A dead body found in an abandoned house, a missing child reappearing after 20 years, a murder on a train stuck in the snow. Mysteries, crimes and thrillers are my favourite books to seek out in bookshops. My shelves are slowly being overrun with these mystery novels. I have become addicted to clues and mysteries and most of all the twists that leave me shocked to my core. But one thing I have noticed in my reading is the lack of female detectives.
Starting from the Golden Age of detective novels, in around the 1930s and 40s, the murder solving sleuths are generally men, and mostly detective figures. The most famous from this era is the one and only Hercule Poirot, a former detective who is infamous across the globe. In these novels Poirot is always the saviour of the day, solving the crime, usually with the somewhat unhelpful assistance of a male friend, and providing justice for the victims. And although I do enjoy reading these novels, I can’t help but wonder if the dynamic would be the same if Poirot was replaced by a female detective.
For this we can look at Agatha Christie’s other famous detective, the sweet old Miss Marple. While Miss Marple is not, nor has ever been, a detective she still finds herself surrounded by murders and mysteries, not the ideal person to hang around with. She is always there to solve a mystery and find out information that police can never hope to. Unlike Poirot, Miss Marple is not a part of the professional team in solving murders, she does what she can to assist the police in their investigations but can never be the one to officially solve the crime.
Another female detective, much like Miss Marple, is our own Australian Miss Fisher. Set in the 1920s, she runs her own private detective agency and works alongside police to solve murders across Melbourne. Miss Fisher never has full access to the police resources and has to use her own skills to find out the answers. Along with these barriers she also faces the criticism of male police officers turning her away from crime scenes and refusing to accept her assistance, even if it will help the investigation. But despite all of these barriers Miss Fisher still manages to solve the crime.
These novels highlights that women who are portrayed as the sleuth are not placed in the traditional detective role that their male counterparts are. Most women, like Miss Marple and Miss Fisher are independently searching for the answers to the crime, using their own resources, which are few, to solve the case that male detectives are unable to. Understandably, due to the time period these female sleuths are set they cannot have a standing in the professional sphere. However, even current detective novels still leave women out of the professional sphere to solve crimes. Novels are filled with women in positions of seeing things they shouldn’t, uncovering family secrets and writing stories for newspapers, which eventually leads these women to a larger mystery that they solve.
Doing a quick search of crime novels released this year it is clear to see this theme with women being cast out of the professional detective role yet still solving mysteries is still very relevant. Bloodline by Jess Lourey follows a pregnant journalist who moves to a town with a deadly secret, The Lost Village by Camilla Sten follows a documentary filmmaker determined to make a film about a town where people go missing, including her own family, and The Girl Who Died by Ragnar Jonasson follows a school teacher who moves to a remote Icelandic island and is living in a house with a haunting mystery. All of these women who face the crime and mysteries around them have no profession detective affiliation and are just swept up in these mysteries by accident.
So why aren’t these women detectives? Would the story be less enticing if a woman was called in to solve the mystery rather than an incompetent man that only stalls these women’s quests for justice and a solution? Or are male detectives simply seen as more reliable due to the long history of male detective novels?
Could it be that detective novels have created this impenetrable setting that female detectives have yet to breach, making them less reliable as an investigator, and the only way to ever hope that a female detective character will be taken seriously is to have her not as a police detective, but as an everyday person who is dragged into a mystery.
Search as much as I might for my answer, just like these women I am not a detective, and might never hold the answer. So while I ponder this overarching question I will continue to do my own sleuthing and keep reading these fascinating books.
Claire Hone, Publishing Intern
September 22, 2021
We had a place, a designated café that we always used for interviews. Decent coffee, if not overpriced, with a trendy postgrad hangout vibe. It was February 2020, and my third year as an editor for Antithesis, the postgraduate arts and humanities journal for the University of Melbourne.
After working my way up, I had landed the top job as Editor-In-Chief and my brain was as bursting with ideas as it was with the practicalities of production. I excitedly collected names of creatives I wanted to commission, fantasising about layouts and the diversity of voices I wanted to capture while also screeching at myself about the things that must be done; advertising, grant applications, printing quotes. At the beginning of the year, I had interviews to do, about twenty of them, and I wanted my café and coffee. But already, there was a definitive tension in the city. Cafes – shock horror – were closing, and there was buzz about a lockdown, not that I was sure what that meant.
My lead creative editor and I met our editorial candidates at a nearby library, all of whom were excited, passionate, over-qualified as always, and ready to get to work. As a new team, we created a journal that exceeded even my own very high expectations. Together, we meticulously commissioned and edited a huge array of voices speaking to the lived experience of mental ill-health, disability and adversity. Topics ranged from testifying to the Royal Commission Into Victoria’s Mental Health System to overcoming warfare-induced PTSD. I was immensely proud to have spearheaded a publication so immensely and unforeseeably relevant to the times. Yet never did I see my team in person again.
The next time I would see my lead editor would be, ironically, in a café in Thornbury eight months later. With a box of our completed journals sitting on the table, I walked over to her as she entered.
With equal parts joy and sheer exasperation, she asked me, ‘How are you?’
I never did answer that question. All I could say was ‘Can I give you a hug?’
And we just stood there embraced. For a good few minutes.
Without words, we thanked each other. We acknowledged the phenomenal teamwork and dedication it required to bring our journal to print, against all odds, in the worst global health crisis of the modern age.
The production of Antithesis: Mental, like all of the publishing industry, was forced to adapt in 2020. Our journal might as well have been sponsored by Zoom and Facebook Messenger. The work got done, and it got done well, yet invariably missing was the in-person contact so critical to facilitating a sense of camaraderie and rich, in-depth discussion of submissions. Also removed was the opportunity to meet with our writers to discuss their work in addition to in-person promotional events. The art of schmoozing was rudely disrupted, along with access to the opportunities that may follow.
My team worked throughout all of the uncertainties that COVID-19 threw into their personal lives, from employment instability, financial insecurity and the demands of home-schooling children. Simultaneously, I oversaw production whilst continuously re-shaping my approach and the how of publishing, navigating curveballs and questions that I could never have foreseen;
Will writers still be able to work on their pieces in this time?
Will my team be able to keep going?
Will our printer stay open? What if it doesn’t?
How are we going to launch? In-person? Online?
What about sales strategy? With an online launch, we won’t have a sales table.
The challenges were continuous, all-encompassing and pervasive, demanding constant openness to change. Yet never did our team lose sight of the importance and relevance of our material; a curation of resilient voices in the face of adversity. And it was this critical relevance to the ever-evolving struggles so raw and universally present that saw us through to publication.
COVID-19 has critically impacted the publishing industry on a global scale, from conglomerate publishers right down to graduate student-run journals. The virus has facilitated an increasing shift to digital publications, enforced socially distanced working arrangements and hindered the scope of both marketing and networking opportunities. Student publication committees hold their breath as they await grant application outcomes, their viability entirely reliant on what tertiary institutions can feasibly offer.
Yet research suggests that demand has not decreased. Readers are still reading, whether for the love of it, as distraction from the world or as a lockdown time-filler. While some may escape into fantasy novels and others into romance fiction, where dinner dates are possible and COVID doesn’t exist, others pick up a text in the hope of finding a voice that speaks to their own pain and struggle. The written voice is not bound by COVID, and in this era of lockdowns, words remain a source of comfort and insight when we can’t bear witness to them personally. And the fact the world still wants them, and perhaps sometimes clings, is enough for this editor to fight another day, no matter what it brings.
Antithesis is the graduate student-run arts and humanities journal for the University of Melbourne, publishing fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, artwork and scholarly articles in an annual print edition, in alignment with a theme. Antithesis: Mental is on sale now.
