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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Karen Simpson-Nikakis - a fantasy author at a Romance Conference

Even though the Romance Writers of Australia conference isn't exactly aimed at fantasy authors, Karen Simpson-Nikakis knows that almost every book has an element of romance to them, and she decided if she's going to learn about writing romance, why not go straight to the source?
Karen recently attended the Romance Writers of Australia conference in Melbourne, Australia and was given the opportunity to pitch to an agent and editor while there.

Here is what she has to say about the experience.

It‘s hard to think of a writing genre that gets more scorn heaped upon it than Romance. Literary texts and writers fill the Arts pages of the major dailies and the big prizes are doled out to writers who are far less likely to make a living from their work than a Romance writer. I wonder sometimes if it’s because it’s women’s business; that because most Romance writers and readers are women, the whole thing is devalued. And while it might have an element of truth in it, it’s also a tad simplistic. My experience of raising the topic of Romance writing with students invariably gets a scornful response from both male and female students.  Then again, it might be because of the sometimes lurid covers and sometimes over the top titles. Go to a Romance writers’ conference, or Romance readers’ conference, both of which I’ve attended recently, and you’ll discover that most writers have no choice over either. It’s also generally true that marketers not authors decide on covers for other genres as well.

Romance titles and covers are sometimes greeted by both the writers and readers with a great deal of good natured hilarity, but it’s worth remembering that titles and covers brand books as being of a particular genre and are key to getting books off the shelf or website, and into the reader’s hands. On the topic of conferences, it is again indicative of the vibrancy of the genre, and of the writers and readers who practice their craft in this area, that they are able to run both a Romance readers’ conference (in Bondi last year) and a writers’ conference (in Melbourne this year), and that this year’s was the Romance Writers of Australia’s 20th conference. This is no mean feat for any organisation.

So, why as a fantasy writer, do I attend these conferences? Well, for one thing, I’m probably not going to be in a room with so many New York Times best-selling authors at a fantasy convention! And Romance writers are incredibly friendly, supportive and generous with their advice. As well, fantasy, like most genres, has elements of romance in it and it’s worth looking at how practitioners in the actual genre write it. I also run NMIT’s Bachelor of Writing and Publishing, which is a vocationally oriented degree and I am keenly interested in areas of the writing and publishing industry where people can actually live off their craft.
In addition, the conference gave me the opportunity to attend a pitch workshop and to pitch to the Kristin Nelson Literary Agency and to Belinda Byrne of Penguin, the former more successfully than the latter. And of course, all conferences give you priceless titbits of information about all sorts of things relevant to the life of a writer. For instance, the Kristin Nelson Literary Agency receives around 650 queries a day. Yes, a day. They then request an ever diminishing number of partials and complete manuscripts, resulting in Kristin offering 3 authors representation last year—all of whom declined. Information like this can be incredibly depressing or liberating, but it certainly explains why writers are becoming increasing keen to bypass this whole process and launch their work directly onto Amazon or similar. The issue then of course is quality, which is a subject for another day and another blog.

Karen Simpson-Nikakis can be found at and her fantasy trilogy The Kira Chronicles is available now from Allen & Unwin.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Guest Post: Cheryl Shireman on Breaking Indie Author News! A Win-Win For All Concerned

Hello lovely readers.
Though these last couple of months I made the plunge and decided to test the indie author waters by releasing some of my work as ebooks, I haven't really talked about it all, what it means to be indie, the pros and cons.
It used to be that self publishing was the kiss of death, it meant that your work was crap. It simply wasn't good enough but you wanted to publish it anyway. Nowadays, that's not necessarily the case and there are a lot of talented authors choosing the independence and control of self publishing their own work to a willing and vast readership. Some are selling well, and the big publishing houses are taking notice. Self publishers, indie authors are being snapped up by publishing houses left, right and centre.

I have a special guest with me today, another indie author Chery Shireman who has much to say on the topic.
Read up and be informed. Here's Cheryl:

It was announced a couple of days ago. The headlines varied, but they were all a variation of the same theme – One more “Indie” writer signed a publishing contract. John Locke’s deal with Simon and Schuster made headlines and the writing and publishing community was all abuzz with excitement. Locke, who detailed his recent success in his aptly named ebook, How I Sold a Million Books in Five Months, not only signed a lucrative deal with S&S, he managed to do the seemingly impossible – he held on to his ebook rights.

