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Archive for the ‘Australian author’ Category

Last month I posted about my Indie Publishing experience from a beginner’s perspective. That post is here.

There I discussed coming close to earning $100 in that month from my Indie publishing efforts. I did notionally make $100.

Well this month I’m over that amount. Earnings figures are notional by the way, because the money comes in at a different time. For instance Kobo calls them estimated earnings.  So this month notional earnings are around $140 $150.

Mind you I had to work hard for those few dollars!

I also gave away heaps of books this month but more on that later.

Sales

I used Kobo promotions a lot this month and that where I had most of my sales. Kobo are really easy to deal with and they offer a wide range of promotions, about half have no upfront costs just percentage of takings. I wasn’t successful in getting all that I bid for but I did okay. It takes time and I think getting my name seen will mean eventually people will buy. It also helps to have a number of titles.

Next biggest sales were iBooks, surprisingly. It is not easy to promote on iBooks. There is no easy way for Indies to promote on iBooks. I hope one day they will adopt the Kobo model.  Then Amazon was the next chunk of sales. Nothing earth shattering but better than a big fat zero! You cannot bid for promos on Amazon. Amazon put together their Daily Deals by themselves.

Promotion

As mentioned above I have a promo tab on Kobo. I directly list with them to access this. I had two or three promos with different books through the month: paranormal romance and dark fantasy.

I tried for a Bookbub a couple of times through the month with different titles and met with rejection so I decided to do something with another provider. It can be dangerous to put all your eggs in one basket, particularly when the basket holder is swatting your eggs away!

I used Freebooksy to get the word out that Argenterra was free on 28 July. I made it free earlier than that and it’s currently free. Interestingly, this means I won’t be able to tout for a Bookbub for this title for three months as Bookbub exclude books that have been discounted for three months. Freebooksy is not cheap. It was $100 US to list for a day. However, they are a great group to work with and they have been very considerate of my other efforts with Bargainbooksy.

I find it interesting that Amazon doesn’t let people promoted except by AMS ads which I don’t find effective at all because these email services are making heaps of money from marketing specials and freeboots to their subscribers.

Listing Argenterra for free is a loss leader tactic used by many vendors since forever. Technically I don’t like giving books away for nothing. I think it lowers the value of your work. On the other hand, giving away book one with the hope that:

  • the person downloading will read it (preferably sooner rather than later);
  • having read book one they will like it enough to buy book 2 and 3;
  • after reading books 2 and 3 will like my writing enough to try another series, and
  • after reading my work they become a fan of my writing and stick to me like spat gum to a shoe!

I don’t know if there are any figures out there, but from past experience and my own behaviour I know that free books downloaded may never get read, but as I said before I’m looking to find my audience so one must take a chance.

Before the Freebooksy promo I let people know it was free. Not in a big way. Patty Jansen put it on the Facebook page for Ebookaroo and I asked some people to include it in their newsletter. I don’t know if people did but about 60-70 copies had been downloaded before promo day. On promo day, I got about 1700 downloads on Amazon and about another 100 on iBooks. No figures from Kobo as their freeboot counter is out. But I had a tail, next day more books downloaded. This could have been due to late email opens and people clicking and finding the book still free, or because with the 1700 downloads I had reached #123 overall Amazon freeboots and #1 in three sub categories of Epic, Sword and Sorcery and Coming of Age. Then Patty Jansen included Argenterra in her regular newsletter and then more downloads happened. So far maybe an extra 300-400. I just had another look at the figures, maybe that’s closer to 500 downloads from a newsletter. That’s so fab. I’m so grateful for the little leg up.

I didn’t see a lot of buy through to the rest of the series. Maybe one or two. If only one percent of those 2400 people (maybe more) go on to buy the series that’s still 24 people who might go on to buy the series. The promo will pay for itself eventually. Also, people have my book so there is always a chance.

Newsletters and Instafreebie

Technically sending newsletters and listing books on Instafreebie are promotion too. Shatterwing was included in a group Instafreebie/Bookfunnel promotion and wow! It was the best yet. Probably 700 new subscribers who downloaded Shatterwing, Dragon Wine Part One over four days. I think the covers have something to do with that.

I think some of my sales come through my newsletter subscribers. Not heaps as yet, but I get a lot of people checking out the buy links on my website.

I also had a few deals going for newsletter subscribers. Not exclusive to them but being a subscriber allows them to find out about it.

