Sunday, November 30, 2008

Brand Melinda Szymanik

Yesterday I read yet another interesting post on Maureen Crisp's blog. The topic was branding. And I'm not talking the permanent mark on the skin kind (although I want one of those too). In one of those slightly freaky coincidences that sometimes dogg me, only the day before at a Kiwiwrite4kidz workshop on marketing and presentation skills one of the presenters, Brian Falkner had been talking on the same subject and recently it has been something I have been thinking quite a bit on myself. I've wittered on before about the need for authors to get out there and publicise themselves and their books. Now, with a reported trend in overseas publishers who have previously taken on the pr and marketing role themselves, encouraging writers to DIY, whether we like it or not, we must step up and do as much as we can ourselves. We kiwis seem to have been one step ahead of our foreign counterparts with this trend but I don't think we are necessarily better prepared. But whether we are or not, i think it comes down to brand recognition. When a book buyer goes into a bookshop intent on making a purchase, I want my name or the name of my books to be uppermost in their minds. There is an ocean of book titles on offer. The only way I can rise above the waves is to increase my brand recognition. There is debate about whether reviews sell books. I think anything that spreads your name and the name of your books across a wider audience will benefit you in the long run. I am in this business for the long haul. It might take me a while to build up my brand and achieve recognition. And i can't afford to focus just on branding. I obviously also need to devote time to my core business - writing children's fiction and getting it published and as we know that isn't a simple process. But the two are linked. If I have a recognised brand then I will be a more appealing publishing prospect. It is important that my brand reflects what I do. I don't just write one genre in children's fiction. So far I've had short, novel length and picture book fiction published. I'm now working on a YA story. My branding shouldn't pigeon hole me. I've got a lot still to work out yet but in the meantime I'm going to improve my presentation skills and do as many school visits and author talks as I can fit in.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Jack the Viking: A great gift for Christmas...

Jack the Viking would be great to give as a gift for Christmas. Now as the author of this book I am understandably biased but this is not my opinion, it is the opinion of a reviewer at Christchurch City Libraries. Read her review here.

So the euphoria of the Kiwis rugby league world cup win has worn off now. Today I did a school visit today to the Stella Maris school in Silverdale where my sister teaches. My other sister acted as driver (cos as you know I turn into a chicken behind the drivers wheel) and my writer friend Tania Hutley came along as the Tonto to my Lone Ranger. We played a neat game with the kids of 'one of these things is not like the other' and i have to say the family resemblance is obviously not strong enough physically for the children to figure out straight off which of us was unrelated to the other three. Either that or Tania is actually my long lost sister. I'll have to talk to my Mum and Dad about that. I think things went pretty well, although by the end i thought my eyeballs would drop out, I felt so tired, and I suspect I was talking gibberish to the last lot but they were all too polite to say anything. I was extra excited by the first class who had just the day before finished having Jack the Viking read to them and with their very groovey teacher had been having all sorts of discussions prompted by the book. This is wildest dreams stuff where the story I've written has given them an opportunity to learn a whole lot of different things and taken them in all sorts of directions. All the times I've been excited, challenged or stretched by a book, I never imagined (and boy I've imagined a lot of things) my book would do that to someone else.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Over here, Look at me...

Time for a wee rock on one of my hobby horses - here is a blog posting from the Urban Muse on 'why writers should blog' (thanks to Janet Reid for the link). The influence of the internet is increasing all the time. One of the hardest things about being writers is getting people to sit up and take notice of us and our work. Blogging is just another form of me standing up and waving my arms around and saying, OVER HERE. LOOK AT ME. Of course, the greatest benefit is that I can do it in my jammies and slippers with a pimple on my chin and no one will know except for anyone who reads that last bit. Oh well. Now you know. The other benefit is that this is a medium that utilises one of my better skills. And I can post when I want, and edit it at will. The alternative is public appearances and I get nervous and a little tongue-tied speaking to a group of strangers. And it is unlikely that I could ever reach such a wide audience through public appearances. My blog has been checked out by people from the US, Australia, the UK, Canada, Tonga and all over New Zealand(hi there!). And did I mention, it can actually be fun, and I don't get interrupted, and there aren't any awkward silences (well maybe there are but I am blissfully ignorant of them). You might look at the internet and think but I'm just going to get lost amongst ALL of that information, more of which is being added every second. Okay you do need to be a little savvy and make sure your name and/or book title are in your blog title and blog address and are mentioned as much as possible but I can confirm that people are finding me. And yes sometimes that's by accident, but other folk are finding me and my books on purpose and although my books aren't on bookshelves around the world yet, if I didn't have an online presence you might not know about me at all. And that would be a shame because I think you'd like my books. But I have a blog and some of my books are popping up on Amazon and places like Fantastic Fiction in the UK. See how cool this is? The internet is not a hard tool to use. And using it, I believe, gives me an advantage. Okay enough rocking, I'm getting off now.

