Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Titles That Sell

"I can't think of a title. Do you have any ideas?" 

I've lost count of the times someone has said this to me! I usually roll my eyes and groan. Do I have any ideas? Not likely. Coming up with a title is hard work. Oh, sure, sometimes the perfect title seems to appear from nowhere... but more often, it involves a lot of brainstorming and some pretty dodgy choices in the beginning.

A pet hate of mine is what I call the 'Nothing' title. You know the kind of thing: "Treacherous Heart"; "Deception"; "The Wedding". When looking at the books I own before sitting down to write this, I spotted two novels on my shelves both entitled "The Wedding." Please, a bit more imagination! (Of course, if you're a best-selling author already it doesn't matter much. Your name is going to be twice the size of the title anyway. All your readers want to know is: "Have I read this one before...? No? Great, I'll buy it.")

Your book title is very important, so it's worth spending a bit of time on it - no, a LOT of time on it! Your title needs to sum up the theme of your book in a few words... yet be 'different' enough to stand out. There's no doubt that a good title can help to sell a book, although a bad title won't necessarily affect your chances of acceptance.

FOR NOW: if you're having trouble, at least call the book *something*. That helps you to see it as an entity. It's much easier to imagine it as a finished product when it has a title. You can always change the title later, but meanwhile you can be thinking of your novel by name instead of just 'my book'.

FOR LATER: keep in mind that your name is going to be associated with the title of your book forever more. You will be sending out press releases about your book; you may be doing radio or TV interviews; you are likely to be introduced at author talks and on panels as "Jane Writer, Author of "How to Make a Million Before Breakfast". Your title will be OUT THERE.

Now that you're thoroughly intimidated, let's think about how you can make your title (a) grab attention and (b) have something meaningful to say about your book. ("The Wedding" might say something about the book, but it's too generic - hardly a 'grabber'. Sure, romance readers like to read about weddings... but which novel would you pluck from the shelf: "The Wedding" or "Too Wild to Wed" (a book by Jayne Ann Krentz)? Your title should make people want to pick up your book and read more.) Here are some titles I found on my shelves that are intriguing, or full of promise, or maybe just quirky:

=== Non-Fiction ===

The One-Minute Millionaire by Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen. (No comment necessary about why this is effective.)

You'll See It When You Believe It by Wayne Dyer (A clever twist on the standard saying)

Men Are From Mars, Women Are from Venus (An inspired choice that has paid off big time)

=== Romance ===

Vows Made in Wine by Susan Wiggs. (This one came from a quote from Shakespeare: "I am falser than vows made in wine". Intriguing both on its own *and* if the source of the quote is recognised.)

The Mist and the Magic by Susan Wiggs. (This is the blurb on the back cover: THE MIST: Caitlin MacBride, mistress of the beleaguered Irish stronghold Clonmuir, made a wish one evening at sunset. "Send me my true love," she whispered. THE MAGIC: As she watched, a man walked out of the mist that rolled in off the water. In John Wesley Hawkins, Caitlin saw a magic she thought had been lost to Ireland forever...)

A further note on Susan Wiggs' titles: Susan has chosen to stay with the same rhythmic pattern for some of her titles, using the formula "The XXX and the XXX". As well as "The Mist And The Magic", she has written "The Raven and the Rose" and "The Lily and The Leopard". (She also has what I call a 'nothing' title: "Embrace the Day" so it just goes to show you can't win all the time.)

Moving right along: Several authors choose to use well known song titles or excerpts as titles. This works well if it's tied to the book's theme. Included in those are:

Nobody's Baby But Mine (Susan Elizabeth Phillips)

It Had To Be You (Susan Elizabeth Phillips)

Walking After Midnight (Karen Robards)

=== Crime ===

A - Z titles 

Some of the best known mystery titles are Sue Grafton's books featuring PI Kinsey Milhone. Grafton started with "A is for Alibi" and is working her way through the alphabet. The formula is simple: "[alphabet letter] is for XXXX"So far we have: Burglar, Corpse, Deadbeat, Evidence, Fugitive, Gumshoe, Homicide, Innocent, Judgment, Killer, Lawless, Malice, Noose, Outlaw, Peril, Quarry and Ricochet. (There may be more out that I haven't seen yet.) Naturally you can apply this formula to any genre: fiction or non-fiction.

