Deborah Benson – author on a mission

Almost a year after my previous post, I am very pleased to introduce Deborah Benson. I met Deborah during a talk she recently gave at Scottsdale Library in Tasmania.

Deborah was inspired to write her first book to tell the terrible tale of David Young, a man she believes was wrongly convicted and executed for the vicious murder of a woman in Daylesford, Victoria in 1864.

Deborah is seeking a posthumous pardon for David Young.

Deborah Benson, with her debut book at Scottsdale Library

Deborah Benson, pictured with her book after her talk at Scottsdale Library

Can you tell me what originally inspired you to write your book, Judicial Murder?
After accidentally coming across the story and getting caught up in the research, I became impassioned to seek justice for David Young. I felt his story needed to be shared and that his side of the story needed to be told.

I attended a Professional Writing Course at Maldon’s Neighbourhood Centre. Our tutor was Josephine Emery – a very experienced and skilled writer. She encouraged me to write Judicial Murder and also edited the book.

Can you describe your writing day? Do you have any rituals, writing processes or methods that help you?
My writing day had no rhyme or reason. My work at the Eaglehawk Motel came first and I fitted the writing in around the demands of the Motel. Having the writing course to attend encouraged me to use my time wisely and to always have something written or ready to be discussed at the class.

My writing area was the front desk of the Motel. This was not ideal as guests and phone calls would interrupt my train of thought and research – through no fault of their own I may add. Extremely difficult circumstances to be creative in and a great deal of patience and determination was required.

How did you go about researching David Young’s story?
My initial research was using newspapers on Trove. This source came up immediately with my search term ‘Margaret Graham murder.’ I conducted further research at the Public Records Office Victoria, seeking out every possible communication related to Young’s trial, incarceration, hanging and the consequences. Police Records were available from The Victoria Police Museum which were essential for the views of the Police involved.

As I wrote, I realised to be authentic to the times I needed to find out about life on the goldfields, what life was like for a constable, Christmas celebrations in the 1860s, what people ate at the time, Christy Minstrels ballads, etc. I read books and used the computer to discover more about events and characters who came up in the case. Everything I found is referenced in the back of the book.

Did you do a detailed outline for your story or did you ‘wing it’?
The story developed as Josie, my writing tutor, said it would. There was no need to write an outline as the research revealed a sequential order of events. I also found that the story began to write itself to a degree. As I wrote, questions would come to me concerning the next step. In a way the writing happened naturally and was not forced or contrived.

How did you decide on your approach to narrating David Young’s story?
Once I realised I was going to write David Young’s story, I knew it would have to be based upon truth. I could not write a fiction story based upon these true events – there would be no point. My aim was to tell David Young’s side of the story. The story had to be real so I created dialogue to enable the reader to connect with David Young. I developed characters who were already in the story and who I had got to know through correspondence from the time.

How have you gone about getting your book into bookstores?
I initially approached my local bookstore and questioned the owner. She suggested the agent we ended up using to distribute books around Victoria and Tasmania. We approached bookstores ourselves. Some accepted the book while others didn’t respond. We are looking for agents in the other states and New Zealand.

I needed to find out about life on the goldfields. What was life like for a constable? What did people eat in the 1860s? How did people celebrate Christmas?

What’s next for you? Do you have any other projects or stories on the horizon?
I do have a children’s book in mind as I was a kinder teacher. My main priority is to follow up with David Young’s exoneration and to share his story as much as possible.

You recently toured Tasmanian libraries and bookshops to promote your book. How did you decide on content for the talks?
I felt the content needed to inform listeners as to how the story came into being, a background on David Young, a brief description as to the murder and damning evidence, what was happening against David Young, including a picture of the police of the time and the justice system.

Chris [Deborah’s partner] reads from the Hanging Scene. He does it so well and it is a nice change from my voice. I wanted my approach to be relaxed as possible as I am not a seasoned speaker so it suited me too to have Chris do the reading!

What helped me to have the confidence to be in front of strangers, talking about my book, was I was happy to be talking about David Young’s story and to be sharing it with interested people, rather than facing strangers who were all staring at me! This small change of attitude really helped to relax me. Chris is also a good critic and we discussed ways to improve my speaking.

Can you tell me something about EagleHawk Press – did you set it up to publish specific titles? Would you like to comment on the experience of running a small publishing house?
Eaglehawk Press was developed to publish and publicise our books. It is a small concern at the moment but we have learnt a great deal from our own experiences. We are looking to open up our services to other writers.

If you could travel back in time to the moment before you published your manuscript, what advice would you give yourself?
Be thorough, be patient. Take advice. Give yourself a reasonable timeline as writing and publishing all takes time.

The 28th of December, 1864 – a most brutal murder was committed in the goldfields town of Daylesford, Victoria.

The victim was a young wife of six weeks, only 17 years old, viciously attacked in her bed. The hunt was on to find the perpetrator. Eventually the constabulary settled on David Young; he was tried, convicted and executed.

But it would appear that everything about that conviction was unsound. How could this happen? Judicial Murder is the true story of those events and the desire to address a dreadful wrong.

Deborah with her partner, Christopher Creek

Deborah with her partner, Christopher Creek. Christopher read an extract from David Young’s Hanging Scene during the talk at Scottsdale Library

Deborah’s book has been nominated in Best True Crime Book and Best Debut Novel categories for the Sisters in Crime Davitt Awards, to be announced in August, 2016. Find out more about the book on the Eaglehawk Press website.

There is also a Facebook page for The Exoneration of David Young. The page contains information about any developments, venues and information regarding Judicial Murder, The Crown vs David Young and David Young’s case.

Deborah is hoping to do more guest speaking at libraries in Victoria, including a talk at Castlemaine Library on August 11th, 2016.

Contact Eaglehawk Press for information regarding Judicial Murder or writing services Deborah and Christopher can help with.

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How do you promote your book? Part 2 of an interview with non-fiction author, Julie Wise

Today, motivational coach Julie Wise explains how she’s been promoting her new book, Dream BIGGER: Reclaiming a Life of Joy and Ease.

Motivational coach and mentor, Julie Wise

The effervescent Julie Wise

Julie, can you tell me why you created a blog as well as a website?
My website is designed to promote my coaching business. It does include a link to my book blog and a button for purchasing my book, but it also provides information on workshops I offer and other products I’ve created. I set up the blog to focus on the book. It’s much more than a blog; it has information on book reviews, events like my book signings, television and radio interviews, links to all the sites I ‘visited’ during my virtual book tour and so on. I post a new blog for that site every Monday and Thursday. I wanted a site that I could update regularly so I could keep people posted on the latest happenings with the book.

On television, your visual image is very important … Your message is almost secondary.

You’ve been travelling and appearing on talk shows on television and radio to promote your book. Did a publicist help you with this media coverage? Has it been a worthwhile experience?
My publicist set up the majority of the media appearances. She is based in the United States and has connections across the country so working with her was a very worthwhile experience. She was able to book a number of television interviews, advise me on what to wear, help me organise media releases and talking points for interviews. Some of the radio interviews I set up myself. The more exposure you have, the more you are seen as an expert in your field and the more likely people are to want your book.

Could you give readers any advice on media appearances?
Be well prepared! For television appearances, you generally have about 3 minutes for an interview (and that includes questions from the interviewer). So you need to know your material, focus on getting your main points across, and be animated at the same time. Being on television is quite a different experience from radio.

On television, your visual image is very important – what you wear (not busy or distracting colours or patterns), your hair and makeup, your mannerisms (how you sit, your gestures or facial expressions). Your message is almost secondary.

On the radio, all people hear is your voice and your message, so it’s important to speak calmly and not rush, focus on getting your points across, and sound friendly and happy.

Always think of the interviewer as your best friend, smile as you speak, and focus your attention directly at him or her (ignoring anything else that’s going on in the studio).

You recently completed a virtual book tour. Can you explain what this is and how you set up the interviews?
The virtual book tour was set up through my social media consultant. It’s a series of blog sites that feature either written interviews or guest blogs and book reviews.

