On Being Real Rather Than Profound

July 29

I’m having a slow, sleepy, and shivering start today. It’s a cold winter Sunday. It would be tempting to stay in bed but I did that yesterday and then never made it to my computer the whole day. So, total words written on any project yesterday. ZERO! Of course, that means today is an upward battle too.

What I was planning to write yesterday was a blog post. But I find myself leaning away from blogging because it feels like something I have to manufacture. It doesn’t feel real or even particularly honest when I spend a few hours honing an article for the blog. It also isn’t efficient because it’s not really driving up the traffic of the blog. Somewhere along the line things seemed to plateau out and my sporadicity, or perhaps the sheer boringness of my most recent efforts have done nothing to garner fresh interest.

Yesterday, instead of writing I did a lot of reading. The book I’m reading at the moment is Write. Publish. Repeat by Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt. I had just started reading the chapter about blogging. Now, I’ve had a blog for many, many years now. This one, The Craft of Writing Fiction, began as Writer’s Round-About way back in 2007. That’s 7 years of blogging experience with the writing topic alone. And I’ve fluctuated content a fair bit. But lately I haven’t been updating very frequently because I’ve been feeling like I need to sound like I know what I’m talking about. I need to write things that educate and inform. But the truth is, I just haven’t been inspired to do much of that.

Any yet, most mornings, before I get stuck into the nitty gritty of writing fiction, I take a few minutes to write a journal entry. Sometimes I add to that journal throughout the day with other writing snippets and thoughts that catch me as the process continues. These are easy, because I use these journals as a way to process my thoughts and so I’m writing them regardless of audience. In fact, I have dozens of journal entries I haven’t posted to the blog. And maybe that’s the problem.

In Write. Publish. Repeat., Sean and Johnny advocate simply telling your story in a very casual and commentary way. Rather than writing an Opus, simply being honest and real with the reader can be enough to engage interest on a blog (and indeed in any reader communication be it email or social media). Being human is much more interesting than being a text book.

Now, part of me knows that’s true. The fact that A Sax Outside My Window was such a popular post for so long is testament to the interest people have in the every day magic of life. The trouble is, the other part thinks, “people don’t care”. So, more often than not I’ve not posted up my journal entries on my blog.

But, perhaps I’m doing you a disservice by not. Recently my journal posts have included my thoughts, my excitement, and my stressors about self publishing. They’re not so much educational and informative, but they are real and immediate, in the moment, thoughts about the industry. Maybe you would be interested in those. I don’t know.

No matter what I do, I think going forward, it’s important that I make an effort to post something, anything, regularly. So, sometimes it’ll be those journal entries. I’d like to still write the occasional Opus, but I’m not going to hold myself to those as if they’re the only kind of quality writing worthy of being shared on this blog. Especially since some of the time they probably aren’t particularly ground-breaking anyway.

As good intentioned as I am about writing long, educational, informative, and interesting posts, I put a lot of pressure on myself to make them excellent. Sometimes it means I put off writing them at all. For example, I’ve been meaning to write a new blog post all week. My last update was on the 23rd. That’s six days ago. It’s a long time to be waiting until I’ve finally bit the bullet and written the blog post that’s sitting in my queue. I do however have journal entries for every day except yesterday and I could have posted those.

*sighs* Now I’m just rambling. One advantage of these – clearing the throat – journal entries is I normally start it as I settle at the computer and only have ten to fifteen minutes before my 6.30am writing session. Today I blew off my 6.30am start and it’s almost 7.30am already. I need to get back on track.

So, the decision? I’ll post up my journal entries in future, in lieu of feeling like I can only post if I’ve carefully crafted something phenomenal. Hopefully, from time to time I will still have phenomenal in me, and perhaps, sometimes I might even journal something profound. Let me know if that happens. Meanwhile, at least you’ll be able to peek inside my mind as it’s churning and maybe that’ll interest some readers. If there is anything in particularly you’d like me to write about, please leave a comment below or send me an email. I’d love to answer any questions you have or share on an experience I’ve had that might interest you.

The 3 C’s of a Synergistic Writer

As writers, we often face a very solo experience when we’re writing, but it doesn’t have to be a lonely experience. Sure, we have our characters for company, but beyond that, there are three synergistic relationships for writers: community, collaboration, and commission. By incorporating these into our business model as a writer, we can stave off frustrations, depression, and inertia.


The first of the three Cs is Community. I put it first because I feel it’s the most important. I’d like to say its the only non-optional C of the three, but the truth is, even community is optional, but without it you may find you, and your writing, loses a lot of heart.

Community is a spirit you can build around yourself. It’s the gathering of like-minded individuals in a way that brings them together as a greater whole. When you find, or create, your writing community, you discover friendships and motivation that power-up your writing experience.

One of the greatest community building things I did was become a National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) Municipal Liaison (ML). This volunteer position gives me an opportunity to work within the literary industry, to specifically build a writing community. From simply attending write-ins at my local library, I met a dozen fabulous local writers. But the following year my local council librarian and I joined with three other councils in my NaNo region to create the Write Along The Highway (WATH) project. Together we brought NaNoWriMo into several libraries along the highway and expanded the writing community we were building. This year we have seven councils involved. In collaboration with a writer I met through our NaNo events I am also introducing the OzNoWriMo Young Writers Program (YWP) into local schools. Through both programs we are expecting the biggest community growth to date.

Through my role as ML I’ve had the opportunity to meet hundreds of writers across the state, and from other parts of the country and the world. I’ve also met with agents, editors, publishers, bookstore owners, and other industry experts. As the liaison I have a prominent role, but you don’t have to take on a similar role to enjoy your local community. Yes, it does supercharge your experience, but you still gain community simply by being a member within it.

Find local writers’ groups, look for local writer events, festivals and conferences, and join local notice groups that share industry information in the community. Many public libraries host a regular writers’ group for their community. Every group is different, so don’t be afraid to roam a little to find one that suits your tastes and current needs as a writer, or attend many and spread your opportunities for community a little wider. If you can’t find one that runs at a time you can attend, consider starting one, even if it’s just a regular write-in where you invite other writers in the community to join you for an hour or four of writing once a week, like I do with my Sunday Roaming Write-In.

Having a community of writers around you gives you a greater sense of your place in the world. It gives you like-minded individuals you can talk to about writing, people who really know, who understand, what it is like to be a writer. They face similar challenges and often have similar quirks, interests, and dreams.

Being around other writers who are actively writing helps fuel your motivation, it also gives you opportunities for learning through lectures and talks, and to explore new ideas, genres, styles, and techniques. By finding your writing community, you’ll make valuable friendships and exponentially empower your own writing. You might even find valuable relationships that turn into collaborative ventures.


When I first started The Flight of Torque, it was in collaboration with a friend I’d met online. I owe that book, and the three that will follow it, to him. While The Flight of Torque has very little resemblance to the ideas we initially forged together, our collaboration played a vital role in breathing life into an infant concept. It also gave me the courage and passion to push ahead with this story through the years of its ups and downs.

While that collaboration ended early, there are several writers I know who collaborate beginning to end through their projects. Their collaboration takes many different forms.

This month, I’m enjoying experiencing the collaboration of Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt as they work together on a new book. They’re doing something I think is very brave and magical. They’re bringing down the walls as they write by sharing their work every day. They record their collaborative story meetings on video, and they’re even collaborating with their community for some parts of the process. What we can see in the Fiction Unboxed project is the synergistic power of collaboration. Together, Sean and Johnny build a quality product by combining their strengths and offsetting their weaknesses inside a very healthy relationship.

In Sean and Johnny’s situation, you’ll see Sean takes the role of the primary ideas man. They both play story ideas together, but Sean takes those basic ideas and forms them into an outline that presents the story arcs. He also develops character sheets and defines the characters’ core essence for Johnny. Johnny then takes these bones and writes the first draft, he speaks directly to these characters that Sean created and from them draws out the real story that is hidden in the bones. He collaborates with Sean as the book progresses to discuss how the unfolding story is changing the outline. Sean meanwhile is keeping right on his tail, editing the pages as they’re produced each day.

One of the most powerful aspects of Sean and Johnny’s collaboration, is that when Johnny hits a snag in the writing process he can call Sean. Rather than spending hours or even days (or in my case months) trying to puzzle it out by himself, they are able to talk through the snag together in an hour and get Johnny back on track with the writing.

This isn’t the only way you can collaborate either. Sometimes, collaboration is as simple as having a very close friend to bounce around ideas. Sometimes it’s alternating scenes or chapters so you write half of the draft and your partner writes the other half (Morris Gleitzman and Paul Jennings did this with some of their books). Sometimes your collaborative partner comes in at the editing stage and is your fresh set of eyes.

For example, your pre-readers are collaborative partners. They’re invested in you and your book on a personal level and work with you to make it better. That’s what true collaboration is. They’re not in it for themselves, they’re in it for the story.


The people you commission are in it for themselves. Yes, they might be invested in your story because they value it as a product and you as a writer, (in fact I recommend only working with people who do value you and your product), but ultimately, they’re in it because working for you puts food on their table. These professionals are immensely valuable. Finding quality commission-based freelancers can significantly improve your writing and your book.

Although you do the hard slog of writing the book, you might find it makes sense to hire freelancers who specialise in particular skills in the industry. They can take on those jobs required to release your book into the waiting arms of the public.

For example, you might want to hire professional editors and proofreaders. These people focus on developing their skill with language. As the writer you can often be too close to the story to gain enough perspective to see all of its faults. I’ve been so close to my stories that I’ve completely missed seeing the word “She” when the word should have been “The”. We read what we think we wrote, rather than the words on the page. Commissioning professional editors and proofreaders gives you highly qualified eyes on your story, to help you polish it to a sparkling and professional shine.

You should definitely hire a professional cover artist unless you have exceptional artistic skills yourself. Your book’s cover is one of its first selling points. Despite the adage, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” we do. So make sure your cover design is one that will entice your target market to look a little closer and don’t be afraid to invest in this aspect of your book. It will payout tenfold.

Other professionals you might commission or that might work on a percentage of your royalties are agents, managers, and publishers. Before hiring these people understand exactly what services they’re offering and weigh up the expense against the time and energy it would take to do yourself. The same can be said for public relations and marketing experts. You can, and should, hire these people if you’d rather spend your time writing new books and don’t want to learn the grittier business-side of the industry. Having said that, understanding your business can save you a great deal of money in the long term so weigh up what you can do for yourself against the value of hiring others to do it for you.

