Category Archives: Writing

PERSEVERANCE FOR THE WIN

Last month, I spent four solid weeks editing and rewriting seven chapters of my work in progress. These chapters formed the bulk of my submission to the FAWWA Emerging Writers Program.

When I decided to enter, I didn’t know that my body was launching a covert operation. It piled extra illness on top of my usual health problems. You know the saying, ‘the spirit is willing…’? My flesh was weak in capital letters.

My September challenge reminded me that perseverance is crucial to every version of success that exists.

 

THE STARTING LINE

Fed up with having to always put my body’s needs first (and in doing so, sacrificing my dreams) I knew I had to fight and fight hard, for what I wanted. Trading my ill body for a new, healthy one wasn’t an option (dammit). I had to do the best I could with what I had or miss out.

For well over a year, I’d been longing for a writing win. All my concerted efforts had not earned me any gold stars. Rejections hadn’t affected my habit of getting the work done and out there, but they made me feel a little depressed.

At the starting line, I was completely done with the miasmic feeling of failure that hung over my head. I had to be in the running for the Emerging Writers Program and the only way I’d be considered is if I ran the race alongside everyone else. Shaky, I pulled my running shoes on.

 

RUNNING MY OWN RACE

With a pressing timeline and poor health, I couldn’t afford to entertain the notion of quitting. I had to ignore perfectionism and comparison and keep looking straight ahead to the finish line. I knew that if I glanced sideways, I would fall and not get up again.

Through migraines, low-grade fevers, chest pain and many other symptoms, I held onto perseverance with all I had. Perseverance was the rope I hung onto that dragged me toward the finish line. My beta-readers backed me up and pushed from behind.

 

THE FINISH LINE

I grazed my knees the last hundred metres but my sweaty, rope-burned hands were locked on perseverance.

Finally, after four long weeks, I found myself touching the finish line. By that stage, my body was protesting loudly and I could no longer ignore it.

I hit the submit button, let go of my perseverance rope and promptly fell in a messy heap of victory.

 

WINNER

The experience illustrated to me yet again that perseverance is essential, regardless of your goals or what shape your difficulties take. Nobody breezes to the finish line. Nobody. No matter how unattainable a goal seems, or how giant your obstacles look, you will make it if you just hang onto perseverance.

Winning a place in the FAWWA Emerging Writers Program would be a dream come true. If I miss out, I’ll feel disappointed for a while but then I’ll realise it doesn’t matter because I know I did my absolute best with what I had. I ran the race and crawled over the finish line – I reached my goal. I’ll call myself a winner because I persevered until my entry was complete.

When I’m strong enough to get up and sprint again, I know perseverance will be there to steadfastly pull me to success. But for now, it’s time to switch gears after a month of bloody hard work and sickness. Now it’s time to get some rest so I can last the crazy writing journey marathon.

 

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WADING INTO LIFE WRITING

 

I know there’s at least one thing I’m meant to do with my life: write.

I’ve always said that one day, I’ll write a memoir – for myself and for others who suffer with invisible illness.

 

THE RIGHT TIME

For many years, I avoided writing my story. It felt too big, too hard. I wasn’t ready. I focussed on writing fiction in short story form and worked at developing my writing skills. Yes, a form of procrastination but also a valuable use of my time. I learned a lot and my writing improved.

This year, during a period of reassessing goals and making new ones, I realised that my vague, ‘one day’ attitude had been holding me back. I had to make a start on writing a memoir. It felt like the right time. (If not now, when?)

 

WAKE UP CALL

These realisations jolted me as if a bucket of freezing water had been poured on my head. The project felt mammoth and I worried about failing to cope with the emotional heaviness that would inevitably come from writing about my past. I feared the unknowns I might find at the bottom of the pool.

There were so many ‘buts’ and ‘what ifs’. I felt clumsy at writing nonfiction, having spent years writing fiction. I didn’t know how to tackle the project. I didn’t know how to ‘life write’.

 

NURTURING SEEDS OF SELF-BELIEF

For years, I believed that my voice didn’t matter because my life experience was one of feeling unheard and invalidated. Will anyone listen to me now when they haven’t before? Who will even care to read my story?

