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.

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.

At the book launch for Adam Stiles’ The Uniques


Author Adam Stiles and Kate Stiles

Author Adam Stiles and his mother, Kate at the book launch

Back at the beginning of May, I interviewed emerging author Adam Stiles. Last week, Adam launched his new book, The Uniques at St Edmund’s College in Ipswich. Here’s what Adam had to say about the event:

I started off by gathering the crowd around me (it was a very informal setup) and explaining to them how the book came to be, where the ideas came from, what it took to become published. I explained that it is a series, and took them through the basic premise of Act I.

My mate Odin (the first person to read the manuscript) gave a short, impromptu speech, and then I did a full reading of the prologue.

Afterwards, I took a couple of questions and then we had afternoon tea while I went around chatting to the guests, which included the school principal, several teachers, and handful of students who waited around after school, and of course my friends/family.

Eager crowd at the launch of The Uniques

An eager crowd listens to first public reading of The Uniques

I finished by setting up a table to sell and sign copies. Nearly everyone who was there now has one. Overall it was an excellent launch!


Congratulations Adam!

How did you get published? Pt 2 of an interview with author, George Ivanoff

Today, I’m quizzing author, George Ivanoff about his writing career. George explains how he began working with Ford Street Publishing, and how he promotes his books.

Ford Street Publishing don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. How did you sign up with them?

Gamers’ Quest had an unusual genesis. Ford Street Publishing is the brainchild of author, Paul Collins. I had written for Paul a couple of times in the past on education projects. Now that he had started up a trade publishing business, he remembered me and asked me to contribute to Trust Me!, a short story anthology. The story was called “Game Plan”.

One day Paul mentioned to me that fellow author, Meredith Costain, had read the story and thought that it would make a good basis for a novel. Never one to let an opportunity slip by, I immediately said “So, if I write it, will you publish it?” Paul responded with a guarded, “Well, when you have an outline, send it to me and I’ll take a look.” I went away and had a think about it. The more I thought about it, the more excited I got about the story potential. So I wrote an outline, as well as the first few chapters. Two days after sending it to Paul, I had a contract.

Do you have an agent? Would you consider using one?

No I don’t have an agent. You don’t need one if writing for the education market as there is usually very little room to negotiate on contracts. But I would certainly consider using one in the future for trade publishing. 

How did you go about negotiating contracts with your publishers?

As I said previously, there is usually very little room to negotiate education contracts. There’s a standard contract for all the authors on a series. Having said that, I have negotiated on a couple because I thought they were unfair. In most of those cases the publisher came to the party. But there were a couple of cases where I didn’t take the contract because they wouldn’t negotiate.

With Gamers’ Quest there was no need to negotiate because I was happy with the contract they offered me.

For your latest book, what aspects of publicity and promotion will Ford Street handle? What do you plan to do?

Ford Street have produced posters, bookmarks and stickers which they have been sending out all over the place. They organised a book launch. They have also set up some interviews and guest blogs for me. And they’ve sent out over 80 review copies of the book.

For my part, I’ve been blogging, doing interviews, school visits and book signings. I also put together the Gamers’ Quest website and had the book trailer made.

George Ivanoff with his new book

George with his new book, Gamers' Quest


Why did you decide to do a book launch?

Well, I wanted one because I thought it would be FUN… and it was. But the decision was my publisher’s. It’s a way to announce the book to the world, to sell a few copies and generally kick off the promotion.

Tell me about your book signings.

Signings are a difficult thing. You just never know how many people will show up on the day. It could be 50. It could be 5. I’ve been to signings where well-known authors have had no more than a dozen or so people.

I promote them with FaceBook, Twitter (Follow me on Twitter! Go on, you know you want to), blogs, etc. I send out info to the local schools and libraries. Then I sit back and cross my fingers.

By the way, I’ve got a signing coming up this Saturday (8 May) at Angus & Robertson Ringwood (Eastland Shopping Centre) in Victoria at 11.30am-12.30pm. Come along and say “Hello!”.

Have you promoted your book on radio? 

Yes, I’ve done a few interviews. Check out these podcasts:

3RRR’s Zero-G: http://media.libsyn.com/media/rrrfm/Zero-G-20100426.mp3

3CR’s Published or Not: http://podcast.3cr.org.au/pod/3CRCast-2010-03-25-83893.mp3

Tomorrow, George goes into detail about his online strategy for promoting Gamers’ Quest.

How will you promote your book? Pt 2 of an interview with YA fantasy author, Adam Stiles

Today, I’m quizzing YA author Adam Stiles about how he plans to promote his first book. Adam also talks about his writing influences.

Can you tell me what aspects of promotion your publisher will handle? What do you plan to do?

Zeus submit all new works into a variety of databases and send out marketing information to retailers about their new authors. I will use this as a stepping stone for my own marketing ideas.

Author Adam Stiles

Author Adam Stiles

Of course, my launch, book signings and interviews such as these are an integral part of my marketing strategy, but I have several other ideas to help me stand out from the crowd.

The biggest of these plans revolves around the internet – in particular, my website, forum and Facebook fan page. Growing up, I was a part of several different forums and websites for various interests and I saw first hand how helpful these tools can be in growing a community. I can now use this knowledge and experience to help me achieve my own personal goals.

Finally, I can say I am working when I’m surfing the internet all day!

Since I am fairly close in age to the target audience for the book, I think I still have a pretty good idea of what will and won’t work in promoting the book to young adults.

Will you do a book launch or book signings?

My official launch is scheduled for May 7th at my old high school, St Edmund’s College in Ipswich. I plan to donate a signed copy to the school library, tell the guests and students a bit about how the series came to be and do a reading of the prologue. Afterwards I will hang around to answer questions and sign copies. The Queensland Times newspaper will cover the event, so hopefully that will generate publicity.

When the launch is out of the way I will organise signings and similar events. I plan to send out information and previews to any libraries and reader groups I can find information on.

Will you promote your book outside of bookstores?

Yes definitely, but at this stage my time has mainly been devoted to getting the launch sorted. Afterwards I will happily look into other means of promoting the book to the public. I did a lot of marketing as a part of my business degree so I’m sure I can come up with many ways of shameless self-promotion. One example is that I plan to print up shirts with the cover and logo on them so that I am advertising everywhere I go.

Describe your online strategy.

The whole point of my online strategy is to make readers feel part of a community. To do this I have to offer them content and insights that they would not get anywhere else. This involves me being active on my own site and Facebook fan page so that readers hear about things when they happen.

As the forum grows I am going to slowly release little titbits of information about the series, teasers for future books, fun facts or other things that I deem interesting. I have also started keeping a little diary about my progress on Act II so readers can gain an insight into my writing process. Things like these will go a long way in forming a loyal readership.

Another advantage of this strategy is that it helps me to identify what is working with the series and what isn’t, so I can make adjustments accordingly. There is nothing better than dynamic feedback directly from the readers themselves.

The main drawback was choosing a host and setting everything up. I crashed the forum so darn often in the initial stages that I’m scared to tinker with any settings!

Are you a full-time writer?

I am not a full time writer, but I do try to write every day, even if it just one sentence that I will end up deleting later. That way I always feel a connection to the process, and I won’t grow distant. Sometimes it just can’t be done due to other work commitments, but I try to stick to that plan as much as possible.

I also don’t believe in a structured ‘writing day’. If I’m feeling particularly inspired I can get in there and write for hours, but other days I might just read over what I’ve got already, or just brainstorm. As a general rule, I tend to write better at night when there are less distractions and I can focus on the story in front of me.

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

A lot of authors tend to be quite secluded, so to stand out from the crowd I literally plan to be IN the crowd. I’ve never been afraid to get in there and get things done, so my approach to promoting myself and the series will be no different. I plan to spend a lot of time interacting with the public and talking to readers, either in person or over the internet.

When all is said and done I would like to be thought of as the people’s author – the guy who isn’t afraid to mix with the fans, grow a community and make every single person feel like they are an integral part of what I’m trying to create.

How do your interests inform your writing?

I love a good story, regardless of whether it is a book, movie, game, or even anime. By seeing how others have achieved story-telling success in their chosen mediums I am able to put my own work in perspective.

I also love music, and often I find that a great song is the best way to get the creative juices flowing. Coheed & Cambria and Dream Theater in particular are amazing bands that I like to listen to whilst writing.

Who are your favourite authors?

My three favourite authors are Brent Weeks (Night Angel Trilogy), Sergei Lukyanenko (Night Watch Trilogy – though technically it is four books long) and Peter F. Hamilton (Night’s Dawn Trilogy). Though I wouldn’t recommend them to a young adult audience – there is a LOT of violence and adult themes in all three series – their storylines and styles have really influenced the way I think about the writing process. I only really started getting heavily into reading once I began writing, so similarities between those three authors and myself probably won’t be evident in Act I of The Uniques, but without a doubt I will take what I have learnt from those writers and apply it to my future work. The way they weave their tales is just so amazing it is impossible not to be drawn into the worlds that they have created.

Currently I am about half way through book three of Sergei’s series and am loving every moment of it.

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

Full steam ahead. I haven’t regretted a moment of the process and wouldn’t do a single thing differently.

Adam Stiles, thank you.

Adam’s Bio

Adam Stiles was born in Brisbane in 1988, but was raised and educated in Ipswich. He has a Bachelor of Business Management, majoring in Physical Activity, and was employed at Big Dad’s Pies while studying. Despite being an avid reader, it wasn’t until his third year at university that Adam realised that he wanted to write for young adults. He used his holiday break to write the first act of his series, The Uniques. He plans to pursue careers in business management and as an author.

Click to visit Adam’s website for the book.

The forum for the book.

The Uniques on Facebook. (If you’re not a FaceBook member, go to Adam’s website, then scroll down to the heading on the right ‘Facebook Fanpage’. This should work.)

What’s next on Great (book) expectations? Later this week I’ll be posting an interview with the prolific George Ivanoff.

I’ll also be compiling and uploading my notes from a recent seminar at the Victorian Writers’ Centre – three fiction publishers/editors spoke about what they’re looking for in manuscripts.

How did you get published? Interview with ‘Crackpot’ author, Fiona Trembath

Today, I’m talking with children’s author Fiona Trembath. Fiona’s first novel, Crackpot, has just been released by Melbourne publisher, Avant Press. 

Fiona, can you tell me how you came to be published?

It’s a long story that begins about ten years ago. I’d written a children’s story specifically for the ‘Aussie Bites’ series. They were full of praise, and keen to publish, but just when I thought it was safe to celebrate, they changed their mind. The story has continued to grow since then, suffer numerous rejections (all worthy, with hindsight) until a few years ago when decided to really commit to the book being published (once it had grown to become a novel). And voila! Here it is!

'Crackpot' author, Fiona Trembath

Fiona Trembath - crackers for 'Crackpot'

Tell me about the process of completing the book.

The process was long. However, there was a point where I thought I’d nailed it as a novel, and so after what seemed like the hundredth rewrite, I sent it to a manuscript assessment service.  The critique I received was really encouraging, so did a few more rewrites, sent it back again, and from there on I was ready to send it out into the big wide world. First stop was to enter it in a few literary comps: ‘Childrens and Young Adult Writers and Illustrators Conference’ in 2006, which it won, and then ‘Voices on the Coast’, in 2007, which it also won.  I then signed up with an agent, but nothing happened for two years. Out of frustration – and with the last breath of conviction in me – I took it to Avant Press.  Euan Mitchell phoned me two days later and said those words every Wishing To Be Author wants to hear: ‘I loved your story.  Let’s run with it!’

What did your publisher expect from you in terms of rewrites?

By this stage I was pretty sick of my own story, but knuckled down and did a few rewrites in one or two sections of the book.  Working with an editor, after being an editor myself for so long, was a real pleasure.  It’s so nice to have someone talk to you with such detail and intimacy about the characters in your own book.  You can imagine that by the time I got to read the proofs, I was really, really, really sick of the story (I feel guilty saying that). When the proofs came through, Euan insisted I read it ‘just one last time’, which I resisted, right up until the 11th hour. Thank goodness I read it!  A whole chunk of a rewrite had magically disappeared!

Did you do a book proposal for the book? If so, did it help you?

No, I didn’t. I’m not good at selling myself, so shied away from that. 

Why did you choose to submit your manuscript to a small publisher over a large one?

I had tried the larger publishers and aside from the fact that it takes so long to get a reply (which I fully understand), I didn’t have the stamina to get knocked down again by a publisher that I revered. (The punch hurt more.)  And I’d heard good things about working with smaller, independent publishers, so decided to give it a shot. 

Do you have an agent?

Yes, I did have an agent, and stupidly thought ‘I’m home and hosed’ (what does that really mean anyway? ), and had heard, time and time again at various festivals and writers’ discussions, “It’s harder to get an agent than it is a publisher.”  It’s not necessarily the case, as I found out.  

How did you negotiate your contract with the publisher?

Easy.  ‘Where do you want me to sign?’  It’s a partnership with Avant, so we both have financial interests in the book.  I felt valued and respected by Euan and Avant, and never had to do any serious ‘negotiating’. 

What aspects of publicity do you plan to do?

Although Avant were able to assist in smaller, behind-the-scenes promotion, I was responsible for most publicity and promotion, and so engaged the services of a professional publicist.  He was invaluable – and still is – although I am responsible to maintaining momentum and interest in the book. 

What part of the book promotion will Avant handle?

 Avant don’t have a publicity budget, aside from intranet, internet and word-of-mouth.  

Did you do a book launch?

Yes I did.  It was fantastic! Elly Varrenti launched Crackpot two days after I held the book for the first time in my hands, and three days before I turned 50.  I committed all the money from the sales of the book at the launch to go to a charity in India that I support.  A few weeks later I personally handed over the money – in rupees.  It was a great moment, and one that I will cherish forever.

I notice you’ve done book signings. Were they worthwhile?

As part of my promotion and publicity campaign, I did  a book-signing at the Angus & Robertson bookstore in Greensborough, which went really well. It was a lot of work (I was so worried nobody would turn up), but worthwhile, as I sold lots of books and had incredible support from the A&R team.

Tomorrow, Fiona talks about hiring a book publicist and how she promotes her books in schools.

How did you get published? Interview with Australian children’s author, Marianne Musgrove

This is part 1 of an interview with Adelaide-based author, Marianne Musgrove. Marianne writes children’s novels and her work is published with Random House Australia.

Marianne, can you tell me how you came to be published?

Marianne Musgrove

Marianne Musgrove

After four years and fifteen drafts, I sent my manuscript (read: baby) off to be assessed, first by children’s author, Ruth Starke, and, several drafts later, by Create a Kids’ Book (CAKB). Virginia Lowe (who runs CAKB) wrote me a letter of recommendation which I sent off to an agent who rejected me (very nicely). The second agent I sent it to signed me. It was she who sent off my book to Random House Australia. Prior to this, I had been rejected by about four publishing houses, some kindly, some less kindly.

Have you ever done a book proposal?

No, never. I think about my target audience after my first draft. Then, I edit for age-appropriateness.

It sounds like a fairly painless start to your writing career.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of pain involved! And yes, I do continue to have my work rejected. I don’t just write novels but short stories and poetry so I have a constant stream of rejections flowing into my letterbox with the occasional beautiful acceptance. It’s a bit like being an actor. No matter how good your last work is, you still need to audition for the next play. At times, I’m nervous about the stability of the career I’ve chosen but it’s my dream and all dreams are hard won.

Do you have an agent? Why/why not?

My agent looks after the difficult stuff (negotiating contracts, keeping up with which publishing houses are looking for what). This frees me up to do what I love best which is create stories. Writing is one of those strange professions where there is no clear line of progression. A lot of it is finding your way by chance so having someone in the industry with lots of contacts is immensely helpful.

Did you do anything to build your profile as a writer prior to getting published?

I wrote a few articles for the excellent children’s publishing e- newsletter, Pass it On, about how I was going about trying to get published. I have since met people who recognised my name because of these articles.

What aspects of publicity and promotion has your publisher handled? What have you done?

The publicity officer at my publishing house sends our early copies of my books to reviewers around the country. Sometimes, she is asked to suggest a speaker for a conference and, if I fit the bill, I may be asked to run some sessions. Sometimes, they have an added extra to the book, eg, Worry Tree posters, Lucy the Good stickers.

My publisher funded my book launch which I organised. There’s a lot of talk about book launches being a waste of time. Personally, I disagree. For every person who attends, they will tell several people about your book. If you’re not a big name (like me), word of mouth is going to be one of the main ways you get your name out there so I say, if you want to launch your book, launch it!

I also contacted my local paper, put up posters around the area (library, butcher, shoe shop), paid for bookmarks to be printed (my publisher designed them for me for free), and participated in as many interviews as possible.

Part 2 of this interview to come tomorrow. Marianne will explain how her prior work experience helps with her writing … and more!

Traditional book marketing – is it really dead?

Talk about getting the lowdown on book promotions – I attended the first professional development seminar by the Small Press Underground Networking Community (SPUNC) at the new Wheeler Centre (in Melbourne) on Wednesday.

The title of the seminar was ‘Traditional and online sales and marketing for publishers’. The first speaker was Daniel Ruffino, director of marketing at Penguin Australia.

At the end of the talk, there was an explanatory ‘footnote’ something along the lines of:

‘We’d intended to cover traditional marketing, but it’s pretty much dead’.

According to Ruffino, the media simply aren’t interested in books any more. Newspaper pages devoted to book reviews are diminishing, and it’s next to impossible getting an author onto a TV talk show.

I also heard a publishing industry insider remark that book launches are a waste of effort.

I’m wondering what authors and self-publishers are finding. There’s a lot of info out there on traditional approaches – how to get book reviews, book signings, launches and the like … but how effective is it really nowadays?