Escape Publishing kindly discounted Rayessa and the Space Pirates and Spiritbound (Dani Kristoff) to 99 cents. The announcements for these were included in my newsletter and there were some sales. I don’t know how much because I can’t see because the books are controlled by the publisher. These books were included in Ebookaroo (Patty Jansen’s general newsletter) and there were some sales as a result. I was happy to give something to the newsletter subscribers and I don’t often get discounts from my traditional published books.

Also, to broaden things a bit and have something new to keep my subscribers interested, I published Beneath the Floating City, a sci fi, short fiction collection and put it on Instafreebie, mostly with a private link for my subscribers but it is also there for anyone to download. All bar one story has been previously published over the 17 years of my publishing life. I’m going to put together other collections. The next will be Compost Juice, magic realism and fantastical tales. I won’t do that until I get back from overseas. Maybe for Christmas. I also published this collection to all the eretailers.

Print versions

A major suck for my energy, time and dollars this month has been laying out books for print. Indesign gave me a kick up the butt and my photoshop skills are Neanderthal level, but I managed.

Shatterwing, Skywatcher, Deathwings, and Bloodstorm are out in print with the new covers. These are available on Amazon through Createspace and elsewhere as distributed by Ingrams. So yes, technically the library or your books store can order them in.

booksAlso, Oathbound and Ungiven Land join Argenterra, in print.

The Sorcerer’s Spell is in print too, but just through Createspace. It will appear in bookstores as well as Amazon over time, such as Book Depository. Opi Battles the Space Pirates was already in print, same deal through Createspace. You can buy a copy on Book Depository no problems.

This means that for the book launch at Conflux over the long weekend, 29 Sept to 1 October, I have books all to hand.

I have done all the things!

Phew!

Now to take off on Friday for nearly two months. Worldcon 75 and Helsinki here I come. I am the GUFF delegate, taking Australian fandom to Europe. See previous post for where I’ll be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I feel naughty! I’ve put a book up on Amazon for pre-order (other retailers to come). I feel nervous, excited and liberated too.

It’s been an interesting experience, one of commitment and camaraderie. I had to commit to working on the whole series this year. I had to pay for an edit and a cover. Anything to do with spending money when I’m now retired is a BIG commitment. Then there has been the camaraderie, the network of writer friends who have or who are embarking on Indie publishing. So much assistance and advice freely given. It’s been wonderful. Thank you all.

Cover by Les Petersen

Cover by Les Petersen (lespetersen.com.au)

The cover does have a YA feel but that’s deliberate because it does have YA leanings for sure. Fish out of water, coming of age etc. It’s also about romance, though I’m told it’s not fantasy romance. This is mainly because there are three different relationships. I can’t spoil it though! After fifteen years, it’s amazing to see it out there. Only me and maybe a couple of old friends knew the early version– the rank beginner Donna. It wasn’t my first novel ever. I’ve not had that much commitment to Relic (SF romance, Feminist SF) my first novel attempt, which I haven’t given up on completely. (I was just advised to wait until I was a better writer as it was a worthy project). Argenterra was my first fantasy ever. My first Indie published book.

Now for the outtakes….Sophy and Aria. Their names used to be Sapphire and Misty. However, while on a Writers’ Retreat, my very first, Russell Kirkpatrick and Paul Ewins said those names sounded like unicorn names. It was funny at the time but I did change the name. I always had trouble with Sapphire as a name. People found it odd. I couldn’t understand that because I knew a Sapphire. So Sophy and Aria it is.

Here is the pre-order link.

 

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Gillian Polack is the author of many things fiction and non-fiction. She’s also a medieval historian, food history guru and a science fiction PHD, her second! I’m probably not doing her justice.

Anyway, I have Gillian here on my blog today to talk about her fab new book (Co-authored with Katrin Kania): The Middle Ages Unlocked- A guide to life in medieval England, 1050-1300.

Gillian and KatrinThis book is a fab resource for writers who want to write about medieval societies and for lovers of history.

How did you come up with the concept for the book?

I didn’t come up with the concept: my friends did. A group of people on a now-defunct email list said “We so need a book that tells us about the Middle Ages in an easy-to-read way that’s properly researched and can be used by writers.”  The friends were from the UK and US and Canada and Australia. Some of them were writers. Some of them were tired of writers not quite understanding things. They got me involved…

How did you two authors find each other?

In a pub! Seriously, we were introduced to each other by Shana Worthen at the big Medieval Congress in Leeds in 2011. It was an international conference, but it was one for Medievalists, and it always has at least one pub. For the record, I was drinking a rather nice English cider. Shana knew about the Beast and I asked her if she wanted to see it. I whipped out my trusty netbook and Katrin read over her shoulder and somehow ended up being drawn into being co-author! Since then, I have taken to carrying all my work with me, everywhere, just in case I meet someone who needs to share it.

