This year a number of WA libraries linked up to celebrate National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). They put together the Write Along The Highway Festival (WATH), which provided the public with free access to a wide variety of interesting and challenging writing events from October through December.

As part of the festival, the Writers and Self-Publishing Expo yesterday focused on providing aspiring writers with access to information on editors, typesetters, illustrators and various pathways to self-publishing. There were a number of industry-appropriate stalls, with vendors both selling their wares and ready and willing to discuss their part in the publishing process with anyone who stopped by to ask a question.

Each attendee was presented with a little goodie bag that included various brochures, an A5 exercise book, a ballpoint pen and (oddly enough) two balloons. The balloons made me smile – and I’m sure I’ll inflate them at some point or give them to someone – but I was delighted with the notebook and pen, with the idea that everyone was being tacitly encouraged to write.

The highlight of the day was the opening address by well-known local author Rosanne Dingli. She started out by shuffling her notes, making a few opening remarks and then popping her on glasses, peering down at her notes and exclaiming, “Oh… words!”, much to everyone’s amusement. Intentional or otherwise, it served as a very effective icebreaker.

Rosanne went on to present an informative and entertaining account of her writing and publication journey. Although initially published at a time when conventional publishing was considered de rigeur, she took to the idea of self-publishing with a will once it became a viable option in 2009. Rosanne said that she revels in the notion of authors being increasingly able to jump the barriers to publication and take their stories directly to the readers. “It provides a bonanza, an extravaganza of books for readers!”

There are a number of key issues relating to self-publishing, but what it all boils down to is to have a story, edit it well, provide an accessible book layout and invest an attractive cover. Rosanne’s take home message was to write – often and enthusiastically. Then to edit and edit again, polishing the work before getting some beta readers to provide feedback. At this stage, she said, if you haven’t already done so then it’s high time to learn about cover design, typesetting and the various e-book options. If you can’t or don’t want to do these things, then you’ll need to employ someone to do them for you. Finally, re-edit and publish.

After that it’s a matter of promote-promote-promote in order to get, nurture and grow a reading audience. Rosanne emphasised that this is where the Internet shows it’s worth, providing worldwide access to a pool of readers. Make social media your friend, she said, review books, invite reviews, be interactive – it’s all about visibility.

It was a pleasure to chat with Rosanne at her stall later on. She was very generous with her time, answering numerous questions (comprehensively and clearly) from all comers whilst simultaneously promoting and selling her books. Amusingly enough, when asked how she can do it all – the public speaking, self promotion and selling as well as the writing, editing, typesetting and so on – she said that the public part of it is something that she dons like a cloak to disguise the fact that she’s actually an introvert. All I can say is that it’s an excellent cloaking device and that I need to get one of those!

Overall, I’ve been very impressed with the level of organisation at each of the events I’ve attended and interested to see how diverse the participant/audience groups have been. I look forward to hearing what indie-author H.Y. Hanna has to say on the subject of author marketing and promotion next weekend.

I love these free writers events! I’ve met some fascinating people, gained valuable insights and feel invigorated to be part of a larger writing network. If you haven’t been to any of the Write Along the Highway events so far, don’t stress – there’s still time to attend at least one.



After something of a hiatus, my epic-tome is finally moving forward again. My adventures in Tasmania have left me renewed, refreshed and only somewhat exhausted – but ready to focus on the final stages of production.

Since my plan is now to try self-publishing the tome as an eBook, there are a few hoops I need to jump through to get to launch point. First of these is to make some tough decisions about the cover design.

Given the number of eBooks in the market place, I feel that my cover image will need to be really eye-catching. This will (hopefully) get potential buyers to pause for long enough to become actual buyers. This sounds easy in concept but, for a first-timer in particular, it’s a little less so in implementation.

