Now my family has grown and my teaching years are over, I write. I love it.
Like many writers my first experience was to compile and publish my own family’s story. The old people were still alive, I had recently retired and it seemed a good time to do it.
‘Our Little Town’ (Self-published, 2009) tells the story of white settlement in the small coastal village of Lakes Entrance in southeastern Australia through the eyes of 28 members of a large fishing clan. It traces their domestic history, living and growing over five generations in one community. This is the simple story of ordinary people doing ordinary things and that is what makes it appealing.
My second book, ‘Lover Husband Father Monster’ (BookPal, 2010), is co-written with my husband, Graeme, who is a retired journalist. We were living in Ireland at the time, doing a year-long house swap, when we became interested in the story of family breakdown with tragic consequences. There are always two sides to every story and sometimes two people just aren’t good for each other and certainly are not good, as a pairing, for the people around them. This is the story of a couple who bring out the worst in each other. In the beginning they are two perfectly ‘nice’ people, both with strengths and failings, but as they rub against each other in the game of life they manage to propel themselves towards tragedy. ‘Lover Husband Father Monster’ explores how a coupling can go from bliss to disaster. It is set in Ireland, written in two voices, but it is an international story.
‘Ma’s Garden’ (Create Space, 2012) is the story of three women who live in the one small Australian country town in 1902. The garden is a metaphor for their lives, the seeds they plant, the relationships they nurture and the society that evolves. It is a gentle tale of love and life with the growth of a town and its community as a backdrop.
At present the my husband and I are busily writing a sequel for ‘Lover Husband Father Monster’ named ‘The Aftermath’. It tells of life for the couple after the tragedy. We decided to embark on this project because so many people requested that we do so. Plus, we have had time to reflect and gather feedback. It is much easier writing this time around because we already have the characters’ back-stories readily at hand, and know how they think and react.
As well as this, I write the odd short story. I enjoy this activity when I need release from the tedium of the numerous drafts that a novel requires. My co-writer Graeme has embarked on a side career writing scripts for musicals. ‘Normie’, a walk through 1960s Australia with King of Pop Normie Rowe, will premiere in Melbourne in November.
Publishers and Publishing
We have tried them all.
Graeme’s first book ‘The Playmakers’ (BeWrite, 2005) was released by one of the first POD publishers in England. Lots of support and time and effort was involved, It received excellent reviews, but not many royalties. Slim pickings indeed!
Self Publishing – Local Printer
Initially for ‘Our Little Town’ I engaged local Mornington Peninsula printers, DarkHorse who were efficient, friendly, helpful and easy to deal with, but also expensive. I printed enough copies for my family. However, when the book proved popular I went to BookPal who are printers and distributors. This took the burden of distribution from me and allowed me more time to write. Self-publishing with a local printer is OK for boutique publishing with a finite number of copies. However, it can get expensive and time consuming if you have to have reprints. You can spend a lot of valuable writing time lugging books around to bookshops.
Could be good but still has a lot to learn about follow-up service and customer retention. For example, we were about to go to their home base of Brisbane to do some promotion and requested some guidance about radio shows that did interviews and bookshops that did author signings. They did not have a clue! And this is in their back yard. Shows they are out of touch with anything but printing. They are printers who have expanded into book printing.
However, we are very well aware of the importance of promotion, and with difficulty and doggedness we used every resource available and got a distributor, set up radio interviews, organized bookstore signings and travelled Australia promoting the book.
For ‘Lover Husband Father Monster’ we set aside twelve months in 2011 and organized a writers’ tour doing radio interviews and book signings. We met a lot of people along the way and had a good year. Now LHFM has to fly by the seat of its pants. It’s 2012 and we are onto different things.
Recently we published ‘Ma’s Garden’ on Create Space. I plan to put it on Kindle and later Smashwords. The operation went seamlessly and so far so good. To this point, they have been very good. It is easy to use - if you follow the instructions - efficient and customer friendly. Very cost effective, only a couple of hundred dollars spent and that was for a designer to create the cover. We have ordered the books and they will be shipped here (Australia) for under ten dollars per copy. I am arranging a book launch in October.
Marking up of the text and so on for Smashwords is a bit more complicated. It is best to pay a specialist to do it. We were pointed toward the services of Shelley Schadowsky, who is excellent and professional. I thoroughly recommend her to anyone. She also designs covers and they are fantastic.
Find her at www.goodlifeguide.com, her work is faultless.
Smashwords have relationships with a large number of eBook distributors including the big ones (except directly with Kindle). The best idea is to publish on Kindle first and then later go to Smashwords.
I hope this gives you some idea of the challenges and joys of writing and publishing books.