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Rockin’ round Queensland

Posted by richardharland on May 9, 2013

I’m having a great time, doing school visits in and around Brisbane. On Monday, I did talks for students at Aquinas (Gold Coast), then at Marymount on Tuesday (also Gold Coast). Further north to Coolum State High on Wednesday, then back down to Mary MacKillop in Nundah, Brisbane today. All accessories play a part in the ‘show’ – new pull-up banner, aviator helmet, goggles, Steampunk hat, book trailer video, PowerPoint – and of course THE GUITAR! I left my camera behind, so I only have photos from today – doing a reading while showing off my guitar!

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Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Book Trailers, Fantasy Genre, Steampunk, Visiting Writer | Leave a Comment »

Paula Weston asks: Why aren’t YA books as respected as ‘adult’ books?

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on June 2, 2012

Today we have Brisbane based author, Paula Weston, whose debut YA fantasy Shadows has just been released from Text Publishing. Paula is going to talk about her passion, writing for Young Adults.

She raises the question why are YA (and children’s books) less respected than adult novels.

Watch out for the give-away question at the end.

 

‘Young adult is a point of view, not a reading age.’

I don’t know who said it (or in what context) but I love that sentence. Not just because it justifies the amount of time I spend reading (and enjoying) young adult stories of all genres, but because it’s true.

To suggest – as a Times magazine columnist recently did – that adults should only read adult books and leave everything else to teenagers, is remarkably narrow minded. His justification? Because ‘books are one of our few chances to learn’. In other words, there is nothing of value in young adult stories.

In that case, why do we let our teenagers read them?

The idea that a young adult novel is somehow less well written, less intelligent, less engaging and less capable of moving a reader, is insulting to writers and readers alike. Sure, there are varying degrees of quality among young adult books, but that can said of novels in any section of a book store or library.

Yet young adult novels come under stronger criticism. And when you combine the words ‘paranormal’ and ‘young adult’, you’re almost guaranteed to be immediately dismissed as lightweight in many circles. (And yes, I know spec writers – adult and young adult alike – have faced this sort of discrimination for years.)

Like many writers whose books end up in the YA section, I didn’t set out to specifically write a young adult novel.

I’d had an idea bouncing around for a while for a paranormal story but I kept pushing it aside because I was working on a fantasy series. My agent (Lyn Tranter of Australian Literary Management) came very close to scoring a publishing deal on the latter, and when it fell through, I went through my usual round of self doubt, frustration and yes, a teeny bit of self pity. (At that point I’d written five full-length manuscripts, with my first rejection slip dated 1995.)

Once I dusted myself off, I knew I needed a break from the pressure I’d put myself under to land a publishing deal. I just wanted to write something for fun, and that increasingly insistent idea in the back of my mind was the perfect outlet.

So I started on a story just for me, not worrying about anyone would think. I wrote a few scenes, which became a few chapters, and suddenly I had half a novel. Characters had never come so easily and I’d never enjoyed writing so much. I sat down and fleshed out the plot in greater detail and realised I had a story that would take more than one book to tell (four in fact). My agent loved the idea, and those early chapters, and I suddenly had an exciting new project on my hands.

I chose the age of my characters based on what would work best from a narrative perspective and what I needed for plotting (Gaby, my narrative character is 19…or so she thinks.)

When the wonderful folk at Text Publishing offered me that long-awaited contract, they felt the Rephaim series was young adult. The team there really knows what its doing in the YA market, and I was more than happy with that call. My only concern was that my series not be marketed to children or younger teens, given the amount of violence and profanity it features.

I’m an eclectic reader – from literary to paranormal and everything in between – and I’ve consistently found some of my favourite writers on young adult shelves (Aussies Melina Marchetta and Markus Zusak, and US writer Maggie Stiefvater). Some of the best books I’ve read in the last 12 months have been YA (and written by Aussies), including Vikki Wakefield’s All I Ever Wanted, Leanne Hall’s This Is Shyness and Jane Higgins’ The Bridge (okay, Jane’s from New Zealand, but you get the picture).

And if you don’t think YA spec fic stories can’t be complex and rich with analogy and metaphor, check out Marianne de Pierre’s Night Creatures series or Veronica Roth’s Divergent series.

Certainly, some YA stories can have a lighter touch, particularly when it comes to dealing with sexual issues (compare the YA and adult paranormal novels of writers like Richelle Mead, Lilith Saintcrow and Kelly Armstrong), but others push the boundaries more than adult fiction.

I agree there are boundaries that should be respected when the primary target is teens. But more and more, young adult novels are crossing over to wider markets. Harry Potter – still referred to in some quarters as ‘children’s fiction’ – sparked that fire, and it shows no sign of burning out any time soon.

Absolutely, teens should own the YA section of book stores. But the rest of us shouldn’t have to feel like we’ve left our brains at the door when we want to read great stories that just happen to wear the YA label.

Paula has a copy of Shadows for one lucky commenter. Give-away question:  When you were growing up what YA novel (or writer) made a big impression on you?

Shadows: Book 1 of the Rephaim series (Text Publishing) is out 2 July

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Book Launches, Characterisation, Fantasy Genre, Genre Writing, Publishing Industry, Readers and Genre, Visiting Writer, Writing Craft, Writing for children, Writing for Young Adults | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 20 Comments »

Ian Irvine: Marketing for Authors, Part One

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on November 12, 2011

Today we have the indefagitable Ian Irvine, who is sharing is hard-won wisdom with us. Take it away, Ian …

Internet Marketing Basics for Authors

A.         Introduction

Building a strong presence on the net is a long-term proposition. Unless you’re a celebrity or a genius it’ll take you a year or more to build your author platform and gain a significant following. To do so you need to establish presences in a number of places, because they have different functions in your book marketing strategy.

But it’s not enough to establish your sites on the net – you also need to promote and cross-promote them, regularly respond to comments and questions, and update these sites frequently. If a fan returns to your site after a month or two and finds nothing new, or worse, stuff that’s obviously out of date, they’re unlikely to return. But remember, to build your audience, the great majority of your updates should be engaging, relevant, informative and free.

B.        Your Author Platform

What are these functions – what does online networking actually do? What is an author platform, for that matter?

Your author platform is the way you’re currently reaching an audience. For most people, other than celebrities, this is your online presence, whether it’s your website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, YouTube, or several of these.

C.        Online Networking

According to Dana Lynn Smith, in The Savvy Book Marketer’s Guide to Successful Social Marketing, online networking allows you to:

  • Build your author platform and recognition of your brand (i.e., your name as the author of certain kinds of books);
  • Develop relationships with peers, influencers, potential customers and people with common interests;
  • Drive traffic to your website, blog and Facebook page;
  • Share your expertise and knowledge, and help other people
  • Directly and indirectly, promote your books (and any other services you may offer).

