Thanks to the South Coast Writers Centre for posting this interview on their blog.
Helen Scheuerer has squeezed a lot into her 20-something years. She is a writer, publisher and the founding editor of Writer’s Edit, an online literary magazine based in Sydney. She is also a novelist and businesswoman who financed her first anthology for Writer’s Edit, Kindling through an online crowd funding campaign. Prior to starting up the magazine, Helen had already completed a Bachelor of Creative Arts, majoring in Creative Writing (Wollongong University), and a Masters of Publishing (The University of Sydney).
Our paths first crossed in 2013 when Helen was starting out with Writer’s Edit and was advertising for contributors. From our first email interaction I could tell that here was a young professional with incredible drive and vision. I finally met her in person in 2014 at the first Kindling anthology launch (anthology number 3 is already in early stages of production this year). I was humbled to discover an unassuming, softly spoken person with a warm smile behind all of this achievement.
The success of Writer’s Edit in its short life has been astounding: currently the website receives tens of thousands of visitors each month. In addition, Writer’s Edit also has over 40,000 Twitter followers and over 4000 Facebook followers.
2015 also saw a presence of Writer’s Edit contributors at the Sydney Writers’ Festival for the first time. Click here for some of their articles from that period.
As if that wasn’t enough good news for one year, Helen was also shortlisted for Express Media’s Outstanding Achievement Award for achievement by a young person in the literary arts. And this year is already shaping up to be another memorable one for this busy entrepreneur. Helen has just signed a contract with Melbourne publisher, Inkerman & Blunt for the publication of her debut novel.
Helen has always maintained her big picture view, sense of humour (!) and gratitude to her supporters along her pathway to success. I applaud her for her unflinching commitment and her passion. Her accomplishments are proof that hard work pays off – and being pleasant to people along the way doesn’t hurt either.
- You mention the gender bias in publishing and the fact that Writer’s Edit supports women writers in your interview with Capital Letters. How important has this been for the success of Writer’s Edit?
When I first started Writer’s Edit, it wasn’t my intention to become a ‘women’s’ publication, the goal was to be a literary magazine for emerging writers, and hopefully a small press. While Writer’s Edit certainly isn’t exclusively a women writers’ magazine, I’ve come to realise that the majority of our contributors and indeed the authors from Kindling are female.
This wasn’t a conscious decision, but rather a result of myself and the other editors simply striving to publish the best writing we possibly could. To my delight, the majority of this writing happened to be from incredibly talented women. I’m very proud of the fact that our community is very female dominated, particularly in light of recent statistics when it comes to inequalities in publishing.
I think it’s our supportive environment and community that has really contributed to the success of Writer’s Edit, and that goes for all writers, regardless of the gender they identify as.
- You have spoken publicly about the importance of belonging to a writing community. Is that the main reason for establishing Writer’s Edit?
Yes, definitely. Writing is often such a solitary venture, and to have a supportive community of people who understand the highs and lows makes the journey all the more bearable, and indeed enjoyable.
Through our community, I have met so many inspiring, talented individuals who are such positive influences in my life, and the lives of other writers. Without these people, this career path would be an incredibly lonely one.
- Taking on another online literary magazine in an already very competitive marketplace is a daunting task. Was it a case of ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’? In hindsight would you do anything differently?
To be honest, I didn’t really think about it at the time. It wasn’t until I’d already set everything in motion that someone pointed out this very valid fact to me. And by then, I didn’t particularly care. I really believed in what we were trying to create, and could see how much potential it had.
Would I do anything differently? I don’t think I would. All the mistakes I made were incredible learning experiences that have made me a better writer, editor and publisher, as well as a more well-rounded person in general. I really believe we learn through experience, and Writer’s Edit has given me so much more knowledge than I could have acquired in a classroom.
- What has been the biggest lesson you have learned since the inception of the magazine?
That’s a great question! I’ve learnt so much in the past two and a half years about writing and editing, so I could go on about lessons learnt all day. But I suppose the biggest lesson would be: don’t be afraid to share your work with the world. People will surprise you with their support, and if you’re hoping to do well in the writing and publishing industry, it’s part of the job description.
- How important is social media presence and being ‘tech savvy’? How difficult is it to keep up with social media and trends?
Personally, I think it’s incredibly important. Nowadays, every author should have a website (even if it’s just a static page with information), and one or two social media profiles that are regularly updated.
It can be challenging fitting in social media management around everything else, but there are so many free online tools that make this so much easier. Having an online presence allows you to reach as many readers as possible, and connect with them on a personal level.
- You have a total of 40,000 online followers at the time of this interview. Did you ever expect Writer’s Edit to get this big so soon?
Haha, I had hoped! I don’t think I really set out with expectations as such, but I did set myself ongoing targets, and so far we’ve been hitting these every month.
Our following is a great source of pride for myself and the rest of the team, and we do everything we can to nurture and grow this continually.
- You are publishing your 3rd and final book in the Kindling anthology this year. A brave step in the world of independent publishing! Do you have any advice for would-be publishers reading this article?
Sure! I’d definitely advise against cutting corners when it comes to things like design and editing. Make sure you get professionals, you want to ensure your product represents your authors and your company well.
In addition, I’d say go for it. There’s nothing like bringing a book to life and out into the world.
- Congratulations on signing with Inkerman & Blunt for the publication of your first novel. I know that it has been a long road getting to this point. How many publishers did you approach and how long has the process taken from when you started pitching the completed manuscript to publishing houses?
Thank you so much! I’m so happy we’ve finally announced it and I can share the news with everyone!
Hmmm… I think I approached about ten publishers initially. I began pitching/submitting in mid-2014 and contrary to what I’d heard about the publishing industry, I got great feedback and quick responses from almost every publishing house. Most asked to see the whole manuscript, which was very encouraging for a first time author.
It was clear there was a fair bit of work to be done on the manuscript though. Donna from Inkerman & Blunt was one of the initial publishers I approached and she took an immediate interest. She was very supportive and responsive throughout the whole process, and we continued to chat over email for the next year or so.
I had interest from a few other publishers, but I really felt that Inkerman & Blunt was the right home for this book, and Donna really understood what I was trying to do. At the time, she had other books already scheduled in and the manuscript still needed work, so that’s why it’s taken until now to lock everything in.
- Do you sometimes miss the time to just write?
I don’t think any writer, whether they’re a published author or an emerging one ever has the time ‘just to write’ (as lovely as that would be).
Being a writer involves so much more than writing now: answering emails, managing social media profiles, making appearances at events, doing interviews and sometimes if you’re lucky, going on tour. And that’s if you’re a published author, which many of us aren’t, and so we fit writing in where we can around jobs and other commitments.
That being said, I mostly miss writing itself when I don’t have a specific project I’m working on. I feel flat, as though I don’t quite have a purpose. At the moment though, I’m loving life as I’ve started a massive new writing project and am waiting to get cracking on more edits with Donna at Inkerman & Blunt.
- What is your vision of the future for Writer’s Edit?
Ohhhh I love this question. I think my main motto in life is ‘Aim Big’, which is what I intend to do with Writer’s Edit.
My vision for Writer’s Edit is to become an established publisher of novels and writers’ reference books. I would love to see our books not only in e-retailer stores, but good old fashioned bricks-and-mortar stores too.
But for now, I can’t wait to get Kindling Volume III out into the world, and see what the rest of 2016 has in store for us!