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Archive for January, 2011

Dynamic Double Novella from Twelfth Planet Press

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on January 29, 2011

Following on from the Washington Association Small Press Short Fiction Award for Siren Beat, by Tansy Rayner Roberts, Twelfth Planet Press (TPP) have released Above and Below, available here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today we have the Dynamic Duo of Ben Peek and Stephanie Campisi to talk about the writing process behind these linked novellas. (Watch out for the give-away at the end).

A city has fallen from the sky.

 

Above , the alphabetic first half of Twelfth Planet Press’s latest release, focuses on Devian Lell, a window cleaner. Living in one of the many the floating cities that form Loft, he is drawn into the political turmoil that erupts when Dirt sends a diplomat to negotiate the trade of minerals that keep their cities afloat. Below, the alphabetical second half, features Eli Kurran, a security guard mourning the death of his wife to the toxicity of Dirt. Blackmailed by his former employer, he is forced to provide security for a diplomat from Loft, a woman three times his age, and easily the oldest living person ever to come to Dirt.

Above, written by Stephanie Campisi and Below, written by Ben Peek, is designed to be read in any order, to be read twice, in fact, and is a novel that will challenge your certainty of who, in Loft and in Dirt, is right.

Speaking together, the authors claim that the idea to write the book together was Campisi’s. “Alisa Krasnostein, the publisher of Twelfth Planet Press, was looking for proposals for her double press line,” Campisi says from her apartment in Melbourne. Currently working as a freelance writer, she has a reputation for quirky, beautifully written short fiction, and will feature in Twelve Planets, a series of twelve short story collections promoting female authors in Australia by Twelfth Planet Press. “I asked if Ben watched to pitch something with me and we came up with the idea of Above/Below pretty much on the spot. When we emailed Alisa, all we had was the title and the idea of a city falling from the sky, but it didn’t take long to go from there.”

Ben Peek

Peek agrees that the start was very organic. “We divided the two halves of the book on the strength of our prose,” he explains from the outskirts of Sydney. Splitting his time between teaching and writing, Peek is the author of a pair of critically acclaimed novels. “Out of the pair of us, Steph has the more beautiful, elegant writing, and so she ended up with Loft, a city that is essentially full of refined and cultured people. That left me with Below, the ugly, dirty secret. That kind of suits me, y’know? So I stripped back my style, left it lean and sparse, and wrote about a culture of people who really don’t have very long to live and whose life is dominated by death.

“After we had worked that out, the pair of us pretty much went off and wrote our piece, with no real hassle.”

“He’s lying terribly,” Campisi interjects over skype. “I must have gotten sixty emails in the first week from him, each with a new idea, each changing the previous, altering his plot and his world. I really had no idea what he was doing. They would appear at odd hours, too. I took to turning my phone off at night, just so I could sleep.”

“I would get emails about fruit,” Peek admits. “I got a text messages about the economy. That was about the time I started thinking of how I could blow her city up.”

Steph and Jono

“I was busy trying to work in air strikes at that stage. The quicker I destroyed him and took over his land, the better!” Campisi laughs. “No, seriously, we set up a google wave and left notes for a while before writing our pieces. We would send emails to each other every now and then, explaining a character we had created from each others city, or an event that we were working in as important history, but that was about it.”

“We actually made the decision early on not to worry too much about what the other was writing at the start,” Peek explains. “Well, I made the decision. The way I write involves a lot of editing, with me going back and forth and shifting and fixing and trashing. Nothing really stays the same after a while. Steph, though, she works a little differently, with her first drafts being much more polished and to the point than mine, so it was really a better deal to just get out of each others way and come back once we had finished.”

“When that happened, we actually found we had done a lot of things that just meshed really well,” Campisi continues. “Our two protagonists had a lot of similarities that allowed the two books to resonate throughout, and when the rewrites began, I tweaked little bits here and there to make it stronger. Devian’s wife, for example, had a much larger presence in Above after I had read Ben’s.”

“Yeah, I remember going back and altering a lot of descriptions after I read Above,” Peek adds. “Tiny things that most people probably won’t notice, I suspect, but I thought they made the two parts to mesh better. I also made my world a little dirtier. There is a moment in Above where Devian meets the diplomat, Dhormi, and Devian comments on how filthy he was. I realised that I had not allowed for that to be part of Below. I didn’t really think of crusted nails, skin with dirt lodged in the lines and wrinkles, but after I read Steph’s I thought it was pretty cool, so I went back. It was hard to do, though, because no one sits around and thinks that they’re a filthy. I worked with a guy once who had the worse body odor I had ever smelt, but he was fine with it because to him it was very natural. He was pretty cut when management spoke to him about it. So finding the right balance for that was hard, but I think I managed to strike it well enough―though it is a much stronger and more striking moment in Above, something I didn’t want to detract from.”

