Sunday, January 30, 2011

Take that blind leap with us....

I understand that publishing is a business. A business must make sufficient income to keep its door open. I have said this often on my blog. But I came across a comment on a post over at Editorial Anonymous's blog that beautifully explained what that business is built on:-

'So, yeah, publishing is a business, but it's a business whose profits are derived, ultimately, from creative people's speculative, unsecured investment in themselves and the way readers respond to the results.'

The original post is here and the commenter is Working Illustrator (the whole comment is definitely worth a read).

We go in to it with our eyes open (mostly) and we work hard to produce something that will fit into that agent and/or publisher's business model. I have jumped the 'creative big tick' hurdle several times only to fall at the 'we can't guarantee we can sell enough copies' hurdle. I keep writing, keep trying, but I can't help wishing that on those occasions the publisher had taken that blind leap with me.

'For the writers, making that investment involves a kind of blind leap that - with all due respect - salaried editors and agents with multiple clients just don't have to make. I think you might have to be a little bit crazy to make it. It's not completely rational and it's certainly not just about the 'business'.

But without it, there isn't anything.'

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

You cannot do this alone...

I gave my first writing workshops for the year this week. It was a small group of eager young students but we got on just fine and by the end of the second session things were humming along. Always a good sign - I got asked if I would be interested in taking these sessions again in the future. Its nice to have got out of the starting blocks for 2011.

I attended another committee meeting for the Spinning Tales Hui/Conference today. A lot has been done and there is a lot still to do. It is going to be fabulous. Folks if you have not already registered, you should. If you are a kiwi serious about writing/illustrating for children then you can't afford not to go. We have a large contingent of NZ publishers attending and several from Australia as well. We are offering pitching sessions where you can tell a publisher about your book and hopefully convince them to publish you. We have workshops and plenty of opportunities for you to meet other writers and illustrators at varying stages of their careers. This is something I encourage all my students to do - make friends with other writers and illustrators. No one else can understand the demands, the highs and lows, and the ins and outs of the book business. I would not have achieved as much without my writer friends. We share, support, encourage, prod and commiserate. No one else can understand what you are going through like they can. Come and connect with the kiwi children's book world from April 1st to 3rd this year at Kings School, Remuera.

Yesterday as I wrestled with the topic of 'voice' in my workshop this post from Janet Reid would have been handy. The concept of 'voice' is elusive but your book will not fly without it. The closest I can come to a definition myself is saying it is the 'personality' of the story (not to be confused with the personality of the main character although he/she too must have a) personality and b)'voice'). The difficult thing is it is not something you can easily learn or add. Sometimes the only time it is mentioned is when it is not there. Have you found yours yet?

And as you contemplate submitting your work to publishers and/or agents this year go check out this brief yet excellent run down on what you should (and shouldn't) be putting in your letter to the publisher. A blurb is not a synopsis or jacket copy either.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Oh well, I guess everyone knows about my warts now...

My brain is always tumbling through ideas on how to advance my writing career (within reason of course, there are some things I would NEVER do just to get published) and one thing that often crops up is the benefits of having an agent. I know some agent/author success stories. I know some agent/author fails. Sometimes I think I should go there but a couple of things hold me back. I do not rule it out forever though. I like this list here at the Rejectionist about what kind of behaviour you should expect from your agent. I am squirreling this info away for future reference.

I like this post here too - a checklist for getting published. Are you dedicated? Are you informed? Are you the right amount of crazy? Good, you have just inched closer to your goal. Its good to remember that all our little writerly neuroses are actually a sign of how comitted we are to writing and being published. Being upset by a rejection is healthy. I like that.

I also came across this and have to say I was a tad freaked and a touch horrified and most of all piqued that there was nowhere to comment on the post. I try my darndest to keep my trap shut but the screws are a bit loose and it just falls open all the time. I try not to name names if I am unhappy about something but I feel its useful to discuss the nuts and bolts of how the industry works, good and bad. One of the most important things you can do as an author is understand the industry. I tend to think of it as a healthy debate on the ins and outs of the business and lets face it, its not always a smooth running well oiled machine. I hope I have not stepped over the boundaries. And I like to post up my material from time to time and I'm surprised that freshness (not as in 'freshness of idea' but 'how recent/new the ms is') is such a key motivating factor in editorial decisions. Oh well, I guess everyone knows about my warts now.

