22 July 2011

So how do you market kid's books?

A popular blogger and writer of middle grade books, Nathan Bransford, recently received some negative criticism for suggesting that users of the free and hugely helpful publishing information on his blog and forum might consider buying the book (harsh, right? Your site, your rules as far as I am concerned). The post is here.

Now I think it is fairly common knowledge that you're pretty much on your own as a debut author when it comes to book publicity, and you have to do things to try to sell your book yourself. I have to be honest, just the thought of it makes me nauseous. Given that the internet is where a very large number of books are sold, an internet presence is necessary.

So what do you do if you are writing for an age that has limited access to the internet? This was raised in a comment by Maureen Crisp on Roni Loren's blog, and I think she has a huge point.

Children of 9-12 don't have unrestricted access to the internet and they don't exactly read a lot of blogs. They are too young to (officially) use social media, and as a stranger, you shouldn't even be trying to reach them directly. It's clear that you are trying to reach them via their parents and teachers.

Now I think that Nathan did exactly what you need to do to reach readers in a previous post, which was to post his first chapter online. Check it out. In fact, sit down with your offspring and check it out together. I follow his blog because I'm a baby writer, so I saw it, and I sat down with The Boy and we read it together. The Boy loved it, so I ordered the book and he is reading it now. But how many parents use the internet to read with their child?

It strikes me that I can't be the only parent of a child who finds an author he likes and ploughs through the backlist. We have hammered Roald Dahl, Dick King Smith, Francesca Simon and several others. Box sets abound in my house. He reads one, and he wants the rest. Writing tasters are what float my boat too. If I read a short story I love on the internet and the author bio says they have a book out, I go looking for it. Disappointingly, I haven't always been able to find it, which means a lost sale for that author. Note: if your bio mentions a book, make sure we can buy it, please.

So wouldn't it be great if there was a site or a network dedicated to free short stories or first chapters from published authors, where we can introduce our children to their writing in a safe online environment and see if it's a hit? The Boy's school gives them limited internet access to use sites like Cool Math Games. How about Cool Stories too? Maybe with enhanced content like games and puzzles to go with them.

Or is this wishful thinking?

15 July 2011

Fun with the seven sins

Image courtesy of Mark du Toit

Well, the dust is settling from the Seven Sins writing challenge and I'm back up to my elbows in the big scary book project. I really thought it was worth noting, though, just how much fun it was just writing for the hell of it. It reminded me of the days when I had just started writing and I wasn't researching publishers and agents and revising again, and again and again.....

There is something freeing about a group of buddies and a game of being the best storyteller you can under a set of crazy conditions. Maybe you'll have a theme, a word count, a set of words you have to include. Your challenge is to do something with them that nobody else has, to do something interesting and entertaining. No worries about publishability or trends, or what agent might be interested, just how much can you entertain people within the rules of the game.

I truly believe that anybody starting out should aim for a couple of years of challenges and fun and thinking out of the box before they settle down to craft and researching the industry. I think it is when we play that we lay down the foundations of our future skills, in exactly the way that children learn motor skills with the aid of play bricks and cuddly toys.

And with that, thank you to my Seven Sins playmates for making this a whole lot of fun, both to read and to write. I have found some great short story writers who I will be keeping an eye on in the future.

I would like to give a big round of applause to Antimony, our play leader, and all the good folks who played the game.

I had a blast and read some great stories.

Thank you.

13 July 2011

#7sins microfic challenge

The seven sins challenge

I thought I'd finish up with something a little more light-hearted after six days of darkness. Thanks to Lady Antimony for coming up with the challenge. It's been a lot of fun. My poor, oft-neglected blog must be wondering what has hit it for the last seven days.


The sports car engine croons its song of supressed power and easy money as Gary cruises down the road with the top down. As people turn to look he takes a moment to nod and accept the accolades that come with the car, the assumption that he must be Somebody. 

A blonde girl in a short skirt waves as he passes and he stops, preening, to see if she would like a ride in the car. He is about to ask her name when her accomplice hits him from behind.

The girl blows him a kiss as they drive away in his car.

12 July 2011

#7sins microfic challenge

The seven sins challenge

I'm cheating today. This is more of an opener to something I might carry on with one day.

Beauty and the beast

I gulped my coffee and savoured the pain of the burn as Sasha batted her eyelids at the waiter and smiled her oh so perfect smile with her oh so perfect lips.

She turned the smile on me and murmured something inconsequential about the food before laughing the tinkling laugh that got her whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. Flight upgrades, free gifts, my boyfriends, anything.

She always did take her looks for granted, ever since we were friends in primary school. The beauty that shone even brighter because she stood next to the beast. She probably couldn’t even imagine a day where it might all be taken away from her and she’d be ugly like me. 

But that was okay.

I could wait.

11 July 2011

#7sins microfic challenge

The seven sins challenge

I really struggled with Sloth. In the end, I looked close to home for inspiration. Not that I want this to happen to the Old Git really. Well, only when he really annoys me.

Soon, I promise

Lilah has that look again, the one with narrowed eyes on me. "There's still water leaking downstairs whenever someone showers, you know."

"I'm going to fix it soon. Just keep the water off the walls until then."

She glares at me as she walks out.

* * *

Lilah puts a towel under the wet patch on the ceiling before she has her shower.

"Soon," I say before she can start on me.

"Yeah, yeah," she says wearily as she goes upstairs.

A creak makes me look up as I stir my tea in the kitchen. As the bath crashes through the rotten ceiling and hits me, the last thing I hear is Lilah's scream.

10 July 2011

#7sins microfic challenge

The seven sins challenge

Day 4, and time for someone that doesn't suffer a nasty end. I think I was most pleased with this one of the seven, not least because it actually came in under 100 words.


Matthew huddles in the darkness of the cupboard as the monster rages outside, shrieking his name as it hunts for him. A bottle breaks as it hits the floor. If Matthew had his way, he would break every bottle in the world before she could get to them. He just has to stay hidden until the drink is all gone and then his mother will cry and kiss him and promise that it will never happen again. The handle of the knife engraves itself into his palm as he prays that he will never have to use it against her.

09 July 2011

#7sins microfic challenge

The seven sins challenge

Day 3's microfic. Dear me, I am mean to my poor sinners, aren't I?

Investment Plan

The stacks of money make the rooms smell musty, their coating of dust an attack on the sinuses of the unwary. Samuel revels in the itch and the sneezes as he lives in the tunnels between the piles.

Another year and the case will be closed, and he can start spending. The paper will become property; solid and profitable and his. He will leave this collapsing hovel and buy an apartment by the beach in Spain.

He sweats in the sunshine of his dreams as the lights sputter and short and the stacks begin to burn.

08 July 2011

#7sins microfic challenge

The seven sins challenge

Today's seven sins microfic is brought to you by the letter G.

Eatslim3000TM will change your life

"It's a miracle," the salesman says as Susan writes out the cheque. "Truly negative food. The more you eat, the more weight you lose."

She goes home to gorge herself on Eatslim3000TM Pate and Eatslim3000TM Chocolate Cake, ready to look the way she has always wanted.

* * *

Susan looks in the mirror and traces reverent fingers over her protruding collar bones and the knobs of her hips. So close. Just another month.Maybe an upgrade to Eatslim3000TM Foie Gras and Eatslim3000TM Brie.

She totters to the motorised wheelchair she needs to get around now her leg muscles have wasted, and wonders if the salesman will deliver.

07 July 2011

#7sins microfic challenge

The seven sins challenge

I'm participating in Lady Antimony's seven deadly sins microfic challenge this week: seven sins, seven days, seven 100 word stories. Just do me a favour and don't count the words. Especially not for this one.

One Night Stand

I've been here too long already.

"Don't go," Luke says. "Please, you have to stay with me."

"I have to work." I pull my shirt on and stuff my ripped panties into my bag.

"I'll die if you leave me."

"Don't be so melodramatic." I let myself out and wonder how a one night stand turned into three days.

* * *

My skin feels too tight; my body hollow. I need something but I don't know what. I find myself in a bar, flirting with strangers, hungry for contact. I meet Ryan.

We fall into bed and the pain stops.  When he's inside me I feel alive, feel whole.

In the morning I try to stop him leaving. "Please stay. I need you."

Ryan looks at the floor. "Look, I like you, but..."

"I'll die if you leave me." My body is raging, burning me up from the inside out.

"I'm sorry, I have to go." Ryan closes the door behind him.

I call Luke to ask what he has done to me.

His phone is dead.