Established in 2014, HARDCOPY is a national professional development program that helps build the capacities, aptitudes and resources emerging Australian writers need to reach their potential.

By creating an environment that is educative, vigorous and nurturing, HARDCOPY:

  • helps writers develop their manuscripts;
  • increases industry knowledge;
  • facilitates relationships between writers and publishing professionals; and
  • breaks down the barriers of location and geography.

In 2019 the program will focus on nonfiction manuscripts. Watch this video to hear from past participants.

HARDCOPY does not specifically aim to have its participants achieve publication as a direct and immediate result of the program. Rather, HARDCOPY focuses on:

  • manuscript development;
  • education about how the Australian publishing industry works; and
  • building connections and relationships within the industry/writing community.

Any publication outcomes that may occur because of the program – and we’re pleased to say that there have been a number of books published as a result of Hardcopy – are considered an added bonus.

HARDCOPY is underpinned by the principle of pragmatic optimism: being aware of the challenges, but also being positive about the future.

HARDCOPY is a special initiative of the ACT Writers Centre and funded by the Australia Council for the Arts.



Who is HARDCOPY for?

HARDCOPY is open to emerging writers from anywhere in Australia who are serious about their practice and have a manuscript in development.

By emerging we mean writers who are yet to have a book-length nonfiction work published by a recognised publisher (i.e. a publisher that is active, has editorial rigour, and enables distribution including through a website).

By serious we mean writers who are dedicated to the work they do: write regularly and frequently and perhaps are starting to build a list of publications in journals or magazines; seek and build on feedback; are patient and self-reflective; and aim to have the right project published at the right time by the right publisher.

Applicants should have confidence in their manuscript’s direction, and be excited about its ongoing development and how it might one day have a public life.

NOTE: writers who are already represented by a literary agent are ineligible to apply. Applicants must be over 18 years of age.

When you say ‘nonfiction’, what do you mean?

HARDCOPY defines nonfiction as autobiography, biography, memoir, essay collections, histories, literary criticism or analytical prose. Narrative development, polished prose, and context awareness and reflection are some of the hallmarks of nonfiction excellence. As a general rule, how to’ guides, travel guides, self-help, and cook books are ineligible for HARDCOPY 2019. If you are in doubt, please contact us – details below.

Is there a preferred word length?

No, there isn’t a preferred word length, neither is there a minimum or maximum word length, but you should make yourself aware of the industry standards in terms of the type of story you are telling.

HC Digital: online-only access opportunity

This sub-program allows emerging Australian writers to engage in the various classes, presentations and panels via live-streaming. HC digital preferences writers who would not normally be able to access a program like HARDCOPY, for example because of challenges associated with health, and/or income and/or geographic isolation. To this end, HC Digital will preference writers who are Centrelink clients and/or those who would find travelling to the ACT difficult. Please note that you are not required to provide information about your personal circumstances.

NOTE: Should you be selected to participate in Going Public agents/publishers discussion sessions in November, you will be required to travel to Canberra.

What equipment/technology do I need to do HC Digital?

HC Digital will be completed online so you will need access to a computer that has audio capability and a reliable and relatively speedy internet connection – at least 10mbps to allow for a good stream. You can test your speeds here. Most computers purchased in the last 3 years will come with built-in microphones and speakers. We don’t recommend planning to rely on your mobile phone.

What are the advantages of attending HC Digital?

While HC Digital will not have the same level of direct contact, the program will offer:

  • live streams of the 3-day manuscript development masterclass and the 3 days of industry presentations and panels;
  • opportunities to ask questions during sessions;
  • the chance to participate in agent and publishers weekend via video chat; and
  • membership of the closed Facebook group that includes current HARDCOPY participants as well as alumni.

What are the advantages of attending HARDCOPY in person compared to attending online via HC Digital?

HARDCOPY was established in part to break down geographical barriers that are often experienced by emerging writers. Based on the feedback we have received from previous participants, most say that meeting, socialising and making longstanding connections with new writers are some of the main outcomes. So, should you have the means, we encourage you to plan to attend HARDCOPY in person to get the most out of the program.

