8 Amazing Picture Books for Christmas

There are so many wonderful picture books being published at the moment, but I’ve selected a variety to review that would make great Christmas presents.



Unknown The Lion and The Bird by international bestselling and award-winning author and illustrator Marianne Dubuc is the tender story of the unlikely friendship between a lion dressed in denim and a bird with a broken wing.

One autumn day, a lion finds a wounded bird in his garden. This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Then one day spring arrives, and so too do the other birds. Will Lion and Bird have to say goodbye to the friendship for the summer?

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 7.34.23 amThis moving story is so relevant in today’s times when the world is full of vulnerable people like refugees who have been damaged by circumstances, and are looking for a safe haven and a new life.

As well as compelling text, this book is beautifully presented in hardback with the pictures left to tell the story on some pages.

It’s no wonder that The Lion and The Bird has been published in 15 countries across the world.

It’s a beautiful book that can be shared at leisure, and it features themes of friendship, waiting and change.

The Lion and The Bird is published in Australia, New Zealand, UK and Ireland by Book Island.


In this contemporary fairytale, a young boy and escaped blue bird free their country from the rule of tyrannical despots.

This picture book for children aged five-years plus, explores ideas of freedom and justice and meets the demand for more culturally diverse picture books in an increasingly multicultural society.


Every illustration by Mattias De Leeuw is a work of art in this book.

It compliments the lyrical text by Laila Koubaa.

At the door, he breathed in the sweet smell of Jasmine. The front of the house was like one big flower. 

The richness in both the text and illustrations make this book an enticing read. It is beautifully translated into English by David Colmer.

Azizi and the Little Blue Bird is another wonderful book for opening young minds to the world around them. It is also published by Book Island.



Australian Kids through the Years is a wonderful book written by Tania McCartney and illustrated by Andrew Joyner.

It takes readers on a leisurely tour through history starting with Australia’s first children, through the 1800s, 1900s and into modern times.

There are so many fascinating facts in here about things like the way children lived, how they dressed, how they did their hair, what they ate, what they did for fun and what they read.

This book is a feast of fabulous illustrations and easy to follow text with interesting language and information that young readers can pore over for hours.

Unknown-1At the back is a summary of the years, and National Library references for all the illustrations.

Adult readers will also be able to reminisce as they meander through history in these colourful and lively snapshots of Australia’s past.

Australian Kids through the Years is a great way to bring history into both the family and the classroom.

Australian Kids through the Years is published by the National Library of Australia.


9781760067229_COVERI’ll admit upfront that I’m biased about these beautiful books because they were written by my crit buddy, Alison Reynolds, and I have watched their progress from initial idea to finished product.

But right from the start, I was drawn to the two compelling characters and their special friendship. Bree is a feisty little girl who likes to get her own way, but who has a good heart and is able to recognise her own faults. Pickle is a gentle, slow moving and very large bear who admires those qualities in his friend that he doesn’t possess himself.

In The Decorating Disaster, all about teamwork, Pickle and Bree have very different ideas about how the home they share should be decorated, and this leads to humour and disaster, but also some important revelations.

Even though they are the very best of friends, Pickle and Bree are very different, but they soon realise that some jobs like hanging wallpaper and painting, just aren’t supposed to be done alone.

At the end of this adventure are some tips on teamwork that both teachers and parents/guardians will find helpful to share with young readers.

In The Birthday Party Cake, all about welcoming differences, it’s Jason’s Birthday and Pickle is planning a special bear surprise for his friend. But when Bree decides to lend a hand, her idea of a perfect party is not what Pickle had in mind. But can Pickle and Bree find a way to save Jason’s birthday?

This adventure carries tips at the back for welcoming differences and considering the feelings and wishes of others.

9781760067236_COVERPickle & Bree’s Guides to Good Deeds are wonderfully illustrated by Mikki Butterley whose humorous pictures are a perfect match for the rollicking text.

They are great for reading in schools and homes to introduce children to concepts like sharing, accepting others and getting along.

Two more Pickle & Bree’s Guides to Good Deeds are coming soon.

They are published by The Five Mile Press.


Bertie Bear was going on a long journey. He didn’t realise it would be on a camel! And he never imagined he would be having adventures of his own, far away from Jessie.

