We were given so much information about being published I can’t possibly write it all down but I’ll do some of it. We heard from Random House Australia Managing Editor Brandon VanOver who gave us so much information in such a short time there was no way I could write most of it down. He spoke quickly and in shorthand, I’d like to hear that all again but over two or three sessions to ensure he breaks it down and speaks more extensively about each section.
We heard from Sneh Roy. She writes on Cook Republic and has been writing her blog for ten years, that’s double my five years! Yes, I can do that kind of maths. She’s young, with young children and has discovered she needs to be very focussed while they’re sleeping or at school. Each of her articles takes between four and six hours to write but that does include cooking and photography, she’s a self-taught photographer. Her dishes not only look delicious but they are, she brought in a burnt butter slice for morning tea…just delicious. Roy won the 2013 Best Australian Blog Competition, her prize was a half hour with Brandon VanOver, who, after speaking with her for a few minutes took her straight to publishing, I could put on weight looking at her first book so I tried very hard not to do more than look at the front cover.
One of the things I’ve learned looking at her blog is to put in the personal. She has around 500 words per article as well as several photos and then the recipe. There’s a lot of personal information in there as well as her personality, it just shines through. Bit a of challenge for me as I don’t like to include too much personal details anywhere on the web, I like to give my family their privacy.
Bruce McCabe managed to overhear a conversation recorded by an insurance company in the UK…I’m going to make a few people very paranoid right now…where they have a lie detector hooked up to the phone and everytime it thought the caller was lying the phone operator would get a coloured light indicating this. He then thought ‘what if…’ and write his techno-thriller Skinjob. He was nice enough to wander through most of the day and talk to us during the break, even describing his book to me as a cross between Dan Brown and Michael Crichton, I hope he’s wrong about Dan Brown as he was one author I really struggled to get through.
McCabe’s story was fascinating. He decided not to go through normal publishing channels as he wanted to get the book out into the reader’s hands quickly so he first published in Kindle version with US spelling, then he published a print book and struggled to get it into shops. He spoke with the people in Berkelouw’s bookstore in Dee Why, NSW who said ‘we read every book we sell’ and they did actually read his book, they then put it on their shelves and helped him get it into other Berkelouw shops. As an aside, I love the idea of a bookshop that is so behind every book they sell, that seems so ethical to me. From there the book was read and passed onto other people who passed it on still further and eventually McCabe received an email from J.K. Rowling’s agent essentially saying ‘I want to sign up as your agent’. From there it was a very small step to being taken on by Random House.
One person I want to talk about is Judy Nunn. She was our surprise guest author, I’ve seen her on many TV programmes as she’s a great actor and it was very exciting to see her so close to me. She’s an accomplished author as well having written 12 books. The opening of her talk was us listening to a man’s voice talking about her book and I’m listening to this voice thinking how familiar it is, she told us it was her husband, Bruce Venables who has also appeared on my TV screens on many occasions.
Nunn was fascinating. She looks to many different places for inspiration including buildings and is the despair of her publishers as she rarely has a title before the end of her book. Publishers like to have a title so they can get the cover done and start some advance publicity, the more advanced publicity you can do the more books you can sell. Her book is set in the sugar cane industry in Bundaberg, QLD in the 1960s, a totally fascinating time and place so I’m very keen to read it. The sugar cane industry is one place that should have been written about long ago.
Bookshops seem to be more selective than they used to be so fewer copies of each book are being printed at any one time. I think they said they used to print 10,000 copies of a book but now start off with 2,000. That’s great for the trees and the environment but not so good for the author and publishing industry. On the other hand, ebook sales are up to 20% and this has only happened in the last few years. If they all sell they can easily print more copies but with the printing industry it’s the set up that’s the expensive part, once you’ve got the book set up it’s as easy to print 2,000 copies as 10,000 so the more copies you print at any one time the cheaper per copy it becomes. This makes it harder to bring down the price of the book.
Just before I finish for today. Monday I’ll share some of the secrets and tricks to improving SEO and promoting your blog we were given and Wednesday I’ll talk about the publishing staff and their favourite picks they shared with us. There is always more information on Twitter and if you check the hash tag #NBBF14 you’ll see a wealth of tweets from many of us as we listened.