Marketing 101 with Sara Hood

Hey – if it’s what you celebrate – ‘Happy Easter’! I do, and as always we had a lovely time easter bunnywith family. Happy times and happy memories.

Today I will also be announcing the winner of my giveaway! But first, something way more exciting! Read on! 

So, we keep saying but in case you missed it: over here at Aussie Owned & Read, we’re talking about MARKETING this month. Now, I’ve been around publishing for a l-o-n-g time and when I was first pubbed, marketing wasn’t such a big deal.  Your publisher took care of most of it.  But now? Oh wow – where would I begin to elaborate…

Actually I didn’t. Begin, that is.   It took me three seconds to realise I needed help. So, I went to the woman I believe is the bomb for marketing. When prepping for an extensive workshop at RWA a couple of years ago, she  worked with Harlequin author Sarah Mayberry in an experiment to demonstrate how her methods would work.   In one month they grew Sarah’s email list by 900. Not just 900 names – but 900 invested followers/readers.  900 invested readers/followers = 900 extra sales. Plus back sales.

Sara Hood

Sara Hood

Here’s what she had to say:

Hi Sara, I know you’re amazing and inspirational 😉 , but maybe not all our readers would know that. Can you tell us what you do?  

Thanks for that wonderful rap!  My background is in marketing communications. I’m originally a Brit who was offered the chance to work in Australia for three years by my then-employer but within two weeks I knew I was born to live here and wasn’t going back!  That was almost 30 years ago and now I’ve married a local, become a citizen and consider myself a true Melburnian.  I’ve worked with and for companies like DuPont, Yamaha Music, Sony and Ericsson, but like many these days I now wear several hats. I run a business that manages associations in the creative industries, mainly the music industry. We look after membership, admin, social media, member communications, conference management and website development on behalf of the association. Then I trained as a life coach, as you do, but don’t practice because it’s far too scary!  And I have this business called Marketing4Writers, which is to support and coach writers of popular fiction so they can sell more books. Oh!  And I’m attempting to write a romance novel. ‘Attempting’ being the key word.

The thought of having to market ourselves and our products is like kryptonite to the author. We’re terrified of it; the very thought sends us into a sobbing heap. So, how important is marketing to today’s author?

So can I put my life coach hat on for a moment? This is what brought me to set up marketing4writers. It was seeing writers spend hours tearing themselves to bits over ‘this marketing monster’. Getting themselves so upset about needing ‘to do it’ or spending time on it and seeing no results.  Or just deriding it or deriding the publisher for not doing it for them. Marketing doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be scary. And it most certainly shouldn’t terrify anyone or make them sob in heaps. It’s like anything, when you know how it just becomes second nature. A bit like driving a car. My first lessons were horrible! You have no idea how many times my instructor took over the controls. But now I jump into the car and don’t think twice about how to make it go where I need it to because I know how and it’s second nature. The problem with marketing is that bad marketing is very visible and annoying, so people think that’s what they need to do. It’s not.  Good marketing is almost invisible, not because it’s sneaky or manipulative but because you’re talking to the people who want to hear from you, so they don’t think of it as ‘marketing’. And it’s certainly not posting interminably on social media to say ‘buy my book’.

So back to the question: how important is marketing to today’s author? Totally critical.  But you knew that already, right? I’m not sure there ever was a time when you could just write a book and it would magically be discovered and you’d become a millionaire overnight, but that time certainly isn’t now. As we all know, the issue now is discoverability in a way it never has been to the same extent before. There are now almost no barriers to loading a book to Kindle and the problem is that a lot of people who ought not (yet) do. The issue, though, is two fold:

  • Discoverabilty: the right people hearing about and finding you book
  • Quality: convincing people that once they’ve found your book it’s worth buying

Everyone focuses on the first point but the second is also important. You may think what’s the fuss when the book cost less than a cup of coffee but that’s not the point.  What was the buyer doing when they bought your book?  They were buying the anticipation of entertainment.  They sat down to read, investing their precious time, to be entertained.  And then the book let them down.  Now they feel robbed and that’s why then they complain it can be out of all proportion to the actual cost.  Even when the book is free. Readers, though, are now getting smarter.  Having been burned a few times, they are now looking for clues about whether this book is going to be worth investing their time and their hope in. That’s another reason why your brand (author) platform and marketing are so important.

marketing-strategy

Is it possible to do too much marketing? (Asks she who will never be accused of too much. Too little? Sigh. All day every day.)  

Oh yes, it is possible to do too much marketing. It’s also possible to spend too much money or time on marketing. And it’s also all too possible to be doing quite the wrong marketing.

I loved your RWA workshop with Sarah Mayberry. I would so it all again in a flash – only next time take a day to do it so I can retain it! In that workshop you spoke a lot about Taking Control. Can you elaborate?  

Glad you enjoyed it. It was a blast working with Sarah.  One of life’s good people.