After they had done that, Alisa Krasnostein took the two pieces and began editing. “She did a fine job,” Campisi says. “From the outset she was really concerned with the quality of the book and did not want to put out something bad. It’s her brand, so she watches it keenly. When what we gave her meant that we would put out something inferior in the first deadline, she wasn’t afraid to push it back and push us. It was very important that the three of us stood behind the work.”

“Very much so,” Peek agrees. “While Above/Below has come out in the double press line, we want it to be considered as a novel, not just two novellas joined together. The double press format is really neat and allows for you to do something really quite different if you put the time and effort into it, and that’s what we did. We deliberately aimed to create a co-written novel that was co-written in a very different way, avoiding that style that emerges when two authors mesh their words together. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, and some authors do it very well, but we were allowed to do something different in terms of co-writing for Above/Below and we embraced that idea.”

“The final product is something we’re all proud of,” Campisi adds. “Everything meshes so well together, it has little Easter eggs buried in it, and on top of that, it is a cute book, with beautifully designed covers by Amanda Rainey.”

“Yeah, we cannot give Rainey enough credit for what she does,” Peek says. “She will probably go down as a bit of a forgotten champion for the look of the book, which is a shame because without her, I don’t think it would be the object of desire that it is.”

Above/Below is available now from the Twelfth Planet store, where it can be purchased in either its paper form or an electronic from. In conjunction with the ROR site, the authors have organised a competition that will give a book away to one reader. All you have to do is write, in five hundred words or less, what your hobby would be if you lived in a city that floated in the sky. The best idea wins a copy of Above/Below.

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Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Awards, Book Giveaway, Collaborating, Covers, Nourish the Writer, Publishers, Visiting Writer, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Winner Ian Irvine’s Give-away

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on January 28, 2011

Ian Irvine has offered a copy of The Headless Highwayman and The Grasping Goblin. Here’s what he says:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tricky, very tricky. Who doesn’t feel the pain of all those suffering from floods in Queensland, NSW and Victoria? Should the prize therefore go to Cels for selflessly using magic for the greater good in cleaning away all the flood damage? Or to Louise – what’s not to love about a maniacal villain who wants to take over the world? And then there’s Chris, who just wants to slay dragons and protect his kids, not to mention impress them a little, a hard thing to do in these troubled times. Ian wipes away a sentimental tear.

Sean, that old iconoclast, was under serious consideration despite not answering the question, until he undid all that good work by slagging off my mates in the Wizards Guild who are, in fact, gentle as baa lambs. A vile slur on a noble profession, sir.

But the prize must go to Thoraiya for the plan to bring Gliese 581g into orbit somewhere out past Mars, as a replacement for Earth once we’ve totally wasted it, which could be any day now. At first sight this seems utterly noble, selfless and good, and my wicked authorial heart choked at the thought of rewarding such a plan. But then I thought: this proposal isn’t good at all. It’s just about the ultimate wickedness. Not content with ruining our own planet, Thoraiya plans to bring in a bigger, richer, more diverse and more beautiful substitute so we we can pillage and plunder and ruin it too.

Oh villainy! Oh Machiavellian cunning! Oh consummate evil! Thou must be rewarded!

Thoraiya please contact Ian on: irvinei(at)bigpond(dot) to organise postage of your prize!

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Book Giveaway, Creativity, Visiting Writer | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Richard’s Winners!

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on January 25, 2011

I know it’s usual to say how hard it was to pick a winner even when it wasn’t, but this time it’s the simple truth! Many great Italian names for the Italian juggernaut, but in the end I decided on Imperator because it has that extra edge of grandiloquence and pride. if Mussolini had had a juggernaut, I bet he’d have called it ‘Imperator’ (Living in a non-juggernaut era, he probably gave the name to his dog or cat or something.

The choice for the American juggernaut winner was absolutely neck and neck. Several suggestions were a bit satirical – I liked that! But in e end, it was a toss-up between Independence (black and satirical) and Manifest Destiny (I love the historical implications). I agonized and agonized, until I remembered that Laura had allowed David to claim first rights on Manifest Destiny … But David was already winning a copy of Worldshaker with ‘Imperator’! Phew – that made it easy. ‘Independence’ for the American juggernaut, courtesy of Scott!

Congratulations to the two winners! Email me on

richardharland(at)optusnet(dot)com(dot)au

Thanks to everyone who took part.  It’s been fun!
Cheers
Richard

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Book Giveaway, Creativity, Nourish the Writer, Steampunk | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Holy Grail … Movie/TV Series options on Books

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on January 22, 2011

Who hasn’t been watching Alan Ball’s brilliant adaption of the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris?

