March 23, 2013 9 Comments
March 14, 2013 Leave a comment
It’s here, finally! The books are in boxes by the door, passages for the reading are marked out ready, the MC has been briefed, the food is being prepared as I write this post and the book cover has been blown up to poster size. Everything is ready to go. Except me. I’m not so sure I want to do it anymore. After years of working toward this goal, I am terrified.
There is a reason I am very happy being a writer. I love the solitude. I really enjoy sitting at my computer for days at a time with only the characters in my head for company. I thrive on alone time—and on writing. And the technological revolution has made it very easy to function perfectly well via social media without the need to interact face-to-face. Mostly.
So why is a book launch necessary?
I’m told it’s an opportunity to speak directly to the market for the novel. But that more importantly, it’s an opportunity to mark the beginning of a writer’s journey to building a readership. After all, what is the point of spending years writing a book that no one reads? It’s an interesting conundrum for many writers. I’ve written before about the point at which a book becomes a book.
But when a writer just wants to write, a book launch feels like a bit of an indulgence. Why can’t we just let social media do the job it does best, and get the word out there? Many writers have reclusive tendencies, which is why they’re able to spend long periods in solitude. They’d rather not have to do the public speaking or self-promotion that goes along with conducting a book launch.
Whilst much of writers’ lives may happen inside or online, stepping outside the comfort zone to face real people leaves a writer incredibly vulnerable. Conducting writers’ groups for teenagers is nothing compared to facing a group of potential readers at a book launch.
Maybe it’s just me, but it doesn’t feel right to be spruiking my own work. Even though I know that this is part of being a writer, and it is a vital part, still I’d rather not have to. But I believe in my work. And the reality is that if I don’t spread the word about it, if it doesn’t get out into the public domain, then I’m not going to be able to continue being a writer.
And the time is right now. Here I am. I am a writer and this is my work. I hope you enjoy it.
July 17, 2012 Leave a comment
Rejection is a terrible thing. Nobody wants or likes it. It feels awful, and it’s very easy for the self-esteem to take a battering because of it. Yet authors put themselves out there repeatedly, knowing that rejection is inevitable. It’s rare that a first time author has a manuscript accepted and published on their first submission.
Every author needs to find a way to make rejection an accepted part of their journey to publication, without allowing it to impact on their sense of self. I wonder how many manuscripts we would never have seen had their authors not been able to move beyond the initial sting of rejection.
Creativity is inherently personal, irrespective of the medium. Visual artists, musicians, composers, creative writers, sculptors, singers, poets, etc, all draw upon the very essence of their being to interpret the world around them. They use all their senses to embed an essential part of themselves into their work for the pleasure of others. Of course it’s personal.
And when that letter comes saying: ‘sorry, your work doesn’t suit us because…,’ it is difficult not to feel affronted and affected.
Stephen King in his book On Writing talks about the thirty rejection letters he received for his first novel Carrie, and how he kept a ‘rejection board’ near his desk where he hung his collection of rejection slips.
There’s a lot to be said for this approach to writing (once you move past the urge to shred your manuscript or slap the rejecting publisher). It’s about building resilience. Each one of those slips means you are serious about being published, and with each slip you draw one step closer. The slips mean you have entered the industry and you will be marked and scarred like authors before you and authors yet to come.
The trick is not to allow the marks and scars to overwhelm you. Writing is a very subjective thing. What is appealing or ‘suitable for our list’ will vary greatly from one publisher to another, one reader to another.
June 7, 2012 Leave a comment
I’m reviewing books at the moment. It’s a challenge. Not because I don’t know how write a review, but because before I even sit down to read the book, I have to figure out whether I am the best person to write the review for it.
Those who know me personally will know that I am a fairly straightforward person. I say what I think. In fact, sometimes I only become aware of what I think when I hear the words coming out of my mouth. Writing at least provides me with a slight buffer between the thought occurring and me presenting it. I can consider the reviews I’ve written (at least I can now that I’ve learned not to review straight into the online forum, but rather write it out in Word, let it sit, then come back to it and post sometime over the following few days), before anyone else reads it.
When I first agreed to take on reviewing books, it did not occur to me that I would be required to engage in a degree of ‘reading between the lines’, or have to navigate the myriad of motivations behind the author’s request.
I thought, as some might, that having a book reviewed meant receiving honest (albeit subjective) feedback on technical aspects of the writing, as well as character development, plot, narrative flow, and if necessary, grammar and structure.