Taking control means nothing more complicated than making a thoughtful, purposeful plan. Too many writers don’t make a plan.  That means they have no idea where they’re going, they have no idea if they’re achieving anything useful, and they have no idea if they’re getting anywhere.  Imagine if your job was to build a bridge across a lake.  Would you do that by throwing in pebbles, one at a time?  The ripples each pebble makes are going to be really pretty, but throwing pebbles into a lake ain’t never gonna make a bridge. Yet that’s what many are doing.

So what sort of plan do you make?  The model I use is called a sales funnel and Kaz asked that question next so I won’t outline it here.  

You also make mention of the Sales funnel. Can you explain?

The sales funnel is a simple model that helps writers think about, plan, implement and review their marketing.  (Review!  So many people don’t review!) It’s about what I outlined above: taking control!

A sales funnel is about recruiting likely strangers (not just any old person) and building a relationship with them of ‘know, like and trust’.  As they get to know you, hopefully they move along the funnel to become acquaintances, friends, fans and then super fans.  People, of course, though aren’t predictable, so some will come in as fans and some will exit as friends.  Some may stick at friends, but progress no further. That’s life. What is also normal is that the numbers you recruit will dwindle as they progress towards super fans, which is why it’s important to be always recruiting. You need to be always bringing in new likely strangers to your funnel.

With a sales funnel you look at every activity you do and assign it a purpose. You add more activities or remove activities accordingly so you have the plan you need. That means it also fits your available time and budget. You optimise those activities, which simply means making them the best they can be.  You then connect everything up so it’s funnelling readers along a path and not just one of those pebbles going into the lake.  The heart of the plan is your website and your email list, but as writers you also have the great benefit of e-retailers, and your marketing plan needs to include optimising your product (the books) and presence in those e-tailers.  That’s part of your sales funnel.

With a sales funnel you work with an end in mind and don’t confusing activity with outcomes.

You set time frames, milestones, budgets and a date for a review. So many people don’t review. Or panic after a few weeks because ‘nothing is happening’ so they dump their plan and switch to another one.  Erk.  
marketing 4 writers You can find a copy of the presentation (on Sara’s site) used at RWA here:

http://www.marketing4writers.net/rwa-conference-workshop-with-sarah-mayberry.html

Which social media platforms should the author be focussing on?

Number one is Facebook.  It’s tougher to get results now from Facebook, but that’s because it’s become so popular because it works. So I’d say for social media your number one choice should always be Facebook.  A business page and not a profile.  Yes Facebook has the infamous algorithm, but don’t listen to anyone who say that Facebook is using that algorithm to limit who sees your posts to make your advertise.  That’s not true.  Or that they’re limiting you to 6% of your fans. Nope. Those myths have appeared largely because, as I said, it’s harder to make Facebook work for you now plus there are a lot people out there who want to sell you courses about how to use Facebook. It suits them to blame Facebook.  Yes, you do need to know something about how the algorithm works (and Facebook isn’t going to share all the details with the world because that’s their proprietary property) but a lot of it comes down to you. That’s not comfortable to know, sometimes. But if your posts aren’t getting any reach it means there were better ones out there and those got ‘served’ to your fans instead.  The deck is not stacked against you.  The hard truth is that you just have to get better at this Facebook thing.

So that’s my Facebook rant.  What other platform should you consider? Depends on how much time you have.  It’s much better to do Facebook well than to skimp it because you’re also managing another two or three of even four platforms as well. I’d usually suggest Twitter as your second string, if you have time for it.  I am just discovering the joys of Instagram and that’s fantastic but you need to be sure it’s for you because it is very specific in how it works.  You need to have great images, you can’t add live links and you can’t schedule your posts (easily).  Pinterest is great for creating private boards where you can keep the pics you used for your research or inspiration, and then you can make them public as part of your book launch.

I hope that doesn’t sound too boring or arduous. I’ve tried to summarise what is a day’s worth of workshop and that’s never that easy to do! Those who are organic writers and like to just jump in are usually going cross-eyed at this point. The reality is that you can do that when marketing, but it makes it so much harder and more frustrating. Sometimes a bit of planning is a good idea. Can you trust me on this?

marketing 2

I read that the most valuable tool in the authors marketing tool box is an email list. And that a survey showed that an email subscriber is 24 time more likely to buy a book than through FB.  Do you share this opinion?