With an unsure voice, I shared that I was thinking about starting a memoir with a few trusted friends. Most responses were validating and encouraging.

Buoyed, and certain it was time to start writing a memoir, my packet of self-doubt-seeds morphed into saplings of self-belief. I was finally able to say, ‘It’s time. It’s important I write my story. I’m here to write my story.’ I felt these things deep in my gut.

Today, I hold these saplings close to my heart and protect them with crossed arms. I water them and hope they will grow bigger, stronger.

I realised that this is my life so this is my story. I own it so I have the right to tell it. My voice is important.

 

FALLING INTO THE DEEP END

I waded in, like an insecure teenager faking confidence, by enrolling in The Centre for Stories Life Writing course in Perth, run by Rosemary Stevens – a huge commitment for me, living three hours south with multiple health issues to manage and a family to look after.

I didn’t expect the first session to spring board me straight into the deep end. I hadn’t brought my floaty!

The class exercise prompted me to write about one of my earliest childhood experiences of rejection. This, with multiple other triggers heaped on top, pushed me into a Borderline Personality spiral. I’m ashamed to say that, in a very bad headspace, I ended up at Bunbury A&E.

At that point, I felt like I’d made the wrong choice to step out in faith and start my memoir. A mocking voice yelled inside my head: ‘See, you can’t do this. You’re too weak.’

A week later, I managed to haul myself out of the deep end, dry myself off, put on some fresh clothes and get to the next Life Writing class. And I’m glad I stuck with it because I’m learning so much from a wonderful teacher and supportive peers.

 

ANTAGONISTS

When you set out to do a thing you know in your bones you’re meant to do, you sometimes get stalked by evil and laid out flat. You have to gather your wits, pull yourself up and fight demons in order to move forward. This is often what happens for me. I stand up, convinced a thing is what I’m meant to be doing then wham!I’m floored by claws ripping down my back.

I’m still dealing with chronic illness and I’m still working on overcoming a borderline personality disorder. I’m still working through events from my past that scarred me. The difference now is that I’m choosing not to let these difficulties stop me from writing my story.

I’m trembling but I’m doing it anyway.

 

SO OFTEN, GETTING PUBLISHED IS NOT THE POINT

Deep down, I know that writing a memoir is going to be a source of healing for me. I’ve decided that if healing is the sole outcome of writing my story, it is enough.

Getting published is not the point – that’s a whole other story. I can’t afford to think about who’s going to read my story, and all the people I’m going to offend, or I won’t be able to write from the heart. (I’ll have to think about others after the first draft is complete.)

If my memoir gets published (added bonus!), I hope it will give a voice to others unheard who have struggled with life in similar ways to me.

 

ONWARD

I’m going to write this memoir slowly and with a care for my heart and brain. If the memories get too much, I will stop and be kind to myself – give myself a break.

I’ll nurture my self-belief saplings.

It may take me ten years to write this memoir, but how long doesn’t matter. The important thing is I’m on my way.

Who knows what my future holds. All I have is now: today. And today I will write my story.

 

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My top 10 tips for young writers

 

  1. Read a lot and read widely

Reading is the most important thing for a writer. You learn how to write well by reading good writing. Great writers are first great readers.

 

  1. Write what interests you, not what you think other people want to read

Write for yourself first, others second. If you don’t care about your subject, your reader won’t either (you need the reader to care or they won’t want to keep reading your story). Write the story you want to read.

 

  1. Make sure your characters have defined goals

Your characters have to want something so much that they seek to get that something. This makes your character active. Passive characters are boring and don’t make for good stories.

 

  1. Be mean

Your story has to have conflict or it won’t work. Give your characters the hardest problems you can think up, then make them even worse. Your characters need to face difficulties on the journey toward their goal.

 

  1. Get accountable

If you can, find a supportive writing buddy to set goals with. Spur each other on.

Closing dates for competitions are a great motivation to get your story finished. Enter as many as you can. The more practice you get at finishing your stories, the better you will write. And the bonus is that you just might win a prize.

P.S. You will get rejections – many of them – this is normal. There are many reasons why your work will get rejected but the important thing to remember is that rejections do not mean your writing is bad.

 

  1. Get help

You might need information about something you’re writing that you have no idea about. Be brave. Ask an expert.

You’ll need feedback on your stories from someone further up the writing ladder than you (sometimes, judges give competition entrants helpful feedback). You need feedback in order to improve your writing. Be brave. Ask someone you can trust who will be kind but honest.

 

  1. Give yourself permission to write a shockingly terrible first draft

Think of your favourite author. Got it? Right. Let me tell you a secret – that amazing author, whose work you love, writes terrible first drafts just like you. Awesome, right?

Get the words down, however they come out. Then you at least have something to work with and improve upon. If you let perfectionism stop you from getting a first draft done, all you’ll have is a blank page (or a very unfinished story at best).

 

  1. Don’t trash your stories

If you’re frustrated with a story that you can’t seem to get right or you’ve lost enthusiasm for, put it in a mental drawer and let it simmer in the back of your mind.

Your brain loves to solve creative problems for you when it’s given the opportunity. You just might get a brainwave. Then, when you open up your story again, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to wrangle it into better shape.

The important thing is that you go back to your story and try again. And again. And again. Good writing is rewriting. Every writer who produces great work has rewritten and edited their work until their eyes have bled (not literally, but you know what I mean).

 

  1. Get awesome at writing when it feels REALLY hard

Writing is a very difficult job. If you don’t write when it’s hard, you’ll never develop the stickability needed to finish your stories. Learn to face the page no matter how you feel. Don’t wait to feel inspired. Inspiration will come as you write.

 

  1. Don’t give up on yourself

Feeling disheartened is a normal emotion for a creative. Every one of us, at different points in our writing, feel like what we’ve written is absolute rubbish. And we sometimes feel like we are rubbish and not a real writer at all.

Get okay with this and don’t let it determine whether you will or won’t continue to write. Speak kindly to yourself, get up, brush off the disappointment and try again. Never give up and I promise you, you will succeed.

 

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Getting a Grip

It’s been some time since I’ve blogged, mainly due to a lack of vision and direction for my site. I haven’t written much of anything in general, due to poor health on a variety of fronts. I had to loosen my grip on writing for a while in order to ‘cut myself some slack’ and concentrate on getting better. So I guess you could say I found myself in a prolonged writing slump.

When I was rushed to emergency back in July, I left the early stages of my novel and research at home, along with everything else. I haven’t picked up my novel length project again because the thought of committing to such a huge goal remains overwhelming. I couldn’t afford not to do anything either, because hearing ‘critical Jodie’ berate me for not writing was crippling. My lack of progress was also depressing me.

So last month, I got back on the riding bike; it’s been a slow, wobbly ride. I started tinkering with a short story a few times each week and wrote the odd poem. I had to do something but I didn’t really know what to do.

Still in recovery mode and needing to be kind to myself, I started thinking about what I was doing with my writing and where I’d like to go with it in the near future. I wrote a short list of specific writing tasks to carry me through to the end of the year. This downsizing of my viewing panel to a one inch frame (coined by Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird) has been helpful. I feel like I can achieve the tasks I’ve set myself; they’re within my ability to grasp.

I needed to encourage myself more than ever. I printed out all my poetry (no matter what state it was in) and put each poem in one of two new display folders. I grew delighted at discovering just how many poems I’d written over the past five years; having a file full of my work made me feel great. Here was proof – I hadn’t been so lazy, after all.

I printed out all my short stories (no matter what stage each was in) and put them in the second display folder, along with notes and feedback with the relevant piece of work. I discovered I’d written loads of words. Now I had all these stories to work with and they felt more real than when they were just saved files on my laptop.

I also printed out all evidence of my writing achievements and filed them to look at as required; the email offering me a place at the KSP Short Story Retreat, the letter which announced I’d won a flash fiction competition, etc.

The third thing I did that helped me find my mojo: I created a work log. In the log I wrote down all the work I’d had published, including online. I also sorted out my writing files (ideas, notes, handouts etc).

The affect all these activities had on my psyche was so helpful. I created a tangible reference of my hard work and threw out all the crap.

So if you’re in a slump like the one I found myself in, I encourage you to make your work tangible. Maybe you’re not in a slump but feel overwhelmed; do what I did and reduce your ‘viewing panel’ by narrowing your goals to a specific list of tasks. Whatever you do, just don’t give up.

 

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KSP WEEKEND

I was given an amazing opportunity, by the Katherine Susannah Pritchard Writers Centre (KSP) and Laurie Steed, to join Bindy Prichard and David Allan-Petale at the Short Story Retreat held last March at KSP in Perth. Why? Because the third winning writer of the competition pulled out and a space opened up for me.

I didn’t realise, when I accepted the offer, that I’d have to overcome three challenges if I was to get the most out of the retreat.

Challenge number one was the medical cum political saga I had to deal with the week of the Short Story Retreat. If the medical powers that be hadn’t finally allowed me to swap malfunctioning medical equipment with new equipment, before I was due to leave on the Friday, I wouldn’t have been able to attend KSP. It was a hard week on a number of fronts but thankfully, I left home with working medical equipment in tow.

Challenge number two was overcoming the anxiety of separation from my husband and son for two nights after a stretch of bad depression.

Challenge number three was the dreaded ‘imposter syndrome’. Maybe because I was initially not offered a place. Maybe because I was the only ‘officially unpublished’ writer in the group. Maybe because I didn’t feel my writing was literary enough. Or maybe just because I’m hypersensitive and often feel unworthy of rewards like this.

Had I earned my place at this KSP Retreat? Apparently I had and boy did I soak up every blessing poured out to me that weekend – just like a crusty sponge.

For the first time, I was privileged to receive one-on-one feedback with an editor. And not just any editor – the one and only Laurie Steed. (What an absolute gem he is, particularly within the WA writing community.) Laurie, who also often climbed to a higher step on his career ladder via ‘lucky opportunities’ that landed in his lap.

The weekend was intense for me, not just mentally, but also emotionally and physically. I had become so unaccustomed to taking so many study sessions in such a short amount of time. By Saturday afternoon I think all I was giving back to Laurie and my peers was a questioning stare with a mouth slightly agape.

We had a lot of fun over meaningful conversations, food preparation in the tiny KSP kitchen and a few too many glasses of red wine. Dave even broke a chair as we watched the sun set from the gorgeous KSP grounds – haha!

By the time Sunday rolled around and we had read our stories in front of a small audience, I felt like I was saying goodbye to family. I was the last to pack up my cabin, hand in my key and as I waved goodbye to KSP, it was with much reluctance and a tear in my eye.

Thank you Laurie, Dave, Bindy and KSP for your wonderful company and this amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity. I will never forget it and I’ll never forget you all and everything you gave to me so willingly from hearts of true generosity.

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It’s Official – Mystery Mail is Published!

After months of emails flying to and fro between me and Raging Aardvark Press, an ultimatum supplied by me (marinated in a splash of dispirited annoyance) and a fuckload of waiting, the anthology Twisted Tales 2016 is finally here, IN PRINT!

My gut is misbehaving badly today and I woke with the blues. Add to that the frustration of trying to order thirty copies of Twisted Tales from the states and I’m only now sitting back to take in the good news.

I don’t even know how I feel about my first story being properly published, on paper, in an actual book. There’s definitely excitement but I’ve waited so long for this anthology to be published that the actual win feels rather like a lifetime ago.

My emotions are all mixed up with disbelief. I feel disconnected from today’s amazing news. Hopefully, the feeling of joy and a sense of achievement will catch up with me. How should I celebrate?

This morning, I created an author account on Amazon – because now I have a published story to my name. That was a surreal experience. I sure don’t feel like an author yet.

If you’d like a copy of Twisted Tales 2016, you can order it here: https://www.createspace.com/6652118 or here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0994525206 .

Or I can send you a copy for $15AUD (I gain no profit) to anywhere in the world. I’ll even sign it for you, if you like.

Thank you, again, for following my writing journey. I can’t wait for you to read Twisted Tales 2016 and tell me what you think of my story, “Mystery Mail”.

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Most Twisted Tale 2016

The month of August brought me a pleasant surprise. As I untied the bow on the unexpected gift and peeked inside the box, my heart thudded with equal measures of excitement and disbelief. Could it be?

Earlier this year, I made the goal of getting a piece of my work print published by 2017.

The small Australian publisher, Raging Aardvark Publishing, was running a flash fiction competition called Twisted Tales. I heard about the opportunity from a friend. It dawned on me that a particular story I had on the back burner would fit the bill. So I redrafted it, got feedback from friends and polished it up. I submitted the story just before the competition closed.

I was attached to the story that I entered. It had been living in my subconscious for well over a year, after all. I had an empathy for my mentally unstable female protagonist and wanted to know how this ‘moment in time’ would play out for her. I called the story Mystery Mail.

I was pleased with the finished version of Mystery Mail but I hardly thought it winning material. So when I learned that I’d won both the People’s Choice Award and the Judge’s Choice, I was shocked. I even considered replying to the email of notification with, ‘Are you sure?’

I didn’t feel my story deserved first place. I was invested in Mystery Mail but not the competition (I’d learned early on in the writing game that you really can’t hang all your hopes on getting published or you’ll be nothing but depressed).

Interestingly, I didn’t spend as much time with Carrie as some of my other protagonists and I didn’t spend as much time working on Mystery Mail as I had on other stories.

Holding this surprise box of kudos in my hands, it dawned on me that I’d achieved my goal for the year. What was I going to do now? I thought.

I’m so glad my story was so well received by a publishing house. Mystery Mail has that ‘aha’ moment that I’ve found infinitely hard to achieve in writing a great story.

The 2016 edition of Twisted Tales will be out soon and I can’t wait to hold a copy in my hot little hands.

Thank you to everyone who voted for my story and consequently won me the People’s Choice Award. You guys are the best!

 

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NOW IS THE TIME TO WRITE

The famous Liz Gilbert says you can always make time for your creative work, no matter how busy your life is. I believe her. Experience has taught me this much.

A writer friend of mine asked me, quite puzzled, how I find time to write. The answer is that I make time – like every writer. Making time to write is a constant choice and commitment.

 

No excuses

You don’t even have to be at home to create. The beauty about the art of writing is that you can do it anywhere. Nowadays, you can even write without pen and paper.

There are lots of ways to find time, to make time, to write. Use your travel time, your lunch break, snatch any amount of time from your day to play with words. Or set yourself fixed writing dates.

 

Anything is something more than nothing

Rome wasn’t built in a day, or so the saying goes. All the little fragments of writing you get done will create a final, finished piece eventually – much like a jigsaw.

There’s a thing called the pomodoro technique which might help you get acquainted with writing in short bursts of time. This technique requires only a timer and your commitment to sit and write.

Even if you produce only one sentence in, say, fifteen minutes, that’s more than you would’ve achieved if you hadn’t sat down to write in the first place.

 

Take the pressure off

Kristy Acevedo reminds us that succeeding isn’t about how many words you produce each time you write, but about creating a habit of writing, through daily commitment. (By the way, I’m still perfecting the ‘daily’ bit.)

I don’t find word counts helpful, but you might. I never meet them and always feel discouraged as a result. It’s better to just achieve a daily writing session (that’s hard enough, after all). Sit yourself down and see what comes of a short session – you can always set yourself word count goals later, once you’re on a roll with the habit of writing.

 

Making time

Writing definitely requires sacrifice, but it’s a sacrifice worth making. You’ll believe me once you keep at it and see the results.

Writing is no lazy form of art, it’s true. But it’s more satisfying than watching TV or indulging in any other number of uncreative activities. Making a commitment to writing regularly doesn’t mean you don’t get do other things you enjoy. You just need to prioritise writing above recreational activities.

Maybe you need to give something up in order to clear some space in your life and brain to write. It could be another activity, a bad habit, a perfectionist mentality, poor self-esteem or laziness. Maybe you simply need to commit to this thing you love, writing, and really push yourself to stick with it.

Many things can arise to prevent us from writing. Think about what stops you and make the changes necessary.

 

The time is now

Don’t wait for the perfect conditions to start writing. Like everyone, you’ll always be busy and if you’re not busy, something else will become the obstacle.

If you’re really serious about getting somewhere with your craft, then you’re going to have to steal as many snippets of time from your schedule that you can, and just write. A lot can be written in five, 10 or 15 minutes.

And I’ll tell you something else I know (because I’ve been there), you’re going to have to make a deliberate decision to stop making excuses for not writing. Excuses displace responsibility and prevent progress.

Whatever you need to do to find time to write – do it! Now is the time to write, not tomorrow, not next week or next month. And for goodness sake, stop saying ‘one day’. One day never happens.

 

Now go and write, courageous one!

 

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Literary Idols

Literary Idols

During a recent conversation, a friend asked me which authors inspire me the most and how. Here’s the answer to that question…

When I was very young, Enid Blyton captured my imagination with her Magic Tree tales. So fantastical and brilliant were her creations that I lived in these bizarre worlds for days on end. I loved to escape into the magical places she’d crafted. For me, Blyton’s enchanted tales were so adventurous and so believable that it was easy to tune out to everything else around me.

As I grew a bit older, I became interested in Roald Dahl’s tales. His unusual stories, where the main child character was always the champion, amused me no end. I found his writing was funny and a breeze to read. The antagonist was always someone so wretched that I wanted to get to the end to discover his or her horrible demise. By the time I grew out of Roald Dahl stories, I had read everything he’d ever written for children.

I then moved onto Paul Jennings. The quirkiness of this author’s plot lines and his bizarre characters completely drew me into his strange tales. In every one of his stories, I was compelled to solve the mysteries, and I loved discovering their answers.

By late primary school, I was enjoying a phase of horror fiction. My Goosebumps binge lasted for a while. The hardly-scary children’s stories by R. L. Stine appealed to my interest in terror and all things grim.

A. Montgomery was another favourite author at this time. I frequently ‘chose my own adventure’ and went on multiple versions of discovery within a single story. The mystery and novelty of these stories kept me hooked for some time.

As a young teen, I found myself engrossed in the works of Isobelle Carmody. Her Obernewtyn Chronicles had me charmed with the dystopian fantasy / post apocalyptic genre. (I also began to appreciate huge-arse books!) Carmody creates such believable fantasy worlds, deep characters with multiple dimensions and gripping plot lines. Her stories explore philosophical notions and the very soul of humanity.

In high school, I also discovered John Marsden. I found myself easily able to connect with his Australian stories and characters. Marsden’s tales deconstruct harsh realities and plunge right into human chaos. It was from reading this author’s books that I began to form a real attachment to characters in stories generally, and I grieved if they died.

As an adult, I’ve read countless novels and am inspired by numerous authors. Gillian Flynn is high on my list of revered artists. I love her gritty, crafty plots and her sharp, evocative writing style. She writes scenes with such efficient use of language. Scenes that make you want to throw up while simultaneously keeping you transfixed, turning page after page until the end. I know of no other author that can delve so deeply into the mind of such disturbed characters and write them with such accuracy.

So where do these inspiring authors leave me? They leave me with a hope of creating my own excellent stories. Stories that transcend the ordinary standard out there and soar to heights yet unreached.

If I can convince my readers to suspend their disbelief, no matter how absurd my story world is… If I can take my readers on a magnificent adventure full of mystery and discovery… If I can infuse my own quirkiness and make my readers smile… If I can create multidimensional characters that stand the test of time… then I will be a happy writer.

If I can shed light on, and create hope about, harsh realities… If I can make the boring old familiar topics of thought fresh and interesting again… If I can write with grit and precision… If I can keep my readers hooked and wanting more… then I will consider myself a successful writer.

Now that’s a long bill to fill, but I wouldn’t want the challenge to be any easier.

The best novels are always the result of the hardest challenges. I know, because I’ve been lucky enough to meet a couple of the literary heroes I’ve mentioned here.

 

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The Road to Self-Publishing

Guest Post by Tania Park

One of the hardest challenges for a writer these days is to get their work published. It appears that if you’re well-known, publishing houses welcome your manuscript. They’ll even contact you and ask you to write a book. Even if the celebrity doesn’t actually pen the words but uses the services of a ghost writer, the publisher’s arms are open wide. A huge amount of money is spent on promoting those types of books. There is only one reason why: money. Publishing houses are in it to make money.

So if you’re a nonentity, even with a literary masterpiece, it’s very difficult to get a publishing house to consider your manuscript.

So where does that leave the newcomer? How many brilliant manuscripts are gathering dust in forgotten drawers with twenty or so refusal slips attached?

There’s one solution: self-publishing. But this has pitfalls and many mistakes are made.

It will cost a certain amount of money – how much will depend on the printer you employ and what sort of expert advice you seek in order to have a professionally finished product. Then there’s the cost of getting your ISBN and barcode, which is a legal requirement.

I self-published a non-fiction book by doing all the work myself. It was the cheapest option. I found a printer who did the layout as part of the production cost. I hired a graphic artist to design the cover. This is a must if you want your book to look professional, unless you have those skills. A professional design will set you back anything from $250 for a basic cover. For a classier cover the cost will be higher.

You must have someone with excellent editorial skills to edit the book. An outsider sees errors you’ve missed even though you’ve read your work a hundred times. My eyes have skipped over simple misspellings repeatedly in my work. Spell check will not find things such as ‘the’ instead of ‘there’ and your brain skips over these simple typos unless you’re diligent in checking every word of every sentence. A professional editor will cost you at least a thousand dollars but it will be money well spent.

I recently read a self-published book that was edited by a ‘friend.’ The grammar is atrocious and the lack of proper punctuation is mind-boggling. The author paid an overseas publishing house to publish the book. So the publishers did what they were paid for – they published a raw manuscript. Some less than ethical publishing houses don’t care what the standard is like, for they received a substantial sum of money. Be very wary of these cowboy outfits that will publish your work for a one off payment of only $7,000.

My first book was successful and we managed to sell all copies. It looked professional but still I found at least four errors in the finished product. These were errors I’d missed repeatedly and so had other people who checked it for me.

I was involved in producing an anthology of short stories using the same method. The book was first class. But then we come to a major issue with self-publishing – selling.

Marketing a self-published book is harder than writing it and even harder than getting it published. Never make the mistake of thinking it will be a breeze. We had 300 copies of the short story anthology printed at a cost of around $10 a copy. It doesn’t sound like a large number but the books take up a lot of room and we still have at least 100 copies stashed in boxes – gathering dust.

I have just self-published my first novel, Mistaken, but this time I’ve used the services of a professional group. I’ve received advice from professional editors and technical producers, a cover designed by a professional that receives nothing but positive comments and every detail of book production is explained. The book is printed by a company that has outlets all over the world. The beauty of this method is that the books are printed on demand. I don’t have to order a print run of a certain number, which is the traditional method. I can order a single book if I wish or as many as I think I can sell. Of course the more you order at any one time, the cheaper each copy is. My initial order was for 100 copies. They were on my doorstep within ten days. I sold them all so my second order was for the same number. This doesn’t leave you with boxes of un-saleable books. The cost of my book being uploaded to more than one e-book supplier is included in the single up front fee. I don’t have the hassle.

I own the book. I own the rights to printing. I make the decisions for every single aspect of production and am responsible for the marketing, although I am amazed on how many websites my book is advertised. And it didn’t cost me anywhere near $7000.00. Even better, it is a local company that has a world-wide customer base. Everything is done by email. I didn’t even personally meet anyone from the company until I hand-delivered the first copy of my book.

I am so ecstatic with the completed product that my second book is now in the throes of production. I need to now market my book. All I need is a marketing company and ideas on how to sell it. Any offers?

 

Tania lives in Busselton, WA and has been writing for 10 years. Her second novel, Retribution, will be available soon.

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