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Information for Writers

The New Zealand Book Council's Writers Files
Application form for Writers Files
How to get published
Writing courses


The New Zealand Book Council is proud to offer the most comprehensive collection of information about New Zealand writers online through our Writers Files. At the heart of the Writers Files are 150 entries reprinted from the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature (ed. Roger Robinson and Nelson Wattie, 1998). The Book Council augments this resource by adding pages for authors not currently featured in the Companion, and by supplementing Companion entries with new information.

We are continually improving our Writers Files to maintain their breadth, diversity and accuracy. If you are interested in applying for a Writers File, please read the criteria below.

The addition of authors to the Writers Files is at the discretion of the Book Council’s Website Editorial Panel. In order to best manage our limited writing and editing resources, this selection panel considers authors for a new intake once a year, in December, and up to ten new authors are added.

Key dates for 2015 applications

  • Friday 20 November: Applications close
  • Thursday 26 November: Editorial Panel meet to consider applications
  • Monday 7 December: Applicants notified of Panel decision

The minimum criterion for inclusion is that a writer has published at least one book-length publication (print or digital) or, in the case of dramatists and scriptwriters, critically acclaimed performances or productions. Factors that the Panel will consider are:

  • the critical response to published work/s
  • how the author's inclusion in the Writers Files will contribute to the overall diversity of the Writers Files
  • literary profile
  • breadth of readership and/or volume of sales.

Exceptions to this intake process will be made if an author is participating in an event programme managed by the Book Council, such as Words on Wheels, the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards festival, or Writers in Schools. For more information about becoming part of Writers in Schools, click here.

We also require writers who are profiled in our Writers Files to keep us updated (within reason) about new work, reviews or awards that might be relevant to their Writers File.

Download an application form: pdf here - word here.

Individual writer entries

The Book Council endeavours to keep writers' information as up-to-date as possible, particularly new books and awards, and aims to keep new titles and information for schools updated. Images will be added if they are major or nominated works, or at the discretion of the Book Council.

Entries from the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature

We are unable to alter the text of entries from the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature. We will, however, consider publishing updated information for you and pass any suggested alterations on to the editors of the Companion for consideration in their next edition.

Updating your page

In many instances we rely on authors to advise us of any new work or material that is relevant to their Writers file. If you would like the Book Council to consider adding new information to your page please email the Web Editor

Preferred format

Email text as an attachment. In exceptional circumstances we will accept text for scanning, but please contact the Web Editor before sending text in this format. Faxes will not be accepted.

Please provide images in an electronic format if possible. If you are sending a hardcopy photo or cover, please indicate your name on the back of the image. Electronic images should be sent by email in .gif or .jpg format. They should be sent at high resolution (300dpi) if possible, so that we can resize them for the website.

Please send all web content for consideration to reception@bookcouncil.org.nz

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These tips generally apply to those with a book-length manuscript. For contact details of literary magazines which accept poems and short stories, see the Literary Magazines and Online Journals [book media] section.

Everyone’s experiences with publishing are different. There is no magic formula, but these basic guidelines that should help you along the way. Good writing and good luck!

Before approaching a publisher

So, you have a manuscript, or an idea for a book, and you want to know what to do next. The Book Council receives lots of inquiries from people in your position, so we’ve put together a few tips that you might find helpful.

Before you approach a publisher, you usually need to have written at least part of the book you would like to get published.

Most publishers have certain requirements for work that is being submitted. For example, some fiction publishers want to receive a sample chapter and a brief synopsis of the plot, others prefer a full manuscript. Before you send a manuscript, it is a good idea to find out what is required, and find out the name of the person you should send your submission to. You might also want to inquire about how long the publisher will take to look at your manuscript.

Establishing a publishing record

Most publishers, especially publishers of fiction and poetry, will publish a book only after a writer has 'proved themselves' by publishing work in magazines and journals. Another good way to establish yourself is to enter competitions: even if you don’t win, an honourable mention is still good for your writing CV.

You will find a list of literary magazines and journals, and of competitions and awards, on this site.

Preparing your manuscript to send to a publisher

Prepare your submission according to the publisher’s requirements. Details are important, so make sure your work is professionally presented and has been carefully proof read. The manuscript should be double spaced, with generous margins, and printed on one side of the paper only. The pages should be numbered. It is usually best not to bind or staple the manuscript: use a fastening that will allow the publisher to photocopy the manuscript easily if they wish to.

