Sunday, October 4, 2015

Day 21 Author Blog Challenge

Describe the market for your book – to the tiniest detail (e.g., childless divorced women past age 50 who want to remarry). Why that demographic? Describe their psychographics. How do you connect with them to market to them?


I wrote The Scent of my Mother’s Kiss to raise awareness of post adoption issues and child welfare practice of the mid-20th century, and to counterbalance the academic and professional sanitised versions of welfare and adoption practice from a participant point of view to ensure an accurate record of events remains, as a reference for future social planners, reformers and legislators as they re-invent the wheel.

Similar books in print at the time of publication were, A child called it by Dave Pelzer, Orion Books, and others in this series, and Kathy’s Story – inside the hell of Ireland’s notorious Magdalen Sister’s laundries by Kathy O’Beirne, Harper Collins. Related Australian publications would be The Long Way Home - story of a homes kid by Kate Shayler, Random House, and In Moral Danger by Barbara Biggs, Sly Ink Productions, A Child Called It has sold in excess of 1.6 million copies, worldwide, In Moral Danger has sold 150,000 copies in Australia and, while I do not have the figures for Kathy’s Story, I’m aware that the high demand for this publication resulted in it being sold out very quickly in most retail outlets.

The Scent of my Mother’s Kiss (first published as The Little Mongrel - free to a good home) focuses on the transformation of the main character throughout her different residential and institutional placements, and the strategies she employs to survive in an increasingly hostile world. It is not a story of a victim, nor is it presented in victim mode, it is a factual recounting of events that provide insight into the, until recently, hidden aspects of the history of children’s welfare in Australia.

This book has broad general readership appeal and is of particular interest to social historians, and is an ideal text for any person involved with the care and welfare of children and young people, social work practitioners, policy makers, program developers, researchers and teachers. These interest groups broaden the potential markets for this book to include educational booksellers, university bookstores, and welfare agency retail outlets. In this respect I wrote to politicians past and present, heads of departments and policy makers, social work departments and welfare agencies, sending a synopsis of the book as well as marketing via internet booksellers and interest group websites. 

I also connect with readers by speaking to groups, courses for writers and a range of services, including ‘Write to Heal’ workshops, introducing life writing as a tool for self-expression leading to healing, and ‘Urban Writing – Write About the Place’, where the focus is on streets, suburbs or towns, and the place of the individual within these, with encouragement to look beyond the square to take pride in their environment and achievements as an inspiration for others. I also speak with groups about the unique issues affecting children and young people in out-of-home care, aimed at increasing understanding from those employed in this area in both a professional and voluntary capacity.  

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Day 20 Author Blog Post

Did you publish your book as a traditionally printed book, an eBook, an audiobook, or all three? How did you come to your decision? Which company(ies) did you use for printing, formatting, recording, editing, and distribution? How did you select them?


I published my first book as a soft cover print copy and released it in eBook form a couple of years later. The first edition was published by Fixwrite and printed by Bookpal, in the start-up days of the company, when they were eager enough for business to offer affordable priced.  Almost ten years later the company has grown exponentially, as have their prices and the services they offer, and I wouldn’t consider using them again for this reason.

As an editor I self-edited and also formatted the book as I do with all my own work and as a service I provide for other writers.

I made the decision to make it available electronically to enable broader and affordable access to the information contained in the contents, particularly the history of 20th century welfare in Australia and institutions for children and young people of that period.

These days I use Createspace to publish my books and sell them through Amazon and Kindle. I find this is the best and most effective way for me. I like the creative freedom Createspace offers in book and cover design and the printing costs per unit are reasonable.

I settled on Amazon after experimenting with Lulu and Smashwords, finding it more user friendly for my needs.

Day 19 Author Blog Post

Because I'm a day behind with the challenge, today's post comes direct from Grammarly celebrating World Teacher's Day, because for most of us, that's where the reading first began.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Day 18 Author Blog Challenge

If there were one song that captured the meaning, spirit, message, energy, and or substance of your book, what would it be? How can you use that song or piece of music to market your book or enhance your readers’ experience with your book?

This writing prompt doesn’t take a lot of thinking about, which is probably just as well in the middle of school holidays with two small visitors spending a few days with us. In 2008 I was invited to take part in a writer's event, reading from my book, The Little Mongrel – free to a good home. A local duo, The Songbirds, were part of the presentation and they asked me to nominate a song that best defined the story, which they’d use to introduce my appearance. I thought about this and kept coming back to a song that had been significant to me during my time in an institution. It was an austere place, where music from the radio was played through speakers in the ceiling at the discretion of staff. A place stripped of all comfort, including seats, and I spent my days sitting on the floor, back against the wall, willing my childhood to pass quickly so I could begin the process of living. It was against this backdrop I first heard Frankie Valli and The Four Season singing, Big girls Don't Cry.

This had to be my choice for the day. It fitted as no other would and the girls were happy to run with it, adding pink feather boas for us all to wear for the occasion.

The Songbirds



Today, 1.30pm 

Sharman's Winery 

175 Glenwood Rd, 



Relax the body and soul at an afternoon of literature, wine and music at Sharman's Winery. Buy a glass of Sharman's award-winning wine to sip as you listen to local authors Dr Frank Madill, Loretta McCarthy and Merlene Fawdry read from their latest books. The music will be provided by Songbirds and Chantelle Hemelaar.

This song captured the essence of the book where there was an underlying message of not showing feelings as a tool of survival. In a way it became something of an anthem to me, a rousing reminder to stay tough to the very end.

I wouldn't be able to use this song to market the book without first gaining copyright approval, a long and slow process that could also prove expensive in terms of royalties etc.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Day 17 Author Blog Challenge

What has been the biggest surprise about writing/publishing your book? What has been the most enjoyable or most memorable aspect?

My answer to today’s prompt is brief.

With my proclivity for procrastination, the biggest surprise for me in writing any book is in actually finishing each project, the moment it’s in formatted book form, really finished, the moment I’m not grabbing it back for just one more edit, one more inclusion, the moment I know I can tick it off the list and get on with the next project.

The most memorable aspect is opening the carton and releasing the heady aroma of printed copies, like holding a well-earned diploma after years of study and dancing to the applause in my head.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Day 16 Author Blog Challenge

DAY 16 PROMPT: What has been the most challenging part of your book process: writing, building the book, printing, distributing, marketing, etc.? What do you wish you’d known before you began?

In my experience, the most challenging part of writing a book is in staying with the project when life matters intervene. Once I have an idea, the writing is easy, but it's even easier to become distracted by new ideas and opportunities, by the hyperactive muse that whispers and tempts away from the page of intention.

As far as the physicalities of book production, I like to think I learnt my lessons early. Having set myself up for retirement to offer home publishing for other writers with small run publications, I thought I had it all worked out, paying top dollar (and why not, I was still in paid employment at that time) for the equipment I needed. The intention had been to produce chapbooks and spiral bound publications in a range of sizes to enable aspiring writers and poets to get their work into print. Easy, or so I thought.

The first publications rolled out; an anthology for a writing group, a poetry collection or two, a couple of short story collections, even a substantial family history. My publisher copies still sit neatly on my bookshelf, but they have a naïve appearance next to their perfect bound companions. Still, they reflect that part of the journey and have earnt their place. Fortunately, poetry chapbooks still have a certain appeal and may be seen as almost a rite of passage for a poet to have produced at least one chapbook in their poetry lifetime, so this part of the home publishing business prevails. Spiral binding is best left for business reports or education papers, as if does not showcase literary work to its best advantage, leaving it with the amateurish appearance of trying too hard too soon. These days, my very expensive binding machine sits idle most of the time, cranking up only to bind assembled reports or assignments for students.

With my first book, I developed a marketing and distribution plan that took almost as many hours as the writing of the book itself. While I can be the strongest advocate for other people, self-promotion doesn’t come easily to me but writing about myself in the third person helped, almost as if I was an observer looking on. TheLittle Mongrel – free to a good home (now republished as The Scent of my Mother’s Kiss) was one of the first books written about the people who became known as the Forgotten Australians, so my mailing list was lengthy and included politicians of every persuasion, heads of government departments and welfare agencies, university libraries and so on. My biggest regret was that I didn’t take up an offer from the then Premier of Tasmania, David Bartlett to launch the book, however, as my departure from the state coincided with the release of the book, I didn’t follow up on this.

I’m not sure there’s anything I wish I’d known when starting out, because I think personal experience is the best teacher and the knowledge gained in this way is likely to last longer. It’s also a living learning, in keeping with the rapid change in technology and the publishing industry in general, where every day brings change.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Day 15 Author Blog Challenge

Describe your process for choosing and designing your book cover. Who created your cover? How did you find him/her? What do you love about your cover? What might you do differently next time?

A good book cover begins with its title. If a synopsis is the summation of your book, then the title should be the precis of this summation. I aim for a title that will get the attention of the reader and be easy to remember, one that conveys your message and fits the design. I prefer to use a sub title in nonfiction books, a descriptive line that compliments title. I wouldn’t use a subtitle in a novel.

For cover design and layout I like to place the title where it has the greatest visual impact using a strong, good sized font and colour that compliments the graphics. I like to use a background image that integrates with the title and easy to memorise.

The design for the back cover for many of my books varies according to each publication and the type of book. It's pretty much instinctive and I'll play around with it until it says what I want to convey. When designing covers for other writers I use the top half of the back cover to place a precis of the synopsis as a preview of the contents, with endorsements and reviews from pre-readers or previous editions placed below the synopsis to help add to the credibility to the book. 

