Friday, December 18, 2009

Finish the year with a pen name...

This post will be the last one for the year.

Yes, 2009 is drawing to a close and there is no way that I will have time to write a post on Christmas eve or through January...what with all the travelling we are doing...Auckland, Whangarei, Dargaville, Hamilton. (contact me in sidebar if you want to catch up.)

Looking back at this year it has been packed, eventful and interesting on the Fiction front. I wish that I could have got more writing done...but the learning I have done around blogs, conferences, marketing...have generated lots of interesting side trips...and some ideas to follow up in 2010.

Over summer I hope to get reacquainted with the characters I have abandoned and finish their story. There are a few other stories pushing to get out too.

I hope to get a handle on social media and organise my time/life better as well. (news years resolution...vain hope, as I never keep them...)

And I have a pile of Christmas reading...especially all the books I have bought for the family before I wrap them...(well you have to check they are suitable, heeheeheehee.)

Over Summer if you are looking for some extra reading. Check out Procrastinating Writer. She has published a list (43) of the best articles of 2009 and there are some great posts in there.

And if you want to have some fun thinking up pen names check out Nathan Bransfords blog he has a great discussion going on the pros and cons of pen names...take your middle name and the street you grew up on...

Merry Christmas

Ann Statehiwaytwo

pic is from

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Branding with coffee and gin...

This week’s blog post looks at some of the latest comments on branding being talked about in the fiction writing world.

Jane at Dear Author has been looking at book branding. She has posted an interesting article on publisher brands and author brands....with a host of spot the difference visuals...She asks the question

With an increasing number of books on the market, the biggest challenge a reader has is finding a good book to read. Do you rely on Author branding? Do you look to see who the publisher is? Does it matter to you? How long does it take you to associate something (either negative or positive) to a book brand, whether it be author or publisher (i.e., 1 book, 2 books, etc.)?

And the comments came thick and fast...there is much food for thought in our own sphere of children’s books. I know authors who grab each new Gecko Press book released by Julia Marshall. We don’t know the authors but the expectation that the standard will be high is the pick up factor. Great publisher branding!

Guy LeCharles Gozalez of Loudpoet predicts that the publishers are going to increase their publisher brands...i.e. become more visual on the cover (think orange and white penguin classics)

Guy has an interesting discussion going after his post about book publishing being a business decision verses an artistic decision.

Something I’m sure all authors must mull over...Am I an arteest or am I in it for the money?

If you are in it for the money(ha.ha.), Coree Silvera has a post on her blog - marketlikeachick on marketing yourself as your main product...this post has been tweeted all over the place....(ahhh new verbs... )

Personal branding is now more important than ever in communities. People are buying you. If I don’t like you, I’m not only NOT going to from you, but I am blocking you and telling all my friends what I think of you too. (Hmmph!) That’s the power of social networking. We all talk and word of mouth can be your best friend or your worst enemy.

Editorial Ass (aka Moonrat) has done a fabulous series of posts on The Perfect Author, the Dream Editor and she has just finished up with the Absolute Agent. Moonrat is ‘a tell it like it is’ writer. Her blog is one of the gems out there.

I love her description of herself in the About Me and gin survivalist...that’s me going into the last week of school...various end of year shows to get kids to rehearsals and performances, Christmas present angst and my heart is sinking just thinking about Christmas music practice...I might locate my spouse by Christmas...I think he lives here? (Year End projects mean he works late... leaves early...hopes his washing is done and there is food in the fridge...)

Yup... what I want for Christmas is a wife!


pic is called Bombay Gin!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A trailer of Christmas presents...

Now we are in December, with the countdown to the end of school, I feel it is now time to look towards the Christmas busy season.
After all it is December...I was annoyed when I saw some shops putting up Christmas decorations in October....surely they could have waited or was the recession recovery (?) spurring them on to wring the dollars out of cash strapped pockets....

So Christmas....what does the busy author need at Christmas?

More time to write, Someone to look after the you don’t have to spend ages to prepare.... a holiday...A book contract or even two.....

As this is supposed to be an author marketing blog I will make you a present of a few links that have interested me this week.

Alan Rinzler has posted a great article on 9 tips for successful author readings. He covers tips and tricks to do a presentation successfully ever, I love reading peoples responses to the posts because they can add so much more to the commenter said she had a great response to her reading by putting a sign up in the mall carpark! Another said giving away chocolate always helps....

Alan has linked to The Book Trailer Blog which specialises in the nuts and bolts of book trailers....If you dare... scroll down and view the Sense and Sensibility and Sea monsters book trailer from the same person who brought you Jane Austen and Zombies...or skip it to see what Neil Gaiman is doing with book trailers...he is coming to the New Zealand International Arts Festival. I must must get my ticket for his event!

Zombies are everywhere...... Recently I was on the judging team for the Jack Lasenby Writing Award that we founded when I was convenor of the Wellington Children’s Book Association. (judges report on the blog.)
We had our biggest group to date this year with 149 entries ... and so many of them featured Zombies. However the winner didn’t. I had the pleasure of attending with Jack Lasenby and Louise Davies, our current convenor, the prize giving ceremony at Scots College, where we presented Raphael Kidman with his award and if you think the name is familiar you are right! Dame Fiona was there to witness her grandson’s success. We had five highly commended and two of these also received their certificates from Jack at Scots.

Tonight is the Wellington Children’s Book Association Christmas Quiz. We hold it at the Southern Cross pub in Wellington in the back room...If you are in Wellington tonight come along and test your knowledge of children’s books in a fun evening.

Yesterday I grabbed the NZ Listener for the big review on the must read children’s books of 2009 and wished that David Larsen had picked a few more Kiwi books...however almost all of Gecko Press' list made it into the top 50 and Maria Gill (Spinning Gold alumni) also made it with her super book on Rangitoto.

The judges for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book awards have been announced and they are Rosemary Tisdale, Trevor Agnew, and Ruth McIntyre....lots of Christmas reading for them all.

For those of you on Facebook the following video is for you.

Happy Advent

pic is from a book trailer website

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Vanity Fair?

This week the big news in publishing is Harlequin. If you are a Harlequin author or know one then the amount of emails in your inbox this week about the future of publishing, Harlequin style, will probably have topped 500.

Every major blogger in the industry has commented on the situation and every one of them has had record comments wading into the fray. (Read Jane Friedman for an objective overview)

Harlequin is a HUGE publishing company. Last week it launched an e-publishing arm Carina Press.

One of the first of the big publishers to do so...showing they were forward thinking etc etc (Harlequin have always been innovative and the Romance authors are amongst the most business savvy writers you will ever meet.)

This week however Harlequin stuffed up. They launched Harlequin Horizons...their vanity publishing arm.

So if we are looking at purely business, they have the staff, they have the resources, why should they select the best manuscripts...why not just charge the writers fees to publish their book and split the royalties....

The backlash from the authors and writers associations has been huge with Harlequin changing their Harlequin Horizons website hourly and today abandoning it altogether for a different name. They are definitely trying to distance themselves from their vanity publishing mistake...unfortunately...the mud is sticking.

If your manuscript gets rejected by Harlequins regular imprint you have the chance to still get published provided you pay for everything up front.

Now if you self publish you are in total control of the whole process. You own everything.

If you vanity publish, someone else takes control over the process because you don’t have the time or the will to do it yourself. You pay all the bills but you don’t fully own the finished product as the publisher takes a cut of the royalties.

So if your book takes off (a rare thing with vanity publishing as the publisher has no incentive to market your book because they have already been paid their fee upfront, so it’s all down to author marketing making the difference) the vanity publisher then takes the credit and a chunk of the royalties...and you paid all the bills....

You have to go into this with your eyes wide open and that is the Harlequin authors concern, along with the devaluing of the Harlequin brand. (After all they have standards don’t they?)

The authors (and agents) are right to be mad...(actually mad is rather mild for what is happening out there.)

At the beginning of this week Harlequins new imprint Horizons was promising that the books would look the same and be bought everywhere that you could buy a Harlequin book. There would be no difference... now they are trying to drop Harlequin altogether from the imprint...aware that they have blundered.

And while everyone is feeling sorry for the Harlequin writers out there...the Christian writers got caught as well in the same sort of horror story....who will be next?


pic is a pair of vanity could kick with them, throw them, see if they fit, choose one over the other...lots of associations with the post...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Researching... the good bits

Tony Eldridge has a book marketing blog which has a loyal following. He has posted an article which is all about creating an army of people to go out there and market your book.

This message is something that John McIntyre of The Children’s Bookshop in Kilbirnie always says to the guests at a Book Launch. Go out there and promote your friends book!

So in the spirit of friendship... I have just finished Banquo’s Son which I bought for New Zealand Book Month and was holding as a present for finishing the CNZ report...which I haven’t finished and it is all Tania’s fault. I opened THE BOOK.

I love researching, writing the books are hard but the researching is fun. I have and still have a fascination for Mars and I hope that when I finish writing the current novel the fascination for the research will come through the story the way that Tania (T K Roxborogh)has managed to put eleventh century Scotland into her tale of love and loyalty.

It is the little touches that show through, the way a character refers to a home county which led me to figure out the clan system. Useful to know when your clan is McKenzie...and that you could be in deep trouble if you met a Highlander...Yup. The Highland Martial arts with claymore and dirk also get a look in, as do wolves and why they survived so long up in Scotland.(ick but understandable.)

So I hope that I can weave some interesting facts into my story about Mars and exploration...the hardest part of writing a story set in the near future...well in 50 years... is the speed of technology now. I took a break from Mars to work on the conference and assorted other things and that meant that I took a break from the research so diving back into it this week and getting back up to speed with new inventions etc I discover that I will have to tweak the story yet again to take into account new discoveries.

Sometimes I wonder if I have set myself too hard a project and then I find another bit of juicy information...

I think it is fascinating that all the things we take for granted now, cell phones and the morphing of these... computers and the morphing of these into interactive devices, were all born from the Apollo Space Programme.

So what will we get from the Constellation Space Programme?

Just as I think I have it figured out they invent it...touch screen technology has gone virtual and you don’t need to wear funny glasses to use it... With SixthSense now anything can be a computer interface, your fridge... your newspaper...your cereal packet...just aim the little laser projector at any flat surface and push those virtual buttons... and now the developers are working with Samsung to put it into a phone...dang...back to the inspiration board.

How interests can run away with you...

Back to the topic in hand...being is Nanowrimo - National Novel Writing Month.

My international board has gone very quiet as everyone disappears to write that novel...that means that in the next two months publishers are going to be swamped with all those while everyone gets excited about pulling all nighters to write their daily 10,000 words you could spend this time in applying for grants....

I have just stumbled upon a reference to Mira’s List...and it is worldwide...yippee for us in the southern hemisphere.

Alexis Grant wrote this about Mira and then went on to interview her.

I recently discovered a fabulous blog, Mira’s List, which helps writers, artists and other creative thinkers find grants, fellowships, residencies and more resources. Who’s the woman, I wondered, who compiled this valuable information for free and shared it with everyone lucky enough to stumble across her site?

Alexis gives us a great insight into this interesting woman, who is quietly going about the business of changing the artists and writers world for better,

And finally I heard through the grapevine that ASB were most impressed with the entries into their WordBank competition and that over 3000 letters were received for over 100 Kiwi children’s authors and illustrators.

Good on yer mates!


four views of the planet....

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Being Social...the latest trend...

This week I have been mulling over trends. As the mailbox begins to fill up with junk mail advertising pre Christmas sales and this years hot trends for presents. To live a fulfilled’s all about having the latest gadget...I was interviewing children this week about Christmas and they basically quoted their want list from the Dick Smith catalogue, starting with a new laptop and cell phone...these were 9yr olds!

I remember thinking at nine that a holiday would be fantastic and maybe a new book...

This week Publishers Weekly came out with a very comprehensive survey on What Teens Want based on a took with over 3000 teens. There is some surprising information in this report and some very valuable information to authors- for instance this little quote

We asked teens how they like to interact with their favorite authors. More than eight out of 10 (85%) visit the Web sites of their favorite authors for information about upcoming titles, and 65% would like to interact with an author at an in-store event. Other choices: library events (55%), book festivals (54%), in-school events (44%) and blogs (32%); and book and reader blogs (31%). Social networking sites like Facebook, Good Reads and My Space come in at 19%, lower than we expected

The kind of information that this article is stuffed full of should be passed around among all the children’s lit authors. It is invaluable.

So if you were wondering about whether you need to up your game in the online world the answer is Yes because generally where the teens lead the mid grade follow...after they get over the interactive fairy and pony web games.

You do need a website and some sort of interactive presence. Social media sites? Maybe a presence there, but not an all consuming live my life daily there presence, according to how I am interpreting the report.

Here in New Zealand we are lucky in that we do have time to mull over what we might do, and or how to approach this social media online public lifestyle. Our teens generally follow on a bit later from North American teens.

The speed of change means that we need to be giving some serious thought to our online presence.

Colleen Coble, multi published author, wrote a guest post on Michael Hyatts blog about using Social media to build the author brand. She has an interesting list of things that she is doing with social media and how it is impacting her visibility in the world. She has some good advice which is worth taking the time to think about. And the following video shows the speed of change that we have to be aware of....

In another trend, yesterday, Random House announced that they had bought Longacre Press.

I saw the press release on Beatties BookBlog...No one saw that coming a month ago.

It does change the shape of children’s publishing here in New Zealand, with only one independent left.

Much food for thought this week...


pic is the cover of my business card...blurry is the barred spiral nebula.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The five reasons to do it....

Today I had lunch out, without a child chaperone, with two author friends. It was wonderful just briefly feeling like a human being - able to enjoy lunch in a cafe without that nagging my child going to throw up... be impossibly demanding... hog the conversation...spill something across the table.... Of course the other authors are mothers too but they weren’t bringing their kids along for a working lunch in a cafe...and neither today was I. Yippee.

So at the end of the working lunch, one author leans over and says...” Pippa you have another book coming out... you need a website...” (the famous words that Fifi said to me 18 months ago)

“I’ve been thinking about it,” came the reply. This started the discussion of author websites.

“I blog every Thursday,” I said

“Its Thursday today, what are you going to blog about today?”

“I have no idea,” I replied, but the conversation started me thinking...

Over the last year of learning about marketing for authors these are my five essential points to putting together an author website...and how you go about it...

1. Research.

Have a look at what other authors are doing, especially in your genre. Decide what you like and what you don’t... Make a list. Some things you will need straight away...some you can work up to...

Have a look at my link list on the right. In the cool websites lists... there are a range of authors who are doing a superb job with their websites. Take a tour...

2. Who is the website for? Children? Adults? Other writers? Potential publishers and agents?

As Pippa is a children’s author... the content and language of the website matters as children researching her and her work will be ‘googling’ her name first. This is not the place to be showing pictures of your holidays at the Sunshine ‘au natural’ park.

3. Have a budget. It could be zero or thousands.

If it is zero...look at the biggest impact you yourself can do...learn techniques on free blogs. Blogging software is simple to use, it’s drag and drop technology. You don’t need to know any computer languages. You can play in private while you get the skills to put a website together...or play in public which is what I do...(coz I like learning)

If you have money, talk to a website designer about what you want...but be careful. A site that has lots of flash and whizzy stuff can take ages to download. Studies show that people are prepared to wait only about 7 seconds for a site to download...and many not even that....If you need a degree in website design to upload new content on your site it probably isn’t for you. Clean (uncluttered) easy to navigate around works every time.

3. Authors must have...names of their books, what they are about, where to buy them and some way of being contacted.

Remember that this is your public brochure to the world. If you are waiting to be published then find some other point of difference which will be of interest to a potential publisher who might be ‘googling’ you after they see your manuscript.

If you write for the Young Adult market consider having a myspace page as well. This is all part of your marketing. I recently heard of a YA author who was turned down by a publisher because they had no ‘social media’ presence. If myspace is where your readers are... that is where you should be.

A free email address can be the difference between getting a paying workshop job or making a manuscript sale.

4. When looking for a dot com name...look around for the best deals available.

You can set up a free blog and change the domain name to a dot com for very little money. There are deals out there for ten years for around $10 US...and with the exchange rate at the moment that’s almost $1.20 NZ a year (worth thinking about) If you invest some time in a free website and get a domain name, It doesn’t look any different from one that has been designed costing lots of bucks...Check out Ribbonwood designs ( to see what I mean. (hi your site)

5. Be committed to updating your site regularly.

Old, out of date information is a real turn off. It shows your readers that you don’t care that much about them.

