Who am I?

I am a writing and publishing guru. What I dont know about the market just isn't worth knowing. So what if I'm unpublished? I choose to give other writers the gift of my wisdom and experience* that the other 500,000 writing blogs out there fail to give.
* No actual experience

Monday, July 25, 2011


I was browsing through a catalogue of writing courses, when one jumped out at me and hit my funny bone (rather than my pain centres): Write Your Memoir in Paris. Holy cow! Even if I was a part of the target audience for this course (now, don’t tell me you have no image of the sort of person who would fly to Paris – from Australia, not London – with a bunch of strangers and a teacher just to write a memoir) I just think it would be too ridiculous to consider.

Come on, surely the course’s main attraction is the bragging rights it would confer on all who attended. If I was going to write my memoir, I think I’d visit locations that might – yanno – trigger some memories!

Besides, I’m under no illusions that my memoir would have any appeal outside my family, old friends and ex-boyfriends – and most of them would only read it to see if I’d written anything actionable! (Actually, hub might read it to discover if there was anything I’d kept from him).

I'm sure that I’d get bored with it in ten seconds flat and suddenly find myself writing about all sorts of adventures that stray from the truth. Just a little. That’s why I write (and mainly read) fiction.

Let’s face it though, if I was going to Paris for a week or so, I reckon I’d deserve to be hit around the head for not going out and enjoying the sights and sounds. Why sit with my head down, detailing the time my teddy bear had to get shaved because someone smeared chewing gum through its fur, when there are sights to see and patisseries to fail to resist?

This would be one of the few times anybody would be justified in yelling: “Go and procrastinate! Now! Traipse around the cobbled laneways then have a three hour lunch!”


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Paying For It

Unpublished writers certainly aren’t an endangered species. We can be found in all sorts of environments across every continent (I’m sure there’s at least one in Antarctica) where we wreck our postures and strain our eyes as we weave our words into all sorts of patterns waaaay into the wee small hours.  Our print-outs could probably account for a number of rainforests. Most of us would be lying if we said we didn’t crave the validation of a publishing contract.

There are some who see our numbers as a "demand" or a "market" and have spawned a niche industry in providing "supply".  Because there are nearly as many prepared to take wannabes' dough as there are wannabe writers.

I'm talking about the huge range of courses, conferences, competitions, mentorships, webinars, subscriptions, associations, face-to-face pitch sessions with agents and manuscript assessments now available. It's a sizeable industry, but I dont begrudge them if they offer value for money. It just makes me wonder how many hopefuls use these, and still end up without a publishing contract.

For those who take the e-book self-pub route, there are more people who would accept money to edit your baby, or to promote it somewhere on-line.  (I hear that Amanda Hocking spent thousands to become an e-book giant).

Then, there are unscrupulous “publishers” who prey on the naive by offering contracts that translate as “give us your money, we'll keep the rights, we’ll print it as it stands, and you’re stuck with promotion and distribution”.  (boo, hiss)

I’ve been mingling in on-line fora (plural of forum, people!) for nearly a year now, and have learnt so much for nothing more than the cost of my internet subscription. People in my face-to-face writing group have been generous, too, as has my on-line crit partner. It seems that there are just as many people who willingly offer their time and opinions as there are people who turn it into a business. The pay-for services would really have to be of outstanding quality to compete with the kindness of writers on blogs far as I’m concerned.

Having said that, I did a short writing course about a year ago, and still refer to the notes. So that was money well spent, and I would recommend it to those who are starting on the dream. Besides, it was the list of resources provided that alerted me to the whole world of writers’, editors’ and agents’ blogs that I had no idea existed – and that I now spend a few hours each day reading and commenting on.

So, what would a champion tightwad like me spend money on?

I think I’d like to go to at least one local conference, just to meet people in the industry, but not to shove my manuscript under editors' noses.

I have paid for comp entry fees, and will continue to do so. I baulk at manuscript assessment services, but accept that I may have to try at least one, just to see if I actually learn anything from it. There’s one webinar I have my eye on, but as PayPal can’t cope with my bank account details, I’m unable to pay for. I often read course descriptions, but I've become very picky (who runs it? do I like their work?).

I don’t think I’d feel comfortable at a face-to-face pitch session with an agent - yet.

So, anybody prepared to comment on what sorts of services they have actually paid for as writers, and which were worthwhile? Please, share....

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Some of us frugal, economical, thrifty, careful and prudent types (ok – tight-a**es!) don’t like to part with our cash. It hurts- neurological studies have shown the pain-centres of the brain to rev-up (and maybe even start smokin’) when a stingy person is faced with the prospect of having to pay-up. Especially for something that was previously free.

I’m talking about paying a publisher to consider one’s submission.

Ok, I get that it was never actually “free” – in this case it was one of their expenses.  It was some overworked editor’s job to wade through the slush. And for those who only accepted manuscripts via an agent, the expense was not negated – they would pay more for the rights if they got involved in a bidding war.

I want to state that it still seems to be against the code of conduct to charge to read through an author's manuscript. However, some companies have found a novel solution... they hold an unpublished manuscript competition. And charge a fat entry fee.

I truly believe that publishers are committed to the philosophy of developing emerging writers. This is a laudable motive. I get that the entry fee offsets the editors’ salaries. Hey, they’ve got families and mortgages too. And I’ve always thought that sending a manuscript or synopsis or whatever to a publishing house has always been like entering a comp.

So what’s my problem?

The publishers have tweaked things to their advantage. Fair enough, they’re not a charity. However, when they congratulate themselves for “developing emerging talent” and secure a government grant to do so, I feel uneasy.

Let’s consider the advantages to the publishing house.  One:  they are closed to unsolicited manuscripts and can cut some editorial staff. Two: the fee also means that people with unpolished manuscripts will hesitate to enter – one of nature’s great screening devices. Three: they are not committed to publish any gems they unearth during the process. The prize is not publication – the winners will be invited to attend a workshop to develop the manuscript with agents and publishers, with the company retaining the option to publish.

Having just sent off a manuscript, with a $50.00 entry fee, my feelings about this are mixed. I’d love to win the one of the places at the workshop, but my disappointment will be greater if rejected – not only would my MS be deemed not good enough, but my fee’s been wasted. In this particular comp they won’t even give unsuccessful applicants a line or two of feedback. Just like a regular publisher!  I don’t expect feedback from a publisher, but if I’ve coughed-up my dough.... hmmm. Even a few lines would suffice (lousy concept/ poorly developed/ strains credibility etc).

My pain centres are pulsing. Wish me luck!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Time’s Wing’d Chariot...

But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity...
-Andrew Marvel.

Hugs your kids and tell them a stupid joke.
Give to those in need, for one day you might be in need yourself.
Tell stories. Lots of them. Make stuff up.
Chuck your television out the window
Learn a musical instrument
Have a run in the park.
Make eye contact and smile at a stranger, particularly if they look frail or lonely or otherwise vulnerable.
Reduce your working hours and buy everything second-hand.
Treat fashion as the monstrously huge con that it is.
Plant stuff. Herbs, veges, flowers, trees.
Tell more stories. Convoluted, ridiculous, silly, happy, illogical stories.
Enjoy your food, celebrate your wobbly thighs and belly.
Keep on telling more stories. Write them down.
Sing “You’re the one that I want” as a horribly out-of-tune duet with your partner
Then go hug your kids some more.

How long will this attitude last? Dunno.

Just hope it doesn’t take another unexpected death to inspire it.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Getting an agent (part 2)

Well, the previous post about snaffling an agent of your very own was so hugely popular that I thought I’d share more of my wisdom with those writers canny enough to recognise a goldmine of information when they see it.  

And I promise you, you won’t find this advice anywhere else. It’s exclusive to my blog.

I’m not sure why I don’t have agents brawling in the streets for the honour of representing me – but believe me, it will happen!

Try these sure-fire winning tips:

  1. Those companies who still accept paper submissions request you dont staple or bind your MS, but I say rubbish! Wouldn’t you hate it if the klutzes at the agency or publishing house lose a page of your work? Of course you would! You wouldn’t want your pages mixed up with those of an inferior writer, now would you? So, don’t risk loose leaves, – get it bound!
  2. Spelling errors are really not a query killer. You’re the writer, the creative force! Those nit-picky editors can deal with trivia like spelling, grammar and general sentence cohesion. And plot structure. Actually, a few clever phonetically spelt words might elicit a chuckle from the agent. That’ll make your work stand out! Which is what you’re aiming for.
  3. Throw a few profanities around your query to demonstrate just how freakin’ edgy and unconventional you are.
  4. When it comes to categorizing your novel, be generous. You know that your masterpiece is just too broad to be pigeon-holed. You are being accurate when you describe it as a Fantasy-Women’s Fiction-Self Help-Comedy-Thriller. If the agent gets fed-up and asks “Where would I find it if it was in a bookstore?” the answer is simple: on all five shelves. Duh!
  5. Chances are that the query will be read by a wet-behind-the-ears trainee (sometimes known as an intern or assistant). A brainless sap too gormless to know a good read when they see it. You need to be forceful here, and establish your dominance over them right away. Having the person whose duties include collecting the dry-cleaning read a query may be good enough for the cookie-cutter authors, but you need the actual decision maker to look over your query. Try phoning the company and say this in your best dog training voice: “Hey, you. Assistant bitch. Stop reading this straight away, and pass it to someone who knows what they’re doing. That’s your boss, moron. Go on, move it.” 
  6. It’s a fact that gorgeous people get better treatment than the aesthetically challenged. (Actually, I’m being serious at this point.  Multiple studies in social psychology have shown that people assume that a good-looking person is more honest, enthusiastic, intelligent and hard-working than a slob with a face like a baboon’s rear end – and treat them accordingly). The clever writer will apply this information to their advantage. I suggest including a glamour shot of yourself on the query email or letter. It won’t matter that the shot is 20 years out of date. Or that your email will take ages to download with those few extra MBs of data. Remember - the job of the query is to get those agents biting your bait like piranhas. Make yourself so damned attractive that the agent will be smitten. Then they won’t give a crap about what the book’s about. They’ll just want to represent you. 
  7. Actually, you could go one step further and email an audio file yourself reading your query aloud in your best bedroom voice. Husky, make it husky. Throw in a few double entendres, and voila! You’ll have an agent eating out of your hand. (NB, this works even better when querying for a children’s or Christian manuscript).

When all else fails, have a look at what this guy did: (http://misssnark.blogspot.com/2007/03/nitwit-of-day.html .
He’s the master query writer, and I take my hat off to him.