Did it take a long time to develop the scope of the book?

It took years and years. Because writers and the general public said “We need this book” I had a good general concept about what kind of topic would be covered and that the approach needed to be easy to read but go into as much depth as was possible in a general work. We (the various people involved at different stages) played with several approaches and a wide range of subjects. Tamara Mazzei still has a timeline she developed for an earlier iteration, for instance, and I still have a list of plants and their uses. A couple of writer friends tested beta versions for their fiction and I could tell how effective different elements were by how they wrote and what further questions they need to ask. By the time Katrin came on board the topics were mostly settled but it covered both France and England. It focussed on England quite late, because it was a better fit for British publishers, but we refined approaches to the bitter end. The Middle Ages Unlocked wasn’t easy, but it was most definitely worth the effort, as I’ve already seen it being read and used by those same people who asked for it, all those years ago.

How long did it take from the concept to completion?

About fifteen years, all up. I’m still surprised when I see it in bookshops, because it’s had the longest development and most work of any of my books. Given how prone I am to research, this is worrying.

At 384 pages it looks to be quite an undertaking! Did you have to  leave stuff out?

We left out more than we put in.  Several times the amount that went in, in fact. The perfect version (from my point of view) would have been enormous. We followed our publisher’s guidelines, however, for those guidelines were there with much good reason behind them, and we wrote the best possible work that was actually publishable.

How did you go about finding a publisher?

We approached publishers that we had contacts with and that were a really good fit for our project. One of them suggested Amberley, for they felt that Amberley was an even better fit than they were: if ever I meet that editor I will buy her a drink, for she was both generous and correct.

I  notice a lot of writers gave you cover quotes. Do you see the book as a resource for writers only? Did all that bad fantasy drive you to spend years of your life developing this book?

It was first designed for writers, but it’s grown to be a volume that’s for the general public. And bad fantasy had nothing to do with it! I’ve taught history to writers for two decades and so it was quite natural for writers to say to me “Why don’t you pull together a book that presents this to a wider audience?” This means the demand came from writers who wanted more, not writers who were lazy about their world-building. I find this very reassuring.

Initial S: The Lord Appearing to David in the Water; Bute Master (Franco-Flemish, active about 1260 - 1290); Northeastern (illuminated)  France Paris (written)  France; illumination about 1270 - 1280; written about 135 - 1375; Tempera colors, gold, and iron gall ink on parchment; Leaf: 17 x 11.9 cm (6 11/16 x 4 11/16 in.); Ms. 46, fol. 92

Initial S: The Lord Appearing to David in the Water; Bute Master (Franco-Flemish, active about 1260 – 1290); Northeastern (illuminated) France Paris (written) France; illumination about 1270 – 1280; written about 135 – 1375; Tempera colors, gold, and iron gall ink on parchment; Leaf: 17 x 11.9 cm (6 11/16 x 4 11/16 in.); Ms. 46, fol. 92

What was the favourite thing you did in this book?

I was really happy to pull together what was known about dance. I’d been meaning to do this for myself and the book gave me an excuse.

What was the hardest section for you? (I noticed at the Q&A you said there were areas where you had a lot of research and some was more general)

The hardest section as the one that dealt with all the bad things in society. It could have had a lot more detail, but neither Katrin nor I could deal with any more detail about people being hurt!
I guess there are things we will never know about the past.  How does that you make you feel as a historian?

Perfectly normal. Historians are always aware we can’t know everything: it’s part of the job description.  History is an interpretative discipline, not one where absolute knowledge is possible.

Do you have other historical projects in the pipe line or is it fiction for you from now on?

I’m nearly finished a book specifically about how writers use history in their fiction. it will be published next year. And I’m starting work on a novel set in the seventeenth century. I’ve already sifted through hundreds of primary sources (over 800) to sort out how I will  deal with various aspects, but the real work on it will hopefully take place next year. I’m also doing work on other peoples’ writing: there’s an article by me in the next issue of Foundation, for example.

Where can people buy the book?

In Australia, ask your local bookshop to get it in: since it’s only just been released here, most shops don’t know about it yet. Online, almost every shop stocks it. In the UK, try Blackwell’s or ask your local bookshop to get The Middle Ages Unlocked in. In the US, either online shops or wait until October, for it won’t be released in the US until then. If you can’t wait, online shops in the UK will sell it to you.

Easiest way is to buy from Book Depository Link here.