It must be such thrill for a writer to see their characters and story realised in an excellent TV series. Kudos to Alan Ball and the team.

And we have the HBO George RR Martin Fire and Ice series to look forward to. Trailers here and here if you can’t wait for a taste.

But all is not plain sailing for authors whose intellectual property gets optioned for film and/or television. Firstly only a very small percentage that are optioned. My agent, John Jarrold, is associated with the Gotham Group in Los Angeles, a management production company. John says:

‘One in 1,000 books are actually optioned for medium to large amounts of money.  One in 100 of those actually have a film made from them.  Those are rough figures, obviously!  The agency has had film interest in a number of titles, but NONE have actually had a serious option payment made on them.’

Here, Ally Carter, author of the Gallagher Girls series and Heist Society talks about her experiences with three different production companies on three different film options.

She starts with a disclaimer. eg.  if you say authors never have a say in what happens to their books when they get made into movies, then someone will point to JK Rowling. Then she covers the different types of options and the other things such as the script, timing and talent (actors).

Here is a list of books that have been made into movies. And Here is a list of 20 good books that were made into not-so-good movies. Many of these are spec fic.

And here we have a look at what makes a good book to movie adaptation. They say:

‘a good bookish movie is more than a sum of the total of the book’s parts — the Watchmen proved that beyond any doubt. Watchmen stayed true to the book’s plot with slavish devotion, portrayed the characters with flawless accuracy, and even duplicated the look of the original illustrations. Yet, despite all of that, the magic Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons managed to work with pen and paper didn’t translate to the big screen. It was a good movie, but it certainly wasn’t great.’

They go on to say achieving a great adaptation is not about slavishly following the book, it ‘ lies in the film’s success at concentrating and magnifying the feelings readers have when they read the book.’ And they go on to analyze five examples. I would have to agree with Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. When Jackson adapted the book to the movie, he did what I did while reading the book to my children. He cut out the boring parts and condensed the action, sticking to the strongly emotive moments.

Unless we are JK Rowling, we authors usually have very little to do with the adaptation of our book into a movie or TV series. Books and film are completely different mediums and what works in one, will not work in the others. I teach script writing, storyboard and animatics and I am constantly saying to my students how are you going to show what your character is thinking? You’ll need a flashback. How are you going to convey the character’s realisation? You’ll need a visual metaphor. Don’t try to cover a story that takes 20 years, compress, set a time limit if possible.

When you do get someone who is able to crystalise the essence of the book and even improve on it, then it is a joy as with True Blood and Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings.

Not every author’s experiences are so uplifting.  Here Ursula Le Guin talks about how the Sci Fi Chanel whitewashed Earthsea. She says:

‘A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan, which were published more than 30 years ago, are about two young people finding out what their power, their freedom, and their responsibilities are. I don’t know what the film is about. It’s full of scenes from the story, arranged differently, in an entirely different plot, so that they make no sense.’

One of the main disappointments for her was the use of white actors to play coloured characters. Here on her own web site, Le Guin talks about her experience and how she felt the director was putting words in her mouth. She ends with:

‘I wonder if the people who made the film of The Lord of the Rings had ended it with Frodo putting on the Ring and ruling happily ever after, and then claimed that that was what Tolkien “intended…” would people think they’d been “very, very honest to the books”?’

The message seems to be for authors to go into movie/TV adaptations with their eyes open . You can be incredibly lucky and have a director/script writer who takes the best from you book and makes it more accessible to the general public, or you can be left wondering if they read the book at all.

What adaptations have you seen that impressed you?

 

 

Posted in Agents, Collaborating, Creativity, Editing and Revision, Genre TV Shows, Movie/TV Adaptations | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Meet Richard Harland

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on January 18, 2011

A man of many waistcoats, Richard Harland is a great raconteur. (If you ever have to do a reading at an SF Con, try not to be slotted in after him). A writer of SF, fantasy, horror, mystery and the fantastical for all ages there doesn’t appear to be much that Richard can’t do.

Richard’s give away is rather quirky …

In an alternative 19th century, juggernauts are vast mountains of machinery rolling across the ground, one for each Imperialist nation.

The British juggernaut is Worldshaker.

The French juggernaut is La Marseillaise.

The Russian juggernaut is the Romanov.

The Prussian juggernaut is the Lebensraum.

The Turkish juggernaut is the Battle of Mohacs.

Worldshaker appears in Richard’s novel of the same name, and the others appear in the sequel, Liberator. The Italian and American juggernauts haven’t yet appeared. Think up a name for them (only one for each). Best name for the Italian juggernaut wins a copy of Worldshaker, and another copy goes to the best name for the American juggernaut.

