to the final issue of the year and what a fantastic year it has
been for IP!
We kicked off in 2004 by announcing the winners
and commendeds for the IP Picks Awards and now we celebrate the
release of their titles across four Australian states.
Wendy Evans has an amusing tale to tell about the launch of The
Diggings are Silent in WA. Murphy was certainly present at that
one! Things were a little smoother for Cate Kennedy at the launches
of Joyflight in her native Victoria, with successful events in
Benalla, Daylesford and Melbourne.
We preview the launches
coming up for Joel Deane, author of Another,
in Victoria and Sydney, and for Nora Krouk, author of Skin
for Comfort, in Sydney. David Reiter will also be launching
his own novel, Liars
and Lovers, in the
southern states. Read Out and About for
all the details.
Wendy Evans, Liam Ferney and Margaret Metz, author of Live
by the Bottle, share the spotlight in Focus.
Liam takes the prize for most surprising answer to an interview question,
I can’t recall
any other IP authors listing Paul Keating as an influence! Liam's
poetry title, Popular
Mechanics, Highly Commended in the 2003 Picks
Awards, was also launched in October at the Queensland Poetry Festival.
David tackles a thorny question in his editorial – are
there too many writers in Oz? Should they be issued with Provider
Numbers like doctors to keep up the demand for good writing? Make
up your own mind. Inspired by the upcoming Independent Publishers
Bookfair he’ll be attending at the NSW Writers’ Centre later
this month, he provides a feature on distribution that should be
reading for any author — publisher-assisted or otherwise.
I provide a brief review of the Queensland Poetry
featured a number of IP authors, including Liam, Cate and David,
who gave a live demo from his multimedia script, Paul and Vincent.
My own CD project, the Synaptic Graffiti
Collective: Slam the Body Politik was also launched at
the Festival with a bravo mix of multimedia and live performances.
Order forms can be
downloaded from the website.
This is not an IP title but our Director has generously allowed me
a plug in
this issue in lieu of our usual Bestlinks column.
IP Picks 2005 will be closing at the end of the month. Enquiries
are running thick and fast, so if you harbour ambitions of being
an IP author, hurry with your manuscript.
Finally, I want to remind everyone that Christmas is coming and
books and CDs do make fine gifts for friends and family, and anyone
interested in quality Australian writing. You can do your shopping
right now, hassle free, in our online shop.
don’t forget to check out the deals first.
We will see you in the New Year with all the results of IP Picks
2005. After the high calibre of this year’s crop, I can hardly
Sara Moss, Editor, IP eNews
the Director's Desk
we go to press with the final issue of eNews for this
year, I'm catching my breath from our most ambitious publishing
already launched The Diggings Are
Silent Now, a book and CD collaboration
between writer Wendy Evans and musician Alan Ferguson, out in
Western Australia, and I had a whirlwind tour of Victoria with
Cate Kennedy in support of her book Joyflight.
Mid-November will see us launching Nora Krouk’s Skin
for Comfort, Margaret
Metz’s Live by the Bottle and
Joel Deane’s Another in Sydney and Melbourne.
All of this would have been so much harder if it had not been
for the support of the dedicated team at IP. My thanks to Sara,
Morag and Sue for making it all happen.
The entries are already coming in for IP Picks 2005, which promises
to be our most successful competition yet, with strong interest
being registered in the new category of creative non-fiction
as well as the standing categories of poetry and fiction. I’m
looking forward to seeing what the judges come up with this year,
but the competitors will be hard-pressed to match the quality
of our winners from last year!
Sydneysiders will have several opportunities to catch the IP spirit
in November and stock up on presents for Christmas. On Wednesday,
be offering a workshop at the NSW Writers Centre on “Repurposing
Content: From Print to Multimedia”. On Thursday, Joel Deane
and I will launch our novels at Ariel Books, Paddington. Then,
weekend, I’ll be at the IP table during the Writers Centre
Annual Publishers Bookshow, with launches of Another, Liars and Lovers
and Nora Krouk’s Skin for Comfort during the Fair.
The following day, I fly to Melbourne for Joel s launch there, then
it’ll be back to Brisbane for me and the inevitable wind-down
Let me be one of the first to wish you and yours a happy
and safe festive season and a productive 2005, on behalf of the team
Dr David Reiter
Do We Need
Research sponsored by the Australia Council has revealed
that Australia has a glut of writers. In November
2003, OzCo published Don’t Give Up Your Day Job — An
economic study of professional artists in Australia by Professor
David Throsby and Virginia Hollister, which prompted follow-up
research that confirms what most people already know: we have
far more writers among us than we used to. More than triple the
number, in fact, than we had 20 years ago. The number of artists
in other disciplines has increased dramatically as well.