Gillian book cover
Thank you for visiting the blog today, Gillian. Mazel Tov!

Thank you for having me!

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I’m so happy to be able to bring this interview to you. I met CS Pacat at Supanova. We were on a panel together on our early lives as writers and I was fascinated with her story and I thought you would be too. Hers was a non-traditional story and she has had amazing success. Read on!cat

Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed on my blog today. I think your publication story is fascinating so I wanted to share it with others.

When did you first think about being a writer and what did you do?

As long as I can remember, I wanted to write books. I took creative writing classes, but if I’m being honest, they weren’t especially helpful, particularly when it came to teaching fundamental skills like plotting or character creation. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them for anything other than a place to meet other artists and form a support community, and a way to begin taking yourself seriously as a writer, “I commit to writing”. (A friend once described it brilliantly: In a cooking class, you are taught how to make a soufflé during the lesson. In a creative writing class you’re usually asked to make a soufflé at home without a recipe, then bring it in to class, and then everyone critiques the soufflé. But at no point does anyone ever actually teach you how to make a soufflé.)

What inspired you to write fanfic and when do you start writing original fiction?

I wrote fan fiction throughout my teens and into my early twenties, and I have an enormous respect for fandom as an artistic space. I think what drives the fanfiction writer is a desire to reclaim a text, to explore its themes, in a sense to make it your own. This can be powerful and important, particularly when those reclamations involve queering a heteronormative text, or the insertion of fantasies that until recently have not been given much expression in mainstream works, such as the power fantasies of teen girls. It’s a way of offering alternate narratives and diversifying what can sometimes feel like a narrative monoculture.

I started to write original fiction because I wanted to tell my own stories and to be able to craft the kinds of characters that I love. Captive Prince was my first complete original novel, but I did have a few false starts with original fiction before that, learning the skills that were different to fan fiction.

What made you publish for free on the web and then self-publish?

When I started to write Captive Prince there was nothing that was really like it in the mainstream commercial space. But I knew that online there was a vast community of readers and writers who were reading and creating online in part because they were seeking something that they weren’t finding on commercial bookshelves. It was also an incredibly accessible space with no barrier to entry, and so I started to write Captive Prince, and as I wrote, I posted each chapter to my fiction blog.

Captive Prince ran as a free web serial for several years before I decided to self publish the story. I did it mostly in response to requests from readers for a paperback copy of the books. It was really the support and enthusiasm of the online readership that gave me the confidence to take that step.

What did self-publishing feel like?

Equal parts rewarding and terrifying. There is a very steep learning curve, because as a self-publisher, if you want to produce a high quality book, you essentially have to teach yourself all of the skills, from typesetting to art direction to project management. You have to hire cover artists, editors and proofreaders, while learning how to use InDesign and create layouts for paperbacks, produce ebooks, and so on.

It felt scary to do at the time, but it was also incredibly empowering, because you’re learning everything you need to know about publishing, and it opens up new avenues and gives you control over your own writing.

Did big sales happen all at once or was it gradual? How much of that was due to your previous following from the web?

My online readers were incredibly enthusiastic and supportive, they wanted to buy the self published release, even having already read the free version. As a result of that, Captive Prince shot to the top of Amazon lists within a day or two of being released. It then took a few weeks for the generated word of mouth to spread and create buzz in places like Goodreads, and from there another week or two before the Captive Prince started to garner attention and reviews from mainstream review sites like Dear Author and USA Today. So, in a sense it happened in two “waves”, the first from my online readers, and a second when the book hit the mainstream market. Now that Captive Prince is being published by Penguin, it’s reaching a new audience again.

It must have been amazing to be contacted by an agent wanting to sell your work to a major publisher. Can you tell us a bit about that?

It was incredible, amazing, unbelievable. I was approached by a New York agent basically saying, “I’d like to represent you. I think we can sell your book to a big six publisher in New York.” I didn’t think it was possible but signed with her in the spirit of pure optimism. We ended up with two offers, the most robust of which was from Penguin. Now Captive Prince is being published in multiple countries and translated into multiple languages – it’s been an incredible year.

From your point of view, what are the advantages of self-publishing?

Having been through both processes, self publishing and commercial publishing, I remain a huge advocate for self publishing. I think it offers writers a way to produce a book that wholly represents their best vision of their work. You don’t have to rush or make artistic compromises due to deadlines. You can hire the designers and editors that you most want to work with, devote as much attention to your book as it needs. There are also financial advantages, in that your royalty percentage is much higher. Realistically, a commercial publisher will always be making commercial decisions, which are not always the best decisions for a book artistically.