Ultimately, every time you consider working with other writers and industry professionals you can look at how that relationship will work for you and your book. If there is potential for exponential, synergistic growth then the investment in time and money will be worth every penny. A solo writer can produce magical stories, but it’s together, through the power of We, that those words will perform to their greatest potential.

There are Author Bios, and then there are Author Bios

It occurred to me today that I need to write another author bio. I recently bit the bullet and finally rewrote my bio for 2014. I have it here on The Craft of Writing Fiction, and on The Flight of Torque website. But, as I was looking at that “author bio” page in the back of my manuscript, it occurred to me that I need to write another one.

You see, there are author bios, and then there are author bios. The bios I’ve used on the Web are changeable. I can update them as time passes. So using dated material doesn’t really matter. Every year or two I tweak the bio or, like I did recently, rewrite it completely to reflect the changing directions of my interests and my career. Having it malleable like that is fantastic because I can keep it updated to reflect who I am today.

But that little bio, the one paragraph one for the back of my book? That’s going to be in print. Immortalised. And yes, while I can ultimately update the book if I feel I need to, the author bio in printed copies will remain exactly same as when it went to print. The author bio inside the covers of the book needs to have more longevity than Web content. It needs to reflect, not just who I am today, but who I’ll be tomorrow.

So, yes. It seems I need to write another bio. And bios aren’t an easy thing to write. It can be difficult to give yourself permission to wax lyrical about yourself. When I write bios for others it is easy. I can objectively observe their traits and virtues, their accomplishments, achievements, and their successes. When I’ve written resumes for other people it’s been a simple thing to power-play their skills sets. When I’m writing about myself it is much harder.

I find the only way I can do it is to think from outside of myself. Look at my accomplishments as if they were those of a client. When I do that I actually get a pretty good buzz because I can pinpoint the aspects that sell me as an author and experienced writer/editor. From outside of myself and my own insecurities and lack of self-confidence I can put a pretty good spin on everything and not feel like I’m tooting my own horn. Of course, I feel like I’m tooting my own horn right now, but the thing is, that’s what you’ve got to do when you’re writing your own bio. You’ve got to step out of yourself, and let yourself write it as if you were tooting your horn about the virtues and experience of your idols.

Now, I have to try to sum up who I am today, who I’ll be tomorrow, in a single paragraph that will be immortalised in print. I’ll share it in the comments when I’m done.

Have you considered writing your bio? Why don’t you join me and write yours now? I’d love to read it, so please post it in the comments and remember, step outside of yourself and truly acknowledge all the awesome experiences and achievements in your life. Play up your skills and sell yourself. Pretend you’re writing the bio of a favourite author, one you love and whose work and accomplishments you admire, because truly, you should be very proud of yourself for all you’ve already done.

Journal of a Writer – June 08 & 09

June 08

Interesting, anxiety today. Been a while since I had that issue. The excitement of being so close to launch has been pulling me through the past two weeks and I’ve been loving the energy of it. Today I registered two ISBNs for the book, the paperback and ebook editions. Added those details to the copyright page which makes things feel all kinds of legitimate. lol But what I need to do now is get the final four chapters finished up so I can polish off the document and upload it. I remind myself that I’m doing just fine on timing. I’m loving the feedback coming in from pre-readers and need to make sure I track down a couple of my earlier draft pre-readers to see if they’re willing to give it a final once over with notes. Those extra eyes mean the world to me because they really help me put a sparkle into things. I’m so proud of the quality of this book and I know a big part of that is due to the feedback I’ve received while writing it. Now, of course, I’m on the home stretch. The anxiety is there, but I need to focus on the excitement of it all. So, without further ado, time to get stuck into making this dream happen!

I’m having an anatomy issue. What are the bones between the elbow and wrist called?
Google says “Radius & Ulna”
I was going to use the line “his ? leaned against Lucas’s windpipe.” The word I wrote in there was fibula, but I realised that’s in the leg not the arm. So I looked up the arm and I could replace it with Radius, but then I just started really thinking about that. I mean, it’s not like the bone really IS leaning against the windpipe. That would be gross, as if there’s not skin and muscle and sinew involved? So the whole line really doesn’t work now. Back to the drawing board. Have I mentioned recently that I really have no confidence in my ability to write fight scenes? I’m planning to spend the whole month of July focusing on fight scenes. I’ll be pulling out novels I’ve read to find the fight scenes and really pull them apart, break them down. How long are they? How is the action broken down? How detailed? Is it blow by blow, swing by swing? Or is it more general? I need to work on the weakness I’ve identified here and find a way to develop a strength, or at least a competence here.

One of the hardest things about writing is taking a scene from one place to another. I’ve just had something happen and I need to have another character react to that, and bring together this story. I’m not sure how to make it happen. The trouble with raising the stakes of these final chapters (as opposed to the really lame ending earlier drafts had) is that its like weaving with dozens of really fine threads. Each has to be in the right place and held with the right tension or it makes the whole thing loose integrity. People talk about how important it is to have a great first line, first paragraph, first page, first chapter. They don’t talk enough about how equally important it is to have a blow-the-reader-away ending.