But before I go I just want to say congratulations to the Kiwi's, who against the odds and expectations, beat their biggest rivals the Kangaroos to win the Rugby League World Cup on the weekend. And by a healthy margin too :)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

On days like this I believe in summer...

Wow, the sun is out with a vengeance today - not even one solitary little puff of white to be seen in that fabulous blue dome above. It was almost too hot for the little white flea hotel on our walk this morning at 9.30. On days like this I believe in summer. It is one of my three most favourite seasons. I think after the last few months I need a mini holiday, my brain and body feel a bit weary. Of course a spot of tropical cruising would be the best, but then there's the whole what would I pay for it with? Maybe I'll just try lots of movies, reading and lying around instead. I'll give it a test drive and see if it does the trick!

I want to start wearing my christmas earrings and get the festive feeling too but November is just too early. Of course once December comes I'll be fretting about the christmas shopping. When Justine Larbalestier's new book 'How to Ditch Your Fairy' came out she did a few blog posts on what kind of fairy's her blog readers had and the ones they would like to have. I would like to have a gift-shopping-savant fairy - one that automatically knew what the ideal affordable gift was for any recipient. The one I seem to have is the ability-to-think-like-a-child-and-so-find-where-they-put-lost-objects fairy. Hmm, not as useful except on christmas day itself. Ah well. Best go and dig out the tinselly earrings in preparation.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mixed bag...

Yay my SO is back driving (although he still walks round with his arm in the napoleonic style - poor thing) - so no more white knuckle, closed eyed drives on the motorway or across the harbour bridge unless I choose. Ultimately it was good practice and i do feel a little less nervous about motorways and bridges but there are some real psycho drivers out there - Guys! Calm down, chill out, go home, hug somebody.

You all need to head over to Maureen Crisp's blog here today to be reminded about why you need to find out how to work this intermawebby thing. And australian wunderkind writer Lili Wilkinson's blog here is always worth a look too. I'm about to take my walking flea hotel for a trot up on Big King so I'm just going to post an old poem of mine today. Sorry its a bit sad...

For All the Lost Girls

They're calling my name
But I'm not her anymore.
by chance,
Picked up
Put down,
Lost at sea
Buried in the sand

There's no outlook
No chance for stormy weather
Slammed doors
Lost touch.

Pitch a tent,
Query the neighbours,
Let the dogs out.
But I'm gone
Whatever you find
I'm not her anymore.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water - being reviewed!

Just when you thought, as a writer, that you'd got the hang of dealing with rejection and found a way to cope with the nerve-wracking nature of public appearances you discover you must now also deal with your books being reviewed. Maybe this is why I was feeling calmer about rejection - it was time to move on to managing the scariness of reviews. Being reviewed - this is a phrase that strikes both fear and excitement in every writer. What's worse than a bad review? - No review at all. You've sweated ferociously over your manuscript, made it the best you can, sent it out and then heard that magic word - yes! But you discover that this is not the end of the process, it is only the beginning. Now comes the editing, the proofreading, the book design - do you love it or loathe it (I count myself very lucky on this score so far). And then the book launches and the worry starts all over again. Will people like it, will they get what you were trying to say, will they love the characters as much as you did and ultimately - will they buy it? And then, just when you thought it was all a bit overwhelming the reviews start coming in. You cannot make people review your books. You cannot make a reviewer like your book. You just have to sit and wait and see what they say and hope that the suggestion that even bad reviews sell books as people see for themselves if you got it so horribly wrong, is true. I have put extra chocolate and wine aside to help me through. So far, I am happy to report, I am getting reviewed and the reviews are complimentary. I have already posted the link for the Radio NZ review of The Were-Nana but this book has also been reviewed in Magpies Magazine, Reading Time (The Children's Book Council of Australia Magazine) gave it a starred review which is extra good, and it was also well reviewed in the November 2008 issue of Around the Bookshops with a 'good read aloud' tag. Jack the Viking was also reviewed and recommended in the same issue of Around the Bookshops, and is reviewed in Talespinner, a Christchurch College of Education publication and in the NZSA's NZ Writer's November e-zine. When I can link to reviews I will post these on the blog.

