AO&R Turns One & speaks to … The Ampersand Project

Two years ago, Hardie Grant Egmont, a publishing house in Australia, launched a competition: The Ampersand Project. This was an opportunity for as yet unpublished writers of Young Adult fiction to submit their stories to the HGE team, for the chance to become a published author.
Now in it’s third year, The Ampersand Project is still going strong; in fact, you could say it’s better than ever! Aussie Owned and Read chats to the lovely ladies behind the project to find out about some of the highs and lows of this opportunity. 

1. Tell us what’s new with the Ampersand Project in 2014.
We’re about to launch the Ampersand Project for 2014 and submissions will be open from February 1 to 28.
We’re still on the lookout for authors with fresh voices in young adult fiction to work alongside the HGE editorial team – authors and publishers joining together to create and publish great books.
To be honest, what’s really new about Ampersand this year isn’t clear just yet. It’s all wrapped up in the brilliantly original new submissions that will arrive in our inbox from Feb 1.

2. We’d love to hear the success stories! Tell us the good news.
Melissa Keil, our debut Ampersand author continues to be a complete star. Life in Outer Space was launched to an enormous crowd at the Little Bookroom Degraves Street store almost a year ago now. LiOS has had some fantastic reviews on Goodreads, as well as a number of literary websites, and was shortlisted for the Inside a Dog Gold Inky award. We’ve sold international rights to publishers in the US and Germany and Melissa appeared at both the Emerging Writers Festival and Melbourne Writers Festival. Not only this, but she’s working on an extremely exciting new manuscript too.
In 2013, we were pleased as punch to sign up Sydney writer Erin Gough, whose manuscript, Flywheel (working title) is a sharp-witted, but also deeply charming, girl-meets-girl story.

The lovely Ampersand Project team

The lovely Ampersand Project team

3. In 2014, what do you think is going to be big in the YA/NA markets?
Oh, don’t we wish we could read future trends in our coffee grounds?
While we’re quite sure there’ll continue to be waves of great (John Green/Rainbow Rowell-esque) contemporary YA, we would also love to see some titles where elements of one genre intrude creatively in another (like genre mash-ups).
You never really know what you want until you see it. Then, when you do, you get tingles up and down your spine and you just have to have it. We’re happy to be surprised.

4. What separates an average read from a good one, for you?
That’s a tough one, it often comes down to whether or not a manuscript has that je ne sais quoi. However, we find that the manuscripts that aren’t ready to be taken into development often fell into one of two camps:

  1. The ones that read really well on a line-by-line basis but were let down by weak plotting or lack of a hook.
  2. Those that hooked us in by their pitch (and maybe synopsis) but required more work on characterisation and expression.

5. Finally, what is your all-time favourite Australian read and why?
Beth – The Mint Lawn by Gillian Mears is one of my all-time favourites. I read it as a teenager and it had a huge impact on me. It’s a beautifully crafted novel with incredible imagery, utterly convincing characters and a claustrophobic setting that you can’t wait for the protagonist to escape.

Kate – After January by Nick Earls, because of the quiet way it’s written. The voice is so clear and beautiful – and hilariously funny as well. Every character is so real they could be friends, or neighbours (or Christian plumbers) that I have known myself.

Karri – I know it’s a cheesy answer, but I have a pretty big soft spot for Life in Outer Space. I was the first one to read it from the Ampersand pile and thinking about the ending still gives me a major case of the warm fuzzies.

Do you have a Young Adult fiction novel that would be perfect for the Ampersand team? Make sure you visit their website and keep your eyes focused on their twitter account for updates on February 1. 

BUT WAIT! Do you like prizes?
To celebrate our first birthday, Aussie Owned and Read hosted a blog hop on Australia Day (check out the posts on our linky list here!). We also held a huge giveaway with a heap of great prizes that ends this week, so make sure you hop on over and enter today.
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Lauren (3)

Lauren K. McKellar is an author, editor, and expert interpretive dancer. Her second novel, The Problem With Crazy, is out February 13. Find out more here, or say hi to her on Facebook or twitter.


  1. Sounds good. 🙂 It’s a shame my ready MS is not YA, but I’ll follow this competition definitely. Never heard of it before, but it sounds fun.



  2. Thanks Lauren for the interesting post and sharing info about The Ampersand Project. I had never heard of it. There’s so many opportunities out there that we writers do not know about, and posts like this are helping us find our way 🙂



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