Although Sandie Docker always imagined she would be published one day, she knew it required a lot of self-belief and determination. But after studying at the Australian Writers' Centre, Sandie finally found the confidence and passion to keep going until she reached her dream of becoming a women's fiction author. She has now published five books with Penguin, including The Redgum River Retreat, The Wattle Island Book Club, The Banksia Bay Beach Shack, The Cottage At Rosella Cove, and The Kookaburra Creek Cafe.
The road to publication was not always easy. Sandie had written two manuscripts and had sent out a lot of queries, but landing a publishing deal remained elusive.
“I was getting some nearly yeses through the querying process, but wasn't getting over the line,” Sandie says. “And I thought, ‘there must be something missing from either my writing or my approach'. And that's when I decided to do some courses.”
Sandie's first course at the Australian Writers' Centre introduced her to social media, before she moved on to the course Plotting and Planning, and then learning more about the publishing industry. It was this key insider knowledge that was crucial when she started pitching again.
“Having so much knowledge about the industry, and understanding publisher expectations, was definitely massive when I met with Penguin before they decided to sign me,” Sandie says. “There was a level of professionalism I was able to convey that I wouldn't have been able to do without the knowledge I'd picked up on the courses – knowing how to talk about where my stories fitted into the market, being able to discuss my online presence, understanding what Penguin were talking about when they mentioned ‘acquisitions meetings' and other industry specific jargon, and having the confidence to talk about my stories with a publisher and not sounding like a bumbling idiot!”
From that initial two-book deal, Sandie has now published five books with Penguin, and The Kookaburra Creek Cafe has even been translated into German.
Immersed in the writing world
Being an internationally published author is a far cry from her days as a stay-at-home mum and casual swimming teacher. Sandie is still first and foremost a mum, so she fits her writing life around her family.
“My writing tends to fit in around school hours and then some very, very late nights when a deadline is due,” Sandie says. “With five books published with Penguin, and an international book as well out, it is pretty much my full-time job. Which is fantastic. I love being surrounded by the writing world.”
That writing world includes writing articles, doing interviews, appearing on the radio, and going on tours to promote her books. All that while continuing to write! And she is also the founder and director of The Northern Beaches Readers Festival. Phew!
Grit and perseverance
Sandie has finally reached her goal of becoming a published author, but it required a lot of perseverance to get to this point.
“When those rejections keep on coming, in a seemingly endless flood of stomach-kicking horror, it can be very hard to maintain the self-belief that one day your book dream will become a reality. There were times when I really did doubt that I was going to ever get published,” Sandie says. “But that was when I knew I was really a writer – the easy option, in the face of all that rejection, would have been to walk away, pat myself on the back for giving it a red-hot go, and put my pen and paper away. But I couldn't. When I was at my lowest in my rejection journey, I just knew that I couldn't walk away. That no matter how long it took, even if it was never, there was no way I could ever give up writing. Six months after that lowest of low points, I signed my first two-book deal with Penguin.”
That determination helped Sandie to land her first deal, a moment marked by a lot of tears. And then when her first book hit the shelves, she was almost overwhelmed.
“Then came the anticipation of finally holding that baby in your hands and sheer joy when you see it on the shelves,” Sandie says. “Before Kookaburra came out, I took a photo of the cover on my phone and then took my phone into my local bookstore and put it on the shelf next to my women's fiction heroes to see how it looked up there!”
We love hearing about our students' success stories, and we couldn't be more proud of Sandie for achieving her reaching such successful publishing heights.
“I would definitely recommend doing a course through the Australian Writers' Centre to any of my writing friends. That way you'll get the most out of the wonderful tutors that they have, and the expertise that they can lend you. Absolutely, I'd recommend doing a course at the Australian Writers' Centre.” – Sandie Docker