D.         Seven Key Activities

The following activities are the most important for book marketing. Ideally, you’ll do all of these, assuming you have the time. It takes a lot of work.

  1. Your website
  2. Your Facebook Fan page
  3. Your blog
  4. Your Twitter feed
  5. Your email newsletter
  6. Your GoodReads page
  7. Your YouTube page

E.        One at a Time

I don’t recommend you work on everything at once. After you’ve created your website, start on one other activity – your blog, or Twitter, or your Facebook fan page – and when it’s working well you can move on to the next. But if there’s one activity you’re not comfortable with e.g. creating and posting videos to YouTube, don’t worry about it. You can’t do everything and it’s better to do a few things well than many things badly.

Remember that social media like Facebook, Twitter, your blog, YouTube feed and GoodReads page aren’t for direct marketing, but for connecting to other like-minded people. Only a tiny fraction of your updates to social media sites should be direct marketing – i.e., versions of ‘Buy my book!’ The great majority of your updates should be useful, informative or entertaining.

For direct marketing, you’ll use your website and especially your email newsletter. And perhaps some carefully targeted advertising on Facebook or GoodReads.

F.         Develop a Plan

Before you begin, do some planning:

  1. Work out your goals, e.g., to:
    1. Meet people, network, keep in touch and build relationships in the areas you’re interested in;
    2. Help others by sharing your knowledge and experience;
    3. Build your author platform and brand recognition;
    4. Promote your books, indirectly or directly;
    5. Gain a large audience and drive relevant traffic to your main author platforms (website, blog, Facebook fan page, newsletter etc).

 

  1. Develop your social media strategy to reach these goals, considering your available time and resources. Work out the topics you’re going to post about, then stay on message. Don’t do unrelated posts.

 

  1. General principle in social media: give more than you get. Reach out to people and ask – who can I help? Do this by sharing your expertise and experience. Promote only rarely, and when you do, be subtle.

 

  1. Ask yourself who you’re trying to connect with. The aim is to end up with as many high quality followers as possible. People follow you for what you have to say of interest to them; e.g., for me on Twitter and my blog:
    1. Authors and other people I’m friends with or interested in;
    2. Influential and perceptive writers on the publishing industry, technology and the future;
    3. Experts on book promotion and marketing, especially in social media;
    4. People with something to say about writing and storytelling;
    5. Reviewers/editors/publishers/book bloggers etc;
    6. Key bookshops and booksellers.
    7. People who love the genres I write in.
    8. Other writers trying to find a way through the maze.

G.         Developing your Platform

The way you’ll develop your platform will depend on your own time, skills and resources. I’ve used my own sites as examples of how these can be done well (or poorly, in some cases – I’m still learning, and I welcome your comments).

  1. Your website – the first and most reliable source of information about you and your books.

Build a strong, user-friendly website that loads quickly, has lots of useful content (including first chapters of all your books, links to places where readers can buy them, and plenty of images, audio and video) and is regularly updated with news or other content (ideally, weekly). As an example, I’ve put a huge effort into both the design and content of my website, and you may find some inspiration for your own site here:  Also:

◦         Add a button to collect Likes for your Facebook page,

◦         Add other useful widgets such as Google Translate, especially if you have a lot of international readers. The translations aren’t brilliant but they’re better than nothing;

◦         Make it easy to share with sharing and bookmarking buttons (I use this ), and RSS;

◦         It’s a pain trying to determine if your favourite site has been updated recently. Add a box that shows what the latest updates are and where they can be found;

◦         Optimise it for mobile devices.

  1. Twitter – probably the fastest and simplest way to build your audience, to meet and develop relationships with other authors, influencers and potential book buyers, to keep up to date, get help, create a buzz about your book or content, and to drive traffic to your other sites. It’s also a good place to help others by sharing your knowledge and expertise, thus enhancing your reputation as an expert. It’s also easy compared to other social media: the learning curve is small and tweeting need not take a lot of time.

To gain followers, post valuable or useful content (your own articles and links, plus interesting and relevant material you’ve come across, but not ads or personal trivia) several times a day – with your other tweets being replies, retweets etc. Be yourself: authentic, friendly and helpful.

You can write and schedule your updates in advance with HootSuite. The Twitter Guide for Authors is helpful and relevant.

Twitter can become a time-wasting distraction, but many writers find it extremely useful for meeting like-minded people, making other industry contacts, and as an instantaneous publicist. I use it mainly for telling people about interesting blog, Facebook or website content (other peoples’ as well as my own content), learning from experts in my areas of interest, and driving traffic to my site and blog. Ian on Twitter.

  1. Your Blog – a great way to gain followers, network with influencers, drive traffic to your sites and be found by search engines. Also a good place to help others by sharing your knowledge and expertise. Blogs are relatively easy to set up and maintain, but using them effectively requires a significant time commitment – ideally, at least 5 hours a week.

Create a structured blog on a topic or topics of broad appeal, with lots of useful content and helpful or thought-provoking (or controversial) articles, that’s regularly updated (ideally, several days a week), and provide quick responses to readers’ comments.

Remember, your readers don’t give a damn about you. They’ll scan your blog in 10 seconds and leave if it doesn’t seem useful. Make each article clear, simple and relevant, and definitely not an advertisement for your own books. I’ve only begun blogging recently, but the great majority of my posts contain useful information about writing, publishing and books in general: See Ian Irvine blogspot

To increase your audience, ask what interests your readers. Free Social Media Examiner.Also:

◦         Google ‘effective blog design’ and set up a clear, well-structured, uncluttered blog that’s easy to read, and easy to find content on.

◦         Make it clear at a glance what your blog is about and who you are.

◦         Make it easy to search, bookmark, share and subscribe to your blog, so visitors will return.

◦         Make it mobile friendly. Up to a third of all visitors come from mobile devices.

◦         Blog comments. Reply promptly to comments on your posts. It’s also helpful to post comments frequently to other relevant blogs (but not comments that are really ads for your book).

◦         Blog tours. Organise a blog tour where, over a few weeks soon after your book has been published, you do guest posts and respond to readers’ comments on 10 – 20 other relevant blogs. Blog tours are also very useful to get a buzz going, though quite a bit of work – for the two tours I did earlier this year, I wrote 40,000 words of posts. For more info.

Next Sunday Part Two of Ian’s Marketing for Authors.

Feel free to send questions through to Ian.

Ian Irvine is an Australian marine scientist who has also written 27 novels, including the international bestselling Three Worlds epic fantasy sequence, a trilogy of thrillers about catastrophic climate change, Human Rites, and 12 novels for children. His latest children’s series is the humorous adventure fantasy quartet, Grim and Grimmer. Ian’s latest epic fantasy is Vengeance, Book 1 of The Tainted Realm.