=== Short Titles (2 or 3 Words) ===

Greg Iles, a popular writer of thrillers, likes short, punchy titles. People now associate this type of title with his books. It's much more of a challenge to relate the title to your book if you choose an ultra-short title, but it can be done. Greg Iles has written "Sleep No More", "Dead Sleep", "24 Hours"; "The Quiet Game", "Mortal Fear", "Dark Matter" and "Blood Memory". The danger of very short titles is that they can become 'nothing titles' very easily, but in Greg Iles' case, each title does relate to the theme of the book.

=== Humour ===

Everyone likes a quirky, humorous title. One I liked was "The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing" by Melissa Bank - which is a humorous novel related to the mating game, not activities in the wild! Other humorous titles that worked for me are: Getting Rid of Bradley (Jennifer Crusie) and "When She Was Bad" (Jennifer Crusie). There are many more... try going to the library for an hour or so and doing nothing but write down titles that 'grab' you. Then classify them: humorous, song titles, eerie, adventurous and so on. You'll learn a lot.

"How To" books are ever-popular, and these two words in a title often impel readers to make a purchase. Often the "how to" is in the subtitle - for example: "The Perfect Pergola: How To Build Your Own Pergola in 10 Easy Steps".

Pick your own "how to" topic! You might find it effective to link the word "Secrets" with a "How To" title - people love to feel that they're learning something that most other people don't know. (Example: "The Secrets of Property Investment for Retirees: How To Triple Your Nest Egg in 12 Short Months".) A subtitle is an excellent idea for non-fiction - it allows you to choose a shorter, punchier title for the main impact, then add clarification for the reader.

=== How To Find a Good Title ===

1. Spend an hour at the library browsing the shelves and writing down titles that appeal - and why. (You're expected to browse in a library. In a book store you might get a few funny looks.) See if you can figure out, by reading the back cover blurb or reviews etc, how the title is relevant to the subject matter.

2. Use the Internet. Google your way to www.Amazon.com and do the same thing... just research titles. You'll be able to look at magazine titles as well as book titles.

3. Browse at the newsagent. You can often get ideas for titles from the titles of articles in magazines. Check out the phrases used as 'grabbers' on the magazine cover, too.

4. Write down every title you can think of, and all variations of that title. Add different nouns and verbs. Think of how you might be able to use words that relate to colours, numbers, emotions, people and animals.

And After All That...

... be prepared for your wonderful, quirky, clever title to be changed. Aaarrgghh! Sad but true.
Often it will simply not appeal to an editor. Sometimes there will be another book about to be released with a similar title. Sometimes you'll be asked to change it because the title gives away too much! (This happened to me. I gave one of my books for kids the title "The Haunted Concert". I thought it was a great title: kids love ghost stories, and most have experienced being in a school concert. The editor pointed out that most of the way through the book the main character was convinced that his substitute teacher (who was very 'different') was an alien. Instead, she turned out to be the ghost of one of the first teachers at the school. By calling the book "The Haunted Concert" I had given the game away. Duh!!! After beating myself around the head a few times, I changed it.)

Can you fight for your title? Hmmm... not likely. Unless you hate it, it's best to accept the change and move on.

Finally, here's a few words about book titles from well-known fantasy novelist Cory Daniells (Author of The Shadow Kingdom).
You want something that will leap off the shelves and stick in people's minds. You spend hours puzzling over just the right title for your book, you consult friends and family. And then, when you get accepted, the marketing people change the title. This happened to two out of three books in my trilogy.

But it is still worth taking the time to come up with the best possible title for your book. Why not surf the net and compare book titles by your favourite authors: authors whose books will be on the shelves with yours. Which titles would make you pick up the book?

If you are writing a series, you'll need to think of a series title and individual titles.
·       Can you draw on the theme of the series for inspiration?
·       Can you link the titles so that the readers will have no trouble remembering them? Think of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books. 'One for the Money' etc.
·       Can you set up a conflict in the title by using two words that contradict each other? I sold a story recently called 'The Nameless King and the Faithless Priest'.
But remember, don't get too attached. The marketing team will have their own ideas... but whatever it is called, it is still your book!

