One of the disadvantages of not having an ebook edition is there's no option for people ordering online to "try before you buy" so to speak and read a sample. To rectify this, I'm going to post the opening chapter of The Things We Can't Undo here, with links at the bottom to buy it if you're interested. Hopefully you'll be inspired to "just keep reiding" ;-) *trigger warning* sexual assault
So my book baby is out in the world! It's all a little surreal; I'm continuing my everyday life here with a demanding toddler and laundry to do and trying to write another book, but every now and again I'm reminded that right now total strangers might be reading something I wrote. I've got a launch party happening this Saturday (Sydney people! Come along!) and a few other events lined up, so I'm gradually settling in to the idea that yes, I am a published author now.
There's 2 more stops to go before it wraps up - nicely timed with the launch on Saturday. But if you've been inspired to buy a copy, leave a review on Goodreads, tweet me, tag me in your instagram pics, comment below, recommend to a friend... it all counts! I love the support and am eternally grateful to you, my readers.
My book is a real, solid object now! There's a copy sitting beside me as I type this, and finally, I no longer feel like a fraud saying "I'm a writer" when I introduce myself to people. As the countdown to May 1st continues, this week I thought I would share a little of what led me to my publisher, Ford Street, and what it has been like to publish with them.
Claire West has worked as a book buyer for a variety of stores across Sydney, a position she found her way into after working in retail, as a secondary school teacher, and as a tutor. Her most recent role was senior book buyer for Berkelouw Book Face, where she co-managed the purchases of new and existing titles for eleven stores. She relinquished the role at the end of 2017 to move to Melbourne, but prior to that I caught up with her to hear more about this important role in the retail side of the industry. Claire has long held an interest in books and continues to blog at https://clairewest.com.au
Fleur Ferris has published three Young Adult thrillers with Penguin Random House, with a fourth coming out later in 2018. She's lived in multiple states across Australia and built up a wealth of knowledge in industries ranging from emergency response to rice farming. Fleur's first book, Risk, won two Sisters in Crime Davitt Awards and an Australian Family Therapists' Award for Children's Literature. Fleur was kind enough to chat with me about how she got into writing for teens, how things have changed after a few years of success in the industry, and where to next.
I promised more information about my novel, coming out later this year via Ford Street Publishing. I've been working hard with my editor and publisher, emailing back and forth about everything from blurbs to cover design, and to be honest most days it still doesn't feel real. But it IS real, and so in anticipation, let me share with you a little about what I've been working on.
The Girl Samantha Chen is sixteen, shy, creative and a great violinist. She works hard, but all the study she puts in is barely keeping her afloat in year eleven, and she's terrified she'll disappoint her strict parents. Oh, and she's not allowed to date.
The Boy Dylan West is not Mr Popular, but he's a nice guy. He skateboards in his free time, works at the fish and chip shop, and is happy at home with his supportive parents and older sister. He's been dating Samantha for almost a year, and doesn't mind keeping the relationship secret from her parents if that's what it takes to hang on to the girl of his dreams.
Saturday Night Dylan and Sam are at a friend's party, but they've stopped dancing now. They've had a couple of drinks, not enough to have them throwing up or blacking out, but enough to give them "a buzz" as Dylan calls it. He wants the liquid courage. Because he's pretty sure he and Sam are going to have sex for the first time.
The Aftermath Dylan thinks it all went great. Except now Sam is avoiding him, her best friend hates him, and there are rumours creeping through their Sydney private school. Rumours about rape. When it hits social media, opinions on the alleged assault flow freely and sometimes brutally, throwing both Dylan and Samantha into a spotlight they don't want. As reputations crumble and friendships end, the ex-couple are left fighting to hold on to the truth, each plagued by the same question: how could someone who loved me do this to me?
The Things We Can't Undo is for every teenager (suggested reading age 15 and up) and tackles some of the biggest contemporary questions about sex, consent, friendship, family, social media and of course, the things we wish we could take back. As publication gets closer, I'll be sharing a cover reveal, a bunch of #1linewed snippets, and details on when (and where) you can get your hands on a copy. I'll also have a few to give away, so if you're not following me on twitter, now is the time!
Allison is a bestselling middle-grade author from the south coast of NSW. She has published five books with Hachette in Australia, with another release due in March 2018. Her first book, Race To The End of The World, was named a notable book by the CBCA Book of the Year 2015, and shortlisted for several other awards. Allison also works as an online tutor for courses with the Australian Writer’s Centre.
Elizabeth is an author whose debut novel, Esme’s Wish, was released in October 2017. She was born in Brisbane and now lives in Sydney. In addition to her novel writing and other work, Elizabeth writes reviews for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Reading Time.
Zoe is Managing Editor of Ventura Press, a small independent publishing house in Sydney. Ventura Press publishes adult fiction, children’s picture books and non-fiction including memoir and self-help. Zoe has been with Ventura since 2016, having previously worked as a freelance editor and an in-house editor for a small educational business. She has also been President of Editors NSW (formerly the Society of Editors (NSW) Inc.) since March 2015.
For a couple of years now, my husband and I have had a deal: I will stay home full time until our youngest daughter starts school (including the days she's at preschool), and if I don't "make it" as a writer by then, I need to go back to some kind of paid employment. This was decided before she was born, but only recently did we have a conversation about what "making it" actually means.
Does it mean a publication deal? One with an advance? Earning enough to survive on my own? Earning as much as I did in teaching? Becoming the next Matthew Reilly?
If it's the last one, or indeed any of the last three, my odds of doing this full time are pretty terrible. A study conducted by Macquarie University in Sydney showed that the average income of an Australian author from writing is AU$12 900 per year. To put this in perspective, I would have to work just one day per week as a casual relief teacher to equal that. Just 5% of the writers in the study were able to earn above the national average from their creative practice alone. Most supplement their income with additional work, both related to their writing (such as school visits) and unrelated. Nearly 45% said they relied on a partner's income or loans from a friend or family member to make ends meet. And these findings include scholarly or education writers, who earn more, on average, than fiction writers.
For shorter work, the website Duotrope tracks thousands of publishers (literary journals, websites, contests, newspapers, magazines etc) around the world for response times, pay rates and acceptance/rejection/withdrawals. Markets are listed as paying professional rates (5c/word or more), semi-professional rates (1c/word to 5c/word), token rates (less than 1c/word) or as no monetary payment. There are more token paying journals than semi-pro, more semi-pro than pro etc, because these endeavours are expensive and time consuming for the publishers and rarely bring in much money themselves. Most are funded by grants or patreon-type arrangements. About 25% charge fees to submit. And then there's the likelihood of selling your work to them at all. Overall, from over 86 000 reports for all fiction markets (including non-paying), only 4.8% of responses are acceptances. The pro-paying markets accept less than 1% of submissions. So to eke out a living as a writer of short fiction, rather than novels, certainly takes just as much work.
Suffice it to say, if you're thinking of becoming a writer, don't expect to be raking in millions.
Evidently, my husband's idea of success was about income. This of course led to a new discussion about our expectations and budgets, but it didn't change my dream, or the effort I'm putting in to achieve it. For me, "making it" has never been about earnings. I'm a realist. I know that this is an incredibly difficult industry to break in to, and I know it's by no means a lucrative one. Making it as a writer is about becoming like the people I admire most.
When I read a good book, I feel something. I think differently. I walk around in a "book-drunk" haze for a little while afterwards. I want to talk to someone about the story and the characters. I want to go back and rest in the fictional world somehow, see things through the character's eyes again. I empathise more readily with others and I think harder about things I might not have cared to question before.
I want to make someone feel that. For me, the day I will call myself successful is the day I get to sit in a bookshop and sign one of my own books for someone who calls themselves a fan.
So, I'll keep writing and I hope you keep reading ;) Gabi