Saturday, 30 May 2015

Five seconds of fame

That's what my original boss called it when we took stock of the shelf life of a new release. We were standing by the shelf nearest the front of the store, weighing up which books were coming off the new release bay to make way for the ones that had just been delivered, hot off the press. As an author, her remark made an impression on me of untold proportions.

Now under new management, the bookstore I work for has a new flavour as is to be anticipated with a change of ownership. However, the rules of engagement for buyers and their books haven't changed at all. The new releases get a far better timeframe for maximum exposure, but the best way to capture an audience is unchanged. I can only chart what happens in our store, but I believe this is applicable on a much wider scale, and dare anyone to share otherwise.

Our new releases pretty much get delivered on a Monday, and we have an enlarged new release bay (which began about four months ago) to house these incoming books. We now display a top 30 at the front of the store (to see what our nation is buying that week), and depending on volume, in the bay beside the top 30 we display between 30 and 40 books that are new releases which are predominantly fiction (there may be some sci-fi, literary, biography, or crime mixed in).

My co-worker and I get to put the books out ("face out" not spine out), and while the top 30 are listed for us in order of favour, the new releases get laid out according to date. BUT, in the likely scenario we get more than eight new releases all having the same date, we get to choose the order in which they are laid out for the public to peruse. Last Monday we received around eighteen new releases, so whatever had spent prime time on the top shelf for a week was now down to shelf number four, no longer in first place, no questions asked.

A book I thought was fantastic and that everyone would surely grab did not move from second place for two weeks, neither did any sell. The new releases came in on Monday and the novel was moved down to eighth position. By that afternoon we'd received another five boxes. Not five books, five boxes. Book number two was now book fifteen. Another couple of boxes were wheeled through the door by the courier, bringing the book to rest for the day at place twenty-one. By the end of the week, book two had become book twenty-nine, where it stayed for about one more week, finally coming to rest at book forty-five before finding a permanent home amongst Fiction A-Z having sold only one copy out of six.

Five seconds of fame.

In our shop, the books in the new release bay may occasionally be leap-frogged by other books as a bio or crime fiction sells or is moved to its proper place in the store, but there are no guarantees about book placement. What might be a new release sitting in pole position on Monday can be shunted down in an hour, a day, or a week. This is the reason behind the picture above. This is how your book might be promoted after only one week of hitting the shelves - unidentifiable unless people know what you've done, or what they should be looking for.

Next post, tips on what to do to help your book stay ahead of the bookstore slush pile (and you thought the only one that existed was on the editor's desk, right? Wrong.).

In God, Whose Word I praise - in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? Psalm 56v4.

Am I back? Really?

Talk about a false start. In many ways I can't believe it was January that I last made a post, but when I look back at even the last week, it is quite obvious as to why. They say that you give time to whatever you love, and as much as I love writing, I love my family more, proven lately by working the longest hours of my life.

My disappointment in not having the time to write is overcome by being able to provide for my family as well as spend time with them. It's a great combination. However I'm also old enough to know that if I don't spend a certain amount of time on creative me, frustration will peak quite readily. So, in recognition of the dust that has settled long enough for me to be able to dust off my dearly beloved laptop, I have also come back to write a post.

In the past five months there has been little time for expressing creativity as we have undergone an intriguing transformation as a family through a series and course of events we would never have thought do-able. Nothing life-threatening, but I think several of my friends must think I've either died or become a hermit from my lack of contact. But slowly and gradually, by the grace of God, they're finding out I've not dropped off the planet after all, and I'm slowing reappearing from being buried under work, packing boxes, and clients.

Not writing has also been fun. Yes, you read that correctly. It's been a recharge, a season to refuel, and as I (hopefully) continue to blog away that it will contain topics of interest. I'm never far away, and hope readers here can feel comfortable enough to either comment or tweet me and keep me coming back, too :)

I'm keen to share some fresh insights of my end in the publishing world, but first of all wanted to make a greeting. Yes, I'm still alive, and God is good, and that's my post for now. We are blessed to face new challenges, as it keeps us from being lazy :)

Catchya soon.

I lift up my eyes to the hills; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1,2


Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Keeping the faith

It's been a while, but I'm back. And as the French say, pas de excuses. I have a few :) In any case, I hope I can consistently blog again this year about the things, books, experiences and ideas that matter to me. Again, I have a few :)

Today as I started another day at the bookshop (we are under new management) I reflected on a conversation I had last night with a brilliant writer friend about moral compasses and reading books that bug me well after the final page is turned. Being in an environment where people are filling their minds so readily with all kinds of stuff (read: rubbish) is actually a concern to me. Much of what can be found in a book is good, but much of it is... well... not. I wonder sometimes about my purpose of being in the shop, and asked God to make it clear. Today I began to realise He knows what He is doing.

A lady came in and asked me about a book by title for her daughter, so I did our store computer search so I'd know where to find it on the shelf. As she followed me from the counter she told me her daughter was 12 and was quite into this series. Alarm bells rang in my head. We were headed for the adult erotic section. As I listened to the mother talking about her daughter and her love for the series, questions were firing off in my brain, and as she chatted I pulled two of the requested titles from the shelves and opened one at random. With an "ERO" (as they are known in our store) you're pretty much guaranteed that no matter where you open a page, you'll find something of interest to ERO readers. This book was no different and I held my finger in the page as the mother chatted.

I asked if she had ever read any of what her daughter was reading. She said no, but if she was reading and taking an interest in books, then surely this was a good thing to be encouraged. It was on my mind to tell her there are OTHER (more appropriate) things she could be reading, but instead I asked if she'd ever read an ERO (because ERO is not your general Mills&Boon or Harlequin Romance). No, she had not. I said, "This is what she's reading," and turned the open page to the mother, which she promptly began to read aloud in a somewhat lusty voice. Funnily, her gaze set upon the exact same part where I had started to read moments earlier as she'd been chatting, and you can imagine how her voice changed when she hit the ERO bit.

She stopped, and the realisation of what her daughter was opening herself up to hit home. Quietly I told her that if this is what she is allowing her daughter to read (and she is allowing her), then she needs to chat with her about what she's reading, because although she might be physically as tall as her Mum and going on 13, she's still only 12 in her head. And though she might be savvy, she might not be equipped enough to handle her own curiosity. She needs to explain to her daughter precisely what's going on, and reconsider the options.

As the mother realised what I was trying to tell her, and we spoke a little more, she began to tear up (which made me tear up, too). Reading between the lines, in her own words she saw that a way had been made for her to bond with her daughter - not because of the smut (let's be honest), but because of the conversations they could have about what it's like being 12 and growing and all that it entails.

Dear God. Only He could have brought something beautiful out of dust, and I felt a strong purpose and privilege of being there in that moment. That has been just one of the opportunities I've had these past two days, and it amazes me how only God can work something out like that. It's absolutely special to me to connect with people, and I will long treasure this encounter.

She bought the book, frowned as she said she would read it herself, and more to herself than me said she would be doing some serious quizzing about how Miss 12 found out about this series.

Parents, KNOW what your kids are reading, and know that whatever YA fiction they are into is likely to lead into other things, and that this WILL affect their mindsets. One ERO author in our shop is writing YA as well, and I did explain to this mother that this is how younger readers' attentions are being snared and bought for years to come. This other author is writing for Young Adults, capturing their interests for the harder porn she'll be feeding them before you know it. She is raising and influencing other people's children - children she doesn't even know - for as long as they're reading her work.

Is this what parents want going through their kids' minds?


People sometimes look at me like I've got my head screwed on backwards when I say I'm looking for something better. If I was meant to be living in the 1950's, God would have put me there. But He didn't. I'm here, and that for a reason. Maybe, just maybe, one reason is to gently remind people of what true vales really are and that they don't need to settle for what the world readily sells them. Whatever the case, I'm not the only one who thinks like this, and that is encouraging.

Q: Are you reading something you shouldn't be reading? You might think it isn't affecting you, but maybe it is and the changes are so subtle that they are almost invisible... Why should you settle for less than you should?

Sometimes it's the places you don't go that enrich your life the most.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Day 1 Part 2 - Perth Writer's Festival

As I mentioned, the post was long, so please click here for Part 1 of this post on what transpires during the editing process.


Fifth, you encounter the Editor. She talks you through the stages of production on a physical level – specifications of page count, orientation, format, paper stock, and binding. Layouts are sent to the printer and author for final sign-off, and the ISBN is acquired. Advance reader copies arrive, but no cocktails are poured just yet. First the author teams up with Media and Promotions to promote. 

Sixth on the list, you make best friends with the Media and Promotions Manager. She is your Publicist. She gets to know you and also any dirt people may like to dish on you. Seriously. She needs to know what may or may not be used to your advantage or the book’s disadvantage. Don’t be shy; be honest. She will pick your brains on what you think your book is about and who you believe your market is. How you make the most of the opportunities she finds for you to promote your book is largely up to you, and it is her greatest hope you will be as adventurous as all heck about it. 

Seventh, you meet the guy dealing with Sales Right and Distribution. He will be working to put your book into the hands of the right distributors and it already at work pitching your book for you before the initial print run. The titles are promoted via the Pub’s website, and registered with the Federal Government for your benefit. He also deals with Subsidiary rights. He keeps his eye on the stock levels and is personally excited about championing your joint venture that is the book. 

Deb Fitzpatrick closed the morning sess with the wise words of knowing her writing was in the right hands and that painstaking work was being done as a team. The Pub process is different each time and the greatest part of the author is to be working hard at helping sell the book. Remember that cocktail that was mentioned? Once you’ve sold 2,000 copies, they are happy enough to remind you of it. When you’ve sold 5,000 copies then they breathe a sigh of relief, and the cocktail is finally poured. Maybe it seems like a big wait. Just remind yourself that being published is a big ask. 

The opportunities are ongoing with all kinds of publishing houses worldwide. If going traditional is not for you, perhaps the next sess will help: deciding on the best publishing medium for your book.


Day 1, Part 1 - Perth Writer's Festival

Well, I realise it’s been at least two weeks since the Writer’s Festival, but it’s also taken me that long to be able to back in the saddle of normal everyday life. Much to my chagrin, I came down with a cold on the second morning of the Festival, and it’s taken me almost this long to get back on track again (I fell asleep during one of the Saturday sessions, but don’t tell. It wasn’t them, it was me).

So. What did I glean from this firsthand experience? One session at a time, these are the barest highlights of how it went. I’ve condensed the gist and will separate it into two posts so the page doesn’t drag on forever. 

Thursday was an exclusive to writers. It was a day of publishing seminars where we were able to ‘meet’ panels of people from various houses and experiences. Hearing from guys and girls on both sides of publishing experiences was interesting and amusing. 

Starting the Thursday was a session with the crew from Freo Press. They tracked through the publication process – from the moment a manuscript is accepted up to the point where the author is plugging the work and helping it sell. Author Deb Fitzpatrick (her latest book is about to hit shelves) walked us through the process by introducing us to the faces behind the job descriptions. 

First cab off the rank is the Assessment Editor. With competition being so fierce it is necessary to present your very best work. If you don’t stand out to the AE, nor will you stand out on a bookshelf. The AE is looking for good technique and the sense that the writer knows what he’s about and knows what he’s doing. Marketability is in play from the very beginning. It may take 3 months for the assessment to take place. 

Second, there’s a Publication Editor. She will also read the MS to ensure the writer is in touch with the general market and in control of the story. If she doesn’t feel a connection with your MS, you may not get much further. If she likes it, she will take it to a pitch meeting where a larger team needs to be convinced of your story’s viability. An author might be advised to resubmit the story at a later time, or will proceed straight to contract depending on the request of the Pub team. If it’s all systems go, an editing schedule will be set. 

Third, your MS goes through the Editing and Print process. It garnered a lot of laughs on the day when the speaker said “It can be daunting but remember we are printing the story because we love it and want it...” (the laughs were more nervous for some than others). A good editor will help your MS, and this process should actually be rewarding. There is a structural edit, which you might liken to a building inspection. Then there is a ‘red-pen’ edit for grammar, spelling, etc. This was the first mention of knowing how to self-edit being of vital importance. 

Fourth, you meet the Designer, and they will ask two key questions.
1)      Who is likely to buy this book?
2)      What is going to appeal to that market?

There will be sketches to test the viability of an idea and draft covers will be presented (the content of the book helps refine the cover). In this instance, it is important to the Designer for the author to love the cover design, but it must also convey to true gist of the MS.

 As stated, this post was long so I broke it up into two parts. Click here for Part 2 of the publishing process.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Help me, I'm pitching & I can't get up...

Oh goodness. I'm headed for our state's largest Writer's Festival and am brushing up on pitching, presentation, and reminding myself that publishers and agents are human, too. Otherwise I may pass out from the terror of having to speak in public. Ok, I'm not that bad, but surely I could improve.

In any case, I'm not panicking, and don't plan to. It's a waste of energy, and I've read enough True Grit by Bear Grylls to know things could be worse. I'm not frostbitten (at least not til I'm standing up in front of everyone), and I'm not starving (unless I forget to bring my purse to buy lunch). Nor am I sailing in a tiny boat against monster waves like Earnest Shackleton (does standing out in a sea of hopefuls count?).

Being prepared makes a truckload of difference, and reminding myself that Fifty Shades of Grey made it into print also gives me hope. I also hope that my point of difference stands out. What actually does set me apart from every other attendee hoping to bend the ear of an agent/editor/publishing rep? That's what I'm clarifying at the moment as I'm surrounded by pages and pages of manuscript and first chapters ready for the taking, eye-catching one sheets, and loglines and synopsises.

The longer I do this the easier and more enjoyable it gets, the more confidence I have about what I'm doing - because my biggest query is whether or not I'm doing it right. And that's possibly the most standout aspect I've learned about this writing life - BE CONFIDENT. If you fall, get up and brush off. Persevere. Know, that while a hundred other people are out there treading writing boards, that your story IS different to all of theirs. Your voice is your own, and no one can tell a story the way you can.

Enjoy the journey, chalk up the experience, and remember the old adage that you haven't failed til you quit.

Like I said, much of this is about gaining confidence, so here are some links to help send you on your way...

7 Advantages of a Verbal Pitch

Secrets of a Great Pitch

7 Tips For Pitching... At Conference

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." Hebrews 11v1
Or la foi, c'est la ferme assurance des choses qu'on espère, la démonstration de celles qu'on ne voit pas.

Monday, 30 December 2013

The End

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. 2013 has been a cracker year, and it seems the more people I ask, the more they seem only too happy to wave it goodbye and welcome the bright and shiny newness and promise of 2014.

In the Bible, the number 7 represents perfection. With the next year ending in a 14, you might think we could expect twice that perfection ;) I hope so!

Of all the things that have happened in the life of the Valleys this year, and as much as I would rather times had been easier, there is one thing I do not regret and would not wave goodbye for anything, and that is the ability to persevere in faith. Hard things make you grow, and that makes hardship worth having.

Good things have happened this year as well as some not cool things, and we have witnessed God's amazing goodness in ways we could never have expected - and that blows our socks clean off!

As we prepare to farewell this year and welcome the new one, take the time to pause and reflect not on the bad stuff you wish had never happened, or the losses you faced or the traumas to your life. Take time to select out the good things that have taken place, and write them down. These things that give you pause will also make you smile, and growth like that is worth keeping!

One thing that happened that we did not expect today was to be swimming with a Bronze Whaler shark. There's a story attached, but had the shark chopper that flies our beaches not been where he was only a few minutes before, I or the man swimming near me might have welcomed in the new year minus a limb (if Mr Shark was in a taste-test mood). Instead we had the pleasure of watching one of God's critters effortlessly swim his stretch of coast as his fins broke the surface now and then.

Good fun.

PS~ You can usually find Bronze Whaler on the menu at the fish and chip shop, but don't tell Mr Shark that...

Q: What good thing has happened to you this year that stands out above all else?? Make sure you tell someone about it, and compare notes on the GOOD, not the bad.