How do you promote your books? Pt 3 of an interview with YA & children’s author, George Ivanoff

Yesterday, I dropped by at George’s book signing in Ringwood. It was lovely to meet him, and sales were going well. George had a great display of posters with the Gamers’ Quest cover, a laptop showing the book trailer, and some freebies: bookmarks and stickers.

Today, in part 3 of my interview with George, I ask him more about his book promotion plans, especially his online strategy. George also talks about his life as a writer.

Cover for Gamers' Quest

The cover for George's new book

Will you sell or promote your book outside of bookstores?

I’m happy to promote where ever I can. I’ve done talks and signings at science fiction conventions and at the Melbourne Science Fiction Club. Recently I did a reading as part of the children’s program at the Bright ‘n’ Sandy Food and Wine Festival. So if there’s anyone out there reading this, who would like to book me for a festival or school or library or whatever… drop me an email!

Are there plans to sell your books overseas?

My publisher has the book with an overseas rights agent. So it’s a matter of wait and see. If there are any o/s publishers reading this who would like to bid huge sums of money for the right to publish Gamers’ Quest in their country, please contact Ford Street. 

How did you decide on the elements of your online strategy?

It was a matter of doing whatever I could do myself and whatever I could get other people to do for free. Back when I had a real job, I used to work in web development, so I was able to put the website together myself. Unfortunately my skills in that area are sadly out-of-date — so the website is put together in rather old-fashioned way. But it works!

The Gamers’ Quest theme music was composed and performed by my brother-in-law Marc Valko, member of the Melbourne band Thrashing Zombies.

I was going to do the book trailer myself, using my very limited knowledge of the web animation program Flash. My first attempt was pretty crappy. Then my friend, H Gibbens, stepped in and saved the day. He’s a CG animator…  click here to check out his website.

I wanted a book trailer because I wanted to pursue as many promotional avenues as possible. And I like watching book trailers… so I assumed there must be other potential readers out there who also like watching book trailers.

The book trailer was entirely conceived and made by H Gibbens. He read the book, then came up with a script and story board. I was happy to leave it in his hands. He thinks in a very visual way and I trusted his judgment.

How did you decide what content to put on your website?

I just asked myself what sort of info I’d want from a website about a book I was interested in… and that’s what I put up. Then my publisher suggested I should include some short stories. That was a great idea. I loved the opportunity to revisit some of the characters from the novel.

The website is mostly aimed at potential readers — kids and teens — hence the colour and movement and sound. Time was pressing, so I didn’t end up doing any research other than testing the site out on some kids I knew and then modifying it accordingly.

How are you integrating your online promotions with your ‘real world’ promotions?

All the bookmarks include the website address. Every time I do an interview or write a guest blog, I mention the website. And on the website, I announcement any upcoming events and signings, as well as quoting a whole bunch of reviews.

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

Not as much as I should be. It all comes down to a matter of time. I’m trying to promote while also writing and taking care of my two kids (I’m a stay-at-home-Dad). But I do send out promotional material to schools, especially those in an area I’m about to do a signing in. And my publisher has sent out a huge amount of material to libraries all over the country.

Did you write the teachers’ notes for Gamers’ Quest?

Yes. I’ve done quite a few writing workshops in schools, which has given me a bit of an insight into the way a book can be used in classroom discussions. I applied this when writing the notes.

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

I’m a stay-at-home-Dad, so I write around the schedules of my children. My eldest daughter is at school, but my youngest is still at home. So, apart from the one day a week she goes to childcare, when I have the whole day to write, I write during her nap times, in the evenings and on weekends. Sleep? Who needs sleep?

How does your background inform your writing?

In every way possible! How can you write and not be informed by your background. My opinions creep through, even when writing fiction. My likes. My dislikes. Certain characters are inspired by people I’ve met and certain plotlines are inspired by events from my own life. My very first book, a collection of short stories about high school, Life, Death and Detention, was heavily inspired by my school experiences.

How would you describe your ‘brand’ as an author? What is it that differentiates you from other authors?

I’m not sure I have a ‘brand’ as such. Writing for the education market means that I write a huge variety of stuff in differing styles. With my trade writing, I hope what manages to come through is a certain off-beat sense of humour… particularly in terms of character. Edgar the dragon, for example, from Gamers’ Quest. He’s old, grumpy and sarcastic, and married to an enormous, human-looking woman named Vera, who has a liking for interior decorating and floral patterns.

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

Two main bits of advice:

1. Be prepared for rejection! There will be a lot of it.

2. When you do finally get a book published, be prepared to promote it. When my first book was published I naively thought that was it — I went back to my computer and went on with my writing. Meanwhile, the book went on to get a couple of good reviews but languish, unread, on bookshop shelves. I stupidly though the publisher would do all the promotion. Experience has taught me that I need to get out there and promote. Which is exactly what I’ve been doing with Gamers’ Quest.

George Ivanoff, thank you!

George’s bio

George Ivanoff is an author and stay-at-home Dad residing in Melbourne. He has written over 40 books for children and teenagers. His latest novel, Gamers’ Quest, is currently in bookstores. Two of his books (Life, Death and Detention and Real Sci-Fi) have been on the booklist for the Victorian Premier’s Reading Challenge since its inception in 2005.

George has also had stories published in numerous magazines and anthologies, most recently in Short and Scary and Belong. Check out George’s website at:

How did you get published? Pt 2 of an interview with Australian children’s author, Marianne Musgrove

This is part 2 of an interview with Adelaide-based author, Marianne Musgrove. Marianne’s work is published with Random House Australia.

Marianne, does your background as a hospital social worker and social policy writer inform your writing?

Most definitely. I’m interested in issues that affect children and these were brought to my attention in my work as a social worker. That said, for me, the story is paramount. I set out to tell a good story and if children learn something along the way, all the better, but it’s not my primary goal. Kids can always tell when an adult is preaching at them.

Marianne's latest book

My background has certainly informed the kind of stories I write, whether it’s coping with worries in “The Worry Tree” or dealing with a grandfather with dementia in “Don’t Breathe a Word”.

Was it your idea or your publisher’s to submit The Worry Tree for the Family Therapists Award?

Generally speaking, the publisher is the one who submits books for awards although some awards allow the author to submit their work too.

Tell me about how The Worry Tree came to be translated into German and Bahasa.

Every year, there are several bookfairs around the world, eg, in Bologna, Frankfurt and Taipei. Publishers and agents go along to try and get each other to buy the rights to their titles. In this way, my other books were signed and will also be translated into Hebrew, Italian, Korean and Chinese.

I notice Henry Holt (an imprint of US Macmillan) are publishing The Worry Tree and Lucy the Good. How did that come about? 

Random House Australia has an agent who operates in the US (sounds like a spy operation!). She pitched “The Worry Tree” to Henry Holt who signed it and printed an Americanised edition, only making minor changes, eg, ‘favourite’ became ‘favorite’. As for “Lucy the Good”, Holt wanted to make some changes to the plot so I rewrote it for the American market, a very common practice.

Did you set up your website or did your publisher help you with this?

I paid someone to do it. (I’m a bit of a Luddite, I’m afraid!) I had to negotiate with my publisher to use the text (you can download the first chapter of all my books) and graphics as I do not own the copyright to these.

How did you decide what content to put on your website?

I looked up many children’s authors’ websites and wrote a list of what I liked best. Then I looked at my budget and scaled back my grand plans. (Alas, the interactive worry tree will have to wait …) My main specifications were that it had to be funny, entertaining, useful and hopefully encourage people to keep buying my books.

Who is the main audience for your website?

Children, teachers, parents/guardians and aspiring children’s authors.

Did you have input into the teachers’ notes for Don’t Breathe a Word?

I didn’t write the first draft but I did have input after that. The notes were written specifically for a company called Australian Standing Orders aka ASO (a division of Scholastic Australia). At the time, I hadn’t heard of Australian Standing Orders so when I was told ASO were buying my book, I couldn’t understand why the Australian Symphony Orchestra would want so many copies!

Have you spoken to children in schools?

I’ve conducted a few school visits (mostly in Adelaide), generally for Years 3-5. I try to keep things interactive as there’s nothing worse than a grown-up standing up the front droning on for forty minutes. Amongst other things, we make a living Worry Tree and I teach everyone “The Irritating Song” which goes down well with the kids, though less so with the teachers 😉

I also promote my books at festivals and fairs.

Do you market yourself to teachers and librarians? If so, how?

My website and word of mouth. I’m fairly busy writing but if a local school contacts me, I generally accept as I really enjoy the contact with the students.

How would you describe your ‘brand’ as an author? What is it that differentiates you from other children’s book authors?

In a nutshell, I write funny books that help children. It’s strange to think of a person being a brand but, in this day and age, it’s how things are marketed. When I set up my website, I thought about calling it but was advised against this as my ‘brand’ is my name, not the title of my first book. As I was going to write more books, I went with instead.

I do write under a pen name. (I chose ‘Musgrove’ from the novel Persuasion.) I didn’t want my real name to become a brand.

Have you given up your ‘day job’ to write full-time?

I do write full time.

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

Get a manuscript assessment done first before sending it off to a publisher. Also, I’d tell myself to be patient.

Marianne, thank you.


Marianne Musgrove wrote her first full-length novel at the age of eleven: a romantic thriller featuring her unfortunate classmates. Although the unpublished manuscript met with only localised acclaim, she never gave up her dream of becoming an author. Marianne’s first children’s novel, THE WORRY TREE, is the winner of the Australian Family Therapists Award for Children’s Literature 2008 and has been shortlisted for three other awards. Her latest novel, DON’T BREATHE A WORD, is a 2010 Children’s Book Council of Australia notable book. She is also the author of LUCY THE GOOD and the soon-to-be-released LUCY THE LIE DETECTOR.

Click here for Marianne’s website.