Life as a writer: Part 2 of an interview with Amber Averay

In the second part of my interview with author Amber Averay, Amber talks about her writing life.

Amber, are you a full-time or part-time writer? How do you organise your writing time?
Through necessity I’m definitely a part-time writer at this stage. I’d like to be able one day to be a professional full-time author, but right now it’s a case of writing when work and family commitments allow.

Someone described me as a … writer of fairy tales for adults …

Unfortunately I don’t have an organised diary when it comes to writing. When the mood takes me, I get on the computer or whip out paper and pen and begin. However I never try to force a chapter out. When I’m motivated I can write up to twenty pages a day; when I’m not, I find it hard to even scratch out a paragraph.

I have found, though, that if I’m enjoying what I’m working on I’m rarely lost for motivation!

How does your own background inform your writing?
I’ve grown up with books; my mother read to me almost from being a newborn, I’ve been told. As soon as I could read I was never without my nose in a book, mainly Elizabeth Goudge’s The Little White Horse, or E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. I have always loved fantasy, or the sweet and strange.

As a child,  my choice of television shows and movies included He-Man and She-Ra, The Neverending Story, Labyrinth and Krull, to name a few.

As a child when I would go out farming with my father, I would pretend that I was an explorer discovering new worlds and would race around, dodging monsters and flying beasts and chatting to new friends that were visible only to me.

How would you describe your ‘brand’ as an author? What is it that differentiates you from other authors?
Someone described me as a unique writer of fairy tales for adults, which I think is nice as it’s not something often heard today. And as for what it is that differentiates me, I am really not sure. Perhaps it is that I have only one novel published at this time, but I write to please myself and try not to use creatures or genres currently popular in the mainstream.

Are there any ‘how-to’ writing books, workshops or online communities that you could recommend to other writers?
Having never used a ‘how-to’ guide or attended a workshop of any kind, I am truly not qualified to suggest such things to other writers. I would recommend however that they join their local Writer’s Centre as they have invaluable information for budding authors.

Goodreads is a fantastic source of support and encouragement from people who have managed to get published and can give advice, or who are still struggling but can share their experiences.

If you could travel back in time to the moment before you sent off your first manuscript, what advice would you give yourself?
Be patient! I had been warned it would be a month before I heard back from the publisher (which turned out to be a short week) but it felt like forever.

The worry, the concern, the certainty that I would be knocked back made me irritable, and each morning when I checked my inbox I grew ever more sure that my manuscript would not be accepted.

Patience is not something I’m known for, and it is the one thing I would advise myself to have if it were possible for me to travel back to that moment. I’m sure such advice would have made life for my family so much easier!

Enchantment’s Deception — on the back cover

Sigrid is a young witchwoman of Zircondia, rebel and outcast. She ‘views’ the bloodthirsty alien wars blasting the skies of a neighbouring world, and her desire to learn the truth behind the beloved Tale of the Banished Trolls leaves her sister cold with terror.

Yet her actions reveal aliens and trolls’ stories to be incontrovertibly entwined, as is her own mother’s involvement in the wars of the former and the banishment of the latter …

About Amber Averay
I am the fifth child of six, and aunt to five nieces and one nephew. I have two great-nephews, and a forest of family rather than merely a tree.

From the age of two I would go out farming with my father, and thought I was the most important person in the world because of it. School readily knocked such ideas out of me, and I took to reading and writing to distract me from the misery that school places on most children.

After completing Year 12 I did work experience at the local Magistrate’s Court, had a twelve month Clerical Traineeship with the S.A. Government, worked for some years as a temp (where the jobs were varied and entirely dissimilar to each other), then began working for Angus and Robertson, where I remain today.

Writing has always been my passion, and since the publication of my debut novel my coworkers at the Munno Para store have been incredibly supportive and helpful. They recommend Deception to customers, have handed out fliers, bookmarks, posters, and are encouraging the other stores in the company chain to join them in promoting my book.

Between them and my amazingly generous and helpful family, I consider myself a very lucky woman.

Weblinks
You can buy Amber’s book from a few online bookstores:

Amazon

Booktopia

Strategic Marketing and Publishing

Angus and Robertson

Borders Australia

Enchantment’s Deception can also be ordered through Angus and Robertson stores.

AussieCon 4: Self-promotion on the world stage

Today I have a guest blog from YA science fiction author, George Ivanoff. George offers an author’s perspective on AussieCon 4.

Self-promotion on the world stage
By George Ivanoff

Recently I attended Aussiecon 4, the 68th World Science Fiction Convention. It’s the fourth time that this annual world convention has been held in Melbourne. As a long-time science fiction fan, I’ve attended three of these four conventions.

But this time, the experience was a little different. It was brought into focus for me when I had dinner with some interstate friends. One of those friends said to me: “This must be really different for you. The last time you attended a Worldcon you did so as a fan … this time around you’re here as an author”.

It was true. I wasn’t there just to enjoy myself, I was there to promote.

The promotion was in a dual capacity. Firstly I was there to promote my YA science fiction novel, Gamers’ Quest. This was particularly important as my publisher, Ford Street Publishing, had a table in the dealers’ room. Secondly, I was there to promote myself generally as a writer, which involved networking with the editors and publishers in attendance.

My involvement with the convention actually began many months ago. I submitted a number of suggestions for panel discussions that I could participate in. These were:

“Game on! Games and YA spec fic”
This panel was about the use of games, particularly computer games, in YA fiction. This worked in nicely with Gamers’ Quest, which is set entirely within a computer game environment.

“Playing in someone else’s sandpit: franchise writing”
I’ve done a small amount of franchise writing — a Doctor Who short story and a Behind the News book. It is an area of writing that I would like to pursue further. So I thought it would be good to be on a panel with a bunch of authors who had more experience that I. And it was.

“Making a living: Professional writing for speculative fiction authors”
This was a panel discussing how to actually make a living from writing. It gave me the opportunity to talk about the different types of writing I do and to make it clear to any editors and publishers in the audience that I was always on the look-out for new writing opportunities.

I also put my name down to appear on a number of other panels. Some (like “YA science fiction – a guy thing?”) were directly related to my writing, while others (like “We are all fairy tales: Doctor Who’s fifth season”) were not. But they all helped to get my name out there. Of course, I also did a reading and a book signing, as well as doing a couple of items on the kids’ program.

Was it worth it? Did I achieve anything? YES! At the very least, my presence at the convention helped my publisher to sell copies of Gamers’ Quest. YA fiction is popular beyond its target audience, so the fact that most of the attendees were adults didn’t seem to harm sales.

I also made some good professional contacts, which I am now in the process of following up. The convention had an entire stream of panels dedicated to YA literature. I learned a lot about current trends, publishers and what editors were looking for, by attending panels in this stream.

So, YES, the experience was definitely worth it, in many ways. If Australia ever hosts another Worldcon, I’ll be there!

And I did manage to find the time to have fun as well. If you’re interested in a more general round-up of my experiences at Aussiecon 4, check out my post, Aussiecon 4 Memories at my blog, Literary Clutter.

Cover for Gamers' Quest

The cover for Gamers' Quest

George’s bio
George Ivanoff is an author and stay-at-home Dad residing in Melbourne. He has written over 40 books for children and teenagers. His latest novel, Gamers’ Quest, is currently in bookstores. Two of his books have been on the booklist for the Victorian Premier’s Reading Challenge since its inception in 2005.

George has also had stories published in numerous magazines and anthologies. Click here to check out George’s website.

More info about Gamers’ Quest is available from the official website.

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.

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.

Weblinks
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.

How did you get published? Interview with author, Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne Dingli

Author, Rosanne Dingli

Today, I’m talking to author Rosanne Dingli. Rosanne’s first novel, Death in Malta, and her newest thriller, According to Luke, are both published by BeWrite Books, a global publisher with offices in England and Canada.

Rosanne is also the author of two collections of short stories and a poetry book. She has worked as a journalist, feature writer, editor, manuscript assessor, slush pile reader, editor-in-chief, literary editor and book reviewer.

Rosanne is based in Perth, Western Australia.

Rosanne, you’ve obviously been involved in the publishing industry for some time. Can you tell me how you first came to be published?
It’s a very long story that can be summarised in this way – praise for my letters home after emigrating to Australia got me thinking. In 1985 I read a book by Elaine Fantle Shimberg (which I still have) about being a homebound writer, and also the introduction to the Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets.

The two pieces gave me the first impetus. I wrote a lot of poetry and short fiction, and was successfully published in a number of journals and anthologies in a reasonably short time.

After that, it was easy to move on to freelancing for magazines and newspapers, so I established myself as a professional, which got me a teaching position at TAFE, and soon after, a lecturing job at ECU.

I take one or two ideas to the breakfast table on a Sunday, and by about 11.00am we have a fully plotted novel!

Did you have a deliberate strategy to develop your career as a writer? How did you go about achieving this? Were the short stories and poetry part of this strategy?
It was deliberate, but if you can call it a strategy … I don’t know!  It was a bit haphazard and random, but well directed in the main, and because it showed a modicum of success, I stayed encouraged. I am easily motivated by success, and because I got some, I kept going. Winning literary competitions can be quite motivating.

Do you ever encounter obstacles in terms of craft when writing for publication?
They were always obstacles that could be overcome with a measure of purpose, discipline, and a sense of humour. I always did work seriously and professionally, but never took myself too seriously – after all, this is a fickle industry, and one must keep at it in order to succeed. I have gone through phases of dejection, and I have given up about 20 times. It’s par for the course.

How did you go about plotting your puzzle thriller?
Plotting is a family affair! I take one or two ideas to the breakfast table on a Sunday, and by about 11.00am we have a fully plotted novel! All the family have something to contribute, and it can be fun and quite boisterous. I take it with a pinch of salt, but never discount even the most outrageous suggestion.

After a month of this, the scribbled plot is written out, and I start seeking jump-words to set me off. I am most inspired by actual words. Invariably, the vital ‘twist’ that really makes the story comes as I am actually writing. It is always a revelation, even to myself.

How do you find switching between different forms of writing, such as short stories, novels and poetry? Does working in one form help with working in another?
I have not written any poetry since 1993. I find I do get the mental rhythms that I used to work on, but I am a novelist now, and need bigger things to work on. Besides, poetry does little to promote me within the market I want for myself.

I used to find short stories very easy to write, and did write an enormous number of them, mostly based on atmospheric places in Europe, food, art and music. They can be fun, but do limit the writer in terms of background, because of the length restriction.

I rarely write short fiction now, but am trying to republish the out-of-print collections I have as eBooks.

Do you do research for your fiction? How do you tackle it?
Sometimes I feel I do more research than writing! I research a lot on the internet and our personal home library. We have fiction and non-fiction, lots of art and European literature, and guide books to all the destinations we have visited.

I immerse myself in the atmosphere when we travel, and take in important things about how the locals live. This filters back into my writing. It is an invisible thing that makes a reader feel I know what I am writing about, I hope!

I read very widely within my genre, and also non-fiction books about art and interiors, and map and reference books without which it would be impossible to write what I write. For my latest book, I even used the New Testament!

The vital ‘twist’ that really makes the story comes as I am writing. It’s always a revelation.

How do you research settings?
Nothing beats being there. Luckily, my husband and I have travelled quite widely, even with the children, and I make sure that each opportunity finds itself included in a book.

I am blessed with a good memory, so I remember things like street names, cafes, museums, churches,  and so forth. I have often stood somewhere – such as a bridge in Venice, a wharf in Malta, a square in Belgium or a narrow street in Amsterdam, for example, and imagined some character of mine standing there in my place.

I take that feeling home, and without even thinking about it too much, it finds its way into my work.

If a piece is accepted for publication, do you often have to rewrite or rework material?
Re-working is very often part and parcel of what writers do. This is less about the quality of the work, or the actual language, but more a matter of tone or voice. It must be compatible with the periodical or publishing house.

Professional writers do not take it personally: they come to a point of agreement with the editor, and the published work is better as a result.

I have often stood somewhere — a bridge in Venice, a wharf in Malta, a square in Belgium or a narrow street in Amsterdam — and imagined some character of mine standing there in my place.

Have you ever done a book proposal for one of your books? If so, was it helpful for yourself or your publisher?
Book proposals are generally required for non-fiction rather than fiction. But yes, I have made a book proposal once: I was editor of a local history for the Bi-Centennial of the Shire of Narrogin here in WA. It’s a long time ago, but I do remember the care and attention that went into such a proposal. It was hard work.

The discipline and attention to detail required for a proposal teaches you a lot about what goes into a published work of any kind.

Do you have an agent?
Whether you have an agent or not is less a matter of choice than people think. I have approached a number of agents in Australia, the US and in the UK. I got a moderate level of interest at the initial stages, but I found that none wanted to represent the manuscript I had at the time. Agents must feel they can sell what you have, so I got no offers. I did get several invitations to approach with another future manuscript though.

I’ll post the second part of my interview with Rosanne later this week. In it, Rosanne talks about working with her publisher, the writing community in Western Australia, and how she promotes herself as an author.

In the meantime, click here to check out Rosanne’s blog.

How to go on national TV and not mention your book: A guest blog by Marianne Musgrove

Today I have a guest blog from author, Marianne Musgrove. Marianne recently appeared on two day-time television shows promoting her new book for children, Lucy the Lie Detector. Here she shares her advice about appearing on television if you’re promoting a book.

Promoting yourself on TV
Or
How to go on national TV and not mention your book

by Marianne Musgrove

Following on from my now famous (at least in my family) appearance on Mornings with Kerri-Anne to promote my new book, Lucy the Lie Detector, I thought I’d share some lessons I’ve learned about making the most of your fifteen (or in my case, four) minutes of fame.

Marianne Musgrove

Marianne Musgrove

Getting on TV in the first place
Producers love an angle. When my publicist discovered I was a former social worker, she married this fact to the content of my book (truth and lies) and voila! I was an expert on children’s behaviour and lying. To find your angle, consider all aspects of your background (job, heritage, family situation, experience), not just the subject matter of your book.

What to wear
Children’s author and fellow “Mornings with Kerri-Anne” alumna, Fiona Trembath, advises: avoid jingly jewellery, wear something that reflects who you are and don’t wear a pattern that might strobe on screen.

Be prepared
Before you appear on the show, you’ll be contacted by a producer to discuss possible interview questions. They may ask you for talking points which will appear on screen during your segment. Have those points ready (no more than five per section).

Mention your book!
Some shows only permit you to mention your product once so get in early and make it count. Don’t wait to be asked the right question. I made the mistake of waiting for a certain graphic to come up. I never saw it and I missed out on mentioning my book!

Things may not go according to plan
When I was on Kerri-Anne, I wasn’t prepared for her opening question: what makes a child tell their very first lie? I did what we writers do best – I made something up. Be prepared to answer questions out of left field. Don’t panic. Just sound confident and no one will know the difference.

Familiarise yourself
Ask to take a peek in the studio before you go on. This will mean one less thing your brain has to process once you get on set. Ask how long the segment will be. When you sense your time drawing to a close, quickly mention anything you’ve left out.

Keep calm
Take a few deep breaths before you go on (though not too many – you don’t want to pass out and have to be revived on nation television). Speak at a regular pace.

Be camera-wise
It’s hard to smile when you’re nervous but it does make you more appealing. Steer clear of maniacal grins, however. You don’t want to scare away the viewers. Also remember: don’t look at the camera. I know that’s a bit like saying ‘don’t think of an elephant’ then all you can do it think of an elephant. Nevertheless, don’t look at the camera!

Props
Bring a copy of your book on set with you. It’s a visual that’s a constant, free advertisement.Lucy The Lie Detector

I can guarantee you, you will make one or more mistakes while you’re on TV. I know I did. Forgive yourself, learn from your mistakes and move on.

Good luck!

Click here to see Marianne’s TV appearance.

And here for Marianne’s website.

This article first appeared in the e-newsletter Pass It On editions 300 and 301.

The business of writing: Part 2 of an interview with novelist and travel writer, Cameron Rogers

Today author Cameron Rogers talks about working with publishers, using a pen-name, having an agent, and what promotions support emerging writers can expect from publishers.

Cam, with your novels, what do your publishers expect from you in terms of rewrites?
It varies from publisher to publisher, editor to editor. A good editor understands what you’re attempting to do with a given manuscript and helps you work in that direction. Another editor may have a more commercial mindset and ask that the main character of your period drama be more like Starscream from Transformers. I wish I was making that last bit up.

But generally, I have to say, I’ve rarely come across an editor I had a hard time working with. The key, for me, is understanding that the end quality of the manuscript is more important than anything else, including your ego. You need to be okay with amputating whole chapters – months of work, maybe your best work – if the end result for the reader is greatly improved.

How do you find switching between novel writing and travel writing? Does one style of writing help with the other?
I think so. I think travel writing has made me a better novelist. I think it’s accentuated my grasp of texture, of experience, of immediacy, and how people can work. I can’t overstate the value of travel for any kind of writer.

Why did you decide to use a pen-name for Nicholas and the Chronoporter?
It seemed prudent. An established genre writer – like Cliver Barker or Neil Gaiman – can write a book for kids and people find that interesting. They seek it out. It’s almost as if they’ve descended from Olympus to impart some small gift to the people of the lowlands.

But if someone who is perceived to be a children’s writer publishes a conventional novel … that doesn’t seem to work. R.L. Stine – who started the bestselling Goosebumps line – did that. The book rotted on the shelves. So I decided to go with a pseudonym because I didn’t know which way my career was going to go, and I liked the idea of writing a book as a character. I’m hoping I can do more with Rowley Monkfish. I kinda like him.

I wonder why companies don’t make a more concerted effort to promote up-and-comers … I mean, Bryce Courtenay isn’t going to be around forever

Do you have an agent?
I’m represented by Howard Morhaim in New York. He’s had 30 years or more experience, is respected, and I like him as a person. I trust him, and it means I can spend less time sweating the fine print and more time writing. It just makes sense to have an agent like that onside. You not only get their experience, but you get their network of connections as well.

How do you go about negotiating your contracts with your publishers?
Again, that’s the value of an agent. Howard deals with them, gets back to me, we kick it around, and if need be there’s some back and forth. The idea of having to talk business with a publisher over the future of the current book … eurgh. Just, no.

Can people buy ebook versions of your novels?
The Music of Razors can be bought for the Kindle, via Amazon, if you’re in the US.  I’d very much like to get everything happening digitally, globally, eventually.

What’s happened in the past with publicity and promotions for your books? Have you had much assistance from your publishers or have you organised everything?
Somewhat oddly, it’s the popular and established authors who get the bulk of the publicity budget. First-timers, mid- and back-listers get practically zip. So it’s up to them to generate their own publicity however they can.

Since the financial meltdown pretty much every publishing house on Earth is fighting for its life, and they’re doing that via their front-list, so you can’t blame them for focusing squarely on the writers who pay the bills. But, that said, the front-listers have always had 95% of the budget. That’s not a new thing.

Partly out of self-interest and partly out of genuine curiosity I wonder why companies don’t make a more concerted effort to promote up-and-comers, if only to protect the future of their corporation. I mean, Bryce Courtenay isn’t going to be around forever.

Have you done a book trailer? Is this something you’d consider doing?
No I haven’t, but I definitely would. Anything that helps keep people aware that you’re still here doing your thing is valuable. Whether or not it’s cost-effective is something else entirely. But yeah, I’d definitely do it.

An editor may ask that the main character of your period drama be more like Starscream from Transformers. I wish I was making that last bit up.

If you could travel back in time to the moment before you sent off your first manuscript, what advice would you give yourself?
Brian K. Vaughan said that writer’s block is just another word for computer games. The time lost playing just one of those things to completion, if you add it up, is shocking. Furthermore I find the repetition of action and visuals blunts the mind and makes it harder to work afterwards.

It pains me to say it, because I love the escapism of gaming, but I’d advise throwing out all of them, then travelling for three weeks to flush my head and reset. Then returning and getting started on something fresh.

And to remember that everything will take three times longer than I expect.

Cam’s bio

In 2001, Cam was the first author to be nominated simultaneously for three separate Aurealis Awards (Best Horror, Best Fantasy, Best Young Adult). This was for the Australian edition of The Music of Razors, which Neil Gaiman described as “A nightmarishly imaginative debut from a writer of real assurance and vision.”

Cam’s YA novella, Nicholas and the Chronoporter, is in print with Penguin Australia. It was written under the pen-name of Rowley Monkfish. His first published work, a YA novella entitled The Vampires, has been in print with Lothian since 1997.

Cam is currently travelling and working on his next novel. His most recent sales were articles on Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig and Sun Studio, Memphis, for The Age.

Weblinks

Click here for Cameron’s website/blog.

And here for paperback edition of the Music of Razors on Amazon.

Here is the link for The Music of Razors on Kindle.

How did you get published? Interview with novelist and travel writer, Cameron Rogers

Today, I’m talking to author Cameron Rogers. Cam has had two novels and two YA novels published. Currently he’s travelling and writing travel articles for newspapers such as The Age in Melbourne. Cam’s unusual background includes being a motion capture model for computer games and a ‘crime management officer’ for the Queensland Police.