As is my way, I’ve spent an awful lot of time on the research phase, looking at book covers, both in book stores and online. Whilst there seem to be just about as many different styles as there are books,  only a fairly narrow range of these appealed to me and this had led me to the following conclusions:

  • there really isn’t enough space on a cover for more than a single image, the title and the author’s name
  • there needs to be a reasonably clear link between the cover image and the title – otherwise the potential reader is likely to move on to something less challenging/confusing (I certainly do)
  • the image needs to ‘pop’ as a thumbnail, to be sufficiently clear and eye-catching as to attract attention
  • the font selection needs big enough and clear. Crisp lines seem to work better, overall.
  • likewise, the cover needs to be one that can look good in colour (if used) and also in greyscale.

No presPhoto with permission, Lisa Ryesure, really…

Luckily it’s the end of the convention season, which meant that the creative talents of Lisa Rye have become available – much to my delight. Based on discussions over lunch at our first business meeting, she roughed out seven thumbnails and emailed them through for me to look through while I was in Tasmania. Super efficient.

Suddenly the tome has taken on a whole new dimension – it looks like a real book!

Choosing which image to run with took me much longer than expected, which is amusing since I ended up choosing the one I’d liked best when I first saw them! Lisa is currently developing the concept and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with. Watch this space for the grand reveal soon…

Of course, once a potential buyer has paused for long enough to admire the cover they need to find the text engaging as well. To this end, editiPhoto courtesy of Sandy Limng is all-important. I had the manuscript professionally assessed over a year ago and have had feedback from a number of beta readers since then, resulting in a number of minor revisions for clarity or consistency.

I think I’m on the home stretch now, with the help of talented writer/artist Sandy Lim. It’s been very interesting to have a fresh set of eyes on the manuscript. Sandy’s careful, professional editing and comments – some of which also reached me on holiday (!) – are proving to be most insightful and will result in a tighter, more readable product. No wonder she’s in demand 🙂

With all of this in mind, I’m off to a half-day self-publishing expo this coming Saturday. I’m hopeful that some gem(s) of information/insight will be forthcoming to push the process along. Maybe I’ll see you there…

writers expo_5dec2015

I recently attended a workshop entitled social media for business at our local Business Incubator. Having attended a number of these sorts of workshops at various times, I didn’t anticipate anything amazing. But, in the spirit of always being open to the possibility of learning something new and (hopefully) useful, I decided to give it a shot. Besides which, it was free (as in funded by local government), fell during my week off and might provide an opportunity to connect with people in similar industries (either community development or writing).

As it turned out, the presentation was well structured, on-topic and useful. The presenter, Holly Walton, was interesting, spoke clearly and (later) emailed out copies of the presentation to all the participants, as promised. I was surprised and impressed – and walked away both better informed and with a much clearer social media strategy.

I also exchanged business cards with a few people and chatted to a lady who had just (one week earlier) self-published her first book. As it happens, this conversation was somewhat serendipitous as I’ve been toying with this idea myself. Earlier this year my manuscript was politely declined by a local publisher and, after licking that particular wound for a few months, it’s time to move on. A logical next move might be to submit the manuscript to other publishing houses, but the return time on the unsolicited manuscript option is lengthy and there’s no guarantee that the outcome will be any more positive. After some internal debate, I’ve concluded that I actually want a speedier resolution so that I can close the door on this project.

Is self-publishing the answer? Well, I do have a completed and edited manuscript ready to go and, whilst self-publishing wasn’t on my agenda when I started down this pathway, that was largely because the work involved in publication, marketing and self-promotion held little appeal. On the other hand, conventionally published authors actually receive relatively little support and promotion from their publishers these days – and most authors end up doing a good deal of self-promotion anyway, particularly for their first book.

The next obvious question is how do I find an appropriate  online publishing company? There are any number of options available and even more reviews and opinions on all of them. My newly self-published buddy told me that she’d signed up for a publishing deal with Xlibris. This included all the usual things: an ISBN, cover art and both paperback and eBook formats, listings on several book sites and a veritable plethora of other good stuff. She bought 300 physical copies outright and intends to market them herself in the hopes of optimising her return on investment. The entire experience appeared to have been a positive one for her, although my research shows that others may not have been as fortunate.

Even so, having laboured long and hard over my memoir and procrastinated mightily,  it’s probably time for me step up, establish a clear plan of action and timeline for publication and put some of my all-new social media skills to work to promote my book.