A Novel Idea

Archive for the ‘The Business of Writing’ Category

The latest craze among writers and publishers (excluding eBooks) appears to be the Book Trailer. I subscribe to a number of trade periodicals and enewsletters and have noticed a sharp increase in ‘look at my new trailer’ plugs. Are these writers fools or Fellinis?

Picture courtesy of http://mapmagazine.com/free-art-exhibition-madridfederico-fellini-the-circus-of-illusions/

I’m all for the DIY approach to self promotion. Very few writers get much in the way of an advertising budget from their publishers. The ability to upload countless videos promoting oneself and one’s work to free streaming sites such as YouTube must seem a god send. Many writers are creative with more than just words so the chance to make their own movie-style trailer has added benefits.

As a teen I spent many hours behind a very heavy so called portable video camera and many more hours in our school’s editing suite. I’m pretty good at picking up new software, so once I finally land a publishing contract, I could in theory make my own book trailer. Could. In theory.

So far I am yet to come across a book trailer that has made me actually want to go out and BUY THE BOOK.

In fact, certain corners of the Internet seem infested by self-made, low-budget book trailers.

Here’s your chance to shamelessly self promote:

I challenge you to provide a link to your book trailer if you truly think it actually functions as a piece of successful advertising rather than wasting precious minutes of people’s lives like most ads. I’ll buy the first five books that actually make me want to pay hard earned cash for them. My only conditions: no horror, no holocaust themes, no misery memoirs. Life is too short to wallow in pain.

Book Trailers fall into a number of categories, but must be judged on their effectiveness to sell the book.

Amusing (and/or gross) Book Trailer – but I still won’t buy:

Example: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters


Annoying (and/or disturbing) Book Trailer – Not only a ‘won’t buy’, but a ‘beware’. I may never come anywhere near your title for fear of repetition of mental anguish.

I came across a new novel book trailer that I won’t link to for fear of inducing epileptic fits in others. It was clearly a non-professional effort. Flashing images, crappy music, cheesy grab lines.

I really feel for the author. A first timer, no doubt with barely a coin to rub together. Unfortunately some advertising is so bad it makes you seem worse than an amateur. It says ‘I don’t care’. It makes me question the quality of the rest of your work.

Example: Feel free to post your own.

Engaging Book Trailer – makes me buy the book: Position Vacant.

See above challenge.

Is there a book trailer out there you sorely wish to re-do for the author? Perhaps a deserving book wronged by celluloid?

Write well. Write often.


(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

This week’s post is an attempt at being ‘cruel to be kind’. I read Ian Irvine’s ‘The Truth about Publishing’ earlier this year and found it brutally honest yet ultimately encouraging.

Make yourself a steaming cup of tea or coffee – then read this:


Harsh as it may sound, I agree with Ian that ‘Anyone who can be discouraged from writing should be’.

What do you think?

Write well. Write often.


(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

Warning: mild coarse language.

I must admit that I am a lapsed diarist. I blame my mother.

In grade five or six I kept a diary (I can still smell its honeysuckle infused pages and see the shiny faux gold lock and key). It contained the minutiae of my friendships and primary school experiences. Maybe some drawings. 

Children are occassionally cruel and I carefully documented a colourful incident. Even then I was committed to an accurate portrayal, so I included a swear word.

It felt good to unburden myself on the page.

Unbeknownest to me my mother had either been regularly peeking, or was curious with unfortunate timing. She had opened my diary, read the offending material and metered out punishment.

My mother and the wooden spoon were good friends. 

To this day, I still remember the burning sense of injustice I had at her invading my privacy.

I stopped writing in that diary.

Soon after I found a way to write whatever I damn well pleased: cryptography.

It wasn’t a very elaborate system. I simply invented new symbols for each letter in the alphabet and wrote with those instead. I did this right until I left home. I never got into trouble again (for that).

Over the years life accelerated and my diary keeping became patchy.

I started this blog with the primary intention of documenting my journey to become a publisher author.

I have the distinct feeling that life is going to open further to me soon and I want to remember what this feels like.

Intention is very important to me. It is the guardian of integrity.

I attended a conference last week which included a session on authors and the internet. Blogging was central to the discussion. Rules such as blog regularly (at least twice a week) were touted. Be topical! Be controversial! Be clever!

Maybe this is good advice if you care about building a big audience you can sell to.

To blog or not to blog, is not the question for me.

Yes I blog. Yes I think you should too if you feel so inclined.

Blogging is the keeping of an online diary or simply a chronology of thoughts.

It is a very human thing to do – to talk about oneself 😉

The question for me is: why blog?

I decided to investigate the blogs of a few authors I respect and gain some insight. I went to my bookshelf and selected living authors where I have bought, read and enjoyed at least two of their titles in the last decade.

The results:

Peter Carey (‘True History of the Kelly Gang’ and ‘Jack Maggs’) – couldn’t find a blog.

Jhumpa Lahiri (‘Interpreter of Maladies’ and ‘The Namesake’) – couldn’t find a blog.

Tim Winton (‘Dirt Music’ and ‘The Turning’) – couldn’t find a blog.

Neil Gaiman (‘Neverwhere’ and ‘American Gods’) – has ‘journal’ on his website but hardly ever blogs anymore to the point where old posts are ‘reprinted’.

Mary Gentle (‘Ash: A Secret History’ and ‘1610: A sundial in the grave’) – couldn’t find a blog.

Perhaps my favourite authors are too busy writing to bother blogging?

Is there a point to this?

Yes, I present exhibit A, Derek Landy’s blog.


Landy writes the Skulduggery Pleasant series for kids. I saw him entertain a crowd of sub tweens during his visit to Australia earlier this year. I think he drank a bottle of red cordial before he presented.

Landy seems to be blogging with both personal and commercial intent. He writes great slabs of posts and I can imagine the delight he must feel when his ramblings draw hundreds of comments. His fans have even set up a separate forum to discuss his work. He includes them on decisions such as the next title of his series. He truly seems to have a community of fans.

The first book in his series is sitting patiently on my bookshelf waiting for me to read it. I suspect its violence is going to be beyond my tastes, but I am interested in what makes his fans so dedicated.

I present exhibit B, Philip Reeve’s blog.


Reeve is the author of many great books for children. While his blog smacks you in the face with big book covers and a web trailer for his latest work, the actual content is much more of the ‘look at this cool stuff I found’ rather than ‘look at how terrific my books are’ nature.

Reeve’s blog is more a monologue than a conversation as there doesn’t seem to be a way to leave comments on each post.

I blog to share, to learn and to make connections with like-minded people.

Why do you blog?

Write well. Write often.


(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

Superannuation. What is a budding novelist doing writing about such a mundane topic?

Superannuation or 401(K) if you’re in the good ol’ US of A, is one of those beige but important facts of life.

I’m not going to call it necessary, although for many people it will be. I’m hoping I’m not one of them.

I don’t plan to retire. Ever.

I hope to be spinning a good yarn and living a comfortable life to the end.

I’ve got a really bad habit of ignoring any mail related to my superannuation fund. Sure I open it. I might even look at the balance (they charged me WHAT for losing money in the market ?! geez).

Since I quit my job my superannuation firm sent me the notice that it’s now been moved to a personal plan, not the company plan. Fine.

Then I got another letter which seemed to be indicating some new set of charges. Whatever.

Then my phone rang today.

The phone ringing during the day is a pretty rare occurence for me now. I’ve done my darndest to discourage this behaviour in family and friends.

My equivalent of ‘Do Not Disturb’ on a honeymoon hotel room would be a giant placard (in tastefully embossed lettering) WRITER AT WORK.

Not that I think I’m creating some great masterpiece that’s going to change the world (although that would be great). No, it just takes all my concentration to pin the words to the page in an arrangement that I’m happy with.

I’m in the middle of a sentence. It’s not the best sentence I’ve ever written, but at least it’s going somewhere. The desk is vibrating. I scowl at the phone.

But I can’t help myself. I look at the number. I don’t recognise it. It’s interstate. That always makes calls more interesting. I’m about to break two rules.

1. Don’t answer the phone before you’ve hit your daily word target.

2. Don’t answer numbers you don’t recognise. It’s probably a telemarketer.


‘Miss Violet XYZ’


‘I’m calling about your superannuation…’

Groan. Why did I take this call? Admist my self-directed eye-rolling I forget the vital phrase ‘Not a good time’. I respond to his questions. Five minutes later I’m glad that I did. Apparently they’re going to start charging me monthly for all the insurance that my company used to pay for.

I agree to read the previous correspondence and advise how I would like to proceed. He’s actually been very helpful. We hang up.

It got me thinking. Writing is my new business. It’s not just a tick-box on the list of my life achievements.

I add it to my bi-monthly list of must-do items. By 31 July I will sort out my superannuation along with finishing my first draft, celebrating one thousand glorious days with Connor, and booking my next pap smear.

I also resolve to set aside Friday afternoons to do administration.


Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious
If you say it loud enough
You’ll always sound precocious

The Sherman brothers were always good for a ditty.

Write well. Write often.


(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

Warning: This post contains themes that may offend some readers (mild gambling and sexual references)

If I learnt nothing else from a decade in big corporations, it’s how to keep people awake during a PowerPoint presentation. The first trick is to appeal to self-interest. Make sure your audience understands ‘What’s in it for me?’.

I’ve undertaken to write my first novel and get paid for my published work by midnight 13 April 2011. I’m documenting my journey on this blog. Why should anyone be interested in following my progress?

Why should you read my blog?

Three reasons. The oldest reasons for doing anything: Sex, Fear and Greed.

Sex: This blog will not directly aid your sex life. But I’m sure you can use it to your advantage somehow. Think about how cutting edge and intelligent you are going to sound on your next date when you mention this inspiring blog about an Australian chick who has ‘thrown it all in’ to follow her writing dreams. Segue into discussing your date’s life goals over a bottle of Tasmanian Pinot Noir… 

Fear: Do you insure your car? Your house? This blog is like insurance. You’ll probably never need it, but you’ll feel better for having invested in it. I promise to expose the ups and downs of my experience getting published. If you are reading this blog because you are also a budding novelist, or the partner or father or mother of one, I appeal to your fear of missing the crucial piece of the puzzle. I don’t believe there’s a sure-fire way to do most of the things that are worth doing in this life, but I do think it’s wise to learn from other people’s mistakes. More importantly, learning what has worked for others.

Greed: How to make money from this blog? Gamble. Australians love to bet. We bet on horses, football matches, and we’d bet on how many spikes an Echidna has if we could.  I don’t care if you’re in my cheer squad (currently consisting of my partner, parents and closest friends), or you’re unimpressed. Take a position. $10 says she makes it. Have an opinion. Watch my progress.

Write well. Write often.


  • None
  • Violet: Thanks Alannah :) Apologies for not replying sooner: I'm finally catching my breath and the year is almost over!
  • Alannah Murphy: I remember your first post, way back when I had my old Here Be Dragons blog, and I am glad you are still writing. We all find out, sooner or later, ho
  • Violet: Good to hear that Aaron. Good Luck with your work.