Thursday 20 February 2020

Self-publishing essentials

If you are new to self-publishing it’s important to tick all the legal boxes related to releasing your work, so you don’t run into trouble. It’s particularly worth noting for hybrid authors, whose traditional publishers have previously done all this work for them.

Listed below are some of the legal requirements for self-publishing in Australia, and a few tips to set you straight.

Copyright: Don’t pay for this: there is no ‘fee’ for retaining your copyright in Australia, and you don’t have to register—copyright protection is automatic upon creation of your manuscript.
However, you do need to include a copyright page (or imprint page) in the front of your book to assert your copyright. As this is the first page checked by librarians, booksellers and distributors, it’s important.

Your copyright page displays your copyright notice, ISBN, reservation of rights, and any Prepublication Data Service (formerly known as Cataloguing in Publication) or edition information. It’s also the place to attach any disclaimers, or contributor credits (such as acknowledgement of cover designers etc.). A short primer on the copyright page, and a template to create one, is available here.

Copyright lasts for the life of the author until 70 years after their death. You can find out more about copyright in Australia at the Arts Law Centre here.

For issues of copyright, the Copyright Agency Ltd (CAL) is a genuine non-profit organisation that protects author copyright, collects licence fees and distributes royalties. Membership is free, and you can claim payment for use of your work—particularly handy for authors who have books distributed in government or educational settings. You can join CAL here.

Cover image/font usage: You can’t just grab a cool image or font off the internet and stick it on your self-published book’s cover—a photographer or artist’s image, or a typographer’s font, is copyright protected. You can only use them by paying a licensing fee or obtaining permission from the copyright holder.
If you’re creating your own book cover, or providing images to a cover designer, it’s up to you, as the publisher, to ensure those images are legally obtained and paid for or are available through a royalty-free site (like Shutterstock).

Using quotes: In Australia, quoting a single line from another book may be considered a copyright infringement if the part you’re quoting ‘distils the essence of the work’.
If you’d like to use a quote in your book, even as an epigraph, you need to obtain permission from the copyright holder—the author and the publisher—and attribute the quote, and you might have to pay a licensing fee.

Some texts are considered ‘public domain’—works published in the US before 1923, for instance—but you need to check Australian law carefully before using any quotes.
Legal deposit: Every book published in Australia, or published by Australian authors or organisations, for free or for sale, must be deposited with the National Library of Australia (NLA) and the relevant State library.

Even if your book is printed overseas, if you’re an Aussie author, you’re obliged to deposit. One copy should go to the NLA, and one copy should go to the State/Territory library in which you reside. You are obliged to cover the cost of the books and postage yourself. If you’re working with a self-publishing service, it is you, not the service, who is responsible for deposit—but check with your service, so there’s no doubling-up. ISBNs are not a requirement for books to be eligible for deposit.

Ebooks: With improvements in digital technology and storage, the NLA is now requesting that self-publishers who only release in ebook deposit an electronic copy of their book via their new edeposit service. Print: Find out where to deposit here. If you publish in both print and ebook, you only need to deposit one format.

Legal deposit isn’t really a chore: it’s a way to be confident that your work will always be accessible over time. Contact the NLA if you have any queries about legal deposit.

If you are still confused about legal requirements of self-publishing contact the Arts Law Centre of Australia for a great info sheet covering most of the basic issues for self-publishers. They also offer legal advice to subscribers at radically reduced rates.

Friday 20 September 2019

Taking Full Advantage

 In 2006, after many years in the Australian children's book industry, I founded an online magazine for fellow authors, illustrators, editors and publishers. Thirteen years later, I am still compiling Buzz Words ( and sending it out twice a month to subscribers. There are hundreds of people who have invested $48 per annum ($2 an issue) to receive the magazine which is crammed with information from opportunities to interviews and much more. Frequently there are competitions (writing and illustrating) in Buzz Words. And in every issue that those who support the magazine with a subscription, have ample opportunities to feature in Buzz Words (interviews, have your say, articles and more) and to promote their books and achievements in the website.

It surprises and puzzles me how creative people don’t take full of advantage of what’s on offer. So many are working social media, taking a gamble on attracting interest for their books through websites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and more, but few contribute to what is, without doubt, the premier magazine in Australia for those in the children’s book industry. And even fewer contribute regularly. Most of the material in the magazine comes about as a result of me (as compiler) approaching people to contribute (and most do, when asked personally).

Last year, Buzz Words launched its annual Short Story for Children Prize, open to all around Australia, not just subscribers, and it’s on again this year. First prize for an adult writing a story for a child aged 8 to 11 years is $1,000 and second prize is $500 so the prizes are well worth winning.

In the first year we had just over 200 entries from writers all over the country, but not every children’s writer who subscribes to Buzz Words entered the competition. Surely if you write for children, you would submit a story to a competition that was open for three months before the closing date!