Simon & Schuster’s Vice President of client publisher services, Stephen Black, said in a statement: “Not only does John Locke write terrific novels, he clearly knows his audience and has a deep understanding of how to reach them. We are very excited that we can now help to expand John’s readership to include those millions of readers who still savor the joys of sitting down for a few hours of entertainment with a traditional paperback book. It is a win-win for all concerned.”
Did you catch that? A “win-win” for all concerned. And, indeed, it is. Which is certainly a change in attitude from the beginning of this year when I first made my foray into self (or Indie) publishing. At the time, lines were drawn and sides were clearly marked. Name-calling flourished. Indies were a bunch of no-talent hacks who didn’t know how to take a rejection (many rejections) and move on with their life. On the other hand, the entire publishing industry was full of ignorant, short-sighted, crooked, money-grabbing lowlifes who reveled in crushing a writer’s sprit. And worse yet, they didn’t know how to do their jobs. The publishing industry was going down the tubes while readers hurried to buy Kindles and fill those Kindles up with eBooks. And, increasingly, the readers were buying the eBooks from those no-talent hack Indie writers. At an alarming rate!
As I dipped my toe into the angry pool, the water was chilly, to say the least.
Unaware or unconcerned about the Indie/Traditional distinction, the readers kept happily buying books. Amazon’s bestselling list for Kindle began filling with Indie writers. Writing forums, publishing forums, and various blogs were full of rants from both sides. Hatefulness and vitriol flourished. And just as a particularly vocal group of Indies started passing out pitchforks and torches to storm the Manhattan publishing houses, a funny thing happened. Those “ignorant” publishers started offering publishing contracts to the “no-talent” Indies. Amanda Hocking signed a two million dollar deal with Simon and Schuster. Amazon became an even bigger player in the publishing industry and signed Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler to their hot mystery/thriller imprint, Thomas & Mercer.
The ranters and haters ranted and hated – claiming that Hocking, Konrath, and Eilser were sell-outs, traitors, and puppy beaters. The water began to boil.
Not long after, the UK writing duo of Mark Edwards and Louise Voss (writing under Saffina Desforges) signed a six figure four-book deal with Harper Collins. A bit of a rumble was made, but not much. The story was beginning to become a familiar one. Edwards and Voss could not get their books published. After many rejections and much discouragement, they decided to self-publish their books, Killing Cupid and Catch Your Death. Within months those books held the number one and number two bestselling spots for Kindle in the UK and were selling thousands of copies per day.
Close on their heels, J. Carson Black (who is approaching 250,000 in sales) signed three-book contract with Thomas Mercer for her bestselling mystery thriller The Shop. Weeks later, Scott Nicholson signed a two-book deal with Thomas & Mercer for his book Liquid Fear and its sequel Chronic Fear. And then Michael Wallace signed a five-book deal including his The Righteous series. Wallace, perhaps, summed it up best of all on David Gaughran’s popular blog: In January of 2011, I gave up. After twenty years of fighting for a traditional publishing contract and suffering near miss after near miss, I abandoned the fight and started putting my books online for sale as self-published e-books. In spite of dogged persistence and the efforts of multiple literary agents to sell my novels, I had never overcome the final hurdle. Self-publishing was an act of desperation.
And, right before my eyes, the sun started shining and that chilly water started to warm. Instead of ranting (oh, I guess a few still muttered in the corners), Indies started offering congratulations to their fellow writers and some were even brave enough to utter, I hope I’m next. Virtual champagne corks were flying and the pitchforks and torches were abandoned for party hats and confetti.
Now Locke signs with Simon and Schuster. Just another Indie signing a publishing contract? Not quite. Simon and Schuster will distribute Locke’s print books, but Locke will retain the rights to his ebooks. This is an enormous coup for Locke and a ground-breaking move for Simon & Schuster.
The ability for an author to create and distribute a book directly into the hands of a reader through distributions outlets such as Amazon is nothing short of revolutionary. And like every revolution, there are liable to be a few casualties. There are those who will resist, those who will deny it, and those who will try to harm the rebels. But there are others, wise enough to see a revolution as “evolution,” that are forging ahead and pushing the boundaries, and this is a win/win for all concerned.
Writers no longer need to get permission to publish their books. For little or no money, they can write and distribute both ebooks and paperbacks and compete directly with “traditionally” published writers. The talented and hard-working will rise to the surface, sell a lot of books, and have even more clout if and when an agent or publisher comes to call. No more rejection slips.
Publishers can now sign writers who have a proven sales record instead of hoping that the next submission is worthy of a publishing contract. There is no longer any need for an underpaid English major to cull through the slush pile. Amazon is the new slush pile. And the slush falls to the bottom of the bestseller lists while the cream of the crop rises to the top, ready to be scooped up by a savvy publisher.
Agents have access to those same bestseller lists. While many writers might think they don’t need an agent, when it comes time to start talking about foreign rights or about a possible movie deal, they might want to think again. It is one thing to self-publish your book as an ebook, it is quite another to negotiate a contract for film rights.
Editors have more opportunity than ever before. Those who wish to freelance will have more work than they can possibly keep up with. The plethora of Indie books means a plethora of books that need editing. It is a rare writer who can edit their own books. And, quite frankly, a writer’s time is better spent writing.
Supporting players such as website designers, ebook formatters, and cover designers are also needed to support this sudden influx of writers into the publishing world.
Readers might be the ones who will benefit most of all. New writers, new genres, and new ways to experience books are all ahead. I have said it repeatedly – there has never been a better time to be a writer. But, it is also true that it has never been a better time to be a reader. Books have never been easier to access and the relatively low cost of most ebooks has made having a huge library an attainable fantasy – even if they are all stored on your Kindle instead of a custom mahogany library.
Now, the once chilly water I dipped my toe into is considerably warmer. And, look! Another new writer is on the diving board. Come on in, friend, the water is fine.

Cheryl Shireman is the author of Life is But a Dream, Broken Resolution, and You Don’t Need a Prince: A Message to My Daughter

Amazon links:

Interesting stuff, huh guys? 

Ciao for now,


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New eBook! Life Was Cool Until You Got Popular

Guess what you guys!

Moving away from zombies for a bit, I'm amping up to launch my next ebook, my first full-length NOVEL ebook, too!

Thirteen year old Kaley’s best friend Jules is an alien clone. That has to be it. Because Jules wouldn’t dress like that or act like that…and she definitely wouldn’t be friends with Meg-a-bitch.

Kaley can't wait to start at her new school with her best friend Jules. Jules was away in Europe all summer (worst summer of Kaley's life!) But it's cool, now school is starting and everything is going to be awesome. However as the school bus pulls up on that first day, Kaley barely recognizes the silky hair and glossy lips as Jules gets off with the cool kids and with their arch-nemesis Meg, the popular girl (God only knows why) who made Kaley and Jules's lives miserable in elementary school. In Europe, Meg had somehow won over Kaley's best friend and Kaley finds herself frozen out.

LIFE WAS COOL UNTIL YOU GOT POPULAR is a first person MG told through Kaley’s eyes, chronicling the initial pain and incomprehension of what happened to destroy their friendship. But that doesn't last long. Kaley decides that underneath the bleached blond clone with the personality transplant, Jules is still in there. Somewhere. And she is going to get her best friend back!

This book has been in my life for three years and has had so much positive feedback that I can't wait for it to be out in the world with you.

Life Was Cool Until You Got Popular will be released on Amazon (early edition already on Smashwords!) early September for $3.99.

If you are a book blogger or book reviewer and would like either to review Life Was Cool on your blog, or would like an interview or guest post provided then I'd be love to be a part of that!

Love Sairz

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cover Love #1: Welcome Caller, This is Chloe

Cover Lover #1

Okay so it's pretty common that authors have a thing for cover art. We have big strong opinions about it because  the cover on the front of your book can make or break your sales.

Since I have such an opinion on covers I thought I could make this a regular thing. Talking about shit-hot covers when I come across them.

I should have started this donkeys years ago cos cover love is an affliction I come down with frequently. But I didn't think of it then. I thought about it now. 

So without further ado here is my latest cover lover!

Striking, isn't it? I think this one is going to stand out on shelves in a big, big way. Props to Abrams Books cover designer!

Yes, the Young Adult section of all bookshops is full of girls on covers. But the majority of those girls on covers are broody, and pouting and wearing flouncy dresses. The covers are dark and atmospheric.

The girls on covers are generally NOT standing in the centre of the cover, staring the reader in the eye wearing Big Bird yellow, flouro pink above and...what is that...tinsel? Glittery tinsel stuff behind them!

This is different to all the covers out there, it's so completely modern. The only thing I'd change about it is size and placement of Shelley's name. I had to go hunting for it and though I think it's cool that it's on the microphone, she deserves a bigger name.

I think it'll do well. I hope it does well, because Shelley deserves it. 

The novel Welcome Caller, This is Chloe was the fifth out of six times (so far) that Shelley Coriell was a finalist in the Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart competition. So basically she's so good that she is ALWAYS PLACING in this prestigious, highly competitive competition. It was just a matter of time before one of her books was published. And Welcome Caller, This is Chloe is coming May, 2012 from Amulet Books.

So what's it about?

Big-hearted Chloe Camden is the queen of her universe and loved by all until winter break of her junior year. That’s when her BF shreds her reputation and her school counselor axes her junior independent study project. Forced to take on a “more meaningful” project in order to pass her junior year, Chloe joins her school’s struggling radio station where she must team up with a group of misfits who don’t find her too queenly. Ostracized by her former BFs, lonely Chloe throws herself into the radio station where she ends up hosting a late-night call-in show that gets the station much needed publicity. And in the end, trouble. She also befriends radio techie and loner Duncan Moore. On and off the air, Chloe and Duncan learn sometimes funny, sometimes painful lessons about life, love, and what it means to be alone…and lonely.

And who is Shelley Coriell?

The CEO of Coriell Creative Services LLC, Shelley is a communications professional with 20 years experience in public relations and print and electronic media. She has served as a newspaper reporter, award-winning magazine editor, and freelance writer. As an executive for non-profit organizations, she has directed print and electronic communications efforts, overseen special events for thousands, and assisted clients with leadership development, long-range planning, issues management, and media relations. Shelley is a summa cum laude graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. A member of Romance Writers of America and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Shelley travels the country giving motivational speeches and workshops on the craft, business, and joys of writing. You can find her at online and blogging at Sa-weet Treats and Great Reads.

So what say you, fellow cover lovers? Do you like it as much as I do?


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Blood and Tears: How to write an impressive Author Bio (it's not how you think!)

Thought I'd follow up my "come meet an Academy award winner!" post with a debrief on how John Kassab, Sound Designer's talk was.

And it was AWESOME.
Though not an author by trade (he is currently writing a children's book, however) just like us, he is a creative person, and knows all too well the struggles involved in being one.

He told a lot of great stories, funny and inspiring and I thought I would share with you John's take on those impressive, accolade-filled bio's you find on successful people's sites - authors and otherwise.

But first! Here's John's:

John Kassab is a sound designer, re-recording mixer, installation artist, electronic musician and DJ from Melbourne, Australia.

In 2010, John embarked on a 3 month Winston Churchill Fellowship interviewing leading sound people in 8 cities across 4 continents. His fellowship report, 'The State of Post-Production Film Sound', has popped up in film school teaching packs around the world and sections have been translated into languages other than English. Later that year, he was also inducted into the prestigious Motion Picture Sound Editors in Los Angeles for his contribution to film sound.

John's recent sound work can be heard in the Academy Award Winning 'The Lost Thing' directed by Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhmann and Ariel Kleiman's 'Deeper Than Yesterday', which received the Kodak Award and Petit Rail d'Or at Cannes in 2010 and the International Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2011. Both films also received award recognition for their sound design and mix. 

His latest sound design and mix can be heard on Craig Irvin's 'Tethered', which just debuted at the Sydney Film Festival where it won the Dandy Award for best director.

Impressive, yes?
Of course, you won't have a bio as impressive as that unless you too are a multi-award winning, inductee who won a lucrative Fellowship and is studied at universities across the globe.

What John has to say about his impressive bio is this:

That snapshot of his achievements doesn't take into account the decade of heartache and rejection, the promising sounding meetings that nothing came of, the applications for jobs that didn't exist. The years on Centrelink (Government payments), where Centrelink pushed him to work in an abattoir, and his family pushed him to work in the family's Real Estate business.
The impressive bio doesn't take into account the times after he dropped out of his law degree in order to pursue his passion, sound design, and then watched his ex-classmates go to the Mercedes dealership to buy their first real car.

Behind the impressive author bio, was a lot of struggle and pain. But there was also passion and belief in himself that he could succeed.

And now he has.

So. How to write an impressive author bio? Believe in yourself. Keep doing the work, keep honing your craft. Take a chance on you.

And be rewarded.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Free lunchtime talk in Melbourne: Academy Award Winning Sound Designer John Kassab!

For all you night owls and for those of you seeing this in the morning...this just in!

Melbourne peeps - TOMORROW (Today if you're reading this on Tuesday 9th August) you should pop over to NMIT, Yarra Bend Rd Fairfield, Victoria Australia to see John Kassab speak and hear all about sound design and working on Academy Award winning films.

Should be a great way to spend your lunch break. 
PL Speaker Series Kassab

See you there!


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Why I, Sarah Billington could never be a Pantser

Today I'm talking about Seat-of-the-Pantsing when writing.
I'm not talking about this:
Another form of "Pantsing"
I got an idea for a new story last night as I went off to sleep. And I'm rather excited about it. It's about a wall separating a town. It's been there as long as the MC can remember and there are armed guards in front of it who will kill you on sight if you approach it. This'll be a SHORT story, not a novel, and I wanted to write it today. BOOM. Done.

So I started writing it aaaaannnnndddd it's really not that simple.

If it's going to be a GOOD story, I need to know some stuff upfront.

Is the emphasis on what's on the other side/who's on the other side?
Is it on the danger of approaching the wall?
Is it about who put up the wall, and tearing it down?
Is it about why there is a wall in the first place?
Is something good/bad happening on the other side?
Is her side imprisoned, or are they being protected from what's over the wall?
Is it perhaps, the Berlin Wall? Is this a historic piece? An alternate historic piece?

Without knowing any of this stuff, really, what can I write?

Pantsing so doesn't work for me.

How about you?

Love Sairz

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sarah Billington eBook Project OPEN!

So I thought I'd tell you about this thing I'm doing. One of the things I'm doing.
I've been UNOFFICIALLY doing it for awhile now, but NOW I have a website. And nothing's real unless it's on the internet.

Really, you're too kind. Those fireworks...oh you spoil me so.

Sarah Billington eBook Project Management (ePM for short) is the grouping together of all the services I offer:

Manuscript Appraisals
Manuscript Editorial (Structural/Copy/Proof reading)
eBook formatting
Cover Design
Query letter assistance
Teaching Writing or eBook formatting (in Melbourne, Australia unless you want to fly me somewhere) and of course,
Project Management

What is eBook Project Management, you ask?

Well it takes a lot of people to bring a book to life. The author, (if they choose, the manuscript appraiser), editor, cover designer and eBook formatter.

A project manager is one person who works on all of these aspects. It helps the author because one person is connecting with them, their work and their vision for their work on a deep level. I'll get to know it inside and out and help craft a spectacular (and professional) book. By having the manuscript appraiser edit the book, your editor can tell what has been improved and how much deeper the book is, and how to get it closer to what you hoped it to be. By having your editor design your cover, you aren't giving a stranger a copy of the blurb and hoping they'll put together something right - the editor/cover designer knows the tone and feel of the book and what will reflect what's inside, as well as being visually appealing to attract readers.

I offer all services individually, at affordable prices, and look forward to helping more writers achieve their dreams.

Soon I shall also be launching Billington Media - my Business/Sales/Academic writing editorial business. There are all sorts of things on the horizon!

Check out the site, give me a shout if you think I can help, and if you know someone who needs me, I don't mind you talking about me. I ENCOURAGE it. :)

Later, lovelies!