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Authors and Public Speaking, Book Launches, Covers, Promoting your Book, Publishers, Publishing Industry, Sales, Visiting Writer, Writing Craft, Writing Opportunities | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Book Trailers — Are they worth the effort?

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on September 17, 2011

This week George Ivanoff, Award Winning author of the Gamer’s Quest series (YA fiction) talks about book trailers ….

Watch out for the give-away at the end of the post.

George Ivanoff

 

There has been much debate about the relevance of book trailers. Are they a worthwhile investment of time and money for publishers and authors? Do they actually sell books? Does anyone watch them?

Well, I don’t have any definite answers for you. Sorry! But I do have a few observations based on personal experience.

I had my first trailer made for my 2009 teen novel, Gamers’ Quest. I had no idea if it would be worthwhile. And I had no budget. After an aborted attempt to make it myself (it was pretty crap), I got some help. Friend and computer animator, Henry Gibbens stepped in and produced a trailer for me, with my brother-in-law, Marc Valko, writing and performing the music. I wanted it to look a bit computer-gamey, as the novel is set within a computer game world, and I wanted music that sounded a bit like a 1980s sci-fi tv show theme. This is the result…

It has been up on YouTube since October 2009, but has had only a little over 800 views. Does that mean it’s a failure? Perhaps if I had spent lots of money on it, it might be considered a poor investment. But I didn’t. So even though it has only had a relatively small number of views (compared, for example, to Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters which has views in the hundreds of thousands), it has at least had some people watching it, and it’s not languishing at the bottom of the heap, as so many trailers are, with views not exceeding 100.

YouTube aside, it has been a very successful trailer for me in another way. As a writer of books for kids and teens, I do school visits, and the trailer has proved to be a great way to capture the interest of a young audience. Starting a school talk with a short video that has computer game-like visuals can seize the attention of the most bored and uninterested of teens. So for this reason alone, I was keen to have a trailer for the sequel, Gamers’ Challenge.

I showed this trailer to a couple of school groups last week. The reaction was fantastic! The trailer is more dynamic that the first, and the music deliberately more upbeat and techno. The feedback from the audience was very positive.

Currency did exchange hands this time around — but I already consider it money well spent, purely because it will be a useful tool in school presentations.

But what about YouTube? The trailer has been up for a little over a week and still has not broken the 100 mark. What do I do?

I’ve posted it on FaceBook and Twitter, and on my blog. But this doesn’t seem to have done a huge amount. In fact, reaction has been slower than when I posted the Gamers’ Quest trailer two years ago. You know what? I think people are gradually paying less attention to videos on FaceBook and Twitter. So much crap has been posted over the last two years, that people are more reluctant to click on a vid, and, in fact, will often bypass them without even registering what they are.

Certainly, my use of FaceBook has changed over the two years that I’ve been using it. When I first started, I used to religiously log in every morning and check my friends’ updates… and again at the end of the day. As the months rolled by, and my ‘friends’ list expanded, I started to skim rather than read. Another few months down the track I divided my friends up into groups, so that I could keep track of those who made interesting posts, while bypassing those who status updates consisted of what they had for breakfast. And still, FaceBook was eating up my time (it is, I am convinced, the Black Hole of the Internet)— time that should have been spent writing. So now, I glance at the status updates every couple of days, and look up genuine friends when I’m thinking about them and wondering what they are up to. Do I ever look at videos posted to FaceBook? Rarely!

If this is the way I use FaceBook, how can I expect to get lots of people looking at the videos that I post?

So where does that leave me and my trailer with regards to YouTube? I’m not a big-name-author with a high-profile book published by a large publisher that can afford a big-bucks trailer that is guaranteed immediate and constant attention. But I need to get people to watch my trailer… otherwise why bother having it up there?

Talking to other authors and trailer makers, I’ve discovered something. Even though a book trailer is a piece of promotion for a book, it also needs to be promoted. You need to let people know that the trailer exists… and you need to tell them repeatedly. If they see a link to it often enough, and if you tell them interesting things about it, then they are more likely to invest their time in watching it.

But I hardly have enough time to promote my book, let alone a video about my book! I hear you scream. But promoting your book trailer is simply another way of promoting your book. And believe me, after the umpteenth interview and gazillianth guest blog post, I need something a little different to say in order to interest my readers and maintain my sanity.

And so, here I am, telling you about my experiences with book trailers in the hope that you, my dear, dear, readers, will all spare a couple of minutes to go and watch my latest book trailer. And hopefully, if you actually like it, you may tell other people about it. Or, if I’m very lucky, it may inspire you to seek out and purchase a copy of my book (titled Gamers’ Challenge, just in case you’ve forgotten).

But I’m not relying solely on the readers of Ripping Ozzie Reads to boost my YouTube status. I will be writing about this trailer whenever I get the chance, to as many different outlets as possible. This article is the first of many!

Will all of this boost the trailer’s views and hence sell some more books? Time will tell! In the meantime, excuse me while I go check YouTube to see if anyone else has watched it.  😉

George is giving away 2 copies of Gamer’s Challenge.

Give-away Question: If you could replace the music on the Gamers’ Challenge trailer with a pop song, what would it be?

 

George Ivanoff is a Melbourne author and stay-at-home dad, best known for his Gamers series of teen novels. Gamers’ Quest won a 2010 Chronos Award and is on the reading list for both the Victorian Premier’s Reading Challenge and the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge. Gamers’ Challenge was released this month by Ford Street Publishing.

George spends most of his time writing books for the primary school education market, and also writers a regular bookish blog, Literary Clutter for Boomerang Books online bookstore.
More information about the Gamers books is available on the official website.
More information about George and his writing is available on his website.

Posted in Artists, Australian Spec Fic Scene, Book Launches, Book Trailers, Collaborating, Creativity, Musicians, Nourish the Writer, Promoting your Book, Publishers, Publishing Industry, Sales, Visiting Writer, Writing for Young Adults | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

YA Books for Girls, where does that leave Boys?

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on September 10, 2011

Lara Morgan, author of the Rosie Black Chronciles is visiting ROR.

 

 

Take it away, Lara.

These days it seems that whenever you look in the YA section of bookshops the titles that smack you in the eye first are those dark covers with brooding images, aimed squarely at the teenage girl. Heroines with powers, heroines in danger, heroines with quirky side kicks – it’s all about girl power in the market. Or so it seems.  Blogs, newspapers, earnest people over coffee, are all talking about how there aren’t any books for boys in YA anymore. That the market has been overrun by books for girls, about girls, with girly themes, and that the implication then is this is all wrong and something should be done for the poor hard done by teen boys.