Conversely, what are the advantages of having a major publisher behind you?

The biggest advantage of a major publisher is legitimacy. Although the perception is changing, there is still a stigma attached to self publishing. A major publisher opens so many doors, and dramatically expands the possibilities for a book, from getting it stocked in major bookstores, to garnering attention from mainstream press.

The other advantage is of course access to world class editorial, and the support of a team. I’ve worked with so many inspiring, talented people at Penguin. Allowing them to support the book frees you as the writer to just spend your time writing, which is a incredible privilege.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

I have two pieces of advice. The first is that to write a book, you have to transform yourself into the person who can write that book. So I’d say figure out what is preventing you from writing, whether it is time, procrastination, or problems with plotting, or coming up with ideas, then dedicate time to solving those problems, making the changes that you need to make.

The second piece of advice is to persevere. Writing a book is difficult and there will be a long period of time where you can’t do it, your writing isn’t working, and the book just isn’t a book yet. Everyone goes through this. And everyone I know who has persevered through this stage has emerged with a manuscript, then gone on to publish it. So hang in there: it will happen.

Blurb
Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos. But when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.

Beautiful, manipulative, and deadly, his new master, Prince Laurent, epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.

For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else…

CS Pacat - book cover - Captive Prince

You can find out more about CS Pacat on her website http://www.cspacat.com

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Perth, oh Perth, your weather was fabulous. It was an warm oasis for my Canberra ice-tinged life and you beat Sydney’s raining chill the weekend before. For a small city (in comparison to Sydney) the turnout was amazing. So many people. So many great costumes.

I arrived late Thursday night. I left work and headed to the airport. I had trouble checking in but that was because Qantas was offering me a direct flight rather than going through Melbourne. I said yes but forgot to check the seating. So I was in the middle seat, but I just finished listening to a book and watched a movie.

Friday morning, Glenda Larke texted me and I had breakfast with her and Karen Miller in the hotel. I’d been awake since 3.30am. We had a leisurely breakfast and then parted ways. Karen went to her room to write and Glenda took me shopping and sight seeing. First stop was Stefen’s Books in Shafto Lane. Stefen’s was the official book seller for Supanova this year. I was very impressed with the store and his knowledge of genre. He back orders authors’ books so the whole backlist is on the shelves. Here is Trudi Canavan’s shelf space.

Trudi Canavan Books

Trudi Canavan Books

It was a lovely day and then in the afternoon Keri Arthur arrived. We shared room and we sat and chatted to Glenda before she headed off and Keri and I got ready for the opening ceremony. This is where we authors get paraded to the audience. I think the audience is made up of the special whole weekend ticket holders and VIPs. It was a reasonably sized audience and we did our elevator pitch (with video and sound effects of a lift). The ceremony had a great vibe.

I’m not sure I did my pitch well. Lady writes grim dark, post-apocalyptic fantasy with dragons.

Dragon Wine Series

Dragon Wine Series

Then we searched for dinner. I was pretty hyped. This is a shot of me and Keri before I took a drink.

drinks David Henley and Wanda Wiltshire were at dinner with us. Or us with them. Or we went together. A mutual shuffling off to eat, I suppose.

David Henley

David Henley

David Henley and Wanda Wiltshire

David Henley and Wanda Wiltshire

I just realised that I don’t have a photo of CS Pecat. Oh No! She was such a wonderful person to chat to. She was sitting in the Penguin booth and sold out of books. She was so dedicated that she didn’t even get to the green room much.

Day one, Saturday, was quite awash with people. Where the author signing booth was, though, was a bit out of the way. Busy, but not standing on other people’s toes crowded. It meant we got good views of some costumes. These lovely ladies came by. I guessed they were the twins from The Shining. I’m so proud of me.

#Itsatwinthing

#Itsatwinthing

These ladies hand sewed these. They also got a shot in our hotel corridor that it looked like a shot from the movie.

Saturday night we had the VIP party. Great venue. Larger and more spread out than the Sydney venue. You could have a conversation at least. Keri and I were holed in a corner and then later on we discovered the other authors and we joined them. By then I had too much to drink. I’m a cheap drunk but apparently my conversation was interesting! We figured that the VIPs come for the actors and other celebrities, but we did have our own author fan.

At the bar I chatted to some of the guests. Here, I learned that many of the guests played Cards Against Humanity at night. Apparently, some of the actors played in character. So I have to use my imagination to think how Bender sounded playing Cards Against Humanity. They also had the expansion pack. Awesome. I would have loved to have joined them.I love that game. I was a bit shy to do so on the Sunday.

