Thursday, March 31, 2011

What To Put In The Bag...

This afternoon I pack my bags and head on up to Auckland for the Spinning Tales gathering, The second National Conference for New Zealand Children’s Writers and Illustrators.

One of the conference organisers, Melinda Syzmanik, has posted a lovely post which fits my thoughts exactly about why you should try to attend conferences.

I have been beavering away (interesting word to use as NZ doesn’t have beavers) on tightening a manuscript using today as the deadline.
 Laura Pauling has given me great advice in her article on making a revision list from your weakness and Publetariat has a fabulous article with 4 links to help you overcome publishing despair.

Fictiongroupie has a good article on motto’s for yourself and your character. I probably need one for conference as well...Relax could be a good one!

As I sat down to begin this blog post into my inbox popped an email from Mandy Hager...letting all her writer friends know of what not to do when your book is reviewed online.

The Book Reviewer, Big Al, gave a fairly balanced review to a book called The Greek Seaman and then the Author disputed the review.... The comments are a lesson to us all. (warning don’t drink coffee when reading....) It could be a reverse marketing ploy...

What that author should have done before responding so badly was read this...Avoid the Poison Apple. This is a great article on keeping your perspective.

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

The 50 Books Kids must read? (The Independent left out a whole heap)

The Top 5 Children’s Books For Adults (winnie the pooh...)

Writing Effective Dialogue

50 Iconic Writers Who were Rejected...there is hope....

Protect Your Blog From Being Hacked

The Top Selling Kids Books Of 2010 (with Stats on ebooks sales as well...Rick is on a roll...)

To finish 
 The wonderful words of Tahereh Mafi. 9 Things Everyone Needs To Know About Writers...

Maureen...(Catch you at the conference...)

RIP Diana Wynne Jones....Writer, World Builder and Muse....You are sadly missed! conference and chocolate all wrapped up in one easily digested form.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Going With Your Gut...

The speed of modern publishing varies. 

Recently I was trying to explain to my mother why I haven’t heard anything about my manuscript from a publisher. But they just don’t read it and say yes straightaway Mum. They have to consider whether it will make them any money. They have to get second opinions. Convince marketing, etc etc. Sometimes they take manuscripts out to bookshops and say read this, should we publish. Do you think it will sell?

And sometimes they hang onto manuscripts for a long time...None of my manuscripts have been less than 6 months sitting on an Editors desk. Bones spent a year being considered before I got a voice message saying they would take it.

I get accused of giving publishers too much leniency. I play fair by them as I expect they would play fair with me.

So yesterday when a prominent member of the Wellington Kidlit Community emailed me to tell me of a book that was conceived, written, illustrated, designed, published in print and ebook with a  dedicated website and youtube trailer in three weeks. It completely blew my mind.

The team involved have publishing cred. They have hit the market with a picture book that draws on the recent Christchurch earthquake experience. They decided to see if they could get this project out the door and available within a month of the event. And they succeeded. Everyone donated their time and skills. All proceeds to the Red Cross.

To do this they had to duck the Traditional Publishing way of submitting the project and waiting on decisions and they just went with their gut! They set up a publishing company and whammo. Curly from Shirley is out.

In the writing blogosphere the news in the last two days has been about the astonishing decision of Barry Eisler to reject a $500,000 Traditional publisher two book deal in favour of going it Indie. And Indie ebook phenomenon Amanda Hocking is taking part in a $1million deal for a trilogy with a Traditional publisher.

These two decisions have rocked the publishing world....

Booksquare compares the two decisions and comes out in favour of Eisler...much to their surprise. This is a superb overview on the Trad vs Indie debate.

The great Jane Friedman has a wonderful article summarising the main points of Eisler’s decision and referencing some very informed comment from Mike Shatzkin who called it an 'earthquake in publishing.' The comments following these blog posts are a must read. Commenter’s (and there are some big blog names in there) are posting information on numbers of page hits that equate with a big enough audience to sustain this decision. It is all fascinating and illuminating reading.

Agent Mary Kole takes a look at the decision from an agents point of view and discusses how agents are still relevant in the Indie world.

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

Screenwriting Tips For Novelists- because it is useful!

5 Ways To Strengthen Scenes- Brilliant advice I have been working hard on this all week.

Rolling Around in Text- this is for those who compulsively write in books...can you do it with ebooks...

Over Plotting and How To Tackle this!

To finish,
The wonderful Inkygirl fell foul of Warner Bros this week when her cool 4 Things You Should Never Ask A Writer Tee Shirt was pinged because it had a reference to the boy-who-must-not-be-named.
The printer pulled the tee shirt which is annoying because I want to get one right now...we have all had these questions!!!