I, for one, am wondering if the teen boys in this question actually care. Has anyone asked them or are we all just speaking for them? And is the great female take-over really happening?

I’m not convinced. Actually after a century, or more, of books for YA being dominated by male characters, saving the girls, written by male authors, part of me is cheering just a little bit. A recent study of young adult novels released between 1900 and 2000 showed that males were the central characters in 57% of books published per year while only 31% of the central characters were female.

 

So, really, it’s only in the last eleven years that girls have started to become the more dominant lead characters in YA fiction. And I’m not going to be sorry about that. A part of me wants to say (hands on hips), well isn’t it about time we girls got to dominate something? Men have more of just about everything on this planet. More power, more money, more rights.  Is the fact that girls hold a bigger place in YA really such a tragedy?

I know some may say that is not a very PC view to hold, but I’m finding it hard to be repentant. It’s not that I don’t care about boys reading – I passionately believe all kids should read – but I don’t think there being a glut of books with female protagonists out there is what’s stopping them. Contrary to the hysteria, there are plenty of books with male protagonists, if that’s what you want.  I think boys not reading is caused by a range of issues and it’s certainly not a new thing, nor the result of more girls in fiction. Boys were reading less when I was in school and that certainly was before 2000.

I don’t have any answers, but what I do believe is, at the moment, girls read more than boys and I think girls are encouraged to gravitate more towards the inner life than the outer, but I’m not convinced that boys won’t read books featuring female protagonists. I think we train them not to and it’s such an ingrained habit that we don’t even know we’re doing it. I think part of the problem is that adults just don’t offer boys books about girls, probably with the greatest of intentions. The reasoning being; we need to encourage him to read so let’s give him a story about spies or pirates not that one about a girl who rides dragons. And even those of us who want everyone to read everything do it.

I write YA with a female protagonist and it is marketed for girls, though when I was writing it I didn’t think about who the reader would be, just what the story was. Now I have been delightfully surprised when people have told me their son read it and loved it, because I didn’t think boys would.  That fact I am surprised a boy read it shows I am also guilty of putting that boy in a ‘he won’t read that’ box.  You see how this mindset is everywhere?

So what do we do? Well we work on changing our own attitudes and try to pass that change on. Yes girls read more than boys, yes at the moment there are a lot of books out there with female protagonists but is that really such a terrible thing? For a long time girls have been reading about boys saving the world, about boys saving them and boys have been reading them as well and absorbing the message that they always have to be the hero, the strong one. Maybe it’s time to show a different point of view, maybe boys will be relieved they can be the side kick for a change with the wit instead of the sword. Give both sexes some credit and let’s see where this takes us.

 

 

 

Lara is giving away a copyof the Genesis and the question is:

What’s your favourite YA book with a female lead character, that you’ve read recently or as a child, and why?

 

 

 

 

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Book Giveaway, Gender Divive in Writing, Genre Writing, Visiting Writer, Writing for Young Adults | Tagged: , , , , , , | 32 Comments »

Ian Irvine’s Adventures using Facebook …

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on July 30, 2011

Last January I posted on my historical book promotion efforts: and at the end I talked about poking a tentative toe into the murky sea of social media. Some time back Rowena kindly invited me back to provide an update on my adventures with Facebook, my successes and failures, insights and disappointments, and finally, after missing many deadlines, here it is.

Why Use Social Media?

Why did I decide to put so much time and effort into social media, I hear you ask? Because over half my readers are under the age of 35 and I wanted to contact them directly – as well as older readers, of course. And also, because fans are different these days – they want a two-way dialogue with the authors whose books they love, and social media offers the best way to do this.

Ten, even five years ago, email was one of the key ways for authors to communicate with fans, particularly young fans (I used to get email from roughly 1 in 300 of the people who had bought my books – or, at least, had read them). However a one-to-one dialogue is very time consuming and most authors don’t or can’t find the time to reply individually to hundreds (or for big-name authors, thousands) of emails a year. Now, with the rise of social media, email contact is fading at the same time that fans’ expectations are climbing. Few people read book review pages in newspapers these days, or go to conventions, while launches and signings have almost disappeared, and only celebrity authors go on book tours. But more than half the population of Australia (and most other developed countries) use social media regularly, and that’s where any author who wants to communicate with fans should be.

Using social media effectively is about:

  • Making contact with people who love the kind of books you write.
  • Engaging in two-way conversation with them.
  • Being a real person, not a promotional huckster; and
  • Helping others, answering questions and sharing resources.

Why Facebook?

I’ve concentrated on Facebook because:

  • It’s the most used social media platform in the world, with 750 million users and still growing rapidly. More than half of these users log on every day, and 85% weekly. In Australia alone there are more than 10 million active users, defined as those who use Facebook at least once a month.
  • It’s a relatively gentle introduction to a social media environment.
  • Its features are more comprehensive than other popular social media sites.
  • It’s easy to contact people with similar interests – for instance, the 3,400 people in English-speaking countries who have said on Facebook that they are specifically interested in my books. This number may seem small (for a range of popular authors, I’ve calculated that specifically interested fans typically number 1 person for every 300-400 books sold worldwide) but they are among your most committed readers and it’s good to reach out to them and find out what they’re interested in. Also, given that word-of-mouth is one of the key ways that readers discover new authors, committed fans are vital to the success of your new books.
  • Another advantage of Facebook is that it has terrific metrics – you can get a wealth of detail about which groups of people are visiting your Page (and which are not). Also, if you use Facebook ads, there is instantaneous feedback as to whether they’re working or not – and if not, why not. You can stop the campaign immediately and change it to better meet your objectives.

Getting Started

The most effective way to use Facebook is via a business Page set up for individuals (eg writers, artists, bands, public figures) wanting to use Facebook for business purposes. This Page contains a range of features designed to help users connect with you. Note that business Pages are different from the most commonly used type of Page, a personal profile page for an individual to use in a non-commercial way.

To set up a business Page, go here and follow the steps. Once a business Page has 25 fans (ie, people who have “Liked” it) you can apply for a ‘vanity’ Facebook URL, which is a neat, logical and distinct URL for your page. Mine is http://www.facebook.com/ianirvine.author.

Facebook Pages come with several standard apps (or tabs) such as Info, Photos, Discussions, Notes etc. Thousands of other apps are available for a myriad of purposes – for instance, to create a tab for all your books or your latest book, your Twitter feed, to run a poll or a promotion. For ideas on what apps are available, Google “best apps for Facebook business pages”.

My Facebook Page

My daughter Fiona, a social media whiz, put together a 30-page strategy for me. I provided the content and she set up my Page. It’s called a Page though it’s really a site with many different tabs and more than a hundred (printed) pages of content, not counting the Wall where most of the social interaction takes place.