In some ways, this is good news. It suggests that we are becoming
a more literate and creative society. But is this true across the
board? If it were you would think there would be more readers and
purchasers of artwork out there. While the bank accounts of a few
artists of established reputation may be fatter today than 20 years
the title of the report foreshadows that increased supply in the
mid-list has not been matched by increased demand. The average artist
earns less than $7300/year from his or her creative work and less
than $30,000 from all employment, i.e. his or her day job.
It gets worse. A third
of artists earn less than the minimum wage from that day job. Which
means that few lawyers and doctors are scribbling away on the side.
Many artists have to settle for casual positions outside the award
system because they have limited skills outside their artform.
Writers, as a group, are even worse off. Half of all writers earn
less than $4000 from their writing and 25% live below the poverty
line. Interestingly, the Australia Council provides less money to
writers on average than other practitioners — take note OzCo! The
only bright note here is that writers do tend to earn more than artists
in other art forms from their day jobs and are second only to musicians
in their average total income of $35,000.
A social researcher more cynical than Throsby and Hollister might
put the blame squarely on the universities for encouraging this over-supply
of creative but otherwise unemployable types. The oversupply of artists
is growing by 2-3% per year, but universities show no
the number of students admitted into creative arts courses. There
are now 50,000 students in these programs — a growing.
Perhaps we need a professional organisation like
the AMA to put the brakes on the supply of artists to make the professional
more marketable. Or, if students still insist on queuing up for writing
programs, perhaps the Government could institute an AAL (Australian
Artist’s Licence) whereby the number of graduates allowed to
compete for income from arts-related activities could be strictly
regulated, especially in population centres of more than 100,000
I think Brendan Nelson, Minister for Education, has a point in suggesting
that we need to reduce duplication in some universities and increase
specialisation in others. It seems that every backwater university
these days sees creative writing
courses as a money spinner, and who can blame them for putting on
the undergraduate courses in lieu of bake sales and car washes to
balance their budget. But do we really need all these PhDs in Creative
Writing diluting the opportunities for writers as a profession?
The day may soon come when admission to the slushpile for major publishers
will require a certified copy (no photocopies, please) of your PhD,
as well as a reference from a certified agent.
Perhaps it’s high time that universities stopped the “cut-and-run” approach
to curriculum by ensuring that their arts graduates achieve more
adequate career skills during their programs of study, allowing the
day jobs that they will inevitably come to rely on for their survival
to be more rewarding and meaningful.
That would certainly provide more fodder for those university newsletters
extolling the successes of their graduates.
[In this issue, our Assistant Editor
Sue Nelson focused on three new IP authors: Wendy Evans, Liam Ferney
and Margaret Metz.]
[Wendy’s worked in a wide variety of occupations, not many
of which involved writing. But doubtlessly her many years as a journalist
came in handy in the writing of her collection, which was Highly Commended
in the IP Picks 2004 competition.]
SN: Tell us about the title story, “The Diggings
WE: It was written 25 years ago when
I wrote the song “Clare”, for the Settlers 150th Anniversary
album, Bound for West
Australia, which went gold as a CD. I later collaborated with Alan
Ferguson after I wrote the story behind the song, the opening lines
of which are The Diggings Are Silent. At his suggestion I added more lyrics, Alan set them to
music, and the stage performance was born. In 1984, at the WA
Folk Federation Festival, many in the audience
left the marquee in tears, declaring this one of the most beautiful
Australian stories ever written. Then Alan
joined forces with producer Ron Sims to make a CD of “The Diggings”.
Last year I assembled a collection of short stories, some old, some
new, to augment the title story.
SN: How much of your characters, especially your more eccentric
characters, are drawn from real life or personal observation?
WE: I’ve had a neighbour with the same banking habits
of Mr Prentice in “Backyard Bliss”; like the boy in “The Hole
wasted many hours at school stuffing blotting paper in cavity-pocked
desks; and, just as David, in “Hold Me, Touch Me”, faces
blindness, so do I, for I have cataracts and am losing vision although,
this is temporary.
I’m a senior citizen. I’ve worked as chambermaid, cook,
forester, teacher, university tutor, garbage collector, lavatory
cleaner, artist, theatrical promoter, spin doctor, DJ, geologist,
vending-machine attendant for naked women, map-maker, strippers’ chaperone,
coffee-shop manager, public speaker and a political guru.
I’ve had four children including an electrician who’s
gone through a messy divorce and is now into crystal gazing, a miner,
a chef and a computer geek. I’ve been married to an RAF officer
who is also a geologist, a garden-bag contractor and a financial
planner — he is about to retire and drive me even nuttier than I
am already. I use what I know, places I’ve lived in and things
I have experienced as springboards for my imagination, backing up
fiction with careful research. I’ve only scratched the surface
of creative possibilities!
SN: Do you find it difficult to segregate
your writing and your real life experiences?
WE: No. I enjoy stepping into other worlds and getting into
the skins of fictional people. It’s sometimes a jolt to step back into
the humdrum of reality – and I do wish my husband wouldn’t
bring me coffee while I’m halfway through writing a torrid
SN: When did you start writing?
WE: In the Dark Ages! Stories for my young sisters, plays
that we performed in the garage, more serious work when I took scholarship
and Art at high school. Whenever I could afford it, I’d rush
to London for the weekend to visit art galleries and catch matinees,
first and second houses of as many West End productions as possible,
always shilling seats in the Gods.
I went to the University of Wales to do a major in English but changed
faculties and studied Geology and Geography instead! However, I spent
much of my time writing sketches for drama society and satire for
Rag Magazine, as editor, while drawing caricatures of lecturers and
writing rude poems about fossils!
My main creative energy was spent on stage as a singer and comedienne
or in painting in oils. Then I became an English teacher. Crazy old
world, isn’t it?
I started writing drama for children and a children’s book,
but my main focus was painting until we came to Australia, where
we settled for 14 years in a remote mining town with no television.
I worked as a geologist, and immediately started an art group and
a drama society, got involved in folk music and a local history society
and began winning awards for short stories and started a major novel
about early days in the Pilbara.
I became a journalist in the mid-70s and wrote a humorous column
for many years, but did not start serious creative writing until
1999, when I left newspapers and took part time work in public relations.
SN: How many genres have you written in?
WE: Historical sagas, contemporary suspense/thrillers,
science fiction, bush ballads and serious poetry and lyrics, satire
and humour, sketches
and one-act plays, across the entire spectrum in short stories and
I have an operatic libretto in progress. You can also include journalism,
both hard news and major features on environmental issues.
SN: How did you feel after completing The Diggings Are Silent?
WE: Like writing another. Short stories are a sheer delight
because they offer such variety. Selecting those for inclusion was
I’ve since rewritten several and created a whole swag of new
Completing a novel is different. It’s intense and, from conception
to the end of the first draft, I take only four weeks for research
and writing. I’m oblivious of time and place until the final
sentence. It’s like giving birth to an elephant. It’s
the polishing that takes the time, the patience, and the critical
SN: Any messages that you hope come through your book?
WE: Not really….In general, I’d like to convey that compassion
is better than intolerance, that love is better than hatred, that
humour can be found in the most unexpected happenings and that it’s
bloody good to be an Australian.
SN: What is the main impression you want to leave the reader
[A rising star on the Brisbane poetry scene, as well as Poetry
Editor for Cordite Magazine,
Liam was High Commended in IP Picks 2003. His book, Popular
was included in the Brisbane Writers Festival and launched at the
Queensland Poetry Festival.]
SN: When did you start writing (a) in
general and (b) this particular book?
LF: I wrote a sequel to Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh at 9, then
I started writing poetry at 13. I began performing at fringe festivals
at 14. The earliest poems in Popular Mechanics were written when
I was 18.
SN: What are your writing influences?
LF: Nick Cave, cricket, westerns,
John Forbes, Mandelstham, Tom Carew, John Keats, Arthur Rimbaud,
Jack Kerouac, Raymond Carver, Frank
O’Hara, Rene Magritte, Marcel Duchamp, Jackson Pollock, Arthur
Streeton, Katrina Olley, Banjo Patterson, Sam Peckinpah, coffee,
sunsets, rivers, Jim Carroll, Basquit, Joe Sacco, injustice, antiauthoritarianism,
Black September, r.e.m., pavement, Leonard Cohen, On the Waterfront,
Alfred Hitchcock, Wes Anderson, Brett Dionysius, Alan Wearne, Martin
Duwell, Paul Keating, Winston Churchill
SN: How many genres have you written in?
LF: Short stories, short films and poems. Also press releases, annual
reports, company announcements, council reports, company research,
DVD slicks, advertising copy, radio ads, scripts, taglines, catch
phrases and bollox.
SN: What are your other professional activities and interests?
LF: I work as PR and Communications Coordinator with Magna Pacific.
We’re a DVD distributor who do a mixture of arthouse, b-grade,
children’s, classic and documentaries. It’s a small
public company so it can be quite hectic. I’m also Poetry
Editor with Cordite and am an Associate Editor with papertiger.
SN: How much of the book is imagination and how much is based on personal
observation or experience?
LF: I think my imagination is filtered through refracted observation.
I write about things that have happened, that haven’t, that
might happen or might not.
SN: Are there any strong social or political messages that you hope
come through your book?
LF: I believe in the liberation of Palestine. I believe in goodness
and justice and right, however tenuously they may be constructed.
I believe we need to strive to be better. To be kinder. To be gentler.