Reviews serve a dual purpose. They can offer constructive criticisms that give the author an opportunity to develop the work and build on their writing skills, particularly early in their writing career; and they provide prospective readers with an orientation to the work. No matter the experience level of the writer, reviews give an invaluable opportunity to continue to develop as a writer.
Reviewing, as with reading, is a very subjective thing. What one reviewer likes, another may hate. But one would assume that a reasonable reviewer is able to recognise a strong narrative and/or a quality piece of writing, even if the story line is not their cup of tea. One would also assume that authors seeking reviews do so with the expectation that the reviewer will be honest and give constructive (if not always diplomatic) feedback that the author may not necessarily like.
I guess it depends where you are on your writing journey as to what your understanding of the reviewing process is. Now I know I’m making a huge generalisation here, but my recent reviewing experience suggests that perhaps there exists a code of which I am not familiar.
When a writer says: “I’d love you to review my book ______. Could you publish your review on XXXX site when you can?”
They really mean: “I want you to hit 5 stars and write a few bland sentences saying what a fantastic book it is. Oh and you don’t have to spend time reading it. I just need the review.”
When they say: “I don’t need to study writing, I’m just a natural writer.”
They really mean: “Ignore the fact that the manuscript is riddled with grammatical and spelling errors and that the plot is unidentifiable or missing, I don’t care about that. My arrogance will carry the book and make me a motza.”
But when they say: “What gives you the right to say my main character has no depth or substance? Who are you to tell me anything about my story? You don’t know anything about the character or story, you’re just the reader.”
… Um… okay… ? I’m just the reader? Well yes I am…
* Oh and if you want me to review your book, don’t ask me to do it if you are not prepared to receive honest constructive feedback. It’s a waste of the many hours I put into reading and considering all aspects of the book. And I’m getting cranky. The crankier I get the less diplomatic I tend to become. Be warned.
November 28, 2011 Leave a comment
A few months ago, I posted my thoughts regarding the need for Literary Agents to reinvent themselves so that they may remain relevant in the context of a changing industry. Since then it seems that some ‘enterprising’ persons and/or organisations have done just this and developed a business model that looks to address increasing demand in ePublishing.
These emerging models seem quite profitable to the agents themselves, but (and it’s a very big BUT), to the financial detriment of the author. Ordinarily, agents charge a percentage of income earned by the authors they represent. They don’t charge fees to read submissions or to sign an author up. Typically, literary agents liaise with publishers on behalf of authors. They take care of submissions, and negotiate contracts that are in the authors’ best interests. Basically, it’s the agent’s job to sell the author’s manuscript.
But that is not what this new mob of ‘literary agents’ are doing. It seems that some persons calling themselves agents are targeting authors in rather unscrupulous ways. They are charging huge (sometimes even exorbitant) upfront fees to represent authors, as well as claiming a portion of any royalties earned. And some are less than forthcoming in explaining the extent of the representation they’re offering.
Some agents do not even bother trying to get the author a publisher―for eBooks or paperbacks. They simply take on the role of distribution with the currently available eBook distributors. At best they might secure a contract with emerging ePublisher such as the new Penguin venture (discussed at length here).
Once you have parted with your hard-earned cash, these contracts do not involve the promotion of your eBook, but leave you locked into a contract where you lose control of the rights, sometimes for years at a time.
There are legitimate businesses who will design your eBook cover and format your manuscript for the various eReaders available. And of course, you can always do your research and engage a reputable editor to go over your manuscript before you submit or self-publish.
While the publishing industry is undergoing the technological metamorphosis it’s currently experiencing, I guess it’s inevitable that the rapidity of change will leave many confused about how best to establish or maintain themselves, their work and their profiles as authors. When the dust settles a bit, it will be interesting to see what we’re left with. But in the meantime, just be careful about signing any contract with anyone.
There are plenty of organisations that can advise. The Australian Society of Authors has written about this very issue. And there is a great website called Editors and Predators that monitors the behaviour of agents and publishers, and keeps tabs on other matters relating to publishing for writers.
The impending changes are exciting for authors. We just need to move through them with eyes wide open.
November 7, 2011 Leave a comment
They say that when you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life. I get that. When I write, I am at peace with myself, the universe and everything. I love creating characters and plots and watching them come to together to form ‘story.’ I love being woken in the middle of the night with that flash of inspiration and having to scramble around to find a pen before I forget it. I love the excitement I feel when a new story idea comes to mind. And the satisfaction when a character finally finds ‘their’ voice. I even quite enjoy the battle with procrastination I sometimes (okay, often) have.
