Tag Archives: publishing

A publishing sort of year

Most people who read this would know I publish books via my boutique press FableCroft Publishing. In 2015, we’ve brought out two original anthologies, Cranky Ladies of History and Insert Title Here, Dirk Flinthart’s debut collection Striking Fire and the reprint ebook anthology Focus 2014: highlights of Australian short fiction (the third of an annual series) (and there may be a couple more things yet to come…).

What you might NOT know, is that this year I’ve also had several publications of my own! They are all non-fiction, and I’m rather chuffed about them, particularly when they have mostly been for paying markets!

Companion Piece cover

The first was an essay in the latest Mad Norwegian Press Doctor Who book, Companion PieceEdited by Liz Barr and LM Myles, Companion Piece focusses exclusively on the companions of Doctor Who – my essay is about Tegan, the Australian companion!

LetterstoTiptreeFollowing that, I have a letter in the Twelfth Planet Press tribute to James Tiptree Jr / Alice Sheldon / Raccoona Sheldon, Letters to TiptreeThis book is amazing and a powerful collection of work showcasing writers inspired by Sheldon’s story and her work.

Adding to these essays, I recently had an article published in the magazine Magpies, aimed at school libraries and librarians. I pitched the idea to the editors and was delighted to have it accepted, even though I only had about a week to then interview the authors and write the 1600 piece! The article is titled “Collaboration is the human superpower”, and is a feature focusing on the recent YA novel Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti within the broader context of the superhero popularity of today. It’s not online anywhere but I will probably blog the article when the exclusivity period ends.

And I was really pleased to do my first review for Books+Publishing this month! I think it’s the first time I’ve been paid to write a book review, and I’m hoping to be able to do some more. I reviewed Alison Goodman’s forthcoming novel Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club which is out early 2016, but the review is behind a paywall, sorry!

Oh, and just last week I was part of the latest SF Signal Mind Meld, on the topic “The books that made us love science fiction and fantasy” – this one WASN’T a paid piece, but I had a lot of fun writing it and check out the fantastic company I’m in!

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It’s holidays again!

Time really does speed up as you get older, I’m sure of it. I mean, yes, I had two weeks off work post-appendectomy, but still, term 3 absolutely flew by and here we are again at school holidays. And if every day in the next fortnight is as productive as today, by gum I’ll be taking over the world!

The kids were up early (surprise surprise) but also happily did some tidying up and got ready in a timely manner so we could head out to drop off drycleaning, swing past the hardware store for some gardening equipment, then head to dentist appointments (which I managed to snag just yesterday!). On the way we dropped the car to the lovely Star Wash to be beautified while we were elsewhere (it was SO filthy!) and after our appointments (all good, though we’re looking down the barrel of some major orthodontics for at least two of the kids – and I booked in for wisdom teeth extraction in two weeks, eep!) we even took ourselves to lunch! 

Came home in our lovely clean car, put the little boys to bed, and who knows why but I started in on the gardens again. Master 12 hauled the pruning I started last week into the skip that got delivered Thursday, and I continued with my mission to tidy the darn yard and gardens. For two hours. I don’t even know who I AM anymore!! It’s starting to look a lot better, though I was very cross that the (admittedly cheap) spade I bought didn’t even get through one digging job before the handle snapped! Will be returning THAT tomorrow…

Spent a lovely hour after that colouring (don’t judge me, it’s very relaxing when you have no brain left) and watched the short web series Airlock, a fantastic Aussie scifi production – it was great! 

So what’s in store for the rest of the break? Miss 9 has some swimming commitments (and will become Miss 10 in the second week). Hoping to get Master 5 to some holiday gymnastics again. More garden tidying. A book or two to work on (and several to read). Mum & Dad visiting, which we’re really looking forward to, and flying visits from husband. And I’m guest at the Conflux convention here in Canberra on the middle weekend of the hols, so that should be great! One of the events is the launch of our latest book, Dirk Flinthart’s debut collection STRIKING FIRE – looking forward to sharing that one with people. (You can win a copy or preorder here!).

For now, I think I’m in for an early night – all that fresh air has worn me out!

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It’s like having a writer con that lasts for weeks!

I just farewelled the ever delightful Angela Slatter (and her also lovely other half) from a long lunch at our place. This was the culminating event of what I think I shall dub TasWriterCon, as in the past week I’ve also been gifted by extended visits with Tansy and family, Helen and family and Dirk and family, which means not only have I got to spend time with awesome brilliant people, but my creative brain has been completely overstimulated and is now bursting with must-do things! I’m very lucky to know the people I know 🙂

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Okay, so I’ve been busy, what’s new?!

Yes, the last time I posted properly was on the first day of our holiday. Yes, that was nearly a full month ago. GOOD GRIEF WHERE DOES TIME GO?! I know; it disappears down the vortex of university marking, family, reading, publishing and well, life.