Tell them where they can buy your latest book...have competitions or extra content just for them or recipes...songs...etc that inspired the about the hidden meanings in chapter 5... Make your site fun, interactive and interesting. Not only does this show the reader that your books might be just great to buy... it keeps the search engines noticing that your site is updated, which moves your page up the rankings on a general search....Would you rather be on page 1, of the google search on your name, or page 20?

Here endeth the lesson

On another note - The Spinning Gold team are very excited for three people who in the last week have had their manuscripts accepted for publication as a result of the Pitch Slam at the conference.

We are toasting you all...


pic...the seedling...because it's the beginning of a new life...(online life)

P.S. Jon from CBICLUBHOUSE put together this video on how easy it was to get started yesterday... great minds think alike... so take it away Jon....(and to think that when I started blogging 18 months ago posting video was so out there......)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

And the theme this week is....

This week I want to take some time to explore theme weeks as it pertains to author marketing. (finally getting back to reason I blog every week)

In particular I want to introduce you to Readergirlz and the YALSA theme week.

Readergirlz are a group of young adult authors who were looking for a way to connect with their readers..thinking teenage girls, where they could talk about writing...books....inspiration and reaching out to others in the community. The Readergirls Divas the five host authors have fourteen books between them and are active bloggers and social media players as they do a superb job at connecting with their audience. Check out their website and have a look at their support crew...

This week the Readergirls have got behind YALSA the Young Adult Library Services Association Teen Read Week. The theme is Read Beyond Reality and the Divas are hosting live chats throughout the week. They are also hosting Justine Labalestier on the blog and they have an author in residence on their website.

Take some time to see how this group of authors have used all sorts of ways to market to their audience and promote others and themselves in side by side marketing....and making it cool to be a Readergirl...there are also spin off groups affiliated with them.

Here is their promo trailer for the live chat sessions.

By having a theme week or getting behind and promoting a theme week for someone else...there is a win win situation set up for marketing. The bang is bigger for the bucks and it is spread further and wider than just one persons blog post saying ‘and I really support this worthy cause.’ Of course like Readergirlz you can have a whale of a good time promoting the cause and yourself along with it.

The other interview of note is on Shelli Johannes Market My Words blog with Michael Stearns of Upstart Crow Literary.

Upstart Crow has been in business Ten Weeks! In that time they have doubled their agent staff and sold six big deals. Shelli interviewed Michael about the three things every author should and must do to promote themselves and their books.

This was interesting as first up Michael said a web presence and yes he googles potential author clients to see how web savvy they are. One of the best things he has seen is groups of debut authors like The Class of 2K8 and 2K9 which I have talked about before and Readergirlz getting together to promote themselves.

As Michael says

Seriously, in web searches I look to see what I can learn about the author—crazy as a soup sandwich? (as Harlan Ellison might say); secret author of porn?; star of her own reality television series? It’s all part of the research to see who I am dealing with. As for “platforms,” If the core audience for your platform is 500 people who read your blog, that’s great but hardly something that will sell a books. If your core audience is, however, five million, then that’s something else entirely.

Finally here is a link to the New Yorker who currently has a sharply humorous piece on author marketing just to keep it all in perspective.

have a themed week...(CNZ report theme for me)


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Celebrate The Brilliance, people...

So It’s New Zealand Book Month....the poor cousin to New Zealand Music Month....

Michele Powles, the unsung heroine Director of New Zealand Book Month (her budget barely covers her salary and she has to fundraise to get paid at all) together with a small but committed team have put together a series of cool events to get behind. You can contribute to an ongoing judge the Sunday Star times short story competition...attend free workshops...enter competitions etc etc. There is lots happening on their website...

ASB Bank have come to the New Zealand Book Month party with a cool competition for kids,

Read a Kiwi book, write a letter about it, deposit your letter in an ASB Wordbank and be in to WIN!

The competition opens in October so you can start getting ready by reading New Zealand books!
NZ Book Month
next - choose a favourite book by a Kiwi author

then - write a letter to the Kiwi author of your favourite NZ book. We want to hear what was so great about that book

And in October - get that letter to us between 1-30 October and you could win BIG!

Encourage any kids you know to Jump on the ASB website and download an entry form

(thanks ASB)

I was disappointed that my local Library had not done any displays about NZ Book Month...but they have beautifully printed flyers asking their patrons to tell them how they can I did just that by telling them to lift their game in New Zealand Book Month....and gave them lots of suggestions...including ‘and you could put my book on the shelf’...

It is embarrassing when local kids come up to me and tell me they can’t find it in their library.

I have been having a discussion today with various people about what writers are worth... Gavin Bishop at Spinning Gold made a comment directed at the Illustrators but it applies to the writers too...we spent years trying to get recognition and a decent fee paid to us for talks and workshops...don’t do things for free....

And he does have a point...but how do you go about asking for money?

On the other hand does your plumber work for free?

I am struggling with very negative feeling towards my child’s school who booked me to do eight workshops over two days after Spinning Gold...I presented to half the school and got paid...a small bunch of flowers.

So New Zealand Book Month....Get out there and support New Zealand writers...(and pay them...)


PS Here’s some maths for you...average print run in NZ. 3000...Writer gets between 3% and 10% of RRP....Most print runs barely sell out.....of course we are rich....not.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Up And At 'Em...

The Buried Editor has come back up out of the slush pile with a bang....responding to a blog question....

Dear Buried Editor,
Do you plan to come back this decade or did the baby drain away all chances of you ever blogging again?

