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 Kissing Frogs author, Andee Jones

Author Andee Jones

Author, Andee Jones

Today, I’m talking to Andee Jones. Andee is a psychologist, author and former academic based in Melbourne. Andee’s first memoir, Kissing Frogs, is published by Finch Publishing.

Andee’s stories have been published and awarded, and her articles have been published in academic and professional journals in psychology, health, and education.

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

I was working in the publish-or-perish world of academia, so getting published was part of the corporate-university power game. Submit paper; wait 6-12 months to receive anonymous scathing criticisms including ‘hasn’t cited Smith’; rewrite (citing Smith); resubmit; wait 6-12 months, and so on, ad nauseum.

Fortunately, with the help of some terrific creative writing teachers, I trained myself out of the turgid academic style, started writing more accessible stuff for popular magazines, and then fell into writing memoir.

Did you have a deliberate strategy to develop your writing career?
Not at the start. Fifty years of schooling and academic training told me I couldn’t write creatively. But the more I learnt about creative writing, the more I practiced it and the more I enjoyed it — so liberating compared to the academic straitjacket.

Once published, I started thinking about how to keep going. Unfortunately, it includes promoting and marketing, which isn’t as interesting as writing.

I write in my ordinary speaking voice … I want the writing to sound natural and conversational.


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

I write for the story, and then think about whether anyone else would want to read it. Trouble is, the story usually doesn’t fit neatly into a publishing category. But I have no choice; I could never write for ‘the market.’

How do you find switching between different forms of writing, such as stories and non-fiction? Does working in one form help with working in another?
I’m drawn to life writing, and most of my recent work is in this genre, even my fiction.

Your book
Kissing Frogs is based on your internet-dating experiences. Do you have any anecdotes you could share about this?
I like to think I’m getting braver as I get older … though others might call it something else entirely. Perhaps dating at 50-something is what happens when you stop working full-time and start your second adolescence. I was curious about what I’d find. Not that I necessarily wanted to find ‘BigBoy’, ‘MrCharisma’, ‘Guyloveskissingwomen’ and a personal favourite, ‘Justwarm’.

My first date had received 80 responses and dated 30 women in 30 days.

One guy left a voice message apoplectic with rage: ‘Cor’, he said,‘You’re so far up yourself. I’ve never met anyone so far up herself! Cor!’

The next one said ‘I don’t care if your mind is open, are your legs open?’

Next came a guy I’d dated for two years a while back, but he didn’t recognise me.

Then came the blind-date sex party.

I mean, how much more fun could one have in a week?

Where did the idea for Kissing Frogs come from and how did you get it published?
Kissing Frogs is the story of my four-year experience of looking for love online. The idea for the book came out of a breakup toward the end of this stint. ‘Why don’t we write a book about this stuff?’ I said to my ex-date. ‘Sure,’ he said, and promptly got busy dating. So I got writing.

I sent the m/s to 23 publishers, waited 9-12 months, and received 23 versions of, ‘Sorry, it doesn’t fit our list’. My daughter thought the book was a goer and persuaded me to self-publish. Finch responded to an ad I placed in a trade magazine. I sent Finch a copy, and Bob’s your uncle.

How did you go about structuring and organising your material for Kissing Frogs?
With difficulty. An early false start was to construct the memoir in two distinct voices, one of which I then had to rewrite in order to achieve flow and unity.

Now, I write in my ordinary speaking voice. No matter how complex the ideas, I avoid jargon and long words. I want the writing to sound natural and conversational. This is no mean feat for an over-trained academic.

How did you research potential places to submit your manuscript?
The manual The Australian Writers’ Marketplace is invaluable — everything’s in one place.

Did you have to do much rewriting or reworking of material during the editorial process?
All the hard work was done for the self-published version, so when Finch took it on, little editing was needed.

Perhaps dating at 50-something is what happens when you stop working full-time and start your second adolescence. I was curious about what I’d find.

Did you do a book proposal? Was it helpful?
Yes I did, and yes, it was very useful for me to clarify what the book was on about. Sheila Hollingworth’s short course and book A decent proposal were very useful. Similarly, Euan Mitchell’s course and book Self-publishing made simple were invaluable for my self-publishing project.

Do you have an agent?
No, I don’t have a paid agent, but I do have very good friends in the book trade who offer advice very generously.

How did you go about negotiating your contract with your publishers?
With I can’t tell you how much difficulty. From my very limited experience, it seems publishers have it all their way. Unless they’re fighting over a potentially lucrative author, publishers can get away with saying to a lesser known author, ‘Take it or leave it.’

I’ll put up part two of my interview with Andee on Saturday. In it, Andee explains what she does to promote her book.

In the meantime, you may like to checkout a memoir-writing prize being offered by Andee’s publisher, Finch Publishing. The closing date is the 15th of October, 2010.

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.