Ok, I got distracted. Time to get back to it!

Met two randoms at the library today who saw us writing and asked about it. Sounds like there is definite interest in continuing the Sunday Write In! So, it’s on!

Oh no! It’s 3.40pm and the library staff are starting to pack away. I didn’t get this chapter finished! Will have to work on it at home.

June 09

All day I’ve been meaning to get stuck into the writing. I’ve found the hour or so I can steal in the morning is my most effective time. I’ve usually taken my daughter to school and my son is still asleep. When he wakes up our homeschool day starts and I need to focus on him. But in that time between getting home after dropping my daughter to school and him waking up naturally I sometimes find those special stolen minutes of high focus and productivity. Unfortunately, today I couldn’t have them. My son had a doctor’s appointment first thing so I had to wake him up for that. Then afterward it was homeschool focus. In the afternoon I was able to steal away for a while but I just couldn’t get to that focus point. And it really wasn’t “needing to focus” so much as needing to decide to start. I had Scrivener open, but I also had my browser open. And a blog post only half done about ISBNs and a video half watched because I ran out of time before dinner yesterday. All these little “left undone” things that needed to be shifted off my plate for me to feel settled enough to just begin.

So, I did watch the rest of the Fiction Unboxed Day Seven video and it felt good and I found the Q&A really interesting. I’m glad I took the time. But now I’m back to being very conscious of the tight deadline I have. And I’m LOVING the tight deadline because it really sharpens the focus. I know I don’t have time to waste. My pre-readers are well on their way through notes on the second act. I have Act III for them (although I want to read over it one last time myself before giving it to them) but I don’t have Act IV for them yet and they’re moving through the notes faster than I’ve been finishing Act IV.

I MUST get this chapter finished. It was my goal yesterday to get it finished and I was really frustrated at myself that I hadn’t done yet. So, it must get finished now, right this minute. Thus, I’m getting stuck into it right now. I’m deciding to begin, and beginning. Now!

I gave this weird, evil laugh when I read the end of this chapter. I really, really LOVE it! I feel like it all comes together. I’ve put these characters through hell and this outcome is really awesome. It’s nothing like I thought I would write. But somehow it’s just so perfect that it works. I’m so happy with it. Now of course I have to bring it home. Next up, Chapter 28!

Rather than moving on to Chapter 28 I did some admin stuff and wrote a blog post, then started doing a read-through of Act III so that it’s ready for the pre-readers. I’m really pleased with the progress but I’ve got a doubt about something I recently had happen and I know I need to clarify why it happens in the scene. I’m not too sure how to do that yet, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out. For now, I feel very pleased with the progress of the day.

Tomorrow I’ll finish these edits and read through of Act III then get stuck into Chapter 28. I need to go over some earlier draft notes to see what can stay and what goes. These final chapters are undergoing a dramatic transformation because so much of the story has evolved over the several drafts. There is probably a lot of the earlier drafts that won’t make it into the final one. But that’s okay, the story is better for it, and ultimately we serve the story. Right now, however, I’m calling it done for the night. I’m going to have another early one and hopefully be able to steal an hour or so in the morning to make a good dent in the remaining work.

International Standard Book Numbers for Indie Authors

YAY! My book has an ISBN!

Yesterday I acquired an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) for The Flight of Torque. Actually, it currently has two ISBNs because every book is required to have a unique identifier for each format of that book, so I have an ISBN for the paperback version and another for the Kindle version.

I never really gave much thought to ISBNs. They were a handy thing if I wanted to find a specific book, and of course the barcode printed on the back of a book made it easy when shopping, but I never really considered where ISBNs come from and how books acquired them. As I’m approaching my July 2014 launch it’s something I’ve had to learn more about. What exactly is an ISBN and why do books have them? Where do they come from? How do indie publishers get them for their own books? These are all questions I’ve asked in the past few weeks.

What exactly is an ISBN and why do books have them?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. This 10- or 13-digit number is a unique identifier so that a specific book can be distinguished from every other book ever published across the globe. Even if a book has the same title as another you can request the exact version you want with its ISBN. If your book is published in English and French you can use the ISBN to ensure you order the language you want (because you’d have a different ISBN for each language your book is published in). You also use a different number for the hardcover, the paperback, and each type of digital variation (mobi, epub, pdf). So, I currently have two ISBNs for The Flight of Torque, one for the paperback version, and another for the Kindle version. Over time I’ll probably create other versions of the book, and each of those will need their own ISBN.

Where do they come from?

ISBNs are governed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). This agency governs their use and distribution across the globe, but each country have their own official ISBN distributors. In Australia, the distributor is Thorpe-Bowker Identifier Services. In the U.S. you would use the U.S. ISBN Agency by Bowker. In the U.K. there is the Nielsen UK ISBN Agency. You can find the official agency for your own country with the International ISBN Agency search feature.

How do indie publishers get them for their own books?