On set dates, I went to specific blog sites, checked for comments under the blog interview or review of my book, and responded to the comments. It’s a way of doing a book “tour” without leaving home! And it provides an author with good internet exposure through the various blog sites.

Tell me about the Dream BIGGER Reinvention Challenge. Why did you decide on a contest?
When I first began working with my Dream BIGGER team (publicist, social media consultant and website designer), we discussed ways to promote the book on a large scale. One of the ideas was to create a 60-day online contest. The Dream BIGGER Reinvention Challenge was the result.

Over a period of 2 months, people could enter their dream and others could go to the pages and vote on the dreams that inspired them most. We wanted this to inspire the general public to dream bigger with their lives and consider new possibilities, especially during the challenges of recession.

It was a great success with nearly 900 visits and over 2700 page views from 20 different countries in just 60 days. The grand prize winner is currently receiving coaching, publicity and social media support on making her dream a reality.

I never could have envisioned all that’s occurred in the past year as a result of this book … So take a deep breath, and let the ride begin!

Which online communities could you recommend for writers to promote themselves and their books?
I’ve found that many of the social media sites are excellent sources for marketing and networking. LinkedIn has a Books and Writers Group, for example. I also use Twitter and Facebook for general marketing. Authorsden, Goodreads, Stumbleupon are a few that come to mind. BookCrossing is a wonderful way to send your book out into the world and watch as it travels. Amazon has a new page for authors to promote themselves, plus you can create a list that includes your book through Listmania. It’s also very beneficial to ask reviewers to post their reviews on Amazon.

Did you develop special workshops to introduce people to you and your book?
Yes, and that’s part of the focus for the coming year – giving workshops, talks, developing a teleseminar and podcasts … There are always more ways to generate interest and create a greater following.

Is there anything you would do differently with your next book in terms of promotions?
I think I’d recognise that it’s a more involved and intense process than I’d originally hoped! I’d try to be more relaxed and accepting of the time involved and take more time to truly appreciate and celebrate each milestone rather than be focused on what remains to be done.

I would definitely hire a support team again. It’s more effective and efficient (and sane!) than trying to do it alone. The great advantage to a second book is that you can build on the connections you’ve already made the first time around.

Would you say you’ve made a conscious effort to develop your brand? Or is this something that’s evolved?
I tried to develop it consciously, but I think it’s been evolving as well. It’s important to be open to the way you, your book, and your life are shifting and changing and work with the flow rather than against it.

What next? Do you have plans for other writing projects?
I did start back into writing the book on Ireland that I was working on when Dream BIGGER came along. But a few weeks ago, I became bored with that story, so it’s on hold for now. I think my focus for the next six months is on developing some other products. I believe there is another book gestating at the moment, but it hasn’t revealed itself to me yet.

If you could travel back in time to the moment before you started your publishing project, what advice would you give yourself?
Dream bigger, Julie! You see, I had a different ‘plan’ for my life and my writing, and what happened with this book is a perfect example of what the book is all about. I never could have envisioned all that’s occurred in the past year as a result of this book. There’s often a bigger plan for our lives than we can possibly imagine. So take a deep breath, and let the ride begin!

Where can people buy the book?
Dream BIGGER is available online through Amazon. In the United States, it’s also available online through Borders and Barnes and Noble. In Canada, online through Chapters.

Julie, thank you for sharing your story!

About the book

When life’s challenges get you down, and you feel like giving up on your heartfelt desires, it’s not time to quit. It’s time to dream even bigger! Dream BIGGER: Reclaiming a Life of Joy and Ease is filled with inspiring true stories, simple tools and exercises, and plenty of motivation. Learn how to re-chart your course and bring more joy and ease into your life as you pursue your dreams.

About Julie

Julie Wise is a motivational coach and mentor who helps people navigate change in their lives and achieve their dreams. She encourages people around the world to look beyond their current circumstances and envision a brighter future. Julie currently lives in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. When she’s not coaching clients, she can be found dancing flamenco or exploring a windswept beach somewhere …

Weblinks
Julie’s website:
http://www.juliewiseconsulting.com/

Julie’s blog:
http://www.wise1coaching.wordpress.com/

The ‘Dream BIGGER’ contest:
http://www.dreambiggercontest.com/

How did you get published? Interview with non-fiction author, Julie Wise

Today, I’m talking to motivational coach, mentor and now non-fiction author, Julie Wise. Julie recently published her book, Dream BIGGER: Reclaiming a Life of Joy and Ease through iUniverse.com.