IMG_2963We had a lovely time with the grandparents in Queensland. The kids are SO not country kids anymore (well, to be fair, Master Three never has been, but Master Ten and Miss Eight spent an awful lot of time on the farm when they were younger and have no excuse!), and are nervous of bugs, flies, ants, snakes (reasonable) and scared of the dogs. Especially M3, but after some intense conditioning, he was happily interacting with them in the second week of the holidays. A big improvement on screaming in terror when the puppy so much as looked at him!

Was really nice to catch up with friends and family. I had planned to attend GenreCon in Brisbane on the final weekend of the holidays, but due to various factors, that didn’t pan out. Probably for the best in the end, as I was pretty busy anyway! We had Miss Eight’s birthday while we were there, and despite my intentions of no parties, Granna decided we would have one! A couple of little friends and cousins, the excellent Miles Historical Village and Museum as the venue (Mum works there), and a swim at the pool after. I made the cakes, party bags came courtesy of Mum’s strategically stocked party box, and it was most pleasant.

We got home from the trip with absolutely no issues – I’m pretty sure the plane into Launceston landed on the dot of the itinerary flight time, and we had excellent hosties on both flights. We absolutely froze for the next couple of weeks though, as it turned back cold here, and after warming our blood in 30-35 degrees for the QLD trip, it was a bit of a shock! Since then, I’ve marked two batches of assignments, started work on writing a new university unit for a new course, published nearly three books (and fixed issues with some others), started a new publishing project (surprise surprise), read eight zillion books for CBCA judging (so far behind, trying furiously to catch up!), started organising two more birthdays (M10 and Bubs coming up next week-ish!), written (and co-written) and edited essays on Doctor Who, helped husband with a bunch of stuff for his new projects, and gosh so much else I can’t even think. And I’d best get back to it! Hopefully won’t be another month before I manage another post!

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Indie publishing, for the love of it.

I was very pleased to be invited to speak at a meeting for the WA Society of Editors. They asked me to talk about my experience in niche publishing, so this is (basically) what I said 🙂

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In some ways, I’ve been editing since I was in high school, when I was on the editorial team that produced our school yearbook. Having said that, I suppose I’d been writing for longer than that, but in the past decade, editing has certainly become my priority – possibly one day I’ll go back to fiction writing (I still do a lot of non-fiction writing), and I’m sure that my editing experience will stand me in good stead when I do!

My ventures into the Australian speculative fiction scene came out of my love of reading. When I was about 19, after a few years of dedication to Stephen King, Dean Koontz and historical romance novels (don’t laugh), a friend handed me Magician by Raymond Feist, which I devoured in two days. He then told me I might enjoy David Eddings (which I did) and I was hooked. It didn’t take me long to make my way though the backlist of those authors and move on through Anne McCaffrey (introduced to me by the owner of my corner shop at the time) and start to investigate Australian authors of spec fic.

I discovered Sara Douglass, Kate Forsyth, Traci Harding and Simon Brown – and I lay the blame for my embroilment in speculative fiction in Australia squarely at the feet of the latter. In his biography in Inheritance, Brown mentioned the Eidolist, which was a well-populated listserv operating at the time. So I joined, and lurked for a while. Not long after, the long-running small press magazine Aurealis was put up for sale by Chimaera Publications. This started a flurry of talk on the Eidolist, about whether interested parties should form a group to take on the magazine, among other things. Then someone suggested that it might be a better idea to start fresh, and form a group to create a NEW magazine, to take on the Australian scene. This struck a chord with many, and we splintered off to undertake further discussion. This led to the formation of the Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Co-operative, a group I somehow found myself immersed in from the very outset, and which saw me firmly entrenched in Australian spec fic from that point on.

My time at ASIM was pretty much my internship in publishing – I did every role involved in creating a publication that you could do, I’m sure! I slushread, commissioned stories and art, edited, did layout, proofread, organised contracts and payments, marketing, promotions, sales, e-publications and every little thing in between that gets an issue of a magazine from being just an idea, to being in the reader’s hands. The structure of ASIM was both its beauty and its curse – organising anything by committee can be difficult, but for the most part, the support provided by the ever-varying ASIM team meant that you had people to rely on, and also that someone in the group would usually know how to solve a problem. As a learning experience, it was a very good one and has, I think, stood me in good stead in my own publishing ventures. It’s even led me to paying jobs in academic editing, which is a nice sideline!

Being an indie publisher is not an easy road. For every indie press that makes a book that breaks even or, even more rarely, makes a profit, there are dozens, even hundreds, that see money vanish into big boxes of books stacked up in spare rooms and sheds, until the erstwhile owner (or their long-suffering spouse) finally says, “Enough.” It’s fascinating to chart to progress of these publishers, to see them rise and fall, to see the authors who put their faith in them get a start, and read the projects they produce. They continue to emerge, perhaps in even greater numbers in recent years with the advent of E and POD publishing options that make it more cost-effective to produce books, and easier to reach a wider audience. Well, I say “easier”, but what I mean is “possible”, because as the numbers of indie publishers rise, so do the number of self- and vanity publishers, which means the role of the publisher – that of gatekeeper and quality control – is being lost under the white noise. And sometimes it’s very difficult for readers (and authors) to distinguish between an indie press and a vanity one, which has a negative impact on the perception of all independents.

I think this brings us to the part of indie publishing which is the most difficult – it’s not finding the right project, or having the skill to help authors polish their work to the best it can be, or the design skills to produce a quality book, or the money to do a decent print run, and then the tenacity to sell them (although all of those things help). No, I believe that the most important part of being a successful indie publisher is marketing and promotion – getting your books out there in places they can be found and will be purchased. And this is so very, VERY difficult to do.

Not only are our local bookstores closing in droves, not only are the online bookstores being flooded by self-published books that clog up the filters of search engines, not only are the big publishers closing ranks on DRM and ebooks and pricing, all of which makes the indie publisher’s life more difficult, but of course, we try to compete on a shoestring budget. The best way to get into bookstores is to have a distributor. To get a distributor, you need a print run of at least 1000, often more. You also have to sign agreements that almost guarantee you will lose money on the books you send to that distributor, with discounts of up to 70% of RRP necessary for them to take you on. You also run the risk of losses in transit, in the warehouse, and in the end, to pulping, as the contract may give them the right to dump your stock with no returns.

But on the plus side, you suddenly have more exposure than you could ever garner on your own – and if some of the bookshops that use your distributor pick up your book, you are now on shelves you absolutely cannot reach independently, no matter how hard or how long you work at it. And let’s face it – most indie publishers have neither the time (most work at least part-time in a “real world” job!) nor the money to invest in targeting every bookstore in Australia individually. But that often means we don’t have the money to invest in big print runs that may or may not find distribution, and may or may not sell, even if they do. Rock, meet hard place.

But we keep on coming – niche publishers continue to erupt in the market, finding new talent, sometimes finding acclaim and sometimes even finding that very special book that creates a zeitgeist for itself and breaks even, or makes a profit, or even that rarest of beasts, forms the basis of a platform which propels the publisher into the next strata of publishing, with both the time and the money to invest in bigger and better projects.

It so infrequently happens though – not often enough to give the rest of us hope. Yet still new publishers emerge, with new ideas, or new takes on old ideas, and more projects every day. What keeps them coming? It certainly isn’t the money, or the promise of fame. And it’s by no means a relaxing hobby – rather, you tend to spend all your free time (and some of that not free!) working on projects, from slushing to sales. So what else is there?

I guess it has to come down to love – editors and publishers in indie press have to love what they do. The thrill that comes with being the first person to read a new story, discover a new author, to make a new book! It costs money to publish – money that comes out of the indie publisher’s own pocket for the most part, although there have been some very successful crowd-funded projects in the very recent past (it’s all about the signal boosting!). Even if you decide to only run your manuscript through the Smashwords meatgrinder and hope to sell that way, there’s still an investment of time that has to go into a quality product, the money to pay the authors, artists, designers (if you use them), and the money it costs to market – because there are ALWAYS costs.

So we have to do it because we love the process. Some of us may hope to use our experience to step up to another level in publishing, but even that is becoming a distant hope, with the way publishing is teetering on a financial knife edge at the moment, and particularly in Australia, where jobs in the industry have never been prolific. So indie publishing is perhaps our way of expressing our love for books, for writing, and supporting the industry that gives us much joy.

And some indie presses do it so very well – in Western Australia alone you’ll find at least five actively producing small presses dedicated to speculative fiction in various forms. Within the pages of these publications are national and internationally awarded stories, from Ticonderoga’s recent Aurealis Award win for Best Collection to Twelfth Planet’s Washington Small Press Award last year, among many other accolades. I was delighted that FableCroft had two stories on the Aurealis Awards shortlists this year, which is wonderful recognition for a press in only its first year of operations. Alisa Krasnostein of Twelfth Planet Press is heading to World Fantasy Con later this year to be present at the World Fantasy Awards, for which she is shortlisted in the Special Awards – Non-Professional category. It’s a huge achievement for an indie press to be recognised internationally, and one Alisa has worked extraordinarily hard to achieve.

Which brings me to my final point – hard work. That’s what indie press is. We may do it for the love, but in the end, without a lot of hard work and dedication, on top of vision and high standards, niche publishers will stay small, and never be known outside their own little sphere. Put in the elbow grease though, and the sky is the limit.

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