Thursday, February 24, 2011

Standing on shaky ground....

Tuesday started off with excitement in the New Zealand children’s writing community and then the day turned into horror.

At 6am the finalists in the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards were announced. These awards are keenly followed by the community. There were familiar names and quite a few new names which is wonderful for showcasing the depth and quality of our children’s writers. Of course there were big surprises that established previous award winner’s latest books weren’t in the shortlist but that is the nature of awards.

The excitement and the hope that National Media might notice the Awards this year faded quickly as the news that a major earthquake aftershock hit Christchurch at 12:51pm (the middle of a busy day) came through. 

Christchurch is one of our biggest cities, situated in the South Island, it is very historic and often packed with tourists as it is the main gateway to the alps, glaciers, and our biggest scenic tourist attractions.

We are now in a National State of Emergency with over 98 confirmed dead and the toll is rising. We have over 200 people missing. As I commented in my November blog post, New Zealand is small and there are only 3 degree’s of separation here.

People are desperate for news of friends and family in Christchurch including the New Zealand Children’s Writing community. Some of our most prominent writers and illustrators are based in Christchurch including finalists in this year’s New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. In a week when the New Zealand children’s writing community should be celebrating, we are sad and anxious for our colleagues, friends and fellow kiwis.

Life in the rest of the country goes on but with a sense of the surreal...the picture postcard perfection of one of our most scenic cities in ruins.

Our most famous Christchurch landmark last week and this week.

So a shorter list of links to look at this week.

In the blogosphere the 2010 Cybills were announced.  This is an award for children’s books nominated by anyone but judged by bloggers in the Children’s Literature community.

Bob Mayer has a great post on the seven keys to unforgettable characters, this is part of his return to the basics series.

Bubblecow has a good post on finding the essence of your book. If you are looking for how to write tag lines or elevator lines this is a good resource.

The Great Jane Friedman has an interesting post on commenting on if you have always wondered whether you should and what you could say...Jane has the answer for you.

Over on Craicerplus I have links to articles on

Offering Value For Book Buyers and Bookstores

Indie Publishing- the Problems With Book Distribution (became an ‘Aha- now I understand’ post on 
facebook this week 

How To Make A Quick Video For The Internet


Pic Catholic Cathedral Christchurch
In the video, South Island landscape and the Canterbury plain not far from Christchurch, famous courtesy of Lord Of The Rings

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Game Changing and Piracy

On the side of my blog I have a list of must read blogs. One of those is Jane Friedman’s There Are No Rules. 

Jane is one of the touchstones in the blogosphere on publishing and change. She has been a keynote speaker at many big conferences on publishing and will be speaking at SXSW soon. Jane has a round up every week of what she thinks are among the best articles of the week (often I have already filed some of them for you) but I always pay attention to her list.  This week Jane highlighted a critical must read article by Kristine Rusch and yes I think that it deserves that status.

Kristine Rusch is a bestselling, award winning, romance, mystery and science fiction writer. She has been writing a series of articles on change in the publishing world. This week she has seen such a significant game change in self publishing that against all her previous advice she now believes that beginning writers should look seriously at self publishing...and not only them.

Bob Mayer was one of the first to comment (no surprise he agreed with what she said.) This week, on his own blog, Bob has an article about what he has learned in his writing life.  And it is a good read too. Bob breaks down the lessons he has learned since writing his first he says... the more you consciously know about writing-the harder it gets!

However, to help you in this difficult creative endeavour is Mike Fleming and Elisabeth S Craig. Together they have sorted out a solution for storing all those links on writing... The Writers Knowledge Base.

This week Agent Mary Kole answered the tricky question...Would you turn down a book you loved but you knew you couldn’t sell? This is a good look at what agents are faced with...

Last week I asked the question, Who will be the digital ebook reviewers we trust?
I pointed you to Kristen Lambs blog post...this week also answering this question is Morris Rosenthal of Foner Books. Morris reckons that groups of writers will band together and become the new gate keepers...and then turn into writers guilds with too much power etcetcetc (check out the comments)

The Huffington Post has an interview with Annik LaFarge on effective author websites this is so full of information that you will probably need to set aside a long coffee break to take it in.

Over on Craicerplus (My Amplify Page) I have links to articles on

Writer Envy...The Rejectionist- Dear Superior Person

The Rules of Sci Fi...(don’t spare the red shirt guy)

The Best Writing Mistakes and How To Make Them

The Espresso Book Machine...This is a book printing robot in a NY book store which prints books 
immediately....Go and take a look at the video!...opens up a whole new world....

To Finish
The best article on story structure I have seen from the formidable Larry Brooks over on Storyfix, How to Learn Story Structure in Two Minutes or Less.

I leave you with Neil Gaimen talking on how Piracy helped him...


P.S The Jane Friedman that Kristine Rusch refers to is not the Jane Friedman of There Are No Rules. There are two Jane Friedman's in the publishing world.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Down The Rabbit Hole...