Keri thought my hangover was hilarious. I had a sinus/cold thing happening at the same time so I felt especially crap. I shuffled and groaned like a zombie to the loo in the middle of the night and then again and again. Lucky the authors are good at exchanging vitamins and meds. I had bacon as my hangover remedy. As the day progressed Keri has less to laugh about as I normalised.

baconSurprisingly, Sunday was much busier than Saturday for us in the author booth. Wanda had a fan who couldn’t find her. Wanda was doing people’s fairy names and colours and he wanted to do  his. During dinner the previous night she had given him directions via Twitter. He said ‘I’m blind and dressed as a dragon.’ When he turned up we were so happy to see him and his guide. He was an awesome green dragon.

Green dragon

Green dragon

The twins came back in new costumes (handmade).

#itsatwinthing

#itsatwinthing

Lots of cosplay. Some we got shots of.

queen of the damedAnd the Queen of the Dammed from Anne Rice

Queen of the DammedSad we had to say goodbye. There was an author dinner with the lovely Ineke, Kevin Hearne and family, Kevin J Anderson and Rebecca Moestat and we didn’t get photos! Shame. Apparently there was an official author shot in the Green Room but I missed it.

I did get a shot of Keri and I feeling exhausted.

Keri Arthur and Donna Hanson

Keri Arthur and Donna Hanson

But really we looked like this.

Keri Arthur and Donna Hanson

Keri Arthur and Donna Hanson

Luckily I was still in Perth for Monday so I was able to slowly wind down from all the hype and excitement. It was a hard withdrawal, but I had Keri to help. She is an excellent person, a wonderful roomy and an inspiration in so many ways. I heart her!

Many of the guests went off to Freemantle on Monday. Keri and I went shopping. (shopping with Keri is a dangerous sport).  I bought stuff, but the most excellent thing I bought this leather jacket. ( I will own that I did not intend to buy this jacket. I will also own I had to do some bank gymnastics to effect the purchase but that I don’t regret it. It’s lovely and will last forever). (BTW you can tell I’m in denial.)

Retail Haul

Retail Haul

So that was my Supanova put very simply. It was hard not be dazzled by the other guests, about being a guest myself. But I’m back in to real life now and I will file it away under great experience.

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Thank you for coming along to the blog today, Thoraiya and congratulations on your wonderful book deal with Tor US. I am so excited for you and as you know I’ve been a fan of your work for more than 10 years! I hope you will visit again when your book is coming out so we can share the blurb and the cover and all that other wonderful stuff that happens when a book gets published.

Thanks for having me, and yes, please!

Thoraiya Dyer

Thoraiya Dyer

Can you tell us a bit about the book (series) that is going to be published?

Sure! Today I found the bit of scrap paper I first wrote the idea on. It reads: “Write an epic fantasy novel about a tropical rainforest where countries are not horizontal, but vertical, and defended by magic.”

Even though I planned TITAN’S FOREST as a standalone initially, CROSSROADS OF CANOPY still fits that basic description. A pantheon of reincarnated gods and some mythically reimagined Australian fauna and flora made its way in there, too. Unar, protagonist of Book #1, is a Gardener – a sort of apprentice priestess – in Canopy, the vast and leafy jungle city where the rich and privileged leave tributes at temples and get fat on sun-ripened fruit. In Canopy, they’re safe from demons that lurk below their deity-maintained barrier, and they generally have no idea where their excrement goes when it falls down into the dark.

But Unar’s sister falls down there, and that kicks off her adventures.

Excellent! I guess I should explore your writing history. How long have you been writing? What did you start on, novels or short stories? What are your bread and butter (that you like the most?)

I started pounding out the requisite million unpublished words in high school! Novels first, even though later, when I was working full time and doing after-hours calls, it took almost 5 years to write just one. Then, when I was pregnant I had lower back pain and couldn’t sit at my computer for very long to type. That’s when I wrote “Night Heron’s Curse”, which was my first published short story. Tehani Wessely bought it for ASIM in 2008. Also in 2008, I attended a workshop with Jim Frenkel at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival, and he advised me to build a reputation with short stories before I wrote another novel. I like both. I don’t think I’ll stop writing short stories.

It’s taken a long time to get this far, hasn’t it? The industry seems to be getting more and more difficult to penetrate. Can you tell us a bit about how you got an agent and then the book deal?