Madeline has always been good value in the blogosphere. She works for a small press in Texas has her own imprint with this press and also works in a bookstore to keep in touch with kid readers.

P J Hoover and Stacy Nyikos are both published by her. I first came across The Buried Editor Blog when she decided to have an online pitch slam as a practice before she went to hear pitches at the huge Book Expo Conference of 08...

She is an editor a publisher a blogger and now she has added online critiques to her busy lifestyle.

With a new ning forum on her blog she posts a weekly question and forum members comment or send in samples of’s what she wants to do with the forum.

But, what I'm most excited about is the new forum Get Me Out of the Slushpile! that I've started. Every Monday I'll post a writing prompt here and on the forum. Then, the rest of the week you and I can post the work the prompt inspires and critique one another. I have been so impressed with the quality (and kindness) that people have shown when critiquing on this site, that I wanted to have more opportunities for all of us to help each other with our writing.

Martin Taylor of the Digital Publishers forum has a workshop in Auckland in December on internet marketing strategies.

Martin spoke at our Spinning Gold conference and was well received....He has made it his mission to try to up skill everyone in NZ in digital publishing.

One of his speakers is a kiwi, Sean D'Souza who has a (global) small business marketing and branding advisory business. PSYCHOTACTIC

I recently trawled around on Sean’s site and I liked what I saw. Go and check it out.

I have been working this week! One MS out the door, another is being revised after a few years in the wilderness. Updated my blog sites (spot the changes) and I’ve done some dusting!

I still have a ton of must do’s before I can get back to Mars...I’m still trying to come up with one word title (...coz I like one word titles) for the Mars wip (work in progress)...that conveys mystery, culture collision, identity issues and space exploration....any suggestions?


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Golden Germination

I have been jumping around this week never quite settling down and definitely needing some quality time to get my head together...however that is in short supply...what with school holidays...tsunamis etc... In my jumping around I found this on Editorial Anonymous.

So, I follow quite a few authors (and wannabe authors) on Twitter. One of them just Tweeted a link to her new web site, which is from the POV of her main character (of an unpublished book for which she is unagented). The site is professionally done and looks great, but I'm wondering how smart it is to have (and promote) a site for something that a. readers can't even buy yet, b. readers may never be able to buy, and c. potential agents might see.

Editorial anonymous responded to this query this week. It is an interesting read and the discussions that follow her post are insightful...whether you should have a website before you are published, whether you should post any of your work in progress on it or post by your main character....the jury is still out and debating.

Gone are the days when the publishers marketing team swung into action for you. The marketing of your work is increasingly up to you. You generate interest as the author and you have to find out what works for you. Melinda has posted some interesting thoughts on this.

A cool spin off from Spinning Gold is the opportunity to skype the author. Derek Wenmoth of CORE, who was on the educational publishers panel, is right into added value for kids in an educational setting. He has some amazing ideas and one of them is to have a New Zealand version of skype the author. If you want to learn more jump on over to the Spinning Gold Blog, which is still going and read all about it. Derek has also posted his thoughts on Spinning Gold.

A big thankyou to all the people who have contacted us with emails of congratulations.

We have been overwhelmed with your generosity. This was also a feature of the conference for me. Everybody’s willingness to help out and make it work.

A long time ago a friend said you need to get involved to learn the most about your chosen path and boy were they right.

I have learned and am learning constantly from you all. The variety of business cards out there (I got 17...nowhere near Frances Cherry...) the range of websites, the skills of the multi talented Children’s Writers and Illustrators who give of their time to made the conference for me. There is still so much to process...and I am mulling over and chewing the bones of learning.

I think we all are.

I will be interested to see what germinates from Spinning Gold.


blogger having difficulty with posting pics...just imagine a germinating seedling....

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Through the golden haze...

Last night was my first full nights sleep in four months. As I look around the house and see bunches of flowers and feel the bone tired exhaustion...I also look for the new baby that all these symptoms usually indicate....the baby has left home.

I hear about the baby’s impact on the wider world through emails and phone calls. I thought it was a small or medium sized baby but it seems to be striding out there making its presence felt in a large way.

My army brother says that what I am feeling is battlefield syndrome...the result of living on the edge of your skin, for a long time in the field, then a protracted engagement/fire fight and then back to base where you are safe. He warns me that now my health will pack it in because that always happens in battlefield syndrome.

The Spinning Gold conference was huge...I don’t think I could adequately describe it for anyone who wasn’t there.

We set out to deliver the best conference we could....and we did.

I am in awe of our volunteers from the Whitireia publishing course. They looked at our planning nodded their heads and said leave it to us. We left lots to them.

Our committee were the best. We all looked at each others work levels during the conference and picked up the slack where we had to, everyone pitching in.

Some of us are still working hard. Helen filmed three big sessions and is now editing them. Fifi and I are wading through the emails with our eye on our report to Creative New Zealand. Pippa is tracking and paying bills. The blog keeps going....Already there are plans being made by presenters to capitalise on the extraordinary energy and enthusiasm generated by the conference.

For many people the sheer honesty of the presentations was the key impact of the conference.

Nobody said this field is easy...especially the publishers. The sheer bravery of the pitch slam is uppermost in my mind. I watched people who were truly nervous...walk up those stairs, crack jokes to help out others and go through those doors to face an editor or agent and pitch their work in three minutes. Their writing selves laid bare.

I was terrified...I kept thinking, I am insane... I am insane... as I walked up those stairs...others around me had practised and honed their pitches...all I can say is that I spent Friday night stressing about the scheduling and dreaming that I burst into tears when I went through the door....I didn’t as it happens. Thank God for Brian Falkner, whose magnificent workshop, Make a Mark, on Saturday morning impacted enough so I could think of a tag line for the work I was pitching. Even now as I think of it I get goose bumps. I can’t believe I pulled it off.

We have had the most amazing emails...the ones that have broken through the haze and left me with tears are the emails from people who thought we had planned the conference with them in mind. When more than one person says that, you know that you have struck a chord that has resonated through the community of Children’s Writer and Illustrators.

I wish I could have sat down for coffee with delegates...chewed the fat with people from North and South...all I could be was my manic self, surprising the committee I think, well at least the skirt did, me who always wears jeans, and my mother now has proof that I did wear one (thanks Fi.)

While I was being the manic front, Fifi was being the manic back, holding internet connections together by sheer force of will.

I am in awe of my incredible co convenor. She didn’t get to see much of the conference sliding in and out unless she was introducing or on a panel.... Fifi is an inspiration, a force to be reckoned with...her huge week is not over. Along with fellow delegate Lucy Moore, Fifi will find out if she has won her section at the Wearable Art Awards on Friday Night....My fingers are firmly crossed for her. She has given so much time to making the conference a success and putting together her WOW entry during the process...She deserves every accolade.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The power of the image...

This morning while telling Fleur Beale how busy I was....she knows... she's on the Spinning Gold Committee too ...we got to talking about the power of image... specifically images that you manufacture as marketing yourself.

I was mentioning them in relation to the billboards around at the moment with pictures of Ms Hilton and the word Vacant. The billboards are advertising that the space is for rent. Fleur thinks that Ms Hilton has a good PR machine as she is known for being known, the drug of celebrity.

My business card is finished and I’m very pleased and judging by others reactions....they are cooly spiffing! I’d show you but I’ll wait until after the conference is over...(really it’s because the camera has left me to go cover a story with my husband.)The image is fantastic!

Less than a week to go and I have a lot to get through....My personal goals for the conference are now becoming urgent must do items which I have to find time to address before Thursday, the day before the conference opens!

On Thursday night there is an event at Story Time that I am involved in and have to prepare for and I would love to go to the Speculative Fiction event in town on the same night with one of our Spinning Gold Panellists.

However with the urgent press of details to be ticked off, I am in danger of getting to the conference and quietly collapsing.... Just prop me in a corner. (Icky image) The committee have all worked their socks off!

We are proud of this conference and everything we have put together...and we know everyone coming will have a blast! (If the daily emails of excitement flooding our conference in-box are anything to go by.)

I’ll leave you with the new book trailer For Scott Westerfeld’s new book, Leviathan. He is getting into the Steampunk genre and if you don’t know what that is... watch the trailer....

My daughter said she wants to read the book based on the power of the images in the trailer (and she didn’t like Scott’s Uglies series...

Like I said the IMAGE has POWER.

See you after the conference is over...


Monday, August 31, 2009

Standouts for me are....

Ok late again... but can chant this now...I’ve been busy!

Storylines, conference, storylines, conference, conference .....etc... only three weeks to go.

Storylines is over for another year. (Onwards to the next big event I wonder what that is....?)

We had nearly 3000 people through the doors last Sunday. (...we still haven’t cracked it....still trying tho)

There were lots of great moments. Standouts for me...Mrs Wishywashy (aka Martin)

Children, yet again, going nuts over Hairy Maclary and also The Wot Wots who made their debut at a Storylines event. The Wot Wots were Richard Taylor and Martin Baynton... The creators dressed in WotWot costumes and holding animatronic puppets.

Richard Taylor, is such a nice guy, genuinely interested in what children wanted to know...he brought along a couple himself....You wouldn’t see a five time Oscar winner in Hollywood packing his own gear in and out and blowing up balloons for a display, huh! Martin Baynton was Mr Enthusiastic. Such a great pair.

They brought along a bigger than life size model of Jane from Jane and the Dragon...Martins book which WETA have done such a superb job of animating. There were some great moments in their sessions too like Richard saying that the state of animation is moving so fast that they haven’t got the time to train people up so they are pinching them from the Wot Wot team. Children’s Television being the best training ground for animators.

The Illustrators were their usual super cool selves. I finally got a dream wish come true. Frazer Williamson was doing little sketches daubing them with Gouache watercolour and giving them away. We are now the proud owners of a Surfing Penguin on a Fish...framed the next day. But a knockout was witnessing Frazer being given a drawing from a young fan, in appreciation. Such moments, priceless!

Now onto another topic.

Shelli Johannes has a cool blog called Market My Words.

She is a mg/ya author who, like me, is interested in marketing ideas for authors. Shelli interviewed Molly O’Neill of Katherine Tegen books an imprint of HarperCollins about author web presence and best marketing ideas. The interview is a great read with some good advice from Molly. Below is just one of the pieces of advice that Molly shares.

Go to Shellis blog to read the whole article....I recommend it.

I’ve got a handful of additional advice, mostly gleaned from talks I used give about marketing:

• Take the time before each book is published to sit down and make a marketing plan for yourself, separate from anything your publisher may be doing. Think about your limits and be realistic. It’s great to come up with wildly creative ideas, but sometimes carefully thought out simpler ideas can accomplish far more. Set goals for yourself, and make sure they are goals that you can accomplish, not something that you have little control over (like winning an award). Set specific goals, and give yourself benchmarks to measure if you’re meeting them. For example, don’t just have goal of “make brochures.” Make it be “make brochures and distribute at least 50 to local area teachers.” Instead of just “set up local book signings,” which may or may not be successful, add to it, set up book signings and attend 4 other events at your local bookstore, so you can see what works—and
doesn’t work—for other authors, and so you become a familiar face. And make sure on every marketing plan, there are a couple things that are new—maybe even things that seem a little scary...whether that means cold-calling schools to offer school visits, or trying blogging, or speaking in public….Growth in your approach is important, and trying new things can open up possibilities you never even considered.


pic is Richard Taylor as a wotwot and Jane (storylines wellington 2009)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Two Great Links for Authors

Ah so missed the blog day again....I’m busy! (crunching numbers in my sleep...) Everybody in the house has colds...I hate spring, the pollen, the up and down temperatures...all designed to make me feel lousy as my body protests...

So what do I have for you this week.

As I am way behind my deadline of evicting current WIP I thought I would share with you a piece on revision by Jenny Crusie from her presentation at the Romance Writers of America national conference.

Mother in law says this conference has to be experienced to be believed.

They book venues 5 years in advance...coz they can have up to 20.000 delegates. Yes, you did read that right...

Jenny is a popular speaker and a brilliant writer. So if you have never read anything by her GO and Check her out! Her dialogue is brilliant. Her plots, are fast paced. Her characters are amazing...

Ok Enough said.

Jenny writes about turning points in your script. Where should they come? and why...

Here is a snippit

So what are turning points?

They’re events in the action of the plot where something happens that turns the story around in a new direction, raising the stakes and creating a new, more difficult struggle for the protagonist and, in turn, for the antagonist.

You can diagram a story in five turning points:

Yep, it makes you want to

The next thing that I want to share with you is a video heads up I received from the owner of the Children’s Book Insider Clubhouse which I am a member of.

Jon wanted to let authors know of a cool new website that is particularly relevant to authors and new technology...

It’s about reading books but in a whole new way which gets the authors royalties every time...heeheeheehee

Now you have to view it! But seriously this is a very interesting development.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

I'm not sorry...

1150 people attended the SCBWI (society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) 38th L.A. summer conference last weekend. Many more attended it virtually including yours truly whenever I got the chance.

There were five bloggers in a team who blogged the entire event.

It is an amazing read! But you need to clear the decks, sit down with a coffee and have no interruptions. The team reported the main points of every presentation over the four day conference and it is remarkable reading.

The presenters are all at the top of the publishing tree in the US and the bloggers made sure they covered every hand’s on workshop by Writers, Illustrators, Editors, Agents and Publishers.

Besides the conference, theirs and ours (only 42 days to go) I have been intrigued with the concept of book tours -Blog style.

Going on a blog book tour...means staying at home in your jammies and bed hair and promoting your book as a guest author on a different blog everyday.

Aussie author Alan Baxter has just finished a blog book tour and he has written an analysis of the experience and whether it resulted in any sales.

Alan started off his tour by talking to Smashwords an indie e-publisher, about blog book tours. Alan has a couple of books with them but he was promoting his new print book.

Smashwords are an interesting outfit. If you upload your book with them you get about 80% of the retail price. Their books are sold for all e-reading devices.

I think e-readers will benefit the Adult and Young Adult reader. I am yet to be convinced that Mid Grade, which I write, and Picture Book readers would get much out of it...but I am prepared to be persuaded, especially if I can get 80% of the price. Authors typically get between 3 and 10%.

Jeff Bulla has written a great post on the 10 new rules of Press Releases. The best advice for writers is contained in point number 10.

If you are thinking of the sea change for authors, where they have to learn marketing, take some time to read this post. If you are in business and every writer and illustrator is, you need to be up with the play on new marketing strategy. Here is a sample of what Jeff has to say.

The best PR and marketing pros know that Web-based communication delivered directly to their constituents is highly effective. Now, press releases circumvent the media and appear in real time on millions of desktops. Bloggers almost instantly comment on product announcements, and smart communications pros treat these “new journalists” with respect.

I don’t apologize for linking you to lots of extra reading in this weeks post.

All of it is relevant to our core business of making a living as a Writer for Children.

Extra Extra....

Fleur Beale, countless bridesmaid at the NZ Post Children's Book Awards has scored!

Congratulations To Fleur- Esther Glen Medalist 2009


Thursday, August 6, 2009

52 days to go...

When you wake up at 3 am on a regular basis you know that something is occupying your mind.

There is always the odd hope could be a story, but mostly you know it is going to be conference related.

Over in Los Angeles, I’ll bet the organisers of the SCBWI conference (society of children’s book writers and illustrators)are having sleepless nights. The 38th summer conference kicks off today. Four days. 66 presenters. Over 1000 delegates .

There are a couple of kiwis going over...Frances Plumpton is among them and I can’t wait to pick her brains at our conference to see what they were talking about over there.

My guess is that we will be talking about much the same topics...

Marketing and Promotion...Here is a great link to the top ten marketing tips from an author who bills herself as The Shameless Promoter

New technology and how to use it... The creativepenn (a great site) has a post on 5 easy steps to do podcasting...ramp up your website with some excerpts of your work in progress.... Or you could check out Fifis cool book trailer for GLORY

Maybe they will be talking about, and to, amazing authors like Karen Cushman, winner of the Newberry medal who will be a presenter. There is a great interview with her on the cuppajolie blog

I have a new quote for my wall from reading this interview.

“The best reason to write is just to find out what happens.” Karen Cushman

So True. (My planned plots usually last about five chapters...then I need to write to find out what happens.)

They will be talking about the future of publishing... Jane Friedman’s current post about the future of publishing is a must read. Click on the sidebar link or Go Here to read it...

