On the 8th of June not only did I get to meet Pikachu and hang out in the TARDIS at Oz Comic Con, but I also got to listen to four authors have a lively discussion about their different publishing journeys. The hour-long ‘How to Get Published’ panel featured Isobelle Carmody, Astrid Scholte, C.S. Pacat and Kylie Chan. There were lots of other interesting things covered during the Q&A portion too, such as drafting and editing, how to find agents and the highs and lows of social media.
Here are some of my favourite tidbits of info and advice from each author:
Isobelle Carmody (author of many series & standalones such as The Obernewtyn Chronicles and The Gathering)
- Isobelle first started writing when she was a teenager, and loved escaping into the world of books. She urges people not to dwell on the idea that there’s an audience out there waiting to read your work, as that can stifle your creativity and allow fear to take over. Just write what you love and you’ll learn and grow along the way.
- A large part of the writing process isn’t in your conscious mind. If you find yourself stuck at a mental roadblock then going for a walk to clear your head is a great help.
- Social media didn’t exist when Isobelle first started out as an author. Her daughter helps out with the Instagram and Twitter side of things, but she enjoys running her own Facebook page as she feels it’s a better way to chat with people and make a connection. It’s all about working out what’s the best fit for you.
- The editing process for a book can often take her years. Isobelle likes to get the first draft written fairly quickly but knows she’s only scraped the surface of the story. Editing is all about digging deeper (and asking yourself, “Why did I do that?”) – not just polishing things – as you often find a more beautiful and meaningful story when you do.
Kylie Chan (a fantasy & sci-fi author who has written the Dark Heavens trilogy, among many other books)
- Kylie got her start at the Queensland Writers Centre when the head of HarperCollins came to talent scout. Kylie was lucky enough to be one of four people chosen to submit their work.
- The QueryTracker site is a very useful way to find literary agents in different countries and see what they’re looking for in an author.
- The topic of pseudonyms was brought up and Kylie said to remember that whatever name you choose will become your ‘brand’ – she also added that it’s easier to do the banking when you keep your own name!
- In regards to social media, Kylie has a background in IT and believes that a huge author platform isn’t the be-all and end-all. As long as you write something really good, then the rest will grow organically.
- Kylie also mentioned two books that helped her immensely on her path to publication: The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King.
C.S. Pacat (who has written The Captive Prince trilogy and the Fence comics)
- C.S. self-published The Captive Prince first and was then approached by an agent when the book became super popular online. Penguin Random House ended up publishing it in 2015.
- When seeking out an agent of your own, one method C.S. finds helpful is to draw up three columns: one containing your dream agents, one that lists agents you think are really great and another column that are good. Then pick one agent from each and send out queries to see what variety of responses you get. Another tip is to look through the acknowledgement sections of books you’ve enjoyed to see who the agents are.
- If you hit a point in your story where you’re stumped, C.S. suggests the ’20 things’ technique. This is when you write out 20 solutions to your problem (no matter how silly they are), and you’ll eventually come up with something really practical. Brainstorming with a friend and recording the conversation is also beneficial.
- C.S. admits her writing process can be slow and she likes to outline her story on butcher paper first, adding sticky notes with characters and themes so it’s easier to visualise. Then she transfers everything to spreadsheets and breaks the story into chapters. No matter what, she always pushes through and finishes writing her story as you learn way more from completing one ‘bad’ draft than starting a whole onslaught of different stories!
Astrid Scholte (her debut YA novel Four Dead Queens was released this year)
- Astrid says her path to publication took a long time. She enrolled in courses at the Australian Writers Centre where she learnt to push through her self-doubt, be brave and put herself out there in pursuit of her dreams. Four Dead Queens was discovered when Astrid entered the manuscript in Pitch Wars.
- Her book was quite unique in the sense that there aren’t a lot of standalone YA fantasy novels out there, they’re usually marketed as duologies or trilogies.
- Astrid’s agent was new when she signed up with them, but being open to new people can lead you to a dream agent you hadn’t even considered yet. It’s also good to see what sort of internships and mentors the agents have had themselves.
- Having a mentor (via Pitch Wars) really helped Astrid pull her manuscript apart and get to the core of the story. It also allowed her to ask questions of her writing like, ‘Where did this character’s motivation come from?’
- Astrid also suggests workshopping your novel in a writing group. Not only will you have great exposure to other people’s work and writing styles, but by offering constructive criticism to them, it will allow you to analyse your own work in a different way.
It was a very cool panel to sit and listen to, and I appreciated that there were a lot of different opinions to consider and take on board. When I had the chance to visit Isobelle’s author booth she mentioned that she loved being part of the panel too because it was so varied and interesting. Thanks so much to Isobelle, Kylie, C.S. and Astrid for their time & to Oz Comic Con for organising the event!