Dream Bigger, by Julie Wise

The cover for Julie's new book

Julie, why did you decide to write this book? How does it slot in with your work as a motivational coach and mentor?
Actually, Cathryn, I didn’t decide to write the book. The book itself made the decision! I was busy writing another book (about my three-month journey through Ireland) when the idea for this book came to me and wouldn’t let go. It showed me the title, gave me the outline and insisted on being written. So I set aside the time, and the content revealed itself, section by section.

The message is perfectly suited to the work I do as a coach because I help people navigate change in their lives and achieve their dreams. In the book, I write about what to do when the plan you had for your life falls apart and you’re faced with unexpected change. I also provide tips and tools for identifying your life dream and making it a reality.

How long did the process take, from planning, research and writing to holding a freshly-printed copy in your hands?
It was exactly nine months from inception to ‘birth’, just like having a baby! The writing came first, followed by a month of doing interviews with people I call Dreammakers in the book (inspiring people whose dreams took on a life of their own and had a community or global impact), and then the editing, cover design, final proofing and printing.

Tell me about your writing process. What obstacles did you encounter and how did you solve them?
Once I had the outline, I spent time filling in ideas for the content in each section. I knew I wanted simple exercises plus real life examples. I committed to writing at least 1000 words a day. I wrote 2–4 hours a day nearly every day for three months and the first draft was complete. There were days when I didn’t want to write, or didn’t feel inspired, but I sat down at my laptop anyway, and the words would come.

I also kept a writer’s journal – a file on my computer where I’d make short entries each day before I began to write. I’d put down ideas for that day’s writing, or mention that I felt tired and uninspired. It helped to be able to reread previous entries and realise that even on slow days, I was able to write 1000 words and feel energised by the end.

When I finished writing the first draft, I realised it was shorter than I wanted, so I needed to find something else to fill the space. That’s when I decided to interview the Dreammakers. I sent an email to six people whose stories I found inspiring (I didn’t know any of them personally), and asked for an interview. Even though they are all very busy people, they said ‘yes’ right away. I think their stories add a great deal to the book.

Why did you decide to publish with iUniverse.com? Did you approach any traditional publishers?
I didn’t approach any traditional publishers with this book because I wanted to get the book published and in readers’ hands as quickly as possible. With traditional publishing, there can be quite a time lapse. I published with iUniverse on a referral from a colleague who had previously published with them.

Did you get any assistance from an editor, proofreader or other book publishing professional?
After doing a thorough editing of the draft myself, and formatting it according to the required standards set by my publisher, I submitted it to an iUniverse editor for further editing. I did the final proofreading myself. I’m a professional translator, so I have a good grasp of language, punctuation and grammar.

How did you work out pricing for the paperback and Kindle versions of the book?
The prices for paperback, hardcover and Kindle were set by the publisher.

Tell me about your book promotion. You seem to have devoted a huge amount of time and energy to promoting Dream BIGGER: Reclaiming a Life of Joy and Ease. Did you make the book your number one priority?
Dream BIGGER became a full-time job for about a year, from writing to printing and marketing. I set aside three months last fall to focus solely on promotion. I hired a publicist for television, radio and print media promotion and a social media consultant to handle internet marketing. It was a very busy and demanding time, but I felt it was essential to getting the book out there and known.

Did you sit down and plan your promotional tactics? How did you decide what to do and what not to do?
My publisher required that I create a marketing plan. I was given a template to work with, but I developed my own and tailored it to my own needs and objectives. When I began to work with the publicist, we discussed a three-month plan based on my long-term vision for the book.

I’ll be posting the second part of Julie’s interview in a few days. In it, Julie explains how she’s been promoting her book.

Click here to visit Julie’s website, and here for her blog.