Your Facebook Page should not try to reproduce your website, but it’s important to have blurbs, covers and other information about all of your books there. You should also have a landing tab (this is where people will arrive until they Like your page, after which they’ll come to the Wall) with a large cover picture and clear details about your most recent book. It’s a good idea to provide buttons or links for fans to order your books from a variety of outlets, not just Amazon. Also include links to your website and specifically to first chapters, FAQs, interviews, book trailers and other material of interest to many readers. It’s better to keep the latter info on your website as it offers far more flexibility in presentation.

How the Page Works

The key to success on Facebook is to get a large number of people to Like your page. They have to Like it to be able to comment or post to your Page. Once they have Liked it, they receive a news feed of your posts, which, as well as the social aspects, has obvious promotional benefits. Also, your news items of particular interest will often be reposted to other Facebook pages, gaining thousands of extra views. The interaction can’t just be one way, though. It can’t just be the author relentlessly promoting his or her books – it’s important to listen and respond to what your fans have to say and interact with them as a human being rather than a promotional robot.

Even if you’re reasonably well-known as an author, however, you can’t merely set up your Page and expect people to come – in 6 months time you’ll be lucky to have a couple of hundred fans, which isn’t enough. In my view, for Facebook to be of much use as a promotional tool, a Page needs to have a minimum of 1,000 fans, and the more the better.

Fiona set my Page up in the dying days of 2010. Initially I wanted to use it to promote my Grim and Grimmer humorous fantasy quartet for children. The last of these books was to be published in June 2011, so I only had 5 months from setting up my Page until the final book would be in the bookshops. Therefore I set myself ambitious targets for the number of people to Like my page:

  • 1 month from creation: 300 fans
  • 3 months from creation: 700 fans
  • 6 months from creation: 1,500 fans
  • 1 year from creation: 2,500 fans

Promoting my Page

To achieve these targets, I had to strongly promote my Page. I’ve done this in a number of ways, including directly to my contacts by email, by contact via newsletters, blog tours and other online places, by running competitions and with advertising on Facebook and elsewhere.

Email and Internet

To raise awareness of my Page (and promote the Grim and Grimmer books) I’ve done many things, including:

  • Emailed over 600 contacts and recent fans individually, and contacted another 1,500 or more people via various writer’s lists and newsletters, and on blogs.
  • Put info about the Page and my competitions prominently on my huge, redesigned website, and installed Like buttons on every page.
  • Posted many sets of books to online reviewers. This gained 8 reviews, including 2 in the NSW Writer’s Centre weekly newsletter which went out to 6,500 book lovers.
  • Two blog tours for the Grim and Grimmers, including 32 posts on other book blogs, totalling 40,000 words.
  • Tweeted excepts from the Grim and Grimmers,
  •  Attended various conventions including Supanova in Brisbane (23,000 people were there).
  • Established presences at various other internet sites including GoodReads, Google+, AboutMe.com, Shelfari etc.

Competitions

Initially I set up a weekly competition entitled 300 Books in 200 Days, where I planned to give away three of my signed trilogies or quartets every week until July (since changed to 500 Books in 300 Days and now running until the end of 2011, at least). All new visitors to my Page arrive at the Grim and Grimmer tab, which has covers, blurbs and reviews for these books, plus links to sample chapters, readings etc. Visitors have to Like my Page to enter the comps. So far I’ve given away over 200 books, which I’ve mailed to winners all over the world. Every month I give away a set of The View from the Mirror audiobooks – 91 hours of magic, action, adventure and a little romance – and this prize has proven very popular. I suspended the book giveaway comp for the month of April in order to give away an iPad 2 – a very successful promotion.

Note that Facebook has strict rules governing the use of promotions, which can be found here. Facebook doesn’t allow competitions or promotions to be run on its pages; they have to be run and hosted on a separate app, and winners notified by email or other means, not via Facebook message. I use the EasyPromos app to run my competitions ($15 per promotion) and I’m very happy with it. To see the current promotion, or enter it (remember to Like my page first, ha!) you can click the Promos tab on my Page Wall or go here.

You should also be aware that competitions where there is no skill involved, ie where the winner is selected randomly, are illegal in quite a few countries, and penalties are severe. For this reason, I restricted my iPad 2 giveaway to Australia and obtained a NSW permit for it ($75), which covers the whole country. My book giveaways, which are selected on the best answers, are games of skill, not chance and don’t need a permit.

Advertising

Apart from great metrics, advertising on Facebook has another terrific advantage: members indicate what they’re interested in when they set up their Facebook account (books, music, movies, etc), and you can target ads directly to those people who are most likely to be interested in them. For instance, in the Ad Creator I entered the main English-speaking countries (Australia, UK, US, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland), then ‘Ian Irvine” under ‘Specific Interests’, which revealed that 3,400 people in those countries were specifically interested in my books. Clearly, it was very important to attract as many of these people as possible to my Page, so I directed one version of my book giveaway ad to them.

This process will only work if you’re a reasonably well-known author with a following, of course, otherwise your name  won’t come up under ‘specific interests’. But you can do many other things. For the Grim and Grimmers, I directed other versions of my ads to people who like humorous children’s fantasy series such as Artemis Fowl, Bartimaeus, Skulduggery Pleasant etc. In this way you can target as few or as many people as you wish, for any author or book series that’s relevant, or any combination of these.

With these ads, you only pay when someone actually clicks on the ad and is taken to your Page, so at least you know they’ve seen the content there. This doesn’t mean they’ll Like your page, of course. I gained a high proportion of Likes for the ‘Ian Irvine’ ads described above, and also for the iPad 2 giveaway I ran for the month of April. My book giveaway ads have a much lower rate of Likes – clearly, lots of people don’t want free books enough to Like the Page and enter the comps, but I’ve also realised that the comps should be easy to enter and have simple questions, otherwise most people won’t bother. It’s important to monitor the performance of your ads every day and stop any campaigns where you’re getting lots of clicks (for which you pay) but not many Likes.

Since January, I’ve done over three months of carefully targeted Facebook ads. I’ve also done other ads, including a NSW Writers Centre e-ad which went out to 6,000 people on their mailing list.

Cost

As I was in a hurry, because of book publication dates, this program was more expensive than it would otherwise have been. I’ve spent about $2,000 on advertising, and a good swag more on giveaways, postage etc. if I’d set up my Page a lot earlier, I could have gained much of my exposure and fans incrementally through blogs and other routes, and avoided much of the expense. But I don’t regret it.

Success or Failure?

As of late July 2011, my Page has 2,100 fans and a fabulous level of interaction – some of my posts have had 70 or more replies. It’s a terrifically warm and supporting environment and has become very important to me, both promotionally and personally.

But has it worked, I hear you ask? Well, I can’t say that the sales of Grim and Grimmer have been spectacular, but:

  • The series has been exposed to at least 15,000 people who otherwise would have known nothing about it;
  • The Grim and Grimmers have gained a lot of reviews they would not otherwise have had, every review has been favourable and quite a few have been raves.
  • Book 1, The Headless Highwayman, which had a big initial printing last year (around 10,000 copies) reprinted in May before the last book, The Calamitous Queen, was published;
  • So, definitely not a runaway bestseller, but I’m pleased that I’ve made a significant contribution to the success of these books.

The Future

Will I be continuing Facebook promotion for my long-awaited new epic fantasy series, The Tainted Realm, which begins with Vengeance in November? Too right I will! In fact I’ll be expanding the advertising, and the competitions, including another iPad 2 giveaway in a month or so. Stay tuned.

Not least, my Facebook Page has put me in touch with thousands of my most enthusiastic and loyal fans, and the dialogue I’ve had with them has been precious indeed.

And thanks very much to Fiona, for the strategy and for setting up my Page and giving me continuing advice and assistance with it. I could not have done it without you.

I’d just like to take this chance to thank Ian for his generosity in sharing this information. He has gone out there and done all the research. Then he’s taken the time to write this detailed and comprehensive guide. Show a little support and go Like his Facebook pages!

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Authors and Public Speaking, Book Launches, Fantasy Genre, Promoting your Book, Visiting Writer | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments »

Paul Mannering: How did I get here?

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on June 11, 2011

For the first time ever, Angry Robot opened its doors to independent submissions. New Zealand based Paul Mannering – along with thousands of other hopeful writers – submitted the first five chapters of his SF/Zombie-horror manuscript Tankbread.

A long-time member of Vision, Paul has since been asked to submit the whole MS.

Today he talks about the journey up to this point.

 

As a writer I always thought that the worst thing in the world was a rejection letter from an editor. Now I realise that the rejections are nothing. It’s the responses that give you a reason to hope that will kill you inside.

In the first weekend of June I got a response from Angry Robot Books requesting the full manuscript for my novel Tankbread because they liked what they had read of my submitted sample. Less than 48 hours later I won a SFFANZ Sir Julius Vogel Award for Brokensea’s third season of Doctor Who audio dramas.

My immediate reaction to this second Cool Things That Sometimes Happen To Writers was to find perspective in the wisdom of Douglas Adams: “No one likes a smart arse”.

These days it feels like the chances of being published by a real international publishing house are on par with dying in a plane crash. And then being eaten by a Uruguayan rugby team. So I’m not planning any book-tour destinations yet.

As David Byrne and Talking Heads once asked, “How did I get here?”

Tankbread came to me in as a complete concept one day while walking home from work. I saw the opening scene, and heard the opening lines in my head. The post-apocalyptic diner. The cooked dog on a plate. The Asian across the table tearing chunks out of the girl’s neck.

From there I fleshed out the first act. The story progressed slowly as I took breaks to write other things, short stories and audio dramas.

The Sir Julius Vogel award winning 3rd season of BrokenSea’s Doctor Who was written in a frenzy of creativity and stress after the main script writer for our previous two seasons quit after delaying us for months. We had very little time to put something together and I work best under pressure.

The first three chapters of Tankbread were written in two drafts. I hate re-writing anything. My best ideas come to me in the first rush of discovery. The rest is editing.

I finished the story in February 2011, during the dark weeks following the Christchurch earthquake when we were off work and felt like we were living in our own localised apocalypse.

From initial concept to completion took four years.

Early on I posted the first chapter, pre-edits and re-writes to a couple of writing lists for critique. It got plenty of feedback and it was all good advice. Vision Writers members suggested it fell a little flat after the opening scene. So I kept working on it, adding a new scene that helped expand the universe of the story. The story took me on its own journey. What I ended up with was a character driven post-zombie-apocalypse story with lots of pulp-horror adventure. Of all the critique groups I’ve worked with over the years, Vision and Writing and Publishing (both Yahoo groups) have provided the most consistent critiques.

Once I finished the first draft I started seriously editing it. I got other people to read it and I put it down for a month and then came back to it and edited again. This process fixed all kinds of errors. Then near the end of March the sample went off to Angry Robot. I edited it again while they were considering the first 15,000 words.

Stories reach a point where they are good enough. From here I’ll re-write and make changes only based on editorial feedback.

As David Byrne and Talking Heads once asked, ‘How did I get here?’

  1. Write every day write a shopping list, a to-do list, a poem, an email, a blog, a short story a chapter a character bio. Write on a PC or Mac, a tablet, a napkin, in the sand. Write in ink, pencil, crayon, blood, condensation. Write in tongues, write non-fiction, write porn, write revenge, lust, passion, action, descriptive passages, dialogue. Write screenplays, radio-scripts, first person, third person, second person, write under a pseudonym. Write at a desk, in your car, upside down, in bed. Write in your head if you have to.

 

  1. There is no such thing as writers block. If you have no idea where your current project is going – go back to the point where you knew where it was going and start writing from there. If that doesn’t work for you – see point 1.

 

  1. Love Rejection but Don’t Luuurve Rejection. Rejection is part of writing. Every writer get’s rejected. Usually by incompetent morons who couldn’t edit a tombstone inscription! At least that’s our immediate and emotional reaction. We hate rejection. If you learn to accept rejection, you lose a lot of the fear that comes with not writing and submitting to markets. When rejection comes with good advice – treasure it. Remember the editor is rejecting the work – not you as a person. The flip side to that is that your mum, partner or writing group are probably praising you, not your writing. Blanket praise should be regarded with suspicion.

 

  1. Read critically. Read everything. Read it for the usual reasons you read things (to be entertained, informed, aroused, incensed, or just because there’s nothing on the telly). When you come to a bit in a book you really enjoy – read it critically. Why does that passage or line or dialogue strike you? On the flip-side of that – when you read something that sucks – think about how it could have been written better. A lot of crap does get published, and it sells. It’s not about writing Shakespeare or Theroux. It is about writing something good enough to achieve the purpose it is intended before. Mostly (and no writer will ever admit this) the purpose is to make the writer very rich and smug at cocktail parties.

 

These simple approaches to writing are what got me to where I am today. Always learning, always practising and always having fun with exploring new ideas and enjoying other people’s great stories.

 

Catch up with Paul here.

