It’s a year since the first stories in the Hazard River adventure series hit bookshops. Phew, I have learned a thing or two in that time …
Securing a publishing contract for your first book is a little like giving birth to your first child – you spend so much time preparing for the actual event, you’re scarcely ready for what’s ahead. Well, that’s how it was for me anyway. I spent my whole career writing – as a television news reporter, features writer and writing marketing material, yet before I began the Hazard River children’s adventure series I had no experience whatsoever of the publishing industry. And so when I secured my first contract with Ford Street Publishing, for a four-book deal, I naïvely believed the hard work was over.
My manuscripts had been accepted. Hooray! Now, I just had to open the champagne, stand back and wait for the royalties to start pouring in. Right? Alas, that’s not quite how it works.
If there is one thing I have learned in the year since the first stories in the Hazard River series came out, it’s just how hard authors have to work after their books are released, to make sure they are successful. If I may use yet another analogy, being a new author is the same as being a new business owner – you have an exciting new product that you and your publisher have to get out to the world and that is all about marketing. And while publishers will do all they can to market new books, authors need to work at it as well.
Since launching the Hazard River series, I have set up a website (possible even for a techie novice), produced several book trailers (thank goodness for my new Mac) and started a blog for young writers WRITE NOW. I’ve also done countless interviews and written many stories for children’s book sites. I’m not complaining. Luckily for me I’ve had plenty of experience in marketing and I enjoy it. In fact, I loved filming and editing the book trailer and so did my two sons, who starred in it.
The other element of writing children’s fiction that surprised me is the public speaking part. Children’s authors spend a lot of time talking to the people they write for – school kids. Visiting schools, libraries and children’s festivals are all an integral part of being a writer. I started out by giving talks about the Hazard River series at my younger son’s school. My son had been promoting my books for two years in the lead up to them being published – reading my manuscript during free reading time and quoting from it for his book reviews. So when I finally turned up with the published books, the whole school was behind me!
Since then, I’ve had a lot of fun talking about the inspiration behind the Hazard River series and running workshops for young writers. There are some amazingly talented kids out there. I am also thankful that my series is aimed at eight to twelve year olds – they’re a great audience and always have so many questions (which always include: how much do you earn?).
I was also lucky enough to be invited to speak at the wonderful CYA Conference in Brisbane last month. I went along a few years ago as a (slightly clueless) aspiring author, and it was exciting to return as a fully-fledged published author, to share my journey and a few ideas on writing adventure stories. It was a novelty to be addressing adults on the subject of writing, but it was a great event and I was glad to be involved. Apart from lining up some very experienced authors, the Conference provides writers with the chance to meet industry professionals. Nothing beats face-to-face contact when you’re chasing that illusive publishing contract. Authors – Tina Marie Clark and Ally Howard do an amazing job pulling the event together. This is what this year’s line up looked like: Marc McBride, Brian Falkner, Sarah Davis, Tristan Bancks, Mark Wilson, Aleesah Darlison, Jess ‘Jaybird’ Briscoe, Julie Fison, Sue Whiting, Jack Heath, Karen Robertson, Michael Bauer, Clare McFadden, Anne Spudvilas and Amanda Ashby.
Of course, it’s easy with all of the marketing and speaking engagements to lose sight of the fact that writing is still the chore business of the writer. The skill is saving some energy and space in your life to work on the next story. When I write, I have to immerse myself completely; I can’t just dip in and out. And when I do, I remember why I started in the first place. Because, although I like marketing, making video promos and speaking to school kids and adults about writing, it’s hard to beat creating a fictitious world, filling it with characters, throwing a problem at them and seeing how they get out of the mess that you’ve made for them.