There are some publishing options where the ISBN is included in your publishing package. For example, you can use an assigned ISBN from Amazon CreateSpace if you choose to use their distribution. If you use the publisher assigned ISBN then the publisher on record will be the name of your publisher. For example, for all books published using the CreateSpace-Assigned ISBN the publisher on record, the imprint, will be “CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform”. If you’re only planning to put out a book or two using an assigned ISBN is a simple, inexpensive option. If you’re intending to publish multiple books, however, you might want to build a brand as an independent publisher and therefore may prefer to provide your own ISBN.

That’s why I invested in my own ISBN through Thorpe-Bowker. When you buy your first ISBN or ISBN Bundle you also have to register as a publishing entity. This has an additional one-off administration cost. Then it’s a simple case of filling in the online forms to register as a publishing entity, claim and pay for your ISBNs, then assign those ISBNs to your books. With Thorpe-Bowker I have a control panel where my purchased ISBNs are listed and I can assign each individually to a new book or version of a book. I’ve done that with the two ISBNs I’ve assigned so far, one for the paperback copy and another for the Kindle edition of The Flight of Torque. My book then goes into the registry so it’s information can be found by booksellers, buyers, libraries, etc.

It has been very exciting putting these kinds of elements together. It definitely makes this book feel much more like a book to know it has an ISBN. One of the other things I’ll need to do at some point is register the book with the Cataloguing-in-Publication (CiP) for the National Library of Australia. All Australian publications are required to be registered with the CiP and a copy of the book must be sent to the National Library of Australia, and in most states also the State Library. It’s exciting to think of my book being available in libraries across the country.

Now of course I have to take the final steps to get the book actually into print. I’m getting fantastic feedback from my pre-readers and the edits are coming along beautifully. I’ve just got three chapters to finish with rewrites and I’m keeping ahead of my pre-readers with that so should have things finished and ready for print VERY, VERY soon! It’s so exciting!!!

So Excited! Posters, Postcards, and Publishing! Oh my!

I’m so excited! I’m finally on the home stretch with this book. It’s definitely been a long time in coming. There is still so very much to do but I’m committed to a July 2014 launch and that’s awesome! Yesterday was my birthday and I was thrilled that the large poster of my book cover, which I ordered a week or two ago, arrived in the mail. It made it like a birthday present to myself. It’s inspiring to have it up on my wall; blown up and crisp printed with my name across the top, big and bold.

The poster is the first of the marketing materials I’ve started producing. I only ordered one print this round because I wanted to make sure I would be happy with the quality of the resolution. It looks fantastic! I’m so pleased with the result. So, I’ll be ordering more and probably selling them too at some point although I’ll probably wait until the book builds some momentum.

Another thing I’ve ordered and am eagerly awaiting are book cover postcards. On the front is the book cover image and on the back of the postcard is the blurb, website link, and QR code. These I’ll give away to help spread the word. I’ll probably also do up business card sized ones with a single teaser line, small QR and link.

Speaking of QR and link, I’ve started working on the design of the website. It’s weird being back in the Web design side of things because I’ve not done a lot of design work since I gave up freelancing in 2010. Sure, I’ve tinkered here and there on my own stuff but nothing where I felt so obsessed about the aesthetics and nothing where the actual design was my own creation. I mean, I tinkered with the new look of this blog and feel very proud of it but that was really just manipulating an existing theme to suit my vision. The Flight of Torque website is in another league to that. It’s just a splash page, but it needs to look awesome. It needs to be compelling and encourage readers to buy the book.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. I just wanted to share how excited I am. As an indie publisher I’m fully engaged in every aspect of the books development and distribution. While I could outsource a lot of the design and promotion aspects I’ve been having a lot of fun with that so I wouldn’t want to leave it to someone else. I do, however, need to make sure I budget my time carefully. With only a few weeks until launch there is so much to do any very little time left in which to do it.

5 Things I Didn’t Know About Publishing Prior Amazon vs. Hachette

I have to admit, I hadn’t been keeping in touch with the industry news. In days past most of it just went straight over my head into the too-hard basket. Sure, I watched trends and I kept my ear out for authors who talked about their traditional contracts or their self-publishing experiences. What I never really explored was who is who in the industry. I knew the names of course, because which writer hasn’t dreamed that their books would be taken up by the same publishers as their favourite authors? But for the past few years I’d already been leaning away from traditional publishing. My business sense after years as a freelancer were already shaped to prefer independence and freedom.

One of the greatest advantages I’ve found from the Amazon-Hachette dispute is that it is lifting the veil to some degree. Yes, a lot of the discussion is shadowed by the lack of evidence directly from those involved. That aspect is completely understandable. Technically it is none of our business what Amazon and Hachette are doing under their sheets. Except that it is, because every one of us is directly influenced by the way the industry turns. In such a dynamic and radical time in this industry we’re all holding our breath to see which way things fall.

For writers, this discussion lets us see hidden sides (or at least widely unpromoted sides) of the traditional publishing industry. Only authors with contracts know their exact terms, and I’ve met very few authors who felt comfortable talking about those terms. I suspect most contracts have clauses preventing authors from discussing them. Since I’ve never had a contract from a traditional publisher I can only speculate. But here are some things I didn’t know before Amazon-Hachette and maybe you didn’t either.