NOTE: most state and territory arts funding bodies provide travel support to enable artists to attend professional development opportunities. Please contact the arts funding body in your state or territory for more information.

First Nations Australia Writers’ Network Scholarship:

In collaboration with the First Nations Australia Writers’ Network (FNAWN), in 2019 HARDCOPY is providing a scholarship to an emerging First Nations writer – benefits include assistance towards travel and accommodation. This support is for attending the main HARDCOPY program i.e. not HC Digital. Applicants must be members of FNAWN. For more information, please contact chairperson@fnawn.com

HARDCOPY comprises two rounds and three stages. Please note that all sessions are held in the ACT.


Applications selected by a panel of high-profile Australian authors and coordinated by the ACT Writers Centre

‘The Best MS’ –  a three-day manuscript development intensive masterclass with highly regarded professional freelance editor Nadine Davidoff.

Venue: National Library of Australia

Friday 24 May — Sunday 26 May 2019

A program reception will be held at 6pm on Thursday 23 May. All encouraged to attend. 

Manuscript development – (July-August) writers work under their own steam to develop their manuscripts.

During this period the ACT Writers Centre facilitates a small number of digital conversations with established authors via Facebook. HARDCOPY participants may also establish writing groups in their home jurisdiction.

June – August
‘Intro2Industry’ – three days of presentations and panels on all facets of the publishing industry e.g. what a literary agent does, what publishers are looking for, everything you need to know about contracts and copyright, and how books end up in the hands of readers via bookshops.

Venue: National Library of Australia.

Friday 13 September – Sunday 15 September 2019


Applications selected by a panel comprising two highly qualified publishing professionals

‘Going public’ – agents/publishers Q&A panels and confidential one-on-one sessions with Australian agents and publishers so participants can receive industry-level feedback and build professional relationships.

Venue: National Library of Australia.

Saturday 23 November – Sunday 24 November 2019


  • places for Round 1 are capped at 30 participants
  • places for Round 2 are capped at 10 participants
  • only those who participated in Round 1 are eligible to apply for Round 2
  • participants are not compelled to apply for Round 2 i.e. if a participant does not feel ready to get industry-level feedback, they may wish to not apply to be considered for this stage
  • having access to Facebook will enable participants to engage with the closed HARDCOPY page, where current participants and alumni share information and support each other; this will also enable participation in the digital discussions with established authors that are held during the program.
  • IMPORTANT: for equity reasons, all those who are selected to participate in Round 1 must attend the Best MS Masterclass in May and attend Intro2Industry in September i.e. if you are unable to commit to attending both weekends, please decline your offer and make the space available for another writer.

Who is on the Round 1 selection panel?
The Round 1 selection panel will comprise highly regarded Australian authors. We will update this page when the selection panel has been finalised.

Nadine Davidoff – manuscript development masterclass facilitator

Nadine has worked as a senior editor at Random House Australia and as a commissioning editor at Black Inc. She was also fiction editor for The Monthly magazine before starting her own freelance editing business in 2006. Her areas of interest include literary and popular fiction, general non-fiction, biography/memoir, travel narrative and health. Nadine is an honorary fellow at the Writing Centre for Scholars and Researchers at Melbourne University’s School of Graduate Research, a member of the NSW Writers’ Centre, the Writers Victoria, and a member of the Society of Editors. She lives in Melbourne.

Mary Cunnane – program advisor, Going Public facilitator

Mary is a highly regarded former literary agent and has been involved with HARDCOPY as advisor since the program’s inception. Mary has worked in the publishing industry for more than 30 years both in the United States and Australia. For more, please visit http://marycunnane.com/about.html

Nigel Featherstone – program coordinator

Nigel is an Australian writer who has been published widely. His novel Bodies of Men will be published by Hachette Australia in April 2019. His other works include the story collection Joy (2000), his debut novel Remnants (2005), and The Beach Volcano (2014), which is the third in a series of novellas. He wrote the libretto for The Weight of Light, a contemporary song cycle that had its world premier in 2018. He has held residencies at Varuna (Blue Mountains), Bundanoon (Shoalhaven River), and UNSW Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy. Nigel has been the HARDCOPY program coordinator since the program’s inception. He lives on the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales.

