e-books Part 1

It seems that every day there is a new e-book publisher or small press that bursts onto the market, and some authors who would otherwise have remained undiscovered are carving out profitable careers from e-book publishing (as Brian S Pratt explains). But with the area growing so quickly and so erratically, what are the potential pitfalls of e-publishing compared with more traditional formats?

The first thing to look out for is the e-publishing rights in your contract if you are publishing with a 3rd party (ie not self-publishing). Many first time authors are being ‘encouraged’ to sign over the e-rights of their first novel (for free) to secure a book deal. DO NOT DO THIS!!! E-book sales make up 10% of book sales on Amazon, up from 5% 12 months ago. You don’t need to be a mathlete to see that soon the e-market will be worth as much as the paper book market. This is just one more reason why you should always get an agent. A good agent will not give away your e-rights.

Recently author J. S. Chancellor discovered another one of the potential pitfalls of e-books. Many of the e-publishers do not support security on e-books, meaning they can be copied and shared ad infinitum. To get around this you include a brief paragraph at the beginning of your e-book reminding people that the author has put a lot of work into the story and deserves to be paid for it. People can still choose to ignore this. J.S. Chancellor’s debut novel was stolen and widely circulated –meaning thousands of people were reading her book, but she was not seeing a cent for her 14 years of work!!!!

Now any authors reading this would probably want to cry at the thought of such a thing happening, but this story does have a silver lining. With the media coverage that this theft received, coupled with the request for those who had read the book to please review it, meant that the book has now sold exceptionally well and has excellent rankings in the e-reviews. You can bet the next book in the series will have much stricter security, as well as a huge fan-base waiting for the next instalment. Lucky she was writing a trilogy!

Next week I’ll talk about the myths surrounding e-books. And remember, if you want to check out my e-book Paragon is still available here.


Happy Australia Day!

Nat's Fantastic Art

Australians are a quirky bunch. It is a place where “not too bad” means good. Where red-haired boys are called “Bluey” and where cricket is the only topic of conversation in summer… unless the Poms are winning.

No matter how sophisticated we become, or how widely we circulate in this big, little world, we all take a little part of the typical Aussie with us. We may not yell “Oi Oi Oi” in response to the catch-cry of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie,” but we do all THINK it!

As much as it sometimes make us cringe, our historical ‘dinkum culture’ was the base of our current nuances that brand us as Australians. Our have a go mentality has translated to entrepreneurial business acumen. Our mateship has (for many) grown to embrace cultural inclusion and tolerance. And Ugg boots are now considered outdoor footwear the world over. These are things of which to be truly proud.

So this Australia day let’s not worry about pretences and stereotypes. Eat that lamb chop, drink from that tinny or tell the world that you are “not too bad” with a smile on your face. Whether you have been Australian for one hour, nine generations or forty thousand years, celebrate the wonderful opportunities and freedoms that being Australia has to offer. And if you over-celebrate remember you can always take the great Aussie sickie tomorrow if you need to.
Just kidding bosses!

Happy Australia Day!


The Original Idea

This week the net is abuzz with news of a YouTuber who asked for a million dollars, and amazingly someone has given it to him. You can bet there will now be a spate of hopefuls loading up their requests for a million dollars and being sorely disappointed when they only get 34 views and no promises of money.

To be noticed these days, you need to do something original. Asking for money was not original, but requesting $1 million through the medium of YouTube was. Alas not any more. Now you need to do something different; ask a million people to give you a dollar, offer to do something peculiar for the million, or maybe tie some charitable act to your payment. Oh, and maybe use Twitter instead of YouTube! You need to think outside the box that has already been set, even if it was only set last week.

Writers face the problem of originality all the time. Many people say there is no such thing as an original story, you can only hope to weave familiar facets of a story together in a new way to give the feel of an original tale. For example, the story of a vampire who loves a mortal is not new, but Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight do it in massively different ways. And I’m sure the 200 vampire love stories published since Twilight were all different in their own way too, though not original enough to spawn their own wave of imitators.

So, the question is do you want to go for your own million dollar idea, or do you want to just twist an existing idea from another angle? I think I would rather try for something that has never been done before, it might be harder, but I’m sure it is much more satisfying. But if a million of you do want to send me a dollar, I wouldn’t say no either. I’ll even provide you with a koala photo for each ‘donation’ you send me. Here are a couple to start you off….

Koala in a tree fork

Koala from below

A valuable space

I’ve often read about writers who claim they must have their own space to write, preferably a dedicated room. Some even swear you cannot write unless you hire a suite away from home so you must travel to it like a job. I thought these people were a bit loopy, not to mention that they were clearly earning more from their writing than I was (yes, Paragon is still for sale –I need dental work so every sale counts).

That was until I moved in with people who are home during the day. Having your own space is not so much about allowing your creativity to flow as it is about sending a message to those around you that you are writing and you need to be alone. Trying to write with others nearby (I’m learning) is nearly impossible. Even when they are not talking to you, you can hear their tea-making, their interesting conversations and their delving into the pantry to open goodies that you are missing out on.

None of this is conducive for concentrating on writing.

So previously my valuable space was actually a timeframe, when the house was empty and I could set myself up anywhere I wanted and never be interrupted. Now I need to do what countless writers before me have done and carve out a little nook in the house to call my own.

If that doesn’t work there is always the library. After all, I need to get working on the sequel to Paragon, which I know you’ll all be begging for once you have read the first instalment!



Many writers (and non-writers) keep journals; places to keep personal insights of wisdom or ideas still in their infancy. It is a home for secrets we cannot bring ourselves to share, so instead lock them in the pages to be uncovered by strangers when we are no longer around.

At least that is what I think a journal should be. I rarely write in a journal, but do occasionally type something about what has happened in my day, often as it is happening. By some strange coincidence I did write a journal entry exactly one year ago today. Let me share it with you;

It is past 8:30pm and yet again we have forgotten to have dinner. I snuck the last left-over roast potato into my mouth just before we sat down, but that simply served to get my stomach juices flowing. Soon it will start to growl. Once it is clear I am hungry it will fall to me to make dinner. My only other option is fruit, but I am over it, I want something else. It seems the only thing my mouth never tires of is chocolate, but that won’t do for dinner. For starters there simply isn’t enough of it in the house…

Hmmm, wisdom? Insights? Not quite. But I will share something that is extraordinarily weird. Tonight, exactly one year later, we forgot to have dinner again! So perhaps there is some sense in keeping a journal. After all, how else would I have known of such a coincidence?

For any readers, I would love to know how you use your journals. Do you read over them often? Do you write something every day, or only when something significant happens? I need some guidance (clearly).


The darker side of imagination

We all have an imagination, even those of us in serious jobs, living serious lives full of serious things. Gifted liberally with these fictional flights of fancy as children, all of us hold onto at least a little imagination when we ‘grow up’.  

It is our imagining of how good that double-choc gelato might taste that inspires us to break our New Year’s resolutions. It is our imagining of travelling around Australia in a Ute with a caravan and a border collie when we retire that inspires us to keep working, and it is our imagining of writing that last word to our perfect opus that inspires us to keep writing.

But imaginations are not only used for good.

Imagination can dress up as fear, and stop us from doing something significant, as we use it to ‘see’ all that can go wrong. It can cause us to perceive judgements, pain and criticisms in the words of others, when no such intent is there. It can also allow us to justify terrible behaviour by imagining a just cause.

However, bad imaginings are not always ‘bad’. Last night I took a long time to go to sleep as I imagined the night that some people were spending in Queensland; marooned on rooftops, not knowing when the house might collapse and spill them out into the torrent of flood water. Of not knowing where loved ones were, or if they had made it to dry land in time. While this side of my imagination left me sad and exhausted, I think it squarely goes on the good side of imagination.

Empathy is one of the most important emotions needed for humanity to get along in peace, and you cannot have empathy without imagination. Empathy helps us to understand others, and it inspires us to help in times of need. It can also make us appreciate our good fortune, which we all take for granted too often.

So if you too were kept up last night with thoughts of the victims of the Queensland floods, please continue to use your imagination for good. You can always donate, but I’m sure you could brainstorm a better way to help, if you just ask for a little guidance from your imagination.


Photo blog… Phlog?

Having recently had a few visitors who came up and only managed to see our many koalas from a great distance, I thought I’d give you a little photo blog entry (phlog doesn’t sound that good, so I’ll stick to photo blog) of the street koalas.

And for those of you who visited, please feel free to lift these shots and pretend that you took them!

Two koalas in tree
I can’t get her from this angle, how’s your line of fire looking?


Killer Koala
Killer Koala?
Koala looking down
Oh, is that a fat, juicy gumleaf I see down there?

By the way, I think these guys need names, so if you have any suggestions please send them through. We have two girls, two boys and two juveniles.

Falling birds and floating fish

As much as speculative fiction writers like to wallow in some dark places when they are writing fiction, the truth is we never want to see these things become a reality. The first few days of 2011 have seen some very weird and fiction-like things happening in the real world, and I for one find it very unnerving.

In the US hundreds, maybe thousands of birds have fallen dead from the skies, at the same time hundreds of thousands of fish died a short distance away. ‘Authorities’ are claiming the two events are unrelated, but it does seem a bit too much of a coincidence to me that both occurred at the same time. What is even more disturbing is these events only killed one species of each animal.

But the plot thickens.

The answer might seem obvious enough; there is either a UFO or secret US military testing going on over Arkansas. So why then does New Zealand also suddenly find itself awash in dead fish, of one species, on the same day as the second big bird die-off in the US?

They say these are natural events with logical explanations, but so far all those put forward have been completely implausible (birds flying into things and falling dead to the ground in an open paddock?). It scares me to say it, but even using Occam’s Razor the only explanation for these things falls quite squarely in the speculative fiction realm.

Maybe it is time for me to start writing chick lit?


Why self-publish?

The first draft of Paragon was finished in 1994, a rushed effort before I moved to Brisbane to become an air traffic controller (the first in a long line of false starts in careers). Since then I have re-written the novel ten times. Ten!

As you can imagine, in that time I sent Paragon off to a lot of ‘real’ publishing houses, and have many rejection letters to show for it. I must confess I also made the classic mistake of sending out the first draft, which I will never do again. But that’s another story.

Was it the fact that I had a finished novel for 16 years and was never able to place it that led me to self-publish? No. It was the change in my rejection letters in recent years that led to this decision. I went from form letters (generic ‘dear author’ types) to specific ‘good’ rejections. These referred to character names and other details, indicating that the manuscript had actually been read. This, coupled with the fact that it took between 9-18 months for the publishers to reject the novel made me decide that it was time to put it out there myself.

So what is a ‘good’ rejection? Here are some actual quotes from three of my most recent rejections (which took 9, 12 and 18 months to come back to me) so you can see what I class as a good rejection:

“Thank you for sending this memorable manuscript…”
“It’s a difficult one to reject. You are obviously a talented writer who knows how to pace an intriguing story.”
“It’s an intriguing premise and you are clearly an imaginative storyteller…”

Yes, they are from the REJECTION letters. I can only begin to imagine how nice the acceptance letters must be! The other nice thing is that these comments came from YA Editors, not their assistants.

Hopefully one day soon I’ll be able to tell you what they say when they send you an acceptance letter. Maybe 2011 will be the year? 🙂

Happy New Year!