Leave your suggestion in the comments section.

The French juggernaut, La Marseillaise.

Q: Worldshaker and its sequel Liberator are set in a delightful steampunk world. Worldshaker has been very successful and you did a World Tour (the UK and the US) last year to promote the book. Were you surprised when Worldshaker hit such a nerve with the reading public?

Front and back cover of Liberator, by Oscar-nominated film director Anthony Lucas

Well, I was surprised by the level of enthusiasm from my Australian publisher (Allen & Unwin), then blown away by the size of the advance offered by my American publisher (Simon & Schuster). That made me realise they expected great things from Worldshaker, and, yep, it’s all coming true. I was lucky to have written exactly the right book at exactly the right moment—quite by accident. Worldshaker was my mechanised version of a Mervyn Peake-like world, which just happened to be the same as steampunk. About as steampunky as a novel could get, at the very moment when the steampunk fashion was starting to take off.

The fact that Worldshaker and the soon-to-be-released Liberator are also the best novels I’ve ever written isn’t so accidental. I think steampunk is the genre I was born to write! I look back on my earlier novels, and I can see steampunky elements creeping into them here, there and everywhere.

Q: Is there a third book based on the adventures of Riff and Col?

Or maybe Septimus and Gillabeth, along with Riff and Col? As soon as there’s something to announce, it’ll be announced first on Ripping Ozzie Reads!

Q: The Black Crusade was a sequel to the Vicar of Morbing Vyle and won the Golden Aurealis in 2004. These are very quirky books. Are you ever tempted to revisit this world and characters?

No, those were cult novels, and I fitted the writing of The Black Crusade in between other writings. With my steampunk novels selling so well, I can’t see myself finding time to produce another gothic cult book—and I don’t have any ideas for one either.

Q: There are four books in the Wolf kingdom series for upper primary. What prompted you to develop this series and will there be more stories?

I was asked to produce a quartet of short children’s fantasy books, along with Ian Irvine, Kim Wilkins and Fiona MacInstosh. For me, it was the perfect opportunity to develop a fantasy world with wolves, which have inhabited my dreams ever since I was a kid. I finally wrote wolves out of myself with the Wolf Kingdom books, so no, no more in the series. The fourth book wraps up the story once and for all.

Q: You have a wonderful resource on your web site, 145 pages of writing tips. You must get lots of great feedback from aspiring writers. Did it take a long time to put together?

It took ages! Whenever I get feedback from writers who’ve been helped by the site, I feel it was all worthwhile, but at the time I was cursing myself for not doing any writing of my own for four whole months. The site just grew and grew, and I couldn’t stop until I’d covered every angle of becoming a speculative fiction writer—good writing habits, action, setting, dialogue, characters, story, momentum, style and getting published. It was 145 web pages in the end—I think it comes to 160 pages if you print out the download. And then there were all the little humorous pics to create and insert:–like …

Q: You have won in many different sections of the Aurealis Awards: best fantasy short story, best horror novel, best children’s/illustrated fiction, along with the Golden Aurealis for best in any category. All of this must have pleased your publishers. Were you ever afraid of diluting your reading public, working across so many genres and ages?

I’ve been indulged, hopping from sub-genre to sub-genre and readership to readership. It’s good for keeping the creative juices flowing, but it’s not good for building a loyal readership. Now I have to face the hard necessity of really developing a name in one particular area—which luckily coincides with the fact that I’ve finally discovered my very favourite area—steampunk!—just at the moment when there’s a growing readership for it.

I’ll still keep hopping about with short stories, though.


Q: There are the wonderful Ferren and the Angels series, Sassycat (which my son loved and read over and over) and the Aussie Chomps book, Walter wants to be a Werewolf. Do you just have so many ideas you can’t stop them bubbling up?

Ideas have never been my problem—I’ve always had plenty of them. My problem was turning ideas into words, and words into finished books. I had writer’s block for 25 years, when I couldn’t finish a single novel I started writing. Which now means I have a backlog of ideas as well as all the new ideas that keep coming. I’m planning to live to about 100—I reckon I should run out of ideas for novels clamouring to be written round about then.

Q: I read your Eddon and Vail series and really enjoyed it. It was SF, mystery and a love story all woven into one. It didn’t get the attention it deserved. Was this because it was such a mix of genres?

Yes, and bad timing. The market for SF was declining in Australia when the first Eddon and Vail book (The Dark Edge) came out, so the idea was to sell it as murder mystery as well as SF. That was no cheat, it really is both. Trouble is, you can get a murder mystery story to work for an SF audience, but you can’t get murder mystery fans to swap over to an SF setting.

Q: When Marianne and I approached you back in 2005 to see if you’d like to join ROR, you agreed and have been part of the group ever since. Did you find ROR helped you in developing or directing your writing? And if so, in what ways?

