Writing on, and about, an island

Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page

Writers – Are You a Doer or a Talker?

In Books, Writing on March 28, 2012 at 11:22 am

If you want to get a book published, this is the question you have to ask yourself – and be honest when you answer.

I felt compelled to write about this today because I’m staring down the barrel of a self-imposed deadline. I know myself pretty well, and I know that I do my best work  when my back’s up against a wall. It helps me ‘jump my shark’: perfectionism.

My perfectionism can be crippling. Working as a journalist and an advertising copywriter has cured me of perfectionism in the corporate world, and gone a little way to helping me overcome it in my personal writing, but it’s a daily struggle!

It’s not that writing is hard – it’s avoiding distractions and staying driven that’s fucking hard.

Are you a doer or a talker?


  • Have no expectations (you may finish, you may not ­– but that’s not the point right now)
  • Let go of perfectionism (worry about perfect later – just get the words on the paper)
  • Do the hardest things first (the easiest things in life always get done anyway)
  • Make writing a priority every day (not TV, shopping, cleaning, sleeping in…)
  • Work smarter, not harder (identify the time of day when you’re most energetic, creative and inspired – and dedicate that time for writing)


  • Make excuses

Having said that, I believe it’s important to still talk about yourself as a writer – it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it starts to make your dream real.


Kickstarter for Authors

In Books, Career, Writing on March 28, 2012 at 10:55 am

Most of you’ve probably heard of Kickstarter, the crowd-funding site that’s claiming it’ll deliver more money to artists in the US than the Government contributes.

Now, here’s a version just for authors. What do you think? If nothing else, it makes you think about what the time you spend on publishing your book is actually worth in real dollars…

An Idea: Writing Real Letters to Your Readers

In Books, Crime & Mystery Writer, Writing on March 27, 2012 at 4:24 pm

There’s a newish service you can subscribe to, called Letters in the Mail, where you receive ‘real’ letters in the post from authors on a regular basis. Apparently, it’s pretty successful. It gave me the idea that I should take the time to write – that’s handwrite – to people I know about the launch of my soon-to-be published book. It wouldn’t be to a lot of people, but in ‘this day and age’ (I sound like my grandmother), you should never underestimate the personal touch…

Why Keeping a Notebook by Your Bed Can Change Your Life

In Books, Career, Tasmania, Writing on March 26, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Following on neatly from my post on my midnight light-bulb moment, this article by award-winning Tasmanian author Rohan Wilson – “Winning the Vogel Can Change Your Life” – illustrates beautifully how, no matter what time inspiration strikes, you should heed it.

I’ve interviewed Rohan, and his success couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke. He’s also a very talented writer – but there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s made his own luck.


For Success, Let Your Ideas Sleep – and…

In Books, Career, Writing on March 26, 2012 at 10:04 am

I’ll get to the and in a minute.

Last night, after an inspiring weekend away at my East Coast shack, I had the kind of light-bulb moment that creative people dream of. Around midnight, – seemingly out of the blue – I sat up in bed and thought, Oh My God – I have to do this! There was no sleeping for me last night…

The idea in question will deliver me many of the things I want for the future – it’s sustainable, creative and profitable. And it’s so blindingly simple and elegant – as all best ideas are – that I could cry or laugh.

Interestingly, it’s an idea I had about 10 years ago, in my mid-twenties. I had, until last night, consciously forgotten about it.

Ten years ago, I’d recognised the idea as the bloody good one it was; I’d looked at it from every angle I could think of, trying to see how I could turn it into reality.

Unfortunately, as good as the idea was, I simply couldn’t see how I could let it be the best it could be in the mediums available to me. If you have to force something, then it’s probably not the right idea or the right time. So, I let my idea go (if you love something, and all that…). It’s a similar concept to knowing when to ‘kill your darlings’.

Except I obviously didn’t kill this one. I just buried it for a while.

My sub-conscious hung on to it until last night, when – presumably after a bunch of obscure triggers and letting my mind do its wandering/wondering – it came back to me in full force. And, this time, the production of it is not only perfectly possible – it’s perfect.

The landscape for writers and publishers is so vastly different now, and that is the crucial factor in the viability of my idea.

I’m so excited about this idea that it’s taking all my willpower not to drop everything else to get onto it. I’ve committed to self-publishing my novel, however, so the idea will have to wait a month or so (funnily enough, the plot for my crime novel has been a sleeper, too – it’s taken 5 years of germinating to come into bloom).

So, sometimes, for success, you need to let go of an idea that’s not working at that moment in time. Let it sleep for a bit.

And the and…?

Well. It’s simple:

Keep your mind forever open.

Consider a Media Teaser for your eBook

In Books, Crime & Mystery Writer, Writing on March 14, 2012 at 11:26 am

The death in my crime novel happens in Tasmania on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic – which is 15 April 2012.

To capitalise on this, and the flexibility that self-publishing allows me, I’ll be sending out – on 14 April – a book teaser to my media and book publishing contacts, to my social media connections, as well as to Titanic interest groups and forums.

I imagine that my contact list will receive an e-release, that alerts them to ‘a death’ the following day, in connection to a controversial Titanic conspiracy theory.

The idea being, that they’ll then head to my author site, where they can download the first chapter for free, watch a video – and find out that the mystery will be unravelling over the following month.

