I have to come clean — I am no domestic goddess. There are days when I get caught up in the consumer frenzy: I succumb to over-packaged frivolities in the supermarket aisles; I call for takeaway because I can’t bear cooking dinner; and I rack up a new pair of shoes on a credit card that is already steaming at the edges. Tragically, I also suffer from ‘Singerphobia’: an extreme aversion to sewing machines.

But I know that I am at my best on the days when I slow things down a notch, bake a batch of biscuits with the kids, plant out some herb seeds, or recycle an empty wine bottle to hold a trail of jasmine from the garden.

Simplicity solves a whole lot of things. It is the answer to your time-management problems: do less, learn to say no. Choose, select, cut back. It’s the solution to your financial crisis: spend less, try doing without or re-using. It solves your storage dilemmas: instead of stuffing your cupboards full of more stuff or buying new cupboards (or a new house), explore the option of simply having less stuff. Want to lose weight? Simplify your diet. Eat more fresh foods and less processed products. As Paul Arnott suggests in his book Live the Moment, ‘the only way to live simpler lives is to want less’.

If the idea of creating an organised home, a happy family and a life worth living appeals to you, please check out my new book with Antonia Kidman: The Simple Things. It’s out now and available from all good book retailers, both bricks and mortar and online.

Go to Booktopia

Go to Dymocks

We all blog for different reasons.

For some, it’s an outlet. For others, it’s about making an income. And for another group, it’s about catching the eye of a publisher. Hopefully.

But are book publishers looking at your blog?

We’ve all heard about the Blog To Book success stories. Gretchen RubinJulie Powell (Julie & Julia), and others. But how likely is it? Are publishers even reading your blog?

The lovely and clever Allison Tait invited me to join a panel of publishers for a Q&A session on that very subject, as a guest post for Styling You with Nikki Parkinson. Read the full story here.

This is a third extract from my new ebook, Get Published. This one is towards the end of the book, looking at the big picture of being a published author.

Are you winning the war?

Kelly Gottuso Mortimer from Mortimer Literary Agency has this advice for writers. ‘Don’t concentrate on winning the battle (getting published); concentrate on winning the war (staying published – having a career as a writer!).’ Publishers and readers love writers who keep on delivering, who follow up one fantastic book with another, then another. Foundry Literary + Media’s Molly Glick says, ‘we’re always in search of “the one” – the author we can break out big, and grow from book to book.’

If you truly feel you have only one book in you, I suggest you think hard about whether the traditional publishing path is for you. Maybe you should publish your one book independently and bask in the glow of having achieved that one thing under your own steam, rather than seeking a relationship with an agent and a publisher and a readership that will end with this one book.

Just click on one of the links below to get the full story by buying a copy of Get Published for only $4.99.

Amazon Kindle

Gumroad (both Kindle and EPUB versions)

Today’s extract from Get Published is from around the middle of the book. This answers the question I get asked most often by aspiring authors: what do publishers really want from authors?

What publishers really want (apart from a proposal)

Believe me, I WANT to love every submission I read. But the bitter truth is that I despair. I read the submissions and I see novelists who could turn out to be great but who will be rejected by me – and probably everyone else – because they were impatient. I read other submissions that are truly awful. I read a lot that are just tepid.

So what do publishers really want?

•          More: More humour, more tears, more emotion, more sensuality, MORE OF EVERYTHING!

•          A professional submission: Don’t send it in until it’s ready to be sent. Check the spelling. No, the editor will not fix it for you. If your manuscript isn’t ‘clean’, you won’t get that far.

•          Something that’s great to read: By the same token, quit worrying about your font and your margin spacing. Is your manuscript compelling and remarkable to read? Is there magic on the page?

•          No follow-up calls a week after posting: Sometimes mail doesn’t get opened right away. Most publishers and literary agents get 2 metres of mail a week. It might take 3-6 months for them to get round to you. After that, you might politely ask if they’ve received it and how far your manuscript is from the top of the pile.

•          Courtesy: It is really attractive when writers are polite in their communication with my company. This is perhaps particularly true in the case of literary agents. Agents are like talent scouts: they are auditioning writers to find the right match for a role/publisher. Publishing culture doesn’t readily embrace prima donnas. If you are hostile with an agent or publisher from the get-go, alarm bells will ring for them. They will think that this is going to be hard work and they have to decide whether it’s worth it. You have to be an awfully good writer for them to decide it is. Writers who are pleasant to deal with, efficient and professional can often go further simply because agents and publishers like working with them, and they know they will deliver the goods.

