Tag Archives: publishing

Writers’ Week, Adelaide style

writers week 1

Adelaide Writers’ Week (photo by me)

This week is Writers’ Week in my home town of Adelaide, part of the annual Adelaide Festival of Arts. It’s a week I always take off work so I can make the most of the opportunity it offers – surrounding myself with people who love reading and writing, and hearing straight from the authors’ mouths what makes them tick, where their ideas come from and how they turn those ideas into the books on offer in the book tent.

It’s autumn in Australia and this week the weather is fine and ranging from 24-34 degrees Celsius (75-93 Fahrenheit), which can be a little warm on the hotter days but there is plenty of shade to be had. And people are making the most of it – I’ve not been to other writers’ festivals but we do seem to be bursting at the seams here at times. Most of the authors offer book signings after their sessions and if you try to get into the book tent between sittings you’re fighting a hundred other people to find what you’re looking for. And you know what? It’s fantastic. While  I was lining up to meet Elizabeth Gilbert yesterday I found myself in conversation with a bookseller from Queensland who had come down for the week to see what all the fuss was about; the family days on the weekend were packed out with kids dying to hear Mem Fox or Andy Griffiths read their works aloud (and can I say there is very little more satisfying than seeing a hundred eight year olds with piles of well-thumbed books, hoping to meet the author); Hannah Kent was still signing copies of Burial Rites a good 45 minutes after her session ended; and Alexander McCall Smith was seen wandering around enjoying the atmosphere before his first session today. Yes, we have an embarrassment of riches here this week, and the best part is it’s all free. So everyone can come and enjoy a session under the trees, listening to some of the best authors the world has to offer.

(As an aside, this is Australia’s ONLY free literary festival. If you are interested in helping it stay free, then please buy some books from the book tent on site, or if you are not in Adelaide (which I expect is most of you) then please consider making a purchase or two at the online e-book retailer associated with the event, which can be found here. Funds raised from book sales are what enables the Festival to continue to offer this event at no cost.)

The west stage

The west stage

I’ll be able to offer more commentary on it next time because I’ll have seen more of the sessions by then, but in the meantime I urge anyone reading this, who has a writers’ festival anywhere near them during the year, to go check it out. It’s fascinating, it’s eye-opening, and you may just discover a new favourite author or two. :)

 

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Feedback, glorious feedback

 

Photo from Girl with computer emerging technologies social media by Walton LaVonda, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Girl with computer emerging technologies social media by Walton LaVonda, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

 

Today is a big day for me. Today, for the first time, I read the first feedback I have received for my completed novel draft.

Okay, I admit it, I received said feedback weeks ago. However, what with the Christmas rush, holidays, kids running around my feet and a very real fear of what the document said, I put off reading it. It was from someone whose point of view matters to me and who is in the novel’s target audience. I was terrified they would say they hated it.

Today, though, I forced myself. Found the email. Opened the document. (Okay, I’d opened it before now, and given it a quick glance. But that was it.) And read the whole thing through, word by word. And do you know what? They didn’t hate it.

Sure, they picked out a few things that need working on. Some, I already knew about (or suspected). Some I hadn’t realised were weak spots. But they also pointed out a few things they really did like, and which they thought worked well. That, my friends, was amazing to read. Yes I’ve had reviews before, but this is the first novel I’ve ever thought of trying to get published, so it felt more important.

Naturally, all this pressure was self-inflicted. We are all our own worst critics and we are convinced that every error we see will be magnified tenfold by others. The truth, though, is that this person who is in my target audience liked my story. Said they would read it again. Said the characters were real and vivid and engaging. And that the story flowed and – generally – worked. And that, my friends, is a huge load off my shoulders.

I still have some other betas who have not yet got back to me, and I’m okay with that. The Christmas period is one of the busiest for pretty much everyone and it can be hard to find time to spare to critique someone’s novel. This first one, though, is like manna from heaven. It means the novel isn’t crap, and I haven’t been wasting my time for the past couple of years. Sure, there are a few tweaks that need to be made, but overall it shows promise and potential. And that, I think, is the best Christmas present I could have received.

 

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On inhaling the work of others

Writers Week Entrance

Writers Week Entrance (Photo credit: mikecogh)

 

This week, I’m taking a break from the writing/editing cycle. Also from the whole work thing, thanks to some annual leave, but generally from my own writing and editing. Why? Because this week I am taking in a writers’ festival.

There aren’t a lot of writers’ festivals in my home town. Every March, though, we play host to a swathe of authors of different genres, all in town to just talk about writing. It’s one of my favourite weeks of the year, and as such I take the time off work and just go into town and imbibe others’ experiences. A number of them I’ve never heard of, but what does that matter? It’s a great way to find out about amazing stories and to discover a new favourite author.

As such, I refuse to feel guilty about ignoring my own works, just for this week – though it wouldn’t surprise me if I find myself writing anyway. Just being surrounded by successful writers and hearing their stories can be more than enough to inspire me to pick up a pen and jot a few sentences (or pages) down. And after all, isn’t that what an event like this is all about?

So, I’m off to take in some of Writers’ Week – and who knows? Maybe I’ll hear the tidbit of information that just sends me off on a writing or editing frenzy. Or maybe I’ll find a real gem in one of the speakers and spend a fortune in the book tent. Or maybe I’ll just have a lovely, lazy week hearing what some of the best writers going around have to say on the subject of their work. Either way, one thing is for sure: it won’t be a wasted week.

 

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What’s in a name?

Title page from the first edition of Jane Aust...

Title page from the first edition of Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

First of all, my apologies for not posting last Monday. It was the end of a long weekend – away, no  less – and I spent most of the morning throwing up. As such, social media and networking was, unfortunately, not really on my radar. Sigh. Anyway, I’m back now and hopefully won’t be having any more days of being AWOL. :(

Today I want to talk about one of the banes of my existence – titles.

I am rubbish at titles. I don’t shy from that fact. Every story I’ve ever written has either had between six and ten titles, or landed the first one I thought of (and hated from that moment onwards). My working titles are as changeable as the weather, and perhaps as reliable too. So I am in absolute awe of anyone who can seemingly pick a brilliant title out of thin air and stick with it, because as you can appreciate it’s not something I’ve ever achieved.

Some of the best stories in literature have amazing titles. Jane Austen, for example, is someone who was incredible at titling her works; the Bronte sisters likewise seemed to have a talent for it. More recently people like Jodi Picoult or Neil Gaiman have impressed me, among others. Or, really, just about anyone who has a book out there – chances are, if it’s published (via a publishing house or by yourself), then it’s got a better title than I could come up with.

Now, I know there are tricks to it. Some people use song titles or lyrics, or variations thereof. Some use lines from well known literature, such as the quote that comprises my title today. Some can just grab a phrase from the book itself that really lends itself to that purpose, like Lee Fullbright did with The Angry Woman Suite, which I reviewed on Friday. But the thing is, when it comes down to it, I can just never seem to get it right. Am I too fussy? Perhaps. Maybe I’m just a perfectionist. But it’s something I wish I could do. Because let’s face it, people judge books on their titles. Without a snappy title, many otherwise excellent books just get put aside or ignored for their flashier rivals. And without an edge to get people to check out my work in the crowded marketplace, what chance do I have?

So here I am, asking for advice. How do you choose your titles? Are you enough of a masochist to title your chapters as well as your books, or do you leave it at the main heading and just number any segments? What tricks or ideas do you use? Because really, I’m getting a bit sick of changing my working titles over and over again until I find something that I don’t necessarily like, but just hate less than the last one. To be honest, I have quite enough on my plate just at the moment, so if I can get the hang of titling, then that’s one less thing I have to think about.

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Author interview and novel excerpt: Chris Ward

Today I’m very happy to welcome Chris Ward, a native of Cornwall, England, who currently lives and works in Nagano, Japan. He is the author of 33 published short stories and the novels The Tube Riders and The Man Who Built the World. Chris has very kindly offered to answer a few questions for me and even given a preview of his novel, to whet the appetite of all who read it. So, let’s find out what the fuss is about!

Chris Ward

Tell me about the book. What inspired you to write it? What has the response been like?

I always had a rule in my writing never to write the same book twice.  While it looks like this is going to leave me poor and unknown forever, when I came to write Tube Riders I decided I wanted to write a big, epic sci-fi adventure because, while I had often written short stories in that genre, my novels had always been more mainstream.  I didn’t have much inspiration, so I looked through my short stories and came across one about a group of kids who hang from the side of trains for fun and get in trouble with a rival gang.  A couple of hours of brainstorming later I had expanded it into a sprawling dystopian novel.

The response … well, the handful of people who have read it have loved it.  I’ve had rave reviews, and I’ve even had fan mail.  However, so much stuff is being self-published that it’s been utterly buried under a slag heap of junk.  I’ve sold perhaps 40 copies.  I’m hoping it’ll be a slow burner and that by the time the second and third parts come out (tentatively summers of 2013 and 2014) it will be starting to catch on.  I guess time will tell.

How did you go about creating the dystopian landscape and atmosphere for The Tube Riders? Is it cautionary – it could happen if we take a couple of wrong steps along the way – or purely fictional?

Parts of it are very fictional, such as the scientific advances made by Mega Britain’s scientists.  I’ve very aware that it is impossible to cross a dog with a human due to the difference in number of chromosomes, but this is where it goes into Star Wars/X-Men territory and suspension of belief.  However, the world itself, with the perimeter walls, the restrictions on travel, the secret police, is very much based on real situations.  I live in Japan and am very influenced by the situation in North Korea.  We in the West can barely imagine living in a society where you fear for your life every moment of every day or are born into slavery because your grandparents dared to criticise the government, but there are hundreds of thousands of people currently in that situation.  Mega Britain is a kind of reflection of that and I tried to make it as realistic as possible.  That’s also why everything is in a state of disrepair – the Huntsmen don’t work properly, practically everyone is corrupt … I wanted readers to see beyond all the jumping on and off of moving trains to the dark underbelly of the world beneath, to understand what life is like in a failing society.

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How long had you been writing before you began to take it seriously?

I was about eight years old the first time I remember writing anything.  Through my early teens I dreamed of being a young sensation, but I was eighteen before I finished a novel.  It wasn’t very good and has never been edited.  Nor has my second or third.  I started collecting rejections on my fourth novel, written when I was 22.  By that time it was my dream to be a famous writer, however I’ve always been someone who liked trying new things so I kept my options open.  That’s how I ended up living and working overseas.

Why did you decide to self publish? How has your experience been?

It was pretty much a last resort.  I’d been collecting agent/publisher rejection letters for fifteen years and always saw self-publishing as a vanity way out.  I was at the point where my writing was good enough to sell to professional magazines and it was this that gave me the confidence in my work to try self-publishing, and the belief that had I been born thirty years earlier I would probably have broken through.  I still feel strange about it, because for me it was always about walking into a bookshop and seeing my books on a shelf.  That might never happen now.

As for my experience, it’s been slow.  I don’t sell much.  One thing I’ve learned is that quality has very little to do with what sells and what doesn’t.  Luck, coupled with a marketing brain seems to be far more important.  I’ve read poorly written rubbish that’s selling hundreds of copies a week.  A lot of the bigger selling authors I come across are retired or don’t work, meaning they have the hours to put into all the boring stuff.  As someone who works full and part time I have time for the writing but not much else.  Plus, I enjoy the writing whereas spending an hour trawling through Twitter kills me.  I’d much rather write five pages of another book than bust my gut trying to get one person somewhere to click on my book link.

What advice would you give to any aspiring authors out there?

Write and publish, but don’t get all whiny when it doesn’t work out.  Quit complaining about not selling and getting bad reviews.  The only way to make sales is to work hard to get your book noticed, and the only way to get good reviews is to get better.  Even then, you’ll occasionally get canned.  One of the best books I’ve ever read, The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneger, has something like 500 one-star reviews.  That book brought me to tears and the story broke my heart.  I thought it was a masterpiece, but clearly at least 500 people strongly disagreed.  Now, with self-publishing, you get people publishing five or six years before they can even write properly, then jumping up and down and having a fit if they get anything less than a four-star review.  It’s very childish.  Along the same lines, it’s really poor form to be jealous of someone else’s success.  Some of the arguing I see on author’s forums borders on playground behaviour.  These are supposed to be grown adults attempting to be professionals and they’re writing bad reviews of each others’ work, arguing, stalking, and basically acting like little kids fighting over who gets to go first on the slide.  Just don’t do it.  Switch off the internet, grow up, and use your time to write more, write better.

——————

Excerpt from The Tube Riders:

As the others said their goodbyes and left, Marta stood for a moment, looking out across the park towards the huge elevated highway overpass that rose above the city to the south. Half finished, it arched up out of the terraces and housing blocks to the east, rising steadily to a height of five hundred feet. There, at the point where it should have begun its gradual decent to the west, it just ended, sawn off, amputated.

Years ago, she remembered her father standing here with her, telling her about the future. Things had been better then. She’d still been going to school, still believed the world was good, still had dreams about getting a good job like a lawyer or an architect and hadn’t started to do the deplorable things that made her wake up shivering, just to get food or the items she needed to survive.

He had taken her hand and given it a little squeeze. She still remembered the warmth of his skin, the strength and assurance in those fingers. With his other arm he had pointed up at the overpass, in those days busy with scaffolding, cranes and ant-like construction workers, and told her how one day they would take their car, and drive right up over it and out of the city. The government was going to open up London Greater Urban Area again, he said. Let the city people out, and the people from the Greater Forest Areas back in. The smoggy, grey skies of London GUA would clear, the sirens would stop wailing all night, and people would be able to take the chains and the deadlocks off their doors. She remembered how happy she’d felt with her father’s arms around her, holding her close, protecting her.

But something had happened. She didn’t know everything – no one did – but things had changed. The government hadn’t done any of those things. The construction stopped, the skies remained grey, and life got even worse. Riots waited around every street corner. People disappeared without warning amid tearful rumours that the Huntsmen were set to return.

Marta sighed, biting her lip. Her parents and her brother were gone. Marta was just twenty-one, but St. Cannerwells Park was the closest she would ever get to seeing the countryside, and the euphoria of tube riding was the closest she would ever get to happiness.

She gripped the fence with both hands and gritted her teeth, trying not to cry. She was tough. She had adjusted to Mega Britain’s harshness, was accustomed to looking after herself, but just sometimes, life became too much to bear.

—————

Thanks Chris! If people are interested in reading more, you can find The Tube Riders (and Chris’ other works) at Amazon. Chris himself can be found on Twitter as @ChrisWardWriter, on Facebook, and (naturally) his own blog.

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Giving it away for free

Fan fiction in the making ?

Fan fiction in the making ? (Photo credit: Kalexanderson)

I had a comment on my latest blog entry this morning, asking my thoughts about publishing fiction online. This isn’t self publishing – you don’t do book sales and you don’t need an IBSN; rather, you find a blog or a fiction website and publish a story, novel or whatever on that.

Well, this got me thinking, not least because I have already done that. I’ve written before about earlier novels which will never be published; well, one of those is online, albeit under another name. You see, that novel was fan fiction, which is not something I talk about much in the writing community.

Publishing online is a great way of getting feedback on your work from total strangers and giving you an idea of the range of people your writing may reach.  Fan fiction probably has a lead over original fiction here, though, in that if someone wants to read fan fiction they don’t have much choice but to scour the Internet. If they want to read original fiction, they can get a cheap book or a freebie from Amazon, or go to the library. However, there are a lot of fiction websites out there and people do read and review the stories on them, so I very much doubt it’s a waste of time. You can build up a fan base with a novel published online, and gauge whether your writing is good enough to try to take that next step – write something for publication offline, that people can buy.

There are a couple of things to bear in mind, though. If it’s a book you are thinking, however remotely, of getting published in the future (other than self published), then it would be my advice not to do it. A book that has been previously published online is not something most publishers would be interested in. Sure, there are exceptions (Fifty Shades of Greywhich was pulled from the Internet before it was published externally, springs to mind) but generally it’s not a goer.

Also, think very carefully about where you want to put it online. If it was me, I’d be looking at one of the many  fiction websites that specialise in this sort of thing. These websites attract people who are looking to read fiction online and would therefore probably get you more of an audience than, say, doing chapters serially on a blog, which may flounder unseen in cyberspace for months or even years. You could well get more comments/reviews on a fiction site, simply because more people who are inclined to read online would find it. If you’re not familiar with fiction websites there are a lot out there – wattpad.com and figment.com come to mind, and there’s also gluttonyfiction.com, though that focuses more on fan fiction than original. There is an original fiction section there, though, so it might be worth looking at. (Disclaimer: I have had bad experiences with both Wattpad and Figment, though I know other people who have had nothing but positive experiences with them so perhaps I just got them on a bad day. I have never used Gluttony. Any other sites I haven’t mentioned are omitted simply because I don’t know of them or can’t think of them just at the moment.) There is a downside, though: online publishing leaves you much more open to plagiarism, which I have experienced. Just be prepared to Google your story title or opening line occasionally to make sure that no one has published it elsewhere under their own name.

So, would I publish online? Sure! But not if it was something I wanted to take further. If it was just to be an online story, it’s a great way of getting feedback and finding out where your writing is at. It’s also an excellent method of connecting with people who like your work, and who may buy it in the future given the opportunity. But I would be very wary about publishing anything that I may want to publish externally at a later date, and I would be very aware of the possibility of being plagiarised.

What do other people think? Publishing online or not? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Author interview: Alison Wong

Today I welcome Alison Wong, author of the novel Take a Chance. Alison  has very kindly agreed to answer some questions about her writing experience and give some advice to all the other writers out there.

Tell me about the book. What inspired you to write it?

 Take A Chance is my first novel, a contemporary romance – chick lit, where Hannah explores re-kindled love for an estranged sister and an ex-fiancé while balancing Chinese family values. Hannah is a 2nd generation British ethnic Chinese and she flutters about with her conscience in deciding if she should give love a chance. When writing about Hannah and Julian, it drew me to my own experiences growing up as an ethnic Chinese in England. I was often told to study hard and go to university and forget about the boys. I believe my parents knew daughters had to work harder because we had our gender discriminating us, and we had our ethnicity too. Cultural assimilation into an adopted country does not mean that parents forget their culture or values. Instead they instill them into their children and for some parents, their aspirations too. For Hannah to find love again, she has to face both her British and Chinese values, especially her family values. In Take A Chance, fate and a little sisterly and heavenly nudging is helping her.

What has the response been like?

Take A Chance was officially released June 2012, so the response from potential buyers-readers is awaiting. I had an initial soft release in May 2012 and the manuscript was updated for the June release. The beauty of having a subsidy self-publisher for my book is that it doesn’t affect the ISBN. I can have my book revised without purchasing a new ISBN, though at a cost. To celebrate the June release I listed my book for a 5 copy free Giveaway on Goodreads.com and the response was good. There are readers interested in Take A Chance – the trick is getting them to buy . My self-publisher set my paperback and hardback retail prices and at least I can negotiate the eBook price. The pricing is an issue I’m working on. If you indie-publish or e-publish with Amazon’s KDP and Smashwords you have full control of the price. It’s so tempting to go into indie-publishing in the future. Aside from the Goodreads Giveaway,  I believe it’s important to get reviews as readers place value on them. I’ve so far had three positive reviews of Take a Chance on Goodreads.com. On the other hand, friends and family have been great. If you’re an aspiring writer and debut author, you really need all the support you can get.

There is a strong cross-cultural theme to the novel.  How hard is it to balance competing cultural values and what impact has this had on your writing?

I like this question. It is the very reason I wrote Take A Chance because its theme is about balancing different cultures: East meets West within a love story. Chinese people are reserved. It is probably because of post-Confucianism in traditional Chinese culture. ‘Elders are to be respected'; ‘authority figures are to be respected’. Both these edicts result in non-violent, obedient and passive respect. Whereas, in the West, individuals are encouraged to be assertive, independent and pro-active yet there is a strong sense of justice. If you have opposite cultures in your upbringing, how do you balance them? Moreover, what if your parents are from the East and you are from East-West? However, I’m proud to be both. It’s not easy though. I’ve been there, growing up as a British ethnic Chinese who can’t read or write Chinese or speak fluent Chinese, and I try to answer some of these questions in my book.

For me, Take A Chance is a romantic and witty, novel way to deal with cultural values from the viewpoint of a modern, British ethnic Chinese woman, Hannah. She tries to balance Chinese and British cultures and her family values while re-kindling her love for sister Rosalyn and her ex-fiancé, Julian. Julian is a worldly man, and it is his openness and acceptance of other cultures that attracts him to Hannah and her to him because he understands her upbringing and family values. He is basically the ideal man – well-educated and reasonably well-off despite being non-Chinese; yet, like Hannah, he is British too. He and Hannah have more in common than Hannah realises. Moreover, Hannah isn’t submissive: she is independent, head strong and a bit of a rebellion, although ironically she is loyal to her parents and is humble and modest too. This is her cultural identity of balancing East and West. In the end, she has to compromise with her family values in order to be true to her identity. She is neither Chinese nor British: she is British but ethnic Chinese. My message to readers is that love always wins. I wish there was more peace and love in the world.

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How long had you been writing before you began to take it seriously?

I guess I knew I always wanted to write since I started my first journal at the age of seven. I still keep a hand-written journal now and I have a blog.  I’m learning to prioritise my time for writing the sequel to Take A Chance. However, I have a higher priority, which is to enjoy life to the fullest.

I sometimes wonder if writing is in my family because my son wrote a journal when he was five. Of course, he wrote only when he was reprimanded. Children can be so honest. My son’s favourite post-reprimand journal entry was: ‘I hate Mummy.’

As a parent and teacher, I didn’t mind the words. He spelt them correctly at least and he needed to vent his anger – better it was on paper than on me.

I have to say though, that teaching wasn’t my vocation despite a successful career. I went into teaching because I needed a job and teaching is in my blood. I come from a line of teachers. I never had the confidence to write though, not even when my Form 4 secondary school English teacher encouraged me to write a memoir one day. I can never forget him because he was the best teacher I ever had, and he had a claim to fame: he taught the English actor, John Hurt. Moreover, my youngest sister upstaged me: she was the natural born writer of the family, next to me of course.

I began to seriously consider writing when I left English teaching and had time on my hand to pursue my passion for writing. What spurred me on though was my youngest sister who died of cancer a few years before I left teaching. I wanted to write a fun love story for her because she never had the chance to fall in love; so, Take A Chance is in memory of her.

Why did you decide to self publish? How has your experience been?

Six years ago I actually considered submitting my manuscript to a US/UK literary agent or publisher dealing with multicultural romances. There was, at the time, a lot of buzz about self-publishing and Lulu.com was free. Other subsidy self-publishers had emerged too as an alternative to traditional publishing. I considered Trafford.com, then a well-established self-publisher but realised how expensive the packages were, and Lulu.com was US based, which made me wary of the royalties and tax issues and marketing on my own as I live in Hong Kong. It was all overwhelming. As it turned out, life’s ups and downs interrupted my plans and my manuscript gathered dust. When a recent near-death experience jarred my life, I was reminded of the dreams my sister never achieved. Life is short; so, I decided to make my dream of being published come true.

I am still learning from the experience. Trafford Singapore has done an excellent service transferring my manuscript to a printed book and an eBook. They have fulfilled their Orchard package terms which includes an ISBN, global distribution on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. However, I have been on a learning curve regarding my self-publisher, self-publishing, marketing and social media.

What advice would you give to any aspiring authors out there?

Success doesn’t come overnight. Catherine Ryan Howard (indie-published author) has an insightful blog Catherine Caffeinated on self-publishing.

There are a lot of self-publishing experts and marketing experts out there and you will be inundated with advice and offers – some free, some not. Self-publishing and marketing books are big business, I’ve come to realise. I chose self-publishing with a subsidy publisher, and post publishing, I wish I researched more information. It’s best to stick with self-publishing rather than buy any marketing packages; far better to spend money on editing and proofreading before you self-publish. And of course, there is the option of Smashwords and Amazon KDP for writers now.

If you are on a string budget, I would advise writers to keep your options open, research them and think about your expectations. For example, I don’t expect to be a bestseller and I’m happy simply show-casing my book.

