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Article  •  28 December 2023


Debut authors share what surprised them most about the publishing process

The Fresh Voices of 2023 look back on what they found most surprising when publishing their debut novels.

Becoming a published author is a huge milestone and one worthy of celebrating! Behind the shiny book covers, however, there’s a lot of work that goes into the publishing process. And no matter how prepared authors are walking into it, something always surprises them.

To get behind-the-scenes insight, we asked some of our 2023 debuts to share what surprised them most. Read on for a peek into the publishing process!

Compulsion Kate Scott

It shouldn’t have surprised me, but the depth and exactitude of my editors’ queries. ‘Yes, but what did that keyboard look like?’ (Aggressively angular). ‘Is that song technically yacht rock?’ (No, but it’s spiritually yacht rock). ‘Could you see that far through the window of a fast-moving Trans Am?’ (Damnit, I guess not). ‘Would someone say that at 3 am?’ (Absolutely).

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A Man and His Pride Luke Rutledge

How friendly everyone in the industry is! It's not that I thought publishers, editors and agents were unfriendly, but I always had this image in my mind of these faceless and very serious gatekeepers who wouldn’t have the time of day for my writing. The reality is, of course, everyone is so down to earth and passionate about good storytelling. It has also been wonderful dipping my toes in the writing world and discovering how friendly and generous other authors are with their time. From what I’ve experienced so far, everyone is very supportive and wants nothing but success for their fellow writers.

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Lenny Marks Gets Away With Murder Kerryn Mayne

The amount of input I’ve had. I really thought the book would be handed over and then I’d be told things about it – like ‘here’s your cover’ and ‘this is who is reading it on audio’. I have been involved in all these stages and found that surprising, but wonderful.

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The Matchmaker Saman Shad

I was surprised to find that editing was harder than writing the first draft. My editing process was quite intensive and took almost two years.

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Amazing Grace Adams Fran Littlewood

I was surprised by how much of it is about selling - not to consumers, but to the industry: booksellers, bookish influencers on social media, other authors, journalists and internally, across the publishing company itself.

And also how early in the process this all starts. Publishers try to create ‘buzz’ months, a year, longer even, before the book is out. So that by the time the books are actually in the shops, they feel like old news for the industry, which is working so far in advance.

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The Last Love Note Emma Grey

I love the support of the Australian writing community. Authors I’ve admired for years are not only approachable but genuinely supportive – cheering on each other’s success. It’s that concept of 'a rising tide lifts all boats'. 

Something more challenging that I’ve noticed is that there’s always another mountain to climb. Each time you achieve something you were aiming for, you realise it’s just another foothill.

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The Collected Regrets of Clover Mikki Brammer

Like many people, I never realized what goes into publishing a book. Even though you may have been the one to write a book, there are so many hands that shape it along the way. I love that my book has so many people’s fingerprints on its pages, so to speak.

I have infinite respect for all the people who work in the publishing industry and all the work they do juggling so many things at once.

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Pineapple Street Jenny Jackson

How long it feels. You sell the book and you’re just dying to share it with the world, but you kind of just have to be patient and let it build, doing the editing, the copyedits, the jacket, the whole thing.

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Anam: Longlisted for the 2024 Miles Franklin Award André Dao

My partner, and first reader, Catherine McInnis, is an editor. So along with being responsible for sharpening my prose over the last twelve years, she has also forewarned me about the publishing process – so, thanks to her, no surprises.

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The Curse of Saints Kate Dramis

The pace! It’s very speed up, slow down, speed up, and I didn’t expect it to be that way. I’m learning how to navigate it though.

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The Fall Between Darcy Tindale

Once you’ve finished your manuscript – you are far from done!

I’m in awe of the knowledge and wisdom of editors, and the encouragement, enthusiasm and kindness that transformed my novel. I now have a huge appreciation of what goes into a novel before it hits the shelf.

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Ink Blood Sister Scribe Emma Törzs

I think I’ve been shocked by my own luck, to be honest. My agent, editors and publicists are all at the top of their game, and if this book succeeds, it will be in large part due to their hard work.

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The Girls of Summer Katie Bishop

Almost everything has been a total learning curve. I never really thought about how much work by so many different people goes into publishing a book. It’s a collaborative process, and it’s incredible to have so much support behind you after the solitary experience of writing a first draft. 

Beyond the publishing team, bloggers, reviewers and early readers play a huge role in the success of a book, which was something I hadn’t understood before. I really feel like I have a team behind me.

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Our Hideous Progeny C.E. McGill

Probably the number of steps involved, especially in the editing stage! For a couple of years, I worked through editorial feedback from my agent, my agent’s colleagues, my UK editor, my US editor, my editors’ colleagues, a freelance editor, and a copyeditor; I had been under the impression that 'editing' was a one-and-done kind of thing, and given that I’d already edited the book several times myself before I began querying, I didn’t expect to do much more. I’ve come to understand, though, that editing isn’t just about making a Bad thing Good. 

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Eleanor Jones is Not a Murderer Amy Doak

The generosity of the people I’ve worked with so far (and I don’t know why that’s a surprise, but I think more it’s just been so unexpectedly lovely). Everyone is just as invested as you in seeing your book succeed and that is such a wonderful, affirming thing. At every stage, from publisher to editor to proofreader to sensitivity readers — not to mention the publicity and salespeople — there is this incredible feeling of support and kindness, with them all wanting me to triumph as much as I do. It really is a team effort.

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The God of Good Looks Breanne Mc Ivor

I’m not a Luddite, but the social media aspect of publishing is a perennial surprise to me. I had minimal social media presence, and when I first created my author page on Instagram, I had no clue what I was doing. 

I signed up for a course on social media for writers and it blew my mind. I used to think being an influencer was such an easy life, but I now have so much respect for all the work that goes into creating content. 

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I Look Forward to Hearing from You Nick Bhasin

I was surprised and overwhelmed by how closely and carefully my editor Kalhari Jayaweera worked on my manuscript. Every sentence was poured over and the book was much improved as a result

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On a Bright Hillside in Paradise Annette Higgs

Moments of intensity punctuating periods when nothing happens. The fierce protective ownership I felt for 'my words' as I handed them over to other people.

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The Spider and Her Demons sydney khoo

I'd taken a publishing class during my Masters degree, and I'd worked in a major publishing house prior (albeit in the marketing department), so I thought I had a pretty good idea of how it would go. Different publishers do things differently, though, so I had a few surprises.

For example, I had no idea I would be doing any edits by hand, as that wasn't something done at the publishing house I'd worked at.

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The Secrets of the Huon Wren Claire van Ryn

It has been a wonderful surprise to experience how collaborative the publishing process is. Seeing The Secrets of the Huon Wren through to publication with Penguin Random House has engaged me with so many skilled people who want the same thing as I do: for this novel to succeed. I had no idea how many people were involved!

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But the Girl Jessica Zhan Mei Yu

I was surprised by how gratifying it can be to be read well and understood as a writer, by my editor, my friends and my early readers. This was the best feeling possible. And how much I would love my cover.

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Perfect-ish Jessica Seaborn

The waiting! It’s certainly an exercise in patience.

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