'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.' - author Jackie French

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Guest Post: Alyssa Brugman - Five Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Began Publishing Novels

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome Alyssa Brugman, author of numerous books including Alex as Well, Girl Next Door, and junior fiction horse books, The Shelby series. Alyssa has some straight-talking advice for writers just starting out on their writing career as she shares the five things she wishes she had known before she began publishing novels.

1. It takes a team to publish your book
You can’t typeset. You can’t. You can’t design a cover. You don’t know when is the best time to release your book. You don’t know what other books are about to come out, but your publisher does. When your editor says a paragraph you spent four hours writing sucks, it probably does. Change it. They are experts. They have trained and have much more experience publishing books then you do. Be graceful and let them do their job.

2. Get to know the person on the front desk, or the work experience kid
Publishing is well populated by women, and women frequently have babies. They go on maternity leave all the time, which means that succession planning in publishing is a big deal. It also means that people lower in the ranks can be promoted relatively rapidly. The person on reception could be the commissioning editor much faster than you might imagine. Of course, we want to be courteous to everyone, because that’s nice manners, but take the time to remember everyone’s name. Talk to them and find out what they’re about. You don’t know where they will end up.

3. You’re probably a midlister
That first one feels like a masterpiece, doesn’t it? You read your own words and you weep. It’s the greatest novel ever written, in your head. Your mum said so, or your hubby, or your BFF. A publisher bought it. Whoop de do. Even if it is truly awesome, you’ll probably sell about 5000 copies. You’re not going to make a million dollars. No one’s going to buy the movie rights. Suck it up and write another one, and another one, and another. By the time you get to the fifth you won’t even be able to look at that first one without blanching. Toil. Get better at doing what you’re doing. Like a golfer, or a marathon runner. It’s a job. Get over yourself.

4. Roll overlike a pooch and bank the cheque
Pick your battles. Or don’t even battle. Agree to anything. If you’re concerned about something that’s happened with your novel, write a five thousand word essay listing your grievances and then delete it. It’s not a big deal. It’s not. A big deal is getting a reputation as a diva. Be easy to work with. Be the one who is polite and prompt and competent. Your manuscript is on the table at the acquisitions meeting with another four or five that are as good, and probably better. Let your professional behaviour give you the edge.

5. Get really good at presenting writing workshops 
There is a very decent living to be made from getting on the road and doing writing workshops. There are writers out there with books that aren’t selling squillions making a very good living from speaking. Be useful to librarians and English teachers. Prepare workshops that are entertaining, flexible and likely to result in the sort of outcomes that can go in a budget analysis. If you can get really good at this you can command quite hefty speakers fees, irrespective of whether your book bombs. Accept all the gigs you can. If you start declining, they’ll stop asking.

Alyssa Brugman has been writing YA fiction for twenty years. She holds a PhD from Canberra University and lives in the Hunter Valley. She has published twelve novels, translated into nine languages, and shortlisted for many literary and children’s choice awards. Her novel Alex as Well (KBR review) is released in the US this month.  Visit Alyssa's website for more information on her books and writing projects.


  1. Such an excellent post. I wish I read this before I began publishing novels...


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