Every now and again I check my Blog stats and fall faintly back in my chair as I see the amount of people who read my blog every week. Thanks Everyone. The following video is for T K Roxborogh and her students who have been frequent visitors lately. Something for all of us to enjoy....

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Comfort and the Reader

I have been contemplating the power of well written genre fiction. 
It can comfort, challenge or make sense of the world. At different times I find myself reaching for my old book friends because I need their comfort or challenges to help me process what is going on in my life. None of the books I reach for are Adult Lit Fic.  My comfort/challenge books span across the genres with the exception of Horror. I have never seen the need to frighten myself to know that I am alive.

Children’s books are seen as a genre but within them they span the whole genre range... mystery, adventure, science fiction, romance, historical, fantasy, horror.  There are exceptionally well written books in all these genres within Children’s Writing.

From Ingrid Laws mid grade Savvy and Scumble (just brilliant writing) through to Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series* (the power of the storytelling) and these are only two examples that spring to mind immediately. In another hour I could have two different ones...(the whole list of NZ Children’s Book Finalists...and some that didn’t make it.)

If you want to write children’s fiction you must read children’s fiction. You must seek out the best...the most current...the books being published by the editors you want to work with...the books you hear about through the grapevine...the ones that booksellers try to hand sell you... the books that librarians recommend....

Kate Hart has taken a look at the last 12 months of Publishing Deals in YA to see if there are any genre trends to take note of. Of course I can hear you all saying paranormal but Kate has discovered differently.... Hot off the press to add to these numbers...The funny and talented Tahereh Mafi has signed a wopping deal for her Y A dystopian trilogy including 13 foreign rights and a film. Yup couldn’t happen to a nicer blogger. (first book too)

Victoria Mixon has delivered a brilliant guest blog on Storyfix this week on the differences between the Amateur and the Professional writer...and no it is not about whether they have been published...(Some of the literary lions could do with reading this.)

As you research good writing you should be researching agents. Janet Reid has written a plea to writers to do this and save everyone some grief. (Read the comments too for some good tips)

Mary Kole of has added a new blog to her bow (ok really mixing the metaphors here.) Kidlitapps is dedicated to looking at digital publishing content for...Kids. And this week she has a focussed her attention on what should be in an App and what should not be...This Is A Must Read! (Yes, even for sceptics out there.)

James Scott Bell has decided to Epublish. This is big news. Epublishing was (stupidly) seen as only for those who couldn’t get a book when established authors turn to epublishing you need to take another look at this. Randy at Advanced Fiction Writing asked James why and got some interesting answers.

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

Harpers ebook Lending Policy Gets Trashed...(librarians revolt)

Why Book Design And Editing Matter (print or web)

Sci Fi Author declares War On Lit Fic....(yeah!)

Important News For Authors With FB Fan Pages (it’s change time on Facebook)

Linking Cover Pics To Shopping Carts (for when you sell your own books)

Alicia Gross has been interviewed on the website about being a rebel rule breaker. This is a great interview and she finishes with this.

The book you should write, should be the book that you want to read. It shouldn't really be like any other book out there. It should be your own, unique thing. This is where being a rebel comes in really handy. Instead of being an imitator, write a book that a few years from now everyone else will be trying to imitate.

It is St Patricks day so I leave you with a feel good video featuring Irish Dancing as you have never seen it before. Simon Cowell the judge commented at the end that making the audience feel good is the goal of entertainment. This is especially true with great books. 
That is why we write, to make the reader feel good about reading our story.



* Cassandra Clare is touring New Zealand soon. Her fifth book in the Mortal Instruments Series will be out next month. If you haven’t read any... DO!   

pic is from brilliant bookcases

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Changing The Variables

March is New Zealand Book Month. Already I have attended a National Address, hosted a dinner, attended a book launch and organised an award party. Somehow I have managed to be out nearly every night since March began.

The National Address, The Janet Frame Memorial Lecture, was given by Joy Cowley. Joy is one our most beloved writers for children and as befits one of our own being chosen to give this prestigious address, the children’s writers were out in force. There was a huge crowd! Afterwards I hosted a dinner for members of the Wellington Children’s Book Association. It was a great night.

I missed one of our member’s book launches but managed to attend another. Mandy Hager has finished her Blood of the Lamb trilogy with Resurrection.  This whole series has been a tour de force.

