Gabriella Margo sure likes to keep busy. As well as running her own copywriting business, working on her fourth fiction novel, ghostwriting a finance book and writing another business book with a co-author – she also teaches two days a week! Reaching this combination of creative and business writing has been a result of dozens of courses over the years.
“I have always been a big reader, and I thought it might be interesting to learn some new skills. I didn’t really intend to do anything with them, but that’s not how things panned out!” Gabriella told us.
Her romance novel All’s Fair in Love and Tequila has been released by Harlequin/HarperCollins, and her previous manuscript Tulips from Mal was a finalist in the Romance Writers of Australia Emerald Award and is available now independently.
Gabriella originally trained as a primary school teacher before realising her real passion was teaching English as an additional language/dialect to adolescents and adults. Similarly, she started writing books for kids before realising she really wanted to write for adults.
“I was living in London and I wrote a children’s picture book. I tried to pitch it to a heap of publishers, knowing nothing about writing or publishing, but I was a primary teacher at the time and I was always reading picture books in class, which I thought gave me the skills to write one off the bat,” Gabriella says. Faced with rejection for that first manuscript, she put writing on the backburner.
Or at least, that’s what she thought.
“One night, during a dinner conversation, a friend said to me, ‘Hey, you should be a copywriter.’ I smiled and nodded. Full disclosure? I didn’t even know what that meant,” Gabriella says. She quickly researched it and by the end of the night had signed him as a client!
“The more I learned about copywriting and the more courses I did, I realised it was something I had already been doing over the years, and so I started my own copywriting business.”
“Learning about character development was brilliant – and learning how to develop well rounded, interesting characters is vital to any book, in my opinion.”
Gabriella also learnt a lot from Romance Writing and found it gave her permission to write what she really wanted.
“Romance is a very broad genre, and this course explained the way in which romance books differ – from word count, to tropes, to heat level – if you want to learn more about what publishers want, and why some romance books might appeal to you more than others, this course is a great way to explore that,” Gabriella says. “Besides teaching me more about the romance genre, the course also gave me confidence to write what I wanted to write when it came to Tulips from Mal. I think if you focus too much on what publishers and agents want, you may steer away from what you really want to write. Doing this course gave me confidence and motivation to write the storyline I was afraid of writing, but really wanted to write.”
Self-published and traditionally published author
On the advice of another writer friend, Gabriella started entering writing competitions, hoping to get actionable feedback from the judges. She valued every piece of feedback and criticism that she received and ended up being a finalist in three competitions. One of those was with Tulips from Mal for the Emerald Award. After having spent so long writing and refining the manuscript, Gabriella decided to self-publish it.
“I believed in the story, I loved writing the characters, and I loved writing a romance that also dealt with some deeper themes like grief and loss. That said, it has a happily ever after – as is the whole point of romance! It took me a long time to be happy with it, and I think publishing it any earlier would have been a mistake. I look at self publishing as a business in which you need to invest time and money.”
During the self-publishing process, Gabriella took a number of AWC courses, including Pitch Your Novel, Self-publish your Novel on Kindle and Inside Publishing, and she found these skills helped her when she started to pitch the manuscript for All’s Fair in Love and Tequila.
“All the information I learnt at AWC about how and when to pitch to agents and publishers was incredibly useful when the time came. This was something completely unknown to me.”
All’s Fair in Love and Tequila is a light-hearted holiday rom com set on the tropical waters and salty air of Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and is published by Harlequin.
And while Gabriella loves being a published author, copywriter and entrepreneur, she still isn’t ready to give up teaching.
“If I wanted to, I could quit teaching and write full time – but I really love teaching and I don’t want to give it up. I have always been passionate about working with young adults to teach them English and help them navigate relocating to a new country, whether by choice or by circumstance. And if I can do both, I will. I love writing but apart from time spent researching and interviewing, it can be a pretty solitary gig. I love the students and young adults I have worked with over the years. It’s rewarding and I never want to lose that.”
Keeping her career and interests diverse has been crucial to Gabriella’s success, in whatever venture she has taken on – she’s certainly not afraid to take on new challenges and to continue to learn and grow.
“From content writing, to copywriting, to creative writing – I really believe that doing a whole spectrum of courses taught me a variety of skills.”
Course/s taken at AWC: