Reflections on HARDCOPY 2016- Part 2 Going Public
After the first round of HARDCOPY participants were invited to apply for the Going Public Weekend in November. Only 10 of the 30 writers would get the opportunity to receive industry level feedback from a group of publishers and agents.
I didn’t get through to the Going Public weekend. So I let myself sulk for about a week. I’m no stranger to rejection though and I soon moved forward with a new plan, which involved querying agents until one of them fell in love with Day of the Neandertals.
My plan was in full swing when I got a call from (the wonderful) Nigel Featherstone. One of the (many) rising stars of our group had been offered a publishing contract and was withdrawing from the Going Public weekend. And I was next in line. It took me about 10 seconds to accept the offer and run off to book another flight to Canberra.
Preparing for Going Public was quite different to the other two weekends, in that there was actually some preparation required. I had to know how to talk about my manuscript and I had to know who I was talking to. It was a bit like studying for an exam, lucky for me the other participants had already done some research and I could copy their notes.
The actual weekend was exhausting, exciting, nerve-wracking, exhilarating, sometimes devastating and ultimately wonderful.
These are the things I learned and the feedback I got from HARDCOPY Going Public 2016:
- HARDCOPY is well regarded in the Australian publishing industry
- In terms of cover letters and pitches agents want to know your ideas on genre and comparison books, however the publishers wanted to make that decision for themselves and didn’t like being told (this seemed particularly so in the case of whether something is YA or adult).
- A lot of them don’t like synopses. Two industry professionals told me they thought they would hate my story based on the synopsis, but then ended up loving the extract.
- Agents and publishers genuinely want to help new writers succeed.
- Not everyone is going to connect with your work. You need to keep trying until you find someone who does (bearing in mind to act on any advice and criticism that feels true to you along the way).
- Write what you want to write in the way you want to write it rather than trying to fit into a particular box or market.
- Don’t implement changes to fit a particular agent/publisher unless they really fit with what you are trying to do
- The publishing industry is difficult and bleak for debut authors in Australia/ It is a great time to be a debut author in Australia. Still not sure what the take-home message was on this issue.
- Publishers and agents need writers.
- Persistence is key
- Response to your work can be crazy-subjective
- Examples of wide range of feedback I got for Day of the Neandertals:
- The prose– perfectly serviceable/ crisp/ accessible/ great just as it is/ needs polishing/ nothing fancy/ evocative/ needs refining
- The story– seems very plot driven/ seems very character driven/ a page turner/ a wild ride (which in this particular case was euphemistic for ‘WTF did I just read’)/ suspenseful/ needs streamlining
- Worldbuilding– fantastic/ confusing
- Structure– Works well/ confusing/ changes between characters too abrupt
- Exposition– take some out/ put more in
- Characters– use more introspection/ use less introspection
- Genre– YA crossover exists/ YA crossover doesn’t exist/ I think this is adult/ have you tried writing it for an even younger audience?
- Comparisons– Your book comparisons are spot on/ I’m not familiar with any of your book comparisons/ I think it’s like Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things/ I think it’s like Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things/ Hunger Games meets Jurassic Park/ Has anyone ever compared it to Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things?
- Themes– fresh/ topical/ very dark/ suitable for school reading lists/ I think there is too much dystopian fiction about
- Most perplexing feedback– Does it have to be about Neandertals?
As a direct result of contacts made during HARDCOPY 2016 I accepted an offer of representation from Danielle Binks of Jacinta di Mase Management just before Christmas 2016 (still waiting for official paperwork, but I think it’s pretty safe to disclose this now).
2016 was a pretty good year for my writing. Meanwhile disturbing trends in world politics could see an increase in interest in dystopian fiction like Day of the Neandertals (always looking for a bright side) and hopefully a resurgence in punk rock music!
Special thanks to Nigel Featherstone, Mary Cunnane, Sarah Mason, Sophie Mannix, the HARDCOPY selection committees and all the industry professionals and writers who participated.