 

 

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Awards, Characterisation, Collaborating, Editing and Revision, Fantasy Genre, Genre TV Shows, Movie/TV Adaptations, Nourish the Writer, Publishers, Publishing Industry, Visiting Writer, Writing Craft, Writing Groups | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Creative Marketing for Indie Authors

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on May 7, 2011

This week ROR welcomes Jennifer Willis,  an indie author who’ll be talking about marketing: Take it away, Jen …

Watch out for the give-away question at the end of the post

If you’re an indie author, chances are you don’t have a huge budget for marketing your book. As independents, we simply don’t have access to the same resources and advertising departments that traditional publishers have at their disposal. But that doesn’t mean you can’t compete. You may just need to get a little creative about your marketing, and then rely on the power of the internet and social media to fuel your grassroots campaign.

Below are some strategies from my own marketing plan for “Valhalla.” Some of these I’ve already put into play, and others are coming soon. (Word to the wise about indie marketing: No matter how slick your plan is or how successful your strategies turn out to be, it will still always, *always* take longer than you think!)

* Friends & family money-back-guarantee

This idea came from my boyfriend. He suggested that we come up with a list of 100 friends and family members and offer them a money-back-guarantee on the $2.99 “Valhalla” ebook. I laughed and thought this was really cute at first, but then I realized how smart it was. Even if everyone on the list agreed to participate and then ended up hating the book, very few people are going to quibble over $3. As it’s turned out, no one has asked for money back — and if you play your cards right and line up enough people to buy your book within the first 24 hours of its release, you can seriously bump up your sales rank.

NOTE: I’m making about $2 off of every $2.99 book that’s sold. If one of my “friends & family readers” did decide to ask for a refund, I’d lose a dollar on that sale (refunding my $2 in royalties plus another $1 out of my own pocket to make up the difference in sales price). So if you put out a really bad book and everyone wants their money back, you’re looking at a deficit.

* Leave print copies of your book in strategic locations

This idea comes from indie bands, who used to surreptitiously stuff their CDs into the racks at music stores. If those CDs then sold, the artists made no money off of them — since they’d essentially “donated” the CDs to the stores — but it was a way to get new people listening to their music. So every once in a while, I’ll leave print copies of my first novel, “rhythm,” lying around in strategic locations. I’ve left copies in libraries, in bookstores (where I later went back to confirm that “rhythm” had been put on the store shelves), hotel rooms when I’m traveling, coffee shops and the like. I’ve left copies of “rhythm” all over Ireland when I’ve vacationed there, and my boyfriend took a few copies to Las Vegas on a recent trip. I’ve even left a copy in a Subway restaurant.

I don’t make any money off of these “free range” copies of my book, but you never know who might pick one up and start reading.

* Bookmarks

Just a like a business card, a bookmark highlighting your new book helps to generate interest. You can distribute these to people you meet at parties, on the bus, at the grocery store or wherever, giving them a physical reminder later to look up your book and maybe even buy a copy.

Also, these bookmarks can be distributed in guerrilla-like fashion — left in books returned to the library, furtively slipped inside books in your genre at the bookstore, left on your seat on the train, etc.

This is one of those strategies I’ve not yet tried yet, but I’ve seen others use this to great effect. I’m looking for a good printing service for my bookmarks — though if you’ve got a higher-end printer at home or come up with a design that isn’t heavy on graphics, there’s no reason you couldn’t print up your own bookmarks and start handing them out right away.

* Talk to people

This may seem like a no-brainer and not terribly creative, because not all writers are shy. But I certainly am, and it can be a challenge for me to strike up a conversation with a stranger or someone I just met — and the pressure of marketing my new book in such a situation can make it even worse.

But if I catch sight of someone who’s using an e-reader, for instance, it’s that much easier — we already have something to talk about. I can simply ask how they like their device, what they do or don’t like to read on it, and then casually — or not so casually — mention I have a new ebook that’s come out. And I can relate my decision to go with e-publishing to what they like most about the device — instant accessibility, saving trees, etc.

Overcoming personal shyness isn’t all that easy, and it helps if you feel truly passionate and excited about your book. When it comes to talking about “Valhalla,” I’ve been surprised to discover myself bursting out of my shell to tell pretty much everyone about it. I’ve joked that maybe I should start wearing a name tag that reads, “Hello! My name is … VALHALLA! Buy it!”

* Blog post exchange
If you’re putting together a blog tour for your book — and really, you should! — one strategy to scoring some screen-time on someone else’s blog is to offer to do a guest post exchange. It’s simple: you write an entry to post on their blog, and they write an entry to post on yours. This cross-promotion gets your name and information about your book in front of the other blog’s readers, while also giving the other blogger access to your readers for a day.

Michelle Rafter’s annual Worcount Blogathon encourages this kind of post-swapping in an effort to help participating bloggers keep their content (and their brains) fresh during the month of blogging every day.

* Stage readings in unusual places

At the grocery store last month, I was surprised to see an author set up just inside the main doors, selling his new book of cartoons, ” Casey and Kyle: So Much For Being On Our Best Behavior!!!” I stopped and talked with Will Robertson about why he was selling his books in a grocery store. He explained that he was going to various grocery and drug stores, setting up his little table and talking to people as they came in — and was selling 100 books a week. (You can read more about this meeting on my blog.)

If there are other indie authors in your area publishing ebooks, consider setting up a joint book reading to promote your work. Since readers can purchase ebooks pretty much anywhere and at any time, you’re not limited to bookstores as venues. You could arrange to do a reading at a local coffee house or bistro, or even stage a guerrilla reading in a public square, street corner or park.

* Book trailer video

Granted, if you have little or no marketing budget, this is probably not going to be a high-end video with lots of special effects. But that’s okay. You can get as silly and as campy as you’d like with this to show your readers that you have a sense of humor — if your book has a humorous bent, all the better.

If your book is more serious in tone and topic, you can go the safer route and stage a Q&A interview with yourself, or perhaps make a mini-documentary to underscore the importance of your topic — and your book — to your potential readers.

If you’re not sure where to post the video of your book trailer once it’s done, have a look at Creative Indie Marketing- Top 15 places to Post Your Videos on the Stardom Bound blog.

BIO

Jennifer Willis is an author, essayist, and journalist in Portland, Oregon. In her non-fiction work, she specializes in topics related to sustainability, spirituality/religion, history, and health. Her articles have appeared in The Oregonian, The Christian Science Monitor, Salon.com, The Portland Tribune, The Writer, Ancestry Magazine, Aish.com, Skirt!,InterfaithFamily.com, Vegetarian Times, Spirituality & Health, and other print and online publications at home and across the globe.
In fiction, she focuses on urban fantasy and playful mayhem. Her new ebook, “Valhalla” is available Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Goodreads.

Visit her online at jennifer-willis.com.
Give-away Question: “Without his divine powers, Thor has to go to work like everyone else — but he’s a terrible employee. What do you think Thor’s least favorite job would be?”

