Sandy Barker: How her dedication and online presence led to a publishing deal

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Courses taken at AWC:
Build Your Author Platform

Sandy Barker’s goal for her novels was always to get a publishing deal. Two self-published novels and years of determination later, her debut novel, One Summer in Santorini, has just been published by HarperCollins.

Sandy had decided to self-publish and was putting the finishing touches on her first book when she enrolled in Australian Writers’ Centre’s Build Your Author Platform course.

I knew that I had to build my online presence to get the book out there, and this AWC course was the perfect way to learn how.

“I was working fulltime, and wrote and edited evenings and weekends. I didn’t yet consider myself an author – at the time, it was a lofty goal – but I was reading voraciously about writing (the craft) and about being an author (the job). AWC was a big part of my learning journey – it still is.

“I’d had an agent in 2015 and although he believed in the book, he was unable to sell it over the course of a year. I was disheartened and put it away. Then, in 2016 my partner and I returned to the Greek Islands where the book was set. After I came home from that trip, I went back to the book, did another (more thorough) editorial pass, and decided to self-publish.”

Sandy says the course “demystified a lot of what it means to build an online presence as an author. I learned to develop and adapt my messaging about my writing and about the book for various purposes and platforms. I also learned how to leverage the blog I’d been writing for years.

At the start of 2018, I had 300 Twitter followers – there are now 3000. I have increased the followers of my blog five-fold, and I now have a Facebook author page. Most importantly, though, I have connected with people all over the world – writers and readers. I have forged genuine friendships and have been privileged to become part of the writing community, including the So You Want to Be a Writer AWC Facebook group.”

By the time Sandy got the exciting news from Avon (an imprint of HarperCollins), she was well on her way as an indie author. “I had a network of supporters and collaborators – including a cover artist, an editor, and beta readers – so I was prepared to publish the third book myself and to continue to grow my audience.”

But Sandy’s goal was always to get a publishing deal and she kept pursuing it. “I queried throughout 2018 – both publishers and agents – and in December I received a ‘no thank you’ that included the words, ‘this book is unpublishable’.

“That was quite the blow… I battled with myself – flipping between optimism and belief in my writing and feeling like a failure whose time was running out.

Then I got the email. The email. It started out with ‘I’m sorry…’ which made my heart plummet, but they were only apologising for taking so long to read my book. The gist was, ‘we love it and want to publish it’. Only a month before I’d been told it was unpublishable. Of course, I was elated. I actually sobbed and laughed at the same time. I am particularly glad no one filmed that.

“Since then, I have secured a fabulous agent – someone who was high on my list and who I persistently bugged until I got her attention… I’ve also worked closely with the marketing team on the cover reveal and pre-sales, and I can honestly say that everything I learned about building my author platform with the AWC has been helpful in this aspect of being an author. I work every day to build my platform, to participate in the writing community and to engage with readers. It’s a fun and fulfilling part of the work.”

Sandy’s recommendation to aspiring authors:
Definitely the Build Your Author Platform course, but honestly, any course where there’s an opportunity to learn more about the craft of writing, and the profession of being an author. The courses and the community built around them by the AWC are a great way to get and stay inspired, and to participate in an incredibly welcoming and supportive community.

“So, thank you.”

Congratulations, Sandy! We’re excited to see more novels from you in the future.


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