How will you promote your book? Pt 3 of an interview with author, Chrissie Michaels

This is part 3 of my interview with author, Chrissie Michaels. Today she explains how she is promoting her new book, In Lonnie’s Shadow.

Chrissie, how do you market yourself to teachers and librarians?

Rachel at the Australian Education Union has just interviewed me for the teacher’s union newsletter and I recently did an interview with Judith at SLAV (School Library Association of Victoria) for their Bright Ideas blog.

Will there be teachers’ notes for In Lonnie’s Shadow?

There are teachers’ notes on Ford Street’s website and also on mine. I do plan to add more. I have put on an FAQ section on my site as there have been a few questions about which items from the dig are real or imagined. I should reinforce at this point that Lonnie is a work of historical fiction.

Do you or you publisher have any plans to sell your book overseas?

Paul Collins (publisher at Ford Street Publishing) has mentioned that it went to Bologna. We won’t know for a few months. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

How did you decide what content to put on your website?

I am a novice at this. I only set up the website over the summer holidays and haven’t got a domain name yet. Sophie Masson gave some good advice, which I took up about using the Google site. I wanted the focus to be on Lonnie and to make the book trailer more available. I also wanted it to be a focus for teachers. That’s why I am putting up some additional classroom activities. I have just included some work on the language in the novel, clarifying terms such as: duck shoving, on the wallaby etc. 

Who is the audience for your website?

I guess I have made it more for teachers at this point. I am a real novice at this at the moment. I haven’t even faced Facebook or Twitter yet!

Why did you do a book trailer? How did you decide what to do for it?

Paul Collins suggested we have a book trailer. This was over the last summer holidays. Hopefully it provides an entry point for some to read Lonnie.

My partner Michael produced the trailer. Between us we came up with the ideas for the script. It was a matter of what we could do and what we could work with. Michael is fabulous at using MovieMaker.

We had some photos of Little Lon from my research. They feature buildings that appear in the novel which is set in Little Lon in 1891. There is the Leitrim where Daisy lives and the Governor, one of Pearl’s haunts. The Royal Exhibition Buildings, the fountain and the Carlton gardens are central to the illegal horse race through the streets. The knife relates to Slasher Jack; the bottles (the bottle for medicine or poison and the Glass and Bottle gang); the fob watch (the cause of some of Lonnie’s unhappiness); these all appear in the novel. The trapdoor and the traditonal nursery rhyme ‘Around the rick’ are also key links. 

The background music to the clip was a birthday present from my brother who plays the classical guitar and composed the piece,which he called Lonnie’s Lick. He says he is available to compose music for any other clips. 

My daughter and her boyfriend were most put out that their words weren’t used, as they spent at least an hour one afternoon rehearsing lines, as Lonnie and Pearl. My daughter does appear as Pearl though in the news clipping section of the clip!

How are you integrating your online promotions with your ‘real world’ promotions?

I don’t think I really live in the ‘real world’. That internal landscape keeps building fences. This is the first time I have been involved in any online promotions’ venture. There have been quite a few interviews for blogspots (such as yours) and we are all certainly grateful for the opportunity to talk about our books and writing. Networks are so important for writers. It can be quite isolating otherwise. But there has to be a balance. 

Are you a full-time writer? How do you structure the days that you write? 

I do have a part-time teaching job at the local secondary school, three days a week, which is quite time consuming.

Writing at home is relaxation time, done purely when I feel like doing it, which turns out to at least a few hours a day, mostly on my days off, and during weekends or holidays. I do have spells where I do more, especially when an idea is ripening or a deadline is due. 

How does your background inform your writing?

I’m an avid reader with a love of literature and history. I have a curious (and at times, a troubling) mind.  When I was 17 and in my first year at uni, where I was studying French, I was introduced to the French authors, Zola and Balzac. They still stay with me now. 

How would you describe your ‘brand’ as an author?

I think I will end up being tagged as a writer of historical fiction. If I could live my life again, I would have been an archaeologist or historian and I guess I would have ended up in the same place. (Then again I would like to be Doctor Who’s assistant and I have written a sc-fi novel for Scholastic Press…) 

I just consider myself a writer who is lucky enough to be published sometimes.

If you could travel back in time to the moment before you sent off your first manuscript, what advice would you give yourself?

Never send a handwritten manuscript. Accept any criticism as constructive advice. 

Always be polite – remember that the commissioning editor who refuses your manuscript today will probably move on to another publishing house and you may meet up again soon. 

In Lonnie’s Shadow
The discovered artefacts from an archaeological dig in Melbourne become the backdrop for this story about a group of teenagers in 1891 who are struggling to make their way in a world that seems to be conspiring against them whichever way they turn. Lonnie McGuinness knows only one thing for sure – there doesn’t seem to be any fairness in life for him or his mates. So he decides to take matters into his own hands. 
But when does a favour turn into a crime? 
And when should a secret no longer be kept?

Chrissie’s bio

Chrissie’s published work includes junior fiction, poetry and short stories, as well as a series of primary school texts. In Lonnie’s Shadow is her debut YA novel and is published by Ford Street Publishing.

She will appear at Melbourne’s Emerging Writers Festival, at 7 pm on Thursday 27 May 2010 at the Wheeler Centre, 176 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. 

Click here to visit Chrissie’s website.

View the trailer for In Lonnie’s Shadow here. (Scroll down approx. 4 screen lengths to find it.)

How do you promote your books? Pt 2 of an interview with author, Richard Blackburn

This is the second part of my interview with author, Richard Blackburn. Richard has written an historical fiction trilogy for young adults.

Richard, do you sell or promote your books outside of bookstores?

Most definitely! I average a book signing a week and sell around twenty books each signing, and this is really helpful, especially now the three books of the trilogy have are available. But I’ve had a lot of success as a guest speaker for National Seniors Groups, Probus Clubs, etc. The audience is often about 80 people and they are interesting and educated people who often want to get published themselves. So I talk of my experience and how they can start out for themselves.

Author, Richard Blackburn

Historical fiction author, Richard Blackburn

I give talks at high schools. My first two books have been accepted for the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge so I have a good ‘in’ there. I’ve given talks at council libraries readers’ and writers’ groups and sold copies there.

For the Canadian/US market I have to rely on the internet. Lachesis has its own marketing section but I’m not happy to leave it at that. I’m sending emails to every library, high school and reading group I can find an email address for. I’ve applied for a grant to attend a two-month residential in USA to follow up on this work – and it is work. California alone has over 9,000 high schools.

I’ve just had a website created for me and I’m going to link it to the blog site I’m trying to get going. That’s where I hope to sell more books. It will also be a place I can advertise the time and location of my signings. I send notices to all newspapers already and it helps. It’s great to have people come up and say that they’ve read about me and want to hear more – a great advantage.

For school groups, what do you talk about?

I introduce myself and my book. I have a funny story about how my father was a story teller and I followed that way. They all love a laugh.

I talk about growing up on the site of an ancient castle, long demolished, but with some evidence still in the contours of the land. Then I talk of the writing process and how lucky we are to have the English language to use. Over the millennia we’ve pinched a huge number of words from Latin, Norse, French, German and many other languages so we have a word for every degree of emotion.

At my talks I have a few coins from the 12th century, I have a chain mail vest and helmet. I tell them my wife won’t let me have a sword because I’m very accident prone and she’s sure our insurance wouldn’t cover me being trusted with a dangerous weapon. So I set the scene for my books.

Also I have a 1m x 0.5m poster of my books’ cover art – it’s really eye-catching. After the talk, I let them try the armour on. In that way the students remember it and it usually gets into their school magazine.

Do you market yourself to teachers or librarians?

I find schools a hard market. I’ve emailed every public school in Australia and every time a book is accepted for the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge I contact every school library in NSW. I’ve had talks to many teachers at my book signings and, even though I have my blue card, little has come of it.

Libraries are different. Again I’ve emailed every one of them. This has had good results. I’ve followed up by checking the entries for my books in the catalogues of all libraries. Caloundra library had one book of the trilogy in the Adult section and two in the Young Adult section. They were happy to fix it up. Even the national library had the third book categorised for preschool readers. It’s best not to assume anyone will get it right for you – check it for yourself.

The Moreton Bay Regional Council has a webpage for local authors and I’m on that. By attending their Arts promotional meetings I met some State Arts staff and I’m on their email list and have been invited to the launch of their annual arts program. This ‘getting in’ to the Arts world is important. That’s why I’m putting in for research grants, development grants and residential grants. If you don’t push yourself, no-one else will do it for you.

It sounds like you devote a lot of time and energy to promoting your books. Does this impact on your writing time?

Just now I don’t have time to write. I’m putting all my efforts into the Canadian/US market to whip up sales there. It is very important to me because I have written the film script to the first book. If I can get a lot of interest in it, that will be the time to approach Hollywood. So it’s not worth my while trying to write. My mind isn’t there.

Are you a full-time writer?

I tell everyone that, now I’ve retired, I’m a full time domestic servant (my wife works). But all the rest of my time is writing or related work.

How does your background inform your writing?

I find that experiencing a lot of different lifestyles has allowed me to talk with confidence about the things I write. I’ve worked in the Simpson Desert, in the New Guinea jungle. I’ve parachuted (and not that tandem stuff!) and scubadived – and still do. I’ve travelled and observed.

There are people who will look for flaws in your work. I find that having been adventurous myself gives me permission to write about someone else who is involved in fascinating adventures.

How would you describe your ‘brand’ as an author?

Lots of books today are yea thick. There are often parts where the story gets bogged down. Well, I was a hopeless student. I didn’t read books because there wasn’t one I’d really liked. I passed my HSC at age 30 odd and my degree in IT at 52! So I’m a slow learner. That makes me very keen to cut the fat from my writing. I want action and interest all the time. I’m delighted when people say they couldn’t put my book down. I want to give students like I was the sort of book I would have been really happy to have found.

Also I am fascinated by interesting facts about the past and love to share them in my work. A few readers have said they eagerly await the next footnote because it is about something really interesting.

If you could travel back in time to the moment before you sent off your first manuscript, what advice would you give yourself?

I’d edit the work with my present knowledge of what is needed with regard to craft. Then I’d really put every effort into getting an agent – using the Preditors & Editors website. If that was absolutely impossible, I’d keep on trying at the top end of the publishers’ heirarchy.

I’ve nothing against Zeus and Lachesis, but the large publishers have a huge advantage in the market. They can get your book into all the bookshops and they can afford much better advertising. So, yes. I’d really work hard on my manuscript then I’d not become impatient so easily.

Richard Blackburn, thank you.


Richard Blackburn is Zeus Publications’ bestselling author and has written a fantasy trilogy: The Gatekeeper, Rudigor’s Revenge (both listed in the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge) and The Regiment. He sells a version of The Gatekeeper overseas (The Guardian of the Gate). Richard lives in Queensland and travels extensively to do book signings.

Click here for Richard’s website.

How did you get published? Pt 2 of an interview with Australian children’s author, Marianne Musgrove

This is part 2 of an interview with Adelaide-based author, Marianne Musgrove. Marianne’s work is published with Random House Australia.

Marianne, does your background as a hospital social worker and social policy writer inform your writing?

Most definitely. I’m interested in issues that affect children and these were brought to my attention in my work as a social worker. That said, for me, the story is paramount. I set out to tell a good story and if children learn something along the way, all the better, but it’s not my primary goal. Kids can always tell when an adult is preaching at them.

Marianne's latest book

My background has certainly informed the kind of stories I write, whether it’s coping with worries in “The Worry Tree” or dealing with a grandfather with dementia in “Don’t Breathe a Word”.

Was it your idea or your publisher’s to submit The Worry Tree for the Family Therapists Award?

Generally speaking, the publisher is the one who submits books for awards although some awards allow the author to submit their work too.

Tell me about how The Worry Tree came to be translated into German and Bahasa.

Every year, there are several bookfairs around the world, eg, in Bologna, Frankfurt and Taipei. Publishers and agents go along to try and get each other to buy the rights to their titles. In this way, my other books were signed and will also be translated into Hebrew, Italian, Korean and Chinese.

I notice Henry Holt (an imprint of US Macmillan) are publishing The Worry Tree and Lucy the Good. How did that come about? 

Random House Australia has an agent who operates in the US (sounds like a spy operation!). She pitched “The Worry Tree” to Henry Holt who signed it and printed an Americanised edition, only making minor changes, eg, ‘favourite’ became ‘favorite’. As for “Lucy the Good”, Holt wanted to make some changes to the plot so I rewrote it for the American market, a very common practice.

Did you set up your website or did your publisher help you with this?

I paid someone to do it. (I’m a bit of a Luddite, I’m afraid!) I had to negotiate with my publisher to use the text (you can download the first chapter of all my books) and graphics as I do not own the copyright to these.

How did you decide what content to put on your website?

I looked up many children’s authors’ websites and wrote a list of what I liked best. Then I looked at my budget and scaled back my grand plans. (Alas, the interactive worry tree will have to wait …) My main specifications were that it had to be funny, entertaining, useful and hopefully encourage people to keep buying my books.

Who is the main audience for your website?

Children, teachers, parents/guardians and aspiring children’s authors.

Did you have input into the teachers’ notes for Don’t Breathe a Word?

I didn’t write the first draft but I did have input after that. The notes were written specifically for a company called Australian Standing Orders aka ASO (a division of Scholastic Australia). At the time, I hadn’t heard of Australian Standing Orders so when I was told ASO were buying my book, I couldn’t understand why the Australian Symphony Orchestra would want so many copies!

Have you spoken to children in schools?

I’ve conducted a few school visits (mostly in Adelaide), generally for Years 3-5. I try to keep things interactive as there’s nothing worse than a grown-up standing up the front droning on for forty minutes. Amongst other things, we make a living Worry Tree and I teach everyone “The Irritating Song” which goes down well with the kids, though less so with the teachers 😉

I also promote my books at festivals and fairs.

Do you market yourself to teachers and librarians? If so, how?

My website and word of mouth. I’m fairly busy writing but if a local school contacts me, I generally accept as I really enjoy the contact with the students.

How would you describe your ‘brand’ as an author? What is it that differentiates you from other children’s book authors?

In a nutshell, I write funny books that help children. It’s strange to think of a person being a brand but, in this day and age, it’s how things are marketed. When I set up my website, I thought about calling it but was advised against this as my ‘brand’ is my name, not the title of my first book. As I was going to write more books, I went with instead.

I do write under a pen name. (I chose ‘Musgrove’ from the novel Persuasion.) I didn’t want my real name to become a brand.

Have you given up your ‘day job’ to write full-time?

I do write full time.

If you could travel back in time to the moment before you sent off your first manuscript, what advice would you give yourself?

Get a manuscript assessment done first before sending it off to a publisher. Also, I’d tell myself to be patient.

Marianne, thank you.


Marianne Musgrove wrote her first full-length novel at the age of eleven: a romantic thriller featuring her unfortunate classmates. Although the unpublished manuscript met with only localised acclaim, she never gave up her dream of becoming an author. Marianne’s first children’s novel, THE WORRY TREE, is the winner of the Australian Family Therapists Award for Children’s Literature 2008 and has been shortlisted for three other awards. Her latest novel, DON’T BREATHE A WORD, is a 2010 Children’s Book Council of Australia notable book. She is also the author of LUCY THE GOOD and the soon-to-be-released LUCY THE LIE DETECTOR.

Click here for Marianne’s website.