One of my greatest mistakes during my 25 years of writer’s block was that I was too proud to show unfinished or less-than-perfect work to anyone else. Now I’m mad for feedback—and there’s no better feedback than from a group of fellow-writers, all reading one another’s novels. The ROR group is very professional, very committed, very serious and—importantly–very tactful. (No raging egos!) And great guys too, even apart from writing!

Q: What are you currently working on?

I’m still doing the copyediting and final revisions on Liberator, which comes out in April (US), May (Australia, UK)—and perhaps as early as March in France. (Germany and Brazil will be later.)


The UK cover of Liberator, by Ian Miller

The (always very different) over for the French edition of Liberator

I’ve been working on short stories at the same time—not-so-short, novella-length stories, actually. There’s a re-worked Beauty and the Beast in The Wilful Eye, ed. Isabelle Carmody and Nan McNab; a steampunky, 19th century, supernatural story in Ghosts by Gaslight, ed. Jack Dann; and a story still without a final title for Anywhere But Earth, ed. Keith Stevenson.

I think I might write more short stories before the next big project. Over the last couple of days, I’ve been inspired by Ellen Datlow taking “The Fear” for her US anthology, Year’s Best Horror; the sale of another story to an American magazine; and the sudden realisation that the cupboard is almost bare—I have only one story still waiting to find a home.

Q: At ROR we always do our realistic goals and our dream goals. So what are your realistic goals and what are your dream goals?

My dream goal is to have a movie made of Worldshaker. That’s a dream with realistic elements, because there’s a Hollywood director who wants to make it and a top scriptwriter currently seeing whether she wants to script it. But anything to do with Hollywood is still a far-off dream until it happens.

My hopefully realistic goal is to see Worldshaker and Liberator sold to Japan. They love gigantic machines in Japan—I want them to love juggernauts!

My most realistic goal is to get more and more steampunk clothes. I just had a birthday a couple of days ago, and my presents included an aviator helmet and another old-fashioned waistcoat to add to my collection (23 so far …).

Don’t forget to enter Richard’s give-away. Question at the top of this post. Leave your suggestion in the comments section.

Meanwhile,  you can find out more about Richard at www.richardharland.net. Or, for the US, www.worldshaker.info and for the UK, www.worldshaker.co.uk. His free guide to writing fantasy and speculative fiction is at www.writingtips.com.au

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Awards, Book Giveaway, Creativity, Editing and Revision, Genre Writing, Nourish the Writer, Publishing Industry, Steampunk, World Buildng, Writing for children, Writing for Young Adults, Writing Groups | Tagged: , , , , , | 27 Comments »

Winner Rowena’s Give-away

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on January 18, 2011

Well, people certainly came up with some fun fantasy worlds to holiday in!

 

I liked Chris L’s idea of 50 Fantastic Holiday Destinations (from fantasy worlds). I’m a big Fritz Leiber fan from way back, so I would happily visit the Bazaar of the Bizarre. And I must admit, when I’d not well I put on the first Lord of the Rings movie to watch because I find the Shire so relaxing.

And Louise knows her world inside out, because she would visit her own fantasy world!

Cels would run away to the Faerie Realm, being very careful not to eat or drink anything while she was there.

Sean would go to Rivendell. Here, I  must admit that this is also one of my favourite parts of the LOTR movie because I love the sets the designed for Rivendell.

Thoraiya would happily spend a holiday in Randland, from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

With so many great suggestions it was really hard to come up with a winner. So I decided to name you all winners.  Chris L, Louise, Cels, Sean and Thoraiya email me privately to organise the posting of your prizes!

rowena(at)corydaniells(dot)com

 

 

Posted in Book Giveaway, Genre TV Shows | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Winner Dirk Flinthart

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on January 17, 2011

Dirk says:

David Kay has come out on top, with his ‘Smooth Lemon Seafood’, though I love the whole roast lamb.

David please email Dirk to organise postage of your book.

dflinthart(at)ozemail(dot)com(dot)au

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Book Giveaway | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

A Guided Tour of Book Promotion, with Ian Irvine

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on January 15, 2011

Our guest blogger this week is multi-published, hard working Ian Irvine, who’s going to give us an insight into book promotion. Take it away, Ian…

(Watch out for the give-away at the end!)

Picture me back in 1998, a (relatively) young, bright-eyed, keen new author, about to be published for the first time and not having a clue about how it was going to work …

It’s February; in another 6 weeks A Shadow on the Glass, the first book of my Darwinian fantasy The View from the Mirror is due to be published by Penguin Australia. And I’m more than a little worried.