Sophie Raphael is a writer, editor and mental health peer support worker based in Naarm. She is passionate about mental health writing from both the lived experience and scientific perspectives and is a strict non-fiction fanatic. A current intern at Busybird Publishing, Sophie has also volunteered with Meanjin and Overland, and was the 2020 Editor-In-Chief at Antithesis Journal.
July 6, 2021
Review of the Winter Solstice Writing Retreat, June 2021
Kinglake, Victoria is surrounded by trees and national park. On the third weekend of June 2021, it was also shrouded in early-morning mist. If you had been passing through, beyond the cacophony of Sulphur-crested cockatoos and kookaburras, you may have heard the scratching of pen nibs and the shared laughter from a writing retreat at Karma Kinglake.
The Busybird Publishing Winter Solstice Writing Retreat had been booked, and places filled, months in advance. But with the unpredictable curves and turns of the pandemic, Melbourne was sent into another lockdown only weeks before, and we were all left waiting, sharpening our quills, hoping that restrictions would be lifted in time.
As this is a review of the weekend, there will be no further suspense. Two days before we were due to gather, the retreat was given the green light.
Eleven participants gathered in the forest surrounds of Karma Kinglake, an accommodation and meeting centre as calming as its forest setting. While I initially felt a little adrift and unsure what to expect, the group came together as a flotilla. Boats of all types and all ages converging from our many different ports. Discussing why we write, it transpired that the reasons we write can be as diverse as our styles of writing, and none are trivial or insignificant. Our tutor and mentor for the weekend, Blaise van Hecke, the Book Chick ensured we all sailed in the same direction. Whether novices or published authors, she asserted that if we write, we are writers. We were all at different stages, and that was part of the pleasure of the weekend.
While our writing souls were nurtured by words of wisdom, support and companionship, our stomachs were sustained by the excellent meals supplied by Steve and Nicole at Karma Kinglake, and with ever-available snacks in the classroom. Frequent breaks gave time to reflect, and Saturday incorporated an extended period for our own activities, walking or sleeping or writing (it was a retreat focused on writing, after all), or individual time to speak with Blaise to explore our specific interests.
Over three days Blaise led us through essential elements of writing: voice, metaphor, structure and more. With her experience and expertise in writing, publishing and all steps between and beyond, Blaise gave us a solid grounding in writing anything from a novel to poetry. Writing exercises interspersed throughout pushed our creativity. I was challenged by some unfamiliar topics, but exercises and feedback showed that creativity can appear if given a gateway.
A timetable gave the sessions a structure and time to absorb the information, but left enough fluidity to follow any tangent of writing that emerged in our discussions. Part of the joy and the journey in the weekend was in the shared ideas and differing points of view. Through workshopping our written pieces, or discussing points raised in the sessions, participants shared their feedback generously, and sparked new ideas for future play.
The weekend became an embodiment of much that I had been missing through the restrictions in Melbourne over more than a year. It had offered a place to relax, time to learn and space to reflect. While learning is possible, and has become more common, by remote connection, nothing can match the benefits of learning in the proximity of others. Talking with people through a computer screen, though useful in its own way, cannot match the value of immediate feedback, of side-conversations over cake, and of connecting with fellow humans in real time and in real life.
As morning mists gave way to sunlit afternoons, the boats continued to navigate the waters. Some drifted momentarily. Some were fleetingly caught in a patch of turbulence. But all came together to sail in formation. By the end of Sunday, each would now sail for a different destination, but for each, their destination was now in much clearer view.
– Holly Buykx (writer & retreat attendee)
June 23, 2021
When editing, the line between improving and erasing authorial voice can be thin. An editor may find themselves curling their lip at an author’s prose, wanting to delete and start the manuscript over. The editor must set at least some of these feelings aside, remembering that they are there to improve, not to completely transform a work. As much as the editor may feel as though they are pulling teeth, the author must still be present in their work.
Failure to do this results in situations like the curious case of Raymond Carver and Gordon Lish. This is one of the most famous and most controversial author-editor relationships, with Lish often being viewed as having taken Carver’s core ideas for a story and simply rewritten them as he wanted them to be. To the betterment of the work, some may argue. Never is this more apparent than in the (in some ways positive) editorial hijacking of Carver’s Beginners, which was published as Lish’s (masquerading as Carver) What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.
When viewing Carver’s original Beginners (published in the New Yorker, 2007), a reader can see Lish successfully trimmed Carver’s elongated prose into something sharper and more impactful by deleting extraneous details. For example, Terri’s overdetermined backstory is scrapped, allowing for more natural character development throughout the story. Carver had a tendency to overdetermine basic details, such as ‘leaned on the back legs of his chair’ versus Lish’s ‘tilted his chair back’. These lengthy explanations robbed the prose of mystery and blunted the reader’s interest, as no real effort was required by the reader to engage with plot or characters.
This is exacerbated by Carver’s occasionally cumbersome style that disrupted the rhythm of the prose, such as the opening of ‘My friend Herb McGinnis, a cardiologist, was talking’ altered to become ‘My friend Mel was talking’. Furthermore, Lish’s deletion of character moments such as the ‘vassal’ conversation erased discrepancies in characterisation, creating solider, more relatable presences in the narrative. Lish’s alterations to the meandering prose rhythm to something more staccato succeeded in making the story more literary, but sacrifices Carver’s voice in the process.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, for better or worse,is a case study in an editor overstepping intellectual boundaries and ostensibly hijacking an author’s work. This is seen through unnecessary alterations littered throughout the edited work, such as Carver’s ‘Well Nick and I are in love’ versus Lish’s ‘Well Nick and I know what love is’. In this example, Lish has changed Laura’s characterisation, detracting from Carver’s core vision of the story and inserting his own narrative into the work. The hijacking is perhaps most apparent in Lish changing ‘Herb’ to ‘Mel’, and changing this pivotal character into a more hyper-masculine individual that reflected what was trendy at the time of publication.
In his edits, Lish seems intent on muzzling the raw emotion coming from the characters. This rids the story of its soap-opera like quality, which cannot be emphatically labelled a good or a bad thing. Many critics argue the jettisoning of the highly dramatic final three pages of Beginners was a blessing for the story, but others argue that it erased the self-aware and ponderous nature of the work. The changes made all served to change the meandering and near nihilistic tone of Beginners, with the deletion of Carver’s writing style transforming the piece into a sharp Gordon Lish work. Even though there was successful streamlining in the edits, the lines of the creative process were crossed and it seemed as though the author lost control of his story.
The editor is present in the creation of a piece of writing to help streamline a piece and occasionally reign in the author. It is vital that they remember that the author’s voice must be preserved, or risk the author feeling as though they were robbed of their creative property. As Carver said in regard to Lish’s edits to the Paris Review after the publication of Cathedral, “In a review of the last book, somebody called me a minimalist writer. The reviewer meant it as a compliment. But I didn’t like it.”
Michaela Harden – publishing intern
June 8, 2021
Your first reaction to the word is probably apathy or disgust. Fan fiction has a bit of reputation, and the writing of it isn’t particularly celebrated – for good reason.
I write this, not to convince you that fan fiction is respectable, but to explain what fan fiction is (and can be) and why exactly authors are so wary of it.
A lot of people don’t really look past the surface of what fan fiction is. It’s easily dismissed on the premise that it is based off some other work – and often because of its generally female audience. Fan fiction is when a person decides to displace a character, idea, or overall plot, and make their own story.
