Clare Writers’ Festival: Update 2

My last post covered the start of my adventures at the Clare Writers’ Festival, including the Saturday morning sessions on “Creating Memorable Scenes and Characters” and “Family History.”
Lunch consisted of sandwiches and a variety of fresh fruit, which was unfortunate since I’ve recently cut gluten (mostly) out of my diet. However, I signed up to the festival (listing no dietary requirements) well before I made the change, so it didn’t seem right to complain. And actually, the sandwiches were freshly made and quite nice. I did walk down to the bakery to supplement lunch with a “real” coffee, though (yes, I’m a coffee snob, and proud of it!).

Session 3: Publish or Bust – panel discussion

Authors Astrid Cooper, Trisha Stringer and Karly Lane talked about their publishing experiences in both traditional and self-publishing, and answered questions from people. There wasn’t a great deal there that I hadn’t already read online or figured out myself, but it was really good to hear confirmation of some things or to hear advice from people who have been there. Here are a few gems of wisdom I wrote down, hopefully in a more organised fashion than I had in my notes:

1. How do authors get noticed? (applies to both trad and indie)

1) Have an online presence

Having an online presence goes a long way to being noticed and to finding a traditional publisher. Apparently publishers do trawl the interwebs looking for new talent! So it’s worthwhile having a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a blog, a website, a Wattpad account etc etc, and it’s also worth proofreading what you put on those sites and being careful with your public image on these! We all know (some by bitter experience) that nothing on the internet is private. Actually, as an aside, I know employers and people on audition panels for musicals who google the names of applicants to see what pops up (and having a very private, secure Facebook profile is a plus to them, by the way). The bottom line is that everything you put on the internet is potentially an “audition” for a publisher. Scary thought, isn’t it?

Astrid Cooper mentioned that she spends two hours every day on promotion stuff, and I’ve heard other authors say similar. One thing that stands out to me over and over again is how self-motivated and organised writers have to be, as they usually work from home and don’t have specific office hours. I might come back to that in a later post. As a teacher and a former homeschooler, I know all about self-motivation!

2) Enter competitions

This is a good way of improving your skills and challenging yourself. Some competitions offer feedback as a prize, or you get published in a magazine. And publishers also look at these things. I think the challenge here is to not spend all your time working on competition entries, otherwise you’ll never get your novel finished (assuming that’s what you do). I personally haven’t really entered any competitions yet, as I struggle to have time to even work on my novel and update my blog! But I believe I will eventually. It’s just not a priority for me right now.

2. Self-publishing platforms (I didn’t write down the original question, but it had something to do with this)

The panel seemed to have their doubts about the effectiveness of putting your book up on Amazon, mainly because it’s an extremely crowded marketplace (have a quick look and you’ll soon see what I mean). I guess the fact that you can put anything up there for free has something to do with that. I’m personally not so quick to discount Amazon though. True, I wouldn’t just toss my book into the swirling vortex that is Amazon and wait to become famous, but I think a lot of people (myself included) go there first when looking for someone. And, of course, the Kindle market is huge. I think that it is good to have your work on Amazon (and other places), but find genre-specific avenues of advertising.

3. Traditional publishers

All of the members of the panel agreed that it is a good idea to approach publishers who specifically focus on your genre. In my notes I wrote “DO RESEARCH” (with underlines and an asterisk), which seems like common sense to me, but apparently it’s not to everyone. They stressed two things:

1) research what the publisher is looking for. In other words, don’t just google a heap of publishers and send them your manuscript without even checking that they publish your genre. It is a waste of time and it’s lazy, and it won’t look good. And if the publishing world is as small and well-connected as the musical theatre world (and I suspect that it is), all these publishers talk to each other. And if that’s the case, you don’t want to get a reputation as a lazy application writer who doesn’t bother to do their research before contacting a publisher.

2) research the publisher’s reputation and exactly what they offer. Sadly, there are quite a few scam publishers out there, who will take your money and give you a poor quality product (this actually applies to indie publishing sites as well). But the good news is that with a little online research you can find reviews that point out these fake publishers, and there are also websites dedicated to naming them. In other words, don’t take them at face value. A few minutes of research could potentially save you thousands of dollars and a heap of embarrassment.

4. Copyright and ISBN numbers

This is pretty important. If you don’t copyright your work, anyone could steal it and you’ll have no way to press charges against them. And that would be very sad 😦 (note the sad face for added effect. The words “very sad” simply weren’t enough here. And yeah, as a writer I should use words to convey it, such as saying that it would be “as devastating as having your grandmother’s canary eaten by your beloved pet cat, which is then run over by your new car driven by your boyfriend, who then accidentally crashes it into a tree, writing it off and landing himself in the ICU,” but that’s probably going over the top, don’t you think?). I didn’t get much more info on copyrighting except that Amazon’s CreateSpace will do it for free. Many places also give you a free ISBN number, which you need in order to sell your book (I know that both Amazon and Smashwords will give you one for free). You also need a separate ISBN for an ebook and a print book of the same title. There’s a great book called “Australian Writers’ Marketplace” that gives you all the info you need about it. It’s big and expensive, but you can probably find it in a library easily enough.

5. Setting the price

This is more for indie publishing, as I think traditional publishers generally have their own set price. One good thing about indie publishing is you can change the price whenever you feel like it (within the parameters of whatever platform you’re using), and have your own “sales” and so on. I like the idea of having a sale! People will buy things that are on sale that they might not normally buy. There’s something magical about the word “sale.” Just think of that hideous dress or pair of shoes that don’t quite fit right, but you bought it because it had the magic word attached to it. OK, maybe that wasn’t the best analogy, because you want people to actually like your book. Perhaps its more like that top you bought for $5 on clearance and now it’s your most favourite item of clothing ever, and you can’t help but tell everyone about it. But that’s enough clothing analogies…

Basically, if there are two books for sale, and you haven’t heard of the author of either of them, which one do you buy? The one that’s cheaper, of course. I think the best thing to do is look at what other books in your genre and a similar length to yours are selling for and use that as a guide. It’s a fine line between setting the price too high and selling yourself short. When my book comes out I’m planning to experiment a little bit and see how price makes a difference. I think I’ll start with $2.99 and go from there. It’s about average for books on Smashwords of roughly the length of mine, and to sell in iBooks it has to end in .99 for some reason. I’d like to hear from someone who has had some experience here. Post a comment below 🙂

6. Print On Demand (or POD, if you want people to think you’re talking about a Christian metal band)

Print On Demand is a pretty cool idea, and it avoids the issue of ending up with a spare room full of unsold books. Print On Demand is where people order a book, the printer prints it and sends it directly to them. There were a few that were spoken about by the panel:

Griffin Press. They’re Australian based, which is a big plus in my books, as I always try to support local businesses when I can. They format for you and you only pay for what you buy. You can also do really small print runs, which helps to avoid the unsold-books-in-spare-room scenario. Other than that I don’t know a lot about them, but you can check out their website at the link above.

Lulu. I briefly mentioned Lulu in an earlier post, and since then I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews about the company. Some people I know have used it and thought it was great and really easy to use, and others have said the exact opposite. One of the panel members said they found the POD feature of Lulu to be quite poor quality and a bit pricey. I am going to avoid Lulu based purely on the fact that the reviews are mixed. In my mind, mixed reviews mean one of two things: the quality is inconsistent, or people have different standards when it comes to quality. Either way, that’s not great.


Session 4: Fantasy Workshop with Sean Williams

This was a pretty awesome session. Not because we went away with lots of knowledge or the secrets to writing a best selling fantasy novel. We didn’t. In fact, I didn’t really write down anything that will help me be a better writer. What we decided to do was have a group brainstorm for the plot of a Young Adult fantasy novel. We talked about the idea of “extrusion” (where someone from the real world goes to another world), which is a pretty common theme in YA and teen fantasy, and also about the definition of “speculative fiction” (pretty much anything that isn’t real, ie. fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, etc). But after that, we discussed a crazy plot idea involving twins separated at birth (Sean’s just a little bit obsessed with the idea of twins), which then turned into a conspiracy theory involving a parallel universe and babies being stolen from our world, which then turned into something called “Changeling Dragons,” set in China during the one-child policy. Who knows, maybe I’ll write this great novel after I’m finished with The Secret Of The Sword series…

Dinner and “On The Couch”

Over dinner time they had a sausage sizzle and book fair set up in the park next to the town hall. I took a few business cards and free bookmarks, including one from Dean Mayes, who has written a fascinating sounding book called Gifts of Peramangk. Go and check out his website and his book. I didn’t have the cash to buy it at the time, but it’s definitely on my list!

The “On The Couch” session in the evening was a great Q&A session with all the guest speakers, and included various nibbles and desserts and local wine. It was pretty interesting, but due to the distraction of food and wine I didn’t really write much. The only thing I did write down was one thing PD Martin said about avoiding writer’s block, which I think is great advice. I’ve actually started doing it, and it works!

“Never stop at the end of a chapter: stop in the middle of a scene that you’re passionate about, so that next time you can sit down and be excited straight away about writing.”

Try it, I dare you. You’ll find that you can’t wait to get back to it, and you’ll get in “the zone” more quickly. Speaking of which, I last left my main character fighting for her life, so I better go and make sure she survives.

Happy writing!

Really Useful Links For Self Publishers

If you’re jumping into the self-publishing game, you’ve probably spent hour upon hour trawling the internet for information (when you perhaps should have been writing instead). I know I have! So I thought I’d give you some links to some great articles for writers who are looking to self-publish.

Self-Publishing a Book: 25 Things You Need To Know – This is a good overview, although I’m not sure I agree with all of his points.

A Few Random Notes on Self Publishing – This is a great blog post on what to expect when you self publish and what to be prepared for.

A Newbie’s Guide To Publishing – This guest post by Sabrina Chase looks at traditional versus indie publishing, based on her own experiences. There are lots of other interesting posts on this blog too.

The Five Mistakes Killing Self-Published Authors – I know that sounds rather negative, but she puts a positive spin onto it (ie how to avoid said mistakes).

Fantasy Authors Facebook Group – This is an open group that seems to be mostly made up of indie and unpublished writers. We give feedback to each other and discuss things relevant to the Fantasy genre. I’m sure there are other groups for writers of other genres as well.

If you’re self-published, or looking into self-publishing, have you found any invaluable resources? Share them in the comments below!

Pozible Rewards

So my last post spoke about the crowdfunding website Pozible and my experiences with it. Now I thought I’d give you a little rundown on the various rewards available on my project. I put a lot of thought into what prizes I would offer. They had to be interesting enough that people would want them, but simple enough that I could actually provide them! After looking at a LOT of different projects, mainly by writers but I looked at others as well, I decided on a mixture of my main commodity on offer (my book) and various personalised and home made gifts and experiences, mostly related to the medieval fantasy theme of my book.

There are varying rewards depending on how much you pledge. You can choose a reward that is less than your pledge, but not more. Here’s what I went with:

$5+ reward

A personalised thank you on Facebook and Twitter. It seems that most people do this for the minimum reward. NB the minimum anyone has pledged on my project is $10. Most have been $30, $50, or $75.

$10+ reward

An ebook copy of Quest for Revenge OR an exclusive bookmark. The latter will have the cover of Quest for Revenge on the front, a personalised message on the back, and will possibly have a tassel (I like tassels).

$20+ reward

An ebook copy of Quest for Revenge OR a bookmark
AND an exclusive release ebook or PDF of my recipe collection, “Akalian Booke of Cookyry.” This includes a heap of tried and true recipes, some of which are referenced in the trilogy, and some of which are just delicious, old fashioned recipes that I could reasonably see the characters in my book eating. It’s been quite fun putting this together, actually. And yes, I have tried all the recipes in the book and my husband has approved them 🙂

$30+ reward

An autographed PAPERBACK of Quest for Revenge AND a bookmark AND the cookbook. So you can read my book, save your place with the bookmark, all while eating a delicious meal from the cookbook!

$50+ reward

An autographed paperback AND bookmark
AND an official invitation and voucher for 2 free drinks at the book launch! The launch will be held after the books are printed, and will probably be in Adelaide or the Adelaide Hills (there are a few lovely wineries I have my eye on…). I expect this will probably be in August or September. However, if my project isn’t successful, I probably won’t have a launch at all as I won’t be able to afford to make printed copies of the book.
AND a thank you in the acknowledgements in Quest for Revenge

$75+ reward

This is where it really starts to get interesting!
A paperback and a bookmark (what can I say? I want everyone to read my book!)
AND you can become a minor character in the third book in the trilogy! You might be a rebel soldier, a foppish nobleman, an elf, or a bar wench, to name a few. You can have your real name or an assumed name. All you need to do is fill out the character form I will send you that includes appearance, personality, habits and mannerisms and so on. The third book (Quest for Peace) is currently being written (read it here ), and I will weave your characters into the story as I go.
You will also receive a mention in the acknowledgements in both book 1 and book 3.

$100+ reward

This includes a paperback, a bookmark, an invitation and 2 free drinks at the launch AND appear as a character AND a thank you in the acknowledgements in book 1 and 3. So basically all of the above. This reward is really the jackpot!

$200+ reward

So the amounts have been going up fairly gradually til now, but now there’s a big jump to $200! Should I have had one at $150? Maybe, I’m not sure, but I figured that if someone was interested in pledging more than $100 then $200 wasn’t too much for them. And to be honest, I was running out of reward ideas!

This reward is completely different. My husband and I are both musicians: he plays piano, and I sing. We have done dinner music, weddings and other functions as a duo, playing mostly jazz standards but mixing in popular songs and the odd musical theatre number as well. For the $200 reward we will provide an evening of entertainment at your next function! We bring all our own equipment, so all you need to provide is a space and a nearby power point. We also take requests, as long as you tell us in advance.
This is only valid in Adelaide and surrounding areas within an hour’s drive. So we’ll go as far as Gawler, the Fleurieu or Murray Bridge, but not the Barossa.

$300+ reward

The ULTIMATE reward! A Medieval kids party! I’ll come dressed up in medieval costume with a cake (made from scratch, and yes I do cater for allergies), and I’ll provide medieval games and a princess or knight themed craft. The craft will vary depending on the age of the kids. There are several flexible options here, and if you choose this option I would like a phone number so I can call you and talk about how to make this suit your child (or the young at heart!). Like the jazz duo, this is only available in Adelaide and surrounding areas.

Whew! That’s it! If you’re planning your own campaign, don’t underestimate the draw of your rewards, regardless how interesting and awesome your actual project it. It might mean the difference between someone pledging to your project or not.

Finally, there’s only 8 days left on my project, so if any of the above rewards appeal to you, head to my project and help me get my book in print! Click Here