So often there are articles written online and in magazines for creative people to help them improve their skills. Conferences and festivals are crammed with beginners wanting to learn the tricks of the trade, the ‘secrets’ to getting published. But it seems that not every Buzz Words subscriber who pays good money to learn more is prepared to contribute (sometimes for payment). 

No wonder I find it puzzling. What do you think? Why are creatives so reluctant to contribute?

Thursday 1 November 2018

Thoughts on blogging

Over the years I have written hundreds, perhaps thousands, of articles, usually about writing or editing, or in some way connected to books. Many of these articles have appeared on these pages in the hope they would be of interest or would educate readers. 

Rarely, if ever, have any comments appeared. So it seems as though I am writing in a vacuum. It’s like writing a book: getting it published means that someone has read it – usually an editor or even more people in the publishing house – but then the book is published -- and I have never – even after publishing over 130 books – seen a single person reading my book that might have taken up to 12 months to write. Occasionally there are reviews so opinions are given – and publishers' sales reports indicate that the book has readers.

Writing is such a thankless job, really (though emails are responded to, and birthday cards and the occasional letter are doubtless read). 

So, not having receive many responses to all the blog entries which have appeared under this heading, I wonder what is the point of it all? 

One reads of bloggers who have hundreds – even thousands – of followers. Mummy bloggers, for instance. Women who write about fashion or dieting. It seems that writing about writing, especially writing children’s books, does not have many followers.

So, this time I’m going to leave this entry for a few weeks to see if anyone ‘out there’ is reading my blog, because if you are, I’m asking for a comment, just to let me know. If you’re there, I’ll keep on keeping on.

To finish, you might like to check out Buzz Words, an online magazine I compile twice a month (since 2006) for those in the Australian children’s book industry. Go to and ask for a free, obligation-free sample.

Monday 17 September 2018

What Annoys A Publisher?

By Paul Collins

I speak from both being an author of around 150 books and a publisher of a similar number. There are a great many things that can annoy publishers. Phone calls or emails asking why the author hasn’t heard back and they’ve only recently submitted their MS; authors who query every page of a contract — nothing wrong with questioning agreements, but mostly they’re “wasting time questions” obviously given to the author (usually an unpublished author — established authors know better) by an agent (paid to look as though they’re working for their fee), a well-meaning friend who once studied law, the ASA, the Fellowship of (whoever) Writers Association. (I made that mistake with my first contract from Penguin. It came back from the FAW so full of queries and penned-out clauses I tossed it in the bin and signed the original contract. The sky didn’t fall in. I wasn’t ripped off by Penguin. Everything was well in the world and I didn’t have to annoy anyone.)

What annoys me as a publisher is authors who argue the toss with editors (if it’s a good editor, take their advice); authors who won’t promote their books (I realise some are introverted — I was too, so did something about it and went to Toastmasters for two years to get over it) and lastly, authors who demand things from a small press because their major press did for them. Always bear in mind a small press is usually one person who simply isn’t making money.

Submitting books to every award in the country is really, really expensive and very time-consuming; sending out review books to a hundred reviewers is also expensive and not very productive (at the end of the day as only a handful of reviews will appear) and asking your publisher to go into the interstate warehouse (impossible!) and put a sticker on every book there because it’s become a Notable Book, or been short-listed for a little-known award. No one at a warehouse is going to open dozens of boxes and put stickers on books. And I very much doubt a busy warehouse with ten thousand boxes is going to let a publisher do it, either (you need to wait for a reprint). Yet these are just some of the things authors and illustrators have asked me to do.

Paul Collins is publisher of Ford Street Publishing and a highly successful children’s and YA author.

Friday 31 August 2018

Buzz Words (All the Buzz About Children's Books)

In 2006 I started a subscriber-based twice-monthly online magazine exclusively for people in the Australian children’s book industry, such as writers (new, mid-career and experienced), illustrators, librarians and publishers – in fact, anyone interested in children’s books. As the Buzz Words’ compiler, I gather material from many sources and sometimes commission material.

Buzz Words aims to keep readers abreast of what’s currently happening in the children’s book industry and to give them as many opportunities as possible to advance their career and/or to keep them informed. Every issue contains markets, competitions and awards, publisher profiles, profiles of people in the industry, industry news, an interview (editors, publishers, designers, etc), opportunities, festivals and conferences, workshops and article/s. Links are frequently provided to help readers.

Recent additions are ‘Who’s Who in Children’s Books’ (profiles of publishers, editors, agents and packagers), ‘Book Creators’ (featuring famous and outstanding children’s authors and illustrators of the past such as Enid Blyton, Dorothy Wall and Eve Pownall) and ‘Resources’ such as Australian children’s book publishers (an up-to-date comprehensive list), writing tips, income for writers, children’s bookshops, popular Facebook groups for children’s book creators and so on.

Buzz Words is as subscriber-friendly as possible. Preference for interviews, articles, profiles, etc is always given to subscribers. They are also given the opportunity to advertise for free if they have a product and/or service they wish to promote. Often publishers take up this offer as it’s a very inexpensive way of promoting their latest titles.

There are many ways readers can show-case their books and/or their writing or editing services: Buzz Words interviews both commercially and self-published authors for ‘The inside Scoop’. Questions are generally directed in such a way as readers can learn about how to get feet past publishers’ locked doors, or which resources (such as designer, editor, printer and distributor) that self-published authors used and  how effective they were. 

Subscribers are also invited to submit samples of their writing or illustrating to be showcased on the Buzz Words website Twice a month there’s also an ‘Achievements’ section on this website and reviews of current children’s books. There is a team of 15 reviewers, all of whom are subscribers. And, too, the website is available for subscribers to post material, such as a blog tour, book launch or forthcoming title.

Articles are often commissioned (payment is offered) and have included ‘My Experiences with Literary Agents’, ‘How to Crowd-Fund to Publish Your Book’ and ‘The Art of Picture Books.’  

Buzz Words is exactly the kind of resource which I wish was available when I first started writing for children. And it’s ideal for anyone in the industry who wants to place their work and/or learn what the latest trends in writing for children are and/or what’s happening in the industry here in Australia or overseas.

If you’d like to check out the latest issue of Buzz Words, I’m only too happy to send you a complimentary, obligation-free copy; go to the website and click on ‘Contact’. Cost is $48 per year (for 24 issues). The magazine is distributed on the 1st and 15th of every month.

Dianne (Di) Bates has been in the industry for decades. She has published over 130 books for children, some of which have won state and national awards, including two children’s choice book awards (WAYRBA and KOALA). She is a recipient of the Lady Cutler Award for distinguished services to children’s book. Di is married to award-winning children’s author Bill Condon; they live in the Wollongong area, NSW.

 Go to to receive a free copy. If you decide to subscribe ($48 for 24 issues pa), Di will send you a copy of her article, 'How to Get Both Feet Past Publishers' Locked Doors.'

Wednesday 29 August 2018

How to Find a Literary Agent

What can you do to maximise your chances of having your submission read and being taken on by a literary agent? Here are some hints to help:
1.    Research agencies to find the right fit. This is very easy to do, not least from looking at agency’s own websites, reference works, The Bookseller etc.
2.    Look at similar books. Look in the acknowledgements pages of books that are comparable to see who the agent was. My agency doesn’t handle poetry, short stories, science fiction, romance, fantasy, women’s fiction, religious so it’s a waste of your time to send to me.
3.    Personalise your submission. Target it to the right agent and use their name.  Show you know what they handle and suggest how your book is similar. Give the impression this is an individual and not blanket approach.
4.    Don’t submit too early. You only have one shot. Make sure your submission is grammatical and polished by having it checked by a freelance editor.
5.    Build your profile. The more Twitter followers you have and the greater your engagement with social media and sites such as Goodreads the better.
6.    Give agents what they ask for. If they want chapter synopses or first three chapters then send that. It shows professionalism and will help the agent properly assess the submission. I personally want a one-page pitch on book, a page on authors and their platform, a page with details on five similar books and how your book is positioned in the market and suggested marketing outlets for book such as organisations, websites and magazines.
7.    Network. Go to where agents gather such as literary and writing festivals, meetings of Society of Authors etc.

This is an extract from an article that first appeared in issue 7 of Publishing Talk Magazine written by Andrew Lownie, the bestselling literary agent in the world according to Publishers Marketplace, who was short-listed for The Bookseller UK literary agent of the year in 2014 and 2015. He has run his own agency, the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency, since 1988 having previously been a director of Curtis Brown and worked as a bookseller, journalist and publisher.

Monday 27 August 2018


Contract checklist (per Australian Society of Authors  -- ASA)

Before you sign, make sure you understand the implications of these clauses

Where your publisher offers their standard contract, check that it:
    • Has a firm date for publication
    • Has rising royalties, paid on recommended retail price, not net receipts
    • Gives approximate price and minimum print run
    • Has a revision clause
    • Binds the publisher to show you proofs
    • Defines responsibility for the cost of illustrations, indexing, photographs and so on
    • Has at least two accounting periods per year
    • Makes the publisher responsible for the loss of manuscript or book stocks
    • Has an effective termination clause.
Check also that it does not:
    • Assign copyright to the publisher
    • Assign digital/electronic rights to the publisher
    • Allow alterations without your consent
    • Allow royalties calculated on the price of sheets sold
    • Allow overstock or remainder sales within two years
    • Set a price for future Book Club sales
    • Take a share (other than agent’s commission) of non-print rights
    • Hold reserves beyond the second accounting date
    • Ask extended rights such as overseas rights without proof of ability to exploit them
    • Purport to assign or waive your moral rights
    • Include a consent to an act which otherwise would be a breach of your moral rights.
From Barbara Jefferis, Rob Pullen and Lynne Spender Australian Book Contracts 3rd edition (Keesing Press).