© Marg McAlister

Sunday, 15 July 2018


As an author, the most frequent complaint I hear from fellow authors about a publishing house is ‘nobody tells me anything’ so my first suggestion to any publisher is to send authors a list of where their book has been sent for review and what promotion has been planned for it.

The best, most proactive and communicative publisher I have ever worked with is Paul Collins (Ford Street) for my  YA novel, Crossing the Line (*see note at foot of this article). We worked hard and productively as a team. First, Paul asked me to send my contracted but unpublished manuscript to two people who we hoped would give us quotes to help promote the book. I chose two high-profile authors whose work I admire – Margaret Clark, whose books are for the same demographic as mine, and Elizabeth Fensham because her Helicopter Man deals with mental illness, as does Crossing the Line. In the first few weeks that the book came out, thanks to publisher and author working as a pro-active team, I had at least 17 book reviews and 12 interviews/articles (radio and newspapers).

Basically all PR comes from the author and so he/she must be motivated. Quite often an author, especially a new one, has no idea of how they can promote their latest title, so it behoves the marketing and publicity department to provide authors with a promotion pack. This could include the press release that is sent out to the media and a high resolution copy of the book cover. I use the press release Paul Collins prepared for my book again and again.

Publishers, ask your author to contact all of their local media with the press release and their contact details. Recently I contacted a number of other proactive children’s authors for their take on promotion in the educational market. Here is what they said:

Jan Latta (a highly successful self-published author) Today, for 5 hours, I have been emailing every principal, or librarian, about my books for my next visit to Hong Kong. If the timing is too tight for the school to book me for a presentation, I send a set of books for their approval. I've only had one book returned! In HK I never charge a speaker's fee as I have great success with book sales. Usually over 1,000 books sold a week.

Hazel Edwards: Offering discussion notes is a way of value adding to your book and publicising it long term by word of mouth.

Edel Wignell: One of her strategies is to write articles for a whole range of magazines in Australia and overseas that in some way link with her current publication.

Susanne Gervay, Tristan Bancks, Paul Collins (and numerous others): They make themselves available and actively promote themselves as being available for writers’ conferences and festivals all over Australia.
Sandy Fussell: For her Samurai series (Walker Books) she has created an interactive website. She offers competitions and continually updates the site. Her launch party, which she organised, was the best I’ve ever been to. She sold over 80 books on the night.

Patricia Bernard and DC Green: Both of them travel extensively around Australia offering author talks and writing workshops, and both sell many thousands of dollars worth of their self-published books during their travels. Patricia once paid to have an advertisement placed on Sydney buses!

On looking at some publishers’ websites nowhere did I see links to their authors’ and illustrators’ websites. Nor did I find any indication whether or not their book creators are available for school visits, festivals, etc. However, one publishing house which does this very well is Allen & Unwin: their website is very easy to navigate.
I would advise publishers’ marketing departments to make a clear distinction between their adult and the children’s authors. Teachers and teacher librarians don’t have the time to work their way through publishers’ websites: they want the information at their fingertips.

One way in which any book itself can be a marketing tool is for the publisher to print on the back inside pages website details where teachers can find teacher notes, or print the teacher notes in the book itself as well as printing the author’s website address and the publisher’s website address. DC Green of Barrel Books makes full use of his books to show the above details.
If the book’s content is linked in any way to the school curriculum, it is a good idea for publishers to provide teaching resources that are appropriate for immediate classroom use (e.g. web quest, worksheets, word searches). This can even go on the blank pages at the end of the book!

When I asked a group of primary teacher-librarians about how to make children’s books school-friendly, they said:
1. Publish portrait books, not landscape. (The latter stick out from the library shelf and are difficult to shelve)
2. Publish books that link with the HSIE
3. Offer free author talks to schools
4. Arrange pre-publication talks

One teacher-librarian wrote to me: “The thing that stands out for me above all others is someone who knows their books and knows (enough) about education to make connections and answer intelligent questions. If I get an email or flier that just has the publishers’ blurb about the product and the price, then the consultant rings and says “Hi did you receive….do you want to buy…” I always say NO. It’s been filed in the recycling long ago. I need to be able to TALK and LOOK and TOUCH (failing this, to return if unsuitable). There is a limited library budget and we need to take care that what we get is great not just OK or even good, for our educational purposes.”