Beneath this I usually place a brief author bio, which can change from publication to publication, depending on the content of the book, keeping this to around three sentences. In The Scent of my Mother's Kiss, I omitted this entirely in favour of adding a brief opinion piece. If the book is nonfiction I sometimes mention my credentials or my authority to write on that subject, keeping it more personality based for a work of fiction. I reversed this arrangement for The Hidden Risks (see below) although I'm not sure why I did this. 

I place the book title on the spine so it can be easily read sideways. If the book has a short title I will include my author name. If the book has a sub title I don’t include this due to space and readability restrictions.

With my nonfiction books I use my own images and design and I’m mostly pleased with the result. My husband, Michael Pugh, is an artist and I have used his paintings on the froint covers of The Hidden Risks and Villains and Valour, something I'd do again if the opportunity arose as I admire his art and like the unique touch this gives to the work.

With Seth, I had the front cover designed by 111 Pixel Productions using one of their stock images against a background image of my own. I designed the back cover and wasn’t happy with the result – after printing unfortunately. The information was sparse and the font too large. I intend to edit this when I find the time.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Day 14 Author Blog Challenge

Describe your editing process. Who edited/will edit your book? What was your relationship with your editor like? What could each of you have done to improve the process? What might you do differently in the future?

Although I’m not averse to seeking opinion on areas I carry doubts about, this is usually done while the work is in progress and I don’t use an editor as I trust my skills in this area. I know what I want to say and how I want to say it.

I have diplomas in Professional Writing and Editing and Editing and Proofreading. As an editor, my work is mainly in the area of structural and copy editing and I encourage and retain an open line of communication with the writer using a collaborative approach, offering alternatives with explanation, where necessary and/or appropriate, rather than standing firm on a point of opinion. I also see my role as having a mentor/encouragement/support component that comes from a base of respect for the writer’s endeavour and skill.

As a proofreader of my own work I pretty much stink at it. What I most need is another proof reader to pick up those annoying typos or punctuation errors that seem to glide past my eye when proofing my own work. Unfortunately I don’t spot these until the work is in print and then they jump straight off the page at me and I wonder how I could have not seen them before. 

Day 13 Author Blog Challenge

Have you participated in a critique group? If so, how did it work out for you? If not, why have you avoided joining one to this point? Is your critique group online or does it meet in person? What is the most useful thing you get out of your participation? How do you think a critique group could help you improve your writing?

I have always chosen to be part of a writing community where interests are shared, skills developed and creativity nurtured, finding this beneficial to my growth as a writer. Writers’ groups also provide a support network to develop and advance writing, and can be a vital resource when people begin to submit their work to competitions and publishers. The fellowship of like-minded people, who freely share their skills, knowledge and experience, through genuine critique, can strengthen self-confidence as a writer, depending on their expectation of the group and their understanding of its function and limitations.

Writers’ critique groups are not for everyone. There are those who feel they have reached their capacity for learning, who may not trust the opinions or motives of others, or who do not understand the objective nature of the critiquing process. Preciousness exists within us all and the writers’ ego can be the greatest obstacle we face in our quest for positive recognition in our chosen field. This may manifest as an emotional attachment to a particular piece of writing, resulting in the inability to give or receive objective reflection or feedback, or from an unwillingness to accept that a piece of writing may be less than perfect from the point of view of others in the group. Others perceive themselves to be victims, validating this with inappropriate remarks and pained expressions when their work is being critiqued, although they have no qualms about giving candid comment on the work of others in the group. We all experience brief episodes of preciousness at one time or another; it is only when this becomes chronic that it has the capacity to infect the group with different strains of the virus.

Giving and receiving feedback is a skill developed over time, through active participation and practice. In addition to constructive critique and positive comments, it is useful to offer comments about general reactions, first impressions, opinion about changes to drafts, agreement and disagreement with feedback from others and your reasons for this. This kind of feedback is useful because it gives the writer a sense of how the text has been received.

Additional to helping the writer identify weaker areas in a piece of writing, positive comment is equally important as it offers encouragement and builds confidence by showing  the writer what worked and does not need revision, while helping others to identify and model good examples. 

In my experience most (but not all) critique groups have a limited life, lasting longer where a stable membership has allowed relationships and trust to be formed and maintained over a period of time. Often it's the change to group dynamics that throws it out of kilter, when the established rules of critique have been misunderstood or misinterpreted by new members. When I find a group loses its purpose, I leave, not in  high (or even low) dudgeon, but in the understanding I have nothing further to offer the group. 

The most useful thing I get out of critiquing the work of others is how it opens my eyes to the flows in my own work, I become more self-analytical. In receiving critique, I like the process of viewing my work through other eyes and the suggestions (never directions) for potential change.

Image result for online writer critique

At the moment I'm involved with a closed online poetry critiquing group of small membership. I like this. I also have a poetry writing partner where we write to a prompt and meet to workshop our work. I find this process stimulating and a tool to maintaining consistency in creativity.