Posted in Book Giveaway, Book Launches, e-books, Nourish the Writer, Promoting your Book, Visiting Writer | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

Winners Paul Garretty’s book …

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on February 15, 2011

“Not drowning, waving”
Well, that should really read drowning in waves – mad surfers the lot of you. We even had Mexican wavers. It was difficult deciding which waves to catch, but then picking winners was never quite on my wavelength, (not counting Annie, of course).

However, the two stand up winners for the complimentary copies of “the Seventh Wave” are: Thoraya for her sine wave (had to look that one up), and my personal favourite Peter Cooper’s New Wave. Congratulations you two, please send me your postal addresses to:

paulgarrety(at)bigpond(dot)com

and your copies will be  paddled out to you on the next  passing long board.

Consolation prizes to all the other entrants can be found at your local bookstore (for a very modest investment ). Thanks to all for your kind comments, congratulations and encouragement.
Best of
Paul

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Book Giveaway, Creativity, Nourish the Writer, Visiting Writer | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Book Two Hurdles …

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on February 12, 2011

There’s something really nice about meeting an aspiring writer at a workshop that you run, seeing their work, seeing them develop as a writer, and then some time later seeing their book in print. Today we welcome Paul Garrety who attended one of the EnVision workshops where published writers mentored a small pod of aspiring writers as they worked on their books. Paul wasn’t in my pod but I still feel a sense of achievement seeing his book, The Seventh Wave, in print. Paul is being very frank and up front about writing that second book!

Watch out for the give-away question at the end. Welcome Paul!

“It’s going to an acquisitions meeting.”

If you’re a writer, particularly a writer with an (as yet) unpublished novel, then you’ll know precisely how much is hanging off that very short sentence.

It was the back end of 2009 and after innumerable re-writes, plus a couple of false starts, “The Seventh Wave” was just one meeting away from a possible two book deal —one meeting… and one question:

“ Paul, you won’t need more than a year to complete book two, will you?”

At that stage Book Two constituted a title, one chapter and a very fuzzy outline that’d been thrown together like a quick salad one Sunday afternoon.

My lovely wife and partner, Annie, and I take it in turns to blow up each other’s delusions. I recall it was just after we’d signed the contract to build the house (construction due to begin January 2010) that she first asked whether “I’d be right” co-ordinating that as well as writing a new book. She had the good grace not to mention I’d already signed (and paid for) a 12 month Yoga Therapy course to start Feb 2010, my gang’s annual writers’ retreat, plus a week long yoga intensive in Sep 2010  — all committed to earlier in 2009. Annie and I would also be due to move house twice during that year — once into a rental on Macleay, and the next into the new house mid-year. Then, of course, there was always work which had to pay for it all, along with all the challenges of commuting every day from an island.

Even then (foolishly) I felt it would be okay. I write fast. Not necessarily good, but definitely fast.

Then the publisher’s advance arrived in my bank account.

The amount seemed to be more than it should have been so I rang up to see whether someone had made a mistake, before I spent it.

No mistake.

Even though I’d invoiced them for the advance on book two (I’d assumed) that particular portion of it wouldn’t be paid until a book draft actually existed.

Wrong.

I realised then that not only was I contracted to deliver 110,000 words by December 2010, but I’d been paid to do it as well. They should make anti-freeze for writers as well as cars because then all my insecurities flocked in — what if book two was no good? What if there wasn’t enough material to fill the 110k after all? What if they cancelled book one if book two didn’t make the grade?

Talk about delusions — I could write a book on that.

In January I found another excuse to distract myself. My 2009 (Xmas break) short story had been accepted for the 2010 One Book, Many Brisbanes anthology. While this was great news it still sucked up time, requiring re-drafts and a three day commitment to a (fabulous) workshop.

Then it was March, but I still had nine months up my sleeve, right?

Wrong again.

Because right about then I received the first editorial notes on book one with some serious structural revisions to make.

I was fast learning why “real” writers are super heroes; professionals who are able maintain multiple plot lines and complex characters in their heads while actually still managing to have a life.

By June, with less than 30,000 of book two words in the can, it was obvious something had to give — and if I wasn’t careful it would be my health because no way was I going to not do the book. I’d waited too long for this, but I was still seized up creatively. Nothing was flowing.

I dropped out of the Yoga Therapy course and cancelled the yoga intensive week.

I used up my last five days of annual leave and hunkered down. By then the writing paralysis had morphed into a highway-style “headlights moment.”

I wrote (and re-wrote) everywhere — on the water taxi to and from work, at cafes, in the car during lunch breaks (fortunately I work mostly from my car).

The deadline was looming.

At about that point the 3.00am ceiling-staring started, making mental calculations in the dark, dividing the amount of months and weeks remaining by the number of words still to write, multiplied by the number of re-drafts required until I realised I’d be better off getting up and actually writing than lying there projecting daily word counts.

By August word count mania had set it. I ruled up a foolscap pad with columns for: date, opening word count, closing word count, number of words written and how many words to go.

Negative word count numbers were the enemy — oh, did I mention I’m a “pantser” writer? No plan, no net, no parachute? Consequently, I found myself re-tapping whole slabs of content and continuity threads as the plot course veered off in unexpected directions chewing up time.

In one attempt to simplify the cast I deleted one Point of View character until I realised that he featured strongly in the book two teaser chapter that I’d already included at the end of book one. Needless to say book one was by then on final layout and wasn’t open to structural changes so he had to be woven back in. More time.

By mid November it looked like I might just make my deadline. Then I checked the contract (for next payment details) and found that book two was actually due on 1st December, not 31 December as I’d thought.

The curious thing about all this was that my situation is apparently not uncommon. Mid 2010 (wonderful) Kate Eltham, CEO of QWC, organised a Bridge Club for writers who’d had limited publishing experience ie first book, but who could benefit by advice from writing and business specialists. Several of the writers I met there had similar issues with contracted deadlines and advances.

I now realise you don’t have to read spec fic to find horror stories.

My lesson in all this is that if I am ever fortunate enough to secure a two book contract again is not to “see if the first one sells before writing the follow on” but to do it anyway. Sounds incredibly simple doesn’t it? Then again I’ve always found hindsight is much more reliable than foresight.

PS. Fortunately Harper Collins-Voyager provided me with a two week extension which then allowed me time to coerce (equally wonderful) Jason Nahrung to sandblast the obvious dross from the plot. A couple of sleepless sessions for me followed to then complete the re-write.

Paul is generously giving away 2 copies of his book, The Seventh Wave. Give -away question: What is your favourite wave, be it art, music or actual surfing wave?

Catch up with Paul on Facebook.

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Book Giveaway, Creativity, Editing and Revision, Nourish the Writer, Plotting, Publishers, Visiting Writer, Writing Craft | Tagged: , | 19 Comments »