What publishers can do to promote their authors is to first establish a relationship: find out what the author wants or is willing to do, for example:
- school/ teacher talks
- author tours
- book fairs
- promotional tour
- sending press releases to local media
- presenting at festivals and/or conferences
- presenting at Staff development days, at Regional librarian meetings
- talking to local organisations, for example VIEW clubs

The publicist can ask the author to write articles for industry magazines e.g. Scan, Magpies, The Literature Base, Practically Primary, and Buzz Words about aspects of their new book. The author can also write articles that link with special days, (for example, I wrote a number of articles for Mental Health Week, which linked with my book Crossing the Line). Arrange a 'connection' with an excursion destination (once again curriculum link is great). The best example I can think of here is a big one (but it doesn't need to be this scale): to promote her book, author Felicity Pulman organised a tour of the Sydney Quarantine Station, the setting of her children’s book Ghost Boy. Make sure books are available for sale where the author is presenting. Link up with another of your publishing house’s authors in the same education area/topic: this way you can provide a 'dual package' to schools, i.e. two authors on one school visit.
Target special interest groups e.g. English as a Second Language or Gifted and Talented Children. Be aware of any special focus or special projects the Department of Education is undertaking – check their websites all the time and make contact at any opportunity. Be part of initiatives by education-related groups such as PETA - once again, check their websites all the time and make contact at any opportunity.

Publishers ought to prepare an author kit giving advice on where to go for publicity and how they can represent their book. One of the very best things publishers can do for an author is to arrange for him to speak briefly to their book reps. This gives the reps some anecdotal information and enthusiasm they can pass on to teacher-librarians. The reps can also give the TLs a sheet which provides information on how to contact the author for a school visit and where to look for teaching notes. On the day the author visits the publisher’s office to talk to the reps, it’s advisable to have the publicist and author sit together so that between the two of them they organise strategies for promoting the book. So often publicists work independently of authors: they usually don’t even get to meet those whose books they are paid to promote!

Allen & Unwin and Walker Books Australia send me great online newsletters every month with details of their new titles, as well as news such as author tours, author interviews, competitions and giveaways. I often order books as a result of reading these newsletters. Ford Street also sends out a very good online newsletter promoting its recent titles.

Teacher-librarians love to be signalled out for the work they do. Every region has a teacher-librarian network. In the Illawarra there is the Illawarra School Librarians Association with 120 members. It would be a worthwhile exercise once a term for a publishing house to offer a night highlighting: invite an author, illustrator or designer along to talk about their work. Offer refreshments and discounts. These nights can be held in bookshops and serve a double function, making the bookshop a profit and strengthening the bookseller/publisher bond.

Publishers could have a ‘meet the children’s authors’ event. This is an excellent way for a publishing house to get their writers to meet the general public (including teacher librarians and book reviewers, as well as the publishing house’s staff, e.g. marketing and publicity people).

It is a good idea to support book launches in schools. Richard Harland’s launched the Wolf Kingdom series in a Wollongong school. Richard organised a bookseller for the day who in turn contacted the school and sent order forms. On the day of the launch, 350 copies of the book were sold. At a second launch, at another school, 300 additional copies were sold.

If they are proactive, authors can sell a lot of books; therefore it seems sensible to allow them to do so, so make provision for this in their contracts. Give them the same discount as booksellers. When my author husband Bill Condon and I worked in schools as performers, Bill would speak in the morning to infants’ students, I’d speak to primary. At lunch-time we sold our remainders, usually for $3 or $5 each. It was not unusual to sell over $1,000 worth of books in the one hour lunch-time period.

Publishers, encourage your authors to attend functions such as literary lunches, festivals and conferences. Publisher Paul Collins writes to each of his Ford Street authors asking them for a few lines of biography and then sent them collectively to all writers’ festivals around Australia saying these authors are willing to appear at your festival. There are dozens of festivals and conferences and all of them have large audiences.

Publishers, make a list of all of your children’s authors, along with their Send this list out to CBCA regional branches, conference & festival organisers, and regional teacher librarian groups indicating that the authors are available for visits. When authors speak at conferences, provide bookmarks and promotional material. Give the author a list of local media (and contact details) when they are to appear at a festival, conference or literary lunch. The author can organise interviews – or, if you are accompanying author, you can organise them

When authors send emails, encourage them to have a signature on each email which includes not only contact information, but the name of their latest books. A website is an author’s best investment in PR as it is that author’s shop front. Hazel
Edwards recommends that authors give added value. ‘Have ready on your web site well-labelled activities which relate to that book title. This can be sent to schools, libraries or bookshops which have newsletters or events to which the author is invited.’ Publishers, give teachers' notes or additional resources to the author to put on his website. Encourage the author to have a generic 'How to'' or “How this book was written”, a 1,000 word article for easy sending to interested parties. As well, have a hi-resolution author photo on your publishers’ web site so it can be down-loaded by festival organisers and save you e-mailing.

· School visits or writing camps (talking to children)
· Staff development days
· Regional librarian meetings
· Conferences and festivals
· Articles in teaching industry magazines
· On your website
Will publishers implement many – or any – of these suggestions? Hard to tell. However, every author I’ve discussed these ideas with has been fully supportive, and a happy author ought to be one of the main aims of every publishing house.

Saturday, 14 July 2018


Writing for Children: BEING BUSINESS-LIKE AS A WRITER: Taxation Departments regard writers and illustrators as 'Small Business'. Even if you are a new writer and don't earn enough m...


Taxation Departments regard writers and illustrators as 'Small Business'. Even if you are a new writer and don't earn enough money to pay tax, it's a smart idea to work in a business-like way. Then, when the time comes, the transition is easy.
This advice was given in a session called 'Taxation for Writers' at an ASA Seminar that I attended in the early eighties before I was earning enough to pay tax. A tax consultant advised on procedures that would simplify the drudgery of 'getting the figures together' at the end of the financial quarter or year. Here is my procedure, based initially on his advice and changed from time to time to suit different circumstances.

I write short stories, verse, scripts and articles for magazines (for adults and children), as well as junior novels, non-fiction books and picture-stories. I keep track of them by means of Card files and a Day Book. (If yours are major works, such as writing one novel or illustrating one picture-story a year, then you will always know where your work is placed.) Available now is software which does this job, but I like the portability of cards and a Day Book.

A. CARD FILES (Note that this can be computerised)
1. Each item of work has its own card, filed in its category: short stories, picture stories, articles, verse, scripts, novels, collections - in sections for adults and children. A quick glance tells the history of the work.

When I send a piece of work out, I write the date and the market; later, the date of acceptance followed by the payment, written in green felt pen, or the date of rejection followed by the next market.

Some items have a long history. If an item is out longer than four or five months, I send a reminder. If payment is slow, I send an account. If the item is returned, I send it out again, and make a notation, 'revised', if I re-write. I offer second rights and send items overseas.

I have retained copyright to most of my work and have been able to offer some for inclusion in story and poetry anthologies. I offer non-exclusive rights so that I am free to market my work again.

On the back of the cards, I note expenses, such as: postages, short story entry fees, photocopying costs...
2. Each market has a card: newspapers and magazines (adults and children), trade publishers, education publishers, radio programs. Five columns show date sent, title, category (short story, verse...), date of acceptance, date of return.

B. DAY BOOK (Note this can be spread-sheet on your computer)
I use a spiral notebook, page-numbered and divided into sections. Categories are listed on a Contents page under Expenses and Income. Three columns show date, details and fees. Whenever I pay by cheque, I include its number.

Postages: Daily, as I post items, I enter them. My Post Office Box fee is also included once a year.
Telephone: Local and interstate charges are entered on separate pages. Half telephone rental is included.
Fares and Travel: This includes local travel by public transport and travel by car for speaking engagements. (Charges are based on kilometres and the cc capacity of the car.) Fares and travel costs paid by hosts for interstate travel for talks, research, appointments... are recorded.
Printing and Stationery: The usual office items, plus computer software and photocopying - coin-in-the-slot and copy card costs.
Subscriptions and Memberships: Add the cost of daily newspapers, for these are essential research tools for all kinds of writing.
Books: A collection of books may be depreciated annually, or new books related to the earning of income may be listed.
Workshops, conferences and seminars: Registration payments.
Fees: Include fees paid to enter competitions. If you are a compiler, fees paid to authors for permission to include items in an anthology. Fees paid for professional computer maintenance and advice.
Accountancy: Eventually you may decide to engage a tax consultant. This was my decision in 1986 when I had bought a computer, software and printer, and wasn't sure which of three ways was best when claiming depreciation.
Publicity and Advertising: Fliers, bookmarks, photographs and the purchase of your own books to give away.
Home Office: see Special Notes
Donations: List gifts to charitable organisations.
Hardware: Record details of the purchase of computer hardware, office desk, chair and filing cabinet. (Note that computer hardware can be depreciated and software cannot.)
Depreciation: see Special Notes.
Input Tax Credit: see Income: Copyright Agency Limited.

