Weird up your story with fold-ins and cut-ups

Inject a dose of the weird and wonderful into your stories with fold-ins

Inject a dose of the weird and wonderful into your stories with fold-ins and cut-ups

It was on Twitter where I first heard the terms ‘fold-ins’ and ‘cut-ups’ – a method of working used by William S. Burroughs.

I was intrigued. Actually, I was desperate. Bored by my own work, it’d become difficult to motivate myself to sit down and work on stories I’d already started. (New work was fine! I’m one of those writers who finds it hard to finish things.)

After a spot of Google research, I found a few brief descriptions of the technique used by Burroughs. Although the technique seemed better suited for poetry, I decided to give it a go with prose.

Before I explain how to use cut-ups and fold-ins in your own work, following are a few words of advice about using the technique in your prose fiction.

When to use fold-ins and cut-ups
Are your writing workshop friends saying your story is over-edited? Has your vocabulary become tired and unadventurous? If you’ve received feedback that your story is lacking in ideas or interest, this technique may be for you.

WARNING! Be prepared for the unexpected! Your carefully crafted sentences will be reduced to gibberish. However you can always revert to your backed-up original.

When not to use cut-ups and fold-ins
Conversely, if you’re not comfortable with the utterly unpredictable nature of what will happen to your writing after using cut-ups, I’d suggest avoiding them as a writing technique.

You may be the sort of writer who carefully crafts stories and is unwilling to relinquish control to the vagaries of randomness. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! We’re all different, and not all writing techniques are for everyone.

How to generate cut-ups and fold-ins
1. Choose one or two pages of your own work. In the case of a work-in-progress, preferably a portion that is vaguely coherent. Open the story in your word processor of choice. Copy and paste this section of your story into a new document and close the old one.

2. Select all of your story portion and format it using a generous line height, for example 1.5 or double line spacing. Make sure the font and font size is easy to read. Print off the resulting pages.

3. Now you need to find another story portion to fold in with your story. I suggest looking for a story that contains some element you’d like to emulate. Maybe you feel your story would benefit from more action? In that case, look for a story that that draws momentum from action. If your dialogue sounds inauthentic, choose a story containing lots of interesting dialogue. You can focus on any element of storytelling: vocabulary, dialogue, tone, pacing or description.

I’m also going to suggest choosing a story portion written in the same genre as your story – unless there’s some other aspect of the other story you’d like to build in to your story.

Here’s some suggested pairings:

    Your historical murder mystery with Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations
    Your post-modern urban crime story with a pulpy crime story from the 1950s
    Your science fiction story paired with an HG Wells’ classic

It’s preferable that your ‘fold-in’ story is in digital format, not a print copy. There are thousands of public domain stories, freely available, online. Project Gutenberg is a good place to start.

4. Once you’ve chosen a fold-in story, select one or two pages of the text and copy it to a blank document in your word processing program.

Format the story portion in exactly the same way as your first portion: same line height, font and font size. Print out the pages. For your first attempt, I suggest starting with one page from each story.

5. Fold each of the printed pages into four quarters. Using scissors, cut each page into four along the fold marks.

6. Shuffle the resulting small (A6) pages around on your desk. Sift through the pages, choose two of the small pages and place them side by side so that the sentences are aligned.

At this stage, you will probably begin to see interesting phrases you can use. You can choose random pairings, or pair the mini pages based on intriguing fragments that emerge.

7. Using sticky tape, stick the new, aligned mini pages together. You should have four new horizontal sheets.

8. Select one of the new sheets and type up the new sentences that have formed. You will need to alter grammatical elements such as pronouns and verb tenses. Insert prepositions if needed to give meaning to the new sentences.

9. Put your first new page aside and type up the other pages.

10. Print off the resulting pages. Find a comfortable spot and read your new pages. You may have generated sentences that almost make sense, or you may find a few interesting phrases or sentence fragments. Highlight the bits you like, put each page aside and move onto the next one.