The Chinese Year Of The Rabbit is supposed to herald a period of tranquillity and calm. After the changes in the publishing world over the last two years we could all do with a bit of calm but I don’t think we are going to get it as the shaking up of the publishing industry continues.

It hasn’t been a year since the launch of the ipad and the explosion in the sales of ebooks. Publishers are very cagey about telling authors what their ebook sales are but just for your information, In the month of November 2010, the ebook sales, reported by the Association of American Publishers, were 14.5% higher than for the month of October and growth in ebook sales over the year (Nov09-Nov10) was 165% . This is a conservative estimate.

The implications of  readers moving to digital books have not been lost on Authors in the blogosphere. Getting an agent and getting a book deal is hard work, not for the faint hearted and with publishers insisting that authors must promote their books the Author is left looking hard at ebooks and self publishing. The books are cheaper to produce, there are no warehousing issues with POD and they are already promoting their work aren’t they?

The biggest hurdle to leap over is marketing. Who wants to spend all that precious writing time marketing? How can the reader find good books to read in the digital age, when a quick look on itunes shows more than 50,000 book apps available?( I’m probably missing a few zeros.)
Who will be the digital ebook reviewers we trust?
Who will help the new authors negotiate the quicksand of publishing in the now?

One person who has been doing a bit of thinking around this is Kristen Lamb. She has brainstormed a possible new publishing model that looks like a win/win from everyone’s perspective. Have a read and see what you think!

From the publishing marketing trenches to the how-do-I-just-get-on-the-ladder reality...Jody Hedlund posted an article on her blog last month about her agent receiving 10,000 queries in a year and accepting 0. Jody looks at what an author can do to change the numbers around.

If you are contemplating having a sales page on your website Victoria Mixon has got a great guest  post for you from Joanna Penn. These two blogging diva’s have swopped over and are guesting on each others blog.

For those looking for a bit of help before the hard grind of submitting your manuscript, here are three sites worth a good look.

Over On Craicerplus (My Amplify Page) I have links to articles on,

Extreme Book Design...blowtorches knives and spiders...

Is Speculative Fiction Poised To Break Into Literary Canon? (Guardian Article on the Man Booker.)

Rick Riorden’s experience with the effects of Ritalin on his family.

List of Most Commonly Used Cliches in YA (everyone’s checking their MS now)

6 Personality Types Who Will Fail As Writers. (laughing while you say ouch)

To finish, 
Alice Pope has a great list of SCBWI Winter conference roundups on her blog. Over 1100 people attended the winter conference in New York...that’s almost as many who attend the summer conference.

Justus Stone has written a detailed post about writing software and how they have changed his life.

Zoe Winters has the last word...(One of these characters could be a NZ Politician...)


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Putting Your Best Foot Forward...

Don’t write to trends.
Midgrade needs humour
High Concept and Good Writing
Tell a Good ...Great...Amazing... Story.

These are only a few takeaways from the Editors and Agents at the SCBWI New York Conference held last weekend.Go on over to the official Team Blog and scroll back to the beginning...or dip in and out from the sidebar.

After reading all the links above you will be a little shell shocked and wondering where you fit in the fast changing world of Children’s Publishing. Take Heart. Overall the feeling out there is one of cautious optimism. Children’s publishing hasn’t taken the hit that the rest of the publishing world did.

Everybody is still looking for a great story... You just have to write it.

There are more opportunities to share your writing than before. Self publishing, ebooks, blogs, podcasting...all these are becoming easier to use to reach an audience. Many writers are getting together to share experiences and pool their resources in group blogs, ebooks and publishing companies.... They are sharing their stories, leading the way and breaking new ground.

But the day of the author recluse is over. The word out there is that the author must engage with their audience.

Andrew Pyper has listed  the Do’s and Don’ts Of Public Readings and Janice Hardy has written a thoughtful post on Blog Tours...That’s when you go on a tour to other author blogs to promote your book/work from the comfort of your own office.

Of course you will have a website....and here you need to be looking at the best use you can make of this resource...because it is a resource for you and your audience. Kids want to find out about you and your work and what your favourite cereal is. You want to tell them about the cool stuff you write and why you have an addiction to milk bottle lollies...Potential publishers are researching you too as they build a strong case to overcome the number crunchers into taking a chance on you.

Over on Craicerplus (My Amplify Page) I have links to articles on

40 Creative Manipulations To Feast Your Eyes

Is Writing The Cause or the Cure For Anxiety-The New Yorker

Extreme Book Design...And You Thought They Used Photoshop.

Katie Weiland has guest posted on Victoria Mixons blog about 5 Writing Rules You Can Break. This could be useful information as you write that High Concept Amazing Story.

And for an alternative view...Chuck Wendig has launched a mortar at badly self published books. Eye wateringly funny....but is full of ‘content.’ (I did warn you!)


pic is from clown ministry
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