Sending your manuscript to a publisher

Accompany your manuscript with a brief covering letter. The main purpose of this letter is not to 'sell' your manuscript, but simply to touch base with the publisher and provide them with your contact details. You might wish to give a little bit of background about yourself, and a short description of the manuscript. It may be worthwhile mentioning your publishing history. For example, if you have won a short story competition or had short stories published in magazines this will be relevant if you are submitting a novel or short story collection.

Send your manuscript by post or courier. Include a stamped self-addressed envelope for the return of your manuscript.

Contact details of publishers

The reference book New Zealand Books in Print, available in most public libraries, lists all New Zealand publishers and overseas publishers with New Zealand distributors. It gives each publisher’s contact details, and an indication of their areas of specialisation. New Zealand Books in Print also lists all books currently in print in New Zealand, the past winners of New Zealand literary prizes, literary agents, literary trade organisations and other book-related information. A new edition of the book is published each year.

New Zealand Books in Print, published by D.W.Thorpe. Phone Australia (61 3) 9245 7370 or free fax (from New Zealand) 0800 446 232 or email customer.service@thorpe.co.nz or visit the website at www.thorpe.com.au

Another good source of information is the directory of publishers produced by the Book Publishers Association of NZ (BPANZ) PO Box 36 477, Northcote, Auckland.
Many publishers also have websites. These sometimes give information about how to submit work.

Hearing back from publishers

Publishers receive many unsolicited manuscripts: some New Zealand publishers receive a dozen or more unsolicited novel manuscripts each week! It is not surprising then that it can take some time to hear back from a publisher.

Many publishers will send you a brief note when they receive your manuscript – often a pre-printed card – to say they have received the manuscript and to give you an indication of how long it will be before you hear from them. Most publishers will take at least a month or two to look at your manuscript and get back to you, and some will take much longer. If you have heard nothing after two or three months, and have not received an acknowledgement of receiving your manuscript, it may be worth ringing the publisher to make sure the package arrived.

Publishing Consultants, Manuscript Advisers and Literary Agents

There are a number of different groups of people who facilitate the relationship between author and publisher. These include manuscript advisers and assessors, and literary agents.

Manuscript Advisers or Assessors give advice and feedback on your manuscript. Some may be authors themselves, or have experience in the publishing trade. The author usually pays a set fee for their manuscript to be examined by the adviser or assessor.

An organisation called the New Zealand Association of Manuscript Assessors has developed a series of guidelines for people working in this area.

Literary Agents act on the author's behalf to offer a manuscript to publishers. They may also give advice on the manuscript. The usual method of payment is for the agent to receive a percentage of money offered to the author if the manuscript is accepted.

In New Zealand, a list of Literary Agents can be found in New Zealand Books in Print, the details of which are given above under 'contact details of publishers'.
There is also the New Zealand Association of Literary Agents.

Other places to get information - New Zealand Society of Authors

The New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA) offers a number of useful publications about writing and publishing. Some are published by the Society, others are generally available but are offered at discounted rates to members. Most of the publications are available to non-members, but members do get discounted prices.

You can visit the Society's website at www.authors.org.nz

Publications include:

Business of Writing (29 pages): Annotated model standard contract setting out terms NZSA considers reasonable. Members $10, non- members $35. Include $2 postage and packaging.

Publicising Your Book (14 pages) by Joan Rosier- Jones: How to work with your publisher or handle it yourself. Members $5, non-members $10. Include $2 postage and packaging.

Writers & Tax (10 pages) by Kathleen Gallagher. How to be a tax-wise writer. Updated annually. Members $5, non-members $10. Include $2 postage and packaging.

Other titles include Becoming a Writer, So You Want to Write, The Secrets of Ghost writing, Writing and Illustrating for Children, Successful Self-Publishing, and Electronic Publishing.

In addition to their publications, NZSA provide a number of services for writers. Their monthly newsletter, The Author, available at most public libraries, gives details of their activities and the resources they have available for members.

Other places to get information - books and websites

There are many excellent books and on-line resources with advice for authors. The Book Council hopes to list some of these here in the future.

One site to visit is on the Australian Society of Author's website at www.asauthors.org. This includes tips on getting published, along with lots of other advice for authors.

This guide on how to get published was prepared for the Book Council by Kate Camp.

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Level 4, Stephenson & Turner House, 156 Victoria St, Te Aro
Wellington 6011, New Zealand