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 most recent 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First, Paul asked me to send my contracted but unpublished manuscript to two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 HelicopterMan 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).
SUPPORT YOUR AUTHOR
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 formy next visit to Hong Kong. If the timing
is too tight for the school to book me for apresentation, I send a set
of books for their approval. I've only had one book returned! InHK I
never charge a speaker's fee as I have great success with book sales. Usually
over1,000 books sold a week.
Hazel Edwards: Offering discussion notes is a way
of value adding to your book and publicising it longterm by word of
Edel Wignell: One of her strategies is to write
articles for a whole range of magazines in Australia and overseasthat
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 forwriters’ conferences and festivals all
Sandy Fussell: For her Samurai series (Walker
Books) she has created an interactive website. Sheoffers competitions
and continually updates the site. Her launch party, which sheorganised,
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 writingworkshops,
and both sell many thousands of dollars worth of their self-published booksduring 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.
BOOK AS MARKETING TOOL
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
WHAT TEACHER-LIBRARIANS WANT
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.”
LINKING WITH THE AUTHOR
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
- talking to local organisations, for example VIEW
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 articlesthat
link with special days, (for example, I wrote a number of articles for Mental
HealthWeek, which linked with my book Crossing the Line). Arrange
a 'connection' with an excursion destination (once again curriculum link isgreat).
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 QuarantineStation, the
setting of her children’s book Ghost Boy. Make sure books are available for
sale where the author is presenting. Link upwith another of your
publishing house’s authors in the same education area/topic: this way you can
provide a 'dualpackage' to schools, i.e. two authors on one school
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
totheir book reps. This gives the reps some anecdotal information and
enthusiasm theycan pass on to teacher-librarians. The reps can also
give the TLs a sheet which providesinformation on how to contact the
author for a school visit and where to look for teachingnotes. 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 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
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.
FESTIVALS AND CONFERENCES
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
AUTHORS’ EMAILS & WEBSITES
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.
WHERE TO PRESENT YOUR AUTHORS:
· School visits or writing camps (talking to
· 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.
*This article was published elsewhere
some time ago. My most recent publisher is now Elaine Ouston of Morris
Publishing Australia who has been absolutely splendid in marketing my book, The
Girl in the Basement. I have written more about Paul and Elaine in my article,
Working with Small Publishers on this blog (see July 2013).
Sometimes, even if you are working every day and being productive, being a writer can be troublesome. It’s nothing to do with rejection slips arriving – they are part and parcel of the author’s life. For me, it’s knowing that publishers are sitting on manuscripts that I am convinced are publishable. When you’ve been writing for thirty plus years, and you’ve had over 120 books published, and you have positive feedback on your final draft from your writers’ critique group, it’s frustrating when months and months pass by and you hear no word from publishers -- even when you email them and remind them that your manuscript was submitted last year (or X number of months ago) – and they still don’t acknowledge you.
My husband (prize-winning author Bill Condon) has given me a saying that helps when the wait becomes painful. Bill says that ‘No answer is the answer.’ So what I’ve decided in future is that if the publisher does not respond to a submission within six months, they are not interested. In fact, they are just plain rude in not responding. In no other industry, in seems to me, are suppliers treated so badly. If I was in the building industry, for instance, and submitted a tender for a project, there would be a timely reply – favourable or unfavourable. (Last year, of the 139 manuscript submissions I made, there were 56 manuscripts which were not replied to -- even when I had supplied SSAEs).
Now that I have established a good publishing track record, I can afford the comfort of knowing that I am capable, that my manuscripts are (generally speaking) marketable. But how difficult it must be for the new writer who has spent sometimes years crafting a work, often in isolation, and then submitting with a heart and soul full of heart? And then never having the courtesy of a reply? I really feel for such a writer.
The thing to do if you are waiting eternally – and maybe also receiving rejection slips, is to develop a thick hide -- and to keep on keeping on. Nothing, but nothing, it seems to me, is a more important ingredient in creating success, than the fact of persistence. Of course you need talent and skill as a writer and self-editor, and you need to know your market – which publisher is ‘right’ for your manuscript -- but persistence ranks so highly I know that if I didn’t have it by the truckload, I’d never have been as successful as I have been for all the decades I’ve been writing.
In spite of the self doubts, the stumbling blocks, the eternal waits and the rejection letters, the sometimes pitiful income – the numerous hardships of being a writer -- there are many benefits. Here are some of my reasons for enjoying being a writer:
·I am my own boss – I have control over what I write and how I write it
·I can work from anywhere! For me, the best place is home where I am lucky enough to have my own office
·Working from home, I don’t need to commute to work, and I don’t have to worry about reporting to a superior. I work the hours I choose to work, including having days off when I want
·I can wear my daggiest clothes all day if I so choose
·I never get bored; I always have a project on the go and can escape to other worlds of my own imagining simply by tapping keys
·I can influence the lives of children through the types of stories I tell
·I can enjoy my own company but go out to socialise whenever I wish
·I can weave scraps of my own life – my emotions and experiences – into my stories, so writing becomes a kind of catharsis
·I make money from doing what I love – and get to meet and make friends with some wonderful people in the book industry
Do I have days when there are road-blocks – when I can’t think how to develop the plot of a story I’m working on, for example? Of course I do. But I don’t a chain to my computer: I can go for walk, do the shopping, hang out the washing and so on. I can take time off, as much as I need, and let my conscious (or subconscious) do its thing. And of course, I can always go check out my mail box – just in case a publisher (or two) has decided to send me an acceptance letter with a contract!
Dianne (Di) Bates works as a full-time writer from her home near Wollongong NSW which she shares with her prize-winning YA author husband, Bill Condon. She founded the Illawarra-South Coast CBCA six years ago and runs a proactive blog, Writing for Children, http://diannedibates.blogspot.com.au as well as a Australian Children’s Poetry blog http://wwww.australianchildrenspoetry.com.au In 2008, Di was awarded The Lady Cutler Award for distinguished services to Australian children’s literature.Currently Di works as a freelance writer and manuscript assessor. Her website, which she shares with Bill, is www.enterprisingwords.com.au
For over four years I had
the pleasure of reading story and poetry submissions from
children’s writers. Every
day my inbox was overflowing with manuscripts. While reading them was one of my
favourite parts of working on a magazine, it was also the most frustrating
because so many submissions didn’t meet the submission guidelines. These days I
have more time for writing and submitting my own work to children’s magazines —
and I know from experience that editors opening my emails are ridiculously
busy. It helps to know some of the questions the editors will be asking when a
submission is in front of them. Here are five:
this appropriate for our audience?
I always read the publisher’s
submission guidelines before I submit work. If I’ve
submitted manuscripts to
them before I make sure to read them again — guidelines can change. At the
magazine I lost count of the number of submissions I received that were for
younger (or older) readers than the guidelines stated. Other manuscripts were
200 words (or 2000 words) longer than the word limit. There’s often a long wait
between submitting and getting an answer (did I mention that editors are
ridiculously busy?) so I don’t waste my time (or the editor’s) by sending work that
doesn’t meet guidelines.
this story trying to hammer home a message?
Editors are always looking
for a good story and today’s readers are not after stories with a moral.
Children are smart. If there is a natural lesson in the outcome, they will get
that. There is no need to hammer home a message. (If a publisher is
specifically looking for stories with a moral they will state this in their
this well-written with no spelling or grammatical errors?
A manuscript is not ready
to submit if it is riddled with spelling mistakes and sections
that don’t make sense.
Even if the plot is brilliant it’s likely that the editor will choose another manuscript that is
equally as entertaining but doesn’t require a lot of work before it’s ready for
this original? Have we published something like this already?
Editors are looking for
fresh material and a good story. A few years ago Alphabet Soup magazine
published a well-known fairytale in verse and a few months after that
another author submitted their own version of the same fairytale and even
though it was beautifully written, we weren’t able to accept it. (Sometimes
this is just plain bad luck and out of a writer’s control but it can help to be
familiar with the publisher/publication before submitting.)
this been published elsewhere?
Some magazines will accept
material that has been published before, others won’t. I
always check the
guidelines before submitting. It’s important to remember that even if you have
followed the submission guidelines to the letter, your manuscript may still be
rejected. It could have the perfect home elsewhere — check the next set of
submission guidelines and send it on. Persistence is vital in the journey to
former editor of children’s literary magazine, Alphabet
Soup, Rebecca Newman is now the editor of Alphabet Soup’s blog http://www.alphabetsoup.net.au. In her
spare time she writes children's fiction and poetry, runs writing workshops for
children, and tends a tiny kitchen garden. TheSchool Magazine
has purchased two of her poems for future publication.
Pa Joe’s Place by Clancy Tucker (Clancy
Tucker Publishing, 2014)
on real-life characters, Pa Joe’s Place
is a novel about an unpretentious yet extraordinary Thai girl, Boo Nawigamune,
who survives remarkable events and influences many lives. Aged seven, Boo
leaves her family home when her father is diagnosed with a terminal illness and
travels alone over 1,000 km to an orphanage in Songkhla where she is to live.
She carries little with her – food, clothes and an unopened letter of
introduction. On the way, however, the train journey is interrupted by a crash,
following which Boo assists stricken passengers. And, too, the girl meets
strangers – influential men who aid her at the time and later when she has
reached her destination. Later, she is instrumental in capturing a known
criminal, for which she receives substantial reward money (that goes to her
Pa Jo of the book’s title is an American Jesuit priest,
Father Joe Carey, known simply as ‘Pa Jo’. Despite missing her own family,
particularly her dying father, Bo comes to love the priest who is ‘father’ to
156 children in the orphanage he runs. There is much that happens to Bo which
defies the odds – she is bitten by a snake, survives a tsunami, meets rich and
influential people, and manages to establish a jam-making business which pours
money into the orphanage’s coffers. All of her adventures point to what a
remarkable, enterprising and inspirational child she is.
Told from the first-person point of view, Pa Joe’s Place, reveals a child who, for
her age, is at once naive yet extraordinary. Boo believes in the power of an
amulet gifted to her, but the power – of course -- is in her own character
which is always trusting and faithful. While she is homesick and fearful for
her father, Boo nonetheless quickly adjusts to her foreign surroundings, easily
makes friends, including adults, and seems to bewitch all she meets. Sadly, Boo
eventually succumbs to cancer and dies, still young, her potential not fully
realised. One cannot imagine what she could have achieved had she lived, given
she had achieved so much as a young child.
This is a highly readable, yet simply written book which
manages to incorporate much about Thailand, its scenery, customs and people,
though one only ever sees its good, never its ugly side. It would have been
interesting to find out more about the backgrounds of other orphans/children
who lived in Pa Joe’s place and to know more about Pa Joe himself (perhaps there’s
another book). Having said that, it must be admitted that only so much could be
told through the eyes of a seven year old, even if she is wise beyond her
years. The book, too, needed a much stronger edit and closer proof-reading.
Despite this, Pa Joe’s Place deserves a wide readership if
only to showcase two remarkable people, Boo Nawigamune and her surrogate
father, Pa Joe Carey.