I just love being a writer. At least, I do when I can just write. Fiction is my first love, but I’m also happy writing creative non-fiction and other articles. But writing for a living these days involves so much more than just writing. Writers are finding themselves increasingly responsible for the marketing, publicity and promotion of their work. And if they publish eBooks, they often have to format, design and distribute themselves as well.
We are in the midst of an industry metamorphosis where the only certainty is change. It’s hard to navigate a constantly evolving landscape, and what the publish industry will look like in a few years time is anyone’s guess. In the meantime, authors are left wondering what the best course of action might be to get their work into the public domain. Especially emerging and developing authors.
Traditional publishers seem less likely to take a risk on a new author and if they do, author advances appear not to be as common as they once were. One emerging author I know was recently offered —as a first contract, a three-book deal with no advance and 7% of net royalties. 7% of NET royalties. An enormous amount of time and hard work goes in to writing a book. Then there’s the redrafting and editing and agonising. I don’t think any writer worth their salt would accept such an insulting offer. And luckily, neither did the aforementioned author. She told them what they could do with their 7% of net royalties.
That brings me back to the business of being a writer. If traditional publishers cannot adapt to a changing industry quickly enough, it is up to authors to take the reins to ensure that readers are not left without enough new material available in emerging formats to keep them reading. And this is where it becomes challenging.
Creating an eBook is not just a matter of writing the narrative and sending it off for someone else to do the work. Learning to format the manuscript into the various document styles required by the different eReader technology is both challenging and time-consuming. And just as time-consuming is designing the cover for the eBook, which needs to be a jpg image file. There are plenty of people out there who will do it for you and small businesses are cropping up purporting to manage everything for you—for a price.
Problem is, without an advance on the manuscript, writers often don’t always have the initial outlay required to get their manuscript eBook ready. And then there’s the publicity side of things to be concerned about. Writers need to let people know that their book is ready for reading. This means marketing and promotion. And of course, the best means of marketing and promoting an eBook (or any book for that matter) is by using social media.
An author website, a blog, a Facebook fan page, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, have all become necessities. And that’s before you start thinking about a YouTube book trailer. All these practices are incredibly time-consuming and labour intensive, and though you may be able to outsource some of them, they still need regular and consistent input and maintenance.
August 3, 2011 2 Comments
This post is for my writer colleagues across the globe who inspire, encourage, rejoice and commiserate with me on my writing journey. It’s been a year and a half since I quit my job to be a full time writer. And I have absolutely no regrets! But writing is a solitary pursuit. Day after day I sit in front of my computer completely immersed in worlds I have created. Some days the only voices I hear are those of my characters ― in my head! Try telling that to just anyone, I’m pretty sure they’d think you needed help (of the psychiatric type).
The #amwriting community is an online community that connects writers via the twitter hashtag. It’s a conversation any writer can dip in an out of at any time of the day or night. You can post frustrations or queries, successes or failures; you can get advice or give it; you can encourage and empathise; so long as it’s all in 140 characters or less!
It’s handy when you’re suffering from a heavy dose of insomnia because that darn character has been throwing up blocks all over the place, or you can’t see your way clear to finishing your novel, because, well, that would mean it’d be finished. It’s of particular use when you’re bursting to tell someone something related to your writing project that no-one else would get. Things like ‘had to write a letter to [insert main character’s name here] to say goodbye so I could start my next novel, [s/he] just wouldn’t leave me alone otherwise!’
Next stop on this progressive blog party is: Johanna Harness
Watch the trailer for Gracie
- The losing game of writing books to win | The Australian: theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/th… 2 days ago
- NAPLAN can be soul destroying for children's writing ow.ly/l32no #writing #teachers #parents 6 days ago
- It's called #catfishing, FAKE PROFILE tells the story of one girl's experience ow.ly/l31Px #YA #novel #socialmedia 6 days ago
- What does NAPLAN have to do with quality writing? Not much, as far as I'm concerned ow.ly/l31wk #teachers #parents #writers 6 days ago
- RT @QandA: Be in Monday's @SydWritersFest #QandA audience w/ @Rubywax @fdabhoi @SylviaNasar @DalrympleWill @MikeCarlton01 http://t.co/X9nOg… 1 week ago