How do you promote your book? Part 2 of an interview with Andee Jones

Andee Jones' book, Kissing Frogs

Andee's book, Kissing Frogs

Today, non-fiction author Andee Jones explains how she promotes her work. She also talks about life as a writer.

What’s happened in the past with publicity and promotions for your book? Have you had assistance from your publishers or have you organised everything?
I’ve done the lion’s share of publicity work. Publishers are up to their necks getting new books out, and they don’t have the time required to properly market a book by lesser known authors.

I’ve had the luxury of being able to spend eight months pitching for gigs, and it’s paid off — 25 to date.

Tell me about your online strategy. Why did you choose to do a blog on MySpace?
The MySpace page is essentially a free webpage to which I can refer media and other interested bods.

What’s worked well and what’s not worked with your book promotions?
What’s worked best for me is to list all possible gigs — radio and TV interviews, print media mentions and reviews, live talks, festival appearances and live readings.

I write a targeted letter to each media person, get their name right, thank them for their entertaining program, include a hook/idea that fits their program focus, and do a follow-up call after a week or so.

The scattergun approach of generic media release mail-outs resulted in fewer than 1 in 100 successes.

Do you plan on trying any other promotions?
I’ll try anything that’s promising. Unfortunately, like it or not, promoting one’s book is media-tart-land. I try to keep a watch on any media stuff that’s connected to the ideas in my book — tenuous or otherwise.

How do you structure the days that you write? Do you have any methods to keep you motivated?
As an older writer, I have the luxury of not having to do anything full-time, and I have no structure to speak of. Perhaps it’s an infantile reaction against my academic training.

I go by the principle ‘start and continue’. I start anywhere that has energy, and the writing grows organically. I keep soliciting reader feedback, just so I don’t go off into la-la land, as happened with my first book, which never was and never will be published.

If I’m stuck, I do something else for a while. For example, the book I’m currently writing is half-way there, but I needed a break. So I started thinking about cover designs, blurbs, etc. That interval has given me the motivation to press on.

How has your background shaped your writing?
For 50 years (school+ academia), it mostly got in the way. However, once I found my voice, my background has become the biggest shaping factor.

As a working class girl, I soaked up the double-whammy socio-political message that I had nothing worth saying. Now at least (as the saying goes) ‘I’ve got nothing to say, and I’m saying it!’

What is it that differentiates you from other writers? What is your ‘author brand’?
As a psychologist and writer, I like looking at things from both sides of the couch. This is my niche.

I’m also a seasoned client of therapy, and the book I’m working on now is called Barking Mad: Too much therapy is never enough. It’s a memoir about trying to get a grip, losing it, trying, losing … and so on throughout forty years of therapy, a dozen therapists, and a ton of trouble.

If you could travel back in time to the moment before you sent off your first manuscript, what advice would you give yourself?
Feel the fear and do it anyway, that is, before you send the m/s to publishers, ask a bunch of articulate readers what they think of it. Would they want to read it? If not, why not?

Nothing more useful than constructively critical feedback from people who know what they’re talking about … as long as you retain the casting vote.

Kissing Frogs — the back cover in brief

Kissing Frogs is a tragi-comic memoir of four years of dating and relating by a psychologist who at fifty-something went looking for love.

AMI4U? Contemplating internet dating? Fantasising about what you’d find? Fretting about kissing frogs?

Entertaining and earthy, Kissing Frogs brings a light touch to some pressing questions about love.

What the critics say about Kissing Frogs

AMUSING, WRY, BEAUTIFULLY written, and thoroughly engaging from the get-go, Kissing Frogs is frank, disarming and heartfelt, dizzying at times, with elements of a good thriller … Oh and a lot of fun — Psychotherapy in Australia, May 2010

A GREAT READ — lively combination of entertaining descriptions and thoughtful insights ― Social Commentator, Hugh Mackay

FASCINATING, AWESOMELY HONEST account ― Richard Stubbs, ABC Radio 774

I LOVE IT! intensely personal style, dry and self deprecatory, earthy and immediate, very beguiling ― Psychiatrist & bestselling author, Julian Short

Andee’s bio
Andee Jones is a Melbourne-based psychologist, author and former academic. Kissing Frogs is her first memoir.

