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?
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!