Rule number one in marketing (there are a lot of number one rules, by the way) is to remember that figures like this are averages often being used by someone to sell a course or a way of thinking or their ‘insider expertise’. And, anyway, we all know where averages come from, don’t we?  There are so many other variables here that my brain spins trying to work out if this figure has any meaning at all!  Do I think email is important? Yes.  But I also don’t think Facebook is a great medium for selling books, so that anything is 24 times better than Facebook is more a reflection on Facebook than on what it’s being compared with.  For a writer, Facebook is much better used as a place to recruit those likely strangers and build relationships with them.  Facebook, itself, is about entertainment and connection.  Who sits down of an evening and thinks “I’ll just have a look at Facebook to see what people want to sell me?”  By all means advertise to your fans when there’s a new book out, or post about it, but email is usually a much better option for converting to sales.  Those people have trusted you with their email address.  That means they’re much more engaged than your average Facebook fan.  There seems to be a riff at the moment that ‘email is over’ and ‘readers don’t want to get emails any more’.  Hmmmm…. no.  Like Facebook, email is really good at what it does so every writer and her dog has jumped in and now you have to be better, sharper and deliver more value to get people to stay on your list and open the emails you send them.

What are the top three things an author should be doing right now?  

    1. Creating a thoughtful, purposeful plan (a sales funnel)
    2. Implementing that plan
    3. Reviewing that plan

What’s the worst thing we as authors can do?

Have no plan.  That’s it.  No plan is the worst thing you can do. No plan is worse than a mediocre plan. It’s probably worse than the wrong plan.  Probably.

marketing-management 4

Finally, if it’s not a repetition of Q#7, what is one thing we could do today to make a difference?   

So that’s the converse of the previous question.  The one thing you could do is to have a plan. Is this getting repetitive?  It’s easy to say that you should have a plan, but researching and creating that plan is the important part.  You can dream up a plan in 10 seconds, but unless you’re some marketing Einstein then it’s probably useless because it hasn’t been created thoughtfully and purposefully. It takes a while to build a sales funnel, but it’s not arduous and I use coloured textas which helps make it a bit more fun.  A bit.

Do you think blog tours are worthwhile?

Hmmm.  Depends why you’re doing them.  If it’s about sales, then maybe not.  If it’s about brand awareness then why not?  In marketing jargon you need to be looking at ‘multiple touch points’ with your readers.  And a bit more techno-speak, you need to think about which of your activities are about brand awareness and which are about sales. That’s where inexperienced marketers can go wrong.  They try to make everything about sales.  As I mentioned before, these days most people buy from people they know, like and trust.  From time to time we will buy from strangers, but not often.  If you do a blog tour to build that know, like and trust that’s fine.  If you want to sell, sell, sell, then there are probably better ways to spend your time and money.  One final point with blog tours is to make sure that you are matching your readers with that blog’s readers.  There’s no point getting promotion on a blog that doesn’t reach people who will likely read your books.  
How can our readers contact you?

Come and join me on my Facebook page or website.  Hey, why not sign up for my email? Or I’m at sara@marketing4writers.net

https://www.facebook.com/MarketingforWriters/

http://www.marketing4writers.net/

Thank you sooo much Sara! I’m going to be (again) pouring over your past posts. You’re a busy lady and we here at Aussie Owned & Read are most grateful for your time, especially given the extensive answers you’ve provided. Mwah times plenty!  You’re a true star.

And now – the winner of my giveaway (in a blind draw) is:  Drumroll…..

Billiondollarprincess!  Please contact me at kazdelaney01@gmail.com with your deets! Thanks for commenting! 

kaz-profiles-022Multi award winning author Kaz Delaney has published 72 novels for kids, teens & adults over a 20 year period, many of them  published in several languages. Thirteen are YA novels and every one features a romance. Her latest is The Reluctant Jillaroo, Allen & Unwin, 2016 .  She is repped by JDM Management.

Author interview: Sharon M. Johnston, speculative fiction author

This month on Aussie Owned and Read we’re celebrating the arrival of two new bloggers with round-robin interviews, so you can learn more about each of us — new bloggers and old. 

Today I’m interviewing Sharon M. Johnston, who has been with Aussie Owned since it started four years ago. Welcome, Sharon!

Sharon JohnstonI often think of you as the networking guru of the Aussie Owned team. What advice would you give a new writer trying to figure out where to start?

Ahhh! *blushes*

I think one of the keys to networking is paying it forward. Jump online, connect with influences, cool people and peers, and when one of them asks for help or you see a need that you can fill, put your hand up. For me it all started on a site called Inkpop (now defunct) where you reviewed WIPs. That’s where I met Wendy Higgins, who invited me to be part of YAtopia. Then I saw Pitch Madness needed a new blog host and I offered Brenda Drake the use of YAtopia. And it just keep rolling from there.

You also mentor in a number of pitching contests. If you could recommend one contest — or one type of contest — which would it be and why?

By far my favourite pitch contest is Pitch Wars. It’s got a great reputation with agents; has a better success rate than querying; creates strong communities of writers with the mentors, mentees and applicants; and the mentor works on the WHOLE manuscript. There are not many contests that do this.

OpenHeart_seriesThe first two books in your Open Heart series, Divided and Shattered, have hit the shelves after a fairly tumultuous beginning. How would you describe the series? And what can you tell us about book three?