1. The Big-Five

I knew there were some heavy hitters in the publishing industry. What I didn’t know was that the top hitters, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, HarperCollins, and Hachette, are collectively referred to as the Big-Five (Big 5). They were six prior the Penguin and Random House merger last year. I’ve also learned that more than 60% of this years gross revenue for Big-Five published Kindle e-books was earned by established authors who had been with their Big-Five publisher since at least 2009. This is not encouraging news if you’re hoping to broker your first traditional publishing contract, especially if you compare it to Indie and Amazon published e-Books for which new authors hold more than 80% revenue.

2. Hachette Doesn’t Think Of Their Product As A Product

I don’t know about you, but I think of writing and publishing as business. This is an industry. Whenever I work with anyone I expect them act in a professional capacity because we are each in business. I want the people I work with to treat me and my services with the respect afforded to a business person. I want them to appreciate the products I deliver as consumer goods because that’s what they are. But, apparently Hachette doesn’t feel that way about the books they publish.

“By preventing its customers from connecting with these authors’ books, Amazon indicates that it considers books to be like any other consumer good. They are not.” Press release from Hatchette

Actually, books are exactly like any other consumer good. It is a product that is conceptualised by creative designers who labour for weeks, months, or years to create a product that best serves its consumer. It is then mass produced for its consumer and retailed in stores where consumers can purchase the product. Consumers purchase the product they want based on their personal preferences and budget.

There is nothing mystical and all-powerful about books. Yes, I love books, I’m a writer and I feel there is a great deal of value in what I do. I also love chocolate, and shampoo, and video games. The people who made those things have my high esteem because I would enjoy life a little less without their creations. These three things share their creator to manufacturer to retailer to consumer process. They are consumer goods, just like books.

Yes, books offer a great deal for the arts and culture and the future development of humankind. So does music, and movies, and food. That doesn’t make any of these things more than what they are. In these industries you get elitists who treat it like something sacred and for a select few decided by the size of their wallets, and you get business people who know how to satisfy the everyday consumer. Amazon is a business, it provides a massive catalogue of consumer goods to the global buying public. Hatchette, if you want to be a snob selling high-priced elitist art pieces you go right ahead and do that, but don’t expect anyone with solid business sense to change their business model to suit you. And, as a business person, I’ll definitely be choosing to only work with someone who understands that what I’m delivering is a marketable product and what I want from a publisher is manufacturing and salesman savvy to get that product out to consumers, the people who want to read it.

3. Big-Five Get Pre-Order Buttons; Indies (Generally) Don’t

Yep, sounds like a shoddy deal, but also sound business logic on Amazon’s side. The thing is, I didn’t already know that. It was one of the things I’ve just started looking into because I’m at the stage where I can set a publishing date. The book isn’t ready to print yet, but I know when it will be. Right now I could be collecting pre-orders, but as an indie publisher I can’t list my book (with Amazon) until I upload it. Yes, I do understand their are ways to work around this, but they aren’t straight-forward. It’s quite a few hoops to jump through especially since it doesn’t line up any serious benefits for me as the author. After all, I don’t need to have a rough idea of how many books I’ll sell because I’m not dependent on mass print runs.

From a business perspective I can appreciate Amazon’s stance on not giving indie publishers the pre-order option. After all, the majority of us are unproven. We have no track history of delivering our product on time and in acceptable quality. Amazon needs to look out for its customers. If an author decides they need another month Amazon’s the one facing angry customers for a book that didn’t turn up on the original release date. As an Amazon customer I know I’m grateful for that. I like having confidence that when Amazon says they’ll deliver, they will.

So, when Amazon withdraws the pre-order buttons from Hachette books I’m in their corner. The fact is, while these negotiations are going on, Hachette may or may not deliver the books. They’re a hostile company right now and no sane business trusts a hostile company to act in a selfless way. The ability to withhold their books is one of the few cards Hachette has to play and Amazon pre-empts their using it by reducing their need to make that commitment to their customers.

Speaking of pre-order, J.A. Konrath has some great points about why indie publishers don’t need it. To get it we have to pony up the book, so we might as well pony up the book and start selling it from day one instead of waiting a few weeks to build up steam. While we’re building up the steam, gathering reader reviews, etc. we can already be selling the book, and gaining more reviews directly from readers who wanted to buy the book. For those interested in pre-ordering my book, The Flight of Torque, feel free to drop me an email. If you’re willing to wait a little longer for shipping I’ll even sign your copy.

4. Big-Five Negotiate Directly For Co-Op Deals

Now I feel like this has to be the biggest draw for traditional publishing. They have the negotiating power to push their lists into prominent placement with the retailers and Amazon is no different. Apparently there are deals in place that get select titles from the Big Five into prime real estate on the website which of course would lead to improved sales. Indie publishers don’t have this option, we’re fighting tooth and nail for our placement everywhere, which is already harder to do because the Big Five tend to make deals with retailers that push us indies out of shop windows.

I’m only just beginning to understand the retailers catalogue issues. As an indie publisher my books don’t automatically just turn up at Dymocks or Barnes & Noble. Those bookstores are probably going to be hard sells. Does anyone know if Dymocks accepts indies at all? Thankfully, independent book stores are beginning to gain ground again. We can diversify. I know I’ll be heading into bookstores with my books in hand to find out what sort of deal I can negotiate for myself regarding placement. The dream that fired my drive for years was the idea of my name on the spine of a book in my favourite bookstore. I’m happy to hand them a book with a contract that says they pay me a percentage when the book sells and if it doesn’t sell they return the book to me intact (rather than ripping the cover off!!!). I think this is one of those areas in the industry where the field is changing dramatically. As indie publishers we have to be innovative in our marketing techniques, including being aware of how pricing affects the bottom line.

Lower Prices = More Money

That’s actually something I did already suspect (thus why it doesn’t get a number), but I liked having the fact confirmed in what I’ve been reading. In a recent Author Earnings Report “lowering average e-book prices correlated with higher per-title revenue. Increasing e-book prices correlated with lower per-title revenue.”

This makes sense to me, because as a consumer when I see an eBook listed for $14.99 I seriously hesitate (after all, that’s often the same price as a paperback, but I don’t get a physical object for my shelf). The higher the price the more I evaluate how much I really want the product. When I see a title listed for 99 cents I click without even thinking about it. When I see a title at $2.99 I have greater confidence that it’ll be a good book and worth that cost. As an author I am a little “sad” to feel my 100,000 word book might only be worth $3 to someone, but I force myself to remember that $3 to 1,000 someones = $3,000. The truth of Low Prices = More Money is in reaching a larger portion of the market. Lower Prices = Higher Sales. And honestly, I’d rather 1,000 people read my book for $3, than 100 for $9. I find this is the same with other digital products such as those in the music, video game, and app. industry too. If it costs a couple of bucks I don’t even blink, if it costs more than a few I often don’t make the purchase.

5. This is just the beginning

Not just for the industry upheaval, but for the Amazon vs. Big-Five negotiations. According to settlements made in 2012 each of the publishers involved must approach Amazon independently to negotiate terms over a staggered period to prevent further collusion for price-fixing. Hachette is the first to come up to bat and the results of their negotiations will lay a significant foundation for the other four. That also means this is likely to be the hardest fought battle with neither side wanting to concede any ground because of the effect it will have on the other deals.

In an industry already in flux over changing paradigms, technologies, and standards, battles like these become significant shaping forces. As authors we hold considerable stakes in the outcome but limited power in the proceedings. I hope Hachette is being forthright with its contract holders and I hope they are keeping the best interests of their business as a whole, that includes their staff and authors, in mind when managing these negotiations. I hope they appreciate that lower prices make books a commodity that is more openly accessible and that this helps the entire industry. More sales means more profits means more books for everyone.

If you’d like to check out some of the discussion happening I recommend these sources:

What do you think about the dispute? Has it taught you anything about the publishing industry that you didn’t know before? Share in the comments!

Sometimes it’s about sacrifice.

Law-of-SacrificeWhat have you given up for your writing?

Tonight, there is a movie on television that I wanted to watch, but I haven’t written yet today and with the deadline looming over my head I’m feeling the pressure. I want to get it done in time. The need is immediate. And for once my sense of discipline is helping me because I’m choosing not to put the writing aside and instead watch the movie. Still, I’m conscious of it being a sacrifice. It’s silly, a movie, possibly not even a particularly good movie, but it’s something I’m giving up so that I can write.

When we choose to be writers we all make sacrifices for the craft. The time we invest in our words is time we can’t spend elsewhere. I give up time with my children and that sacrifice is one of the ones that make me feel guilty. It’s hard to give myself that time because I know every moment with my children is precious and they value having me available to them. I also know how important it is to have something that is mine. I force myself to believe that I’m worth giving myself this. I deserve it.

Today I’ve been so busy with everything else I had to do that I’ve not had a chance to get any writing done. It’s frustrating because I’ve been wanting to get to work all day long. I thought I’d have a chance to write before the author talk I attended today, but I didn’t. I thought I might have a chance after I got back from the meeting but by then it was already gone noon and I needed to spend some one-on-one time with my son before my daughter came home from school. I thought I would settle in once I’d picked her up, but she’s learning a new skill and needs my support, help, and mentoring with that. Then of course I had to get dinner started. I managed to steal quick snippets of computer time to write several emails, but each time I went to focus on writing there were other demands on my time and attention.

Bois-SacrificeFinally, dinner is done. I’ve read to my son. My daughter has showered. They’re both settled into bed. The movie has started… But I’m choosing not to watch it. I’m sacrificing it. Right now I have this time and I can choose to give it to my writing instead.

So, without further ado, I will.

What do you give up so that you can write? What sacrifices cause you the most guilt? How do you balance the needs of your every day life and of your family with your work?

Help! My son is one of my writing Naysayers!

When you look at the people in your life it can sometimes be surprising to identify your Naysayers. I never expected one of mine to be my ten year old son.

Naysayers are the people in your life who tell you, “You can’t”. Sometimes they do it with their words or deeds. Sometimes it’s more sinister, they’ll seem like they’re helping you when what they’re really doing is enabling your failure. They’re the ones who are afraid you’ll succeed, because if you do you might leave them behind. And sometimes, they’re the ones you love most.

The people we love have the greatest power to hurt us. My son hurt me today and I knew it was time it stopped. I knew I had to take back my dream before my own sense of guilt and my love for him took it away forever.

I started homeschooling my son in February 2013 and since then he has had a great deal of my time. From February through September I deliberately took a hiatus from writing so that I could focus on discovering who he really is as a person and how we can make homeschooling work for our family. Every day we spend hours together exploring his interests, doing the things he enjoys, and finding the learning in living life. In fact, he’s been a bit spoilt with one-on-one attention and time. His older sister is traditionally schooled so between 8.30am and 3pm every weekday he has me all to himself and she shares me with him the rest of the time.

In November, as National Novel Writing Month Municipal Liaison, I was writing and going out a lot to support the local writing events we had going on. It was a busy month. I really loved the vibrant energy, the motivation, the drive to succeed, and the opportunity to socialise with other local writers. But when I think about it today I suspect my son felt pretty lonely that month. It was a significant contrast to our normal homeschool routine. Yes, we still spent time together each day, but I had far fewer hours to spend just hanging out with him. I’m wondering if that experience has caused him to associate my desire to write with something negative.

There was certainly some sort of negative vibe going on. Whenever I would talk about my writing he would shake his head and get this stubborn look on his face. Today he wanted to play video games with me. We do that most days, but right now I’m on a tight deadline. I really want this book ready to go to print for July. That’s five weeks. And it’s not even finished! I have a week or two to get this draft finished so I can get it into the hands of pre-readers, with enough time for them to read it and get their feedback to me, with enough time for me to do edits before July! So, I’m very aware of this looming deadline. I try to balance it with my family, but even when I’m playing games a part of me is in my book or itching to get back to it. Perhaps he senses that too.

Today we had a look at the calendar. He has a date he’s looking forward to because there is a game being released late next month. I compared his looking forward to date with the date I’d like to publish my book and we talked about how I want to get it done in the next five weeks. Tonight, he asked what we’re doing tomorrow so we check the calendar and there is nothing set so the day is flexible. He asks to add something and writes “Game – Pokemon” on the page. Underneath it I write, “Write”. Underneath that he wrote, “No.” It was the last straw for me. This person is my child, my son, and as much as I appreciate that he does not like to write and chooses not to do so himself, I really couldn’t let him continue to deflate my desire, my joy in writing. I couldn’t let his negativity pick apart my passion and demean my dreams.

When our Naysayers are the people we love it hurts the hardest. When I’m writing I’m aware that I’m not spending time with my children. I’m aware that the housework isn’t getting done. I’m aware that every moment I spend writing is, in a sense, stolen, from the rest of what I could be spending my time doing. It’s hard enough to give ourselves a break over that indulgence. It’s hard enough to give ourselves permission to be writers. We don’t need the people in our lives making it harder. What we really need is their support and encouragement rather than negativity.

I need that from my son. So I had a firm talk with him. I explained that writing is something that means a great deal to me. I explained that I’d been working on this book for eight years and I really want to get it finished. And as I’m explaining it to my ten year old I was letting my pain at his rejection show. We’re working with learning about emotions at the moment so it was a good opportunity to show him that I was sad and that I really want him to be supportive and encouraging. I don’t want my son growing up to be the kind of person who tears others down and I don’t want such an important person in my life to be a roadblock to my success. I want him fighting in my corner. I want him to be proud of my success. I want him to want me to be happy doing whatever it is that makes me happy. That is what the people you love, the people who love you, are supposed to be.

Thankfully, I think it sunk in. He crossed out his “No.” comment and gave me a hug. Hopefully, after we’ve played Pokemon for a little bit tomorrow he won’t be too disappointed when I steal an hour or so to do some writing. Hopefully he’ll smile, nod, and dig up some YouTube videos to keep himself entertained while I work. Hopefully.

Do you have people in your life that respond negatively to your writing? How do you deal with those people? Have you ever had success turning a naysayer into someone who’ll fight for you instead of against you?

Journal of a Writer – May 26th 2014

May 26th 2014

Rewrites are hard. It’s simple, drafts are drafts, and rewrites can range from tweaking words here and there to changing entire threads of storyline. These last few chapters of The Flight of Torque are giving me problems because the changes I’ve made so far have been significant. In the last three chapters I wrote a character into the scenes that wasn’t there before. In this scene she has a major role but because of the changes I made in the last three scenes there is no way she could physically be present in this scene. The trouble is, I really enjoy this scene the way it stands.

I hate reading a scene, loving it, and knowing that I (might) have to discard it completely because I can’t make it work with the direction the story has now taken. Do you see that niggling (might)? That’s where it hurts. It’s this uncertainty that frustrates me the most. Have I made the right decision in this latest change? It’s not too late to backtrack and try again in a new direction. I could keep this scene as is and retract the changes I made to the last three chapters or I could kill my darlings and sacrifice this scene. Which path is the right one to take at this stage?

It’s times like this when I need to read forward and focus on my outline. How will the story continue to unfold from this point. Which change will prove most effective in the larger picture of the book as a whole. Right now I’m too close to it to judge. So I’ll read on for now and come back to this scene when I’ve made a decision.

OMG! OMG!!! I just had a wave of inspiration. You know, you have to trust the muse and the characters to come to the rescue at some point. I’m absolutely certain this scene as it stands must go. But there are parts of this scene that I can keep and move to a later scene. I can see it working in my mind and it leads to an even more powerful conclusion. Now, of course, I have to write it.