Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gate Keepers And Their Shiny New Keys...

The Gate Keepers jobs are changing.

The big news in the writing blogosphere this week is Agents Becoming Publishers. From a few testing out the brave new world of ebook publishing (see a previous blog post of mine) a couple of months ago, this week more agents are jumping into the publishing water. 

What does this mean for writers? 
Unscrupulous agents can take their 15% as agent and pass you on to their publishing arm which may take 50% as the publisher.  A few agents are renting their services out for flat fees. A writer must weigh up very carefully the pros and cons of traditional agent services and ‘new’ agent services....

If you are in the market for an agent or thinking it may be a good idea in the future, read these and be aware of how agencies are changing in this brave new world.

Another big move this week was the launch of Pottermore, JK Rowling’s new website, ebook publisher, storefront and fan club all rolled into one site. Phyllis Miller comments upon the changes that the launch of Pottermore might have on the ebook marketplace...especially the ditching of DRM (Digital Rights Management) on the Potter ebooks. Publishers Weekly is taking a ho hum approach while commenting on how rare it is that a writer still has ebook rights...

If you have a successful brand, and J K Rowling does, why not look at what merchandising opportunities you can get out of it. You are a business after all. You have created the characters and the world etc etc...a range of clothing, mugs and stationary can be sold exclusively from your website. One of my favourite authors Jasper Fforde (NYT describes him as Harry Potter for grown ups) is doing it and if it is Ok for an Adult Writer to do it...surely a Children’s Writer can do it.

Joe Konrath has a great post on how to make your ebooks another storefront for your work. Put the blurb on the front cover...such simple advice.... Anne Allen has a post on the new trend of using ebooks as queries, and the reverse, Agents looking to rep successful ebook writers...sticky sticky.

In the craft corner,

The League Of Extraordinary Writers has a great post on Dystopian Rites of Passage.

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

5 Things More Important Than Talent- this is a great post...lots of comment on this.

Ten Terrifying Questions For do the great and the good do it?

The Art Of Being Different-Justine Musk. Justine writes a wonderful blog and this article is a great self affirming read...because all of us writers are quirky and interesting, aren’t we?  

To finish,
I was having an email chat with Dylan Owen of The National Library of New Zealand (Children’s Collection) about being on a panel addressing the topic of whether storytelling was dead.(upcoming AGM of WCBA) 
In the conversation I referred to a problem I have been mulling over lately, the fact that traditional gate keepers seem to be reluctant to get involved in children’s ebook reviewing. Dylan was able to give me some hot off the press news. School Library Journal has started a new review blog looking at apps for children and Dylan was about to extend the School Library Service, Create Readers blog that reviews books to include ebooks...

So the Gate Keepers have some new hats to try on and some new shiny keys to play with...


pic The gates of Graceland.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Promote Inspiration....

This week the FaBo team were thrilled when we received an email from an ecstatic teacher telling us how the first week’s challenge had inspired the whole school.

All the senior classes and most of the middle school are doing it for writing now and hopefully they will all enter.  My breaktime FaBo group has stopped because they are all doing it in class.  Teachers have been using what they wrote in the in staff meeting as models for their children...  A couple of classes have been planning menus for your hamburger competition.  When I was on lunch duty today I could hear kids talking about Sher Lock while they were eating and a group of kids were in the library redrafting their stories at lunchtime.  I have put together a group of gifted and talented senior children to work with and have been given 90minutes release time a fortnight to do it.  I have never seen the staff so excited about writing! 

It is great to receive such positive feedback and to know that in our small way we have made an impact. 
Actually all the FaBo team did a happy dance and we have silly grin’s on our faces. Any author will tell you that an enthusiastic response from a reader (especially kids coz they are tough critics) is worth the sleepless nights and the hair pulling when we were crafting the story.

FaBo is an interesting experiment for us all. It is a chance to directly engage with the kids who read our books and stretch ourselves at the same time. We are learning about group blogging and marketing and the ‘keep at it, the rewards will come’ style of putting something new out there. (it’s a bit like writing really. It gets better.)  It is inspiring and challenging and fabbo. (sorry team couldn’t resist.)

Elizabeth Spann Craig has a guest post on Spunk On A Stick about promotion traditional and 21st century style. There are some good tips here so take a look.

How many books should you have written before you think of indie publishing? What kind of benchmarks do you need? Bob Mayer has written another thought provoking post which has generated much comment in the writing blogosphere.

Seth Godin’s Domino project has had a lot of attention in the past few months but this link is in the Holy Wow category. Seth links to Jenny Blake’s Spreadsheet for Book Promotion. It is a jaw dropping one stop shop from planning the cover to the book tour and everything in between. Click on the links and be amazed.

Jody Hedlund has taken the 'steady as she goes,' way to work out how much time you should spend  marketing your book.

Justine Musk has a brilliant post on the necessity to market yourself and how to keep your brand consistent. Are there lines and logos that you regularly use? (Hmm spot mine which I didn’t realise until I read Justine’s Post.)