Want to see the two protagonists as rivals instead of lovers? Maybe the antagonist wins that climatic fight? Perhaps a medieval setting for our modern-day characters, and vice versa, or even a fluffy crack piece that doesn’t add or take away anything from the original work.
Some fan fiction can become extremely good quality, working in universes that have been proven to work. Some are on the level of the original, or better. Some can be up to 4,000,000 words (that’s 20 times the number of words in J. K. Rowling’s, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows), while others can be short poems or introspective character studies.
Sure, some are really lame, and I won’t deny that some of them are also just written so the writer can see two characters have sex. But it doesn’t just have to be a 4,000-word piece about a relationship.
One of the biggest differences between making your own original work, and writing fan fiction, is that fan fiction already has a ‘hook’. People are already interested in the concept – they are, after all, reading fan fiction for a pre-existing narrative universe. So the writer does not need to introduce or endorse the characters to the reader.
There’re countless different ways to explore a piece. It doesn’t even need to be written. I’ve seen plenty of fan-art and even comics. There are websites including Wattpad, Archive of Our Own and Fanfiction.net, where people can freely upload their works, but fan-art can also be found on Tumblr and DeviantArt. Online, it becomes immensely easy to post work, and potentially undermine the original author’s intentions.
This is where copyright, and issue of legality comes in.
Put short, fan fiction is illegal.
There are only three legal outlets of taking ideas from another work: fair use (educational or critical), parody or with permission. And while some fan fiction is indeed satire, the vast majority treads a dangerous line.
Luckily, most authors will not get very involved in fan fiction hubs. For one, opinions between authors are a bit divided on it. Some, like Kristin Cashore (author of Graceling) and J. K. Rowling find fan fiction flattering. It is a sign that people love their work.
However, others like Raymond Feist (The Riftwar Cycle series) and George R. R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire) highly discourage it. This is mainly to protect their copyright, and some authors can and will resort to a cease-and-desist order to maintain it. Why? Well, here’s a case study.
Marion Zimmer Bradley, author of the Darkover series encouraged fan fiction of her work, reading their work and publishing their stories in an anthology. However, Bradley was dropped by her publisher after a fan threatened to sue her proposed Darkover continuation, Contraband. It was too similar to what the fan had sent her. To this day, it has never made the shelves.
Fan fiction and the original author should never interact, simply just to keep their intellectual property. Most of the time, when an author doesn’t want you writing about their stuff, it’s not personal.
But that’s not to dismiss a general dislike for fan fiction. As some authors have said, it is immoral – theft of their work. They don’t want people controlling the characters and ideas they have developed.
It should be noted that fan fiction writers can all be sued if pursued.
However, it usually is not worth the effort. After all, J. K. Rowling (if she didn’t want people to write fan fiction that is) would have to chase up over 800,000 separate pieces on FanFiction.net alone. In the rare few cases that it has happened, it was mainly due to the published work competing with the original work in the market (or otherwise having any economic value) or affecting the author’s ability to continue creating content.
If you’re a closet fan fiction writer who wants to go professional, then you need to be able to separate your story from its fan fiction roots. For instance, Fifty Shades of Grey writer, E. L. James and writers Christina Lauren and Lauren Billings (under the combined penname of Christina Lauren) all started writing fan fiction within the Twilight fandom but changed names and ideas and then branched out.
Your work needs to be transformative enough that it still has a story when you knock down the original content it was based off. So overall, if you want to write fan fiction, most of the time, go right ahead! But always remember to respect the author and their decisions. If you want to publish, revise, revise, revise! Make it your own work in its entirety.
And keep writing!
Adelle Xue – publishing intern
May 18, 2021
Grammar is confusing. That was my first thought in my editing class at university, and now it’s pretty much my mantra.
Every editing class I attended was like unlearning all the things I learnt at school – things that I thought were grammatical rules and if I broke them the grammar police would lock me up for treason. I learnt that you don’t always have to say my friend and I, contrary to what my primary school teachers taught me. Depending on the sentence, my friend and me is acceptable too. I learnt that you can split an infinitive (sorry, Strunk and White). And that the world won’t explode if you end a sentence with a preposition. Anyway, we’ve got things to get on with. (See what I did there?)
Today I wanted to write about gerunds. Specifically, using possessives with gerunds. Before I started my degree in professional writing and editing, I had no idea what a gerund was.
Here’s how Grammar Girl describes them:
You can usually spot these cheeky gerunds by looking for words ending in -ing. All gerunds end in -ing, but not every -ing word you see is a gerund. Sometimes, an -ing word is a participle instead. Ah, grammar, you’re a cruel mistress.
So, how do we spot gerunds?
I like to think of a verb going to a costume party, dressing up as a noun. Let’s have a look at an example:
I like swimming.
I am swimming away from the shark.
In the first example, ‘swimming’ is acting as a noun. Gerund!
In the second, ‘swimming’ is still a part of the verb. It helps to complete the action.
A good tactic to use is the noun test. If you can swap out the verb-noun imposter for a regular noun, it’s a gerund or a gerund phrase. Let’s try it with the examples above, using the noun ‘pants’:
I like pants.
I am pants away from the shark.
Okay, great. Gerunds. Got it.
Now, what about the rule on using a possessive with a gerund? To simplify it: nouns often naturally team with possessives. Whenever we mean ‘the x of y’, we can naturally rephrase that as possessive: ‘y’s x’.
I admire the cat of my sister.
I admire my sister’s cat.
The same goes for gerunds.
I admire the singing of my sister.
I admire my sister’s singing.
‘Singing’ is being used as a noun here. It’s a gerund, and it belongs to ‘my sister’ – so we use a possessive to indicate this. I feel it’s necessary to mention here that this is all down to style. Sometimes you’ll see a gerund without a possessive:
- I’m tired of my sister’s swimming.
- I’m tired of my sister swimming.
The second example isn’t wrong, and it certainly has its use. As the world moves to favour more colloquial language, the second example pops up more and more often. So please, don’t go correcting people’s gerunds on Facebook. Still, it’s good to be aware of this stuff so you can make choices in your writing. Want to write a fancy, primp and proper sounding character? You could always throw a few possessive gerunds in their dialogue for some extra spice. If you’re writing a YA novel, don’t be afraid to throw those possessives to the wind.
To end my grammar lesson, I’d like to use my favourite example of a man who knows his possessive + gerund equation better than us all.
Yep, Fagin from Oliver Twist.
There’s a scene where Fagin instructs Oliver to pick a handkerchief from his pocket using his deft little fingers. Right before launching into song, Fagin instructs him, ‘See if you can take it from me without my noticing.’
A lovely use of possessive with gerund. Perhaps Fagin should have become an editor. Oliver Twist would’ve been a very different story if Fagin ran a publishing house instead of a band of junior thieves.
Fagin after being interrupted editing some possessive gerund issues, probably. Source: BritishTheatre.com
Katrina Burge – Publishing Intern
May 4, 2021
Is listening to a book the same as reading it?
No, not quite.
Does it mean it hasn’t really been ‘read’?
No, I wouldn’t say that either.
I am one of 55 million who reportedly consume at least one audiobook a year. In fact, I listened to six. It’s an industry that, like it’s podcasting counterpart, has boomed in recent years, and rather more so since the global pandemic that kept a lot of us inside our homes for a large part of 2020.
Despite the growth of the industry and its rising popularity, enjoying audiobooks can be a polarising concept. The ‘great reading debate’, which discusses the legitimacy of consuming books in this format, argues that the two are not the same, often accompanied with disdain for the audio counterpart. This attitude is demonstrated mostly by ‘traditional’ print-copy readers, often the same individuals who take umbrage with the steady rise of the e-book and wish to preserve the original art of reading and storytelling.
If you really consider human history, the audiobook may be the closest to replicating the earliest forms of storytelling and have a rightful place in the book publishing market. Visual and oral storytelling were our first forms of communication, and tales of life, hunting and rituals were our first ‘stories’ back before 30,000 BC. It is hard to deliberate on the first ‘printed’ form of stories. When does a symbol more closely represent a written word than an image? The Egyptian hieroglyphs come to mind here. The distinction between depictions of stories in a physical form makes it hard to determine when the first story was written. What can be sure though, is that audio consumption is by no means a new concept in the experience of stories.
I get it, though. Listening to an audiobook is not for everyone. I had a great deal of trouble incorporating audiobooks to my metaphorical bookshelf. It’s not easy to hear the narration of a novel if you’re so used to your own internal vocalisation of text in your head. That, and the absence of a physical copy to hold and turn each page are not easy things to forget.
So what are the favourable factors then?
Today you would be hard-pressed to find a novel that doesn’t have an audiobook version, and for good reason. Audiobook production has seen a similar boom as e-books, increasingly expanding as we head in a more digitally orientated direction. Similarly, the extent of podcasts has been an encouraging factor for the audiobook industry as the popularity of the format increases.
There are many benefits to an audiobook that account for this emerging popularity. For one, the hands-free practicality of audio narration sings to my multi-tasking sensibility and I’m sure of that in others too. Stephen Fry has followed me around the house performing menial tasks such as the hanging up of laundry and dish washing, as well as down the street to the shops, and even – after a particularly engrossing cliff-hanger – accompanied me on a morning run when I just couldn’t put him down.
There have been times that my experience of a book has been greatly added to by narration and – dare I say it – even better than reading it in a physical form. The recognition of the popularity of this format has given way to the emergence of truly captivating voice actors to adapt to the platform. I grew up with the Harry Potter audiobooks on repeat so it’s no wonder that to this day Stephen Fry comes top of my list here. Additionally, collaborations between narrators to perform with a full cast of voices is not unheard of in ‘ensemble’ novels these days. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid is an example of this, boasting the talents of Benjamin Bratt and Judy Greer among a well-rounded cast to bring an added element of personalisation to Reid’s characters.
You don’t have to take my word for it though, there are awards for this line of work. It’s called the Audie Awards and it is well worth checking out for some excellent recommendations from the past year if you wanted a guaranteed good place to start.
If memoirs or biographies are your thing then I can’t recommend considering the audiobook format more. Non-fiction and autobiographies lend themselves well to this medium. More often than not, the narration is provided by the author in these cases. After all, who better to read A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough to you than the man himself?
Audiobooks may not appeal to everyone, but they certainly have their place in the publishing industry, and rightfully so. It’s up to the individual to determine how they best and most enjoy consuming literature, whatever form that may take. Perhaps you need to hold a book in your hands and turn the page to really engage with it, perhaps you favour a more portable e-book and the flexibility that it provides. Maybe you have a headphone in your ear and prefer narration. I don’t think one experience is superior to another when it comes to appreciating the work of authors.
Even still, perhaps reading has become a hybrid mix of platforms. My bedside table could vouch for this: a Kindle, a tall stack of novels, and headphones dominating the surface space. I think variety is important and anything that keeps us reading and supporting the work of authors and publishers, well that’s even better.
Emma Fuelling – Publishing Intern
March 9, 2021
Not quite the ceremonious circling of people, stereotypically women; tea in hand, books on lap, a patchwork of cardigans encircling their way around the coffee table in hues of reds and whites – although it certainly can be this, who’s to say otherwise – but a wonderful opportunity for different minds to connect together over new and different texts. Book clubs are a fantastic way to not only read books outside of your own choosing, but to experience the book outside of your own reading, interpret things in new ways and learn what parts of the text grabbed some of your peers but not others.
For just over a year I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of an amazing group of young women, strung together from various parts of life (school, university, work, siblings, etc), and brought together through a shared love or shared interest in developing their love of reading. The concept is simple: each of us host a different month of the year and we all read the book of the host’s choosing, coming together on a preselected date to discuss, debate, sometimes even rival over that very book’s content.
With a collection of very different personalities and interests, the books I have read in the last year have been of varying tastes and types, ranging from biographies to prose poems to young adult fiction. However, the best discussions have always come from the books that have sparked the most general dislike over characters, themes or just the general plot.
But why read a book you didn’t enjoy?
Because the promise of discussion can almost always change your opinion. On the way to our last month’s gathering, a group member happily claimed that she always left book club feeling completely different about the book we had just read. While your overall take on the book may remain unchanged, hearing multiple other voices share their reading of a book, which you have all recently completed, provides opportunity to engage in the book in a way that wouldn’t happen if you were reading for private enjoyment.
Reading for book club and reading for self, have become two different practices of reading. There’s the obvious challenge of working towards finishing a book you are uncertain about, but there is also the increased opportunity to broaden the way you think and approach your choice in literature, in the future. We tend to read a lot of contemporary writers in our group and it’s a rewarding way to engage in current book markets and even support local writers and book shops, with the promise of a group of us contributing by purchasing a books.
In fact, this has been a widely discussed topic in our book club, especially as we navigated the year in lockdown. Our approach to book club changed significantly, lockdown laws affecting not only the way that we saw each other, but also the way that we purchased books. With delivery considerably impacted, especially with purchases made from cheaper online bookstores such as Book Depository, we were able to discuss how we can better purchase in the future, moving towards supporting our local stores.
In this sense, there’s more to book clubs than just reading a book each month and popping in somewhere to talk about it. It’s also a safe place to share ideas, developments, even reading material outside of the club’s choosing.
Erin Lyon – publishing intern
November 16, 2020
A few months ago, while walking a six-kilometre loop with my husband, Kev and Labrador, Oscar, a father and his two sons whizzed past us on their bikes. They were calling directions out to each other – let’s go down this dirt track – and I wondered if this was a usual activity for them or something born out of social isolation and the fact that we are not allowed more than five kilometres from our homes and only for two hours at a time.
As I looked ahead, and behind us, there were many family groups either walking or riding bikes, some little people on scooters. It’s been like this for months, even during the coldest of winter days.
This is a positive outcome of a global pandemic. Families forced together, hopefully reconnecting. I moved to the future for those two young boys and I’m sure they will have good memories about days like this, hanging out with Dad, just like Dad might too. Special memories.
Family ties. This is what we are getting, what we are being reminded of, as we battle against a silent, invisible and so-called deadly enemy.
When the pandemic first became part of our life in March this year, I saw it as an opportunity to work on some writing projects that I had been neglecting. And I did. I proofed and amended my novel, getting it to the stage of review. I printed ten bound copies and started fielding possible readers. I felt accomplished and patted myself on the back.
As time went on and we got deeper into life in ‘isolation’, the anxiety about the future began to creep in. I was declaring, ‘Write your book!’ while in lockdown but for many people stress was overtaking them. It began to happen to me. Our income halved and we wondered what the future held for us. Sleep became restless and I took on the collective anxiety that was being expressed all around me and on social media to the point where I felt exhausted and all creative energy was zapped. I watched more Netflix, ate more food and worried about my family and friends, the whole world even.
My friends declared that all their creative juices had dried up along with loss of income. Some had to home-school their children, something many felt ill-equipped to do. Some had to do this while also working a full-time job at home. I stopped harping on about writing and being creative in lockdown because it felt unhelpful.
I was not writing or reading and nothing excited me. I felt hemmed in and fearful, then angry at the situation. I wondered how people who weren’t resilient were coping. Would they bounce back from this? Stories emerged of young fathers taking their own lives and domestic violence soaring – not everyone was managing to reconnect in a positive way.
