Hachette Australia is one of this country’s premier commercial publishers. They are home to such local luminaries as Lian Hearn, Kimberly Freeman, William McInnes, and Barry Humphries, to name just a few. Hachette also publish SF under the Orbit imprint and children’s books under the Lothian Children’s Book imprint. The UK and US divisions of Hachette publish such international giants as Stephanie Meyer, Stephen King, Ian Rankin, Nora Roberts and many others.

But, for all the emerging/aspiring/struggling writers out there, don’t let this intimidate you; Hachette is a big supporter of new Australian writers. They periodically open their doors to unsolicited submissions, and run various emerging writer initiatives, such as Hachette Aspiring Authors, which is currently open, and the QWC manuscript development program. So, if you believe that your manuscript has commercial legs, then check out Hachette.

Speakeasy recently caught up with Bernadette Foley, publisher at Hachette Australia, who offered us a golden insight into Australian commercial publishing. If you’re thinking about submitting a manuscript, or preparing to pitch to a publisher, then you can’t afford to miss what Bernadette has to say.

Bernadette will also be appearing at the upcoming GenreCon.

Speakeasy: Hachette publishes a broad array of fiction and non-fiction titles. Are there any particular genres or type of manuscript you are particularly looking for?

Bernadette Foley (BF): Our list is very commercial so we are looking for works of fiction and non-fiction that will appeal to a wide audience. That is, books that will sell as well in an independent bookstore and Dymocks as in Kmart and Big W. We want to find new voices and interesting stories; we are drawn to originality in the story – be it true or made up – and skill in the writing.

Speakeasy: Other than looking over various Hachette publications, what are some of the best ways that authors can determine whether Hachette is appropriate for them?

BF: As mentioned in the question, the best way to decide if Hachette is right for your work is to see what other books we have published and, equally, determine what areas we don’t publish in so you don’t send us something that won’t fit our list. Please keep in mind though, that we want to bring in new books and ideas to our list rather than duplicating what we are already publishing.

Speakeasy: According to the website, Hachette is currently accepting aspiring author manuscripts. Can you tell us a little about this? Who is it open to and when?

BF: My colleague Vanessa Radnidge answers this question: Knowing how hard it can be for emerging writers to have their work seen by agents and publishers (who do most of their reading in their own time), Hachette Australia decided earlier this year to open up to unsolicited manuscript submissions. At the moment we are only accepting adult fiction and non-fiction. We may close submissions at certain times throughout the year but our website will have the details www.hachette.com.au.

Speakeasy: I gather from the Hachette website that you generally don’t accept blind submissions (other than at specific times)? What are the best ways to get your manuscripts looked at by the Hachette team?

BF: Again from Vanessa: We are currently only open to adult fiction and non-fiction and we look at everything that comes in. The way to give your submission the best chance is to polish your work and make it as perfect as you can. Write a cracking synopsis and read the Hachette manuscript submission guidelines and follow them.

Speakeasy: What things typically turn you off a manuscript?

BF: I feel sad when I start to read a fiction manuscript that contains the germ of a good idea but the writing lets it down. The key is to take your time and revise and rewrite until the manuscript is as good as it possibly can be before sending it to a publisher or agent.

With non-fiction it is important to decide if an idea has general appeal or will only interest people who know the writer. For example, family histories or someone’s travel stories might appeal to their family and friends and that is great; write them as a blog or give copies of the manuscript to people who will enjoy it.

Speakeasy: Conversely, what really hooks you in?

BF: A story or idea that is so original or intriguing that I want to tell others about it straight away. Beautiful writing – that is, writing that is appropriate to its genre and has been crafted and polished so it delights the senses. When I come across good writing in an unpublished manuscript I feel like jumping, and sometimes I do.

Speakeasy: Can you tell us a little about what you think makes a good author pitch/proposal?

BF: Writing a pitch is so hard. Pretend that you are working in a bookshop and a customer asks for your recommendation – what will you tell them in a matter of seconds that will entice them to buy the book? The customer won’t remember all the intricacies of the plot but they will respond well if you tell them how reading the book will make them feel; what they will gain from reading it; is it similar to something they have read before; who else will read it, that is, who is the audience for this book. Also, say why the author was the ideal person to have written that book.

Speakeasy: Are there any exciting upcoming opportunities at Hachette you might like to let our readers know about?

BF: Yes. Each year, with the smart and enthusiastic team at the Queensland Writers Centre, we at Hachette run the Manuscript Development Program. The aims of the program are to help emerging writers find out more about the Australian publishing industry; give them the opportunity to work with industry professionals over several days; create a network with other writers; and for us to find new authors whom we can invite to join the Hachette Australia list.

Speakeasy: As an industry insider, what is your take on the state of the Australian publishing industry right now?

BF: It must be one of the most exciting times to be writing and publishing because none of us can take anything for granted. We can’t rely only on the established patterns of producing, selling and promoting books any more. We are now looking at what is tried and true and working out how to combine it successfully with completely new approaches to our craft and our industry. We need to transform ourselves into the wily fox who will be swift, canny and always looking around the next corner. Love it!

Speakeasy: Is there anything else you might like to mention?

BF: Keep reading as well as writing; this not only supports our industry but also shows ways a variety of ways to approach writing. Be patient and take the time to work and rework your text so it is as good as it can be.  Remember that authors, publishers and booksellers are in this business together. We all want books – in any form – to succeed and we want our local industry to continue to flourish.

Thank you. I will look forward to meeting new writers, readers and old friends over the GenreCon weekend.

Julian Thumm is a freelance editor and writer. He has degrees from The University of Queensland and The University of Adelaide. He has worked with the Australian Journal of Communication, The University of Queensland Press, and Corporate Communication International through The City University of New York. He is currently based in Brisbane.

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