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 did you get published? Part 2 of an interview with author, Chrissie Michaels

In part 2 of my interview with author Chrissie Michaels, Chrissie explains how she does historical research and how she plans to promote In Lonnie’s Shadow to schools.

Do you ever encounter obstacles when writing for publication? 

Time is my greatest enemy. Where does the time go when you are on a computer? You look up and several hours have passed. I become obsessive and bossy to the extreme—‘Who took the Do Not Disturb sign?!’ When the computer crashes; the printer runs dry; the internet won’t work; there’s a paragraph to finish but I just can’t get it right; ‘Who’s taken the Macquarie?’… 

At this point I take a break—a walk on the beach, do some gardening, go on a short holiday…

Cover for In Lonnie's Shadow

Cover for In Lonnie's Shadow

How do you tackle historical research?

I really enjoy the thrill of discovery in historical research. In Lonnie’s Shadow is the second of my published historical novels, although it is my first novel for young adults pitched at the more mature reader.  The other novel is On Board the Boussole, the diary of Julienne Fulbert, written for the 12+ age group and based on the French explorer, Lapérouse’s tragic voyage in the 18th century. This is part of the Australian, My Story series by Scholastic Australia. 

Melbourne’s State Library has been an invaluable resource for both novels. The Argus newspaper was an important reference for me when researching Lonnie. I trawled the microfiche at the Library, referred to academic papers about the archaeological digs, checked out the ephemera section. I also visited Museum Victoria and studied their exhibition on Melbourne. Many artefacts from the digs are part of this display. In fact this was the source of my inspiration for Lonnie.

While writing Boussole, the rare books section of the library was invaluable for research on Lapérouse.  I corresponded closely with Reece Discombe, who rediscovered the site of the shipwrecks near Vanikoro in the 1960s. Reece gave me some of his photographs, sent me photocopied material and gifts, such as a book signed by the French admiral who oversaw the French navy’s dives to the wrecks (which I now treasure). Pierre at Albi sent me a wonderful limited edition print of the Boussole (ship) commissioned by the French government, as well as one for the National Maritime Museum in Sydney which I sent on to them. Jean from the Association Salomon sent me copies of his own novels on the subject. I also visited the Lapérouse Museum in La Perouse, NSW. 

Without a doubt, I get carried away doing research. Here’s an example of what I mean—when researching the cost of an apple for Lonnie, I came across a reference to the gangs who roamed around Melbourne at that time. It was like falling into a vat of scrumpy in the form of my gang leaders, George Swiggins and Billy Bottle, who must have been fermenting somewhere in the back of my mind. Believe me, they poured out that day, packing a punch and set for a bottling. At the time, I forgot about the apple…

Do you do book proposals for your work?

I always try to follow the submission guidelines that a publisher has. If this calls for a book proposal then I will do it. I try to present manuscripts as professionally as I can and always include a return envelope with the required postage, unless stated otherwise. 

Why do you write under a pen name?

Really just because I can… it fits into where I am at this point in my life. If you do write under a pen name you should inform Public Lending Rights; Educational Lending Rights and Copyright Agency Limited. Also I always put my ‘real’ name along with my other details on a manuscript’s cover page.

Do you have an agent?

Because we do still have a range of markets here in Australia I have been happy to do it alone. However, I’ve just sent some material to a US agent. I saw an advertisement in one of my network newsletters. But this is the first time I’ve done so. 

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

Paul Collins my publisher at Ford Street is supersonic. He has sent off stickers, bookmarks, set up interviews and provided contact points. He provided the opportunity for my involvement in the cultural exchange of Australian books to the Shanghai and Nanjing Libraries. The exhibition is called ‘Finding Gold’ and is associated with the current Shanghai World Expo. I am very excited to be one of the featured writers. 

I am one of 16 writers selected to launch their book during the Emerging Writers Festival in Melbourne. My timeslot is Thursday 27 May, 7–8pm. Estelle Tang is hosting these ‘15 Minutes of Fame’. There will be book sales and a book signing at the end. More details are available on the EWF website. Please come along if you can. A launch is a real celebration, like a birthday because our characters are like our own children (almost).