To be slower.
SN: What is the main impression you want to leave the reader with?
LF: I want the reader to feel like they’re looking at a bottle
dropped over the side of a ship and into the ocean.
SN: How do you draw inspiration for your characters?
LF: Newspapers, anecdotes, characters in other
books, people in films, strangers, music.
SN: What do you consider to be the strengths of your book?
LF: I think my work is an enlightening rumination on contemporary
economics, ethics and aesthetics. It is funny and sombre. Classical
It is a work torn between its love and hate of the world.
SN: How did you feel when your book was accepted for publication?
[Margaret works as a writing consultant
for environmental clients on the New South Wales Central Coast near
SN: What prompted you to write the book?
started writing Live by the Bottle as the major project for my Master
of Arts – Writing degree at the University of Western Sydney.
Over the years I had become concerned about the status of women in
our society and particularly those in gaol because women in gaol
suffer from the worst kind of discrimination.
Often they are there because of crimes against themselves to do with
drugs or prostitution and about 85% of them have histories of child
sexual abuse. Because of the relatively small population of women
in gaol they don't get the same kind of services or conditions that
men do and then when they come out there is a great social stigma.
It is relatively rare for women to commit crimes of violence. In
the great majority of cases of this type women are the victims of
repeated domestic assault.
I wrote a children’s information book
on police services around Australia last year and as part of that
project I interviewed three local constables at the Brisbane Water
Area Command based in Gosford on the Central Coast where I live.
Unofficially, they told me that in a week, which for them is four
twelve-hour days, they would have about 20 cases of domestic violence.
They also told me unofficially that the Central Coast had the worst
domestic violence statistics of anywhere in the state. It is therefore
no coincidence that Live by the Bottle is set on the NSW
Central Coast. It’s not named as such, but the geography is
there. The Koala Bay of the book, the “insular suburban idyll” as
Sue Booker has called it in her review, is an hour and a half’s drive
of Sydney, placing it right smack bang in the middle of this invisible
map of domestic violence.
SN: How close is the
theme of this book to personal experiences?
MM: It’s based on a year or so of my life,
although, because I wanted to make Madeline a murderer I had to push
everything, every negative emotion that I felt in my own life and
every out-of-control action, to its absolute extreme; so the emotions
in the book are mine but they became Madeline’s and I wrote
as Madeline as time went on. In fact, I wrote as Madeline for years.
It took me about three years to write the book and during that whole
time I would see things as her, and sometimes as another character
I created called Victoria Wild, and hardly ever as myself.
SN: How would you describe the novel?
MM: I started with the idea of domestic violence
and the unequal treatment of women in gaol and by the law and ended
up with something
was quite a hybrid text originally.
It’s not a detective story, although it’s got some cops
in it at the beginning and the end and they do tell part of the story.
I call it a “murder story” although strictly speaking
that’s not true either because Madeline pleaded guilty to manslaughter,
and for it to be murder the Crown has to prove “intent.” The
easiest way to describe it is as a “murder story that has elements
of true crime in it.”
SN: When did you start writing?
MM: I started writing in about 1984, just after
I was diagnosed with “RSI” — repetitive strain
injury — and had to stop work as a court reporter. In those
days in New South Wales the court reporting branch was extremely
short-staffed. Because I travelled around the countryside a lot with
the District Court I was often the only reporter in a court, and
had to write shorthand at high speed all day. In those days the District
Court lists were so long that the judges often sat from nine o’clock
in the morning until six o’clock at night.
Because of the RSI I had to wear a resting splint for about three
years and then eventually change careers completely. The whole experience
was very painful, both physically and emotionally, and I guess I
started writing a journal as therapy really, in small bursts at first
and then in longer pieces as the pain slowly got better.
In 1987 I wrote my first piece of fiction, “Just like the Hydro
Majestic Only Different,” which I took to a residential short
story writing workshop with Gwen Kelly, who was the first person
to tell me that I could write. “I mean really write,” she
said during that workshop. I also wrote a full-length play and various
performance pieces while I was at university doing a BA. I found
I had a flair for directing as well, and ended up topping my first
year of theatre studies. At one stage I had thoughts of going into
directing as a second career, but thought it was such a hard and
competitive business that I would never make it, especially as an
older person by then and someone with a disability.
I decided then that fiction was going to be easier to get into. Little
did I know that it would take me another 17 years before my first
book, Live by the Bottle, was published.
SN: How did you feel when your book was accepted
MM: Relieved. Proud of my achievement. Ready to
get it out there and to get on with the next one.
SN: What are your writing influences?
MM: I’m obviously very influenced by my court
and I just loved doing the research with the various police and legal
people who helped me flesh out parts of the “case.” It
was very exciting, like stepping into my own novel.