In the craft corner,

What can Star Trek teach us about great writing. This is a comprehensive look at storytelling in the J J Abrams style.

Following on from last week... here is a link to creating QR Codes.

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

When Women Write Male Charaters

Would You Apply For This Job?.....( great job, pity about the pay.)

Thinking About Publishing On A Kindle....

On a new job note...The wonderful Storytime bookshop is for sale! (if you always wanted a specialist children’s bookshop...) We all hope the new owner will be just as great as Malcolm.

Chris Guillebeau writes one of the most inspiring blogs out there. I am a regular reader. This week he has written a great post about making money online. Many of his thousands of followers think it will rank in the all time top ten...what do you think?  

To finish,
When you get bunches of Children’s Writers and Illustrators together something wonderful always happens...From FaBo and the wacky writing challenge to our Inspiring Colleagues promoting this great message in the following video.
It Get’s Better!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Passionate About....

FaBo Story is back! 
Nine wacky writers get together to deliver another challenging writing experience to New Zealand kids. Come over to Planet FaBo and let your imagination go. (coz we need it.) This is a writing blog with a difference.

This week in the writing blogosphere there has been a discussion over writing blogs and whether they are worth the time it takes and does it really have anything to do with your brand. This has morphed into sub discussions over branding and the worth, in general, of Social Media.

So what am I doing here? 
I write a blog about what’s topical in the publishing world with a smattering of craft tips and odd things I have enjoyed while looking for other things.

What am I passionate about? 
You could say Space, Teaching, Writing for kids....actually I’m passionate about Learning. I love Learning. I can’t help it. I like finding out stuff. I started this blog three years ago to learn about the internet and then social media just sort of fell into it and along the way I discovered great craft tips and new tech and there you have it. 

FaBo Story began the same way. A group of kiwi writers started talking on Facebook about how we could have some fun writing an online book and interact with kids, getting them to write alongside us and so Fabo Story was born. Because the kids are such good writers we had to have a bit of a rest before we did it again...and make it harder so they didn’t out write us every time. (we do have our pride.) And we are developing the accident.

The Book Designer has a great post on Author Brand. It clarifies what you, the author, should be thinking about.

Alan Rinzler has taken a careful look at what it means to be a writer today in this new publishing world and as he is one of the most experienced editors around, he is worth reading.

Raymond Benson has a guest post on Joe Konraths Blog about his experience with epublishing. Do you realise that you are in it for the long haul? What else should you be doing with the new publishing experience?

Someone I noticed this week with a new publishing experience was PJ Hoover. She has brought out trading cards to go with her ebook Solstice. The Trading Cards have Q R Codes. What’s this I thought and dived into the world of two dimensional barcodes which show enhanced content via smart phones. And this is available for kids. Brave New World, step this way....One company has even Q R coded the classics so you can read while waiting in line.

In the Craft Corner, there are two absolute standouts for you to devour.

The phenomenal Kidlit team have the Complications worksheet. This is a brilliant aid to plotting that you will want to bookmark.

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

Call For Submissions- A new publisher to have a look at.

What Went Wrong With The Star Wars Prequels...(Read it and see what not do with great storytelling.)

To finish,

The YASaves debate is still going on. (see last weeks post) Today Jay Asher of 13 Reasons Why, was asked his opinion. As you can imagine it was to the point. It is all about the readers and their experience, The Young Adults understand it, their parents might not.  

This week I passed the following link on to people who were looking at wonderful backlists with no idea what gold it contained for them now.

Bob Mayer has taken a good hard look at Indie vs Trad debate and has basically said stop taking sides and start taking advantage. He has some very pointed advice for publishers and authors and agents. 
Read it. Think about it. See how it can work for You. Be Passionate. 


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Writing Life On The Edge...

It’s been a funny old week in the writing blogosphere. 

The Wall Street Journal piece on the darkness of YA Fiction spurred a huge twitter backlash (#YAsaves) that had it in the top three trending topics inside of an hour. Among the authors singled out in the WSJ article was Judy Blume who was surprised to find that her books were considered too dark to read. Judy linked to a Blog post by a young writer about why she reads YA Fiction. 
Today Maureen Johnson wrote an article for the Guardian looking at the response and how YA Authors feel about the WSJ reviewers comments.

If you write or read YA Fiction have a look at each side. I think there are valid points for each argument. 
Yes there is a lot of violence, gore, death and illegal behaviour in some YA Books. 
Writing about it and the consequences of it can give a safe mirror for a teen that may have to deal with some of these issues in real life. 
Reading these books does not automatically send a teen out to commit mayhem. 

The increasingly younger age group who are picking up Young Adult books, because they want to appear older, are the real problem I feel. I had a serious freak out moment when I heard an 8 year old was reading Twilight at my daughters school. As a teacher, a parent and a children’s writer that made my hair stand on end. (that’s my 50c worth)

Young Adult writing will always be controversial and edgy and the writers and readers wouldn’t have it any other way. (Banning a book is great for sales.)

