Saturday, January 24, 2015

Stepping up to the plate ...

Book sales were perky last year, both here in New Zealand, and round the world. This good news is a sweet note to be starting the year on. And children's and young adults books are doing particularly well. Yeehah! This makes me keen for writing.

In contrast to last year I have few fixed events in 2015. In fact I currently have only one speaking engagement booked in. Last year was jam packed and super exciting, but I have to say I feel just as excited about this somewhat quieter year. And there are a few tasty carrots dangling in the distance. My SO and I are having a bit of a trip away later in the year. Far away. To new places. Very exciting. And then I will come home just in time for the Bi-annual Children's Writers and Illustrators Conference. This year the Conference will be in Wellington over the first weekend of October. A conference like this is gold: for networking, for sharing information, tips, and issues, for exploring the new and catching up with old friends. I'll post further details as they come to hand.

I still have some older projects that I want to work on, and one or two new ones to get started with. I also need to get back in to a more regular blogging habit. I want to do lots of reading and take in art, theatre and movies.

So ... the plan for the year is to

1) Complete at least two long projects (novels) - either new or existing
2) Attend the conference
3) Read 46 books (already declared as my Goodreads challenge) and write a review of each one
4) Write at least one new picture book manuscript
5)Create a publishing plan for every completed manuscript (existing and new) which notes the publishing avenues I will pursue for each.
6) Put those plans in to action for each manuscript
7) Blog at least once a week
8) Contribute as much as possible to the task of creating a New Zealand Children's Laureate
9) Do that thing I've forgotten that I also want to do
10) Do some other really cool stuff

Putting these things in print is a good way of guilting me in to action on them. So what about you guys? What are you stepping up to the plate to do this year ...?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

There are no short-cuts to mushrooms...

I have been hanging around in this book business for quite some time now. More than 15 years of writing, submitting, up-skilling, network building, and thinking about process, books, publishing and how everything works and fits together. The playing field refuses to stay the same so I know I will never be at a point where I can stop learning.  But I keep meeting or hearing of people who ask nothing about the industry before jumping in with boots on - they are the 'I want to invent this really cool thing called a wheel' or 'I don't need to know about your wheel: my wheel will be much rounder' brigade. Or I meet or hear of people who want to take short cuts. Who want an easier route. Who know there is some sure fire formula for success. The 'What's the secret to writing a great book?', 'If I (or my publisher) say I'm the next big thing', 'I just need to use these sure fire methods for increasing my readership/ word-count/ book sales/insert desired outcome here' group.

There is an astounding amount of information available online, and in books on writing and publishing. If you are thinking of trying to get a book published don't wait until it is finished before you find out the requirements of the category/genre you are writing in: how to present and submit your work: who to submit it to: what is expected of you as an author and/or illustrator: how to go it alone if self-publishing is your preference, and the help you will need to do this: anything else at all about the book industry. Reading a best-selling and/or award winning novel/picture book does not qualify you as an expert in what is involved. It really pays to check out how that book got to end up in your hands. And there are screeds of information available. I spent years accumulating a boat load of knowledge about this industry, but it is all at my fingertips these days if I have any questions. It is at your fingertips too. There is no excuse for not knowing. Do your homework peeps.

And I have never met a real short-cut. I believe having success is likely to be because of good luck and good management. That whizz-bang technique you applied at the same time is very possibly a red herring unrelated to your outcome.

I reckon lasting success is the result of:
1) Hard work - writing is hard work. Nothing is perfect first time and must be sharpened and polished into the diamond that people will want to buy and read. It takes months and years. 'Instant success' is often the result of years of work behind the scenes, or a one-off.
2) Practice - all my writing over the years has made me a better writer. And I think more writing will make me a better writer in the future.
3) Persistence - this is what I want to do. So I will keep working at it, keep trying, keep challenging myself, within the vagaries of the publishing world
4) Patience - I don't have much and it has been hard work to be patient when things have taken a long time or expectations have had to be shifted or re-imagined. But there is no way around having to use it.
5) Becoming an active, participating member of the writing community. Give where you can and appreciate when people give back to you. My book friends have kept me from being a 'Jack' and helped me to be 'Rose'. I would do the same for them.