It’s important that you don’t worry too much about the whole. Although you can use the resulting piece as the basis for a whole new story, you can also cherry-pick phrases, fragments and sentences you like and use them in your original story. If you’ve ended up with a particularly intriguing phrase, think about how you could alter your story so that the phrase makes sense.

For example, for a science fiction story I am working on, I ended up with the phrase, ‘the smell of white’. I wondered how white could have a smell. I brainstormed this idea and ended up with two ideas I then incorporated into my story: the smell of chalk, the smell of a hygienically-clean hospital room.

I like to think of fold-ins and cut-ups as a way of playing with words. If you are open to the possibilities, at the very least you will end up with an injection of new vocabulary! You may also have generated new ideas for the direction of your story.

Have you tried cut-ups and fold-ins before? Do you have any unusual ways to bring life to your stories? Share your results using the comments form!

William S. Burroughs and his philosophy behind cut-ups and fold-ins
More about how to do cut-ups.

Related posts
Tips for young writers: How to make your story more interesting by Marianne Musgrove
Tips for young writers: Write in character by Teena Raffa-Mulligan

Umwelt House: New house on the block

Update: As of 1 May, 2015, there is a note on the Umwelt House homepage that they are currently closed for submissions. I am sure this will change so I am keeping this article up as general information about their requirements.

New speculative fiction publisher, Umwelt House, recently announced a call out for short novels and novellas. Craig Hitchings, Umwelt House’s founder and editor, kindly agreed to answer some questions about what they’re looking for.

Umwelt House Logo

Craig, can you tell me which authors, books or speculative fiction subgenres excite you?

I tend to go through phases of getting really into someone, becoming completely obsessed and reading their books one after the other. The first author that comes to mind is China Miéville, whose novel Perdido Street Station blew me away a few years ago. I’ve since read all his books – the man is an ideas factory. Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhickers Guide to the Galaxy has a similar effect on me, and I ripped through the rest of the series in a matter of weeks. The book I most loved as a teenager was George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

I recently read Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash and Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, both of which kicked my ass. The Inverted World by Christopher Priest was another brilliantly executed idea. Nancy Kress’s novella Beggars in Spain was similarly excellent throughout.

Of course, I find myself returning to the classic novels by Philip K Dick, Margaret Atwood, Ursula K Le Guin, Stanislaw Lem, J R R Tolkien, John W Campbell, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke. The latter’s The City and the Stars is truly amazing – I’ve re-read it a few times now.

I’m also massively influenced by TV series, which I think have eclipsed film as the dominant visual form in recent years. I’ve been obsessed with Channel 4’s Utopia – particularly by the way it’s shot, the amazing music and the fantastic characters who add a human element to what is a very cold, dark conspiracy story. I loved Lost when that was on – and still do. Of course, credit must be given to Joss Whedon’s Firefly. The Game of Thrones adaptation is well done and Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror series contains some brilliant episodes. There are so many to mention. A French show called Les Revenants (The Returned in English) is also well worth a watch – the music by Mogwai is great.

What do you look for in a manuscript?
I look for manuscripts that offer something a little different – whether it’s a mindblowing idea, a great character piece or something that’s just a damn good yarn. There’s a lot of saturation in the science fiction and fantasy genres, so I prefer things that blend elements from all genres, whether that’s sf, fantasy, magical realism, utopian/dystopian, horror and so on. I think the most interesting stuff crosses the borders. For example, two short pieces that really stick out for me are George Saunders’ Pastoralia and Escape from Spiderhead. Both shorts are hard to define in traditional publishing terms, but they are truly engaging, well-written stories with fully-formed worlds and rules that take the reader out of themselves. The best thing is that Saunders achieves this with an incredible economy of words. It’s this type of writer that I’m most interested in – someone who can describe amazing things within a very small space. I love clear language.