If you check out our conference timetable above you will see that we address all these topics...

But mostly I think the LA delegates will be soaking up the atmosphere.

Alice Pope, The editor of the Children’s Writers and Illustrators market (writers digest annual) is leading a team of bloggers who are blogging the entire conference as well as presenting. Go here to check out some amazing interviews already.

We have got some awesome presenters, great workshops and panels and our delegates come from all over New Zealand and are at all different stages of their writing and illustrating careers.

It’s going to be great.

Now if I could get some sleep to prepare for it.


pic is our conference on it to bring it up in a large new window....

Monday, July 27, 2009

Business or Networking?

Recently I have been thinking about business cards. People attending the Spinning Gold Conference are going to need one (if reported experiences of overseas conferences are anything to go by...)

But what use is the business card to a writer?

Writing is a business but you don’t have to be tied in to the standard business card model.

The Business Card is a Networking Card.

Networking cards have a different focus. They can have a personal statement or quote on them describing you - a selling point if you are looking for a job, a list of your achievements, a mini cv, your book cover or website logo or a classy photo of yourself....

A while ago I posted about branding for writers. It is something that I see as being of more and more benefit to creative people.
For a writer your name is your brand. So your networking card needs to reflect something of your personality /name/ brand.

One of my very favourite networking cards is Bob Kerr’s. For those of you who have met Bob Kerr, you will appreciate the genius of his business /networking card.

Bob is very tall. Bob wears jeans most days and is a fabulous illustrator and fine art exhibitor. Bob’s card reflects the first view most people have when they meet him. It is his self portrait in oils from the waistband of his jeans down. On the back of the card are his name and studio details.

Of course before you become famous and can employ staff to answer the phone (or not, as the baby is running and answering the phone for me at the moment) you don’t want every Tom, Dick and Harriet interrupting your creative time so what information do you want or need on your networking card?

In my researching of different business cards I have found that concerns about identity theft are changing the way some people are thinking about the information they put on their networking card. Their address and phone numbers and personal email address’s are not on the card. All their web contacts are tho, website, blog, twitter, facebook etc urls are listed on the card.

So if you are thinking about your contact details maybe an online email address is for you. Don’t forget that you can write a personal phone number down on the card before you hand it to someone important. You will get a pen at the conference...(and some other goodies.... )

If you are a creative....and all writers are, we have a unique opportunity to make our networking card stand out, reflect our personality and say something about us.

I am enjoying working with my very creative friend, Trish, on ideas for my networking card which will get its debut at the Spinning Gold conference.

It would be great to see, at the conference, networking cards reflecting the personalities of the wonderful writers and illustrators we have here.

If you want some inspiration Smashing Magazine recently posted an article on some of the best and most creative cards out there with comments about their effectiveness and if you want a most different take on the business card watch the video...

Happy creative branding

Thursday, July 23, 2009

On the way to becoming famous...

Recently my attention was caught by a video article on an international forum I belong to about the changes that some publishers are doing to their websites.

One of the websites highlighted was Penguin USA. The discussion in this article was around the new features in the section Publishers office and what that could mean for writers...especially the great ideas you can borrow to ramp up your own websites.

At Penguin USA, publishers office, there are three main sections The Screening Room, The Radio room and The Reading Room.

The screening room has video casts of Q & A with the author of the featured book.

The Radio Room has podcasts interviews or audio excerpts of a different featured book.

The Reading Room has- you guessed it- an online teaser chapter of a featured book.

This technology can be used out there in the Author websites....Post a video of you being kids....or read out a chapter of your book...or...put a teaser on your page for visitors to read...
It all generates interest and excitement and makes your website look up to date etc.
Tania Roxborough is making great use of the teaser excerpt on her blog for her forthcoming book Banquo's Son.

I have been following Fifi’s efforts to produce a cool book trailer for Glory with interest.
And when it is finally will be knocked out...all with free technology...something else to go on her already spiffing website.

There has been lots of comment in the blogosphere over the 1000 true fans...see previous post about it here.

Guy Le Charles Gonzales (loudpoet) offers a different perspective building onto the 1000 true fans.
There is a little snippit below I recommend taking time to read the whole post...(it’s not long)

It does, however, offer a reference point for the next step in building an author’s platform.
Platform 101 was about laying the foundation, physically and virtually. Once you have your foundation in place, you will slowly begin to attract an audience, some of whom might one day become enthusiastic fans who will not only buy your books (and short stories, and CDs, and t-shirts, etc.) but, perhaps more importantly, will also mobilize and spread the word far and wide on your behalf, sometimes without your even having to ask.
Platform 201 is about attracting, engaging and energizing that community, and these are three fundamental points to keep in mind while doing so:
Platform 201: Engaging the Community

Along with the three points to go to the next step, Guy also has a video on his site that features Malcolm Gladwell of Outliers fame. Malcolm has excited comment with his book stating that to master a craft or become successful you need to put in 10,000 hours effort or about ten years...

Many people are busily totting up their hours to see if they come close but Seth Godin has a different take on it. Seth says that

You win when you become the best in the world, however 'best' and 'world' are defined by your market. In many mature markets, it takes 10,000 hours of preparation to win because most people give up after 5,000 hours. That's the only magic thing about 10k... it's a hard number to reach, so most people bail.

To read the rest of Seths post go here.

So this writing game we are in...Stick with might just become famous...

Which leads me into silly thought for the day...I took the crazy writer quiz...I had to join twitter to find out which crazy writer I resembled...(not that I will be active on twitter...) but am I really like Stephen King?


pic is an image of a massive collapsing star
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