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.

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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!

Desperately seeking emerging authors

I’m looking for emerging authors to interview for my blog. If you’re willing to share your experiences of getting published and promoting your books, I’d love to hear from you.

Interviews will be short and via email. If you’re in Australia, we could also have a phone chat.

Please note that I won’t be promoting your book per se. However I am happy to provide a brief bio and links to your blog and/or website.

Sorry, I am no longer seeking emerging authors for interviews.