slush pile

The Finish Line; A published Book. But will it change me or the way I write?

Losing Kate Kylie KadenMost writers spend months (years?) wondering if their little story has enough gumption for the big bad world, and I was no different. But my secrets out. It has happened – my final  copies of Losing Kate have arrived – with much fanfare (our dog bailing up the courier, and my three boys running naked in the yard with water-pistols).

I’ve had a busy few weeks flaunting Kate about, and now that the dust has settled it has finally sunk in. Publishing a book feels like a child leaving home. A hope that you’ve done your best, that you’ve brought them up right.

She’s gone. Out in the world. Alone. With only a thin coat of high-gloss and that fresh-book-smell to keep her Bembo-Font warm.

But so far, LK seems to be doing just fine; holding her own, keeping out of trouble – and has even been asked to pop over to Germany! (Guten Tag!) I am no longer worried that she’ll turn up at my door (by the box-full), demanding her old room back. She seems to be reveling in her new-found independence and I hear quite a few not-insane people outside-my-family have actually bought it!  So not a dismal failure! Phew!

So has the simple act of ticking “publish a book” off my bucket list, changed me?

I’m a fairly down to earth person (and still have the odd thought that perhaps Bev and Lex might’ve gone a bit nutty in that slush-pile-room picking my script). So I was sure this writing caper – that started as nothing more than a housework avoidance strategy, would not overwhelm me. I’ve never considered myself an arty person. I value honesty and saying it like it is. I’m not into art galleries, poetry, naval gazing, or the like.  I’ve always been one to not speak out unless I’m absolutely sure what I have to say is relevant, correct, and not about to bother anybody else.  I have confidence in my writing, and I am proud of my debut novel, but part of me has a slight twinge of unworthiness, being categorised as an “artist”. (Who asked me anyway?).

But now that my work, which despite being fiction, has pieces of me hiding-in-plain-sight on every page (even if it’s just a description of a person I observed on a train or the anecdote told to me over coffee), the rules have changed. In deciding to publish, I’ve been given the chance to speak, so by all fairness, the reader has the right of reply.  And of course, any self-obsessed author wants to know about it when they do.

I’ll admit, since the launch of Losing Kate a few weeks back I’ve become one of those self-obsessed people that Google their own name. All the time. Variations, just to be sure I haven’t missed a review, a mention, a new plug. And I tell you, self-obsession can be very draining! Even with corker reviews.  Although I am sure my condition is temporary..,I hope. (There’s washing to be done!)

When asked if it gets easier (with subsequent books) Helene Young, at her recent Brisbane launch of Safe Harbour, said, “No, it get’s harder!”.

And I think that will prove correct. Your first book was written in your own time with no one anticipating it. With subsequent works, readers have expectations, publishers have deadlines, writers can feel rushed (enter second book syndrome).

Last week (whilst self-googling, as you do, as a legitimate branding/business management strategy (cough)) I noticed Losing Kate sitting pretty at #1 on iTunes. In a mad panic I took a screenshot, thinking I’ll blink and miss this moment in (no-one-cares-but-me) history, only to be replaced by a proper-authory-person. But by some miracle LK darted back-and-forth in the big league between some esteemed company for a respectable few weeks, until Matthew Rielly and all his fabulousness took the reigns with a book or three ;). Yes, those self doubts may never go away (and perhaps they shouldn’t).

At the end of the day, I can’t take this gig too seriously, I make stuff up for a living. It’s storytelling, after all – not world peace or a cure for cancer, as this quote eloquently points out:

“Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armour and attacked a hot fudge sundae”  — Kurt Vonnegut, American novelist

So I plan to take any success or lack-there-of in my stride.  You can’t please everyone, no matter how good you think (or don’t) think you are.

Where you can find me:

Thanks to all the reviewers who have taken the time to invest time in a newbie and share your valued viewpoints (you can read some insights on Losing Kate at Goodreads).  Here is a link to a few.

Brisvegas dwellers, I’ll be out and about at local libraries and bookshops soon (calendar below). I am also making my way down to Sydney to meet up with RWA members, and attend the ARRA book signing on Saturday 9th August. (along with an array of other authors).  This is a ticketed event and you can buy tickets here. Please come say hi (I’m not too scary, unless you happen to be one of my son’s and haven’t eaten your peas, then I get pretty hard-core. I may even spit a little.).

Or if you’re a bit shy, drop me a line at I’d love to hear about your favourite characters, the annoying bits, and parts you liked best.

[Spider_Calendar id=”1″ theme=”13″ default=”list” select=”list,”]



Getting Published in Australia

paper-96243_640How Do I get Published?

The hot question on many writers minds as they stare at that flashing cursor day after day, is will anyone ever read this? How do I even try to get published? Do I need an agent? And what can I do to make my story’s song be heard from the depths of that dreaded slush pile?

I’m new to this caper, my novel hasn’t even hit the shelves yet so I’m no expert, but I have been to several writers festivals, panels and workshops covering this very topic, and here are a few things that stood out for me. (Note, these are just opinions of selected reps in the industry and are not necessarily the only viewpoints).

  • What are Publishers looking for?  “Good stories, told well.”  And whilst we all probably think we are telling good stories, well, it is important to keep this basic concept front of mind. No matter where we are on the journey, we should never stop honing our skills, broadening our settings and experimenting with different points of view to make the story, and the way it unravels, the best it can be.
  • I’m finished! How do I know where to send my manuscript? As a member of the Queensland Writers Center, I receive a monthly newsletter with lots of tips and links to publishing opportunities.  Also consult their brilliant publication, The Australian Writers Marketplace, for a full listing of agents, magazines and publishers.  And remember one rule of thumb when considering agents and/or publishers is that money should always flow towards the author (excluding manuscript appraisals or other services of course).
  • What should I put in my submission? Stick to the guidelines (on the publisher websites) and be professional. Don’t rely on pink stationary or glitter bombs to stand out. Let your writing do that.  (Remember, publishers are people first, so no hounding them at their hotel room at a conference either!) Many festivals have pitching opportunities for new authors (eg RWA annual conference, Genre-Con in Brisbane). Use them as a tool to learn, and get used to summarising the essence of your tale.  Having a good shout line, or some catchy phrases for your blurb front of mind will always help sell your story!
  • Do I need a literary agent? Alex Adsett (Literary Agent) mentioned (in an excellent presentation in Fremantle recently), that 60% of books published in Australia are from un-agented authors.  In the USA it’s more like 90%, but here, having an agent is not compulsory. Having said that, some publishers will not accept unsolicited manuscripts from writers that are not represented by an agent.
  • I have heard it said that in Australia, it can be easier to find a publisher than an agent, as many agents only have capacity for a few projects a year, some of which are already filled by existing clients. They will negotiate contracts, hound publishers directly on your behalf, and free up your time to write, but will take around 15% (of your 5-10%) for their efforts.
  • Do I have an agent? No. I was lucky enough to be selected from that infamous slush pile with my debut novel, and I’m the first to acknowledge that a lot of luck went into that. The stars aligned for me. Beverly Cousins from Random House (and Lex, thank you!) just happened to be in the market for my kind of mystery, connected with my characters and engaged with my story, Losing Kate, to be published in early 2014.
  • I have a contract! Where can I go for advice? For those that may not want an agent,but need some advice, Alex Adsett also offers literary services such as contract negotiation and/or reviews, even to authors that are not ongoing clients (for a fee).
  • What commission should I expect, and how long does it all take?  Ebooks, a growing market, can be up and running in a few months, and you can expect 20-40%. Print books (a dying breed!) require up to 1 year for publication, and you can expect 5-10% commission (less due to the additional expenses of the printing).  Most print publishers offer an advance (less common in digital first).  Keep in mind this is exactly that – an advance of your royalties. The bigger it is, the longer it will be until you see another royalty cheque.
  • What is the next big trend and should I get on board? That is anyone’s guess! Rural Romance is huge (particularly in Germany!?) Coastal romance is the new genre I have heard people talk about. But for me, I believe you should write what you know,  without emulating anyone else or crystal-balling the next big thing. Stay true to your own voice and it will shine in your words.

Keep in mind that, despite less than 5% of work submitted being accepted, publishers are after the same thing as you – getting good stories out into the world. Their livelihood relies on submissions, so get writing!

A recent Random House blog’s #1 tip for aspiring writers was:

“Write your arse off and read as widely as possible. In the first instance you will discover your own voice (and the voices of many others) by constantly engaging with your mind, the world and the page.”

I’ve got a free handout I provided at a recent USQ Workshop I ran on getting published – find it here.