Why, I hear you ask? After writing this quartet for ten years, and thinking about it for ten years before that, you’re finally about to be published. You should be over the moon.

And of course I am. After receiving the publication offer for my quartet, I floated for at least six months. Penguin is a great publisher but … at this time they don’t have a fantasy list in Australia. I’m their first such author, and I’m actually being published through the Children and Young Adults section even though my epic fantasies are for the adult market. What if it goes horribly wrong?

Then, browsing in a bookshop in February 1998, I discover copies of A Shadow on the Glass on the shelves, even though it’s not due to be published until April. Why have they put it out six weeks early? Why didn’t they tell me? I’ve not been asked to do any promotion and I’ve read all about books disappearing without trace. Help!

The View from the Mirror is one 800,000 word novel in four volumes, so if the first book flops, it’s all over. I’ve got to do something to promote it, but what? I don’t know anything about book promotion and at this time the net is in its infancy. I can’t find anything useful there via my 28K dialup.

I decide to get thousands of large postcards printed, showing the front and back covers of A Shadow on the Glass. It’s a beautiful cover, based on artwork originally done around my kitchen table, and I print the titles and publication dates of the other three books on the back of the postcards. It’s expensive, but I have a big extended family to spread the word, and lots of contacts. By the time Book 2, The Tower on the Rift, is published seven months later I’ve given 3,000 postcards away.

Did it work? I don’t know. That’s the problem with traditional means of promotion – there’s no way to determine if it’s been effective or a waste of money. What about sales? A Shadow on the Glass had a big print run for an unknown author, 7,500 copies, yet it had reprinted three or four times by the time the final book in the quartet appeared eighteen months later. I suspect its success was mainly due to word-of-mouth, that readers just liked the books and told their friends. But it felt good that I’d done my best to help it along.

Now it’s late 2000 and things have changed. Amazingly, I have several overseas publication deals (this was still a rarity for Aussie authors at the time) and my books are going brilliantly in the UK. My first eco-thriller about catastrophic climate change, The Last Albatross, has just been published in Australia by Simon and Schuster, so why am I really worried now?

The thriller market is the most difficult of all to succeed in, and I’ve just been told that local readers rarely go for thrillers in Australian settings. Eco-thrillers are even worse – hardly anyone wants to read them. Now they tell me! And The Last Albatross has a terrible cover, a good idea gone badly wrong.

Postcards aren’t going to sell any books this time, but targeting specific interest groups might. In my working life I’m an expert in marine pollution and at this time I’ve been a consultant for 20 years. I put together a tantalising publicity sheet about the book (and my fantasy novels, of course) and do a mail-out to all my business contacts, then every environmental and pollution consulting firm and conservation group in the country. Between myself and my publisher, we send out thousands of letters.

There was a significant spike in the sales of my fantasy novels over the time I ran the mail-out, enough to pay for the postage, which showed that it had been effective. The Last Albatross itself racked up modest sales, though without this promotion they might have been dismal.

My new fantasy quartet, The Well of Echoes, which began with Geomancer, also sold well. So has my trilogy The Song of the Tears, which ended with The Destiny of the Dead, and through this period I did not need to do a lot of promotion on my own behalf. Nonetheless, I concentrated on the following things.

I put up a big web site with a huge amount of useful content – for example my long article The Truth About Publishing, which aims to tell beginning writers everything they need to know about writing and publishing. It has been republished a number of times and I still get a lot of mail from writers who have found it helpful (though scary).

Other things I do: whenever I’m in a big city with some free time I go to the largest bookshops, give them a swag of my bookmarks or postcards, and sign as many of my books as they want. Bookshops love signed books because they increase the sales rate by 30%, and one time in Melbourne I signed 700 books in a couple of days. Staff in bookshops rarely meet the authors they sell; it’s nice to chat with the specialists in your genre, and afterwards they’ll hand-sell lots of your books or sometimes make a special display for them.

My next big promotion was for Runcible Jones The Gate to Nowhere, the first of a children’s fantasy quartet. Promoting children’s books is different; my contacts were little use to me here, and five years ago social media promotion was in its infancy.

Nonetheless, I wanted to do something different and innovative, and my son Simon, who has qualifications in both graphic design and digital animation, had just finished uni. I asked him to design some posters for me, featuring scenes from the first and second Runcible Jones books. The posters had to be effective from A1 right down to postcard size, and I also wanted a couple of brief animations to use in a book trailer about the Runcibles.

Simon designed several of the poster images in 3D in Maya, the movie animation program. I had each poster printed at A1 or A2 for use in school talks (one of the most effective ways to promote children’s books), plus lots of A3 copies for competition giveaways, 4,000 copies of each printed at A4, and 5,000 of each at postcard size. This is, of course, a very expensive promotion. It would not be worth it for a single book but could be justified to promote the number of titles I had out at the time.