And hey Fifi, it was excellent to see you up in Auckland on the weekend. Please come and live here permanently. And your 'Velvet Honey's' are just stunning and i am saving up for one.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lemons into lemonade...

The recession, like a cloud creeping its way slowly across the sky, is gradually starting to cast a shadow. I don't think its a black hole into which we will all be sucked but i do think its going to squeeze us all to the point of discomfort. I know I'm a bit uncomfortable already about how its affected my writing career in recent times. So it was refreshing to read the other day a post titled 'Why Recessions are Good for Aspiring Writers' by US agent Jenny Rappaport at her blog . Like anything else, the recession will cause a shift in the industry and we must adapt accordingly. And i can't cease being a writer just cos money is tight. Thats not how I roll.

BTW congratulations to my writer friend Elena de Roo for having a picture book ms accepted just recently - living proof that publishers are still taking on new works. I can't wait to see this one in the bookshops (mid 2010 I think).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Books launch!

Last saturday, November 8th was a very important date. On that day at Mainly Toys in Mt Eden Road we celebrated the launch of my books The Were-Nana and Jack the Viking. What a buzz. Lots of lovely friends and family came along to toast my books, feast on some nibbles and hear a few speeches. All the public talking I've been doing recently helped enormously and after a few mental rhearsals during the day and following a lovely speech (on behalf of Christine Dale from Scholastic) and introduction by Penny Scown also from Scholastic I said my piece without any flubs and even got a few laughs. Phew. So public speaking does get easier! The venue was excellent. With plenty of amazing cool stuff for the younger set to check out once the ceremonies were over, Mainly Toys is like Aladdins cave. People bought my books which I signed, along with the super talented illustrator for The Were-Nana, Sarah Anderson. Thank you to all of you who came along to support me, I felt extremely fortunate to know so many lovely folk.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Writer's Zen and the art of being rejected...part 2

Maureen Crisp suggests the zen art of rejection calm is the mark of a professional writer. Its a very strange profession we work in - maybe that accounts for the zen! There is a lot about the business of writing and publishing that is unique. The rules are that the rules don't always apply, and cannot be applied uniformly across all authors. But interestingly, despite all the frustrations, I am content to call this odd profession and the difficult industry attached to it, mine. As US literary agent Janet Reid says here - - 'Publishing isn't perfect. It's a small, insular, power imbalanced industry. I still love it.'

And oh my god Fifi - what do you mean 'plan' for my launch? I don't have a plan. Do I need a plan? What does a plan include? I've invited a horde of ten year old boys and I thought I'd feed 'em up on some greasy savouries and sugary foods and then let them loose in the toy/book shop. It seemed like a winner of an idea to me. I've press-ganged a few folk into making sure I don't sit there alone and I've noted the phone number of the Dominos Pizza place which is just a few doors down from the venue. And there is wine. This is as far as my broken brain will get me. Are there other things I should include?


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Writers zen and the art of being rejected...part 1

I am in a strange zen place about my writing at the moment. Now don't assume for one minute that this means i am not worrying about stuff. There are still plenty of things to worry about such as children (especially eldests sprained ankle and middle childs stolen cell phone and library card which currently has eighteen books out on it, several of which are overdue - who steals a library card? but I guess at least the thief is trying to improve their mind - i am divided in my opinion on that one), driving on the motorway and over the harbour bridge, MY BOOK LAUNCH THIS SATURDAY (8th November, at Mainly Toys in Mt Eden Road, starting 4pm, be there or be square), doing the best lessons I can for the writing class I am taking, the dog's fleas to which he is allergic and all sorts of other things like what to buy people for christmas. I am not worrying about the election, although it is near on impossible to pick between two people whose policies aren't that dissimilar but whose behaviour is equally bad. Not much of a choice really. I choose wine and chocolate...

...anyway I digress. Zen. Writing. I have had a few rejections recently. The agent bravely sends my things out into the world, and...then they come back. But I am untroubled, relaxed, even philosophical about it. I can't help wondering though - is this a bad thing? The potential devastation wrought by rejection can cast a cloud over things for days but if i am not worried by rejection does that mean that some kind of passion is gone. I still feel passionate about writing but how can i be calm about rejection? So folks, you tell me, should I be worried that i'm not worried about rejection?