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CAROLYN MARTINEZ: Pitching to a Publisher (Stand out for the right reasons)

By Carolyn Martinez, Director, Hawkeye. Hawkeye is a Brisbane-based traditional publisher. We publish these books and these authors.


I’m often asked, what’s the difference between manuscripts that catch our attention and those that don’t? And then, why do we sign some and not others?

The Holy Grail of Contract Offers…

Authors that stand out initially when submitting:

1. Have most often worked with an editor prior to submitting to us

2. Understand their book’s themes and audience, and the business of being an author

3. Have read our submission guidelines and submitted correctly

4. List awards or competition wins for the manuscript, or themselves

Amateur mistakes that will see your submission culled within the first few pages are:

1. Tell not show

2. Poor grammar and spelling

3. Passive phrasing

4. Poor query letter

When a pitch has grabbed our serious attention, these are the tertiary issues in otherwise good submissions that stop us offering on the work:

1. Head-hopping

2. Too many characters

3. Inconsistent tense

4. Too many redundant words slowing the novel’s pace

5. Lack of rising tension that builds upon and builds upon what comes before

6. Cliches—we’re looking for superior writing

Manuscripts we offer on have:

1. A breathtaking start

2. Rising tension that builds, makes sense, and surprises

3. Superior writing

4. Superior character development

5. Superior scene setting—sprinkled amongst action

6. Master-level show not tell

7. Authentic dialogue

8. Chapter ends that enslave us to your story

9. A superior narrative arc

10. An author who enjoys publicity

That’s it in a nutshell. It might seem from the outside that what goes on in publishing houses is such mysterious business.

But it’s not all that surprising when you break it down. If you want us to invest Hawkeye’s money and resources on your book, come to us when you’ve mastered the art of writing. It’s hard work selling books, and the only way that books sell well beyond an author’s own personal network is when readers fall in love with a book, are so moved and changed by the experience of reading, that they rave about it to anyone who’ll listen. And that only happens through masterful writing.


How do you know if you’re a good writer?

If you’re serious about writing, move beyond your own desk. Join a critiquing group that contains other serious writers, go to your genre’s conferences, attend writing festivals, read good books on writing, network, learn how to be a great beta reader for others, and learn the questions to ask your beta readers to guide them on how to be a great beta for you.

Enter competitions! Judging is a subjective process. When we see a writer longlisting, shortlisting or winning competitions—we know they can write and they go to the top of the submissions pile.

Most of all, read books. How can you possibly expect to know what modern audiences devour if you’re not reading?

Let me share with you some of the least impressive author approaches we’ve seen:

1. I’ve written the next epic bestseller. Two publishers have already offered. What email address should I send it to?

2. Plz send your submission requirements. I have a manuscript you need to see.

3. I have a 160K manuscript that all my family and friends say is brilliant and I have to get it published. What do I do next? The world needs to read what I’ve written.

If I can leave you with a tip: breathtaking starts are not background info dumps.

I hope the knowledge I’ve shared in this summary is of benefit to your career. Happy writing!


Hawkeye is a proud member of the Australian Publishers’ Association, has a committed group of professionals including some who volunteer their time for competition judging, submissions reviewing, and proofreading. We partner with Queensland University of Technology, and University of the Sunshine Coast in their creative industries internship programs. We’re a proud sponsor of GenreCon 2022.

We are currently closed for unsolicited submissions because we received 101 entries into the latest Hawkeye Manuscript Prize which closed on 17th December 2021. It takes time to judge and compile feedback for those entrants, and we look seriously at all entrants short-listed for publishing contracts.

Whilst closed for unsolicited submissions, we still consider referrals from agents.

As of the end of 2021, our highest selling books, in order, are:

4. and the Blackwood young adult fantasy series: Welcome to Blackwood and Leaving Blackwood.

Our books with film interest are:

I encourage you to join our mailing list to hear about competitions and new releases. And I thank you for supporting our authors and their books—we are proudly Australian owned and produced. We even print in Australia, fiercely supportive of local businesses.


A huge thank you to Carolyn from Hawkeye Publishing for providing this fantastic post for the All Write blog!


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