In part two of my interview with Tansy Rayner Roberts, Tansy explains how she promotes herself as a writer.
Did you plan the promotional websites or have they evolved as a result of the projects you’ve been involved with?
They’ve absolutely evolved. I’ve been blogging for at least a decade, but made the shift from Livejournal to a proper blog with my own URL round about the time that the Creature Court books were first published with HarperVoyager. When a new social media platform comes along I will usually have a play with it, and set something up, but I am wary of over-stretching myself. My blog remains as the central online place to find me, and I tie everything back to it as much as possible. Livia Day [Tansy’s nom-de-plume for crime fiction] is a bit neglected on the social media side – I find it too straining to pretend to be another person – but I have a basic site for her if people go hunting for the name and books.
You’re often busy on Twitter. Did you make a decision to avoid Facebook?
I don’t avoid Facebook at all! I’m more active on there now than I have ever been. I still love Twitter best – but I used to just mirror tweets on Facebook for years before a friend told me kindly to stop, because it’s really obvious.
Part of me has regretted those early sales, before I was entirely ‘cooked’ as an author.
I generally use Facebook to keep an eye on actual people I know, and don’t get to catch up with as often as I’d like. Twitter is something I enjoy for conversations across the international community. I put links to every blog post on both platforms, and convey news about my books etc. but otherwise I don’t really use them for promotion as such – I don’t think social media works that way. I prefer to use it for communication and fun and that instant ‘I don’t have a water cooler because I work from home’ chat that livens up the day. The good thing about that attitude is that I never convince myself that hanging out on Twitter for an hour is the same as doing an hour of work.
Do you give talks about your writing and books? Do you have a particular approach to public speaking or do you ‘wing it’?
I love to talk. I don’t do enough of things like school visits – I really should, but I’m constantly snowed under, so it’s not something I actively seek out. I often go to conventions though, and will speak at writers festivals when I’m asked. I was recently invited to the Beaconsfield Festival of Golden Words and loved it – I got to talk to a classroom of kids about writing, and then I got to be on panels as both Tansy and Livia!
My process is to figure out what’s wanted – if they want a formal speech, I will prepare something. But I know from experience that I am excellent at winging it, and so I will rely on that rather a lot. If there’s someone to ask questions, like at a panel, then I know that I don’t need much pre-planning at all. It helps to know that, because I get terribly nervous before presenting, and the earlier I start thinking about what I’m actually going to say, the earlier I get nervous. So I often terrify people by refusing to think about public appearances AT ALL until the very last minute. It almost always turns out wonderfully!
Tell me about your involvement with the crowdfunded Cranky Ladies of History project. Do you believe it is necessary to fund small press publications in this way nowadays?
I don’t think it’s necessary as such – though there is more of a strain on small presses than ever before, because a lot of the niche work of quality that used to come their way is now being self-published by authors. But crowdfunding can be an excellent business model for small presses and solo authors alike – it’s a brilliant way to create buzz around a project, and to check that it’s viable before you go to the presses. Not just having the money up front to print a book, which is fabulous, but also having your readers committed.
It’s heartbreaking at times – I have a lot of friends who are small publishers – to see them sink so much time and money and unpaid effort into a work that they think will have a solid audience, only for it not to find that audience.
Cranky Ladies of History was crowdfunded for one simple reason – Tehani [Wessely from Fablecroft] and I wanted to make the book, and we wanted to be able to pay pro rates to authors. Small presses can often get very good writers to work for them for a smaller amount of money because they have other things to offer – great editing, personal involvement in book decisions, and most importantly, a modern, flexible and collaborative approach to digital publishing, something that many of the larger publishers are seriously falling behind on.
So Tehani was always planning to print the book herself, and cover those basic publishing costs that she always does. The crowdfunding allowed us to test the idea to see if it had legs (people loved it! The title of the book created half the buzz) and also to raise the funds to pay authors what they are worth. It meant we could approach some seriously big name authors to take part, but also means that the newer writers who take part will be paid substantially as well.
My blog remains as the central online place to find me, and I tie everything back to it as much as possible.
Many of the authors helped out with the campaign – and even authors who didn’t have time to write a pitch or story for us volunteered to spread the word. Others wrote blog posts for our Cranky Ladies of History blog tour, which celebrated Women’s History Month. It was a mad, glorious festival of retweeting, and we were so excited to make not only the target goal, but our stretch goals, so the book will be illustrated now and have more stories in it than originally planned.
If you could travel back in time to the moment before you sent off your first manuscript, what advice would you give yourself?
That’s a tricky one! Part of me has regretted those early sales, before I was entirely ‘cooked’ as an author. A debut is a terrible thing to waste, and I do feel at times that mine was a bit soggy. I had my expectations rather horrible dashed within a year or two – coping with your first novel rejection after being published feels much worse than working up to an acceptance slowly! But without that first sale, I wouldn’t have learned half the lessons about writing and publishing that I did, and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to earn an income as a creative writing teacher for so many years.
I think sometimes, these days, authors are in such a hurry to be published, and because they can do it themselves, they hurl themselves into the fray. And I wince, because I see authors who start getting published later in their lives who seem to do a better job than I did of turning one or two sales into a proper steady career. It’s a tiny bit painful to have your juvenilia out there, published as a real book, when you know you can do better now. But I guess most of us feel that way about books we wrote 15 years ago?
My path to and from publication may have some bumps (and dips!) in it, but it’s mine, and I don’t think I’d do anything differently. I would tell my younger self to go ahead, post the manuscript, publish and be damned! (But also to write more books before having kids. Trust me on this.)
Tansy, thank you!
Tansy Rayner Roberts is a fantasy author who lives with her partner and two daughters in Hobart, Tasmania. Mind-bogglingly prolific, Tansy has edited Andromeda Spaceways, co-edited AustrAlien Absurdities and promoted (and will co-edit) the Cranky Ladies of History project for Fablecroft. Tansy is one of the three voices of the Hugo-nominated Galactic Suburbia podcast. She also writes crime fiction as Livia Day.
Tansy has won Aurealis, Ditmar and Washington Small Press Short Fiction awards. She won the Hugo award for Best Fan Writer in 2013.
Tansy’s blog: Stitching words, one thread at a time.
Website for Tansy’s nom-de-plume: Livia Day.
Tansy’s Creature Court trilogy.
The Galactic Suburbia podcast.
To promote the Livia Day series.
The Cranky Ladies of History project on Fablecroft, on Pozible and on Pinterest.
You can also find Tansy on Twitter as @liviadaysleuth and @tansyrr.