Writers for Younger children are much safer? Not so. The seventh UK Children’s Laureate was announced yesterday and immediately there were negative comments about the author.

Julia Donaldson has written more than 150 books for children. She is a standout writer and an awesome campaigner for the continuing existence of public and school libraries. However judging by the comments following the Guardian article announcing her appointment...there are a few people out there who think her classic The Gruffalo teaches children that it is ok to lie and they argue she plagiarized Maurice Sendak. Some days you wonder about the parents of your readers...

Also in the news this week how small chain bookshops are repurposing themselves in the current climate...What experiences can they bring to the customer that Amazon can’t...and how Pop Up book stores are working in the US....(Pop Up means short term in an empty space.)

Over in the Craft section there are three excellent links for you on Editing.

Grub Daily has a great post on line editing...with some great examples from old pulp fiction. I have a serious collection of old pulp fiction myself, this is an excellent way to sharpen your editing skills while reading it.

Beth Hill of The Editors Blog has a great (and comprehensive) checklist for editors and writers on big picture editing. This is one to bookmark!

The editors at Edittorrent have a great blog post on openings that annoy...If you are wondering about your killer opening go on over and check out what they have to say.

On Craicerplus (my Amplify Page) I have a link to an article on

Author Agent Speed Dating Service...(one author who wants to make things easier for all of us....)

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you will have seen a lot of interesting articles, just for those communities, that I have passed on this week.

To Finish,

Writer Unboxed interviewed Nathan Bransford about why he left Agenting, his new midgrade book coming out and other interesting stuff. Nathan has one of the most popular blogs out in the writing blogosphere and he is always an insightful commentator. 

And I’ll leave you with a video from Cory Doctorow –Every Pirate Wants To Be An Admiral...Why he lives life on the edge...


Thursday, June 2, 2011


I have lost count of how many times over the last two years that I have said Publishing is changing rapidly. 

About the only consistent thing you can say about publishing today is that next week it will have changed.

Five years ago Print was all you had to worry about in a publishing contract... and the heady dreams of maybe a movie...(See that pie in the sky?). 

Three years ago digital rights were being talked about, but nobody really knew what they were.

 Last week Amazon reported they had sold more ebooks than print. Barry Eisler signed a print deal with Amazon, whereupon Amazon has now leapt into the ranks of traditional publishers. Agents are becoming publishers. Writers are earning more from selling their own back list as ebooks than they get with a current print book in the market place. 

Traditional publishers are looking at the rapid changes and wondering how they are going to stay in business...(Will they go the way of the big music publishers???) 

So this week it was no surprise that the latest publishing contracts have been under scrutiny and Boy Do They Make Scary Reading Now!

I flagged this on Facebook when I read it. Writers need to be very aware of how contracts are changing. 

He says
While the band is playing and champagne flows, people make brave speeches about the timelessness of their trade. But, make no mistake, a battle is underway below-decks for spots on the lifeboats. If it’s necessary to toss authors over the side to make room, well, that’s just the nature of the business these days.

Check out warrenty clauses, non compete clauses and a nice little phrase called ‘Electronic Version’

Kristine Rusch described this
Think about this: movies are digitized—they are performance, and they are often distributed online. Not only does that clause allow someone to monkey with your work, abridging it, taking it out of order, adding things to it, making it into a performance piece, adding sound effects, but it also is a backwards way of granting television rights, video display rights, and any other performance right, so long as that performance can be distributed electronically.

Read both Passive Guy and Kristine Rusch and bookmark the pages...

Another writer taking a close look at contracts is Victoria Strauss on the Writer Beware site. She has a post up- Contract Red Flag: The Net Profit Royalty Clause...when this is slipped into a contract it means the royalty is paid at the very end, after every discount has been taken off, then you get your 10% of what’s left...hmmmm.

Victoria has also been looking the stoush between Publishers and Agents. As publishers attempt to go behind the agents backs to reprint authors backlists. Agents are not amused! The whole issue becomes messy when you have agents wanting to digitize their clients back list themselves...

If you are looking at alternatives in your publishing decisions...The Book Designer has listed the top ten e-publishing guides that will help you.

Bob Mayer has a very informative post on ebook pricing and perceived value...what does that 99c ebook really do for your sales...

In the craft corner,

Mary Kole has a great post on Physical Clich├ę much head tilting, eye rolling can you stand?


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

10 Questions To Ask Before Writing

What’s A Book App?

30 Ways To Know You Are A Children’s Writer (guiltyguilty)

Mal Peets Reply To Amis’ Trashing Of Kids Lit. (the man’s absolutely right!)

Why It Is Hard To Write Fantasy If You Are A Girl (who wants to be typecast as a writer because of your gender...?

To Finish,

Chuck Wendig has a post on how to tell you are a writer...This has a warning on it...Contains Language...(that always makes me roll my eyes when I see it on a review- Of course there is language..print or verbal...) However you will laugh...ROFLMAO...

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