The series is definitely a labour of love, and had a rollercoaster ride with unprofessional publishing peeps before finding a home with City Owl Press. The series focuses on love and what it means to be human, all wrapped up with some sci-fi and fantasy fun. The first book focused on Mishca’s journey to finding out about her origins, while book two saw Mishca understand that her family may not be traditional but that it is nevertheless important, and delved more into Ryder’s past. Book three reveals to readers the truth about Nerissa, and sees Ryder reunite with his mother and Mishca succumb to her dark side. (Cass: AAAAH! Need!) In each book I reveal more to the readers about the cast of characters and what makes them the people they are.

You’ve posted on the blog before about having OCD and anxiety. Given the push for #ownvoices works in the writing community, is this something you have considered incorporating into a work of fiction? Why?

I have definitely considered writing an OCD project, especially to break down some of the stereotypes and misunderstandings around the condition. I’m very open with people about my mental health as I believe by me being honest about it with people it will demystify some of the misconceptions around mental illness. If I don’t want to have mental health treated as a stigma, it has to start with me.

Tell us about your current project.

I’m working on and off on three projects. The first one is a speculative fiction set in Brisbane around a clan of warriors responsible for delivering karma. The second is a rewrite of a far future sci-fi called Dirty Rainbow. And the third is the latest book in the Open Heart series — I need to talk to the police about what happens in a raid so I can move forward with it.

Either/or questions

Plotter or pantser? Pantser

Speculative fiction or contemporary? Speculative fiction

Dogs or cats? Cats

Coffee or tea? Neither — chai latte

Chocolate or ice cream? Both, smooshed together and covered in caramel (I think I have a problem!)

About Sharon

After growing up listening to her father reading fables and folklore, it’s no surprise Sharon loves stories. As soon as she could read, her nose was firmly in a book. She loves reading, listening to audio books and writing.

She has a gorgeous husband and two wonderful boys. Well-known for her fantastic taste in shoes, Sharon has actually been stalked by women wanting to know where she got her high heels from. She also has a love of fur-babies – cats and guinea pigs, specifically.

Blog | Facebook | Twitter

sharon-and-cass

Cassandra Page is a speculative fiction author who one time got to help launch Sharon’s paperback, Shattered. Which was especially exciting as she (Cass) didn’t faint while public speaking. Not even once!

 

Interview: Katie Hamstead

This month, we have two new members of our blog (squee! So exciting!). To celebrate, we’ve decided to interview all Aussie Owned & Read-ers, so you can learn a bit more about us.
Today, I had the pleasure of hitting up the lovely Katie Hamstead, author of many successful books including the 
Kiya trilogy. Welcome, Katie.

AO&R: When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
Katie: I feel like this is something that gradually happened for me, something that I naturally fell into. Through my teen years I enjoyed storytelling, so I would write things down as my preferred outlet … after sports that is! It wasn’t until I migrated to the U.S. and couldn’t work while I waited for my green card, then fell pregnant, that I found time to write.
I started by finishing stuff I’d began as a teen and typing it all out because the handwritten paper was deteriorating, then the Kiya trilogy happened. I felt so good about the trilogy that I decided I wanted to publish it. The rest is history.

AO&R: When it comes to your characters, who is your favourite and why?

Katie: It’s a toss between Naomi/Kiya and Cadence from the Cadence Duology. Both feel like they live in my heart and soul and opened my eyes to their stories rather than me telling their stories.

AO&R: What is the best writing advice you’ve ever been given?
Katie: Stay true to you and write from the heart.

AO&R: Which path do you enjoy more – indie or trad and why?
Katie: I’ve tried self-publishing but I prefer working with my publishers. My books sell better when they have that extra support and outreach.

AO&R: Being an Aussie, what about our culture/country do you bring to your writing?
Katie: I have several books set in Australia: Cadence Duology, Branded, Dancing in the Athenian Rain, and Brownlow Baby. People have commented that the alternate setting to the U.S. is fun, while still having a parallel culture they can empathise with. Even my space opera/fairy tale series has a strong Aussie influence in the characters and settings.

AO&R: What’s coming up for you this year? Katie Teller
Katie: So far, I have released one book, Brownlow Baby, but I also have the second book in my fairytale galaxy series releasing 28th March, Myths of Mish. Then later this year I have an Aussie historical romance releasing. All this while I’m trying to work at an elementary school, but luckily, I get summer off. I also have editing projects and rewrites for my FTG series. So, busy as always!

FAST FIVE with KATIE HAMSTEAD

Pantser or plotter? Pantser
Coffee or tea? Hot chocolate
Contemporary or historical? Historical
Novella or full-length? Full-length
Series or standalone? Series

Keep up-to-date with Katie’s releases via her Facebook page, her publisher’s page, or find her on Goodreads.