It has taken a long time, and I’m glad I was oblivious, early on, to how much work and persistence it would take, because I might have given up. On our first day of lectures at vet school, which I’d worked my ass off to get into because I wanted to be a zoo vet, I remember hearing the recommendation that zoo vets get a decade of experience with cows, first. It made sense. Giraffes, rhinos, elephants; the closest you’re going to get to them in private practice is cattle.

But I was devastated! I thought there was no way I could survive ten years of getting smooshed against fences by poo-covered cows, all for a tiny chance of gaining one of the three zoo vet jobs in all of Australia that would only be vacated when one of the existing zoo vets died. And those people all seemed young and healthy!

So, I was discouraged. I decided to be a small animal vet and just do whatever bird and wildlife work I could get on the side. That’s why I don’t like it when people ask me how to get published, because “write stuff that isn’t good enough for ten or twenty years” is a horrible, discouraging answer, and I would have hated anyone who told it to me when I was in high school!

I got my agent, Evan Gregory, by querying according to the agency guidelines. I hadn’t met him at a fancy overseas convention or anything glam like that, haha. I was a Locus subscriber. Every time an issue came out, I’d open to the ‘BOOKS SOLD’ section and highlight all the agents that represented work that sounded like mine, and that’s how I’d make my list of who to query. It helped that Evan had an interesting blog, and worked for Ethan Ellenberg, who reps John Scalzi and Karen Miller. Both authors had spoken highly of the agency so I knew they weren’t dodgy.

The book deal came about, I guess, because Evan does go to conventions, and fancy lunches (maybe they aren’t that fancy, maybe they eat discounted sumo salad on park benches?) – ANYWAY, the point is, he had a better idea than me who the editors were that might be a good match for my work. And he was right, wasn’t he? And simultaneous submissions are brilliant compared to my decade of sending printed novel manuscripts in the post to one publisher at a time and then waiting years for each reply.

And I was over the moon after the offer from Diana Pho at Tor. She is just lovely. I’m thrilled to be working with her. Tor was the first publishing imprint for grown-ups I ever really became aware of, plundering the Eye of the World from Mum’s shelf and inhabiting the world of the Wheel of Time in my school holidays.

That is persistence! I’m happy you had such a wonderful outcome after so much hard work. You have written a number of works and have had recognition for many short stories over the years? Did the award wins help you gain notice from publishers? Did you find short story writing honed your novel writing skills or was it unrelated?

I have no idea if the award wins helped me gain notice. The invitations to contribute to anthologies that I occasionally received could have been because of awards, or just because the editors had read my stuff. They sure gave me confidence and hope for the future. And the Aurealis and Ditmar award ceremonies brought me to my first conventions and introduced me to the community. I first met you in person at an Aurealis night, didn’t I? I love the community! Hello, community!

It sure helped to know that my writing, sentence by sentence, was publishable and that people enjoyed reading it. But I think, for me, short-story writing might have been a pleasant detour instead of a necessary phase. If I had to guess at the weaknesses of my early manuscripts, I would say problems with novel-length structure and novel-length character arcs, and I couldn’t learn those from writing short stories. My strength has, I think, always been pretty writing, and yeah, the short story words I wrote might have gotten prettier, and they certainly got more succinct, but I suspect that wasn’t what was keeping my novels from being bought.

I know how you feel! How did you keep up your motivation all these years? Do you have any advice for other writers who are struggling to maintain the faith and keep writing?

Living in denial? I did this thing where, in order to be excited about the book I was writing and make it the best it could possibly be, I had to believe it was The One. No matter how many stats or experts told me my first book might not be The One, and my second book might not be The One, and my third, and my fourth, I had to tell myself they were wrong, and that THIS one was The One. Every year, my New Year’s resolution was to write better, to write The One.

Which automatically meant I couldn’t be the arbiter of which one really was The One, which is why self-publishing could never be for me. I knew I would have to keep throwing novels at the trad publishing wall until one stuck. Kevin J Anderson’s popcorn theory (Google it!) worked for short stories, so I had to believe it would work for novels, too.

It’s not easy. To willingly, deliberately delude yourself that you’re an exception to the rule (where failure is the rule, the statistical likelihood anyway); to rely on long-suffering editors to bring you back down to earth by telling you not yet, not this piece, not this market; to wonder if you’re suffering from that syndrome where the more incompetent you are, the more likely you are to think you are competent, etc.

To read other people’s stories, not knowing if your story is the one where the writer persists and finally breaks through, or if yours is the one about the ex-writer who walks away and becomes a teacher or a truck-driver and lives a happy life with enough money to buy plenty of books.

