publicity plans
    Publishing houses have marketing and publicity departments for this purpose, and they are, like you, genuinely interested in selling your published work (if they accept it for publication, of course). They have a vested interest in moving your product because this means revenue.
  7. Sending mock ups of cover designs
    As above, publishing houses have amazing designers who understand that people do judge books by their covers, and who will therefore strive to produce the cover that best suits and will best sell your work.
  8. Emailing rebuttals to rejection letters
    Melanie said that emailing a list of reasons why a publisher’s rejection of your work was wrong and telling them that they just passed up the best book they’ll ever read is never a good idea. You should thank the person for considering your ms and move on.
  9. Sending your ms in again or to another publishing house without editing after it being rejected
    Ideally, you should spend some time working on your piece before submitting it for publication again. This gives you another chance to enhance your work so that you are showcasing your best writing.
  10. Failing to follow submission guidelines to the letter
    Melanie said there is nothing more frustrating than receiving an ms that has been typeset to look like a book, or that has an obscure font, or that has been wrapped up or adorned in any way whatsoever. It’s frustrating enough reading through the slush pile without having to cope with all of this. So please, do your potential future editor a favour and follow the submission guidelines.
Ease the frustration of those who read the slush pile. Follow submission guidelines. Photo source.

Ease the frustration of those who read the slush pile. Follow submission guidelines. Photo source.

Melanie’s top three pieces of advice if you are dreaming writing a bestseller


Self-belief, and

Write. Always.



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