Fact: prior to this week, I was a writers’ festival virgin. There have been flirtations—a magazine launch here, some voluntary cyberspace work there—but nothing concrete. No, ah, entry of any sort. Angela Meyer’s ’15 Minutes of Fame’ was my first taste of a real writers’ festival event (for more on ’15 Minutes’, click here); I liked it so much, I decided to come back for more.
So, after work today, I drove down to the Melbourne Town Hall where the Emerging Writers’ Festival was being held. I managed to attend two panel sessions: ‘Truth and honesty in writing’ and ‘The revolution will be downloaded’. I also managed to make two somewhat transient friends, Stuart and Tamara, who offered to buy me a drink initially, then ditched me to chase after some writerly celebrity residing in a corner of the Portico Balcony.
I also managed to sit in for ‘The Pitch’, where editors from various print and online magazines gave helpful tips about pitching and submitting one’s work. Torpedo’s Chris Flynn was particularly useful, giving a succinct list of submission dos and don’ts:
- Do read the submission guidelines
- Do read the publication. It quickly becomes apparent to the editor when a writer hasn’t read the publication at all.
- Don’t submit your old work. Not only is it a poor reflection of where a writer is at the moment, it also encourages laziness and ‘laurels-resting’.
- Do submit one story at a time.
- Do submit the right genre. If the guidelines say ‘fiction’, it means exactly that.
- Don’t frontload. Keep your cover letter/email short and sweet. (Apparently someone once sent Chris Flynn a fifteen-hundred-word email for a twelve-hundred-word piece. He was not impressed.)
- Do keep formatting to a minimum. The editor’s going to have to remove it anyway, and he or she won’t thank you for the extra work.
- Do be nice. It. Gets. You. Places.
In regards to manuscript pitches, Aduki Independent Press’ Emily Clark gave the following advice:
- Know the publisher: how does your work fit within their vision?
- Know your market: who’s going to buy your book?
- Don’t burn any bridges: just because they didn’t love your first idea, doesn’t mean they’ll hate all of your future ones.
It was great hearing from heavyweights such as Meanjin, Going Down Swinging, The Big Issue, and Overland, as well as less well-known publications like Stop Drop and Roll and Tango. I also practise my pitching skills on Emily Clark afterwards: ‘Hi, I’m from The Lifted Brow…’ But more on that some other day.