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.