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.

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.