My police informant, Commander Terry Baker, thought a real-life Madeline
would get 12 years and my legal friend, John Foord, SC who incidentally
used to be my favourite judge when I was a court reporter, thought
he could get her off completely if the matter had gone to trial.
I’m also influenced very much by the news and social issues
and of course by my own experiences of the world. I like popular
culture, television and classical music.
SN: How many genres have you written in?
MM: Novel, short story, play, poetry, a kind of
libretto for a collaborative performance piece with Romano Crivici
from Elektra String Quartet
on electric violin, non-fiction, children’s information books,
ghost-writing an autobiography and then professional writing (business
writing, advertising copywriting, public relations and promotional
writing and journalism for magazines, newsletters and websites).
Because I know from experience now that writing a book takes up so
much energy and time, I’m very careful what I choose to spend
my energy on. These days I’ll spend longer assessing an idea
for a book – or even a short story or a poem, because they
all take such a long time to do – instead of just plunging
in like I used to.
These days too I’m much more likely to consider the idea while
I’m literally plunging in – to the sea. Particularly
on a Friday afternoon I just love diving under those waves and thinking
about things. I’m finding too that my work is becoming a lot
more creative and that I’m able to have ideas and make them
happen in a way I couldn’t do when I was younger.
SN: Are there any strong social or political messages
that you hope come through Live by the Bottle?
MM: There is a strong message there about alcoholism
and what it does to people, but all I’ve done is to tell a
story. It’s not my job to preach or give messages to people.
I can only tell it like it is. I do feel that not enough is done
for people in alcoholic or violent relationships and I don’t
personally know what the answer is. Most people don’t want
to get involved, and more often than not they turn a blind eye.
SN: What is the main impression you want to leave
the reader of Live by the Bottle with?
MM: That addictive behaviour is dangerous, that
leaving people with problems alone and isolated can make it worse,
that society needs to deal
differently with people who are under pressure, depressed, or in
a low state for any other reason. I don’t know what “differently” means
but currently there’s only really the religious model or the
psychiatric/psychological model to deal with the problem of alcoholism
and all that it entails, when it’s really a whole-of-society
issue. Like I said before, I don’t know what the answer is.
I’ve only told a little bit of my own experience and how it’s
affected my life and then pushed it to its utmost extreme in a fictional
Our national writing competition
for unpublished manuscripts closes on 30 November (post-mark deadline,
The email and postal enquiries are running hot on Picks, so
we’re expecting a bumper-crop of submissions in the three categories
of Best Unpublished Poetry, Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction.
The winners are guaranteed royalty publication with one of our imprints,
and more often than not we offer publication to some of the Commended
All entrants receive their choice of a free IP title as a part of the
Remember that all submissions must be accompanied by the Picks entry
form, which you can get from us instantaneously (or nearly so).
We announce the winners by the end of January in the first issue of
eNews for 2005 and also send out a press release to the media and to
the State Writers Centres for distribution as they see fit.
“Self-publishing” is now
within the reach of most people who have a decent computer, a sound
editorial instinct, a decently padded wallet, and, oh yes, a marketable…product.
The term product itself suggests compromise, meeting the marketplace.
But this is what you will need to do if you have a hope of recouping
some of your investment, or, more happily, even making a profit.
Everyone knows that it’s not enough to write a brilliant work
and then let the world beat a pathway to your in-tray with piles
of orders. You’re up against an industry of competitors, especially
established authors attached to mainstream publishers with battalions
of publicists nurturing contact lists of media types who interview
and otherwise promote marketable commodities to the hilt. That’s
where the five-figure sales come in.
This is not to say that an unknown author who self-publishes a work
that is right for the times will not succeed — so long as people
have a way of hearing about the work amidst all the noise about the
hundreds and thousands of titles clamouring for their attention.
We all cling to the scenario: the modest first print run sells out
and the editor of a mainstream house happens to pick it up in Dymocks
and rings you on her mobile to beg you to sign with her for the next
edition, with the enticement of a fat advance.
But it doesn’t happen often; certainly not often enough to
make it Plan A for your book.
More likely, you’ll have to get your hands dirty with distribution
just to free up some space in the shed or garage, while dreaming
of that editor with enough time on her hands to be scouting the spines
Let me suggest an opening game plan for you, one followed by many
independent publishers — at least the ones who keep a watchful
eye on their warehouse space when they publish new titles. You can
pick and choose between the key elements, depending on your time
and psychological readiness to engage with the activities they entail.
The more of them you meet head-on, the better your chances of success
with that initial print run.
