The business of writing: Part 2 of an interview with novelist and travel writer, Cameron Rogers

Today author Cameron Rogers talks about working with publishers, using a pen-name, having an agent, and what promotions support emerging writers can expect from publishers.

Cam, with your novels, what do your publishers expect from you in terms of rewrites?
It varies from publisher to publisher, editor to editor. A good editor understands what you’re attempting to do with a given manuscript and helps you work in that direction. Another editor may have a more commercial mindset and ask that the main character of your period drama be more like Starscream from Transformers. I wish I was making that last bit up.

But generally, I have to say, I’ve rarely come across an editor I had a hard time working with. The key, for me, is understanding that the end quality of the manuscript is more important than anything else, including your ego. You need to be okay with amputating whole chapters – months of work, maybe your best work – if the end result for the reader is greatly improved.

How do you find switching between novel writing and travel writing? Does one style of writing help with the other?
I think so. I think travel writing has made me a better novelist. I think it’s accentuated my grasp of texture, of experience, of immediacy, and how people can work. I can’t overstate the value of travel for any kind of writer.

Why did you decide to use a pen-name for Nicholas and the Chronoporter?
It seemed prudent. An established genre writer – like Cliver Barker or Neil Gaiman – can write a book for kids and people find that interesting. They seek it out. It’s almost as if they’ve descended from Olympus to impart some small gift to the people of the lowlands.

But if someone who is perceived to be a children’s writer publishes a conventional novel … that doesn’t seem to work. R.L. Stine – who started the bestselling Goosebumps line – did that. The book rotted on the shelves. So I decided to go with a pseudonym because I didn’t know which way my career was going to go, and I liked the idea of writing a book as a character. I’m hoping I can do more with Rowley Monkfish. I kinda like him.

I wonder why companies don’t make a more concerted effort to promote up-and-comers … I mean, Bryce Courtenay isn’t going to be around forever

Do you have an agent?
I’m represented by Howard Morhaim in New York. He’s had 30 years or more experience, is respected, and I like him as a person. I trust him, and it means I can spend less time sweating the fine print and more time writing. It just makes sense to have an agent like that onside. You not only get their experience, but you get their network of connections as well.

How do you go about negotiating your contracts with your publishers?
Again, that’s the value of an agent. Howard deals with them, gets back to me, we kick it around, and if need be there’s some back and forth. The idea of having to talk business with a publisher over the future of the current book … eurgh. Just, no.

Can people buy ebook versions of your novels?
The Music of Razors can be bought for the Kindle, via Amazon, if you’re in the US.  I’d very much like to get everything happening digitally, globally, eventually.

What’s happened in the past with publicity and promotions for your books? Have you had much assistance from your publishers or have you organised everything?
Somewhat oddly, it’s the popular and established authors who get the bulk of the publicity budget. First-timers, mid- and back-listers get practically zip. So it’s up to them to generate their own publicity however they can.

Since the financial meltdown pretty much every publishing house on Earth is fighting for its life, and they’re doing that via their front-list, so you can’t blame them for focusing squarely on the writers who pay the bills. But, that said, the front-listers have always had 95% of the budget. That’s not a new thing.

Partly out of self-interest and partly out of genuine curiosity I wonder why companies don’t make a more concerted effort to promote up-and-comers, if only to protect the future of their corporation. I mean, Bryce Courtenay isn’t going to be around forever.

Have you done a book trailer? Is this something you’d consider doing?
No I haven’t, but I definitely would. Anything that helps keep people aware that you’re still here doing your thing is valuable. Whether or not it’s cost-effective is something else entirely. But yeah, I’d definitely do it.

An editor may ask that the main character of your period drama be more like Starscream from Transformers. I wish I was making that last bit up.

If you could travel back in time to the moment before you sent off your first manuscript, what advice would you give yourself?
Brian K. Vaughan said that writer’s block is just another word for computer games. The time lost playing just one of those things to completion, if you add it up, is shocking. Furthermore I find the repetition of action and visuals blunts the mind and makes it harder to work afterwards.

It pains me to say it, because I love the escapism of gaming, but I’d advise throwing out all of them, then travelling for three weeks to flush my head and reset. Then returning and getting started on something fresh.

And to remember that everything will take three times longer than I expect.

Cam’s bio

In 2001, Cam was the first author to be nominated simultaneously for three separate Aurealis Awards (Best Horror, Best Fantasy, Best Young Adult). This was for the Australian edition of The Music of Razors, which Neil Gaiman described as “A nightmarishly imaginative debut from a writer of real assurance and vision.”

Cam’s YA novella, Nicholas and the Chronoporter, is in print with Penguin Australia. It was written under the pen-name of Rowley Monkfish. His first published work, a YA novella entitled The Vampires, has been in print with Lothian since 1997.

Cam is currently travelling and working on his next novel. His most recent sales were articles on Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig and Sun Studio, Memphis, for The Age.

Weblinks

Click here for Cameron’s website/blog.

And here for paperback edition of the Music of Razors on Amazon.

Here is the link for The Music of Razors on Kindle.

Spotlight on … author for young adults, Ebony McKenna

Cover for Ondine (UK & Canada)

The cover for Ebony's novel, Ondine: The Summer of Shambles (UK/Canadian version)

Today I’m speaking to Ebony McKenna. Ebony is one of the writers to be featured this evening (Tuesday 25th of May) in the ’15 minutes of fame’ section of the Emerging Writers’ Festival in Melbourne.

Ebony will appear at 7pm at the Wheeler Centre, 176 Little Lonsdale Street. (It’s free to attend.)

Ebony, how did you first come to be published?

I tried for about 13 years writing in many genres including science fiction and category romance, then I finally wrote something worth publishing! With Ondine, I got the book in the best shape I could, approached a literary agency in the UK – and followed their submission guidelines to the letter – and they took me on. The agent secured a publishing deal for me with Egmont, who have Commonwealth rights, which is why my book is also available in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

The Australian & New Zealand cover of Ondine

The cover for Ondine: The Summer of Shambles (Australian/NZ version)

Tell me about the process of completing Ondine.

It’s easy starting a novel, very hard to actually finish it properly. I write just about every day (and when I don’t I get sooooo grumpy!) I found I’d written way past the ending and had pretty much started the next book – so my editor at Egmont pointed out we could cut the last two chapters and have a proper ending earlier on. (Smart woman, my editor!) I then worked really hard to create an ending that gave a satisfying conclusion yet left readers wanting more. We did several rounds of edits where my editors sent me pages and pages of notes, and then I worked like crazy to impress them. It was brain-breaking work, but incredibly satisfying because everything they suggested was sympathetic to the book so it all worked.

There were several rounds of edits – story edits, copy edits, line edits and then the proof copies. It’s a very long process, but I’m really satisfied with the results.

Author, Ebony McKenna

Author, Ebony McKenna

What are you planning for your ’15 Minutes of Fame’ at the Emerging Writers’ Festival?

I plan to be thoroughly entertaining and inspiring. Failing that, I’ll smile a lot.

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 tell myself to get the second book finished pronto! It turned out Egmont wanted a sequel but at that point I hadn’t even started one!

I would also tell myself not to be scared of reviews, because they’ve all been fabulous.

Click here to visit Ebony’s website.

How do you promote your work? Part 2 of an interview with rhyming poet, Jackie Hosking

Today, I talk to poet Jackie Hosking about the ways she promotes herself and her work.

Poet, Jackie Hosking

Rhyming poet & Pass It On editor, Jackie Hosking

Jackie, do you have an agent?

No I don’t have an agent but then again I haven’t really looked for one. I actually enjoy the submission process, though I imagine that an agent would be extremely useful if you found yourself strapped for time. As I tend to write short and sweet, my time is not as scarce as it might be for others.

Have you spoken on radio?

Yes I have – I did an interview with Elaine Harris (ABC Tasmania) a few years ago and a local Melbourne radio station.

Have you performed your poetry in public?

I’ve done a few public readings of my poetry and as far as I’m aware, they went pretty well. I get very nervous at the prospect of reading my work aloud in public but once I get started you can’t stop me.

Have you spoken to school groups?

I have spoken at small local primary schools, usually because I’ve been invited – I don’t tend to seek out this type of work but am happy to do it if asked. My talks so far have been about the art of rhyme and rhythm where we use a rhyming dictionary. I’ve also taught children how to write limericks.

My poetry has been described as old fashioned but not outdated – I like that description.

Do you market yourself to teachers, librarians or any other groups?

This is my next big challenge. I’ve not taken this road yet I think because my internal editor is being too strict. I’ve started to look at designing some workshops but the perfectionist in me is being very restrictive. I need to put it in a box and leave it outside for a while.

Tell me about your online strategy. How did you decide what components to use?

I used to have a website though GeoCities but they closed down this year so now I use a WordPress blog. For me it’s all about networking, getting your name out there and connecting with like minded people. I think of the ones you’ve mentioned above, I use Facebook the most. I only really tweet once a week to let people know that I’m editing the next issue of PIO. Facebook is a bit more casual and very friendly. It is full of useful information and allows you to befriend people in the industry that you may not be able to otherwise. Like all online sites though you have to be careful what you choose to share – once you’ve hit the send button it’s out there for a long time.

These things can also be big time thieves if you’re not disciplined – I like to have them buzzing in the background as I work because being a writer can be a very lonely profession and they remind you that you’re not the only one staring at a computer screen.

I use the internet to promote the newsletter, to ask for news, to find things of interest, to search for artists to profile, to research – the list goes on and on.

Do you target different audiences with each of the online channels?

No not really. The children’s writing/illustrating industry is mostly where I spend my time and my blogs reflect this. The wordpress blog gives information about PASS IT ON, my writing and my rhyming manuscript editing service. The versatility blog gives examples of my poetry and the CBI blog showcases children’s illustrators. Facebook covers everyone, while Linkedin acts as more of an online CV.

What method have you found to be most effective in promoting yourself as a writer?

Well I guess having a list of publications is helpful – I have a page on my blog that shows where I have been published and the type of writing that I write for both children and adults. When I get an acceptance I like to share it with my colleagues – it’s always nice to have your work validated. And like I said earlier, if I’m asked to give a talk or something similar, I usually do.

I get very nervous at the prospect of reading my work aloud in public but once I get started you can’t stop me.

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

I think most writers are full time, in that they are constantly thinking of things to write about. My days however are pretty unstructured except when I’m editing the newsletter. Entering competitions is a good way to keep me writing or editing things I have already written. I definitely have a one track mind – if I have to do the accounts for hubby’s business then I can’t work on my writing. I’m very black and white – all or nothing.

How would you describe your ‘brand’ as a writer?

I am a rhyming poet. My poetry has been described as old fashioned but not outdated – I like that description.

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

Knowledge is power. This advice will save you lots of time and money. Be sure that you send your work to the right people. Be informed.

Thank you, Jackie!

Bio

Jackie has been writing for children for about 5 years. She likes to write in rhyme and runs a manuscript editing service where she helps others to  write in rhyme. She is also the editor/publisher of PASS IT ON, a networking newsletter for anyone interested or involved with the children’s writing/illustrating industry. PASS IT ON has been in circulation for over 6 years.

Links

For information about Pass It On and Jackie’s Rhyming Manuscript Editing Service, click here.

VersaTility – Rhyme & Rhythm: Jackie’s blog about poetry for children (including samples of Jackie’s work).

Children’s Book Illustrators – A Showcase. This blog showcases the work of children’s illustrators who have appeared in Pass It On.

This weekend, I’ll be posting a list of resources for beginning writers. The list was compiled by Jackie with the assistance of Pass It On subscribers.

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? 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 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!