Who are the participating agents and publishers?
The ACT Writers Centre is currently in discussion with a range of prominent Australian agents and publishers to be involved in HARDCOPY 2019. Publishers that have been involved in the program in the past include Affirm Press, Allen & Unwin, Black Inc., Blemish Books, Echo Publishing, Editia, Finlay Lloyd, Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Scribe, Text, Transit Lounge, UQP, UWAP, and Xoum. Agents who have participated in HARDCOPY include Jenny Darling, Jacinta Di Mase, Gaby Naher, Benython Oldfield, and Jane Novak, as well as Grace Hefeitz, Benjamin Stevenson and Pippa Masson from Curtis Brown.

Should your application be successful, the cost for Round 1 is $600  (The Best MS Masterclass and Intro2Industry) for current financial members of an Australian state/territory writers centre and $700 for those who are not members of an Australian writers centre. The cost for Round 2 (Going Public agents/publishers discussion weekend) is $300.

There will be a limited number of subsidised spaces available for Centrelink clients.

For HC Digital, should your application be successful, the cost is $300. The cost for HC Digital Round 2 is $100.

NOTE: participants are responsible for all travel and accommodation costs. Should you accept an offer of a place in the program, you may wish to contact your state/territory arts funding body to see what sort of financial assistance may be available.

Okay, it all sounds great – how do I apply?


Prepare a concise and considered expression of interest that includes:

  • a statement on what the book is about and why it needs to be written (1 paragraph);
  • who you are and your credentials for writing the book (1 paragraph); 
  • a statement of work on the project done to date, including research, manuscript development, and related publishing outcomes (for example, articles published in newspapers, journals) (1 paragraph)
  • a chapter-by-chapter outline (1 page maximum)

Expressions of interest that exceed 3 pages will be deemed ineligible.

The application form will ask for:

  • your name
  • your address
  • your main phone number you use
  • your email address
  • your manuscript title
  • if you are applying for HARDCOPY 2019 or HC Digital 2019
  • if you are applying for the First Nations Australia Writers’ Network (FNAWN) Scholarship
  • if you would like to be considered for a subsidised place for HARDCOPY 2019 or HC Digital 2019

You will be required to upload a sample text, being a maximum of 15-20 pages, ideally from the beginning of the manuscript. You are welcome to present your manuscript in whatever way you feel is best, noting that readability is essential. Please note that the industry standard is: Times New Roman, 12 point, 1.5 spaced, with standard margins.

Submissions are to be sent via Submittable.

Please do not send physical applications to the ACT Writers Centre; these will be returned to sender unopened.

Expressions of interest close 4pm Friday 15 March 2019. Extensions of time will not be granted, and applications received after the closing date/time will not be assessed.

Apply now

NOTE: there are no application fees.

Applications will be assessed by the highly qualified panel of published Australian nonfiction authors against the following criteria:

  • clarity of vision – is the core idea exciting and succinctly expressed?
  • originality of idea, voice, structure – how unique?
  • manuscript quality – is there sufficient life and energy in the prose to engage and move a reader?
  • development – how much work has already been done on the manuscript and how much work is yet to be done?
  • publishability – what is the likelihood that the manuscript will find a publisher and readership?

The panel’s decision, which is final, will be announced in late April. The ACT Writers Centre will be unable to provide feedback.

For 2020-2021 an advisory panel will provide HARDCOPY with strategic direction, especially in terms of guiding the new two-year program. The following have confirmed their availability to be on the panel.

ALEXANDRA PAYNE – former publisher, UQP
Alexandra Payne is a freelance publisher and editor, and has been employed in the publishing industry since 1995. She has worked at a number of publishing houses including Penguin and Hardie Grant, and from 2007 to 2018 was the Non-fiction Publisher (Trade) at UQP. She has commissioned books that have won awards such as the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction, the Qld Literary Awards Non-Fiction Book of the Year and the NSW Premier’s Literary Award for History. She has a keen interest in activist publishing and is also undertaking research on the future of the publisher in a post-digital culture.