AFI-award winner Annie Byron’s one-woman show based on the book will premiere in 2011. Andee is currently working on a second memoir, Barking Mad: Too much therapy is never enough.

Weblinks:
Click here to visit Andee’s blog.

Kissing Frogs on the Finch Publishing catalogue.

About Finch Publishing.

How did you get published? Interview with Kissing Frogs author, Andee Jones

Author Andee Jones

Author, Andee Jones

Today, I’m talking to Andee Jones. Andee is a psychologist, author and former academic based in Melbourne. Andee’s first memoir, Kissing Frogs, is published by Finch Publishing.

Andee’s stories have been published and awarded, and her articles have been published in academic and professional journals in psychology, health, and education.

Andee, can you tell me how you first came to be published?

I was working in the publish-or-perish world of academia, so getting published was part of the corporate-university power game. Submit paper; wait 6-12 months to receive anonymous scathing criticisms including ‘hasn’t cited Smith’; rewrite (citing Smith); resubmit; wait 6-12 months, and so on, ad nauseum.

Fortunately, with the help of some terrific creative writing teachers, I trained myself out of the turgid academic style, started writing more accessible stuff for popular magazines, and then fell into writing memoir.

Did you have a deliberate strategy to develop your writing career?
Not at the start. Fifty years of schooling and academic training told me I couldn’t write creatively. But the more I learnt about creative writing, the more I practiced it and the more I enjoyed it — so liberating compared to the academic straitjacket.

Once published, I started thinking about how to keep going. Unfortunately, it includes promoting and marketing, which isn’t as interesting as writing.

I write in my ordinary speaking voice … I want the writing to sound natural and conversational.


Do you ever encounter obstacles in terms of craft when writing for publication? If so, how do you address them?

I write for the story, and then think about whether anyone else would want to read it. Trouble is, the story usually doesn’t fit neatly into a publishing category. But I have no choice; I could never write for ‘the market.’

How do you find switching between different forms of writing, such as stories and non-fiction? Does working in one form help with working in another?
I’m drawn to life writing, and most of my recent work is in this genre, even my fiction.

Your book
Kissing Frogs is based on your internet-dating experiences. Do you have any anecdotes you could share about this?
I like to think I’m getting braver as I get older … though others might call it something else entirely. Perhaps dating at 50-something is what happens when you stop working full-time and start your second adolescence. I was curious about what I’d find. Not that I necessarily wanted to find ‘BigBoy’, ‘MrCharisma’, ‘Guyloveskissingwomen’ and a personal favourite, ‘Justwarm’.

My first date had received 80 responses and dated 30 women in 30 days.

One guy left a voice message apoplectic with rage: ‘Cor’, he said,‘You’re so far up yourself. I’ve never met anyone so far up herself! Cor!’

The next one said ‘I don’t care if your mind is open, are your legs open?’

Next came a guy I’d dated for two years a while back, but he didn’t recognise me.

Then came the blind-date sex party.

I mean, how much more fun could one have in a week?

Where did the idea for Kissing Frogs come from and how did you get it published?
Kissing Frogs is the story of my four-year experience of looking for love online. The idea for the book came out of a breakup toward the end of this stint. ‘Why don’t we write a book about this stuff?’ I said to my ex-date. ‘Sure,’ he said, and promptly got busy dating. So I got writing.

I sent the m/s to 23 publishers, waited 9-12 months, and received 23 versions of, ‘Sorry, it doesn’t fit our list’. My daughter thought the book was a goer and persuaded me to self-publish. Finch responded to an ad I placed in a trade magazine. I sent Finch a copy, and Bob’s your uncle.

How did you go about structuring and organising your material for Kissing Frogs?
With difficulty. An early false start was to construct the memoir in two distinct voices, one of which I then had to rewrite in order to achieve flow and unity.

Now, I write in my ordinary speaking voice. No matter how complex the ideas, I avoid jargon and long words. I want the writing to sound natural and conversational. This is no mean feat for an over-trained academic.

How did you research potential places to submit your manuscript?
The manual The Australian Writers’ Marketplace is invaluable — everything’s in one place.