Take a non-speculative fiction author such as Charles Bukowski as an example. He doesn’t fluff his language. Everything is precise, pared back, powerful. If something doesn’t need explanation, he doesn’t say it. If a character smokes a cigarette, he says ‘X smoked a cigarette’. The reader can fill in the rest.

Do you have any suggestions for writers wanting to be published with Umwelt House?
First and foremost, be original, or at least present a classic idea in an original way. Write in your own style, without thinking about markets, or length, or anything else that puts restrictions on the work. It’s good to get shorter pieces into a few of the magazines, or to write a blog or have a decent social media following, but they’re not necessarily prerequisites. Above all else, read the submission guidelines carefully and stick to them, otherwise it’s just a waste of everyone’s time. A clearly formatted manuscript and a good synopsis also help with initial impressions.

Have you signed any authors yet? Anyone you’d care to mention?
I’m keeping quiet on that at the moment. I will announce any signings as soon I can. We’ve only been open for submissions for a few months. I have had a couple of interesting pieces that I’m considering. I hope to receive many more manuscripts over the coming months, with the first publications scheduled for 2015. I will always contact an author who perhaps has a nice idea but needs to put more work in to make it great.

How will Umwelt House’s titles be promoted?
I think, with the way the publishing industry is going, everything will be done online. First of all, the book covers will feature one colour that will be reflected across the website and our social media channels. When the colour changes, you’ll know there’s another Umwelt House book to read. I also aim to create interesting video content in collaboration with some of my friends working in London’s film industry.

Of course, it would be excellent to get reviews in national media (I currently work for one of the major newspapers in London), but it’s hard breaking through if you’re not one of the big publishers. So, in the initial stages, I hope that smaller publications and bloggers will take to the work, feature the authors in round-up pieces and interview them about their inspirations, aspirations and future plans. We’ll also be entering the books in the shorter categories offered by the Hugos, Nebulas and the other main awards.

The main selling point is that all the books will be under 70,000 words – a novella or short novel. They can be read in a few hours. They’ll take you on a journey in much the same way a novel would, without you having to set aside a couple of weeks/months to read them.

Do you offer authors advances or royalties?
At this stage, we are a small company, so we can’t offer advances. What money we have will need to go on printing, distribution, marketing and other costs. However, of course there will be royalties. I still need to finalise the exact amounts, but I’m hoping to offer as even a split between publisher and author as possible. But fear not, the percentages will be far more in favour of the author than what is currently offered by the corporate publishers and the wider industry. As far as I’m concerned, I’m not in it for the money. I want Umwelt House to make enough off each title in order to cover the publishing costs of another book – to get another author in front of the reading public. If I can keep this going long term, then I’ll be very happy indeed. Anything else is a bonus.

How many titles do you plan on publishing in 2015?
I’m hoping to start off with three or four throughout the first year. But I want to keep the quality extremely high. I’m hoping that if you like one Umwelt House book, then there’s a high chance you’ll like the other publications. That’s the plan, anyway.

How will readers be able to buy Umwelt House books? Which e-bookstores, ebook formats? How will they be priced?
Initially, they will be able to get them through the website, and through Amazon (both print and digital), iBooks, Barnes & Noble and other online stores. Once this has been set up, I hope to get the books out in shops in London, following up with distribution deals for the UK. After that, it’s about making sure the books get to America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other English-speaking countries. It’s early days at the moment, of course, but I also hope to get the works translated into Spanish, French and German at the very least. I’ll see how it goes.

In terms of price, I think we’ll aim for £5-£6 – the price of a couple of drinks (or one if you’re in London).

Are you looking for slush pile readers or interns at the moment?
I read every manuscript myself at this stage. And I try to get to each one within three months of it being submitted. I hope to keep this practice going for as long as I can, though I understand that it may become impossible later on down the line. Again, I’ll have to see.

Thank you, Craig Hitchings!

Umwelt House is seeking speculative fiction short novels and novellas in the 15,000-70,000 word range. Please submit your DOC, DOCX or PDF file in 12-point font, double line spacing using the links below.

Umwelt House
For more information on submitting your manuscript, click here.
To submit your manuscript, click here.
Connect with Umwelt House and Craig on Twitter!

The pros & cons of Authonomy: A guest post by Paul Xavier Jones

The cover for Paul Xavier Jones' book

Paul's book, Boundary Limit

Today emerging writer Paul Xavier Jones shares his experience of publicising his book through the Harper Collins website, Authonomy.

What exactly is Authonomy?

Authonomy is a website managed by Harper Collins publishers. The idea is, rather than submitting a manuscript directly to the Harper Collins’ slush pile, users of the site rate books and provide feedback to authors.

How does Authonomy work?

A fledgling writer can upload either a few chapters or an entire manuscript onto the site. Other writers and the general public then read as much as they like, and rate the book. There is a ranking system, based on how many people load the work onto their ‘bookshelf’ and there is also a ‘star’ rating system. Readers can leave comments about the work, or suggestions for improvements or ideas.

If your book gets into the top 5 of books on the site, then Harper Collins will select it for review by their editorial team.

What have you found useful about the site?

I found the comments section the most useful, although you have to take them with a pinch of salt. A lot of the people who write comments are other authors on the site. They tend to be gentle with their comments, because they want you to read their work and comment favourably, or back their work by putting it on your virtual bookshelf. I only got one really critical comment, and the person leaving it had a point; I used what he said to improve the work.

What hasn’t been useful about the site?

The site isn’t achieving what Harper Collins set out to do. People solicit for votes. If you want to move up the ranks, you need to plead for votes, or join voting ‘blocks’ where if you vote for someone, their friends will vote for you.

There seems to be little interest in the actual merit of the writing itself. The work on the site is variable in quality. I’ve read stuff that was absolutely first rate, and I’ve also read stuff that was poorly written.

About Paul
At ten years old, Paul Xavier Jones was part of the generation captivated by the first Star Wars film. He thus began a life long love affair with sci fi, fantasy and thrillers. Three decades later, he has accomplished something that was just a dream back then – completing his own work on a sci fi thriller, Boundary Limit.

Paul has also written a fantasy trilogy, the Ameca J series, which will be available on Kindle shortly.

Paul is married, has two daughters and lives in Wales.

About Boundary Limit

What happens when a boundary limit is exceeded?

Blake Trubble is a man with an obsession. Personal tragedy and a troubled past have moulded him into an emotionless killing machine, with one aim in life – the ruthless and relentless pursuit and destruction of all extremists.

With his job as a Major in a crack SAS team dedicated to hostage extraction, he has numerous opportunities to fulfil his aim.
But there’s one man Blake wants more than any other: Mahmoud Sabak, the Western governments’ most wanted terrorist leader, the so-called ‘missing link’ between the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

When Sabak seizes the Euro Large Hadron Collider at Batavia, Blake must rescue the four hundred scientists and staff being held hostage from Sabak’s deadly grip.

But both Blake and Sabak haven’t counted on the power of the Collider – when it pushes at the boundary of this reality, breaching its limits and opening a door to another.

And when doors are opened, things can come through …

Click here to visit Paul’s blog.

You can order Paul’s book through Amazon UK.

Click here to visit Authonomy.

The ‘rules’ of modern-world sci-fi: A guest blog by Russ Colchamiro

Russ Colchamiro's Finders Keepers

The cover for Russ's book, Finders Keepers

Today I have a guest blog by US science fiction author, Russ Colchamiro. Russ’s first novel is titled Finders Keepers. Here Russ explains how he blended the elements of this hybrid genre story: science fiction, humour, mystery and ‘cosmic lunacy’.

The ‘Rules’ of Modern-World Sci-Fi
by Russ Colchamiro

Mixing science fiction/fantasy elements with the modern world is a dance indeed. It was for me.

My first novel, Finders Keepers, is loosely based on backpacking trips I took through Europe and New Zealand, set against a quest for a jar that contains the Universe’s DNA.

You know … a quiet family drama!

My goal was to write a multi-layered novel that felt epic in scale, yet was simultaneously intimate, while remaining fun and funny throughout. But not long into the writing process, I realized that I had a big issue to reconcile:

How do I combine the ‘cosmic lunacy’, as I like to call it, with the everyday world that you and I know, and invite the reader to accept that this total environment is plausible?

One key element pulled the threads together.

During the early days of my first draft, I belonged to a writer’s group, as many of us do. I received all manner of feedback, but one comment stuck with me from a writer named Brad:

You need to establish the ‘rules’.

At the time, I wasn’t quite sure what Brad meant. To be honest, deep in my gut I suspected he was right. But I wasn’t yet in a confident enough place to acknowledge and accept this confrontation with a key, structural misstep in my storytelling.

During those earlier drafts, I started the action by introducing the hero of Finders Keepers — Jason Medley, a 24-year-old waiter from the NY suburbs — seeing him in the day-to-day of his humdrum life. My reasoning, as far as I was concerned, was quite sound: introduce Jason at his lowest point so that we get to see him during all the phases of his journey — from bummer to reluctant participant to hero.

Now, I really did want to establish the sci-fi tone right away — you gotta give the readers some idea of what you’re up to early on — so I started Finders Keepers with a two-paragraph prologue that hinted at the science fiction theme. This way it wouldn’t be a shock when it finally appeared.

But I saved the more complex ‘cosmic lunacy’/sci-fi elements until a bit later, as a big ‘twist’. Even though I don’t write mystery novels, per se, I like to include mystery elements. Reveal, pull back and conceal, reveal some more. My intention was to get the reader to say, ‘Whoa! Cool!’ when the sci-fi parts really kicked in.

Seemed pretty good to me. It made sense. Only, it didn’t quite work.

Finders Keepers is loosely based on backpacking trips through Europe and New Zealand, set against a quest for a jar that contains the Universe’s DNA.

The problem was that, by the time I unveiled the ‘cosmic’ portion of the story, the readers weren’t really sure what kind of book they were reading. I simply out-thought myself.

What I finally came to embrace was that it’s easier to start big — FATE OF THE UNIVERSE IS AT STAKE! — and then go small — lonely waiter dude whimpers about having no girlfriend — then to go the other way.

After many drafts, I finally gave in and established the ‘rules’ of the world I created with the very first sentence. And in the Finders Keepers world, there’s a jar that contains the Universe’s DNA, lost on modern-day Earth somewhere, and unless it’s recovered in time, the Milky Way Galaxy might go bye-bye.

Once I made this structural alteration, the narrative fell into place.

In the published version of Finders Keepers, the entire 1,457-word prologue is now ‘cosmic’. And then throughout the novel, I slip back and forth between the two major settings:

  • The down-and-dirty details of Jason and his New Zealand buddy Theo Barnes backpacking through Europe — train schedules, hangovers, achy backs, languages they don’t understand, food they can’t identify, girls they want to sleep with.
  • A host of cosmic characters that are in charge of building the Universe’s infrastructure, and are after the DNA jar. Which, of course, Jason and Theo are somehow mixed up with.

The lesson I ultimately learned was this: as long as I show the readers what they’re in for — up front, right away — they pretty much all say, ‘Okay, this is the world I’m in. Universe jar. Check. Let’s roll’.

From the very first sentence, there’s simply no doubt that Finders Keepers is meant to be a fun, sci-fi romp that brings a smile to your face. Establishing the ‘rules’ brought it all together.

Russ Colchamiro is the author of the humorous science fiction novel Finders Keepers, published by 3 Finger Prints ( He is now finishing his second novel, Crossline. He lives in Queens, NY, with his wife Liz, his twin babies Nate and Abby, and their gregarious dog Simon.

You can follow Russ on Facebook and on Twitter (@findkeepnovel).

Click here to visit Russ’s website.

To read the Finders Keepers prologue, establishing the ‘rules,’ click here.

And to watch a video interview of Russ at the 2010 NY Comic-Con, where he launched Finders Keepers, click here.

How did you get published? Interview with emerging author, Amber Averay

Enchantment's Deception by Amber Averay

The cover for Amber's book

Today, I’m talking to author Amber Averay. Amber’s first novel — a fantasy and science fiction story — is called Enchantment’s Deception. It’s the first in a series of five and is published by Strategic Marketing and Publishing under the imprint Eloquent Books.

Amber, can you tell me how you first came to be published?
I had been sending query emails to publishers dealing with unsolicited manuscripts and agents in Australia and Britain. The rare times I was sent a reply it was a polite ‘no, thank you’.

I found an agency in America who said they would forward my email to their sister company, Strategic, and to give them a week to reply. The next morning in my inbox was an email requesting the entire manuscript, and to give the publishers a month to get back to me. A week later I was sent my contract.

I wanted to write something that my then six-year-old nieces would enjoy … they were fans of Charmed, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie

How have you developed your writing skills? Have you done any courses or workshops?
I think most of it is self-criticism. When I completed the first draft of Deception, I was supposed to be studying for Year 12 exams, and I handwrote a 93 page story without a title. I was proud of it and myself, and put it away for 6 months.

When I went back to it I thought it was the worst thing I’d ever written. I inserted new chapters, edited existing ones, and removed those which I realised were completely unnecessary.

This process continued for several years, interspersed with critical feedback from my sister, who told me if she thought passages were boring, repetitive or irrelevant. I had the manuscript, by then called Enchanted World, read by a manuscript assessment agency, who were generous with both their encouragement and criticism. Their main problem was the title, which they considered ’too twee’. I tweaked the work where suggested, changed the title to Enchantment’s Deception, and began looking for agents or publishers.

Having never done a writing course or workshop in my life, being told by the agency that I should begin looking to get Deception published as it was a ‘great story that cries out for a sequel, or even a series’ was a huge thrill.

Did you have a deliberate strategy to develop your career as a writer?
No, not at all. Initially it was something I did for fun after school; writing short stories and poetry gave me a creative freedom that I don’t think many schools allow for. Neither my Primary nor High schools offered creative writing lessons, so it was something that I really did for myself. I always wanted to be an author, but never really knew how I would go about it.

When I began Enchanted World, I wanted to write something that my then six-year-old nieces would enjoy as they were fans of Charmed, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie, to name a few. But as it grew and evolved, I started thinking more seriously about having Enchantment’s Deception prepared for perusal.

Do you ever encounter obstacles (in terms of craft) when writing for publication? How do you address them?
As this is my first published novel, and one which originally I was going to leave hidden in the back of the wardrobe, I don’t really know what it’s like to write strictly for publication. While working on the second book in the series I have found writer’s block an annoying irritant that comes more frequently than I’d like. When W.B. strikes I step away from my work and don’t touch it again for a week or more until I know I’m ready to get back into it.

I know a few people who say it’s best to work through writer’s block, but that has never worked for me.

Do you do research for your fiction? If so, how do you tackle it?
I don’t actually do any research; I think, if it was closer to science fiction than fantasy, I would have to do quite a bit research, but my novel is set on another world, in another galaxy; and I think, realistically, that’s what I enjoyed the most about writing it. I had the freedom to create something that I could sit and write, without needing to refer to other books.

With your novel, what did your publisher expect from you in terms of rewrites?
Well, I really don’t have much to say on this topic; my manuscript was accepted, I was sent a contract, and the publication process got underway. I was told initially that the editing process would take up to three months; I think it was the next day I had an email saying they had no editing to do, which was great to hear.