ELLA BAXTER – novelist, HARDCOPY 2018 alumni
Ella Baxter is a writer and artist living in Melbourne. Her poetry has been featured in The Bowen Street Press and Gargouille Literary Journal. In 2018 Ella’s first novel, New Animal, was accepted into the final round of HARDCOPY 2018. She is represented by Grace Heifetz at Curtis Brown Australia and is currently working on her second book.

LUCY TRELOAR – novelist
Lucy Treloar was born in Malaysia and educated in England, Sweden and Melbourne. She is the author of the novel Salt Creek (2015), which won the Indie Award for Best Debut, the ABIA Matt Richell Award and the Dobbie Award, and was shortlisted for prizes including the Miles Franklin Literary Award and the UK’s Walter Scott Prize. Previously, Lucy won the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize (Pacific Region) and the 2013 Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award. Lucy’s short fiction has been published in Sleepers, Overland, Seizureand Best Australian Stories, and her non-fiction in newspapers and magazines including The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, and Womankind. A graduate of the University of Melbourne and RMIT, Lucy works as a writer and editor and teaches creative writing at RMIT and Writers Victoria. Lucy lives in Melbourne with her husband, four children and two whippets. Her new novel, Wolf Island, is forthcoming from Picador.

MARK BRANDI – novelist, HARDCOPY 2016 alumni
Mark Brandi’s bestselling novel, Wimmera, won the coveted British Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger, and was named Best Debut at the 2018 Australian Indie Book Awards. It was also shortlisted for the Australian Book Industry Awards Literary Fiction Book of the Year, and the Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year. His second novel, The Rip, was published by Hachette Australia in March 2019. It is already receiving critical acclaim. Mark’s shorter work has appeared in The Guardian, The Age, The Big Issue, and in journals both here and overseas. His writing is also sometimes heard on ABC Radio National. Mark graduated with a criminal justice degree and worked extensively in the justice system, before changing direction and deciding to write. Originally from Italy, he grew up in rural Victoria. Mark now lives in Melbourne and is already working on his next work of fiction.

DR SANDRA PHILLIPS – Indigenous scholar
Dr Sandra Phillips is the Coordinator of Indigenous Higher Degree Research at The University of Technology Sydney. She has spent her entire career working towards achieving greater outcomes in Education for Indigenous people. Sandra has worked extensively as an Academic, Editor, Publisher and Writer as well as being the first Aboriginal Women to head up the Aboriginal Studies Press in Canberra.

SHU-LING CHUA – writer, HARDCOPY 2015 alumni
Shu-Ling Chua is a Melbourne-based writer. Her work focuses on culture, femininity and growing up, and has appeared in Feminartsy, Peril Magazine, The Lifted Brow and Meanjin, among others. She is working on an essay collection exploring the intersections between life and art. Shu-Ling is a board member of Peril Magazine and was previously producer of Noted Writers Festival and Voiceworks nonfiction editor. She was shortlisted in the 2018 Woollahra Digital Literary Award, highly commended in the 2017 Feminartsy Memoir Prize and selected for the 2015 HARDCOPY manuscript development program.

MICHELLE SCOTT TUCKER – biographer, HARDCOPY 2015 alumni, director of the Stella Awards
Michelle Scott Tucker is the author of Elizabeth Macarthur: A Life at the Edge of the World – a fascinating biography of the woman who established the Australian wool industry (although her husband received all the credit). In 2018 Michelle was appointed as the Executive Director of The Stella Prize, Australia’s pre-eminent literary prize for women writers. Prior to joining Stella, she had a successful career in business and government. Michelle is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and has completed a Master of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts (English and History). Passionate about Australian women’s history, literature and storytelling, Michelle was also the Vice Chair of the Board of Writers Victoria (2017-2019). Michelle lives with her family and too many pets in the Macedon Ranges, northwest of Melbourne.

Please phone the ACT Writers Centre on 6262 9191 on a Tuesday, Thursday or Friday, or email Nigel Featherstone on hardcopyPD@gmail.com. Please note that Nigel works from 2pm Thursday to 5pm Friday each week and will reply to phone calls and emails during that time.

The ACT Writers Centre is supported by the ACT Government. HARDCOPY is assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.