Category Archives: Publishing Tips

Tips to help when submitting to publishers and self publishing hints.

A Day in the life of… a publisher

Today I was feeling a tad overwhelmed. Despite being a publisher for ten years, my first love is writing, and this means I am easily distracted. It is the process of creation I enjoy, rather than the necessity of maintenance!

The antidote to this antipathy: I wrote a list. (If you were curious, even if only for a second, as to what happens in a publisher’s day – well, here it is, on a platter.)

Emma Mactaggart / General Business

  • Email – yes, okay to use quote of mine for a book.
  • Rework PDF file to a word document to use in an autocue for an online workshop.
  • Newsletter for Child Writes – writing story / curating images.
  • Let web guy know newsletter ready for final construction and release.
  • Banking cheques! Doesn’t happen often!
  • Ring computer guy – can’t find files nor dropbox nor get printer working!


  • Process overnight orders for books.
  • Queensland Writers Centre initative – Books from Our Backyard – need to register all QLD writers published in 2015 by Boogie Books.
  • Liaise with the Freight Forwarder / Customs – two titles (Four Hot Chips / Mitten the Kitten) have landed in the country and are being unpacked at wharf in Brisbane!
  • Print orders for those two titles in anticipation of postage / handling on the weekend.
  • Book television interview with Ch7 re: Four Hot Chips
  • Contact: local radio / newspaper re: Four Hot Chips
  • Rebuilding titles for Stuck on You to generate Colouring In Books (cute!) – involves contacting author from 2006, rescanning images!
  • Amazon Sales report to bookkeeper
  • Putting stickers (Gold Moonbeam / Gold IPPY) on box of Imagine
  • Need to share Gold Moonbeam win with Queensland Writes Centre and Northern Rivers Writers Centre for Member’s News.
  • Dash to Post Office – illustrations for reimagined version of Lily Fabourama, Glamourama ready to be picked up!
  • Remember to pick up box of envelopes from Post Office (but only after I had driven home – had to go back again!)
  • Promotional Poster for 2014 CW Competition Winners for their own book sales signing days at independent bookstores.

Child Writes Program

  • Long list winners for the 2015 Child Writes Competition – generate certificates / send with prize.
  • All entrants – participation certificate for 2015 Child Writes Competition
  • Thank You emails for participants in 2015 St Anthony’s book launch.
  • Certificate to Peter Rookas for 10 years support of Child Writes
  • Legal Deposit – 2015 CW authors books to National Library of Australia and Queensland State Library.
  • Invoices generated for extra book orders from Child Writes 2015 authors


  • First round edit for author from Eisdvold (Child Writes 2011) with her second story!

Suffice it to say, I was a blithering mess by the end of it all, though deeply satisfied, as each of those notes above had a lovely TICK beside them. Not every day is as productive, yet everyday involves a huge range of tasks and challenges.

Now, where is my notebook, I just thought of an idea for a story…




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Filed under Emma Mactaggart, Publishing Tips

FIVE TOP TIPS from Inside the Publishing House

At the end of October I attended the Emerging Writers Festival event ‘Inside the publishing house’ at Hachette, Sydney. It was the week of Halloween and they had cool decorations and a table full of lollies!
hachette halloween 2

But even more importantly, we all got something to take away – and I’m not talking about the free book on everyone’s seat (I got one of the books in the photo – Favel Parrett’s When The Night Comes) but the generous people at Hachette (and their authors) gave all of us emerging writers practical advice to apply to our own publishing journey. I have condensed the take home messages to five top hints that struck me most:

  1. Know and support your industry – LIVE kids books – work in a bookshop, review, buy kids books. Robert Watkins said “It’s offensive to think you will earn a salary from an industry you do not support.” – buy and read Australian books. The publishing industry in Australia is passionate about supporting Aussie talent and sharing Aussie voices – they want to see that you are too. Having worked in a bookshop is POWERFUL point on your resume.
  1. Refine your craft – belong to a critique group – don’t submit until at least 2-3 Independent (ie NOT family and friends) people have given feedback – If you can’t handle supportive critique in this forum, you won’t handle the publishing process.
  1. Write widely, submit everywhere – “cream rises to the top” you will get noticed.
  1. Be brave, be bold, be tenacious (and patient) on your publishing pathway. 
  1. The manuscript is only a part of the story – it may grab the publisher’s attention and they will champion it, but for it to be accepted the entire company needs to see potential ie they need to be convinced that they can market the book – that there is a hook to connect the book with buyers and an author that can engage with readers.

hachette halloween 1

I am working on a detailed article on “How to get your work read by publishers” based on the panel discussions from this event at Hachette which will be published in  Buzz Words magazine on the 15th of February – so keep your eye out for it!

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Filed under Debra Tidball, Publishing Tips, Writing Tips

The Journey Begins

Following several rides on The Giant Drop, I took a rather giddy step back. It felt as though the manuscripts I’d submitted were starting to turn on me. ‘Oh, you think we’re so good. You think you’ll be turning publishers away with all the attention we’ll bring. You think your books will be up in literary lights… think again! We’re nothing, but wish-wash! You’ll never have your name on a book if we’re all you have to offer!’

Ah, the old seed of self-doubt, angrily sprouting away. Wondrous, isn’t it?!

I needed to view the bigger picture. As difficult as it was, I decided to put those pesky manuscripts aside and start something fresh. My morale yearned for it. In early 2014, I created a character; a curious, young boy on a quest to problem-solve, using his active imagination. I had hopes of turning his adventures into a picture book series. I drafted the first story and within a few months of daily rewrites and edits, he was ready. I knew it this time. This little guy was not going turn on me!

