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Publishable Program with the Queensland Writers Centre in 2023


With the Publishable manuscript development program currently open for submissions, I thought I’d write a post about my experience in the program last year, and encourage others to apply.


Publishable is a manuscript development program for emerging authors, run annually by the QLD Writers Centre. Application details here:




YMMV - this is my experience with a specific project, workshops, mentor, etc, so there are variables which may make your experience of the same program different.


It's also worth noting that my journey with the manuscript I was shortlisted in Publishable with is mixed up with my querying journey, as this is the same manuscript I connected with my wonderful agent Carleen Geisler with in 2023. I’ll try to make clear which parts relate to Publishable and which relate to getting an agent and going on submission to publishers. A takeaway is that it’s completely fine to apply to Publishable at the same time as you are querying agents, so do not self-reject on that count! More on this later.



The project I had


  • speculative horror, 82k - I loved it and felt I'd made it the best it could be with feedback from my critique group, but after querying two novels over 1 1/2 years, it's difficult to be completely confident you're on the right track



The project I got


  • speculative horror, 92k, feeling happy that between the Publishable program and my agent, we'd made the book the best it could be prior to going on submission, by fleshing out descriptions, maximising the impact of every plot thread and character, fine-tuning the pacing and tension, and crafting the perfect pitch (and adding more spiders)






Don't self-reject


What can you apply to Publishable with? Don’t self-reject like I almost did with my speculative horror! I write weird, near-future speculative fiction, and sometimes it can be challenging to tell how genre-friendly awards and mentorship programs are. Publishable considers all genres (excluding works intended for the academic or educational market, self-help, business, and cookery manuscripts). You can apply with a novel, novella, non-fiction book, poetry collection, children’s book, graphic novel, or short story collection.


There is also no requirement to live in Queensland or be a member of the QLD Writers Centre to enter, although you must be Australian (a citizen or permanent resident in Australia, and must currently reside in Australia). I live in Canberra and conducted all meetings and workshops via Zoom, which worked well.


Just a heads up that the application guidelines may have changed so please do check the 2024 guidelines!




Nuts and bolts - the Publishable experience


Applying


While querying my second novel in 2023, I also submitted to mentorships and manuscript development opportunities. In April 2023 I submitted my Publishable application, which includes the first 50 pages, a 400-word synopsis, and a web form with additional questions such as a logline, any content warnings, a short bio, and other details. Although entry requires only the first 50 pages, your manuscript should be complete and within the requested 55-110k word count for novels, as they will request your full if you are longlisted.


I paid the $60 application fee (it's slightly cheaper if you’re a member of the QLD Writers Centre, which I wasn’t at that time).


All applicants (not just those long- or shortlisted) receive a free online workshop. There are various option to pay to receive feedback on your application, and while I’ve never done this when I applied in previous years, I imagine it would be as valuable as I found the insightful reader feedback I received through the program.


Something I love about Publishable is that writers receive something valuable at each stage. By applying, you receive an online development workshop. If you progress to the longlist, you receive a manuscript consultation with reader feedback from QLD Writers Centre staff, as well as online workshops. If you progress to the shortlist, you also receive a mentorship with an industry professional, a QLD Writers Centre membership, pitch practice, and the opportunity to pitch to a matched agent or publisher.


In July 2023, I signed with my agent Carleen Geisler at ArtHouse Literary. I feel privileged to work with Carleen, a fantastic editor and human being, and my agent siblings at #TeamGeisLORE, but querying is another blog post for next time.



Publishable Longlisting


Later in July 2023 I received a phone call from Anne from the QLD Writers Centre letting me know I'd made the longlist for Publishable. I was thrilled, but I let Anne know I had signed with an agent shortly after applying, in case this disqualified me—and happily learnt this was not an issue. In fact, the timing couldn’t have been better, as I was able to combine revisions for Publishable with rounds of agent edits.


All longlisted writers received a manuscript consultation and three fantastic online workshops:

  • manuscript consultation with QLD Writers Centre reader feedback on the submitted first chapters

  • Pitch Perfect with Kate Cuthbert

  • Professional Preparation for Creative Writers with Debra Adelaide

  • Define Your Characters with Ashley Kalagian Blunt


All workshops were online and held in the evenings, with an option to view them later if unable to attend live, so it was easy to work around other commitments.


Publishable requested an updated full manuscript, which I submitted in August.



Publishable Shortlisting


Later in August 2023, I was thrilled to learn I made the shortlist.


Shortlisted writers received:

  • mentorship with a matched industry professional

  • a free year of QLD Writers Centre membership

  • a voucher for use on courses offered by QLD Writers Centre, which I used for the online workshop Narrative Structures with Marija Pericic in September 2023 (which my 3-year-old also sat in on)

  • pitch practice

  • the opportunity to pitch to a matched agent or publisher


1:1 Zoom meetings at this stage of the program were flexible with timing to fit in with everyone's availability, which made it easy to work around other commitments.


My mentorship was with Sophie Overett, author of THE RABBITS. Anne from the QLD Writers Centre introduced us via email, and Sophie and I took it from there.


I adore Sophie Overett’s literary fiction with speculative elements, and I’m in awe of her skill writing place and physicality in vivid, varied ways—my area of weakness, as I tend to write “white room” first drafts, then have to add description in revisions—so it was invaluable to have the opportunity to learn from her.


Via email and a Zoom meeting, Sophie provided feedback on the first chapters, which I worked my way through, as well as career advice. Sophie kindly went above and beyond and offered to look over additional rounds of edits, but I felt happy and confident with our final revision and ready to move forward to the next step. At the same time, I was finishing up edits on the full manuscript with my agent.





Before pitching to an editor, I was given the opportunity to practice pitching via two online meetings with Lori-Jay Ellis, CEO of the QLD Writers Centre. Like many writers, I’m a quiet, soft-spoken introvert, so pitch practice not only improved my skills but also my confidence. Lori-Jay offered valuable feedback on my pitch and delivery, including the tip that while it’s best not to visibly read your pitch off a printout, if you’re pitching online you can sneakily put post-it notes on the sides of your laptop. My laptop is now very colourful.


Finally, I pitched my novel via a Zoom meeting with the kind and knowledgeable Barry Scott, editor at Transit Lounge Publishing. We had a great chat about my project, publishing, author careers, and other books I’ve loved from Transit Lounge (Eugen Bacon’s SERENGOTTI, Sean Rabin’s THE GOOD CAPTAIN, and others). It was also a great opportunity to pick Barry’s brain about the nuts and bolts of publishing and editing, and I was invited to submit, and my agent sent through the novel.


 

Now we’re on sub (on submission to publishers) with the cruise ship horror novel. Whatever happens, I love the final version and I'm happy we made it the best it could be through Publishable and agent edits, and I learnt a great deal and improved my craft.


Publishing moves slowly, and while on sub, I've been taking my mind off waiting by concentrating on what I can control and writing the next book. This one is speculative horror about doppelgangers, set in an underwater hotel.



Moodboard for the current weird, watery WIP



I hope you found this useful. Thank you for taking the time to stop by!



TLDR:

The Publishable program was excellent, and I encourage every emerging Australian writer with a manuscript to apply.





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