My usual sunny disposition was being rained on. I wasn’t so worried about myself. I was worried about ‘the world’. I was worried about all the lonely people who needed company and assurance that everything would be okay. I was worried about the decisions that our leaders were making. Were they the right ones? How much damage was being done unknowingly?
I tried to think about the things that I could do for myself to stay strong because if we don’t look after ourselves, we are no use to anyone.
I tried to think of ways to help others. Not easy when we weren’t allowed to see people or travel further than five kilometres from home. I offered help to anyone local who might need it. This was well-received but no one actually took me up on my offers. I wanted to feel useful.
I was forced to go inward. What could I do to help myself? I looked for books to read that I could escape into and I turned to my trusty journal. I started to vent daily for ten to fifteen minutes each day, a practice of old that I’d long forsaken.
Almost instantly, I could not stop writing. I could not stop the words flowing. You would think, with life so reduced by restrictions that I’d have very little to say but I couldn’t stop. I wrote and wrote and wrote.
I ranted and raged about what was happening in the world, recorded my day and gave gratitude for what I did have – food, shelter, work, a loving family that was safe and well. There was so much to write about for all of them.
With this daily ritual, came a flow of ideas, an opening up. I started working on other projects and sketching on paper, a challenge that I’d set for myself for a visual project. It came to a point where I looked forward to these fifteen minutes every day, my time of solitude where I connected with myself at my teeny little foldout desk looking out across my wild garden with the birds chirping away. I was reconnecting with myself.
Blaise, the book chick
September 10, 2020
This week, I’ve had a few conversations about art and the value of it. For many people it feels indulgent to create art if there is no end goal (i.e. monetary payoff) and then there is the question of how to price something (in this case it was a comparison of three paintings worth thousands of dollars and which was worth more than the other).
This got me thinking about value because one of the biggest barriers to people creating written material is the idea of spending two, five or even ten years on a project that may never get read, let alone published.
I’m all for making money from writing, in fact I make a living from it in various forms (writing, publishing, coaching) but there is a benefit to it that far outweighs the money – the health benefits.
If we think about the three areas of life that are most important to health – mind, body and spirit – writing can improve all three.
Writing keeps your mind sharp. You know that old saying, use it or lose it? Writing, even if it’s simply to write in your journal, will boost your memory and comprehension and also increase your capacity for working memory. You could equate it to going to the gym for your brain. Aside from better brain function, writing will boost your mood and create better mental health.
You could say that sitting at the desk hunched over computer or notebook is bad for you physically (yes, it is) but writing lowers your stress levels and we all know what stress does to us physically. If you don’t, go do some research. If you can reduce your stress levels, you will improve your immunity to disease.
It’s very easy to become spiritually bereft if our life is all about working to put food on the table. Writing, or any creative outlet, nourishes our spirit. It’s a form of play that allows us to forget about a stressful life for a while and reconnect with ourselves.
I’m no scientist and I haven’t delved deeply into the facts and figures but this is what I’ve learned from my own writing practice and from talking to countless people about it over many years. For some, writing has saved their life. This is worth much more than any dollar value.
If you spend just ten minutes a day writing in your journal or working on a writing project, you will notice the improvements to your life very quickly. I liken it to a form of meditation, something I do for myself when so much of my time is devoted to other people. If you can steal another ten minutes on top of this, all the better!
I’m always happy to connect with people who would like to delve deeper into their writing practice. You can email me here.
Blaise the book chick
*As an aside, reading is equally beneficial and goes hand-in-hand with writing.
August 27, 2020
It’s well known that word of mouth is the best way to sell books. In fact, it’s the best way to sell anything. To create word of mouth, you and your book need to be visible in as many areas as possible. Some do involve you being on camera but there are ways around that if you absolutely can’t do it.
Create a list of the kinds of activities you do feel comfortable with and then make a four-week plan for implementation. Promotion should be a regular activity if you want your book to do well. Remember that you have written a book, this means you have a ton of content right in front of you that you can repurpose in many ways such as extracts, educational snippets, fun facts and teasers.
- Create a website. This is your shopfront and the ONLY place you have control over online.
- Create a YouTube channel to share videos relating to you and your book(s).
- Create a list of popular hashtags that are relevant to your genre for social media.
- Search these hashtags on social media and engage in 10-15 posts.
- Join 2 reader Facebook groups – engage in the group at least once a week.
- Share posts about your book on social media.
- Create a trailer for your book (this doesn’t have to be Hollywood quality).
- Video yourself 9or someone else) reading an excerpt from the book, post it to YouTube and share on social media and your website.
- Create a giveaway and ask people to share on social media in order to go in the draw.
- Send an email to your list sharing any of the above.
- Create a profile on GoodReads.
- Engage in posts on GoodReads to build your community.
- Once your book is published, claim your book on GoodReads as the author.
- Ask people to post reviews for your book on GoodReads.
- Have a one-week promotion of your book at a lower price.
- Create a one-page info sheet to send to media, bookstores, libraries.
- Create some visuals to post on social media that entice people to want to know more about your book.
- Give away 5 copies of your book in exchange for reviews.
- Create printed promotional materials such as bookmarks, flyers, posters or a pull-up banner.
- Start a blog to share your writing process or background information about your book such as characters in fiction or your experience for non-fiction.
- Look for opportunities to be a guest on a podcasting show.
- Team up with other writers to cross promote.
- Contact libraries to offer yourself to do an author talk.
- Contact your local newspaper with a media release for a profile (they love supporting local authors).
- Attend an open mic night or business marketing group to share your book and make connections.
Put aside 1-2 hours per week for a list of activities around promotion so you aren’t overwhelmed.
Each month at Busybird Publishing, we have a one-hour Publish for Profit session where we talk about writing, publishing and promotion of books. Feel free to join this free zoom session on the first of each month 8-9pm (AEST).
We also run a monthly open mic night on the third Wednesday of each month, also run via Zoom (7.30-9pm AEST) while we aren’t allowed to meet in person.
Blaise the book chick
August 12, 2020
Self-help books are big at the moment. Let’s face it, the world feels a little broken and everyone is looking for a quick fix. Most notable is the fact that we have everything and yet there are so many unhappy people who can’t understand where they went wrong.
This means that there is a big market for self-help. You just need to name a problem and promise a solution. Easy, right? It is actually easy but so many people get it wrong. Here are some pitfalls to avoid in order to get your book into reader’s hands.
You might have a ton of experience over a number of different things because of your life experience. It might be certain business skills, wellbeing tricks you’ve learned and you may have survived cancer thanks to a variety of tools you have acquired. This doesn’t mean that your whole life experience needs to go into your book. You may actually have two or three books worth of content. Be focused about what your book is about.
Too much story
If you have focused what your book is about, this hopefully won’t be an issue but there is a tendency with many, many authors to put everything they know into the book. Before you know it, you have written 100,000 words. No one will want to read it because ‘quick fix’ is what they want.
Overuse of ‘I’
Don’ be a Donald Trump. While you may be talking about the wealth of experience that you have, make sure you are relatable to the reader. Show them how they can benefit from this book. Use ‘you’ and ‘our’ more than ‘I’ unless you are relating an actual anecdote to demonstrate a point.
Don’t make promises to the reader about how this book will solve their problems, but not show them how. It will just make them irate. Show them a problem, along with the how to fix it. This means giving clear instructions that go from A to B showing the reader how they can help themselves fix things. Hence the term Self-Help book.
A flooded market
Once you have focused on what you want to write about make sure you check out other books on the market to ensure you aren’t reinventing the wheel. Going to Amazon or GoodReads is a good start. Think of some tag words that people might use to find your book and see what comes up. You may see lots of similar books. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write yours but if you do, think about what your point of difference is.
There are of course many other aspects to writing your book to consider but these are the most common that I see. If you are really serious about writing a book, I will be running an online 3-hour workshop. Check it out here. Or, if you are ready to publish, check out my book here.
Blaise, the book chick
June 10, 2020
There are many reasons why you might write about your life. You may have had an adventurous journey that people will be interested in reading about, or you have overcome trauma and come out of it stronger and happier than ever with a lot of great experience to pass on to someone else. It might just be a bucket list item or you want to leave a legacy for your children. Whatever the reason, you’ll find this expedition rewarding in many ways.
The most common hurdles that I come across when working with people writing their story are not knowing where to start and thinking they don’t know how to write. Like anything, when you break it down it becomes less of a daunting task.
By tapping into your emotions, you will draw deeper into your story. I call this writing from the heart. This takes courage. For some writers, they are not ready to ‘go there’ yet. The event they’re writing about may be too recent and will present them with too-raw emotions. Even events from far back in your past can bring up emotions that you haven’t dealt with properly or you may not realise there are emotions attached to them.
How do you tap into these emotions?
Write it out!
There are a number of writing exercises that you can try but one that I use often with workshop participants is this: Write a letter of gratitude.
Pick someone from your life (past, present, dead or alive) who has had an impact on your life. This influence can be positive or negative. This is one of those exercises that can go anywhere depending on the choice you make. The idea is to thank this person for what they brought to your life. How fully are you going to turn that tap? The more water you let out, the more emotions will flow. If emotions don’t come, think about what you’re writing about or the person you’ve chosen. Are you playing it safe?
Once you’ve made your choice, sit with it for a minute or so and think about this person from all angles. Write a few specific words. How does this person make you feel? Angry, sad, nostalgic, frustrated, happy? Don’t over think this because it should be as free flowing as possible. Remember the tap, the free-flowing water. Writing will be like this if you don’t overthink it.
Now set your watch to ten minutes and write your letter.
When the timer goes off you may still have more to write. That’s okay. This is an exercise to get you going. You may or may not use this in your story but with practice, you will learn how to switch it on. It takes courage to open yourself fully and write authentically. You need to do this if you want to connect with your reader. Don’t be an old, rusty tap.
Try this exercise a few times, thanking a different person. Why not write one to yourself or your pet?
If you need help to get started on your life writing, we can help you through our online workshop this coming Saturday. Check it out here.
Blaise the book chick
May 27, 2020
Do you know your publishing opportunities? It’s all very well to write something and think it will be published just because you wish it so. The more publishing history you have, the more chances are that your story will be wanted by a publisher. There are so many options and to get the best outcome for your story, you should look at what your options are.
No matter what you are writing – essay, short story, novel or memoir – there’s bound to be a writing competition that will suit you. The great things about competitions are that there is usually prize money and if you win your story will be published. Don’t enter if publication isn’t part of the competition. Another reason to enter a competition is that it will give you a goal to complete your story by the deadline of the competition, and to make it as good as you can.
There are often call outs from magazines (print and digital) for articles or short stories on specific topics. It’s worth a look on Google to see what’s out there. Be mindful of word counts for these as they are strict and need to adhere to space, hence the word limit.
There are lots of anthologies out in the marketplace that publish short stories and articles. Again, it’s a matter of researching what is out there. Some anthologies ask you to contribute to the cost of publication, others will pay you. Avoid paying to publish if they ask you to pay for a large quantity of books. Always, when paying to publish, look at the fine print and look for negative reviews about the publication.
We have a very strong small press industry in Australia. To find out more about some of these publishers, check out the Small Press Network (SPN). We’re members of this fabulous group. Small Press publishers don’t have the overheads of some of the big publishers and so are not as risk averse. There may be an opportunity for you to be published by one of them.
Of course, we’d all love to land a contract with Hachette or Penguin or Allen & Unwin but it’s a waiting game and very few people actually get a contract, (around 2% of submissions). Again, it’s about knowing the market and looking out for opportunities. At the moment, Allen & Unwin have re-opened their Friday Pitch, so check that out if you are writing adult fiction, non-fiction or illustrated books.
Of course, you can take matters into your own hands and self-publish. But only do this if you are willing to do the work to make it a great product. Treat it like a business. You will need to invest money but please don’t take out a second mortgage on your house. Publishing your book won’t cost that much if you do it right. And don’t do it if you are wanting to publish a best-seller. No one can predict a best-seller. To date we have worked with over 500 people to self-publish and the overwhelming feeling is that it is fun and rewarding.
So, where do you find out about all of these opportunities? Often libraries have information but there are writers’ centres in most states that you can become a member of (recommended) and they will tell you about lots of what has been mentioned above.
We often run competitions and publish books that are either author contributed or we pay for the story. It depends on funding and the publishing situation. Our latest competition opens next Monday 1 June. Check it out here. We’ll also be opening our short story anthology on 1 September, where we pay for the story.
Get educated and learn how the publishing industry works. This is one of our missions, to educate writers about writing, publishing and their Intellectual Rights/Property.
Go forth and publish!
Blaise the book chick
May 13, 2020
Are you looking for ways to publish your book? Does it feel like a minefield and you’ve heard lots of horror stories? Do your homework and it will be anxiety free, successful and fun! Here are some questions to ask a prospective publisher:
Do you charge any fees to publish?
If there are charges, the publisher is providing publishing services and is NOT a traditional publisher.
Do you provide a quotation for the services you provide?
When investing any sum of money, you should know exactly what you’re paying for so that there are no surprises at the end of the project.
Do you use qualified editors?
There is a big difference between a professional book editor and someone who is just good at spelling and grammar.
What is involved in the editing?
You need to determine what kind of editing you need. The publisher should be able to help you do this, based on the outcome that you want and the state of the manuscript as it stands. At a minimum, an editor will clean up the copy for spelling and grammar but also look for consistency in voice, flow of sentences, copyright issues, legal issues and overall professionalism of the text.
Do you use experienced book designers?
The book cover is a vital part of the marketing of your book. This is not somewhere that you should be blasé about how it looks. A boring, badly designed cover could be the difference between failure and success of the book because it is the first impression.
Do you project manage the book tasks?
Every book is unique, even if the topic isn’t. There should be discussion about how the project runs and who takes care of what. Ideally, the publisher should take care of the logistics of the different tasks of the project so that the client can concentrate on marketing.
Do you take care of the ISBN, barcodes and library deposits?
To publish a book, you don’t have to have an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) but it is highly recommended if you want to sell online or through bookstores. When you register and ISBN, the book becomes a legal document and a copy of it must be deposited with the library in your state as well as the National library of Australia (please check requirements for your own country).
Do you retain any rights to my book?
If you are talking to a traditional publisher, they borrow your copyright for the duration of the contract but never actually own it. If you are self-publishing, you should have full control of your copyright at all times, as well as full control of the whole project.
Do you help sell the books?
This is an important question and you need to know this from the start. Some publishers will give guidance, others will charge a fee and others offer no marketing at all. There is no right or wrong, you just need to know for your own planning.
Do you take a royalty from the sales of the book?
Another important question because this is where you work out what your ROI is for your book project. If the publisher is helping you to sell the book, it’s fair that they ask for something in return for the time, like a commission or a set fee. If they aren’t selling it for you, they have no right to claim a royalty or fee.
Do I have full copyright of my book?
This should be spelled out in the agreement between you and the publisher. No matter what, you always own the copyright of your work but there may be a period of time that the publisher borrows the copyright for a term of the contract.