What do you plan to talk about to school groups?

I am happy to speak to school groups. Lonnie is for the more mature adolescent reader as it has some gritty and violent moments. Some of the characters are hard done by but they are resilient and determined and don’t give up. 

I have a Lonnie collection of my own to act as writing inspiration. My favourite is the phrenological head (chapter: ‘Skull’ from In Lonnie’s Shadow) which I picked up at a market over one summer holiday. I also have an old brown bottle with ‘not to be taken’ on it (‘Bottle for medicine or poison’). I’ve got some great old coins (‘Three coins and a token’). I have some great photos of the area around Little Lon as well.

There’s the book trailer to show and extracts to read, language to explore… 

There are also stories to tell. Just yesterday I had a phone call from a lady whose mother spent her early childhood in Cumberland Place (part of the setting in Lonnie). She told me how her mother wandered down to the nearby theatre and watched Pavlovna dance. I was so thrilled to hear from her and even more that she was really excited by my book. She is going to keep in contact by email and tell me some more stories. I can’t wait.

Tomorrow, Chrissie explains more about how she plans to promote In Lonnie’s Shadow.

In the meantime, take a look at the trailer for the book, along with Chrissie’s article about using book trailers in the classroom.

How did you get published? Interview with YA author, Chrissie Michaels

Today, I’m talking with author Chrissie Michaels. Chrissie’s new historical fiction novel for young adults, In Lonnie’s Shadow, is published by Ford Street Publishing. 

Chrissie, can you tell me how you first came to be published? 

I started writing short stories as a hobby. I took a manuscript along to a workshop run by Bruce Pascoe who at the time was publishing a literary journal, called Australian Short Stories. Someone at the school I worked at knew him and organised his visit as part of a community arts project. This was in 1988, I remember, because my daughter was only a few weeks old and it was the first time I had actually ventured out after the birth. She came along too!

author, Chrissie Michaels

Chrissie Michaels, author of In Lonnie's Shadow

After this a few of us got together and started a local writers’ group. Being with other writers can spur you on. From there I began entering competitions. Often when you are a prize-winner your work is published in an anthology. Luckily, I managed to win a few prizes, so saw some work go into print. Our writers’ group then started publishing some anthologies of their own and doing readings. 

A few years later I decided to do a professional writing course. It was there I started to write a novel. I recall telling one of my tutors that I was a short story writer, not a novelist. I just didn’t feel that I had a novel in me. She said, ‘Nonsense.’ I started kicking and screaming (figuratively, not literally) but she persevered. Within the year I had finished my first children’s novel and it was accepted for publication by Scholastic. I ended up teaching short story and a few other subjects at TAFE, so eventually my hobby became my work.

In the end the story you send in has to stand alone.

You’ve entered competitions and had lots of short pieces published. Was this part of a deliberate strategy to develop your career as a writer?

It was all ad hoc in a way. I was lucky that in my early stages when I sent off work it seemed to be published. So I thought it was easy. Well, I have learnt a thing or too since then! I still think I write for the pleasure and the challenge, although I’ve never been shy about sending off manuscripts. And I still enter competitions, especially the local ones as they are so supportive of the community and it’s always an affirmation when someone likes a story or poem enough to award a prize or commendation. I am in the process now of judging the Kathryn Purnell Poetry Prize for the Society of Women Writers (Vic); this has been a very enjoyable task.

I like to sponsor eager students as well. Last year one of my Year 10 students who really was struggling with his writing skills, did five drafts of a story. This was a mammoth effort on his part and when he took out the first prize for his age group I can’t tell you how delighted I was for him. Seeing him so happy and proud at the presentation ceremony was a fantastic feeling. 

You’ve written for three quite different audiences: children, teachers and adults. Do you go through phases where you’re just writing for one audience?

I guess the fact I teach as well as write for children means I am a pretty child-centric sort of person. It’s true I always have a few projects going on together. At the moment I have a couple of adult novels in various draft stages that I visit every now and then. I have written some adult poetry recently. There are a few picture book texts and a chapter book for younger readers that are currently with publishers. I also am in negotiations with an educational publisher for a workbook, which is at the trial chapter stage.

When I have a deadline to meet then I am usually ruthless about how I utilise the time. Everything else stops until it is completed. When I was revising Lonnie for Paul Collins at Ford Street, I would do long stints at a time. It is a matter of going into the necessary sphere for writing or editing, depending on the task at hand.

I always have ideas swirling around in my head. It’s just finding the time to write them down…

Is there a particular audience you prefer writing for?

Depends on my mood and the idea which comes to mind, although I do seem to write more for children. When I started In Lonnie’s Shadow I wasn’t sure whether I would write it for the adult general market or for young adults. The characters ended up defining the pathway, most particularly Lonnie and Pearl. Even so the novel does seem to fit into the crossover market. 

Did your background as a teacher help when you approached education publishers for writing work? 

For the teacher texts, yes, definitely. Some educational publishers are happy to put you on their file if you send in a sample of your writing and your style fits their purpose. It’s definitely worth checking out their websites and submission guidelines.

What are the differences between writing for the education market and trade?

Education markets are fairly prescriptive. They usually have a project in mind and you will be required to write to a tight set of guidelines. This may be for a series of readers that are targeted to a certain age group and are language specific. Textbooks very much require a teaching perspective as well as a direct knowledge of the related curriculum. 

The trade market is a hard nut to crack. The avenues for unsolicited material are becoming fewer and fewer, the slush piles seem higher and higher. I believe in being persistent. I keep checking publishing websites to see if and when they are open for submissions. It is important to present as professional a manuscript as you can to them. I’ve found most publishers respond genuinely to your submission. But it can take a long time before you receive a response.

Did having a publication record help you when you approached Ford Street Publishing about your novel?

I must say first of all that everyone at Ford Street Publishing has been fantastically supportive. I sent Lonnie in cold. At first, they returned the manuscript but gave me a detailed response. What they said made great sense and I could tell that they had clearly spent time reading the story. When they suggested I revise certain parts and they may give it a second look I quickly set to work. This is what I meant when I said earlier about the genuineness of some publishers. I wasn’t sure if they would consider it a second time, but they did and what’s more they accepted it. 

I guess it helped in the initial stage that I could send in an author CV with some writing credits. But in the end the story you send in has to stand alone. 

Tomorrow, Chrissie explains how she does historical research and how she plans to promote In Lonnie’s Shadow to schools.

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:

3CR’s Published or Not:

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

How did you get published? Interview with YA & children’s author, George Ivanoff

Today, I’m talking with children’s and YA author George Ivanoff. George’s novel, Gamers’ Quest, has just been released by Ford Street Publishing.

Author, George Ivanoff

Author, George Ivanoff

George, can you tell me how you first came to be published?

It happened slowly. Throughout the 1990s I was writing for amateur publications, while also sending out stories to professional markets and building up my collection of rejection letters. Then one day I hit the right publisher with the right story at the right time. I got a phone call. They wanted to see more. I sent them more. Next thing you know I have a book of short stories — Life, Death and Detention (Margaret Hamilton Books, 1999).

At around about the same time, I discovered the education market and wrote my first education book — Real Sci-Fi (Horwitz Martin, 1999). I discovered I had a knack for writing for this market and I continued to get more education books. A couple of years ago I was able to give up working a day job and concentrate on my writing.

I see you’ve had lots of short stories for kids, teens and adults published. Was this part of a deliberate strategy to develop your career as a writer?

Yes and no. I’ve always loved short stories and have been writing them for years. As a format it forces you to cut the waffle and get straight to the guts of the story. But yes, I did make a conscious effort to submit some stories to some high-profile anthologies, to get my name out there.

Did having the short stories published help you when you approached publishers about your novels?

No! Gamers’ Quest is my first published novel and it went through a different processes. As for my earlier unpublished novel, the short stories haven’t helped me sell it yet!

How did you approach the education publishers you’ve worked with?

I’ve approached education publishers in two ways. The first method is simply that of looking up their websites, seeing if they publish the sort of material I could write, and then emailing… “Hey there. I’m a writer. I could write for you. Call me!” This method has worked on a few occasions. The second method is that of networking. My first education book was through the recommendations of a friend. And since then, I’ve gotten a fair bit of work simply by meeting people and being nice to them.

As a writer, what qualities are required for writing fiction and non-fiction for the education market?

You need to be able to work to a brief and you need to be able to meet deadlines. Briefs can be very specific. Things like word-count and age-level are easy enough, but sometimes the requirements of the text can be a challenge. Sometimes the requirements are simple, like “we want a story about a magician” or “we need a super-hero story”. Other times, they get more specific. I once got a brief wanting a fiction book dealing with self-esteem and positive older role models. The result was House of Cards, a story about a bullied kid who is interested in being a writer, but lacks the self-confidence. He strikes up a friendship with an elderly author who gives him the confidence to pursue his dreams. And the author also learns that she still has a lot to offer the world.

What are the differences between writing for the education market and trade?

The main difference is that the education market is brief-driven. An education title is not normally published in isolation — it’s usually part of a series of books, each with a different author. So you need to write something that fits in with the rest of the series…which is why you get a brief.

With the trade market, you can write whatever you want. But then you have to try and sell it to a publisher.

Do you come up with the ideas for the non-fiction books or does the publisher commission you? 

Education books, non-fiction and fiction, are usually commissioned. There have been a few exceptions along the way. I wrote a few books for graded reading series of fiction chapter books called Fast Forward. This was a competitive process. For each level, the editor sent a brief about style, word-count and grade level to a whole bunch of authors. The genre and topic of the stories were up to the authors. Then the editor would pick the 5 stories that best suited the needs of the series. All up I made 10 submissions, selling 5 of them.

How did you come to be published in New Zealand?

This was something I initiated. I read a note in a writers’ newsletter that mentioned a publisher in New Zealand was looking for authors to write books for reluctant teen readers. I contacted them, pitched an idea and was contracted to write Cory Jansen – Teen Spy. It was a set of 5 chapter books. Each book was a small story in its own right, but also part of a larger story. So it’s actually a short novel split into five non-threatening, slim chapter books. I was very pleased with these books. They were very nicely designed and the comic-book style of illustrations, from artist Christian Schwager, were perfect.

Were there any difficulties working with an overseas publisher?

No difficulties. I do most things via email these days, so it makes no difference where the publisher it located.

Do you ever encounter obstacles (in terms of craft) when writing for publication? If so, how do you address them?

Well, there’s always the occasional bout of writers’ block. And it’s often not that I don’t know what to write, but that I just can’t get it out. I find the best thing to do is just leave it for the moment, go do something else, like the washing or the cooking, and then come back to it later. 

What do your publishers expect from you in terms of rewrites?

This can vary greatly. Often, with educational publishing, I’ll submit a manuscript, get some feedback, re-write and re-submit, and that’s it. An editor will go through it later with a fine-tooth comb and make any necessary amendments.

With trade publishing there is a lot more back and forth happening. Gamers’Quest went through 9 drafts. I started with an outline and sample chapters, which the publisher gave me some feedback on. I then wrote 5 drafts of the novel before submitting it. The publisher then gave me some feedback and I re-wrote it. He then gave me some more feedback and I re-wrote it again. Then the editor went through it in great detail and I did another draft. Then the publisher gave me some more feedback and I did the final draft. But through the design and proofing stage a few more little amendments happened.

Do you do book proposals for your books?

I do for the education books. After receiving the brief I will write a proposal. Then, based on the proposal, the publisher will commission me…or not. 

Tomorrow, George talks about how he moved from writing for education publishers, to working with Ford Street Publishing. He also discusses his book launch and signings.

Click here to visit George’s website.