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Lauren K. McKellar is the author of romance reads that make you feel. You can get in touch with her sleep-deprived, newborn-raising self via her Facebook page or website. P.S. Send wine!

Guest Post: Kate Foster with Lakewater Press

Hey guys, join me in welcoming editor, Kate Foster, from Lakewater Press in this month’s guest post. As lovers of all things Aussie, we’re very excited about a small press on home soil.

 

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Lakewater Press is a brand new small publishing house based here in Australia. Anyone interested can visit our website and discover who we are and what we do, but to summarise: we publish adult, new adult and young adult titles as e-books and paperbacks in any genre and by authors from all over the world.

We are traditional publishers:

  • We will never ask for money from the authors we sign
  • We pay good royalties
  • We thoroughly edit and proofread our books
  • We design covers
  • We write blurbs
  • We use a distributor
  • We assist our authors with marketing and publicity

Although we each have our field of expertise, our roles overlap: editors, designers, artists and publicists; if we have an amazing idea we share it.

With our official launch in March this year and first titles having only just been released, we are literally still at the breast-feeding stage of our life. And we’re happy and open to admit that we are learning, and more importantly we expect to always be doing so. But we believe this is what makes us special and an exciting team to work with; our eyes are constantly peeled, our ears pricked, and our brains like sponges ready to absorb anything and everything that oozes opportunity for us and our authors. We listen to and read everything!

At a time when small publishers, and some that are well-respected and established, are shutting their doors, some might ask why on earth we’ve set up now. Truth is, we think the market, although highly competitive, is buzzing, and industry movement is fast with readers much more willing to purchase their books from original sources.

Our aim is to constantly evolve, to listen to the authors we sign, and to the readers who review our books. We don’t want to get stuck in our ways and be unwilling to try something new. We don’t want to have one marketing plan for every author, but rather tailor our efforts for each book; targeting both local opportunities and those genre and category specific. And, since our conception only last year, we have done precisely this. Already in such a short space of time, we have collaborated with our authors on their covers, adapted our paperback format to please our readers, are seeking better ways to get our books into the hands of the right readers, are partnering up with other fresh faces in the industry, and are looking at original ways to market.

We never sit back and relax. A potential new door leading to success might be lurking just around the corner.

We’ve been receiving some amazing submissions, and from authors all over the globe. And we’ve even started to attract literary agents. We don’t reject an amazing book that sets our minds alight because we think there might be too much work involved. Absolutely not. We are all about gorgeous, vivid, fresh voices and un-put-downable stories. We are more than willing to invest our time if the authors invest theirs.

But what we’d love to see are more manuscripts from authors on our doorstep. Australian authors that we can shout about to the world. If you have a completed and polished book, we’d love to hear from you.

And, if you’ve always wanted to work in publishing, we are currently looking to hire an intern. Someone willing to participate in every field of our company; from social media to editing to marketing. Someone who can dedicate a few hours a week. Someone who’s willing to join an upbeat team. If this is you, please get in touch now!

contact@lakewaterpress.com

Coming soon:

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Interview: L.M. Merrington, author of ‘Greythorne’

Once upon a time, not that long ago, I worked with several other writers. One of them moved to London (not me), and another left to pursue a job in the hallowed halls of academia (also not me). L.M. is the latter, and I’m very excited to be able to interview her about her first book, Greythorne. Thanks for dropping by, L.M. 🙂

Your debut, Greythorne, just came out with Momentum Books. Tell us about it.

Greythorne is a Gothic horror/suspense novel for readers aged 14+. I like to think of it as Jane Eyre meets Frankenstein, with a little bit of Rebecca thrown in there too. This is the blurb:

How did Lucy Greythorne die?

From the moment Nell Featherstone arrives at Greythorne Manor as a governess to eight-year-old Sophie, she finds herself haunted by the fate of the mistress of the house, and entranced by the child’s father, the enigmatic Professor Nathaniel Greythorne.

When a violent storm reveals Lucy’s body is not in her grave, Nell becomes suspicious about the Professor’s research. But what she discovers in his laboratory will turn all her ideas about life and death, morality and creation on their head.

Enthralled by a man walking a fine line between passion and madness, Nell must make an impossible choice between life, death and life after death, where any mistake could be her last.

What drew you to the Gothic horror genre?

Greythorne is actually a bit of an anomaly for me, because in the past I’ve always written young adult fantasy. I was inspired by classic horror and adventure stories – not just the obvious ones like Dracula and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, but also Jane Eyre, Moonfleet and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. The Woman in Black was also a big influence. I’ve always had a fascination with the nineteenth century, and particularly women’s stories, because it was time of great social change and options were starting to open up for women in a way they hadn’t before.

