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I'm a writer! And other tips from the Guardian Australia Masterclass - Book Publicity

Had a great weekend last week – four days of sun shine, writing, reading, shopping, and a book publicity workshop. I could well accustom myself to regular long weekends, especially when they are spent so productively (and accompanied by lots of spring sunshine and blue sky).

On the writing front, a new chapter flowed out on Thursday, which later triggered conversations around hidden, invisible histories, the strategic formation of texts and Edward Said’s, Orientalism particularly in regard to Australian Aboriginal history. I'm in the middle of reading, Skin Deep by Liz Conor. If you're at all interested in widening your eyes to the way Australian history is shaped (manipulated) then you need to read Skin Deep as well. Similar strategies have been in place for most world history; it is by no means an Australian only, or British/European trait, but Ms Conor’s work really brings it home and makes it more relevant to Australians today (especially in light of current conversations on treaties and constitutional recognition).

The shopping element of my long weekend involved a new dress and some tops. I had been planning a more minimalist approach to my wardrobe. Seeing how I've failed miserably on “not buying” (what can I say, 50% off just cannot be ignored!) I now plan to “edit” my collection instead.

Now on to the book publicity workshop. This was a Guardian Australia Masterclass with Jaki Arthur from Harper Collins. The day's program focused on MS Arthur's vast store of knowledge on working with authors to publicise their "babies". She made some very good points, which are quite obvious but easy for an author to forget.

For instance,

  • When asked what you do, always respond with, “I'm a writer”. You might think this is way too obvious, but when asked as part of a class exercise, most of us replied with our “day jobs” rather than our “dream jobs”

  • When then asked, “What do you write?”, always respond with a short one liner designed to intrigue interest so that you will be then asked,

  • “Tell me more…”

After we learned the above, we spent time working out our snappy one-liners (also known as Strap Lines), themes and messages, and what makes us the best person to write our book. What makes me, for example, the best person to write a story about ghouls gathering in the Royal National Park and consuming every living human soul they come across. It's not because I'm a soul-sucking vampire type (because I'm not, honest!). I did, however, grow up in Bundeena exploring the National Park and have lived in the Sutherland Shire most of my life. The ghouls? Blame them on too many B-grade horror movies and Stephen King novels in my formative years.

Themes and messages, I found a little hard to work out. After all, I just wanted to write a scary story set in an area I knew really well. When I put my mind to it though, I realised that I did indeed have a theme. For A Single Light it is innate fear, creepy things that go bump in the night, and having a light to guide us home.

Once, writers know what it is they're writing, or have written, they must do six important things to bring their work to the attention of people who want to buy books.

The five points of recognition (plus one extra point) are:

  1. Be seen (live interviews, workshops, talks)

  2. Be heard (radio interviews, reviews)

  3. Be read (newspaper and magazine reviews and interviews)

  4. Be online (guest blog posts, interviews, reviews, web and social media activity)

  5. Be collected (bookmarks, postcards, and other swag)

And the bonus point is

6. Be positive (always talk positively about your work and your book so that the people you're talking too will also talk positively. After all, you never know who they might know).

After lunch, we went over interviews, writing a press release, event and campaign check lists and timings.

The upshot of all this is that I now have a new press release and am busy collecting contacts to send it to. If you would like to be added to my list, comment below or email me.

This weekend, I was back in the city to check out the Kaldor Art Project and Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones presentation of barrangal dyara (skin and bones), at the Royal Botanical Gardens. It is an interesting multi-layered project and I recommend downloading the app and/or finding a program of the talks and activities.

Today was a rainy Sunday dedicated to catch up housework and some gardening followed by this blog, some marketing exercises, and preparation for my talk tomorrow night at the Bundeena Library. If you’re in the area drop by. We’ll be chatting about books, publishing, the Royal National Park, and new projects.


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