BWF: Book Futures, Contracts and Serialised Novels

Session: Australian Writer’s Marketplace Industry Masterclass – Part 3: The Future of the Book

Panelists: Simon Groth, if:book

Did you know there’s an international organisation called if:book ? It stands for Institute for the Future of the Book. Yeah, me neither.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that the Institute started in New York, then spread to London and finally Australia. Based on what I learned during this session, the purpose of if:book is to keep in touch with people in the publishing community, and communicate ideas about the future of the book.

If it helps, that didn’t really clear anything up for me either.

Simon was interesting, in a geeky let’s-talk-about-ebooks-but-nobody-get-scared kind of way, but I have absolutely zero notes about his session.

Actually, that’s not true. I have one word written down: zeitgeist. Because I was impressed that he managed to use it in the middle of a sentence without skipping a beat.

Rating: 2/5

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Session: Australian Writer’s Marketplace Industry Masterclass – Part 4: Negotiating Contracts

Panelists: Alex Adsett, Publishing Consultant

I really didn’t expect to enjoy a session on publishing contracts. It’s kind of like going to the fair and lining up to get your taxes done. But Alex Adsett managed to be both informative and interesting, and I came away with four full pages of notes. Some of the main points were:

  • A publishing contract can be anywhere from 3 to 30 pages long, depending on the publisher and the type of book.
  • While most clauses are pretty much copper-plate from contract to contract, there are a few to watch out for. Reversion of rights is one of the biggies, so look out for both what’s said and what’s not said.
  • Don’t sign anything without having it looked over, and if you don’t understand, ask questions!

The biggest thing I got out of this session is the solid decision that if I am traditionally published, I really want an agent to double-check the 30 page legal document, thankyouverymuch.

Rating: 4/5

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Session: Australian Writer’s Marketplace Industry Masterclass – Part 5: Connecting with Readers

Panelists: Max Barry (author), Anna Lensky (Publicity Manager)

This final part of the AWM Industry Masterclass was all about interesting and unusual ways that authors can connect with readers, from utilising publicity managers to book trailers to more outside-the-box thinking. While all of that was interesting, none of it was really new to me. What I enjoyed about this session was Max Barry’s story of how Machine Man came to be written.

A few years ago, Max was working on a novel and chronicling his progress on his blog. Not in any great detail (no plot/characters/story/etc), but enough to let people know that he was working on one. Finally, the day came when he finished it and he wrote a blog post about how it was his “best novel yet” and everyone was going to love it.

Then his agent hated it. And so did his editor. Nobody was interested in buying it, and he was back to square one.

Plus, he had to go back to his blog audience and announce that his “best novel yet” actually wasn’t. Can you even imagine the embarrassment factor there? So he made a decision not to blog about his writing in the future.

Instead, Max blogged about his dog, and growing a moustache, and other day-to-day stuff. And one day he got an email from a frustrated fan. The email essentially said:

What the hell are you doing? Stop blogging about pointless stuff, and get back to writing awesome novels! If you don’t come up with something soon, I’m going to be forced to read Twilight.

Max’s first reaction was to think about how most people don’t realise the time involved in writing a book and getting it published. But then he started to think about how he could remedy the situation. So he decided to create a serialised novel via his blog.

The idea was simple. Each weekday, a new page of the story (approx 400 words) would be sent to subscribers via email or text message. They would then be able to comment on the writing as it was going, make suggestions, ask questions, etc etc.

And that’s how Machine Man was written. It was a serialised novel written 400 words at a time, and distributed via the internet. What an amazing world we live in.

Things I learned from this story:

  • Be careful what you share on your blog. It could come back to bite you later.
  • Emailing and heckling your favourite authors could lead to great innovations in storytelling and result in their next book being dedicated to you.

Rating: 4/5

(Read more about my BWF adventures here.)

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5 Comments

Filed under Writing

5 responses to “BWF: Book Futures, Contracts and Serialised Novels

  1. Pingback: BWF: Brisbane Writer’s Festival Wrap-Up | The Happy Logophile

  2. Sounds like you’ve been learning up a storm! I laughed at the idea of the fans being irate about their author blogging with his time. Makes me think of people harassing the guy who does Game of Thrones. 🙂

  3. I’d probably want an agent to help with a contract, too, of course. But I’ve come around to the idea that what you really need when reviewing a book publishing contract, if you want to cover your butt, is an IP lawyer. At least the first few times around, when you don’t know what you’re doing.

    I understand that the fees they charge to review contracts are actually quite reasonable, but that’s hearsay. I’ve never seen any specific quotes.

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