At last week’s Writing Race, we were joined by publishing consultant and literary agent Alex Adsett. As a veteran of the publishing and bookselling industries, with eighteen years’ experience working in these areas, Alex unmasked the befuddling world of negotiating contracts, networking, and pitching to publishers. Here is what Alex shared with us…

… on what makes a book “work” …183774_174204682625252_7458117_n

A great narrative, characters that are so real you can imagine them living their lives off the page, and believable world building. For a truly great book, I think you also need to be saying something that hasn’t been said before, either a new spin on an established trope or a completely fresh take. That’s a tough ask. 

… on negotiating contracts…

  1. I have SO much advice for authors (first timers or otherwise) on contracts that I can and do speak for three hours on the topic. So, first bit of advice – come along to one of my contract and copyright seminars next time you see one.
  2. If they are not a well known publisher, do your research to make sure they are worth signing with.
  3. Read every word of the contract – sometimes it is as important as what is not included as what is.
  4. Get advice. If not commercial advice from me as a consultant, then the Australian Society of Authors has great legal advice or get a lawyer. 
  5. It is never ever ever too early in your writing career to expect a fair and decent contract and to be able to negotiate it if it is unreasonable. Sometimes it is worth signing a bad contract if you are getting something out of it, but you need to KNOW what the something is. 
  6. MAKE SURE THERE IS AN ESCAPE CLAUSE. You might be signing a good contract or a terrible contract, but if things go badly with the publisher, you need a way to get the rights back in your manuscript. I recommend a fixed term (5 – 10 years) and/or a reversion clause that allows you to ask for the rights back if the work has not sold more than 100 copies/12 months. 

… on generating exposure…

I firmly do not believe you need to move to Melbourne or Sydney to be noticed. More than anything, what will get you noticed is great writing. Absolutely network at events as they come up (QWC hosts some great networking events like Books In Our Backyard and the end of year party), but also attend book launches (Avid Reader and Riverbend in particular have a huge event schedule – the envy of most bookshops down south), join a writing group and pay attention to what is happening on bestseller lists. 

Depending on what type of thing you write, I would highly recommend you enter competitions with your writing, and see if you can build a name for yourself that way. The writing scene in Brisbane is widely regarded as one of the strongest and most collegiate in the country, so there is so much you can do to further your writing career from right here.

But in an absolutely practical sense, to get an idea of what is happening in the rest of the country, get on the mailing list for bookstores in both Sydney and Melbourne to see what events they are running and what their reviewers are raving about. 

This week’s Writing Race will be kicking off at 8:00pm on Wednesday night over on Facebook. Come join us!

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