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with questioning agreements, but mostly they’re “wasting time questions” obviously given to the author (usually an unpublished author — established authors know better) by an agent (paid to look as though they’re working for their fee), a well-meaning friend who once studied law, the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).

Thursday, 23 August 2018

How to Promote Your Book

There are numerous ways in which you can help to promote your book even if you are not happy or able to take part in events such as launches or public speaking.

Here are some examples
·       Promote the fact that your book will be published by (name of your publisher) on FACEBOOK groups such as Australian Picture book authors and illustrators, The Children’s Book Council of Australia, CBCA Victorian branch, Children’s Book Writers and illustrators, Writing for Children & YA, Just Write for Kids, Children’s Books, The Looking Glass magazine, Publishing Talk, CBCA (NSW) Newcastle Branch, The School Librarians Workshop, CBCA (NSW) Sydney South West branch, Children’s Writers and Illustrators’ market, Aussie Kidlit, Writers and Illustrators – your own Facebook page, Buzz Words page, and any other facebook pages which feature children’s books or authors.

Write an article:
* For Buzz Words for The Inside Scoop. This is an excellent way of promoting your book and of helping Buzz Words readers learn how a book is accepted for publication. In 250 words or less tell how your book got published. Was the publisher who accepted your manuscript the first one you submitted to? How long did you have to wait in the slush pile to get a response? Or did it go to the publisher by some other means? Was your manuscript represented by an agent? Was it your first book? (That's what most readers want to know about). How is the book selling? Have you gone on to have other books published?
(Note: This article can be adapted to suit other publications such as Writers’ Centre      newsletters)
·       Organise a blog tour (Ask me for a list of links, and when you’ve seen it, see if you can find others prepared to blog)
·       Use Twitter to tell about your book
·       Book Reviews: Make a list of publications, people and/or organisations which you think would review your book (include contact addresses). Note that before you do this, ask me for my list. It’s extensive, but you might have contacts I don’t have
·       Create an AIS for your book (I’ll send you an Advanced Information Sheet) to show you what is required
·       Write author blurbs (50 words, 150 words, 200 words)
·       Write a book blurb (25 to 50 words, 50 to 100 words, 100+ words)

 Dianne Bates
Di is the founder/compiler of Buzz Words magazine and website which is Australia's premier online magazine for those in the children's book industry. For a free issue to check it out, go to the website.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Writing as a business

You’ve now published a book -- traditionally or self-published -- so the first question for taxation purposes that you need to ask yourself is, are you a hobby or are you a business? It’s important to establish whether you’re approaching publishing as a business or a hobby early on as it will affect your tax and deductions.

When running a business, you pay tax on the money you earn, can claim for deductions on your expenses and generally need an Australian Business Number (ABN). These do not apply if your activity is a hobby. Read the Australian Taxation Office (ATO)’s Are you in business? page to help you decide whether you’re running a business or a hobby.

Once you’ve decided that you’re a business, how do you go about setting it up? While the specifics can change from state to state in Australia, the information below will give you a rough guide to go by. You can of course be in a partnership, company or trust, but this article deals with the author as sole trader.

As a sole trader, you are your publishing business. Many author-publishers choose this option for its convenience and simplicity. This is a simple and straightforward process and is completed by the author-publisher through the Australian Business Register. Essentially, to conduct a publishing business in Australia, you’ll need an Australian Business Number (ABN). Applying for an ABN is free. 

The next step is to give your Australian Business Number a name. A good idea is simply to use your published name (mine is Dianne Bates). When creating a publishing business name (other than your own legal name), check that no one else has the name you want using the ABN Lookup or ASIC Online Services, and creatively explore.

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) offers a business assistance program for small businesses. Learn more on the ATO Business Assistance Program page.

As a newly formed publishing business, there’s a checklist of things you may want to consider and register for. The list is quite extensive and can be overwhelming, but it is better to know your legal responsibilities upfront and then adjust if need be. For instance, an internet publishing business has fewer regulations than a publishing business with commercial premises. You might like to check out the Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS) website. It is important that you understand your taxation obligations, record keeping requirements, and any additional taxes you may need to pay (such as GST). Will you trade as a home-based business, an online business, or will you lease a business premise? Whichever option you select, you need to ensure it is properly insured and registered accordingly. Once again check the ABLIS website if you are home-based as local councils have rules in place. 

For more information, watch the tax basics for small business videos at ATO or phone the ATO business tax enquiries line on 13 28 66.

As a traditionally based sole trading author, I have an ABN (which is very helpful when claiming money from school visits, festival speaking, etc). For tax-keeping purposes, I use e-records, provided by the ATO (not sure if it is still available), and record all income from writing and writing-related activities (such as my online writing for children courses).

As for tax deductions, there are quite a few ranging from stationery, postage, computer repairs, capital expenditure (a new printer, for example). Some of my deductions, such as use of home office, cleaning office, cinema and theatre attendance, electricity and phone are made on a percentage basis (worked out by my accountant, whose bill is also tax deductible).

As for my Buzz Words business, I make deduction claims when paying contributors and prize winners when they receive cash awards.

You might like to check out a series of free webinars on a variety of taxation topics. You’ll need to register online on the ATO webinars page.

If you have any tax questions, check with your accountant. I have been working as a writer/author/magazine producer/manuscript assessor for many years, always listing all my income (including Lending Rights, Copyright Agency Limited monies` and prize-monies) -- and claiming as many deductions as I can -- without any problems. I’ve had one tax audit in 30 years+ and there were no problems there, either. According to the ATO, you are legally advised to keep your tax receipts, cheque books, bank statements and so on for a minimum of seven years.

NOTE: If you would like an article titled ‘Money Matters for Self-publishers’, please send an email with this as the subject to

© Dianne Bates                                                                                                                                                
Dianne (Di) Bates has published 130+ books over the past 35 years. She is compiler/founder Buzz Words and operates a handful of online businesses connected with writing. Please note that Di is not a taxation consultant, so you should always contact either the ATO or your taxation accountant for specific queries.
This article first appeared in Buzz Words magazine. If you’d like a free copy of this twice monthly magazine, go to

Here’s another article by children’s author Sandy Fussell you are sure to find helpful with your writing finances: