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Eliza Henry-Jones talks the difficulties and joys of publishing a book ahead of her free-to-the-public short course.
Eliza Henry-Jones has signed five books with HarperCollins, released In the Quiet and Ache to strong reviews and has seen her work widely published in journals. Her talent seems to touch those around her; even her rescue dog and cat have a publication to their name. We sat down with Henry-Jones to talk finding a publisher, approaching agents and the excruciating wait, in preparation for her upcoming free-to-the-public short course.
Writers Bloc: Could you tell us about your short course?
Eliza Henry-Jones: The course will be of benefit for people who have just started to dip their toe into the publishing world as well as those looking to make the leap from publishing in journals and anthologies to approaching publishers with novel-length works.
WB: What did your journey to publication look like?
EHJ: I have always loved novel writing. When I finished my Arts degree (with majors in psychology and english), I desperately wanted to study creative writing honours, but didn’t think my work was strong enough. Instead, I followed the psychology route, started working in the Drug and Alcohol sector (which I really loved) and pursued postgraduate qualifications in grief, loss and trauma counselling and social work.
I kept writing in the evenings and on the weekends. I kept submitting pieces, occasionally getting something placed in a short story competition or published in a journal. In 2011, my manuscript was picked up by an agent and I thought, this is it!
Alas, it did not have enough of a “hook” and nobody made an offer. By the time I’d received all the rejections (because being published is mostly a series of nervously checking your emails for months at a time), I’d already finished my next manuscript, In the Quiet.
My agent loved it but prepared me for the possibility that it might not get any more interest than the previous manuscript because it was a quiet sort of story. That was okay – I was already working away on my next one.
In the Quiet received five offers and I signed a three-book deal with HarperCollins Australia and went back to university to finally complete creative writing honours, five years after I finished my degree. Since then, I’ve had two novels published and have also signed an additional two-book deal for works for younger readers.
WB: What was the most rewarding and most challenging part of finding a home for your books?
EHJ: The most rewarding part for me was suddenly feeling like part of a team – having an agent, publisher, editors and all the other wonderful and highly skilled team working with you to get the book out into the world. After writing being such an isolated activity for so long, it was a really lovely feeling.
The most challenging part was not the rejections, but the waiting. Sometimes you’ll be waiting for months and months and it creeps into other parts of your life whether you want it to or not. And the public speaking – public speaking is (still!) very challenging for me. And it’s such a funny thing, really. That something that requires so much time on your own, reflecting and pondering, can lead to so much public speaking.
WB: You’ve recently moved into publishing your first YA novel, P is for Pearl. Was the publishing process different for YA than for adult fiction?
EHJ: The process was very different for me as it was a manuscript I’d written eleven years ago. Mentally, the story felt very fixed, like a memory rather than something I’d made up. It was harder to think about the possibilities compared with more recent manuscripts that still felt very fresh and fluid. P is for Pearl is for young adults, but the editing process has been quite similar and it definitely deals with grief and trauma with the same complexity as my adult fiction novels.
WB: And finally, what advice would you give to someone who is currently preparing their MS to send to publishers?
EHJ: This is very technical advice, but think really carefully about whether to approach the publishers directly or approach literary agencies first. If multiple publishers have passed on a manuscript, agents are much less likely to agree to represent it. Whereas, if agencies pass on a manuscript, you’re still free to approach the publishers yourself. Also, when approaching publishers, be as familiar as possible with their position on multiple submissions, what they publish, their imprints and their staff.
If you’d like to hear more of Eliza’s thoughts on landing a book deal, register to attend her free short course on Wednesday 6 December 8pm AEST. Supported by the Copyright Agency, all you need is an internet connection and a passion for publishing.
Katerina Bryant is a writer based in Adelaide and Writers Bloc's Writing Development Manager. Her work has appeared in the Griffith Review, Kill Your Darlings and The Lifted Brow, amongst others. She tweets at @katerina_bry.
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