I think the attraction of horror/mystery as a genre is the way it lets you explore fear and psychology as an author. I’m not into gore – there isn’t much actual violence in Greythorne – but I’m fascinated by the idea of moral choices and I like putting characters into situations where their deepest values are challenged. I’m also really interested in the idea of ‘normality’ and the line between sanity and madness.

What is your favourite part of the writing process?

My favourite part is also the part I hate the most – writing the first draft. Greythorne was a NaNoWriMo book – it was the first time I’d done NaNo and I found the discipline it gave me really helpful. I’ve just started doing it again for my next novel and I’m remembering how much I both love and hate the process. I love it because it’s really exciting watching a story unfold before you – seeing the characters develop in unexpected ways and it going places you never envisaged. But I hate it because I can’t help feeling I don’t know what I’m doing – I have a vague idea about the beginning and the end but the middle is a big blank at the moment and that’s a bit scary.

I also actually really enjoyed the final copy-edit, which is probably not something many authors say. The manuscript was on its fifth draft by then and the copy-editor I worked with was fantastic – she picked up stuff I’d completely missed and I know the book was substantially improved as a result.

If you could live and write anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I visited Venice a few years ago and I think it’s still top of my list. There’s such a wealth of inspiration there for artists and writers – you’re surrounded by this overwhelming richness of history, architecture, art, music and culture, and there’s always something going on.

Failing that, I’d be happy with a little study with a nice view of some greenery. Actually, time rather than place is the real luxury as far as I’m concerned – I currently fit my writing in around full-time work, so if I had the opportunity to write full-time or even just one or two full days a week I don’t think the place would matter much.

What are you working on now?

I’ve just started my next novel, which is tentatively titled The Dark Before the Dawn. I’m sticking with the Gothic theme, but this time it’s set in Australia in the mid-1860s. In traditional Gothic style, there is a strong sense of isolation, usually with the protagonist being stuck in a haunted house or similar, but in Australian Gothic the isolation is very much about the landscape and being stuck in a country far removed from ‘civilisation’. I don’t have much yet, but this is the rough outline of the story. I’m really looking forward to exploring ideas of madness and isolation, as well as drawing on Australian folklore and the rich tradition of bushrangers, ghosts and hauntings in southern New South Wales. I’ve never written anything set in Australia before so this is a new challenge.

Elizabeth King is on her way home to her family’s property near Goulburn after spending the winter with her wealthy aunt in Sydney Town. But the routine journey takes an unexpected turn when her coach is waylaid by bushrangers – Frederick Black and his gang, including his sister Sarah. The only survivor, Elizabeth is forced to accompany Frederick and Sarah, but soon a shocking crime leaves Frederick dead and the girls on the run from the law. They decide to make for the Victorian goldfields, but in the rugged hills and isolated valleys of the Southern Highlands something is waiting…

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Just write the bloody thing. Ultimately there’s no substitute for just turning up day after day after day and getting words down even when you feel like you’ve got nothing left, because you can always fix bad writing later, but you can’t edit a blank page. I’ve been to quite a few writers’ groups made up of people who like to talk a lot about writing – and how hard it is to find time to do it – but don’t actually write much. If you really want to, you can make the time. I wrote Greythorne for an hour a day in the early morning before work, and as I’m not a morning person it was a real struggle. But it was also amazing how fast it came along when I plugged away at it every day. Find a time of day that works for you and just write for an hour (actually write, don’t play on the internet) and you’ll have a finished manuscript before you know it.

The other thing I’d say is learn technique. For many years I had a lot of inspiration but didn’t really have the discipline or understand the mechanics of getting it all down on paper. Learn about things like plot, structure, dialogue and setting, and start to use those tools deliberately. And then learn how to edit, because your first draft will be pretty rubbish. I finished the first draft of Greythorne in three months, but it took another nine months and three drafts before it was ready to even think about submitting to a publisher.

The final piece of advice I have relates to the business of writing. When you get a contract you suddenly have to go from being this isolated, creative soul to being a tough, logical businessperson. Join professional associations, get a mentor, attend seminars, do whatever it takes to prepare yourself for that – learn the basics of accounting/tax issues for small businesses, marketing (because you’ll probably have to do most of it yourself, regardless of which publisher you’re with) and how to negotiate contracts. Most writers don’t even think about the business side until it bashes them over the head, so get across it early. If, like me, you don’t have an agent, you’ll need to work out how to handle all this stuff and where to go for help.

If you could have lunch with any one writer, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

C.S. Lewis, because I’m in awe of both his intellect and his prose. The Chronicles of Narnia are obviously his best-known books, but I also love his work for adults, a lot of which is non-fiction and revolves around discussions of theology. He had the great gift of being able to discuss complex topics in a way that was simple but not simplistic – the mark of a great communicator – and he also had an incredible imagination and was really just a damn good storyteller.

Pick one of the following:

Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla

Rain or shine? Shine

Introvert or extrovert? Introvert

Beach or mountains? Beach

Cats or dogs? Dogs

Plotter or pantser? Somewhere in between…but probably pantser.

About L.M. Merrington

lm-merrington-portrait-croppedL.M. Merrington was born in Melbourne, Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in media and communications and Chinese, and a PhD in international relations, and has worked as a freelance journalist, editor, strategic analyst and communications manager. She lives in Canberra with her husband Tristan. Greythorne is her first novel.

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Greythorne‘s book launch is on Friday 27 November, 6pm at Paperchain Bookstore in Manuka, Canberra. Click here for the Facebook event.


 

Cassandra Page is an urban fantasy author whose fourth book, Lucid Dreaming, released this week …so she is currently hiding under her doona, eating chocolate.

Cassandra Page

 

Author Interview: Cassandra Page

Going through our interviewed authors, I noticed the absence of an interview of our very own Cassandra Page! I had to rectify this, so here we are today! Cass is one of those super supportive, hard working types, and has her trilogy out, plus another novel on the way. So with no further ado, here’s Cassandra!

Cassandra Page

  1. Tell us a little about you.

I could cut and paste my author biography here, but that feels a little bit like cheating. So instead, let’s go with this: I’m a long-time nerd, who has been role-playing since her teens and still has a weekly tabletop game even though she should have grown up years ago. At this stage it doesn’t seem likely, though. I’m a single mother to a bright little boy, having done the dreary marriage/divorce thing. (I don’t recommend it unless you have to.) I have a weakness for good coffee and chocolate, and an abhorrence of bad coffee and chocolate. I’m an introvert who would prefer to spend her time curled up with a book, a pen and paper, or a colouring book, rather than go to a noisy party full of strangers. I’m a public service editor, so I spend a lot of time reading boring reports and have opinions on hyphens (yes please), the Oxford comma (where required) and semicolons (not just for winky emoticons).

I think that about covers it!

  1. You currently have The Isla Inheritance Series available. Tell us a little about the series and how you came up with the concept.

Actually, sadly, Isla’s Inheritance is currently unavailable. The small press that published it is closing its doors this month, and so the trilogy has been pulled from sale. I’m currently working on getting it ready to self-publish, with shiny new covers and a new feel. One of the things about publishing through a US press was that some of the Australianisms got toned down in the editing process — entirely reasonable at the time, but I’m re-editing them to correct that. I love my Australianisms.

But to answer your actual question, Isla’s Inheritance is a trilogy about an Australian girl named Isla (surprise!) who lives with her aunt and cousins here in Canberra. Her father immigrated here when she was a baby after her mother died … or so he has always told her. During the course of the series, Isla discovers her mother is actually an aosidhe, a member of the high fae: the cruel elfin overlords of the various fae races. Her father fled to Australia to escape her, but loves her still. Isla needs to navigate a fae world she’s never heard of before in order to keep herself and her loved ones safe. But with kissing.

  1. LD_CoverEbook_Fina_smllYour next book, Lucid Dreaming is due for release soon. When will that be and what can you tell us about it?

Lucid Dreaming is scheduled for release on 3 November. As I write this, the Kindle ebook is available for pre-order, and I’m hoping to have links for the other retailers soon.

Melaina, the protagonist, has a few things in common with Isla: she also lives in Canberra, and she is also only half-human – although her non-human half is Oneiroi, or dream spirit. That is something that had always been impossible, for rather obvious anatomical reasons; her birth caused a significant amount of consternation among the Oneiroi and caused her non-human father to go into hiding rather than reveal how it had happened…

Lucid Dreaming is a story for older readers; while Isla’s Inheritance is suitable for teens, Melaina’s story is darker and, well, has a few steamy moments. I’m currently preoccupied with trying to figure out how to stop my mother from getting hold of a copy. 😉

  1. What types of books do you read?

I usually read speculative fiction: mainly urban fantasy, but with some high fantasy, steampunk and sci-fi thrown in. I’ve also started reading a fair smattering of contemporary in the last couple of years, partly because several of my very talented author friends write it, and partly because I’ve been doing the Australian Women Writers Challenge, which has forced me to diversify. I just finished a devastating historical, The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth, and am still reeling.

  1. Do you have any advice for novice writers?

Write now, edit later.

I’ve read a lot of books and blog posts about writing, and when I was drafting my first novel I spent a fair bit of time thinking – no, obsessing – about all the things I was doing “wrong”. For example, I knew my first chapter had issues. I spent a lot of time worrying about that, and tinkering with it, rather than continuing to draft the book. As a result, writing that first draft took over a year. And it wasn’t until I’d received some valuable beta feedback and gained some critical distance from my work – something you can only get through time and practice – that I was able to see the issues and fix them.

  1. Tell us about your writing habits.

I wish I could say I wrote every day, but that would be a lie. I usually only write two or three times a week. To keep myself on track, I use a weekly word goal instead. With my most recent manuscript, that was 2000 words, although often it’d be higher when I had to catch up due to disruptions. All three Isla’s Inheritance books came out during the drafting process, so I was somewhat distracted!

I don’t write to music or anything like that. I prefer the house to be quiet, although the distant chatter of the TV is okay if I’m trying to get work done while the boy is awake. It’s terrible parenting, I know – but I tell myself that it’s good for him to see me role-modelling values like persistence, and following your dreams. (Seems legit.)

  1. If you were one of the characters in your book/s which one would you be and why?

I wish I could say Melaina – she is sassy, confident and a little bit punk. She’s what I wished I was when I was a teenager. But, if I’m truthful, I’m closer to Emma: the bespectacled, socially awkward girl who runs the séance for Isla in the first chapter of Isla’s Inheritance. I’m also a bit like Isla herself, in her sensibleness and, well, squareness – although Isla isn’t a nerd.

I need to write a book with a nerdy main character. *writes that down*

  1. If you could live and write anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I love Canberra but, if I could, I’d live somewhere close to the beach, where I can go for a walk along the rocks with my son, or sit on the dunes and watch the waves while I contemplate a plot problem.

  1. If you had one wish (something personal) what would it be?

It’s a bit of a cliché, because most writers probably say this, but I wish I earned enough from my writing so that I could support myself and my boy without having to work my day job. I enjoy what I do, but working around everything else means I’m such a slow writer. Also, being able to collect my son from school every day (and write in peace while he’s there) would be a real privilege.

Bio

Cassandra Page is a mother, author, editor and geek. She lives in Canberra, Australia’s bush capital, with her son and two Cairn Terriers. She has a serious coffee addiction and a tattoo of a cat — despite being allergic to cats. She has loved to read since primary school, when the library was her refuge, and loves many genres — although urban fantasy is her favourite. When she’s not reading or writing, she engages in geekery, from Doctor Who to AD&D. Because who said you need to grow up?

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Katie Teller

Katie Teller is a writer of NA fiction. Her debut, Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh, has sold more than 10,000 copies. You can find out more about Katie, the Kiya trilogy, and her other books on twitterfacebook or at her own blog.

#Pitcharama Success Story: Raven Hudgins

PitcharamaButton_2014Today I’m interviewing Raven Hudgins, who is the latest of our Pitcharama 2014 success stories: she signed with Soul Mate Publishing on 4 February. Welcome, Raven!

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?

Well, my name is Raven. I’m from a small town in Virginia called Mathews. It’s a quiet town that many haven’t heard of. I’ve been writing since I was a little girl—it has always been a dream of mine to be published. I’m an ardent reader and gamer if you can believe.

I can totally believe it—I’m a gamer too! 😉 Now, tell us a little bit about your novel, Death Callers?

It’s funny because the way I started Death Callers was a writer’s block kit, which has suggestions on how to start a story or add conflict by picking a random card. I already knew I wanted to write something no one had written about lately. Soon I came to the idea of banshees. My novel focuses on the main character, Aislin Gray, who is just turning eighteen—which is a pivotal moment in a banshee’s life as that’s when they come into their powers. A Death Call is when a banshee has a vision of someone’s death, which invokes a piercing scream they are associated for.

Raven HudginsHow did you hear about Pitcharama? What made you decide to enter?

I’ve entered a couple contests before Pitcharama on Twitter—the scene for writers. One of my writer friends had posted something about it so, of course I had to check it out. My whole thinking was—what did I have to lose entering?

You got two requests after the contest. So excite! What happened next?

Well, I got a full request from Soul Mate Publishing and fifty pages from Turquoise Morning Press. I edited a bit more before sending them off. I heard back from Turquoise a couple months later with a sad rejection, though they would love to read more from me. Four months went by without hearing from Soul Mate—so I nudged the editor I had sent to. The funny thing was—she wasn’t an acquisition editor anymore at Soul Mate. It was a downer to hear that she couldn’t publish it, but she offered to send it to one of the higher up editors with recommendations about how good it was. I was ecstatic! Another month went by and that’s when I got the email! Soul Mate wanted to publish my novel!

Are you working on any other books? I hear a rumour (ok, I stalked you on Twitter) that wolves are somehow involved? 😉

I have a few novels in the works. I have the sequel to Death Callers on the ropes, along with two others just barely out of concept. There may or may not be wolves involved in two of my WIPs, along with other creatures.

What advice would you give other writers who are trying to figure out what to do with their completed manuscript?

I would say find a beta reader or a critique partner, then enter as many contests as you can for the experience—find what people like about your novel and what they don’t. Edit as much as you can until you can’t edit anymore. Also, never give up!

Cassandra Page is a writer, gamer (of the roleplaying and computer game sorts) and mother. She also likes coffee and chocolate because she is a writer and that’s how we roll.

Cassandra Page