I'm still chugging away on the WIP with deadline so posting will be brief. And my youngest turns thirteen today so I am off to the supermarket to buy ingrediants for his favourite dessert - chocolate mousse. It's his first day at high school today. He has two tests this morning to determine class placement. I think I might double the chocolate in the recipe.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The tyranny of distance...

Living in New Zealand is a wonderful thing but when it comes to being an author is it a disadvantage? Tyranny of distance and all that. My books/manuscripts rely on me to advocate for them in every way and I am considering some new strategies to help me escape the gravitational pull of my physical location. While I explore these (I will report back with my findings if I find any) here is the beginning of a small junior fiction WIP called Pirate Eye.

Chapter One

“What’s wrong with you?” The big boy at the school gate asked.

“Nothing,” I mumbled as I hurried on through, putting my head down. I hoped no one else would notice

I have two beautiful blue eyes. Mum says so. Often. But they are not a matching pair. The doctor calls my left eye lazy. Dad calls it my naughty eye. I call it my curse. While my right eye looks where I want it to, my brain has forgotten about my other eye. Or maybe my left eye has a mind of its own. It certainly looks that way sometimes.

When I was little things looked fuzzy. Sometimes my head hurt from trying to see things. Then my left eye just sort of gave up and stopped following my right eye around. I could see better with just one eye but sometimes I’d bump in to things. I couldn’t play two-eyed games like rugby or soccer, tennis or softball but I could swim if I was careful.

It didn’t matter about my eye so much at my old school. It was a small school where we all knew each other from kindergarten. Every one got used to my eye before they knew it was odd. But Mum got a new job and we moved house. I had to move to a new school; a big school where they weren’t afraid to tell me how bad my eye looked, where it made them laugh if you were different. I didn’t like it but there wasn’t much I could do. I kept to myself. I felt pretty miserable until Mr Cleverly came to my school to be the new teacher for my class.

“My goodness, that’s an interesting eye you have there,” Mr Cleverly said the first time we met.

“You don’t need to tell me, I already know,” I grumbled back.

He ignored my rudeness. “I had one just like it,” he said, smiling at me all the while. As I looked back at him his left eye seemed to shiver. “They made me wear a patch for ages, but I’m just fine now.”

“Yeah right,” I muttered thinking of that shivering eye. “I’m never wearing one of those.” Mr Cleverly just smiled.

The very next day Mr Cleverly, (“call me Bill,” he said), brought along photos of when he was a lad. Sure enough in every photo he had a black pirate patch over his left eye. His hair stuck out every which way and he had black pants with jagged edges and a striped t-shirt on in every photo.

“I fancied myself a pirate back then,” Mr Cleverly said. I didn’t know what to say.

Then it became my turn. I hadn’t been to the eye doctor for a long time because of moving house.

“We must fix that eye,” the doctor said when I went for my appointment.

I made a face at him.

“We’ll start straight away with an eye patch.”


“We have to try now. Soon it will be too late.”


“The eye patch goes over your good eye.”

“I won’t be able to see at all!” I cried.

“Of course you will. Your bad eye will figure it out. It hasn’t had to do any work. It’s forgetting how. We have to remind it now. Or it will forget all together and never work properly again!”

“I can manage,” I snarled.

Mum patted me on the back and gave me a big cheerful smile. “Come on dear,” she said. I twisted and squirmed in my seat. “It’s for the best.” And she squeezed my arm.

This was the most awful, horrible, dreadful thing that could ever happen to me. It was bad enough that everyone thought I was weird. Now I’d look stupid as well. But it turned out to be the best thing. And not just because it helped fix my bad eye. If it wasn’t for the eye patch I wouldn’t have had my adventure.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I'm melting...