I list under the following headings:
Features and articles
Short Stories
Lectures, Workshops, School Visits
Public Lending Rights and Educational Lending Rights
Copyright Agency Limited - payments made when individuals or organisations photocopy works or segments of works. There is a commission involved in this, which is an Input Tax Credit. Multiply the amount by 11 and list it as a tax deduction.
Sale of books - if you buy new or remainders for re-sale, record purchase price and sales

* File all royalty statements, receipts, etc, in two large envelopes - income and earnings.
* Originally, I had to discover how to depreciate office items, such as typewriter, tape-recorder, computer and printer. Now I leave it to my taxation consultant.
* Claim Home Office or Home Studio expenses on a room used exclusively for this purpose. The area of my study is about one-seventh of the total house area, so I list expenses (lighting, heating, water rates, council rates, insurance, body corporate fee) and divide by seven.
* Other items that may be tax-deductible: depreciation on office furnishings and fittings, repairs to office equipment, furniture and fittings, office cleaning, proportion of home loan interest, proportion of rent for a flat or a house, wages paid to assistants, legal fees in respect to contracts, proportion of overseas travel expenses...
When I engaged a taxation consultant, I explained my organisation and asked whether she had any suggestions. 'That's fine,' she said. 'All I need is your Day Book and totals of extra income from investments and bank interest.'
The system works for me. I hope it works for you!
© Edel Wignell

Edel Wignell is a freelance writer, compiler and journalist. Her latest titles are Tying the Knot: Folk Tales of Love and Marriage from around the World and Tying the Knot: Teacher Resource Book for Years 6-9 (Phoenix Education).
This article was first published in Writers' Forum (USA).

Saturday, 1 April 2017


Written by Michelle Morgan

Flying through Clouds is my new historical novel for young adults, and it’s hot off the press. Writing Flying through Clouds has been a labour of love - it took me almost four years to write and whip into shape, with the help of some talented editors along the way.  I chose to self-publish this time, and I haven’t regretted it. Getting a novel to publication is only the first part of the difficult road to publication. Marketing and publicity are critical if potential readers are going to find out about your book. I’d like to share some of my key strategies with you.

5 Marketing Strategies for Self-Publishing Authors:

1.    Create a Media Release (also known as an AIS or Advance Information Sheet) and email it to selected bookshops and suppliers, media contacts and bloggers.
2.    After your manuscript has been copy-edited, arrange for 50+ copies of your book (uncorrected proof copies) to be printed, then send to interested bookshops and suppliers, media contacts, reviewers bloggers and a few authors. Seek quotes for inclusion on the cover and/or inside the book.
3.    Organise a book launch and then a book tour of selected libraries and bookshops, giving talks in places which have some relevance to your book. Promote through social media.
4.    Develop publicity materials such as posters and bookmarks and get them professionally printed.
5.    Arrange a blog tour and promote through social media.

For any marketing campaign to be successful, you need to have a well-written and intriguing book, and a great cover. Professional editors and cover / layout artists are a must if you want to produce a quality book.

I hope you enjoy Flying through Clouds!

PUBLISHED: 2 April 2017
ISBN: 978-0-9953865-0-1
AGES: 12+
RRP: $18.99 Pbk

Flying through Clouds is available from bookshops, educational and library suppliers, and can be ordered on Michelle’s website.