Our Patron, Jack Lasenby, turned 80 this week and as he has been shortlisted for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards (his 30th novel for children) we thought it might be a good idea to get all the other Wellington area finalists together. It was a bit of a mission but we managed to surprise them all with flowers and Jack with a large birthday card signed by quite a lot of people...(it helped that he couldn’t make the memorial lecture as I was running around like a mad thing getting signatures and the card would have been hard to hide.)

Today I was reflecting on Bob Mayer’s article on the three author variables and thinking about the quality of the writing here in New Zealand. Both Joy Cowley and Jack Lasenby are among the very best writers for Children we have produced. Joy is known internationally with her readers and picture books and the famous Mrs WishyWashy. Jack is not. He has been a huge influence on generations of children through his work as a School Journal editor and the fact that he has personally known and encouraged our best literary writers over the last 50 years to write some stories for children.

Bob talks about the mix of Platform, Product and Promotion. We have always had strong product but New Zealand is small and our publishers are small and the print runs are small and so the head offices of the big publishing companies pretty much ignore books printed here. With internet and the new global market place, New Zealand children’s books might just be ready to be discovered. All we need is a strong platform and great promotion.

Somebody who has been swinging all the variables of Platform, Product and Promotion is Seth Godin. David Meerman Scott interviewed him on his new project, Poke The Box.

Anne Mini has taken a look at how clichés can destroy your chance of being picked up with a series of funny examples of overridden cliché queries that are in need of editing or just search and destroy.

John Rember has written a guest post for Jane Friedman on the relationship between author, agent and publisher and the need to examine this carefully in the fast changing world of publishing.

March is also Small Press Month...and Elisabeth Spann Craig has taken a look at small press vs large press. Which is better?

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

9 Questions Editors Ask When Reading Your Submission

Authors Engage Or Die

Justine Musk On The Best Way To Blog

Harpers ebook Lending Policy Trashed.

To finish,

Mashable is looking at new digital trends...the way the news is being gathered is changing also how brands are becoming social media and how aggregation is changing bestselling statistics. This is a good article to read if you want to know how these trends will change the variables in publishing through the rest of this year. As New Zealand is about six months behind we have a little bit of lead in time...use it wisely.

The New Zealand Book Council’s video shows some 3D storytelling which is our associations next event in New Zealand Book Month. 


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Scrambling For The Books

It’s been nine days since the Christchurch earthquake. 
We are still in a state of emergency but now the NZ media are including in their bulletins other news from around the country and the world. 

Daily life in the rest of the country is getting back to normal but the pain is still there under the surface. The people you meet on the street this week don’t look as if someone has kicked out their stomach.

The whole country has rallied around various fund raising efforts as the death toll rises higher and the tally of buildings that are, or need to be, demolished grows. We are all more aware of the ground beneath us, the power and randomness of Nature and the need to acknowledge that, there by the grace of God, you have been spared the worst.

Wellington, where I am based, sits on two fault lines and we get rumblings beneath our feet all the time. We had a nice little (4.5) jolt on Tuesday night to get the heart racing. We would like to think we are prepared at all times for a disaster but in truth we are probably not. Around Wellington the conversations this week are on where to put the disaster kit and what to have in it. The supermarkets have been running low on batteries and torches as everyone pulls out and updates their kits.

I have been mulling over this question, If you had only ten minutes to rescue your possessions from your house, what would you take? In my mad would be antique books, photographs, documents and the computer.

I have lots of pottery...I never thought about saving that...the books came first on the list... What does that say about me.....hehehehehe (finding the antique books would be a challenge tho...) 

Books....they divert, educate, elucidate, console, challenge, terrify and come in handy as tables and deportment aids.

Hmm can’t see ebooks helping out as a deportment aid however they are increasing their presence in our lives. Bookbee has collected quotes and stats about the uptake of ebooks (women between the ages of 35-55 are the biggest users....I would never have guessed that.)

If you are struggling with what to put in your book, you might want to check out these links.

Irene Watson of Selling Books has an interesting article on working with a Co Author...she is looking at only one co author tho....The FaBo team have nine...hmmm nine times the fun....

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

Ten Tips To Effective Book Covers (a must read)

Grief (making sense of it)

Changing Times, Changing Book Design,

A fun look at Deadlines and what they do to us.

Productivity for Creatives...this is an excellent guest post by Charlie Gilkey on Jonathan Fields Blog.

This week the children’s writing community here in New Zealand were in awe of American YA writer Maureen Johnson who organised a fundraising effort for Christchurch Earthquake victims that quickly went viral. Our eyes get a little misty when we think of the generous spirits all around the world who write for children.

To finish, here is a little pick me up from Slushpile Hell....and Some Dancing Books.


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