 

Just click on one of the links below to get the full story by buying a copy of Get Published for only $4.99.

Amazon Kindle

Gumroad (both Kindle and EPUB versions)

In the spirit of ‘try before you buy’, I’m going to be posting some snippets from my new ebook, Get Published, here over the next few days.

Decision-making isn’t my strong suit, so it was hard to choose the best extracts. So I’ve picked one from the beginning, one from the middle, and one from the end. That seemed fair.

Today’s snippet comes from the beginning of chapter 1, so you can see where I’m heading.

The baboon principle: why you need to write a book proposal

The publishing world is a lot like a tribe of baboons. We’re all looking for attention, to get a mate, to ensure our future, our immortality. So we’re all flashing our bums at each other, and the baboon with the biggest, brightest bottom wins the prize.

That’s what book proposals are all about: an industry-wide bum-flashing competition. The authors are looking to catch a publisher’s attention, and the world-weary publishers have seen too many bums in their lives but they’re hoping that a real standout one will come their way.

Every baboon has to follow the rules, though. Rule number one is to check a publisher’s (or literary agent’s) submission guidelines before you send anything to them. That information is readily available on most publishers’ and agents’ websites, and they really like it if you do your homework and stick to their guidelines. Which is to say that they really dislike it if you don’t bother doing your homework and sticking to their guidelines.

Just click on one of the links below to get the full story by buying a copy of Get Published for only $4.99.

 Amazon Kindle

Gumroad (both Kindle and EPUB versions)

I’d like to introduce you to my new book: Get Published.

The idea behind Get Published is this: drawing on my twenty-something (don’t want to say exactly) years in book publishing plus picking the brains of lots of other publishers and literary agents, to make a punchy, fun-to-use guide that explains what publishers really want.

If you want to get your book published and you:

  1. didn’t know you needed to write a proposal
  2. don’t know how to start writing one
  3. have written one but got rejected umpteen times

– then this book is for you.

Even if you are planning to self-publish your book, you need to read Get Published: it will teach you how to think like a publisher, and that’s going to improve how you write your book and how you talk about it to the media, potential readers and other important people.

Get Published is short, sharp and to the point. It shows you what it takes to get your book published in today’s competitive and ever-changing market.

Because I am soooo cutting-edge, Get Published is available exclusively through Amazon and Gumroad(a groovy new site that makes it easy to sell and buy stuff online), in EPUB and Kindle editions. Hop onto Gumroad and if you’ve got a Kindle go for that edition; for everything else, EPUB is for you.

Just click on one of the links to check it out and buy a copy for only $4.99.

 

I have a reputation for doing the hard stuff. Nothing to do with drugs: I just seem to be drawn towards tackling stories that involve grief and trauma. That kind of writing takes me through some perilous terrain.

Why do we do it, to ourselves and to others? Why do writers feel compelled to pick at wounds and expose their rawness? When done well, sharing the grittiness of life and death and everything in between draws writer and reader together, makes us feel less alone. I find that readers respond most warmly to the work that has been most confronting, in terms of both subject and process. If there were no sweat and tears involved, I’ve probably missed the mark.

The first book I wrote was a baptism by fire. Sophie’s Journey is the story of Sophie Delezio, who nearly died at the age of two when a car ploughed into her childcare centre and burst into flames. Two years later, Sophie was hit by a car on a pedestrian crossing and again suffered near-fatal injuries. Sophie’s Journey is told through the voices of the people around Sophie: family, friends, doctors, nurses, passers-by who came to help at both accidents.

The second accident had happened only months before I started writing Sophie’s Journey and the events were still fresh in people’s minds. Many of the doctors and nurses I interviewed were moved to tears in describing Sophie’s treatment. Yet I didn’t want to write a book about horrific injuries and gory medical procedures. What I wanted to do was unwrap what was special about Sophie that brought her through two near-fatal situations. I also wanted to tease out what was not special about her: the qualities that we can all draw on in the face of calamity.

To achieve both of those things, I knew I had to frame my questions with great care. In working out how to do that, I came across the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma (www.dartcenter.org). It’s a goldmine of resources on interviewing survivors of violence and tragedy, ways to avoid subjecting already-traumatised individuals to more suffering, and the writer’s ethical obligations in post-trauma interviews. Read more