Have you ever felt that “whoosh” of adrenaline when you recognise someone famous? Your heart flutters, palms sweat and suddenly you feel like you’re levitating… gravitating towards that charismatic creature!

That was me and my fellow cohort at day one of Fiona McIntosh’s National Conference — we saw some of Australia’s publishing best today and…. boy, did we gravitate towards them! I’m not sure who was more nervous — us aspiring writers hoping to impress or the publishers looking for the fire exit doors before they were trampled!

*Read my interview with Fiona McIntosh here!*

All jokes aside, our gracious panel took us through some great topics about writing, pitching and book selling in Australia. I have so much gratitude for being able to secure a spot at this conference that I’d love to share some insights with you too. Strap in and let’s do this!

Key take away: The beginning

Do you know what every single person – publishers, sales, audience etc — reads? That very first line on the very first page! The panel talked about the importance of your first sentence. It MUST take you straight to the heart of your lead character.

So, work and edit that very first line just as much as the pitch and synopsis!

Key take away: Romance for every genre

It was unanimous — every genre needs an element of romance and/or relationships. Panellists said that readers want to see connection between the characters. 

They don’t necessarily mean love and sexy scenes but if you’re going to write a good, sellable story it needs to show a connection between two humans — you want your reader to fall into your character’s world! As Catherine Milne from HarperCollins said ‘Their fate is our fate’.

Key take away: Make readers (including publishers!) care

This is a crucial tip that couldn’t have been stressed enough today! When we are writing we need to make sure we think of our reader… we need to make a reader care through the story we tell! That is, the publisher needs to care enough to commission the book, the bookstore sales team needs to care enough to stock it and ultimately, a reader needs to care enough that they love your book, recommend it and come back for another one.

Elissa Baillie from the sales team at Simon & Schuster made a very valid point. In today’s society, she said, ‘Time is the new currency.’ So getting someone to invest in a book is crucial — the story must be engaging enough that a reader cares to spend their precious time reading it!

Key take away: There is space for debut authors

I have it, my writing friends have it, lots of aspiring writers have it… the fear that there’s no space for a new writer. BUT… it was clear just by the presence of the publishers today that there is room and interest for new writers. Sure, we might be an unknown gamble, but every author was to start with!

The CEO of QBD Books, Nicholas Croydon, was present today and he was very adamant that in bookstores, there is room for new authors. In fact, he mentioned that in his own stores they have very specific initiatives to promote debut authors — just check out the ‘Book of the Month’ on their website!

So, I’m ending today exhausted with my head full of information… but uplifted by the fact that new writers do have a chance… if we make readers care from the first line!

J x

PS Join me — virtually — at Fiona McIntosh’s National Conference all weekend on Instagram

Read a package of great posts created for this conference: