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My poetry has been described as old fashioned but not outdated – I like that description.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

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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 do you promote your books? Pt 2 of an interview with author, Richard Blackburn

This is the second part of my interview with author, Richard Blackburn. Richard has written an historical fiction trilogy for young adults.

Richard, do you sell or promote your books outside of bookstores?

Most definitely! I average a book signing a week and sell around twenty books each signing, and this is really helpful, especially now the three books of the trilogy have are available. But I’ve had a lot of success as a guest speaker for National Seniors Groups, Probus Clubs, etc. The audience is often about 80 people and they are interesting and educated people who often want to get published themselves. So I talk of my experience and how they can start out for themselves.

Author, Richard Blackburn

Historical fiction author, Richard Blackburn

I give talks at high schools. My first two books have been accepted for the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge so I have a good ‘in’ there. I’ve given talks at council libraries readers’ and writers’ groups and sold copies there.

For the Canadian/US market I have to rely on the internet. Lachesis has its own marketing section but I’m not happy to leave it at that. I’m sending emails to every library, high school and reading group I can find an email address for. I’ve applied for a grant to attend a two-month residential in USA to follow up on this work – and it is work. California alone has over 9,000 high schools.

I’ve just had a website created for me and I’m going to link it to the blog site I’m trying to get going. That’s where I hope to sell more books. It will also be a place I can advertise the time and location of my signings. I send notices to all newspapers already and it helps. It’s great to have people come up and say that they’ve read about me and want to hear more – a great advantage.

For school groups, what do you talk about?

I introduce myself and my book. I have a funny story about how my father was a story teller and I followed that way. They all love a laugh.

I talk about growing up on the site of an ancient castle, long demolished, but with some evidence still in the contours of the land. Then I talk of the writing process and how lucky we are to have the English language to use. Over the millennia we’ve pinched a huge number of words from Latin, Norse, French, German and many other languages so we have a word for every degree of emotion.

At my talks I have a few coins from the 12th century, I have a chain mail vest and helmet. I tell them my wife won’t let me have a sword because I’m very accident prone and she’s sure our insurance wouldn’t cover me being trusted with a dangerous weapon. So I set the scene for my books.

Also I have a 1m x 0.5m poster of my books’ cover art – it’s really eye-catching. After the talk, I let them try the armour on. In that way the students remember it and it usually gets into their school magazine.

Do you market yourself to teachers or librarians?

I find schools a hard market. I’ve emailed every public school in Australia and every time a book is accepted for the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge I contact every school library in NSW. I’ve had talks to many teachers at my book signings and, even though I have my blue card, little has come of it.

Libraries are different. Again I’ve emailed every one of them. This has had good results. I’ve followed up by checking the entries for my books in the catalogues of all libraries. Caloundra library had one book of the trilogy in the Adult section and two in the Young Adult section. They were happy to fix it up. Even the national library had the third book categorised for preschool readers. It’s best not to assume anyone will get it right for you – check it for yourself.

The Moreton Bay Regional Council has a webpage for local authors and I’m on that. By attending their Arts promotional meetings I met some State Arts staff and I’m on their email list and have been invited to the launch of their annual arts program. This ‘getting in’ to the Arts world is important. That’s why I’m putting in for research grants, development grants and residential grants. If you don’t push yourself, no-one else will do it for you.

It sounds like you devote a lot of time and energy to promoting your books. Does this impact on your writing time?

Just now I don’t have time to write. I’m putting all my efforts into the Canadian/US market to whip up sales there. It is very important to me because I have written the film script to the first book. If I can get a lot of interest in it, that will be the time to approach Hollywood. So it’s not worth my while trying to write. My mind isn’t there.

Are you a full-time writer?

I tell everyone that, now I’ve retired, I’m a full time domestic servant (my wife works). But all the rest of my time is writing or related work.

How does your background inform your writing?

I find that experiencing a lot of different lifestyles has allowed me to talk with confidence about the things I write. I’ve worked in the Simpson Desert, in the New Guinea jungle. I’ve parachuted (and not that tandem stuff!) and scubadived – and still do. I’ve travelled and observed.

There are people who will look for flaws in your work. I find that having been adventurous myself gives me permission to write about someone else who is involved in fascinating adventures.

How would you describe your ‘brand’ as an author?

Lots of books today are yea thick. There are often parts where the story gets bogged down. Well, I was a hopeless student. I didn’t read books because there wasn’t one I’d really liked. I passed my HSC at age 30 odd and my degree in IT at 52! So I’m a slow learner. That makes me very keen to cut the fat from my writing. I want action and interest all the time. I’m delighted when people say they couldn’t put my book down. I want to give students like I was the sort of book I would have been really happy to have found.

Also I am fascinated by interesting facts about the past and love to share them in my work. A few readers have said they eagerly await the next footnote because it is about something really interesting.

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 edit the work with my present knowledge of what is needed with regard to craft. Then I’d really put every effort into getting an agent – using the Preditors & Editors website. If that was absolutely impossible, I’d keep on trying at the top end of the publishers’ heirarchy.

I’ve nothing against Zeus and Lachesis, but the large publishers have a huge advantage in the market. They can get your book into all the bookshops and they can afford much better advertising. So, yes. I’d really work hard on my manuscript then I’d not become impatient so easily.

Richard Blackburn, thank you.

Biography

Richard Blackburn is Zeus Publications’ bestselling author and has written a fantasy trilogy: The Gatekeeper, Rudigor’s Revenge (both listed in the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge) and The Regiment. He sells a version of The Gatekeeper overseas (The Guardian of the Gate). Richard lives in Queensland and travels extensively to do book signings.

Click here for Richard’s website.