I submitted my manuscript to Kids’ Book Review for assessment and was delighted with the feedback. My idea was unique, entertaining and picture-book-appropriate. The one thing letting it down was that I had written the story in rhyme and the meter was inconsistent in most parts. The irony of a musician failing to write rhythmically, but I later realised my struggle may be because there’s no musical accompaniment in a book! No instrumentation to fill gaps and complete phrases.

Although there were many positives to my creation, the manuscript still needed work.

A highly experienced and professional author and editor, from the KBR team, saw promise in the story idea and my approach to improving it, and offered her services to work with me. How grateful I was, to have her knowledge and expertise helping my story (and me as a writer)! I’m thankful every day, for this experience.

Seeing my story take much better shape, I decided there were to be no ‘giant drops’ with this one. I knew it shone and my editor agreed. I showed the complete manuscript to fellow creatives and they also agreed. All signs were pointing the same way, urging me to transform this story to book. Following thorough research, I decided to self-publish. A 100% guarantee that my work would see the light of day and 100% creative control over its publication. I like having control. Some say, I need it. I’m relieved and thankful that I followed those signs because it was the beginning of a long and wonderfully rewarding (and challenging!) journey.


Catch you next month for the next leg. 🙂

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Filed under Author Business, Book News, Publishing Tips, Renee Price

The Rise and Rise of Shelly Unwin Part 3

Today is the last interview with Shelly Unwin in which we look at some of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of her steps to her publishing dream. They include practical advice for anyone who is interested in getting published.

The things that impress me loud and clear from your story, Shelly are:

  1. although these books are only a very recent thing for you to be working on, the process of having written other things over several years (despite rejections and setbacks) helped you bring these ideas together at the right time.
  2. Having good networks and an understanding of the industry also developed over time and brought you into contact with the right people at the right time.Shelly 1.3

You’ve mentioned a few key steps in this process about building up networks and putting yourself in the right place at the right time. Can you comment further on these?

Faber Academy and “Stack of courses”

From the moment I decided that I wanted to be a children’s author I have been on a steady stream of courses. I went into writing fairly ignorant to the level of craft involved in writing a great picture book or children’s book. My first course, Writing Picture Books, with Cathie Tasker at the AWC really set me off on the right track, but I was still thirsty for more and have taken courses with the ASA, the NSW Writers Centre, the Australian Writers Centre and the Faber Academy. All of which have proved invaluable.

You mention attending a SCWBI conference. What other associations do you belong to?

Most of them I think! The ASA (Australian Society of Authors), The CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia), The NSW Writers’ Centre. I like to get to as many industry events as possible. I also follow a whole host of Facebook based writing groups.

Also something I found very useful early on was the 12X12 Picture Book challenge, run by Julie Headland in the US. I only signed up once but it made me commit to writing one new picture book draft every month- many of them were written on the 30th of the month! As a new writer I found this challenge helpful for getting the creative juices flowing and it also made me start thinking critically about which ideas might work in the market and which to leave at first draft. It also provided the opportunity to submit one picture book manuscript a month to a US agent and some, not all, provided feedback. I’d highly recommend it for writers starting out.

Editor consult Sutherland Writing Festival

Firstly I need to mention my amazing critique group here, because if it wasn’t for them I may well not have found out about the opportunities to have editor consultations at conferences. These are amazing one on one sessions, that you pay extra for, and generally an editor, or publisher gives you feedback on one or sometimes two of your manuscripts. These sessions not only give you insight into how the professionals are seeing your work, but it also opens the door to submissions into otherwise closed publishing houses. They also enable you to start to build all-important relationships with editors and publishers, and understand the different tastes of each publishing house.

Literary Speed dating

I gave this a miss the year before when I first heard about it, because I found the idea too daunting. Five minutes standing in front of a publisher trying to pitch an idea –gahhh! But then I attended the ASA Pitch Perfect course and it gave me the tools and the confidence to give it a go. And I’m SO glad I did. This is where I not only got my series in front of two other publishers, but I also met my agent. The event wasn’t nearly as scary as I was expecting either. All of the publishers were very warm and encouraging and all of the attendees were feeling the same nervous excitement, so there was quite a nice buzz to the event.

Have you ever ‘pitched’ at a conference – how did that go? What was it like?

I have! It was scary. I get nervous speaking in front of adults, especially when it’s something I’m passionate about. I had my name pulled out of the hat (I had put it in there) to pitch at the NSW Writers Festival. I had learnt my pitch so that I could deliver it with out reading, but when it came to it I chickened out and read from my notes. I was quite disappointed in myself. The feedback on my first page (it was for my Young Adult novel) was encouraging though, and I met quite a few new people afterwards who came to congratulate me, so it was well worth doing, and I worked the editors feedback into my next draft.

How have these things helped? Did they always go as planned?

Everything helps. I think even if things go awry there is always a valuable lesson. For example one of the publishers that I was hoping to see at the speed dating didn’t turn up, so I was only able to pitch my series to two publishers. I thought about going home, but I persuaded myself to pitch my YA novel, which I hadn’t worked on in a while. I thought I’d done such a bad job of pitching it the first time that I decided I had to try again. So I pitched it to Alex, my now Agent. She loved the premise and was so encouraging, that I then asked if she would consider representing a picture book author. She said she had one picture book author that she worked with, I told her about my series and left her with a hard copy of the whole series. She followed me on twitter that night, and I had an excited feeling in my gut that things were headed in the right direction. I could easily have gone home and missed out!  My take away from this experience; in an industry where chances to talk to the right people are few and far between, never pass up an opportunity.

Thank you Shelly for your generosity in participating in these interviews over the past months and sharing your experiences with us. I have certainly found wisdom and encouragement for my writing journey.

Find Shelly Unwin here:

Find Debra Tidball here:


Filed under Author Interviews, Debra Tidball, Publishing Tips, Writing Tips