Sunday 29 June 2014


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 First, Paul asked me to send my contracted but unpublished manuscript to two people who we hoped would give us quotes to help promote the book.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 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  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.

*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).


An article 

2, 140 words

© Dianne Bates


PO Box 2116
Woonona East NSW 2517
Ph (02) 42716168


Tuesday 24 June 2014


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, as well as a Australian Children’s Poetry blog 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





Sunday 15 June 2014


© Rebecca Newman

 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:

1. Is 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.

2. Is 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 guidelines.)

3. Is 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 publication.

4. Is 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.)

5. Has 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 publication!
The former editor of children’s literary magazine, Alphabet Soup, Rebecca Newman is now the editor of Alphabet Soup’s blog In her spare time she writes children's fiction and poetry, runs writing workshops for children, and tends a tiny kitchen garden. The School Magazine has purchased two of her poems for future publication.

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Pa Joe's Place, a Review

Pa Joe’s Place by Clancy Tucker (Clancy Tucker Publishing, 2014)

Based 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 family).

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.
Reviewed by Dianne Bates


Monday 9 June 2014

Promotion Offer


Do you have a new children’s book?

I have vacancies for Australian authors to be featured on my Writing for Children blog

All you have to do is provide me with:

1.  A jpeg of yourself (if you wish)

2.  A jpeg of your book cover

3.  A blurb about your book including why you wrote it

4. The name of your book’s publisher (and illustrator, if applicable), also 
date of release

4.  A review of your book (with a link to where it can be found) or an interview about your writing life (I can supply questions, if you wish.)

5.  Information (including links) about where your book can be purchased

Please send any attachment as a Word document.


I ask you to become a follower of this blog and look forward to featuring you herein.

Di Bates