Find out more about Michelle and her books on her website: www.michellejmorgan.com.au

Check out Clancy Tucker’s blog tomorrow at https://clancytucker.blogspot.com.au/ for Day 3 of the Flying through Clouds Blog tour.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Today's interview is with Australian author/illustrator Alison Reynolds who has been publishing since 2003 with Five Mile Press. She talks here about her latest two children's books.                                                                            

These are the latest two picture books in the Pickle and Bree’s Guide to Good Deeds series aimed at children 4- 8. They explore social etiquette and positive behaviour in a light, humorous way. The Playground Meanies is about bullying and The Big Snow Adventure tackles respecting rules.

Each book features a Handy Guide to Good Deeds on the last page, which can be used as a discussion point for adults and children.

What is the book’s history to publication?  The Five Mile Press http://www.fivemile.com.au/ commissioned these books as part of an ongoing series. The editor approved my initial concepts after a bit of toing and froing.
Why did you choose Five Mile Press as your publisher?                                             I’ve worked with The Five Mile Press for many years and value highly my relationship with them. They’ve offered me many wonderful opportunities to write many different style books. They’re perfect match for somebody like me who enjoys a challenge.

How long did it take from submission of your manuscript to receipt of advance copies? The whole process from initial concept to being edited took about five months.

Which editor did you work with? Was there a lot of work that needed to be done to your manuscript? How was the editing experience for you?                                            I worked with the super talented Melissa Keil at The Five Mile Press. She manages to point out where the text can be improved with tact and perspicacity. There was not as much work needed as for the first two books, because I know the characters now. With Melissa, I feel we’re working together to make the books the best books they can be.

Who is the book’s illustrator? Why do you like her work?                                          Mikki Butterley is a brilliant illustrator who lives in the north of England. She comes from a background of creating cards, and her attention to detail is extraordinary. I adore her work for the sense of fun she captures. Whatever wild wacky idea I come up with in the text, Mikki seems to be able to match it up with a gorgeous illustration. I also love her colour palette.

Anything else you’d like to say about your publisher?                                                      I would recommend The Five Mile Press to illustrators and other authors. They produce a range of different fabulous products, which makes it an exciting company to work with.

Have you written other books for children?                                                                  I’ve had over 70 books published, including board books, picture books, chapter books, choose-your-own-adventure style books and even a non-fiction adult book.  I work for different publishers, which helps me maintain a flow of work.

Do you belong to a writing group?                                                                                    I’ve belonged to a few writing groups in the past. One group has transformed into a lunching group of close friends as I’m the only one who still writes on a full-time basis. I firmly believe writing groups can be excellent especially when you’re starting out, but you need to be in one that suits you. If you find you’re in a toxic writing group that makes you feel bad, belittled and if you’re the one who is doing all the work, run. I’m lucky enough to be working with editors who give me thoughtful, excellent feedback, so I’m not in a writing group at the moment.

I had a few outstanding writing tutors/mentors when I studied, for example Janey Runci, Sari Smith, Rachel Flynn and Marg McKenzie. 

What are you now working on? 
I have an idea that I’m playing with for a series for 6- 8 year olds. I’m not at the stage of sending it out to publishers yet, but hope to be there soon. I’ve had a variety of books published, including picture books, board books, chapter books, middle grade books and even an adult non-fiction book.

Anything else you’d like to add?                                                                                      To aspiring writers out there: never give up; never give up; never give up.

I would love you to check out my website at www.alisonreynolds.com.au

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Motivating Yourself to Write

‘Superglue’, that’s the answer I give when people ask how I motivate myself to write day after day. ‘Apply it to the seat of your pants and face the screen.’ It’s a glib answer, but basically this is the surest way to achievement.

There's nothing like the feeling of starting to write a brand new story. You’ve probably been thinking about it for days or weeks before you actually sit down at your computer and start tapping away. The characters are real in your head; the plot sounds promising, and you are motivated. This is going to be The One, the great international best-selling novel.

Your initial feeling of excitement can last for weeks. It's rewarding to see the word count increase as days pass. It's a joy to open your laptop and spend hours in your fictional world, forgetting all your everyday chores.