The only times rewrites or corrections suggested were back in 2007 when the manuscript assessment agency suggested the removal of a chapter, and the extension of another.

Apart from your novel, do you do any other forms of writing?
Over the years I have written the four sequels in the Enchantment’s Deception series, created a book of poetry that will likely never see the light of day, written song lyrics.

I am working on a screenplay with a friend in America when we can both get on the net at the same time, and we’re also currently collaborating on another project, along the lines of a supernatural thriller.

When W.B. (writer’s block) strikes I step away from my work and don’t touch it again for a week or more until I know I’m ready to get back into it.

Do you have an agent? Why/why not?
I wanted to have an agent, but could not get anyone interested. Then, when Deception was published, I tried again to approach agencies requesting if they would be interested in representing me. Unfortunately so far I’ve not had any luck, but I’m not going to give up. I’ve made it this far with determination, the support of my family and luck; I’ll not be giving up until I’ve achieved my next goal.

How do you go about negotiating your contract with your publisher?
I have a set contract with my publisher, which does not appear to be open to negotiation at this time. Before I even consider trying to renegotiate, I’d like to try and build up sales of Deception. I’ve had positive feedback so far, so I’m hoping it will have some popularity in the future.

What’s happened in the past with publicity and promotions for your books? Have you had assistance from your publishers or have you organised everything?
Strategic created a press release for me, and have also made up a book trailer on YouTube. My niece, knowing I’m definitely not very Internet savvy, created a fan page for me on Facebook. My sister and I have worked together making up bookmarks with Deception’s details, which we’ve left with the local bookstores, libraries, and handed out to people throughout the nearest shopping centres.

The bookstore I work for have given me a large window for promotional purposes, and we have posters of the book’s cover in store with ‘Coming Soon: Order Now’ signage. I was also interviewed and photographed for our local Messenger newspaper, which has garnered some interest in the book.

Have you done a book launch, book signings, spoken at literary events and festivals, or spoken on radio?
So far I haven’t been able to get the attention of radio stations, nor have I done any book signings. We have arranged a belated launch, complete with raffle, giveaways, book signing and balloons for children — we are just waiting on the stock to arrive before we can set a date.

Have you spoken to schools or other groups?
Not as yet; it’s currently school holidays, so I am unable to contact anyone regarding speaking to the students. However, several schools have already stated their interest in having Deception included in the school curriculum for next year. When the holidays are over I’m going to be approaching the schools again, and will continue to do so, until I get an answer.

I know you’re not very keen on online promotion, but how do you find online communities such as Goodreads?
Goodreads is fantastic. I’ve joined several online communities, such as Elfwood and Authors Den, but I have found Goodreads to be by far the best. The interaction is fun, informative, and nobody is excluded as you can sometimes feel on certain sites. It was my friend in America who introduced me to Goodreads, and I’d been on it for a week or so I think, when I was contacted by Mandy and invited to the Aussie Reads section. I’m not very confident with the internet, but Goodreads has been invaluable.

In part 2 of her interview, Amber talks about life as a writer and her writing background. I’ll put up part 2 early next week.

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.

Promoting your book to the converted: AussieCon 4 from an author’s perspective

Today I have a guest blog from sf&f author, m a miller. The World Science Fiction Convention, AussieCon 4, was in Melbourne this year. Miller bravely decided to promote her new book to the diehard fans. Here is her story …

AussieCon 4: We have lift off …
Every year for the past 68 years the World Science Fiction Convention has taken place somewhere in the world. Yes, you guessed it, this five-day extravaganza is a coming together of all things Science Fiction or Fantasy. Authors, illustrators and fans alike converge to discuss the most recent speculative fiction, how it relates to world events and what the future may hold.

It’s also where the coveted – to those in the know – Hugo Awards for all things SF take place. Oh to be on the receiving end of one of those!