Do I have full control over the look and feel of my book?
Again, this depends on your agreement. If being traditionally published, they pay for everything, so it’s reasonable that they also control these aspects of the book. If you’re paying, you must have full control of everything. Publishers can of course give advice but it’s up to you to decide what to follow.
How long will it take to publish the book?
This does depend on a few things. Traditional publishing can take up to two years before books are in stores. Self-publishing, on average, is around three months.
Can you help get the book into bookstores?
Traditional publishers will be doing this as part of the project and will cover all costs. If self-publishing, there are a variety of ways to make this happen: by contacting bookstores yourself, using a book distributor or having global distribution by using a print on demand system.
I want a bestseller. Can you help with that?
No one can promise you a bestseller. You can cheat the algorithms on Amazon with an ebook by selling a handful of books and get a bestselling status but everyone knows it’s not really a bestseller and bookstores will refuse to stock your book if it has an Amazon #1 sticker on it. The big publishers can’t predict a bestseller. They can hope a certain book is one but in the end, only a small percentage will be. Concentrate on creating a fantastic book that everyone wants to read.
How much does it cost to self-publish a book?
How long is a piece of string? For a traditional publisher, their budget might be $50,000 AUS (they pay) but if you’re self-publishing it can cost as little as $2000 or as much as $20,000 depending on the scope of your project and the outcome you desire. Factors to account for are the publishing components like editing and design but also printing and promotion.
This list can be downloaded from our ‘freebies‘ page.
Blaise the book chick
April 29, 2020
How are you? Climbing the walls? Languishing in the depths of a cosy couch with a book or Netflix? Writing your book with gusto? Feeling guilty because you have not written anything? Not. One. Single. Word?
Here’s the thing. We are at this moment turned upside down and inside out. It is the perfect time to complete projects that have been screaming at us and yet it’s all so hard – physically, financially and mentally challenging.
I live and breathe writing and publishing. I know all the excuses for not working on projects because I’ve heard them all and used them all myself. And every day this month I’ve been going live on Facebook to challenge these excuses and offer strategies to overcome them. Saying and doing are two different things, just as creativity and productivity are two unique creatures. Writing anything is two-fold.
First comes the fun, creative part
There is the initial seed of an idea, then playing around with that idea. Brainstorming, planning, thinking, talking, procrastinating, more playing, thinking, jotting down thoughts, throwing away ideas. We might do this for months before we feel like this is a serious project that should be put into some kind of digestible form.
Second comes the work, the productive part
At some stage, all that brainstorming and thinking needs to be lassoed into something. You may not exactly know how to do that but once you work it out, you really just need to sit your butt down and do the work. This can be boring, hard work and often we procrastinate and come up with all those excuses for why we shouldn’t or can’t do it.
Wherever you are in your own project right now, don’t beat yourself up about suddenly having all this time on your hands but not managing to produce the work you said you would. If you at least ‘turn up’ to your project often (more than once a week) and play with it, you are giving it energy that will keep it moving forward. Even better that you turn up daily for just ten minutes, give it some juice and make it feel loved. In this way, just like any relationship, you make it feel appreciated and it won’t leave you.
In the meantime, don’t underestimate the many things we can do to feed our own soul like cooking, gardening, walking, reading, watching Netflix to remind ourselves that we are human and need downtime when things are off-kilter. These things feed our creative core, which will help when we are at that creative stage of a project. And surprisingly, if you are turning up for your project often, it will be in your head more often and more ideas will flow to you while you’re relaxing on the couch or digging the soil.
Are you confused? Don’t I harp on about sitting down and writing that damned book? Well, yes, I do that a lot. But I also know that if you really want to write that book you will because it will keep calling you and we need to put the brakes on this ‘overnight’ thinking where we are in a hurry to do everything and suddenly we don’t know where our life went. It’s all a blur. We really do need to stop and smell the roses from time to time and be a little kinder to ourselves.
Blaise, the book chick.
April 15, 2020
Publishing a book is fun, easy and rewarding if you do it well. With a bit of homework and planning it should go smoothly. If not, it can be a disaster and cost you months of hard work and thousands of dollars. I’ve seen it happen often. Here are a few hints for a smoother project:
Rushing the content
It’s exciting to write and publish a book and you might be really keen to see it in print. But if you are investing in this book and want it to be successful once in print, take the time to ensure that the content meets the desired intention. Make sure the structure is sound, that images (if you have them) are engaging and good quality and you have obtained all permissions if you need them.
Not paying a professional editor to edit the manuscript
The most common statement we get is, ‘My sister is a schoolteacher [insert similar field] and she’s edited my book.’ Your sister may be good with words, but she isn’t a professional book editor. Editing isn’t just about good spelling and knowing where a coma goes. There are other elements to consider such as structure, style, consistency, voice, copyright and meaning. You cannot self-edit either because you are too familiar with the content and will miss too many errors. If there is only one aspect of your book project that you can afford to pay for, get it edited please! There’s nothing worse than thinking your content is good, then having it typeset and the proof-reader finds oodles of errors that need to be fixed, costing you hours of time or money through your typesetter.
Having no plan for the project
If you’ve never self-published before, do some homework or get a company like ours to project manage it for you. Publishing a book is not rocket science but it takes planning to make it run smoothly. Don’t suddenly decide that you want a book out by Christmas when it’s already October if you want to take advantage of Christmas sales. Not having a plan to roll out will just mean that you get stressed and overwhelmed, which will lead to costly mistakes.
Doing things on the cheap
At a guess, about 30 per cent of our projects are fixups. By this I mean that the client has tried to do their project on the cheap or used a cheap ‘self-publisher’ who has made a mess of it. We then need to try to make sense of it and sort it out. This can sometimes cost more than if we had started from scratch. Many times, I’ve bumped into someone who published their book elsewhere (cheaper) when I had quoted for them and they said they wished they’d gone with us. After 500 books, we should know what we’re doing!
Starting the promotion late
As soon as you know the title of your book, get a mock-up of the cover using a professional book designer. Start promotion straight away. If you’ve created a publishing plan, you should know a launch date for your book. Ideally, you can set your book up on your website with a sales button. You can start pre-selling it which will also help you determine how many to get printed when it’s ready. The more hype you can create in the lead up to the launch, the better and you can start getting a return on your investment immediately. The other advantage to these early sales is that it makes it real for you and you will keep momentum going through the publishing project.
These are the most common mistakes I see people make. If the publishing doesn’t go well, the author may feel like a failure and think of publishing as a total sham, waste of time and costly, which is a shame because it should be a positive and powerful undertaking. Check out some of our authors here.
Blaise the book chick
April 1, 2020
This is not exactly the kind of editorial that I expected to write in 2020, or any time for that matter, but life has a way of throwing unexpected things at us. We have choices. We can react, throw our arms up in despair and moan about the harshness of life, be mean to each other and worry about how our life is not ‘normal’ or we can respond by taking a step back, assessing the situation, be grateful for what we do have but also looking for the opportunities that lie within the situation.
We can learn from the humble bee. They work together for a common goal (and they work hard) and they respond to situations rather than react. They are pretty awesome creatures and our own survival is tied closely to theirs. Here’s a great article about them if you want to massage your brain further.
I went a little off tangent there, I know, but my point is to get you thinking about the big picture. Suddenly the WHOLE world is in the same situation and yet we’re worried about having enough toilet paper (as an aside, did you know that only about 30 per cent of the world uses it?).
I don’t want to be all preachy with you but I’m excited about the possibilities that lay before us in this uncertain time. Have you noticed that in this time of uncertainty that people are turning to the Arts? Kids are out on pavements drawing chalk masterpieces, people are sharing live music online, jigsaws are being dusted off, people are writing and reading books. We’re consuming art. Can you feel me smile?
We now have no more excuses for not making art. We have glorious time (except for hospital staff and we praise their work through this, let’s make art for them to enjoy). We are stuck at home with the weather heading into winter, and our imaginations to get us through it. We have food, shelter, there are no guns raging in the streets. NO MORE EXCUSES.
So, let’s do this. Here at Busybird Publishing, we want to work with you to make art. Let’s be like bees, work together and work hard. To kick this off, I will be doing a live 10-minute video every single day of April on our Facebook page. I’m going to talk about our excuses and how to turn them around. Who knows, you might have a book written by the end of the month, or at least be a long way into a project.
Here’s a list of the excuses I hear all the time (many I’ve used myself) that I will be tackling each day:
- I don’t know what to write about
- Who am I to write a book?
- I don’t have writing skills
- I don’t have time
- I have so many ideas
- I get stuck
- I can’t spell
- People will judge me
- I have nothing to say
- I’d rather watch Big Brother
- I was crap at English at high school
- It’s a waste of time
- My partner doesn’t approve
- I have too much dark stuff to write about
- I have a partner, six kids, two dogs and a cat
- What if o one reads it?
- It’s too overwhelming
- I can’t order my thoughts
- I need inspiration
- No one understands me
- I don’t want to get sued
- I don’t know how to make it compelling
- I don’t know how to write about people
- It all comes out as waffle
- I’m no expert
- No one knows who I am, why bother?
- I don’t want anyone to steal my ideas
- I’m a one finger typist
- I have writer’s block
- I don’t know if my book is any good.
Love in the time of coronavirus
Blaise, the book chick
March 4, 2020
What makes a good blurb?
When you pick up a book at a bookstore or library, or read a blurb somewhere online, what engages you? What convinces you to open the book and scan the first page, or to take the book home with you?
The blurb is the equivalent of a movie trailer. Seen a fantastic trailer, only to find that the movie itself sucked? This is an important lesson: a good blurb or trailer can sell anything, and the whole product – whether it’s good, bad, or downright horrible – will always have enough ingredients from which to craft a compelling snapshot to hook your consumer.
The foundation of any good blurb – whether it’s for a novel or a nonfiction book – is that it’ll have a narrative thread that underpins it all and ties it all together. This is what we ride through it. However, a good blurb doesn’t let you realise you’re taking this ride. You simply become immersed in it, then want more.
Writing a good blurb is an artform. Obviously, there’s lots of different ways to write a blurb. If you’re somebody who struggles with blurbs, though, here’s a bit of a formula you can follow to get you underway …
|The vehicle which is going to take our reader on their blurb-ride is usually the protagonist of our story. Let’s use the example of The Hobbit. Bilbo Baggins is a Hobbit, a halfling who lives in the Shire, content with smoking his pipe, eating meals (and lots of them), and peace and quiet. But when the Wizard Gandalf arrives and starts talking about adventures, Bilbo’s idyllic little world is shattered. Here, we’ve introduced the protagonist, Bilbo, and his circumstances. This is important. We need to develop a visual of the character, and try to bond them with our reader. With that done, let’s get stuck into the plot. Gandalf introduces Bilbo to Thorin Oakenshield, the King of Dwarves, and his party of twelve Dwarves, who tell a tale of their kingdom, the Lonely Mountain, and their treasure, being stolen by the mighty dragon Smaug. Now the Dwarves are mounting a quest to reclaim what’s rightfully theirs, and they want Bilbo to join them. The plot itself doesn’t need to be oversold. Some plots won’t be packed with action and excitement. They might be slow boilers. Or simple family dramas. What’s important to capture here is the context: Bilbo, a contented homebody, is pitched into a quest where he seems impossibly out of his depth. That’s interesting, and this is what’s important: showing the drama that your protagonist will face. Next, let’s sum up Bilbo’s adventures, without – hopefully – giving up any specific, story-defining spoilers. Before Bilbo can pack a single thing, he’s swept out the door and faces many dangers with the Dwarves – hungry Trolls, bloodthirsty Goblins, angry, giant spiders, and other perils of the undertaking. There are enemies everywhere, and allies in unexpected places, but still waiting, at the end, is the seemingly unconquerable dragon, Smaug the Magnificent. Bilbo must find courage deep within himself that he never knew existed, but can he truly help the Dwarves reclaim their home and their treasure? Here, we’ve given up the gist of the quest, as well as the names of some of the creatures they face. But there’s no specifics – we don’t know how they escape the Trolls, Goblins, or spiders, whether anybody perishes, who does what, etc. But we see the conflict. We see some of the character growth. We see what our protagonist will face. The final paragraph usually sums up the book as a product: The Hobbit is a tale of adventure, courage and camaraderie which is sure to delight readers of all ages.||Usually, nonfiction (e.g. autobiographies, biographies, books on particular topics) can be treated like fiction. The same principle applies – just treat the subject as your protagonist who takes the reader for a ride through through the blurb. Where the blurb might differ is for something like a self-help book. You now not only have to immerse your reader, but empathise with them. Let’s say we’ve got a book about dieting. We need to establish a rapport with the reader immediately. Overweight? Open by questioning the reader. That might take the form of a single word (as it has here), a single sentence, or a paragraph full of questions. The point is to engage the reader and open a dialogue with them. They now have to answer the question(s) put forth to them. If it’s relevant to them, they will most likely read on. Then it’s time for the empathising. Do you struggle to resist sugary snacks or fatty foods? Or perhaps you stack on the kilos, despite what you eat. You’ve tried diets before, but without success. Here, hopefully, we’re getting on side with the reader. Yes, they might struggle to resist sugary snacks and fatty foods. Yes, they might stack on weight regardless of what they eat, and diets have been unsuccessful. If we’ve articulated legitimate concerns of somebody who might pick up a book like this, hopefully they’ll now be nodding their heads and thinking this book knows about their situation, is specifically talking to them, and might offer them hints that they haven’t encountered before. This is now where we sell ourselves and what the book’s about. Careful, though! We don’t want to give away the book’s secrets. Joe Blow has been a dietician for over twenty-five years, worked with thousands of patients, and has a PhD in Clinical Nutrition. Now, he’s come up with an easy 12-Step Program that’s guaranteed to see that you lose weight in three months. We’re not only selling ourselves here, but we’re also selling why we’re qualified to write about this subject. The reader has to feel they can have a reason – or reasons – to put their trust in us and, more importantly, in the book they’re now holding. The only actual allusion to the book’s content is the ’12-Step Program’. If your book has a particular formula (in this case the ’12-Step Program’), then sell it. Make no specific grandiose promises, though, e.g. You’re guaranteed to lose 25 kilograms! There’s no way you can guarantee that. The wording we’ve used here – ‘guaranteed to … lose weight in three months’ – is non-specific. Finally, as with the fiction blurb, we sum up the book: Lose Weight Quick is just what you need if you’ve tried all those other diets and failed, an easy step-by-step guide that will talk you through the process of how to lose weight and ensure you keep it off.|
Now neither of these blurbs are complete. They’re still early drafts. But they offer a framework that you can now flesh out. We can fine-tune details, as well as smooth out linkages.
Just remember, blurbs are meant to be short and concise. They’re not a report of your book. Nor should they give the content away so that it becomes redundant to read the book. Don’t waste words. A blurb sells your book. The goal is to get readers intrigued.
With practice, you should be able to blurbarize any book. The key is to find your way in. Once you do, the rest should come easily.