Comes the day, though, when you turn on your computer and instead of having fun writing the next scene, you stare at the screen and find yourself thinking about anything other than your story. Visitors are coming for tea, your carpets need vacuuming and your garden is neglected.  You type a few sentences, but when you read them through they sound about as interesting as last week's shopping list. Is it worth pursuing, you ask yourself. Perhaps it’s just one of those days. You write in your diary, make a cuppa and bring in the washing. All the time you’re thinking about how difficult it is to write, how nobody said you ‘have to’ write, that getting published is almost impossible given bookshops are closing. Doubts and negative thoughts crowd your head.

Before too long, this becomes the pattern of your days. Sometimes you manage to write a description - even finish a chapter - but more and more, you find reasons not to write. You moan to your family and colleagues about how you’re procrastinating and you ask yourself ‘how can I get over this writer’s block?’

Here is the cold, hard truth: motivating yourself to do anything that’s hard work, like losing weight, doing your taxes, exercising daily – and yes, writing -- is not possible.
You cannot motivate yourself to write. What you can do, is put a plan into action. Work out a system to get what you want.

First, know that the rewards have to be greater than the pain, or you won't do it. We spend our lives trying to avoid pain and to seek out that which is pleasurable. Yes, it’s true! The good news is that once you realise this, you've just taken a giant step towards your ultimate goal - getting your book finished and then getting it published.

Here are a few tips on how to reach your writing and publishing goals. First of all, you need to get serious. This doesn’t mean enrolling in countless courses, networking, going to writers’ festivals or reading writing magazines: none of it will do any good if you don't get serious about the actual WRITING. To have finished pages mounting up, you have to write. To get a manuscript complete enough to submit to a publisher, you have to write. You have to write regardless of whether you’re in the mood; whether or not there are family dramas or you’ve got a head cold. Superglue time is the published writer’s bottom line!

What are some ways of getting out that tube of glue? As indicated above, you need to put writing first. Make it your daily priority. Give it at least an hour a day. One hour out of twenty-four is doable. If you can't spare just one hour a day for your writing, then you are simply not serious.

If the reason you can't spare an hour a day is due to a genuine emergency (a serious illness, for instance), then that's different. Give whatever the crisis is your full attention, then get back to being serious about your writing as soon as it’s passed. Set up a routine for your writing until it becomes a habit. Don't let anything get in the way. If something totally unexpected comes along to derail you and sabotage your writing time, then make that time up before the week is out.

Map out your road to publication. You need to go through a process to do this, so be businesslike and create a checklist. This might include necessary research, writing crucial scenes, finishing a chapter at a time, finishing the first draft, editing the draft, getting feedback (perhaps paying for a manuscript assessment), re-polishing the draft. Make checklists not only for characters, but also for setting, plot, completion dates for scenes (or chapters), editing and polishing your work. Also rough out deadlines for each list. Goal-setting – setting up systems -- needs to be a priority.

One of the best ways of motivating continuity on your writing project is to find support, either with a writing buddy or through a workshop group that meets regularly. It really helps to be accountable to someone, to have support in setting up good writing habits and maintaining discipline with the goals and deadlines you’ve set up, and to critique each other’s work. Your writing support can be a single person whose opinions you trust (perhaps someone else on the path to publication), or it can take the form of a writing course with set tasks, an online assessment/editing forum, or a reputable critique service. Beware, however, of ‘supporters’ who don’t take the writing as seriously as you do: some forums can generate into chatty emails that aren’t focused on achievement.

If you want to be part of a writing workshop that meets regularly to critique works-in-progress, and you don’t know of one, then find one. This might involve putting a notice in your regional newspaper or library, contacting the nearest writers’ centre or asking your council’s community arts officer for local writers’ groups. A good size
group is four to five. Meetings might be once a week, month or fortnight.

Ready to get serious? Then stop reading this article, and clear the decks - mentally, socially and physically. Arrange a quiet writing area that is yours alone. Commit your writing plan and time to paper. Find a writing buddy or writing critique group, then START!

Discipline and good habits will get your book written, and motivation will come from seeing the results.

© Dianne Bates 

A former magazine and newspaper editor, Dianne (Di) Bates is author of over 130 books, mostly for young readers. She has also published How to Self-Edit (To Improve Writing) and Wordgames: Creative Thinking and Writing (Five Senses Education)  Di is the founding editor of Buzz Words, an online twice monthly magazine for those in the children’s book industry. http://www.buzzwordsmagazine.com. Her 
website is www.enterprisingwords.com.au.