It is somewhat tropical here today. My clothes are the only things preventing my body from melting off my chair and onto the floor where I would get stuck in the rug with all the other disgusting things that have fallen between the fibres over time. Along with the tropical heat and humidity we also have the monsoonal type of damp weather pattern hovering over us. Despite the intermittant drizzle and/or torrential downpours I have put the washing out because I'm that kind of girl - edgy and rebellious - and, well, the wind is blowing too. The WIP is in an awkward phase where it is refusing to write itself - dagnabbit - and everything/anything else is a way more attractive proposition then knuckling down (so neanderthal) and actually writing the thing. So I am blogging, considering putting my neck to the Creative NZ funding guillotine again, checking the lint trap in my navel and chugging through other people's books.

I have just finished reading I am Number Four which was a fairly ripping read but had these strange sentences from time to time that failed the 'I am a sentence' test and the occasional incorrectly applied turn of phrase which rendered the sentence it appeared in meaningless. The main character is the cause of the mess he is in but is told several times by his guardian "its not your fault." This book, barely published, is already a movie out later this year with some recognizable actors in it. Over the last couple of days I came across a discussion about the downside of particular ages and locations if you are trying to get published here and here. It interested me that Adelaide in Australia was considered a back water and concerned me that New Zealand was noted as further down the list of backwaters from there. I know a writing career can be hard down here in the Antipodes but I thought it difficult everywhere. Now I wonder how the rest of the world sees us. If I wrote I am Number Four without James Frey's cache/notoriety and without his US location would it a) be the bestseller it already is and b) be the movie it already is? I know that a number of Kiwi authors have been successfully picked up overseas (Helen Lowe, Bernard Beckett, Lloyd Jones to name a few) but are they the lucky exceptions? Are the words New Zealand a red flag for some publishers?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Just a little quickie...

I am totally doing this e-book thing in the next few months with at least one of my books. I will add more to this post later but just wanted to make sure I didn't lose this juicy link - check out one woman's decision to self publish in electronic formats... thank you to the Rejectionist for putting this out there.

(Added) Here is the book she talks about - it sounds and looks great! It is hard to believe the publishers said no. It is a hard fact of the business that they did. It is a hard reminder that a publisher saying no does not mean you have not written a good book. Publishing is a business, but reading isn't. I do not write to make money (there are much easier ways) - I write for readers like myself. Maybe e-publishing will help my writing connect with interested readers. I will keep you posted.

(Added 2) - and because this might be useful here is another lovely link from the fabulous Graham Beattie about the best font's to use for books. This is one of the many things writers usually don't have to consider if published via the conventional method. So far I've sorted myself a very nice cover for my book and now have some info on what font might be most suitable (although i have not yet confirmed that any particular font needs to be requested/applied for e-books). I have to make sure my e-book is available in as many formats as possible (?) and that distribution is good. Last but by no means least I want the manuscript edited before it hits the internet. This book, like any other that bears my name, will contribute to my writing reputation and I want it to be as good as it can be.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Feelin' a mite blog-lazy

Feeling blog-lazy today as we have just returned from a family sojourn out of town and there are several loads of post-holiday washing to tackle and I am still banging away at the WIP. I managed 3000 words over two days while away but am struggling to maintain that kind of effort now I'm back amongst all the usual distractions (like several piles of post-holiday washing). The deadline is now approaching like a runaway freight train (unfortunately not the one with Chris Pine on board). The SO has taken the rugrats off to buy school shoes (once he has secured a second mortgage to enable purchase of outrageously expensive and bleeding uncomfortable everyday foot-torture, sorry, I mean footwear) so I have no excuses. Therefore I leave you with two links to distract you from your own writing efforts - Editorial Anonymous's (welcome back EA, you were missed) smart responses on the perennial questions regarding how illustrations happen for picture books here. And, as always, another perceptive view on the craziness we know as the writing business from one of my personal favourites, Nicola Morgan over at her blog Help! I Need a Publisher, titled How Likely Are You to be Published. Happy Nu Year folks. Hope you've had a good start to 2011 and that this year does you proud.