Byron Writers Festival offers a range of information to support writers. On this page, you can find information about pitching, publishing, literary agents and contracts. Writers can also find an up-to-date list of writing competitions and opportunities on our website.
This section provides a list of key elements to be included in a pitch or query letter to a publisher, literary agent or award, key elements of a synopsis, and what to include in an author biography.
Pitch or query letter:
Title and length of the work
The hook or tagline: One sentence that gives an overview of your book and piques the publisher’s interest.
The mini-synopsis: outlining the main characters, their motivations and narrative arc, including the resolution.
The writer biography: Keep it simple, stick to facts. This can be a simple one sentence statement of who you are. You may want to include a sentence explaining your connection to the subject matter. Why are you the right person to tell this story?
Name and contact details including your webpage URL if applicable
Prizes and awards
Previous publications – titles and publishers
Employment & qualifications
Writing courses undertaken
Relevant volunteer work
Work and life experiences that have helped with your writing or are specific to the piece you are submitting
Social media presence
You may choose to include some information about your current project (even if it is unpublished)
Australian trade publishers are always on the look-out for great works to publish. They acquire works through literary agents, unpublished manuscript awards, and sometimes, via unsolicited submissions. Many Australian publishers accept unsolicited submissions on one regular day of the week or month, as below:
Before submitting your finished manuscript for consideration, it is important to know your prospective publisher. Explore their catalogue of recent publications and make sure your work fits. Check and follow the publisher’s submission guidelines. Check the Pitching section to learn how to write a query letter to accompany your manuscript.
A traditional publisher takes control of the editing, proofing, design, printing, distribution, marketing, publicity and sub-licencing of your book.
If you decide to go down the self-publishing route, you’ll need to take control of many of the elements of publishing mentioned above, including marketing, distribution and promotion of the book. There are many self-publishing services that authors can employ to manage the production of the book. The Australian Writer’s Marketplace contains a comprehensive list of self-publishing services that include editing, proofreading, distribution, design and illustration and printing.
As a self-published author, you will need to register your book for an ISBN; you’ll need to select a printer if you are producing a print version, and consider modes of distribution and promotion. Some companies, like Ingram Spark, offer self-publishing packages that include print and e-books, as well as an ISBN number.
The primary role of an agent is to sell your work for publication, and negotiate the terms of your contract with that publisher. An agent charges approx. 15% commission on book sales. An agent’s role includes:
Approaching publishers on your behalf to sell your manuscript for publication
Negotiating fair and favourable terms of a contract
Handling all correspondence regarding contractual matters with the publisher
Negotiating terms for the reproduction of the work in other territories or in other forms, such as in film
Receiving an offer of a publishing contract can be a very exciting time. Many first-time authors will want to sign as soon as possible, but it’s worth taking some time to understand the edicts of your contract.
Royalty rates: In Australian trade publishing the industry standard royalty is 10% of the Recommended Retail Price. The Australian Society of Authors recommends authors attempt to negotiate a rising royalty rate, e.g. a rise in royalties to 12.5% after a certain number of copies has sold. Well-established authors may be able to negotiate higher rates.
Overseas rights: The territories clause refers to the market in which the publisher is licensed to sell your book. If the publisher requests world rights, they should be able to demonstrate an avenue for the sale of their titles overseas. If unsure, the Australian Society of Authors recommends granting world rights for a certain amount of time only, such as two years, after which rights revert to the author for any territory where the publisher hasn’t secured publication of the work.
Sublicenses: Sublicenses refer to the right to sell the work for reproduction in other forms, and includes film, merchandising and translation rights. These sales are calculated as a percentage split between publisher and author. Literary agent Alex Adsett recommends that the author retain film rights, unless the publisher has a firm film strategy. If the publisher does acquire film rights, Adsett recommends the author receive 80% of any film sale. She also recommends that translation rights should be split 75% to the author and 25% to the publisher, while most other subsidiary rights can be split 50/50, but never less than 50%.
If you are unsure about the terms of your contract, you may want to seek professional advice from a consultant or contract assessor. Alex Adsett is a publishing consultant and literary agent who offers commercial contract advice to authors: http://alexadsett.com.au/ Contract assessments are also offered through the Australian Society of Authors at a subsidised rate.