Cam, can you tell me how you first came to be published?
The short story is this: in the mid Nineties I’d been writing and trying to sell stories to magazines for a while, so when Gary Crew asked to see some of my stuff I had a catalogue I could show him. He liked what he read, suggested I write something for Lothian’s After Dark series, and it went from there.

I learned years later that, apparently, Gary took to me because I was a Goth but, strangely, wasn’t a wanker. I hope he doesn’t mind me saying that. That first publication got Penguin interested, which led to The Music of Razors, Nicholas and the Chronoporter and my current one, Fateless.  I’m hoping that’ll be out within twelve months.

Cameron Rogers near Reykjavik, Iceland

Cameron Rogers, near Reykjavik, Iceland

How did you approach Lothian and Penguin Australia when you started out? Was there a particular method that’s worked for you?
I’m not someone who networks easily. The idea of schmoozing, of meeting new people with some selfish ulterior motive, squicks me out. Then I realized that ‘networking’ was just code for ‘having friends’. We help each other out, it’s all good, and when we’re not doing that – which is most of the time – we’re just doing what friends do.

I keep an eye out for the lateral, the beautiful, the unexpected.

Do you ever encounter obstacles (in terms of craft) when writing for publication?
Only when writing stuff for kids.  They don’t need to be patronized, they’re fine with being challenged, but the parents and librarians who buy the books often don’t seem to think so. So it can be a balancing act.

Nicholas and the Chronoporter almost didn’t see print because part of the plot involved the main character dealing with the death of his mother, for example, and then being presented with the chance to save her at great cost to everyone else. That right there almost killed it.

How do you tackle research for your fiction writing?
I do, and I’ve learned it’s possible to research to a fault.  There’s a real craft to knowing when enough is enough when it comes to info-mining. Too little and the book feels flat or doesn’t ring true, too much and it either paralyses you with choice or you disappear down the rabbit hole of researching the details of your research, ad infinitum.

I fell into that trap working on my latest book, Fateless. A section of the book has to do with the ‘Pals battalions’ raised by Kitchener in WWI.  I was so engrossed by the idea of fathers and sons and brothers and cousins – the male population of entire families sometimes – being recruited and banded together and then shipped off to the front lines, that I felt I’d lost the right to use their stories if I didn’t do it justice. I lost a year on that, only to realize that if I supplied just enough detail the reader would get it; that less really can be more, and that maintaining a good signal-to-noise ratio is absolutely critical.

I have two credos when it comes to travel: Say Yes, and Embrace Random.

It doesn’t matter how fascinating you think the subject is, if too much research makes it to the final page you run the very real risk of fatiguing, and losing, the reader.

Apart from visiting the place you’re writing about, how do you research your travel articles?
I probably do about as much research on a destination as any other traveler. I have two credos when it comes to travel: Say Yes, and Embrace Random. Those two things, I’ve found, have generated more interesting material and experiences than any amount of reading-up and planning.

Everywhere I go I take a Moleskine notebook and a camera. I keep an eye out for the lateral, the beautiful, the unexpected. I note down odd things that are said, little details that snag the attention, and photograph anything that suggests itself: sights, sounds, smells, textures, observations, snatches of conversation. Then at the end of the day I write about it, for myself, using the notes and photos as aids.

I realized that ‘networking’ was just code for ‘having friends.

At some point later I read back over all that material, isolate the articles that seem the most interesting, and then I rework those for publication. It’s really about capturing the immediacy of the experience. At the end of the day all anyone has is the experience of something, and for me the soul and purpose of good travel writing is to convey your experience to someone who can’t be there. That requires an eye for the hidden, the unexpected, the taken-for-granted, the poetic, the lateral. The tiny thing that makes the moment.

I could talk about the Eiffel Tower, for example, or I could talk about gangs of scruffy men on Parisian street corners selling cartons of stolen cigarettes and stashing their supply inside cast-iron art deco lampposts. The Eiffel Tower is common knowledge, shared culture, wallpaper, but you can smell those men. You wonder about them, who they are, their pasts, why they do what they do, how that slots with the life of the neighbourhood. It’s new, unseen … it’s engaging.

I’ll put up the second part of Cam’s interview on Friday. Cam talks about why he used a pen-name, the benefits of having an agent, and what promotions support writers get from publishers.

In the meantime, click here to visit Cam’s website/blog. He’s got some great photos of his travels.

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.