So imagine my joy when, as a newly-published science fiction & fantasy writer I discovered that 2010 was the year of World Con’s return to Melbourne. It’s only the fourth time it has landed on our shores. Oh yeah! Oh bliss! How can I get involved?

For a newbie author it is quite daunting to get ‘noticed’ in among all the other books out there. I write young adult speculative fiction and the YA market is huge. And growing. And there are some great big looming titles out there. Anyone here heard of Harry Potter? The Twilight Saga?

So who should I target my publicity at? For that matter, how do I get any publicity?

It was fantastic meeting people who had travelled from all over the globe to be there – USA, Canada, Sweden, Norway, New Zealand, Great Britain, Germany, Japan —  and of course, Australia.

Houston, we have a problem!
So I took my proposal to my publisher at alto books. Would he be interested in getting some exposure for his science fiction & fantasy books to a dedicated audience? Would he please book and pay for both a table in the dealers’ room and for my ticket and in exchange I will ‘man’ the table?

It took a while, but after some persuasive – okay, maybe begging would be a better word – emails he finally agreed. Only to discover that all the dealer’s tables were fully booked. Oh the disappointment. But such is life and I thought no more of it until three days before the event when an email landed in my inbox saying that a table was now free and would I still like to go? Yeah baby!

Storm Troopers, Jedi Knights, a bounty hunter and a TIE fighter pilot, a Doctor Who, vampires, people wearing Victorian/Gothic/futuristic costumes and characters of unknown origin wandered past

Publicity: The final frontier …
On day one of AussieCon 4 I set up the alto books table with a great deal of trepidation – after all, I was squashed between Borders (who knew they had so much Sci-Fi/Fantasy stuff?) and Penguin (they had raffles and games! Why didn’t I think of that?) I only had a very small list of books to sell.

As Storm Troopers, Jedi Knights, a bounty hunter and a TIE fighter pilot, Doctor Who (an incarnation as Tom Baker rather than the current Matt Smith), vampires, people wearing Victorian/Gothic/futuristic costumes and various characters from unknown (to me, that is) origins wandered past I soon realised that my larger bookseller neighbours were in fact attracting more people to my table. They would stop and chat and meet the author. What? Oh yes, that was me as the big sign I’d printed attested to.

The result? Discussions on all things Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Fans of the genre. Fans of books. And yes, book sales. Oh my!

It was fantastic meeting people who had travelled from all over the globe to be there – USA, Canada, Sweden, Norway, New Zealand, Great Britain, Germany, Japan …  and of course, Australia. And an absolute thrill to know that copies of my book – signed, of course — are winging their way to all of these countries.

It was an even greater thrill that the Fan Guest of Honour bought a copy!

Aussiecon 4: A learning experience
Would I do things differently? You bet. I should have been on a discussion panel or two (yeah, I know, it was the ‘known’ writers who were represented but I can dream!).

Mis'ka: Rite of ascension

m a miller's new book

I had bookmarks that I handed out but I now feel that I should have been wandering the halls of the Melbourne Convention Centre and shoving them at all and sundry.

It can be difficult to spruik your wares but the great thing about AussieCon 4 was that I was spruiking to the converted – these were people who want Sci-Fi, who get Fantasy and who, in many cases, actually dress up to prove it.

So my five days of standing and signing turned out to be a fun weekend with results – I also sold many of the other alto books as well.

Would I do it again? You bet. Bring on the 69th World Con. It’s in Nevada and will be known as Renovation – best I get saving!

m a miller’s debut novel, Mis’Ka: Rite of Ascension was released earlier this year by alto books. Miller has assisted in the development of an animated children’s television series as well as a live action kid’s show. She has won short story competitions and worked in the script department for
Blue Heelers.

In her spare time, miller finds time to swim, walk her dogs and eat (lots) of chocolate – not necessarily at the same time!


Click here for m a miller’s website.

Click here to visit the website for AussieCon 4.

And here for the website for the 69th World Science Fiction Convention in 2011.