The launch. To which you invite everyone in your address book — and
then some. There are several good reasons for having a launch, and
gaining a fighting fund for later activities in support of the book
is only one. It’s a tremendous psychological boost, especially
for authors doubting their sanity in taking the plunge in the first
Your friends and associates will know better than to use the
occasion as an opportunity to point out the missing full-stop on
page 59, or the inconsistency in gender of your main character. Lubricated
with your champers they will celebrate the occasion with gusto, motivating
you to charge into the next phase.
Getting coverage in the media. Did you forget to invite them to the
launch? No matter, they seldom turn up unless absolutely nothing
else is on. However, space-allowing, they may provide you with free
coverage of sorts. Generally speaking, the closer to home the media
are (local radio station, local tabloid) the better your chances
are of landing some attention. But don’t depend on them to
get it right: write your own feature and offer it to them as a “backgrounder” — you’d
be amazed at how often these are inserted in whole or in part. And
at least they get the name of your book right!
Advertisements. Generally, these are a waste of money. But, if you
must, go for inserts in writers’ newsletters, which will help
get out the word for anyone who missed the launch.
Websites. What was that URL again?
The reviewers. As a independent publisher I know how important obtaining
good reviews — any reviews — is for the morale of an
author. Every time we get a decent review in ABR or The Australian
the optimism around here is palpable. I wish I could say that it
makes a big difference in sales, but generally there’s hardly
a blip on the Richter Scale. A solid feature in a major paper or
an interview on prominent radio station always delivers more of a
Booksellers. Start local, then go global. Sadly, most individuals
don’t get much further than their neighbourhood. Booksellers
prefer to deal with businesses that understand the niceties of Tax
Invoices. They also prefer to deal with titles that will sell by
the boxful rather than the handful. They will want details about
how the title is being promoted, so bring your media releases and
Bookshops will usually take your title on consignment,
which in reality means they give you shelf space for as long as you
like until the title sells out or you get tired of waiting for it
to sell. Publishers like IP, with our added muscle, generally manage
to get a sale-or-return deal, where the bookseller has the responsibility
to put some cash on the table within a reasonable amount of time.
Once they’ve paid, they have the option, again within a reasonable
amount of time, to ask for permission to return the unsold stock
for a credit.
Libraries. This is an increasingly difficult market, even for independent
publishers. Some libraries will only deal with major suppliers like
James Bennett, who offer them discounts and provide the new titles “shelf-ready”,
i.e. no need for the time-strapped librarian to catalogue and barcode
the title. The library systems in Australia are variable as the railway
tracks used to be: some libraries purchase on their own; others congregate
into regions, with a central purchasing authority; still others contract
out purchasing to a library supplier, or in the case of WA, SA or
Tasmania, they defer to a State purchasing authority. Unless you
live in one of those States, your chances of even talking to those
authorities is slim.
If there’s a lesson in all this for the self-publisher it’s
have a clear idea of what’s possible and what’s not.
You can certainly organise your own launch and, if you have a journalistic
bent, write at least some of your own promotional material. Put your
faith in events where you are a featured reader, rather than one
in a hundred competing for attention in the book tent. Ferret out
book clubs who might buy several copies of your book and share some
wine and cheese with you to discuss it.
Don’t set yourself up to be discouraged. If you want access
to the wider community of booksellers and libraries, call in the
experts. Send potential distributors a free copy of your book and
ask them if they’d like to take it on. Some will offer to buy
copies at 35% of RRP. What? You’ve done the math and found
that this would mean a loss for you on each copy sold? I guess you
got the cover price wrong, but that’s another story!
[We begin at the beginning,
with the launch of our Spring Season 2004 in Fremantle, but with
view of Wendy Evans on her launch at Fremantle Hospital, which
turned out to be something less than the well-greased event she
had in mind!]
YOU’VE GOT TO LAUGH
The best laid plans etc...yes, there IS something to be
said for cliches. I said a few of them myself when forces beyond our control
threw the carefully scripted launch of The
Diggings Are Silent and its companion CD into chaos.
The sound system, which had been
working fine at 3.30pm, on Friday, October 1, threw a hissy-fit
by 6.30pm. It refused to play the CD at anything beyond a rat’s
whisper. And, of course, it was a long weekend in Western Australia
and the man who knew about the controls for the hospital lecture
theatre was long gone.
Luckily we had brought a portable CD player and an extension lead.
It gave us sound of sorts, though that was in doubt when my husband
tripped over the lead and sent the brand new machine crashing to
the ground from the podium. Sticking the assorted fragments together,
he obtained some amplification by holding the ghetto blaster close
to the microphone on the lectern.
It was all too much for the wee gadget, which came out in sympathy
at odd times thereafter.
The next disaster was a misunderstanding about controlling the
house lights; a click on the wrong touch pad plunged the celebrity,
Anna Jacobs, into total darkness, bar a tiny reading light above
the lectern. She proceeded to launch the book, nevertheless, and
was gracious enough to laugh at the incident.
