Amra Pajalic is the author of The Good
Daughter, a young adult novel published by Text in 2009. She holds a
Diploma of Arts in Professional Writing and Editing from the Melbourne Council
of Education. In the first of what we hope will be a series of articles, Amra
offers aspiring writers advice to help them break into the competitive world of
This article aims to provide you with information on how
to find markets for your writing and how to submit your work for both short
story and novel. My pointers are based on what worked for me, and what I have
gleaned from speaking to professionals in the industry. I hope you’ll find
One of the great benefits of my writing course was
learning how to navigate the publishing world, something these writing courses
excel at. There are drawbacks of course: the emphasis on professional writing
opportunities that are paid only, and the competitive nature of being in a
roomful of aspiring writers who see anyone else’s success as an obstacle to
their own—but that’s another topic for another article.
Finding markets for your writing
There are numerous ways you can find markets for your
- Join a writing centre or writing organisation in your
state. You will receive a monthly newsletter that will list submission
opportunities and guidelines.
- Go on-line and research submission opportunities by Googling
short story competitions or going to websites that list this information.
- Buy books like the Writer’s Marketplace or a
directory listing writing opportunities. There is a downside—the
information will eventually become outdated.
- Enrol in a TAFE or university writing course where
you will be introduced to market opportunities and taught professional
- Submit your work to short story competitions. Once
you are on their mailing list they’ll send you entry forms to future
Researching your market
Before submitting any work you need to take the time to
research the market. This means reading the publication you want to submit to,
understanding what they are looking for, and then, when you have found the right
fit, submitting your work.
If you are submitting a novel, read widely in the genre.
Get a feel for what is presently on the market, what has done well, and where
the untapped niche market exists that you can contribute to.
Read the acknowledgements of novels that match your
manuscript and discover the agents and editors who are responsible for bringing
this work to the market.
Your manuscript needs to contribute to the market, be
something new and unique. You don’t want to market yourself as the next
Stephen King because, after all, there already is one. But you do need a term of
reference to market your book, as a form of shorthand, when submitting to agents
For example, when I submitted my young adult novel The
Good Daughter, I compared it to Melina Marchetta’s Looking for
Ali Brandi and Randa Abdel-Fattah’s Does My Head Look Big in This?
Both of these books are seminal young adult novels. My book The Good Daughter
had the ‘outsider to her culture’ angle similar to Marchetta’s novel;
and a Muslim community perspective reflected in Abdel-Fattah’s novel.
Submitting short stories is a great way to develop your
craft, build up a portfolio and learn how to professionally prepare submissions,
not to mention developing a thick skin that a writer needs, as you learn to live
with the inevitable rejections.
Short story publication opportunities in Australia are
shrinking and short story competitions are the way to gain exposure. There are
numerous competitions sponsored by local councils, universities,
publishing companies, journals, bookshops and writing organisations.
Some of the short story competitions have an entry fee,
some don’t. In some instances you will need to weigh up whether the entry fee
is worthwhile compared to the prize involved.
To maximise your chances, when submitting to short story
competitions, you should read the previous winning entries. These days you might
be able to do this on-online. Some competition organisers sell anthologies with
the winning stories that include the judges’ report. Wherever you can, buy
these anthologies and examine them.
Research the judges: read their work and find out what
their writing style is, and what type of themes they explore in their own
writing. Submit a short story that you feel best matches their personal style to
your chances of winning, or being shortlisted.
In most instances, organisers only inform entrant
winners. Track the date when the winners will be announced so that you know
whether you have won or not. If there is an awards ceremony drop your sour
grapes attitude and attend. You will find out what the judges were looking for
and, hopefully, hear the winning entries. This is all part of the learning
If you wish to submit to a journal, you must read the
journal. You can either subscribe, or read it in a library. Most educational
libraries or the writer’s centre will have copies of the journal. Get a feel
for the type of fiction they publish and submit a story that matches this style.
When you are ready to submit your work, there are
formatting guidelines you need to adhere to. Now is not the time to develop a
gimmick, or format your submission so it stands out. Your aim is to present a
professional submission that will be taken seriously by editors; this gives you
the best chance of being considered.
Basic formatting guidelines are:
- 2.5 cm margins
- 12 point Arial or Times New Roman Font
- double spaced
- indent first line of paragraph or a hard return at
the end of a paragraph
- cover sheet
- use paper clips to hold the story together, or rubber
band for a manuscript
- list title and author name in the header
- page number and number of total pages in the footer
- indicate the beginning of your story by making the
first three words capped
- include a hash at the end of the story to indicate
NOTE: When submitting an entry to a short story
competition DO NOT include your name on your short story. Short story entries
should be anonymous. The organisers track your story through your title and an
entry number allocated in their internal administration system.
If submitting for on-line publications, the above
information applies but also attempt to format your story according to their
formatting. This will make it easier for the publication to publish your work.
Fiction cover sheet:
The basic information listed on your cover sheet should
- word count
- name of author
- copyright to author
- rights you are offering-Australian First Rights for
Australia, World Rights for International markets
- contact details
Always include a cover letter with your work. The cover
letter should have the following information:
- Contact details
- Story information: Supply the following: title, word
count, genre, one-line description
- Novel information- word count, genre, one or two
paragraph pitch describing your novel
- Publication credits: Include your publication
achievements but keep it brief. One or two should suffice. If you have more
than that to choose from select the achievements that best reflect the genre
you are submitting to
- Submission guidelines requirements: If there is
special information that needs to be provided as per the submission
guidelines such as a bio, declaration or SSAE, mention this
The best of luck with your submission.
Here’s what the Canberra Times had to say
about Amra’s debut novel.
‘A funny and challenging debut novel that has
been described as the Bosnian answer to Looking
for Ali Brandi.” “The Good Daughter is a gritty and enjoyable
novel, at times unflinching and dramatic.’