If you are reading this story, my story, I’m sorry that I can’t tell you what your ending is going to be. I can only tell you that I cried harder at the thought of being forced to give up out of financial necessity than I did over all the rejections pouring in (happy face!).

Did you have to make sacrifices to continue to write (personal , physical or material)?

Yes.

Chiefly material sacrifices. My husband is amazing and my kid is brilliant, my parents do what they can and my friends are the best; I feel personally supported in every way. But 2014 was still horrific. There was kind of a slow creep, a reduction in living standards, starting with me leaving my job as a vet to have the Small One, culminating in some stark financial realities as I decided to try and make this writing thing pay off instead of going back to veterinary practice. It was a shock to my self-image, going from being a person with a successful, professional veterinary career, with a home and an investment property, to a person with none of those things – and I was panicking until two months ago about keeping my little car. Now I have a book advance coming and can breathe a little easier. Of course, I can’t be sure how much of all that was my career change, how much our move to an expensive area, how much was motherhood and how much bad luck. But, hooray, this seems like a luckier year!

If you could give three tips on writing and writing well, what would they be?

Devour other people’s books. Write when you are inspired and also when you are not inspired. Don’t rewrite until you get to the end. (There, now you’ve made me give shit advice already, because that works for me but not everyone).

Look, I can only think of those two things that apply to everyone, and I’m not even sure about that second one. OK, what about read good blogs? Like this one! And the Book View Cafe blog. Maybe Chuck Wendig’s place, and NK Jemisin’s. Ian McHugh’s blog, and Pub Rants, and Man Versus Bear. Cat Valente’s archived posts are still good, even if she doesn’t blog as much these days. And Sean the Bookonaut and Ebon Shores can give that sense of community. Take the advice from them that seems most useful to you. And practice. Keep practicing.

What were the instances in your life that inspired you to keep writing (besides award recognition)?

Travelling to beautiful places. Discovering amazing things. They have always inspired me.

I started writing CROSSROADS OF CANOPY after a trip to Cairns and the rainforests up there in tropical Queensland. All the other rainforests I’d been to wanted to come to the party as well – Nepalese forests, Canadian ones, Tasmanian and Singaporean and New Zealander. I put my version of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in there because of a book on ancient civilisations that my Dad brought back from Lebanon for me.

It was pretty inspiring at Worldcon in Melbourne when random strangers asked me when my first novel was coming out (I still don’t know exactly!). Also, quite surreal.

One recent inspired moment was when my husband and I stood outside the dusty, desolate storage facility we’d hired. All our beautiful furniture was inside, some of it hand-made by him from gorgeous Australian hardwoods; furniture we couldn’t fit in the rented unit where we were going. I saw my veterinary textbooks in boxes next to my favourite fat fantasy novels, and asked him in a very small voice if I should keep the veterinary books out, because maybe the writer-dream was over, and he said, with complete confidence, without hesitation, that I would not be needing them.

Looking back, where did you gain your personal leap forwards with respect to your writing? (such as perseverance, feedback, an editor, insight gained over years?)

The most serious problem with the Self-Delusion Method is that you spend so much time convincing yourself that everyone is wrong about your writing not being awesome that hearing criticism without getting defensive can prove difficult. That’s even before you learn that two people will give completely opposite feedback to each other. And sometimes the feedback is wrong. When you’re new, you’ve got no idea when it is and it isn’t wrong, so you might try and work it out scientifically – that is, to get many people commenting on one piece, so it’s more like a survey. But then different people will have different areas of expertise, so your survey is weighted, and then it’s not really a survey any more, is it?

I regret the times I’ve been ungrateful about feedback. The Self-Delusion Method should probably be stricken from the list of advisable routes to publication. One moment that led to a bit of a leap was when Alisa Krasnostein at Twelfth Planet Press took most of the pirate-talk out of my pirate novella in the name of improving readability and I was convinced she was wrong – SO WRONG! – but I went along with it, grumbling inside. I was so immersed in pirate slang at that point I had lost all perspective on what a normal person would or wouldn’t understand from it. And then about a year after it was published, I sat down and read it again, after I’d lost my sea legs, after I’d lost the pirate cadence from my inner voice, and saw how she had been right – SO RIGHT!

Trusting the most excellent editors that I’ve been fortunate enough to have was probably a bigger step for me than it should have been (happy face!).

Wow. Thank you Thoraiya. All writers have personal journeys to continue writing, but yours is truly inspiring. I have made some material sacrifices but not any where near what you have done. I am so pleased for your success. Seeing you succeed should give other aspiring writers hope that their turn will come. I wish you every success and I’ll see you back here when the book is coming out.

HUGS!

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