Did you have to do much rewriting or reworking of material during the editorial process?
All the hard work was done for the self-published version, so when Finch took it on, little editing was needed.

Perhaps dating at 50-something is what happens when you stop working full-time and start your second adolescence. I was curious about what I’d find.

Did you do a book proposal? Was it helpful?
Yes I did, and yes, it was very useful for me to clarify what the book was on about. Sheila Hollingworth’s short course and book A decent proposal were very useful. Similarly, Euan Mitchell’s course and book Self-publishing made simple were invaluable for my self-publishing project.

Do you have an agent?
No, I don’t have a paid agent, but I do have very good friends in the book trade who offer advice very generously.

How did you go about negotiating your contract with your publishers?
With I can’t tell you how much difficulty. From my very limited experience, it seems publishers have it all their way. Unless they’re fighting over a potentially lucrative author, publishers can get away with saying to a lesser known author, ‘Take it or leave it.’

I’ll put up part two of my interview with Andee on Saturday. In it, Andee explains what she does to promote her book.

In the meantime, you may like to checkout a memoir-writing prize being offered by Andee’s publisher, Finch Publishing. The closing date is the 15th of October, 2010.

Self-publishing non-fiction: Part 2 of an interview with author, Natasha Brooks

Today non-fiction author Natasha Brooks talks about the problems she faced with publishing her book. She also explains how she’s promoting Offered and Accepted: A Recruiter’s Guide to Sales.

Offered and Accepted: A Recruiter's Guide to Sales

The cover for Offered and Accepted

Natasha, did you have assistance from any publishing professionals, eg an editor?
I’m lucky to have a friend who used to work as an editor. He reviewed two chapters for me and gave me some very valuable advice. I also paid around $2000 to a Sydney based proofreading company who market themselves as a group of editors, working for corporate clients. Unfortunately, their work – and subsequent customer service – was appalling. They admitted that they provided me with a ‘below standard’ service because I wasn’t a major client. It took me two days to go through the text again and pick up the things they had missed … very annoying!

How will you tackle promoting the book?
My initial promotion has been through industry contacts, LinkedIn and word of mouth. I wanted to gauge reaction and ensure my website worked before embarking on the second stage which is a direct marketing campaign targeting team leaders, managers and business owners in the recruitment industry. I decided to go for direct marketing because my target market receives hundreds of emails a day – quality direct mail stands out.

I absolutely understand what information my target market wants and how they want it … because I have been that target market for 15 years

By default, I also promote the book when I’m working, and I am in the process of increasing my online profile. (I’m attending a course at the Sydney Writer’s Centre to help me do this.) I expect it to be a slow burn process … as people read the book and post reviews, more people are encouraged to buy it and so on.

What promotional tactics have been effective to date? What hasn’t worked?
It’s very early days but I sold just over 50 copies in the first three weeks, through sending emails to contacts and posting details on LinkedIn, and that includes orders from South Africa and the UK. I probably could have sold that amount by holding a launch party but the costs involved didn’t justify the return, and would have left me no budget for any other promotion. The direct mail campaign started this week so I’ll have to come back to you on that one!

At the moment, how can people buy the book?
Directly from my website, with payment through PayPal.

What next? What are your future plans for writing projects?
The first draft of my novel is still marinating in a draw and I’d like to go back to it at some point, albeit alongside my commercial work. I also think there is scope for a follow up to Offered and Accepted that targets recruitment managers, rather than consultants.

What is it that differentiates you from other writers?
I absolutely understand what information my target market wants and how they want it, because I have been that target market for 15 years. So many of the books aimed at recruiters are written by academics or people who spent a couple of years at most working as a recruiter sometime last century. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true! I’m not suggesting those books don’t hold some value, but what differentiates my writing is its absolute relevance.

If you could travel back in time to the moment before you started your publishing project, what advice would you give yourself?
• Expect it to take longer than you think.
• Plan the book before you start writing (but don’t use that as an excuse not to start writing!)
• Choose a different proof-reading company!

About the book
Practical and easy-to-read, Offered and Accepted introduces a simple sales process designed for recruiters. From generating candidates and clients, to negotiating rates and closing offers, it covers every aspect of the recruitment process and provides you with the know-how needed to achieve outstanding results in a competitive market.