I used the A4s and postcards in a mail-out to 4,000 school and public libraries in Australia (also including info about all my other books, of course). This was highly effective in raising awareness about my books. Many libraries put the posters up, and it also resulted in over a thousand additional library sales.

Small version of these posters can be seen here. And the book trailer, which contains two of these animations.

I have several other book trailers up on YouTube. I’ve raised awareness about them by emailing my fan email Inbox, several thousand people.

To promote my little Sorcerer’s Tower books in 2008, I did a week of school talks during one of Scholastic’s Book Fairs, speaking to about 1,900 kids from 10 schools. This was exhausting but effective – they sold 99 of the first Sorcerer’s Tower book, Thorn Castle, after one talk. Every primary school child wants the speaker’s autograph so I brought enough signed postcards and bookmarks with me to hand out to everyone – a graphic reminder of my books to show their parents.

This brings me to my latest books, The Grim and Grimmer series of humorous fantasy novels for children, which are being published in 2010 and 2011. The first three titles are The Headless Highwayman, The Grasping Goblin and The Desperate Dwarf, and the following will give you an idea of the style:

“It’s not easy being a hero when your bum is the size of an airship and you’re bobbing around the ceilings, mocked by a host of angry dwarves.”

The explosive success of social media sites over the past few years, especially Facebook, has changed the promotional landscape forever. Young people are huge users and they don’t want to be marketed to – they want to have a two-way dialogue with the authors they love.

To this end, I’ve set up a business page for my books on Facebook. Business pages are different to personal pages and are much more customisable via thousands of different Facebook applications. The paths to success here are – have a lot of interesting content about yourself and your books, add to it regularly, and interact frequently with people who post on your wall or contribute to discussions about your books.

My Facebook page is here, and it’s huge. I’ve included cover images, blurbs and key reviews for all 27 of my books. Also first chapters, audio readings and links to samples from the audiobooks. I will put up more audio and video files frequently, as these are of great interest to younger readers. They also love quizzes and competitions, so I have both, and there will be new ones every few weeks.

To drive traffic to this site I’ve begun a huge book give-away entitled 300 BOOKS IN 200 DAYS. Every week from January 1 until late July there’s a new competition where about 10 copies of my books or audiobooks will be given away. Later on I will also do Facebook advertising, which can be carefully targeted (eg, to everyone who likes Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl books, or the Harry Potter books, or Tom Clancy’s).

Social media marketing has another great advantage, terrific metrics. You can tell very quickly if the promotion is working, and if not, redesign it.

These are just a few of the ways to promote your books – in the end, promotion is only limited by your imagination. And being writers, our imagination is unlimited, right? Good luck.

Giveaway question to win a copy of The Headless Highwayman and The Grasping Goblin:

If you had magic, would you use it for good, for evil, or for your own selfish purposes? What would you do first?

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Book Giveaway, Book Launches, Genre Writing, Promoting your Book, Visiting Writer, Writing for children, Writing for Young Adults | Tagged: , , , , , , | 28 Comments »

Meet Rowena Cory Daniells …

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on January 11, 2011

Rowena Interviewed by Marianne. Watch out for the give-away question at the end.

Q: Tell us a bit about your current trilogy, King Rolen’s Kin? How is it different from your earlier T’En books?

 

KRK is a rollicking fantasy. You just jump on the magic carpet and it sweeps you away. I’ve had lots of people tell me they started reading one evening and didn’t stop until they were finished, and had to go to work the next day!

The T’En trilogy was about a clash of cultures. It explored trust and overcoming prejudice. The KRK trilogy is more of a traditional fantasy. A kingdom is in peril, there’s forbidden magic, the heir resents his twin who is more popular than him, there’s feisty princess who doesn’t want to be married off, and a prince who has been sent to serve the church because he’s cursed with forbidden magic. But it is really about friendship, trust and believing in yourself, so the core elements are similar in both trilogies even though the settings diverge.

Being a bit of a nerd I love inventing societies. I’m always reading about other cultures and collecting obscure bits of information. For instance, did you know that there is a New Guinea tribe where the women cut off a knuckle from a finger each time a family member dies. By the time the woman are very old they have a hardly any fingers left. I find this fascinating. And I don’t mean this in a frivolous way. Think what it says about love and sacrifice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q: Heroic fantasy is enduringly popular. What role do you believe it plays in peoples reading lives? What attracts you to it as a writer?

Heroic fantasy presents us with a world as we would like it to be, as opposed to the world as it is. We live in a world where politicians make promises that aren’t core promises and terrorists kill people who are going about their daily lives, then run away and hide.

Faced with a reality where shades of grey abound, who wouldn’t love epic/heroic fantasy? The good guys set out to right a wrong. They might not be perfect but they try. They overcome obstacles and, in the end, they succeed so the world is a better place!

Q: Many people believe that publishing a first novel is the Holy Grail and that after that it all gets much easier. What would you say to them?

I belong to a couple of shared blogs, MGC and ROR. From hearing about the experiences of these other generous and talented writers, I know the publishing industry is an arbitrary reward system.

You can write a good book and jump through all the hoops to get published, then editors leave, lines get cancelled and bad covers kill sales which means all your work goes down the drain and you have to start all over again.

Really, you write because you love writing. If you don’t expect fame and fortune, you won’t be disappointed. Then when readers email you to say they enjoyed your books it’ll be a thrill!

 

Q: You won several awards for your debut adult fiction novel The Last T’En. What affect did that have on your career? What is your opinion of awards in general? Do they serve a purpose?

It’s always nice to win awards. It’s like this big hand reaching down out the sky, patting you on the head and saying, There, there. You really can write.

I know that the Children’s Book Council wins or short listings are great for sales. Libraries buy the CBC books, and they get used in classroom (which is the holy grail of children’s book sales), all this makes your publishers really happy. I don’t know that genre awards make a big difference to sales, which is really the bottom line for your publisher.

But it is really nice to win an award. In Australia we have the Aurealis Awards, which are peer awards. The entries in each speculative fiction sub genre is read by a panel of dedicated readers who agonise over their decisions. (I know because I’ve been involved in the process). The AAs have been going for fifteen years now and everyone in the genre knows about them. The wider community is less well informed, but then most reporters would not know what a Nebula or a Hugo is, and these US awards have been around for 44 and 71 years respectively. So I suppose it is evidence that SF still being ghettoised to a certain extent. The only other genre that cops more flack is romance, yet it is by far the largest selling genre.

Which brings us back to awards and sales. The readers decide what they like, but only if they can find the books. An award should help draw the reader to the book.

 

 

 

 

Q: Can you tell us in a little detail what future projects you have planned?

Currently, I’m working on The Outcast Chronicles. This is a family saga fantasy about a group of mystics, who are banished from their homeland. It follows four key individuals as they as they struggle with misplaced loyalties, over-riding ambition and hidden secrets which could destroy them. Some make desperate alliances only to suffer betrayal from those they trust, and some discover great personal strength in times of adversity.

As soon as I hand this trilogy to my publisher, I need to start on the new King Rolen’s Kin trilogy. I’ve had so many emails from readers wanting to know what happens next, that I’ve already started planning the next three books, while finishing the current series.

Q: You’ve been involved in many, many projects in the creative industries over the years; running countless workshops and pitching forums to help others. How do you know when to draw the line and say, I must have time for my own work? What advice would you give others about finding balance?

I’ve enjoyed all the projects I’ve worked on and, over the years, I’ve met lots of wonderful aspiring writers and lots of generous, inspiring professionals. Many of these aspiring writers have become published. Now that I’m working (I lecture on story, scripting, storyboards and animatics), as well as writing (and renovating the house), I’m struggling to squeeze in the time to complete the books I have under contract. Yet, I LOVE writing.

I think the best thing you can do, is realise that without writing (or what ever creative outlet is your passion) you won’t be a happy balanced human being. You need to be kind to yourself. Imagine that you are your best friend. If your BF was doing all the things you’ve been doing and running her/himself into the ground, what advice would you give them? Now, give that advice to yourself and take it.

There is no shame in looking after yourself. After all, a lot of people depend on you and you need your emotional and creative well to be replenished so that you have something left to give.

Q: What would you like to have achieved in ten years time?

Finish renovating the house. LOL. It’s a bit like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge, by the time you finish at one end, the other end needs to be painted again.

Apart from that, I would love to be living quietly somewhere with my DH, and writing away, knowing that the books I write are all under contract and readers are looking forward to them.

In reality, I will probably be run ragged between my six children and their kids. But I like a challenge!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My give-away is a set of King Rolen’s Kin trilogy (If you already one or two of the books I’ll fill the gap with the missing book/s).

 

My question is: If you could take a holiday in an invented secondary world, where would you go and why?

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Book Giveaway, Creativity, Editing and Revision, Genre Writing, Publishing Industry, Research, World Buildng, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Winner Marianne’s Give-away!

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on January 11, 2011

Marianne has put everyone’s name into a cyber champagne bucket and Ta Da, pulled out:

Rachel’s name!

So Rachel, if you email Marianne on:

decourt(at)bigpond(dot)net(dot)au

she will organise to send you your copy of the book!

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Book Giveaway, Genre Writing | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »