Tag Archives: publication

BWF: The Journey of the Book

Session: Australian Writer’s Marketplace Industry Masterclass – Part 1: The Journey of the Book

Panelists: Linda Jaivin (Author), Gaby Naher (Agent), and Shona Martyn (Publishing Director of Harper Collins Australia)

The idea of this session was to look at the process of producing and publishing a book from three viewpoints – how the author writes the book, how it gets to the agent and what she does with it, and then what happens from the publisher’s perspective. It was a fascinating session, and one of my favourite of the Festival.

The first thing that struck me when this session began was, in fact, not what was being said. Instead, it was the overall appearance of the panelists. I’m not someone who generally judges on appearance, so please don’t judge me in return. BUT… Let me describe the scene.

I’m in an auditorium looking at three ladies seated behind a long table. There are no name-cards to indicate who is sitting where, and introductions haven’t yet been made. I don’t know any of the three ladies by name or reputation, and although I’m sure I looked at pictures of them online when I booked the session, I certainly don’t remember who is who. But it takes me about 3.5 seconds to make an educated guess.

The panelist on the left is wearing a knee-length, black dress with stockings and sensible shoes. She’s wearing minimal jewelry (only her watch was obvious from a distance), and no ornamentation in her hair. Her make-up is subdued and professional, and her nails look neatly manicured.

The panelist in the centre is wearing a very stylish grey pant-suit with heels. She’s got a cream-coloured silk scarf around her neck, a long, eye-catching necklace, and a sophisticated hairstyle.

The panelist on the right has bright orange hair which is pinned on top of her head in a messy bun, flamboyant make-up, and dangly earrings. Every item of clothing she’s wearing is a different colour, including purple, orange, green, blue, and pink.

Not surprisingly, panelist #3 is our author, #2 is our agent, and #1 is our publisher. I found the fact that I picked this so easily interesting because I’d never really considered whether I needed to have a “look” as an author. If I’m asked to chair a panel one day (fingers crossed!), what am I supposed to wear? Should I have a style worked out in advance? If I don’t look particularly flamboyant, will people assume I’m a business-oriented publisher rather than a creative author?

What do you think? Is it something you’ve considered?

Moving on to the actual talking bit…

Linda Jaivin got the session started, talking about herself, her books, how she got into the business of writing for a living, and so on. And I can honestly say that she was the most vibrant, enthusiastic and fascinating person I’ve ever heard speak. She was so full of life, I was fairly certain that extra bits were spilling on to the floor around her. (I hoped some would magically find its way to me, but that so far doesn’t seem to be the case.)

She told the story of how she read a book when she was a teenager, and had the sudden revelation that “books are more than just stories”. Words are magical things that can take you away from yourself, put you some place new, let you have an adventure and learn from it, and then take you home again. A novel is a gateway to something greater.

Linda hadn’t really considered being a writer initially. She went to work in a library because “she loved books”, and then decided to study Chinese history and Chinese language. Back then, China’s border were still closed and there was absolutely no point in studying about a closed country. So, why did she pick those subjects? “It was just one of those crazy things you do because it’s really interesting,” she said.

She wound up working in Taiwan, writing book reviews for a newspaper through a series of really unlikely events that could only happen in real life, because no-one would believe them if it was fiction. And from there she started to write.

Her advice to new writers included:

  • There are a lot of places that teach creative writing. Don’t do it. Don’t study creative writing. You can learn how to write on your own. Go and study something real. Study something you’re interested in. You’ll have more to write about and, if you’re lucky, what you study can also get you a job to pay the bills while you’re writing.
  • You have to be serious about every aspect of your career. That includes the boring parts like keeping track of what you’ve spent on writing-related things for tax purposes.
  • It’s the spirit of play that keeps us going. Don’t do a job that eats your brain.

Gaby Naher was next up. She was really interesting, and I found myself falling in love with the idea of an agent all over again. She was passionate, articulate, and talked to and about Linda as a business partner. She clearly loved the creative side of writing, but was very practical and realistic when it came to talking about the business side.

“Anyone who works in the arts community is always wondering where their next paycheck is coming from,” she said, and she clearly meant it. She left a position as a successful editor at a publishing house to work as an agent, and took a pay cut in the process. But she loves the freedom, the flexibility, and the chance to spend time with authors.

Like many agents. her message about self-publishing and indy publishing was a simple “don’t believe all the hype about what they seem to say. It’s too early to tell what the future really holds.” But when talking about traditional publishing, she said, “It’s still no picnic.”

The final statement Gaby made was one that has stayed with me. She was asked about how she chooses the clients she’ll take on, seeing as she doesn’t get paid unless their book sells. Gaby talked briefly about needing to feel passionate about a project, and then said, “But it’s always a risk. I gamble for a living. That’s just what I do.”

Lastly, Shona Martyn, publishing director of Harper Collins, had her chance to talk. She talked about how, with limited budgets that publishers have these days, the marketing department often has a bigger say in whether a book will be published than the acquisitions team. If marketing doesn’t think they can sell the book, the publisher won’t offer a contract. Her point was that, from the moment a book is written to the moment it’s published, “It’s a long process of persuasion.”

In saying that, Shona made it clear that the books that really break out and make a lot of money are always the ones that no one expects. So don’t try to write for a market. Write something you really care about.

Shona’s parting words were also quite interesting from a business point of view, and something that I (and probably a lot of other authors) hadn’t really considered. She said, “If we give an opportunity to a book we don’t think will work, it means we’re turning down another book that might.”

Overall, this session was a fascinating insight into three different perspectives on the publishing industry, and a great introduction to the Brisbane Writer’s Festival.

Rated: 5/5


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Monday’s Top 5

My first link today is a bit (lot) more self-serving than usual, so please don’t hate me.

If you follow Janice Hardy’s The Other Side of the Story, you’ll know that she has a great recurring column on Saturdays called Real Life Diagnostics. A few weeks ago, I submitted the opening 250 words of my WIP to her. This week, my excerpt was featured on her blog. I’ve had some really good and useful feedback so far. I’d love it if you would click over, have a read, and leave a comment either here or there. Thank you!

Moving on, there was a useful and amusing article on the Guide to Literary Agents blog. Jennifer Hillier wrote a great guest post titled What I Told My Family About Publishing. It starts: “Family members who’ve never tried to get a book published will likely not understand the magnitude of what you’re going through. They will try to be helpful by suggesting you head over to your local Barnes & Noble so you can show the manager your manuscript, which he’ll be sure to love.”

In these, the last days of Borders bookstores, there’s a lot of hype about how ‘this spells the end of bricks and mortar bookstores’ and ‘this is a sign of the rise and rise of ebooks’. But Publishing Perspectives posted a fabulous article debunking some of the rumours this week in their article Bad Decisions, Worse Luck: How Borders Blew It where they look at how Borders laid the foundation for their demise back in 2001, long before ebooks were even widely available, let alone a threat.

I also stumbled across K. Marie Criddle’s fabulous blog c‘mere! watcha doin? this week, and spent an inordinate time reading her post backlist, which is full of insights and humour about writing, art, motherhood, and life in general. Check out her most recent post: So long and thanks for the better mood.

Finally, check out the post There is a Price to Pay for Every Title on Great Stepparents Do Exist! to find out exactly what Stepfather had to do for a group of skateboarders to say, “You have the balls of a champion!” And, of course, what the price was…

(Yes, I know that’s 5 links already. I know. I may be a writer, but I can still count the number of fingers on one hand. But I can’t resist adding just one more link this week. I promise not to do it again. Probably.)

If you’ve got 10 minutes to spare, click over to Brian D. Buckley’s blog and have a read of his entry into Chuck Wendig’s Apocalypse-themed flash fiction competition. You’ll laugh, you’ll… laugh. Never has an apocalypse been so much fun as in Scissors With Running.


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Interview with author Dawn Alice

Last week, I was fortunate enough to meet Dawn Alice, author of the book LIFE LOVE TAROT. She was a guest speaker at my writing group, and I immediately touched by her passion and enthusiasm for her book, the journey of writing, and her experiences with self-publishing. She wasn’t a writer when she first conceived of the idea for her book, but she set herself the task of writing it and learned a lot along the way. Considering that LIFE LOVE TAROT is a book dealing with the journey of life, from birth to death, her experiences in writing itself seemed particularly fitting.

Dawn comes from a background as a Tarot reader, Numerologist, Reiki master, Crystal therapist, and workshop facilitator. She has used her experiences with the Tarot as a prompt for stories about everything from discrimination, fear and ignorance to spirituality, religion and affirmation. 


Welcome, Dawn. How would you describe LIFE LOVE TAROT? What’s it all about?

I see my book as a tool, stimulating thought and action towards a more positive attitude and reaction to life’s challenges. There are no delusions or false promises of complete bliss; the reader receives guidance in a grounded and fun manner through creative exercises, affirmations and meditations. LIFE LOVE TAROTcan be used as both a book to read and enjoy, or as a workbook without the need for a set of Tarot cards, as the Tarot was simply a prop for me. Targeting all those interested in motivation, self-help and inspiration, this book is also just a good read relating to everyday life for all of society.

Several years of reading and teaching the Tarot has taught me – people have been looking for quick fix solutions from outside influences without acknowledging their own inner power. LIFE LOVE TAROT hands the responsibility over to the reader, giving them the opportunity to be illustrators of their own lives as they go through a doorway to understanding life’s journey.

What inspired you to write LIFE LOVE TAROT?

I would have to give credit to my students of Tarot and spiritual development for prompting me to write a book on learning the Tarot. Originally I began to put all of my teaching notes from my Tarot and spiritual classes together for a learn the Tarot book, but became disheartened at a growing number of people coming along for a Tarot reading for the quick fix to life. I then abandoned the Tarot learning book and began LIFE LOVE TAROT, which leans more towards a book of encouragement.

I understand that you’ve had some negative reactions from people because of the word ‘Tarot’ in the title. How do you deal with that? Do you need to understand, or be interested in, the Tarot to enjoy this book?

I had not realized how true the old saying ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover’ was until I came up against these negative reactions. I simply explain to people that this is a book of life and love written for anybody with an open mind and heart. You do not need to understand the Tarot, nor do you need Tarot cards.

Did you have a particular kind of reader in mind while you were writing Life Love Tarot? Who does it appeal to?

My objective was to have a book that could be enjoyed by anyone and everyone. My main readers would be those who are growing spiritually and emotionally or seeking answers to life’s mysteries. If I could quote a burly truck driver who happened to pick up a copy belonging to his daughter: “Your book touched my heart, it made me cry and laugh.” My aspiration was achieved!

You chose to self-publish this book rather than going through a traditional publisher. Why and how did you decide to do so? Would you do the same again? Did the fact that LIFE LOVE TAROT is a book with a niche market impact on your decision?

After some research I came to the conclusion that self-publishing would be the way to go for a book with a niche market. Although I didn’t send a manuscript to any traditional publishers, I felt that this was my baby, and I wanted to nurture it.

Are you writing another book at the moment?

Yes, I have a few on the back burner. LIFE LOVE TAROT is the first book in the series of ‘This One is to Keep’. I have also adapted the Tarot learning book to Internet Tarot and Numerology classes through my website.

I love the cover art for LIFE LOVE TAROT. Did you design it yourself? Does it have any special significance?

Thank you, yes it has a lot of special significance. The book is dedicated to my daughter, Melanie, who passed away from cancer. Rainbows are a special memento of her. A star speckled sky reminds us of hopes and wishes. I also wanted a road to represent the journey we are all on, and a doorway to illustrate the subtitle: A Doorway to Understanding Life’s Journey. You will notice the grass along the side of the road is patchy indicating that the journey is not always easy.

Where can people learn more about Life Love Tarot and your other work? Do you have a sample chapter/s available to read online?

Yes, I have samples to read on my website. My website is also the best place to order a copy of LIFE LOVE TAROT at this stage.

Thank you, Dawn.

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What’s black and white and read all over?

For anyone interested in reading my latest published short story, you can find a copy of Art Gaze magazine online here. It’s not my usual genre, but I’m glad to have been able to write a story expressing some of the tragedy of the recent Queensland floods. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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Weekly Wednesday Writing Wrap-Up

Yes, I’m late. Again. In my defence, I typed this post on Wednesday, and then forgot to publish it. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than having an actual reason, but there you go.

This week in writing has been great. Firstly, I got back the various critiques on A Rose By Any Other Name, and used them to really tighten up the writing. I’ve submitted it to the Stringybark Speculative Fiction Award, which closes in a few days. I’m really happy with the story, and with the writing. Everything I write is just that little bit better than the last, which makes me feel really good about my abilities.

Secondly, I’m working on a story that I’m going to enter into the Brighton COW short story competition that closes on 31 May. I’m about halfway through it, so I’ve still got a lot of work to do. I’m practicing writing ‘hooks’ on my stories, so bear with me while I tell you what this one is about.

Twilight: Teenage girls think it’s a love story. Horror fans think it’s an abomination. But what do the real creatures of the night think?

Twelve, the latest in a long line of disposable minions working for Count Damien Frost, thinks it’s a health hazard. And it’s his health that’s in hazard. When his Master reads the book, Twelve finds himself dealing with emo tantrums, a misguided vampire hunter, and an over-ambitious minion. Can he overcome his rival while protecting his Master’s un-life and reputation? Or will he end up like so may of his minion predecessors: pumped full of poisonous venom, while nursing a broken leg at the bottom of a snake pit?

I haven’t got a title for this story yet, but will keep you posted.

Thirdly, I’ve had a piece of flash fiction accepted for publication in the winter edition of Art Gaze Magazine. It’s not my usual genre, being a 800 word coming-of-age story in the aftermath of the recent Queensland floods. I’m incredibly proud of the story, though. Although my family and I weren’t personally impacted by the floods( ie. we didn’t lose property, possessions, or loved ones), I don’t think anyone living in South-East Queensland was truly unaffected. This story was my way of getting my emotions out in a way that didn’t involve reading news stories, looking at horrific footage of devastation, and crying for hours at a time.

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Weekly Wednesday Writing Wrap-Up

It’s been quite a busy week for me this week. Firstly, I’ve spent a lot of time working on editing my story A Rose By Any Other Name in preparation for submitting it to the Stringybark Speculative Fiction Award. I’ve made some changes, tightened it up a bit, and then sent it to some trusted people for reading, reviewing & critiquing. I’m interested to see how similar the feedback from different people turns out to be. I’ve asked for a critique from (a) a published writer, (b) an unpublished writer, (c) an editor, and (d) a reader. I’m curious as to whether each of them find the same strong and weak points, or whether their different experiences and perspectives will mean that they have different viewpoints.

I also came up with an awesome idea (if I say so myself) for a Flash Fiction story. It came to me in the shower one day, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. Nor could I figure out a way to turn it into a full short story. I had decided to sit down and write it anyway, when I remembered that the Peter Cowan Writers’ Centre in W.A. have a Flash Fiction competition that closes this week. I checked out the details, determined that I had 600 words to work with, and wrote my story.

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, he was Prince Charming. All was roses and clover until he offended a witch, and was cursed to live as a troll. But that was just the beginning of his troubles. I mean, how do you ever live down the fact that you’ve been beat up by a goat?

I’ve posted my entry in now, and will wait to see how it goes. Whether it gets noticed or not, I’m incredibly happy with the story I wrote.

Thirdly, I’ve reworked the start of my novel, and have changed some of the major details. My protagonist, Michael Storm, was originally going to be a PI working on normal cases in between getting mixed up with every supernatural threat in the city. But I’ve come to realise that every second Urban Fantasy novel being published right now has the same set-up. Seriously. How many magical PIs can there possibly be? Most of them seem to be female PIs, which at least gave my character a slight POD, but even still…

After rethinking things through, I’ve changed my mind. He’s no longer a PI. There are plenty of other, more interesting and original, ways for him to get involved with supernatural threats. I don’t have to actually change his personality, or the plot of the novel. I just need to start with a hook that’s different to the standard “I’m a PI and I’ll take this job because I need the money, even though I damn well know that it’s a bad idea” that every second Urban Fantasy novel seems to begin with these days.


Finally, I suffered a mini-meltdown when I realised that at some point over the last 3 years, I’ve lost a HEAP of my writing. I’ve changed computers twice during that time (both times because my old one more or less died of old age), and somewhere in the process, I’ve lost quite a few short stories. Being an idiot, I didn’t have them in hard copy or on any back-up CD that I could find. So they’re just… gone.

One of the stories I lost was a vampire fiction that had been accepted for publication in an anthology, before the company printing it went out of business. A second was the only short story that I’ve had published AND been paid for. Sure, it was back in 2003, and it was only US$15. But payment is payment in this business, right? Fortunately, I was able to find my copy of the magazine it was published in, and retype it from there. But the other stories are lost forever. (For any fans of Jasper Fforde, you can find them in the Well of Lost Plots.)

On to my next major disappointment. In retyping my story, I realised that it was… crap. Okay, maybe not crap. But close. It may have been published, but the writing was horrendous compared to my writing now. I was initially mortified to know that something so badly written was out there in the ether for anybody to see. Then I realised that this is actually a good thing. Surely it means that I have an even better chance of being published now. Right?

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