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There’s more to publishing than just writing

I’ve been pondering the vast leap in numbers of published authors now that many companies make it so easy to publish your own manuscripts and just wondering what that does to the market. I heard some numbers the other day and I forget the exact digits but my memory tells me it was something like 50 new books being published every single day. By the law of averages some of those will be quality but most won’t.

In the days of traditional publishing a lot more thought went into publishing a book. The publishers had to put in a lot of money to get a book published, including money for editors, proofreaders, cover design, desktop publishing and finally, printing, distribution and marketing. In order to give themselves a really good chance of making a profit on the book they choose incredibly carefully, reading their slush pile when they needed to but relying on their tried and true authors to write them books they knew they could sell heaps of.

And when it came to printing they would go for value for money. I’m in the process of printing new business cards. The difference between printing 500 cards and 1,000 cards is $10. Why? Because most of the cost is in the set up. Once they have the printing machines running, it’s really easy to just keep going and double the number you need for little cost. Publishers have worked on this principle for many years, when they feel the book has finished selling they dump the bulk of the remaining texts into remainder bins. You’ve seen them in supermarkets or newsagencies where you can buy a book for $4.95 when you’ve normally pay $18.95.

After three paragraphs you’re probably wondering where I’m actually going with these thoughts and you’d be right to ask. My current reading matter is a copy of Meanjin from 1997. The first essay is called The State of the Art by John Barth. At the time of writing he’d been in the writing business for 41 years so he had a fairly good idea of what he’s saying. He was talking about ebooks (he calls them e-fiction, it’s that early in the realm of ebooks) and how he’d been given a manuscript back in 1981 that was wordprocessed! It was the very first one, before that he’d been given hand written manuscripts and some typed on a typewriter (probably most of them were on a manual typewriter as this is only a couple of years after I learned touch typing on a manual typewriter and the year before I first used a wordprocessor in 1982). Barth showed it to Leonard Michaels and the response was:

This is terrible! They’re going to think the stuff is finished, and it only looks that way.

And therein lies my point. How many people write the first draft of a book on a computer with software such as Word which can make anything look good (good but not typeset) and think they’ve finished? How many of those people then upload it to one of these self publishing places and declare it ready for people to buy? I’m sure some of these books do actually go through several drafts and have actually been read by other people but that begs the next question. How many people actually get someone objective to read their work and give them proper feedback? How many of them have family and friends read it, people who just want to be encouraging and tell them it’s good, people who don’t really understand there’s more to selling than just reading?

One blog entry I read some time ago caused a great stir in the book blogosphere. It was meant to be a book review but the blogger mentioned the vast number of typos she found and then all hell broke loose. There were many comments including some from the author responding with swear words and hostility both to the original blogger and to some of the commenters. Typos make it harder for many readers, sometimes they can totally change the meaning of the sentence. This is the biggest reason you need to have your manuscript proofread. The minimum I’d suggest before you upload your manuscript and turn it into a book is editing by an editor and proofreading by a proofreader, get someone who is objective and doesn’t know you.

As you can see I have far more questions than answers. I am approached by a lot of new authors and I do try to give them some time as it’s important for people to actually start somewhere. I often wish I was approached by them with the view to reading their works for suitability for publishing rather than with the view that I’ll write about them on my blog and give them some free marketing.

Meanjin Virtuous Reality 3 & 4 1997

Meanjin Virtuous Reality 3 & 4 1997

Now that we can make any text look publishable and legible (you should see my handwriting, so unreadable) with just a few minutes work the temptation is to write the book and get it out there ready for selling. So many people think that just because it’s in the world wide web that people will see it and buy it. I know I had similar thoughts when I first started selling pre-loved books online. I thought people will somehow just SEE my excellent and funny copy and think ‘that book looks good, I’ll buy it’, how wrong I was. There’s far more to selling a book than listing it for sale and that’s the subject of another rant.

Before I hit 1,000 words I’m going to finish with a repeat of my previous advice. Get some objective advice before you publish your manuscript. 

Around the traps

Supreme Court Rejects Google Books Appeal

I find this article a little confusing but that may be just me. I think there have been several court cases, each won by Google with this last one being dropped.

This case is about Google scanning in entire libraries of books and making them digitally available and searchable to anyone with the appropriate software i.e. anyone. The publishers were suing Google trying to get them to stop as Google weren’t compensating the publishers or the authors when scanning their works.

Ok, so the case has been dropped and the publishers have stopped shelling out huge sums of money to lawyers. My thoughts? The publishers should monitor the downloads of books and publish the more popular ones.

Original Valley of the Dolls manuscript heads to auction

Happy 50th birthday to Valley of the Dolls! It seems the original typewritten manuscript with corrections is now up for auction in California. They’re estimating between $25,000 and $50,000. I’ll do my best to find out the final price for you.

Did you know ‘dolls’ was slang for drugs? No, neither did I. It seems like an opportune time to add this book to my ever expanding To Be Read Pile.

Shakespeare First Folio Discovered on Isle of Bute, in Time for an Anniversary

Here’s one I must read to completion. Not the book but the article. The book mentioned was published seven years after Shakespeare’s death and includes 18 of his plays that had not been published in his lifetime.

It goes on to talk about cataloguing of private libraries, a topic which has much interest for me. I’d read it now and summarise it for you but I must be out the door.

Book Expo 2015 – final bits

There are a couple of people who don’t fit into any category so they get an article to themselves with a few final words.

Digital Dreaming

Digital Dreaming by R. L. Black

I was originally attracted by the typewriter, it’s a thing of sheer beauty and such amazing engineering but then I stood and listened to Black tell the story of his book and what’s inside it, my jaw dropped. This isn’t your normal kind of information book on how to organise your family mementos, Digital Dreaming is the kind of book you’ll refer to again and again. Basically it guides you to how to store the information behind all the family heirlooms you have stuffed within the cupboards of your house, the ones your family is likely to forget as people don’t remember the same things and don’t have eidetic memories.

You can buy it here at vast expense or at Balboa Press for more reasonable prices.

Write a book

Write a book in a day

This delightful stall was raising awareness for their programme to Write-a-Book-in-a-Day, a competition to help fund childhood cancer research. It sounds like a lovely project and at the end you have a book to show everyone as well as the chance to win some great prizes. The way it works is on the appointed day you and your team are given some ideas and have 12 hours to write a book using those ideas, not just a digital book but a bound copy which is then submitted to the State Children’s Hospital Library. Look for more details here.

And that’s all I have for the Book Expo from 2015, apart from the rest of the authors which I’ll continue using for Friday Photos. I did visit some country towns on my travels and I’ll highlight one a week over the next few weeks but I’ll also get stuck into some book reviews as I now have a few books sitting waiting patiently for me to write about them.

Book Expo 2015: Publishers

There were several publishers available at the Book Expo. I’ve showcased ASIM before and would have happily done so again but I didn’t think to take photos of them. There was also a shelf display for another publisher but without someone there to talk to I didn’t get around to taking a photo, Australian eBook Publisher might possibly be their name.

Busy Bird

Busy Bird

Yes, I spoke to Busy Bird. They were busy trying to sell their books and their services as they publish a handful of titles a year and also help authors publish their own books. Lovely people.

Odyssey Books

Odyssey Books

I found Odyssey Books interesting. Michelle just assumed I’d want a photo of her authors and tried to wave them forward (you can see two of them in the background) but I’d decided this photo was about the publisher so I made her come forward. I can’t help myself and was talking to someone while getting some food, as I sat down to eat I was greeted by Sue Parritt (an author published by Odyssey Books) who took my card and made certain they knew about me at their stand. Lovely people all round, they create beautiful bookmarks, business cards or coasters using the covers of their books. You can see it’s a lovely idea and I can just see people wanting to collect the lot.

Odyssey Books paraphenalia

Book Expo 2015: Support Personnel

As promised here are some words about the support personnel I met at the Book Expo. I suspect I could get entire articles using some of what I’ve written here and each article would only scratch the surface.



The lovely people at BookaBuy. Remember when I wrote about Book Clubs? This is what BookaBuy does, I won’t be trying them out as I’m desperately trying to reduce my To Be Read Pile to be somewhat shorter than me but I quizzed them at length about how they choose books and they seem to know what they’re doing. Unlike the book club I was in they actually choose books for you by referring to a survey they have you fill in.

Books in Homes

Books in Homes

I nearly bowled people over in my haste to get to Books in Homes. Persuading children to read is one of my pet loves and these people are working hard at it. There are various ways you can help besides making a donation, if you’re happy to speak at schools and you’re in a remote(ish) location you can look at being a Role Model.


Book Systems International Pty Ltd

These lovely people are freight forwarders who just happen to specialise in books. If you need large amounts of books moved from point a to point b I’d go to them as your first port of call.

Custom Design Book Covers

Custom Design Book Covers

I spoke to Julia at Designerbility for longer than I thought I would. She’s got a wealth of information at her fingertips and she knows what she’s talking about. Most of us don’t have the skills to design our own cover, and that’s where she comes in. I can’t believe it’s been two years since I wrote this article on book covers, Julie could write this much better than I can as she knows everything I’ve written and ever so much more.


Good Reading

Good Reading Magazine

Some of these people were ever so happy to be photographed. I love Good Reading Magazine, I’ve read it on occasion and they were happy to give me a bag with two copies…whatever were they thinking!

Wombat Stories

Wombat Stories

Tony, Tony, Tony. Where do I put you? He accosted me when I snuck up behind him at the BookaBuy stall with a ‘Postmaster General!’ and we then talked all things Discworld, I wasn’t standing out much wearing my Most von Lipwig hat…promise. Not only is Tony Harris an author of some lovely looking children’s books which he’s also put into app format so you can play with them (I never got the chance as we talked Discworld) but he also teaches people how to use Scrivener. It’s the most awesome writing tool for authors and he spent a few minutes showing me round, my eyes doubled in size seeing what it could do. I already had it on my computer as it’s really reasonably priced but haven’t played extensively as I do most of my writing on my iPad; I’m now waiting rather impatiently for them to bring out an iPad version.


Xana Publishing

Xana Publishing

Lama sat me down and made me stop and think about writing. She helps people self-publish their books. One of thing she said was to look at your final goal, do you want to make money out of your writing or do you want to just see your name on a book? If you want to make money then you need to do far more than just write one book and expect it to make you a squillionaire overnight, have in mind several books and expect to publish every year ensuring your marketing is hard at work and don’t expect to get sales from social media. What Lama does is to guide you through the entire self-publishing process, helping to make things easy. Then I asked her where she came from, she was pleasantly surprised when I told her I loved Jordan.


Friday Photos – Nullus Anxietas 5

A few photos from the Australian Discworld Convention in Sydney last weekend. Have I really been back less than a week? So much has happened it feels like a month.

Badges Loot

I raided the Dealers Tent and bought badges for my collection. One was given me for my volunteering work. The Be More Terry was was to every attendee by Rob Wilkins and there’s a little one of Rincewind played by Troy Larkin in Run Rincewind Run comes from the Adelaide Mini Con in 2012, they were only issued to attendees but Danny knows I have a collection so he gave me a spare. My joy knows no bounds!

Death in crochet

I took some wool and a crochet hook, while I got little useful done it served as an introduction to some people (I was also waving at people I didn’t know and saying hello but that’s rather beside the point). This amazing scarf was displayed to me by the owner on the Friday, she’s made Death into a scarf! Such amazing talent.


This is my reading loot. The top book was in my con bag, donated by Galaxy Books. The other four I bought from the ASIM table. I have so much Simon Petrie as he kept adding in more books and giving me discounts, I put in an Edwina Harvey as I didn’t want to buy only one author. They had lots of ASIM magazines for sale which I neglected to buy as I have them all…except for the first issue and that’s out of print.

Portfolio cover

It was decided to publish a very special portfolio to be given to everyone who attended the full convention. We had to line up for signing by both Rob Wilkins (Terry’s PA) and Stephen Briggs (massager of Terry’s books into play form). It’s only a little book but I will treasure it.


Here is the inside of the Portfolio. I was near the beginning of the queue when Rob was still asking people if they wanted one stamp or two. I couldn’t make up my mind so I copied the person in front of me who asked for random stamps and we were given both, I think he used both stamps thereafter. Rob signed this page while Stephen signed another page.

Interwebs stuff

As a bit of change of pace I’ve browsed the web and found some interesting articles for you.

Bookseller YA book prize goes to feminist dystopia I was interested by this headline and even more intrigued by the article. The book is about girls in boarding school vying for the chance to be chosen by a boy for his bride to look after him and have his babies until such time as she’s not capable any more. I wondered what this has to do with feminism until I came to this sentence

But, in the final year, it all starts to unravel.

and I started to be interested. All very well, but the article gives no more details so I hope it really is feminist literature.

Harper Lee’s Abandoned True-Crime Novel

Anything Harper Lee is bound to catch my eye at the moment and I found this one rivetting, totally rivetting. Lee is approached to write a novel about a man who insures family members then kills them and gets away with it. Apparently she joins the family for some time, does lots of research, takes the files away with her, starts writing it and then strings the family along finally completely forgetting about them. It’s a wonderful story waiting for an author to write it.

Memphis Publisher Sues Salinger Estate

Another author who caught my eye. Having recently read Salinger’s most interesting novel The Catcher in the Rye it became a must read and I found it less salacious and a case of DRM.

Why Writing is So Hard

One writer’s view of how writing is challenging.

Matt Sumell’s novel-in-stories Making Nice is one of the funniest (and best) books of the year, featuring the self-destructive but well-meaning Alby–a “loser,” according to his sister. Here, Sumell talks about the agonizing process of writing, pushing through the pain, and why it still remains necessary.

Sumell talks, in part, about how autobiographical a book can be.

Asking whether Amazon is friend or foe is a simple question that is complicated to answer

Another fascinating article about Amazon. I thought I’d written enough about them but this one looks to be reasonably balanced. It talks about how Amazon made the ebook market. Certainly, it’s always taken a big company to start something new as you have to have the deep pockets necessary to take the plunge and start a brand new project no-one’s thought of before, or in this case, make it big.

The comments make interesting reading and kudos to you if you make it all the way through to the end of them.


Law Suits

In this increasingly litigious society far too many people are worried about law suits, it seems one can’t say what one feels necessary, even using completely factual information, without worrying about facing a law suit. I am now considering how I can cushion this blog against them and I am one of the least likely to be affected. Free speech seems to be less free than before, let me explain at least in part.

There is a law suit. Ellora’s Cave is a romance publisher and is currently suing Dear Author, a blog about romance books and the world of romance writing. This article is what the case is all about. I haven’t gone into the details but I have read many of the comments on this article and several others so it seems legitimate and factual. Some people are speculating that this is a SLAPP case, a law suit designed to silence people about this topic and if you read further into this it appears to be happening as you can see here in this new blog.

As many of you know I don’t like romance, can’t stand it in any way, shape or form except in real life. That doesn’t mean I can stand back and ignore the whole thing. I see romance and erotica resembling science fiction as it used to be before it became a ‘legitimate’ thing to read.

Some decades ago (my memory tells me pre-1940s or 1950s but I’m not checking this) science fiction was something to be picked up in pulp fiction and wasn’t really taken seriously despite many of the stories being written by eminent scientists such as Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke, something changed around the 1970s and ’80s and I’m not sure what was the catalyst but probably movies such as Star Wars, Star Trek and Back to the Future. Now you can find science fiction books proudly displayed in every bookshop and it has been legitimised.

Romance has been underground just like science fiction and is now being legitimised, many more people are reading and appreciating the genre than ever before. I see so many of my friends enjoying, sharing, and writing about romance and while I don’t understand and have no intention of joining them I do defend their right to read whatever they like. One genre to arise from this is erotica and a sub-genre of romance-erotica. Ellora’s Cave is one of the foremost sellers of ebooks in these genres. They seem to be in some financial difficulty and are suing Dear Author in an effort to silence them rather than finding a legitimate method out of their troubles.

What will happen?

I really don’t know. Some book bloggers will continue to say what they wish and I hope they have enough money behind them in order to hire a good lawyer. Others will become more circumspect. Will this stop people saying what they really feel about a book? Will this stop people being critical of publishers or book sellers? All questions I can’t answer as I don’t have a crystal ball. Until now I was thinking this was a good time to be a reader as you have a much broader range of reviews, you’re not limited to reading them in the newspaper, you can find reviews on a much broader range of topics. If you only read science fiction there are blogs out there who only write about science fiction, others who only write about romance, still others who only write about fantasy. You’re not left with the scanty efforts of a newspaper which is limited to the two or three readers they have who might not read the books you’re interested in.

Friday Photos

The exciting Judy Nunn, our special surprise guest. Can't wait to read her book.

The exciting Judy Nunn, our special surprise guest. Can’t wait to read her book.

Look what greeted me when I got to Random House's offices! A lovely array of books all colour coded.

Look what greeted me when I got to Random House’s offices last Tuesday for the National Book Bloggers Forum! A lovely array of books all colour coded.

Found some of our own Trudi Canavan at the Tullamarine Airport book shop. She's in good company here.

Found some of our own Trudi Canavan at the Tullamarine Airport book shop. She’s in good company here.

National Book Bloggers Forum 2014

Today I’m on the way home to Melbourne after a very exciting day spent at Random House in Sydney. It was a wonderful day, I had a blast, made some new friends and thanks to Penguin Random House exceeded my baggage allowance for my flight. This is a photo of my loot.



They did what any self-respecting organiser of conferences does nowadays and had free wifi for everyone on site encouraging us to tweet as much as we liked. It was fascinating to follow the hash during the day. I’ve been to ProBlogger blogging conferences and I’ve been to Digital Parents Conferences as well as Nuffnang conferences but this was the first one where I felt able to follow along with the Twitter stream. It was incredible! I’ll give you an overview today and go into more detail using the Twitter stream to remind me.

Our opening address was by Brett Osmond, the director of Random House Australia’s Marketing and Publicity Department. He started by talking about the books he’s been reading.

He was followed by Eva Bui and Ellie Morrow who talked about improving SEO, Google Analytics and promoting your blog. This was packed full of information and I only hope I can reproduce enough of it. I was intrigued by our expectations, some of us thought the digital gurus should be male but these two people we’re drop dead gorgeous females…what stereotypes.

Sneh Roy won the 2013 Best Australian Blog Competition, she came in and talked about her journey. Her blog is about cooking and it came to no surprise to find morning tea included a beautiful burnt butter slice made in an oven in her back yard…very bad for the waistline.

Various Penguin Random House publishers were very enthusiastic about the books they’re most excited to publish this year. I’ll name drop in a future article.

Judy Lynn was our surprise guest author, we had no idea until she came through the door, she began her presentation with a video narrated by her husband, Bruce Venables. I was chuffed as I’ve seen both of them on TV and was almost as close to her as I could possibly be.

New author, Bruce McCabe, spoke about his journey to being published by Random House. I look forward to reading his book, either it’s incredibly good or he’s just incredibly lucky.

Random House Australia’s Managing Editor, Brandon VanOver, shared some inside secrets to getting published. I felt this was a letdown, I could easily have listened to him for another hour, he spoke so fast and in shorthand in order to get it all in.

I enjoyed each presenter but I felt the time passed far too quickly. The whole day felt like two hours but the clock assured me I’d been there from 9 am till 5 pm.

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I want to thank the Koolin people for their thousands of years of guardianship and caretaking of the area where I live.