Writing as a business: Part 2 of an interview with Rosanne Dingli

Today Rosanne talks about working with her publisher, the writing community in Western Australia, and how she promotes herself as an author.

Rosanne, why did you choose to publish with BeWrite Books rather than an Australian publisher?
Jacobyte Books, an Australian publisher, published Death in Malta in 2001. When they amalgamated with BeWrite Books in 2005, I was one of the Australian writers that moved to BeWrite. Jacobyte subsequently closed its doors. So it was less a choice of mine than the realities of the world of publishing.

What was it like working with an overseas publisher? Were there any differences compared to working with an Australian publisher?
No difference at all! Jacobyte were based in South Australia, and I am in Perth, so correspondence was always by email and post. It’s the same with BeWrite. There are no real obstacles, and because Neil Marr and his colleagues are so professional and so nice to deal with.

If you read something by Rosanne Dingli, it’s bound to have something markedly European in it!

Will your books be available for sale in Australia?
Yes. BeWrite publishes globally and online. Online bookshops such as Angus & Robertson and Amazon stock my books.

According to Luke, my forthcoming thriller, will be available as a paperback in bricks and mortar shops in Australia.

How did you go about negotiating your contract with your publishers?
Not much negotiation was required. They sent me an identical contract to the one I have for Death in Malta, with which I am quite happy, so I was very happy to sign on the dotted line.

Tell me about the writing and literary community in Western Australia. What kinds of activities and events are organised for writers?
Western Australia has given us such successful writers as Deborah Robertson, Joan London, Tim Winton, Anna Jacobs, Gail Jones, Janet Woods, and many others. Our writing scene is very vibrant and there are many annual and regular events to which writers and readers flock.

We have a Books Festival, many prestigious writing prizes, and a host of writing organizations and clubs: the Katharine Susannah Prichard Foundation, Tom Collins House, which hosts the Fellowship of Australian Writers, Peter Cowan Centre, the Karrinyup Writing Club, and more.

I have given time to all of them, by sitting on committees, editing newsletters, hosting talks and workshops and contributing to periodicals, through the years.

You are a member of many professional groups. How have they been useful for you?
In a number of ways, but that is not how I see them. Although they are useful for networking, I find they are also a place where new writers go for advice and knowledge. And although I don’t call what I say advice, I do like to share my observations about the publishing industry.

Writing … cannot be judged by standing back and tilting your head, as you can with a painting.

What’s happened in the past with publicity and promotions for your books? Have you had assistance from your publishers?
For Death in Malta, my publishers helped financially with the launch expenses, made sure the book was sent out for review, and so on. My part consisted in submitting to interviews and attending the launch, signing copies and so forth.

This time, for According to Luke, BeWrite books is very much in on promotions. Although we have not reached the stage yet, I am doing all I can to raise my visibility so that when the campaign starts, awareness of the book will already exist.

Why did you choose a website and a blog for your online strategy?
Being a writer, hosting a blog is second nature. I have always had a website of some sort — the one you see now is a vehicle for my giveaways, information about my books, various links, and I will attempt to put up some good information for writers soon.

More than just a strategy, it is a very personal choice: I find I can easily maintain a blog and a website with some level of genuine enjoyment. Although it is time consuming, I find I am good at it. I am still not sure about the more direct social media that are available.

I notice you have author pages at a number of online bookstores. Have these been effective?
Yes, even if only to make readers and other authors aware that it is possible to make use of publisher and retailer facilities when they are offered.

In the online environment, people look in one place and purchase at another. They chat in one place and leave comments in another.

Being visibly available in more than one bookshop means your books are widely available, and readers and purchasers are not restricted for choice.

There is another bonus: being on many sites makes a Google search of my name very productive.

Mystery, the church, Europe and a thrilling chase … there is more to look forward to after According to Luke.

You are offering free samples of your work on your website. How well is that working?
I wonder! I have not put a counter on the free pages, which is remiss of me. I have no idea how many times the free stories have been read. But I do get occasional emails to thank me and say something nice about my writing.

Many people have said they are waiting impatiently for According to Luke, based on what they have read of mine.

What else do you plan to try for your online promotions?
I am trying to rationalise things: first, by trying to find any sort of indication that a presence on some online social media does translate to actual sales of books. A bit of research might come in handy and show me what next to try.

Are you a full-time writer? How do you stay motivated?
Yes, but it naturally only makes me part-time income! Apart from writing books I do occasionally write articles and reviews, so most days will find me glued firmly to my computer.

There is no structure to my days — having teenage children sees to that. And I am easily distracted from writing; sometimes even housework seems more attractive.

How has your background shaped your writing?
Probably completely. I come from a highly literate European background and spent most of my youth and childhood with my nose in a book. My schooling was tightly wrapped around the arts, languages and literature.

I grew up in Malta which is steeped in history and churches, and because it’s a tiny island, I was never far from the sea. So these things are difficult to hide if you are a writer. I have never tried; they surface time and again, and have rather become my trademark.

If you read something by Rosanne Dingli, it’s bound to have something that is markedly European in it!

What is it that differentiates you from other writers? What is your ‘author-brand’?
And that brings us to brand! European atmosphere, arty inclusions like music, painting and history of art. The sea … Malta! All my books mention Malta, because it makes a really good location for a mystery, being steeped in such old stories.

I like to write mysteries and thrillers that involve some question about a piece of art. According to Luke is also controversial, and includes an alternative biblical interpretation. My work in progress also concerns mystery, the church, Europe and a thrilling chase, so there is more to look forward to after According to Luke.

If you could travel back in time to the moment before you sent off your first manuscript, what advice would you give yourself?
Don’t do it! But I wonder if writers can help themselves. I have given up more than just three or four times – it is a thankless task, unless you count the sincere praise you occasionally get from readers.

Writing is extremely hard work that cannot be judged by standing back and tilting your head, as you can with a painting. You can never really tell whether your book is going to please your public, it’s a fickle industry that has obstacles even seasoned established writers find to be trying.

Some of it is fun, but it is certainly no picnic. It also involves a very high level of rejection, so if you are not a confident person, it’s not for you. I am more stubborn than confident, that is why I am still doing this after more than 20 years.

Cathryn – I must thank you for this marvellous opportunity! It is great to chat with someone so interested in what I do and what I write.

Rosanne Dingli

Author, Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne’s bio
Rosanne Dingli is a Western Australian writer to whom inspiration means location and experience. Her novel Death in Malta has received critics’ praise, and her prize-winning short fiction is very popular. Three out-of-print collections will be reprinted shortly.

According to Luke, Rosanne’s puzzle thriller, will soon be released by BeWrite Books.

Click here
for Rosanne’s website.
And here for her blog.

Visit the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre.
Fellowship of Australian Writers, Western Australia.

All photos of Rosanne are courtesy of Jill Beaver.

2 thoughts on “Writing as a business: Part 2 of an interview with Rosanne Dingli

  1. Hi Rosanne

    I enjoyed hearing about your publishing journey, esp. with online publishers as I have’t any experience in that area and it does seem the way of the future. Like you, I offer free stuff on my website – the first chapter of each of my books. I had to negotiate with my publisher to allow it but I found, through google stats, that quite a lot of people download these chapters so I figure it’s worth it.

    Thanks again and all the best with your future endeavours.

    Marianne Musgrove

  2. Marianne – I love to exchange views and news with writers. Although we are all very different, what we do is special and quite solitary, so it’s motivating and reassuring to chat about the business, the problems and the inspiration! Thank you for your kind words.

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