Weblinks

Click here for Natasha’s website.

And here for Natasha’s blog.

How did you get published? Interview with non-fiction author, Natasha Brooks

Today, I’m talking to non-fiction author Natasha Brooks. Natasha recently self-published her book, Offered and Accepted: A Recruiter’s Guide to Sales. She has 15 years experience as a recruitment consultant. Currently she works as an independent business consultant and trainer, helping businesses to improve their recruitment results.

Natasha Brooks

Natasha Brooks

Natasha, why did you decide to write this book?
Two years ago, I took a break from the corporate world to pursue a long-held dream of writing a novel. Before I embarked on writing fiction, I thought it would be a good idea to get into a writing routine by writing about something I knew – recruitment. I also thought that it would be a useful way to record everything I’d learnt, so I could refer to it when I was back in the job market!

I’d always thought someone should write a sales book for recruiters, and the more research I did, the more convinced I became of the potential demand. After I’d finished the first draft of my novel, I decided that the only way I’d know if the sales book really could be a success, was to publish it.

How long did it take, from planning to holding a freshly-printed copy in your hands?
Almost a year.  I had the first draft completed in eight weeks and didn’t look at it again until I’d finished the first draft of my novel. When I went returned to it, the rewriting, rewriting and more rewriting took the best part of six months!

My typical reader is a multi-tasker, with a busy job and a short attention span. The book needed to be organized to reflect the logical stages of the /recruitment process, and the text had to be tight. My first draft was 80,000 words and the final version is 50,000.  The book says much more to the reader without those extra 30,000 words!

The final four months were spent designing, proof-reading, finding a printer and the actual production.

Tell me about your writing process.
I ‘mapped out’ the book in sections: chapters; order; essential subjects; sub-topics; additional info and so on. I then – literally – wrote down everything I knew about each topic and tried not to obsess about whether it should be in the book or not. Only then did I start to knock it into shape.

I found it incredibly difficult to decide on the format of the book, and what its ‘voice’ should be. I was overwhelmed at the sheer scale of the task in front of me, so I tried different styles with different chapters and I asked industry contacts what they thought worked. When I found the right style, I had to go back over all the other chapters and bring them into line.

At that point I totally understood why a book like this hadn’t previously been written … those of us that have the subject expertise and experience, rarely have the patience!

Why did you decide to self-publish?

Traditional publishers knocked me back! In fairness to them, I can understand why. It was the height of the GFC and there were no similar books to compare it to. It would have been a risk for them.

My research also suggested that most companies who publish books on universal business topics such as sales, marketing, HR, management etc. launch books in Australia that have already been tested overseas. My perception (and I may be wrong) is that most non-fiction titles that are written and first published in Australia tend to be Australia-specific such as tax, property or celebrity chefs and sports stars.

I also concluded that I was better placed to promote my book within Australia than a traditional publisher. I know my market and parts of my market know me. Let’s be frank … I shouldn’t be writing a book on sales, if I can’t sell my own book!

How did you present your manuscript to the traditional publishers – the whole manuscript or as a proposal?
I followed their submission guidelines to the letter, and that meant submitting proposals rather than the whole manuscript. I only received one standard response – all the others gave considered comments and additional information about other contacts I could try. That encouraged me a great deal.

Which publishing service did you chose and why?
After speaking with other self-published authors and considering my options, I decided to go with a traditional printer, rather than a publishing service because I didn’t feel confident with the latter. The printers that I chose, BrightPrint Group, invited me to meet with them and that laid the foundations for a productive working relationship.

I work as an independent consultant and the book is aimed at my professional peer group – it is basically an advert for me and self-publishing a quality product is a considerable investment. I found using an established, customer-service oriented printing company provided me with the level of support and confidence I needed.

Now I have been through the process once, I may be more inclined to use publishing services, and indeed will have to if demand increases from overseas.

On Wednesday I’ll post the second part of Natasha’s interview. In it, she explains how she’s promoting her book.

Click here for Natasha’s website.

And here for Natasha’s blog.