The readings went fine and Rusty Christensen, boss cocky of the
WA Bush Poets and Yarnspinners, gave a fine rendition in the style
that has won him national recognition.
Everyone was very forgiving and had a great time, but the musician
and his wife were in despair. It’s understandable. It didn’t
do a very fine musical narration justice.
David Reiter was kind enough to say it was the worst launch he’d
Ah, well, that’s what comes of associating with a bulldust
artist! Funnily, though, after feeling utterly mortified, I now
feel a short story coming on! At least my knicker elastic did not
give way at a crucial point! But what if...?
It’s every author’s nightmare:
the microphone that doesn’t work, tripping up the steps to
the podium, forgetting her cue cards in the taxi... Not all of those
happened to Wendy and Alan at Fremantle Hospital – but certainly
enough to make for a few laughs, after the event was over.
Actually the crowd was quite patient through the comedy, almost as
if they weren’t certain if Wendy and Alan had scripted it from
the beginning, but we got through it – just – and Alan
resisted the temptation to stand up and sing when the ghetto blaster
finally spat the dummy!
I’d come out to WA several days before that, to meet with the
State Library about getting more IP titles out there, and to be a
guest speaker at events hosted by the Society of Women Authors, FAW
WA and the Katharine Susannah Pritchard Writers’ Centre. We
managed to get in a day or two of recreation, during which I considered
the possibilities of setting up a branch office at Dunsborough on
the south coast, which must have one of the best beaches in Oz – and
that’s saying something!
I’m pleased to report that my speaking engagements sparked
considerable interest in our far-flung State for what IP is doing,
and I’m confident that we’ll be hearing much more from
our cousins out there from now on.
It’s not every day that I take
the train – aside from the occasional sortie from the Studio
into the Brisbane CBD. This was scheduled to be a leisurely two-hour
trip from Melbourne to Benalla, which took an extra hour due to delays
that must be fairly common. For example, at one point our train had
to pause to wait for the southbound train to pass because the track
at that point was only a single-line. As it turned out, I had plenty
of time to get caught up on work on the laptop and to solve a murder
mystery on the side – but it was relaxing, and we’d built
in plenty of time till Cate’s first event.
It was in the Rambling Rose Café, a nicely renovated place
in the centre of town, and a friendly crowd had gathered. It was
a good place for a ‘dry run’, although Cate is very experienced
at public readings, having done an extensive tour for her first book, Signs of Other Fires,
which was Highly Commended in the Victorian Premier’s Awards.
She came off as a seasoned performer, and the audience went away
with armfuls of Joyflight.
Cate is as skilled in promoting her books as in writing them. At
the Rambling Rose, several people who bought more than one
copy of Joyflight received a free bottle of premium red
wine with a commemorative label of the event. I almost bought two
The next event was less of a sure thing – the Melbourne launch
at the Victorian Writers Centre. Given all the distractions in the
Big Smoke, would people turn out for yet another poetry event? They
did, and the place was overflowing.
It seems that Cate has contacts all over Victoria, and having lived
in a number of places does have its advantages when you have a book
to promote. She lived for some years in Daylesford, which has become
quite the place to go for a weekend if you want to escape Melbourne.
I drove up there on my own to meet her for an afternoon event at
the old court house, which was an excellent venue, although Cate
was torn as to whether she should read from where the judges used
to preside, or a witness box. At length, she decided it was best
to be on the same level as her audience.
We had a good time in all three places, and Joyflight was well and
truly launched. Cate has earned and deserves a wide audience for
her work, and I hope you will agree.
Merle Thornton continues to be a publisher’s
dream as ambassador for her book, After
Moonlight. Of course, her
profile as a leading light in the Women’s Movement opens a
few extra doors!
In October alone, she was a featured panelist at the Brisbane Writers
Festival and guest speaker at the annual Janet Irwin Dinner held
at Parliament House here in Brisbane. I wish I could tell you more
about the latter, but the event is for women only! She assures me
it went very well.
Just recently, she returned to Brisbane as a guest of the Women’s
Legal Services, Qld conference at the Hilton, where IP did have a
display of Merle’s
book and other recent releases. If the tempo of book sales and signings
afterwards is any indication, she made quite a hit.
An event at the UQ Bookshop is expected in the new year, which will
be kind of a homecoming for Merle, who taught there for many years,
after setting up the first women’s studies program in Australia.
< title>IP eNews </title>
On the home stretch to the festive season,
I will driving to Sydney in mid-November, hoping to renew acquaintances
with a few regional
libraries on the way there and back. (One disadvantage of cheap airfares
and high petrol prices is that it’s tempting to fly rather
than drive!) But the New South Wales Writers Centre Annual Publishers’ Book
Fair beckons (20-21 Nov), and it’s easier to pile boxes in
the back of the faithful stead than arrange shipping to and fro.
We’ll have a table at the Book Fair, of course, and I invite
Sydneysiders to come out to Rozelle and say hello and have a browse
of our new Season list. We’ll have a double launch of Joel
Deane’s Another and my novel Liars
and Lovers on Saturday at
1 p.m., as well as the launch of Nora Krouk’s Skin for Comfort,
which will be the final event at 5 p.m. on the Sunday.
Joel and I will also appear at Ariel Books, 42 Oxford Street, Paddington,
for the official Sydney launch of our books on Thursday the 18th
from 6 p.m., with readings, signings and refreshments. All welcome,
but please RSVP the bookshop on 02 9332 4581 or by email.
Continuing in reverse order, I will have a special session at the
Writers Centre on Wednesday evening the 17th from 6 p.m. entitled “Repurposing
Content: From Print to Multimedia”. I’ll talk about how
I began with narrative poetry on the relationship between the painters
Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh, was then commissioned to adapt
the poetry into a radio play by the ABC for broadcast on Radio National,
then collaborated with 4MBS Classic-FM in Brisbane to adapt the work
into a live multimedia theatre script for performance, and then finally
produced the work as a multimedia CD, Paul
and Vincent, which I will
present to the group as a highlight of the session at the Centre.
The script continues to have legs:
there’s talk of a longer theatrical season at the Metro Arts
Theatre in Brisbane next year, and Janelle Evans, who directed the
4MBS production has applied for
development money from the Cannes Film Festival to make it into a
film. Watch this space!
The evening promises to be a chance for writers to talk about the
ways and means of breaking out into more collaborative ventures. So
RSVP the Centre for Wednesday, and have your say.
feel left out because Monday, 22 November will be the Melbourne
launch of Joel’s book at the Aura Lounge, 12 Bourke Street
from 6 p.m.
Given Joel’s position as
chief speechwriter for Premier Bracks, there should be an interesting
mix of politicians, journalists and maybe even a few writers in
Bookings are essential, so please get in those RSVPs straight
away, or you might have to join the media scrum outside!
It has become something of an eNews tradition
for me to provide a review of the local poetry festival. This year,
under the directorship
of Graham Nunn, the Queensland Poetry Festival, Spoken in One Strange
Word, moved very clearly in the direction of providing entertainment
there was ample space on the program for the usual literary book launches
and some readings by established authors, the emphasis was very much
on poetry in performance and the blending of poetry with other artforms
including music, dance, visual art and multimedia. As such, I thought
it was one of the most enjoyable festivals of recent years.
There were two defining features of QPF 2004 for me: The first, a celebration
of poetry and music which included an appearance by headline act Elixir
and one of the “stars” of the festival Steve Kilbey (from
popular Australian band, the Church); the second was the prolific use
of multimedia and the blending of poetry with other artforms. Poets
are clearly embracing the not-so-new technologies to extend the reach
of their work and define new poetries in a public space.
I’m really proud to be part of this movement and to have launched
the Synaptic Graffiti Collective: Slam the Body
Politik CDROM at this
year’s festival. (I introduced this project in a previous issue
We were in very good company, sharing our session with Rosanna Licari
whose performance featured visual projections by Marika Sosnowski
and the music of Kenny Floydd. The engaging nature of Rosanna’s
work saved me from my usually overwhelming pre-performance anxiety,
which prevented me from attending the preceding session in which David
demonstrated his own multimedia work, Paul
and Vincent, to an enthusiastic
The final “cabaret” of the Festival provided some highlights,
including performances by local hip-hop act Julez and a very funny
from Melbourne poet, Ed Burger. I have to say, it was a relief to actually
laugh on Sunday night after the disastrous federal election result.
I will not make any apologies for bias, this is my column!
I think the committee this year did a great job of putting together
a program that was varied and inclusive. They also learned the lessons
of previous years, programming space between sessions for festival
goers to catch their breath, grab a bite to eat or just socialise.
Despite this, it seems the words poetry and “crowd” just
won’t go together. It leaves me wondering if this will always
be the case regardless of what committees do to attract audiences or
is it an issue of promotional budgets? In so many areas of the arts,
including independent publishing, we work for nothing or next to nothing
and the question of the “public appeal” of our work leads
to an inevitable Catch 22. Of course, I am basing my observations only
on the sessions I attended during the day on Saturday and Sunday.
Finally, even with all the music and spectacle, poetry ultimately comes
back to the words and my pick for the wordsmith of this year’s
festival is IP author Cate Kennedy. I think we are seeing some exciting
developments but there will always be a place for the pure unadorned
words and the quiet act of listening. This festival proved there is
room for everyone’s perception of what constitutes “poetry”.
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