Should you go the traditional route and query an agent? Some publishers don’t even want to hear from you without an agent. They will not accept unsolicited manuscripts. Even if you queried, you would probably face rejections, nevermind rejections of solicited manuscripts. Fear is the biggest obstacle. So, what can you do? Head for free publishing on Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) or Smashwords.com?  In my opinion (please do not take this as expert advice since I am no expert) if you are a non-fiction writer and a marketing expert or computer-social media guru, you will be able to cope with marketing and promoting your book once it’s self-published. If you are a novelist, take a hard look at yourself and study your writing and personal style. Is self-publishing the route for you or is the traditional route better if you can overcome fear of rejection, and cope with self-marketing? I don’t want to put aspiring writers off, however. I believe that there is a story in everyone. Traditional publishers and savvy readers are always on the lookout for new talent and new writers, even if a writer is self/indie-published.Times are changing. So, from a writer to another writer: Write. Don’t give up! Courage. Dreams do come true if you make them happen. As Henry David Thoreau said to me when I was writing my book:

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.”

——————

Alison Wong is a Hong Kong born with both Chinese and British roots – the best of both worlds. She was born in Hong Kong but grew up in England. Alison re-rooted in Hong Kong after graduating from Lancaster University, England. Later she gained a post-graduate degree from Hong Kong. After several years of teaching the English language, she left teaching. She now divides her time between being a domestic goddess to her husband and son, and writing. A simple, healthy, happy life is her motto and priority. You can read more about her and her book at http://alisonwauthor.wordpress.com/, and Take a Chance is available on Amazon in paperback and ebook.

 

Footnote: Since doing this interview, Alison has parted company with Trafford Singapore. Her advice to writers, however, remains the same. She has now closed her blog and is concentrating on writing her next book, and I wish her all the best.

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Why do you write? And does it matter?

Medieval writing desk

Medieval writing desk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Well, why do you? If you are a writer, that is. :)

It’s an interesting question. Me, I’ve been writing for years, but it’s only the past five or six years that I’ve taken it seriously at all. After reading a lot of books, I started to think that some of the stories in my head could find an outlet in that way too. Let’s face it, with a lot of the stuff I was reading, I was sure I could do better.

Of course, that’s easier said than done, but the feedback I’ve had on some of my completed works (unpublished, that is) is that maybe I can. Do better, that is. If nothing else, it’s been encouraging, which is why I kept at it. I’m not someone who is so full of ideas that I would still be writing even if everyone hated my work. I need to believe that I can get somewhere with it, that I can have people I’ve never met read my words and be moved by them, in order to do it.

I know that this may be considered conceited, admitting that I don’t necessarily write for the love of it. The thing is, though, that I do, albeit in my own way. The way I see it is that I’ve already written the never-to-be-published stories. What I want to do now is take that next step, and write something that could be published, perhaps even by a publishing house. I have nothing against self-publishing and I may go down that path myself, but there’s a part of me that wants the external validation that getting an agent and a book deal provides.

Perhaps you write to be published, too. Perhaps you feel, as I do, that it’s time for you to try to take that next step. Or perhaps you write because you need to, because it’s your raison d’être, because if you didn’t you would go crazy. Perhaps you’re somewhere in the middle and you’re writing something that you think might end up in the wider world, but you’re not sure. Perhaps you’ve got a story you want to tell and you have no idea where it will take you.  Perhaps you’ve seen The Hunger Games and want to get in on that whole YA dystopian thing, or maybe pen the next erotica mega-hit. Perhaps you just like the feel of creating something and you have no intention of ever showing it to anyone.

The thing is, we are all different, and while our reasons for writing may sound the same on some levels, I suspect that once you delve right in, they are in fact all different too. Unique in their own way. We have different motivations, different expectations and different hopes and dreams about where our writing might take us. And I think we should celebrate this.

There are some people who judge others based on the reason they write. They turn up their noses at the idea of jumping on a bandwagon or writing for profit, saying that it should be for the love of the craft. Or they wonder aloud why anyone would waste their time on something that can never earn them a pay cheque. But I think this is self-defeating behaviour. We all have something in common, in that we all write. We all share a passion. And this is something that should be celebrated; that should be used as a reason to meet new people, not alienate them.

Why do you write? It’s probably a reason unique to you. And, really, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you do it at all.

 

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Guest post: Online Self Publishing, by Peter McLennan

Hello all! Today we have a guest post by YA author Peter McLennan, who has recently entered into the foray of online self publishing and has volunteered to share his experiences. This is something that a lot of writers will find very interesting and, I hope, most informative, as it gives hints about the best way to go about things, pitfalls to avoid and the like. Useful stuff, right? I thought so too. Peter’s Australian, so this is from an Australian’s perspective; however, it’s relevant to everyone I think. This is the first of three parts, the second of which will be posted three weeks from today, and the final three weeks from then. They’re separated because Peter wrote too much for one post and I didn’t want to cut it down, and the three week gap is so (a) you don’t get overwhelmed by having them all together, and (b) to keep you coming back to see what’s up next. :) So, without further ado, here’s Peter.

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English: Photographic composition of Granmata ...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

On-line Self-Publishing: Some Gory Details

I recently self-published my first novel, Who Will Save the Planet?, via CreateSpace (Amazon print-on-demand), Kindle Direct (Kindle eBook) and Smashwords (other eBooks). Since there are a lot of overviews of the process already out there, this series of articles will concentrate on some specific tricks and traps I encountered (some of which are relevant to those outside America and, in some cases, specifically Australia). It’s divided into three parts:

  • I: Laying the Foundations
  • II: Formatting and Uploading
  • III: After Uploading

Part I: Laying the Foundations

For non-Americans, publishing through modern high-tech channels requires some ironically Draconian steps, such as snail-mailing forms to America and handling cheques. These things can take months to organise, whereas uploading and distribution can take only minutes. Therefore, you might want to get some of these preliminary steps started before getting your hands dirty with your manuscript.

Selecting Distributors

Unlike traditional publishers, many on-line self-publishing sites don’t insist on exclusive rights for the distribution of your work. As a result, you can publish simultaneously with more than one of them, and this obviously maximises your sales. There are exceptions, such as Kindle’s Select program, so check the fine print.

Factors to consider when selecting distributors include reach, royalty rates, payment arrangements, attitude towards DRM and ease of conversion.

Study and Mindset

You’ll need to study the documentation provided by the site(s) you’ve chosen and be prepared to learn some new skills. It isn’t really hard, but does require some diligence and perseverance.

Tax Evasion—Legally

The longest lead-time task, and therefore that which should be started first, is sorting out the payment arrangements. It sounds like counting your proverbial chickens, but if you start making money before getting a few things in place, the US tax department (IRS) will happily take 30% of your earnings and you may not be able to get it back.

Australia, like many other nations, has a tax treaty with USA. This can be invoked to reduce the IRS’ cut to 5% (although why it remains above zero, when the local taxation department is going to tax you on it as well, remains a mystery). To avail yourself of this, you have to get an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. Some of the advice you’ll read on this says that you have to send a Form W-7 and your passport(!) to America and wait a couple of months. However, it can actually be done over the phone—or, better yet, Skype or Yahoo! Messenger Voice so you don’t have to pay a fortune. For details, see here and here, as well as the advice on the publishing web sites. Before calling the IRS, I recommend filling in the form W-7 so that you won’t be caught by surprise by any of the questions asked.

Once you’ve got your magic number, you have to fill in another form (W-8BEN) and snail-mail it to your distributor(s). Unfortunately, there seems to be no way to short-circuit this. If you wish to proceed with your publishing without waiting, CreateSpace and Smashwords will let you defer their payments to you so your royalties will just accrue while the paperwork catches up.

Cheques and Balances

Amazon (CreateSpace and Kindle) will only pay international authors by cheque. Since banks (at least those in Australia) typically  charge AU$25 or more to process an overseas cheque, you could find yourself paying about 25% of your royalties to your bank. CreateSpace lets you defer payments until you’ve accrued enough earnings to justify the fees, but this isn’t possible for Kindle.

Some other sites, such as Smashwords and Lulu, provide the option to pay via PayPal—but unfortunately they don’t have Amazon’s coverage.

A possible way to get the best of both worlds, at least for your eBook version, is to publish via Smashwords only in the first instance. Once your sales reach US$1000, Smashwords can then sell your eBook via Amazon, but could still pay you via PayPal. Unfortunately, most of us will never achieve that level of success, but hopefully Amazon will relax the $1000 threshold in the near future.

If you can open an account with a US bank, or possibly even a local bank that has a retail branch in USA (if there are any), you may be able to avoid the cheque fee problem by receiving royalties via direct deposit.

If you decide to go with payments via cheque, consider opening an account with a bank that will process your cheques relatively cheaply. I’ve found charges ranging from AU$15 to AU$60. Shop around!

ISBN

Some distribution channels require your work to have an ISBN, and it can take a few weeks to get one organised.

Some self-publishing sites can provide you with an ISBN for free. I eschewed this option because I didn’t want the distributor to be registered as the book’s publisher and because it would have complicated my publishing of the book through other channels: an ISBN obtained from one site can’t be used elsewhere.

The DIY route requires you to buy an ISBN (tip: they’re a lot cheaper if bought in bulk), assign it to your work in the official ISBN database, then tell your distributor(s) about it.

Marketing

You might also want to get a head start on some marketing activities so that, when your masterpiece goes live, interested parties will be able to find out more about it—and you. Each site provides some recommendations and facilities to help with this.

Shameless Advertisement

And speaking of marketing…

Who Will Save the Planet? by Peter McLennan

If you’ve found this information useful, then you probably wouldn’t like the novel that yielded it. But you might have kids, nephews, etc, who would! It’s about a fourteen-year-old named Jason who can’t work out how to get climate change fixed—until he saves the life of the mysterious and powerful Graham. Graham promises a reward, and Jason asks him to do something to stop climate change. The request is caught by the media, so Jason thinks the man’s trapped and has to keep his word.

But Graham’s got other ideas.

Jason’s got a fight on his hands.

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Peter McLennan

Peter McLennan served for 28 years in the Royal Australian Air Force, where he focused on strategic planning. He has tertiary qualifications in engineering, information science and government, and a PhD in planning for uncertainty. He has had several non-fiction monographs and papers published.

Peter now writes fiction from his home in country Victoria, Australia. His hobbies include playing computer games badly and developing software badly. You can find Who Can Save the Planet? online in print versionKindle, and other eBooks.

Thanks, Peter! This has been most informative. I’m definitely looking forward to the next instalments.

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Author interview: Kathleen S. Allen

Today I’m interviewing Kathleen S. Allen, author of a number of books in genres including poetry, fantasy, zombie, historical fiction, and murder mysteries. Kathleen has a new fantasy novel coming out TODAY, called Lore of Fei, and she has very generously agreed to answer a few questions about it. Here is what she has to say.

Lore of Fei, by Kathleen S. Allen

Tell me about the book. What inspired you to write it?

Lore of Fei is about the race of faeries who are trying to hold onto their land of Fei where they have lived for generations. The warmongering humans know that the Veil of Enclosure, the boundary that separates Fei from Hege, is dissolving. This allows the humans to travel to Fei to steal faerie children in order to enslave them. Ariela is a mutant faerie, she has no wings. She is mistaken for a human child believed to be stolen by the faeries when she was a baby. The warlord, Kel, kills her faerie parents and takes her to Kel’s Lair, the village he governs. She escapes but the Faerie Council wants her to be a spy for them and pretend to be human. They also want her to fix the Veil of Enclosure, but only a silver winged faerie can repair it and no silver winged faerie has been born. But, because Ariela has no wings, she has no faerie magic (magos) – or does she?

It will be released on April 27th  -today – by Muse it Up Publishing. Check out the book trailer on You Tube here: http://youtu.be/V1GF3KP6gGI

I have a webpage at: www.loreoffei.weebly.com set up for the Lore of Fei series.  My other website,  http://www.gaelicfairie.webs.com, has information about each book and also features my Jane Eyre mash up, Thornfield Manor: Jane Eyre and Vampires for your enjoyment.

What is it about the fantasy genre that interests you? How did you enjoy the process of world creation?

I love the idea of a world close to our own but different. As a child I believed that if I could time it right, I would see a faerie. Alas, I never did. So I have to write about them instead! The process of world building is fascinating. I had to be careful and go over it to make sure I didn’t break my own rules. I included a glossary at the end of the book because I use “faerie” words for a lot of things. I don’t usually plot out my novels, I am more of a pantser—writing by the seat of my pants—but for this book I had to plot it using a timeline, characters, time frame etc. I even made a family tree for my two main characters.

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How long had you been writing before you began to take it seriously?

I wrote my first book of poems at the age of eight. I remember writing as soon as I learned I could. My mother insisted it was when I was three but I think it was more like when I was five. I’ve always taken my writing seriously but didn’t always have the time to put into it. About a year ago I had an injury that caused me to be off work for a year (now resolved) and so I decided to write and publish some of my novels.  I had my first poem published when I was 15 and my first short story when I was 21. I published two of my novels, Witch Hunter and Please to See the King in 2006 with a publisher but I got the rights back and published them myself this past year.

You’re a veteran of both self-publishing and using traditional publishers.  What have these experiences been like?

I like the freedom of self publishing a lot. I like choosing my own book cover and making my own book trailers and choosing when I will publish it and to what formats. The issue I have with it is having to promote without much money. I’ve done all I can and hope the readers find me but it’s difficult with all the authors out there. I have gone with two smaller publishers and the experience with both has been positive. Of course with smaller publishers again, the promotion is not there as much. Would I like an agent who would send my stuff to “the big six”? Of course. I am actively seeking an agent and have four novels “out there.” An historical fiction, a Dystopian, a zombie book and a contemporary, all young adult. If I don’t get any interest in the next few months I will probably self-publish again.

One of my novels, Fitzroy: The Boy who Would be King is about Henry VIII illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and is my second best selling book. The first is Aine, which is about a girl who discovers she’s a banshee.

I just finished book 2 of the Lore of Fei series, called War of Fei. I am going to do a third book in the series (untitled as of yet).

What advice would you give to any aspiring authors out there?

Don’t stop writing, no matter what and never give up on your dreams. You have to make it happen, you can’t just hope it will. Learn all you can about your craft and write every day. Get beta readers who will help you write to your best ability, join a writing group (even online is good). Don’t be “married” to your words, listen to your betas, listen to your editor and take what they say and use it to make your book better. If you decide to self-publish, get a professional book cover designer, make sure it’s formatted properly for each venue (Kindle, Nook, Smashwords), and this one is important, hire a professional editor to go over you manuscript. This can be pricey but it’s worth it to give your readers the best possible reading experience. Build up your fan base so readers will expect a quality book from you every time.

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Thanks, Kathleen! If this has whetted your appetite to read Lore of Fei, you can find it, along with Kathleen’s numerous other works, at Amazon.

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