At that point, a month after my first e-release, my contact list will receive another email letting them know the murder has been solved, and that they can download the entire book on my site.

I thought about releasing a chapter at a time, but at this stage I think it’s a clever publishing/marketing model I’ll save for the future…

Checklist for Self-Publishing an eBook #2

In Books, Career, Crime & Mystery Writer, Writing on March 14, 2012 at 11:16 am

Since my previous post on this, there have been developments on the to-do front…


  • Complete editing of book GOD, NO… moved to March
  • Book design – internals, cover, epub compatibility CLOSE; rolled over to March
  • ISBNs x 2 (one for hard copy, one for online) DONE
  • Buy WordPress publishing template DONE (Templatic’s Publisher theme)


  • Complete editing
  • Complete book design
  • Create my author site* – including ‘store’ function**
  • Make a promo video

14 April

  • Launch author site (including video and free first chapter)
  • Email press release/teaser/video to book-publishing and media colleagues, plus to Titanic interest group and forums (the Titanic being a major plot device) – 15 April is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the ship, so I don’t want to miss that marketing boat…




Publish hard copy

*I’m going to have to bite the bullet on what name I go by as a fiction writer, as it’ll be my site URL. As I’m published in mainstream press under my real name, do I ‘liberate’ myself with a pen name (and, as Richard Curtis writes, possibly Perish by the Pen Name in the process), or do I have the guts/ego to be myself? My real name has traction already in publishing circles, so that’s probably the sensible, strategic way to go… Hmm.

**After a meeting with my web designer, he’s advised me against going down the path of the Templatic Publisher theme (while lovely, it’s too complicated as it turns out). He’s recommended customising a WordPress site that then redirects to a BigCartel ‘bookshop’, where the transactions will be handled fuss-free by the Pulley app (both ebooks and traditional books). At the moment, we’re looking at 1A3 Template for WordPress – but it’ll depend on how well my author logo (which includes a signature), masthead, style sheet (colours, fonts etc) fit into it. It looks pretty lean, but as it’s designed for writers, it can be beautifully customsied, and it suits the spare look I’m going for (to match my writing).

The Pros (and Cons) in Being Your Own Book Publisher

In Books, Career, Crime & Mystery Writer, Writing on March 9, 2012 at 9:37 am

If you’re interested in publishing your own books – and avoiding the middle man – I’d recommend a read of indie author Susan Kiernan-Lewis’ blog. Her latest post on being savvy about the pitfalls of self-publishing is a good one. I enjoy her straight-talking style (she works in advertising, as I do) and the new angle she puts on the business of being an author, and the fact that she’s both pragmatic and passionate about pursuing her book-publishing dream.

What’s the Best Cover for a Crime Novel?

In Books, Crime & Mystery Writer, Writing on March 5, 2012 at 3:29 pm

I’ve just given my talented Tasmanian designer a creative brief for the cover of my crime novel (that I’m soon to self-publish as an ebook).

The web is heaving under the weight of woeful ebook cover designs. A well-designed cover is, therefore, non-negotiable. It puts your book in the top 10% of books that readers will bother to read (I made that stat up, but in my experience it’s pretty close).

Book cover design has always been a big deal for me. I started my uni degree with a graphic design major, as I wanted to be a book designer (I soon realised I was better at writing, and switched majors). Since then, I’ve worked as the editor on several books that’ve gone on to win best designed book at the annual APA Design Awards.

Crime novels require a special sort of look – or, more specifically, the kind of crime novel I’ve written lends itself to a certain look. I haven’t written a quirky No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency style book, or a hard-boiled police procedural, or a true crime, or a horror.

I’ve written something that’s set on a cold island, where winter seems to last for 6 months, where the environment is a character in itself, where corruption comes standard, where people need and reject history in equal parts, where the sky is big and clear, where the main colours are silver, slate, rust and khaki… you get the picture.

My interest lies in making the everyday appear creepy – in the way a crime book reads and looks.

I have a bookcase dedicated to crime and mystery, mainly of the psychological kind, so I have some good reference points (do I have a favourite? Not really, although Miss Smilla inspires).

While I’m usually all for bucking convention, there’s a certain logic to choosing a cover for my book that fits within the ‘classic’ look for the genre I’m writing in – it’s that rule of: don’t make it any harder for the reader to find you.

My crime-book cover brief:

  • Night-time time lapse photo of place where book is mainly set – strong sense of place is important
  • Matte cover (obviously irrelevant for an ebook, but I plan to print-on-demand also)
  • Spare, bare look (not overly ‘designed’) – to mimic the tone of the book
  • Muted colours – no neon, green or red!
  • Classy, not cliched (no bullet holes, dripping blood etc)
  • Sans serif font – actually, I’m a little torn on this, and will wait til the cover’s designed before I decide on serif vs sans serif
  • Create a look that could be run over several books
  • Reference Henning Mankell, PD James and Val McDermid (plus all Scandi crime writers) for mood
  • Title at top – or bottom??? I’m still unsure… which leads into…
  • My name (which will actually be a nom de plume, as I’m widely published in mainstream press under my real name). Everyone knows that the bigger your name and the smaller your title, the more famous you are. I’m hardly famous… but there’s the opportunity here to fake it til you make it; to make people do a double-take… Ah, crime writers are a sneaky bunch.

As with any creative product, I’ll continue to make changes as the design progresses. Stay tuned…

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