UnknownThis delightful story of a real bear’s outback camel and train journey has been cleverly woven into a work of fiction by Janeen Brian.

The rhythmic text along with Anne Spudvilas‘ stunning illustrations introduce young readers to the vibrant colours of the outback and its characters.

I also like the way the story is told from the lost toy’s point of view.

This is a work of fiction, but the real Bertie makes a ‘star appearance’ at the back of the book.

Where’s Jessie? is published by the National Library of Australia.



UnknownI love Craig Smith‘s work so I was so excited when I heard a picture book was about to be released that he had both written and illustrated – and I wasn’t disappointed.

Remarkably Rexy also just happens to feature one of my favourite animals, a cat.

Rexy is a typical cat, but he’s also a bit of a dancer, and quite proud of himself because he’s always being praised for his good looks and talent.

But his perfect existence is shattered when Towser the barking dog next door escapes.

Unknown-1The text is hilarious and Craig’s vibrant illustrations are beautiful.

Remarkably Rexy is so much fun for cat lovers of all ages. It also has a link to a free audio reading.

Remarkably Rexy is published by Allen & Unwin.


This hilarious book written and illustrated by Dave Hackett (Cartoon Dave) is one of my favourite picture books this year because it’s so relatable.

“Come on Daddy. It’s time for bed.”

“But I’m not tired,” says Daddy.

How can a little girl put her daddy to bed when he doesn’t want to go?

imagesTime for Bed Daddy is so funny because it’s a complete role reversal, and so much fun at bedtime.

I remember how hard it was to get my kids to bed when they were small, and how tensions often rose.

This book is a great tool for turning bedtime into a playful occasion that’s fun for everyone.

Time for Bed Daddy  is published by University of Queensland Press.



Surviving NaNoWriMo

There are some obvious tips for surviving NaNoWriMo.

Coffee, lots of it, is a given if you’re a coffee drinker (which I’m not, but I’d guess that your need for coffee during NaNoWriMo is probably as great as my need for chocolate.)

Food and beverages are just part of the equation however. (Although I’d love to know what your favourite Nano refreshments and edible delights are).

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 11.53.52 amBut when it gets to the actual writing part there are some things I have found work really well for me.

  1. Keep writing – it might sound obvious but writing for me is like daily exercise. Once I stop doing it, I find it hard to get going again. If you are blocked, keep writing – even if it’s not something that will fit in with your story. Try writing a stream of consciousness letter from your main character to a friend or enemy – even if it’s about having writer’s block. I find that this helps me get back deep inside my character’s mind.
  2. Walk, mow the lawn, play golf, do whatever works for you. I find that walking helps free my mind and gives me the opportunity to mull over my plot.
  3. Allow as much thinking time as writing time. I find that allowing myself the time to think about what will happen next helps me avoid writer’s block because when I sit down to put pen on paper (and yes I hand write my first draft) I know where I’m going.
  4. Unknown-4Yoga/pilates for writers – typing, sitting, getting all those words out puts a lot of strain on more than just the mind. If you don’t stretch – particularly your hands – you will suffer for it. Here are some great links for exercises for writers – many that can be done at your desk http://www.writing-world.com/life/yoga.shtml and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6rjmUsqa9g and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YE4WOkSF-q0 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MfsEZPIcZY
  5. If you’re stuck on one scene – leave it for now and write the scene that’s ‘calling’ you.
  6. Plan ahead – not necessarily in great detail – just know what you want to work on next time you sit down to write – and write the scene that takes your fancy. You can sort the order of things later. I like to at least start with a detailed synopsis.
  7. I used to over plot my NaNo novels and then when I came to write them I’d lost the spark. So now I do a mix of plotting and pantsing. As I mentioned above, I do a synopsis so at least I know who my character is and what their goal is and what the resolution to their story problem will be. But I don’t know how they’re going to get there. That’s all revealed, even to me, as I write.
  8. As I write, I scribble down notes of things I think of that will need to happen in the future and some things I will need to add in to earlier chapters already written.  I don’t edit at this stage. Keep moving forward.
  9. Set realistic personal goals that fit in with your lifestyle and commitments. Personal goals are just that – they are personal – they your goals. It doesn’t matter how many zillion words other people are writing, all you have to worry about are the targets you have set yourself. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
  10. Enjoy the journey. NaNoWriMo is not supposed to be torture – it’s supposed to be fun. There are all sorts of groups, write ins and word wars you can join to make the experience more enjoyable and help you when your motivation is flagging.

Unknown-5I hope you’re enjoying NaNoWriMo 2015 as much as I am.

If you have tips on how you survive NaNoWriMo, please feel free to share them in the comments section of this blog.

Happy writing:)



Try Something New

Writing takes work and time, but eventually words flow from our pens and they bring us joy.

But for many of us, this isn’t enough.


We want somebody besides the cat to read our words. We want what we write to make a difference in people’s lives.

Yet the world of publishing seems to get harder to break into day by day.

It’s easy to believe that it’s your own work that’s the problem. That your novel is too long, too short, not romantic enough, not literary enough, too much action, too much description, not enough characterisation, a weak voice etc.

It’s possible that your manuscript is none of those things. It’s possible that it’s a fabulous story, but the timing just isn’t right. The publisher might already be committed to publishing a manuscript in a similar vein and they don’t want to produce two ‘similar’ books.

The marketing department may have a plan that you don’t know about, but unfortunately your book doesn’t fit into it. For example, they might be committed to publishing series at the moment, but your manuscript is a stand-alone. Or romance might be what’s ‘selling’ but yours is more action.

It doesn’t mean that your manuscript is wrong or bad, it just means that the timing isn’t right.

So what do you do in this instance?

Try something new

Me skydiving

Try something new. Use this opportunity to become a more diverse writer, to hone your craft in other areas. Learn to have fun with your writing again.

I have a number of completed YA novels that I’ve had the most amazing rejection letters on, but they’re simply not being taken up.

So I’ve put them aside for now.

I will revisit them at another time, revise them again and resubmit – but at the moment, the timing just doesn’t seem to be right.

So I’ve been turning my attention to other forms of writing – shorter forms where it doesn’t take me at least twelve months to complete something.

Not only has this brought me a lot of joy and stretched my writing skills, but it has brought me some success.

My short story for children, “Enter at Own Risk” is coming out in a November edition of one of the School Magazines.

Tracie Grimwood is the talented illustrator of five of my books.

Tracie Grimwood is the talented illustrator of five of my books.

I recently signed a deal with EK Books for a picture book to be illustrated by the amazing Tracie Grimwood to be published in 2017.

I’ve entered the Scarlett Stiletto Awards this year and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize and I’m writing poetry again.

I’ve also applied to upgrade my writing qualifications – doing my degree in creative writing followed by my Masters. If nothing else, I figure this will develop my skills, keep me inspired and allow me to meet new writers.

Yes, novels are my first love and No, I haven’t stopped working on them, (in fact I’m working on one I’m very excited about right now), but I’m spreading my wings and trying new things, and it has given my writing life new vigour.

I hope this works for you too.

If you have other tips and suggestions on how to navigate your way through the difficult world of writing and publishing, please feel free to share them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing :)


Sad the dog – Sandy Fussell

My very talented author friend Sandy Fussell has just produced her first picture book, Sad the dog and it’s a truly extraordinary story.

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 7.37.37 pmSandy is best known for her Samurai Kids’s Series and award winning Polar Boy, and although it’s for younger readers, Sad the dog is bound to be every bit as popular.

Sandy had kindly agreed to share her picture book writing truisms with us today and I’ll be telling you more about Sad the dog after that..


I’m a junior fiction novelist by design and a picture book author by happy accident. My learning curve had more twist and turns than a Zentangle doodle.

These are the six key things I learned from writing Sad, the Dog:

  • The first draft of a picture book is lightning fast. Do not be deceived by this.
  • It is followed by more redrafts than a 40,000 word junior novel.
  • Not a single word is safe from the editing process. In a picture book there is nowhere for a word to hide.
  • Under 400 words does not mean you can’t still have a plot hole.
  • An illustrator is a picture book story’s best friend.
  • A first picture book is writerly love at first sight.


Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 7.35.45 pmSad is given as a present to a couple who don’t want him. They look after all his physical needs but give him no love or positive attention. Whenever they interact with him it’s to yell about his bad behaviour, which is brought on by the fact that he is desperate for attention.

When the Cripps move house, they leave Sad, the dog behind. This actually could turn out to be a good thing – especially when the new owners are a family with a young boy.

Sad’s story is simple, but so moving. It’s completely relatable to our modern day life when people are given pets or somehow acquire them, but don’t give them the love that they need.

This is an important story for the home or classroom on so many levels.

Sad postcardeditIt’s not just about pet care and responsibility.

Sad could easily be a child – and Sad the dog is a book that can help build empathy towards other children who may be physically or emotionally neglected.

The poignant text blend harmoniously with Tull’s soft, whimsical illustrations.

Tull has captured Sandy’s beautiful words and added a new layer of meaning to them with stunning, heartwarming illustrations.

Young readers will also relate to the kinds of activities that Sad gets yelled at for when he is really just being playful and not trying to cause  trouble.

Sandy has even provided a knitting pattern so you can make your own Sad the dog.

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 9.26.17 pm

Sad the dog is for readers aged 3+

A touching look into the life of an unloved pet and the heart-warming journey towards finding your true home.

Sad, The Dog

by Sandy Fussell and illustrated by Tull Suwannakit.

Thursday 1st October, Kids’ Book Review
Friday 2nd October, Kirsty Eager’s Blog
Saturday 3rd October, Buzz Words
Sunday 4th October, Sandy Fussell’s Blog
Monday 5th October, Susanne Gervay’s Blog
Tuesday 6th October, Boomerang Books Blog
Wednesday 7th October, The Book Chook
Thursday 8th October, Creative Kids Tales
Friday 9th October, Dee Scribe Writing
Saturday 10th October, Children’s Books Daily
Sunday 11th October, Reading Upside Down
Monday 12th October, Sandy Fussell’s Blog

Awesome Animals – Tips on Writing a Series

Today I’m happy to welcome well known author and Buzz Words Editor, Di Bates to DeeScribe Writing.

Awesome DOGS COVERShe has a fabulous new series, Awesome Animals and today she’s sharing her publishing journey with us.

Awesome Cats cover

Working With a Great Publisher by Dianne Bates    

For about 35 years I’ve been writing books for children and have now published well over 120 titles with a range of big publishers like Penguin Books and HarperCollins to small publishers such as Morris Publishing Australia and Dragon Tales Publishing. Although the bigger companies have more clout nationally and internationally and the royalties from them are generally more than that received from small, I have a preference for publishing with smaller companies. Personal attention, better lines of communication and pro-activity are hallmarks of the staff working on small imprints. This is the story of the latest smallish publisher I worked with which has been one of the best I’ve ever published with.

Some years ago I wrote three children’s non-fiction books about cats, dogs and horses which, being all alike in presentation, I saw as a book series. Each book contained fun facts and amazing stories about animals – a Guinness Book of Records meets Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Each book, for example cats, had the same format as the other two. Awesome Cats looked at the cats in history, cat adventures, famous cats and famous people’s cats, TV, stage and movie cats, and working, luck, spoilt and clever cats. There were many jaw-dropping facts about cats, stories that were amazing but true, jokes and verse featuring cats, and for the true catophiles, there was a list of children’s books about cats.

As well as completing every book, I also created a marketing proposal to help any publisher make a decision to publish. The proposal included the demographics of the intended audience (children aged 8 to 12 years with a reading age of nine), a description of the series’ contents and approach, the main strengths of the series, any major competition (I couldn’t find any), markets to which the series would appeal and an author bio. I then found as many possible publishers for the series and began my submissions.

Looking at statistics in my despatches’ file over a few twelve month periods, I have found that on average one third of publishers to whom I submit manuscripts never respond. Of those that do, most of them take from three to nine months to reply. None ever give reasons for rejecting manuscripts (which is fair enough as they are not assessors, just industry people accepting or rejecting a product).

Eventually I had submitted to 30 publishers in Australia and overseas without any luck. Then a small Australian publisher based in Sydney expressed interest. I was invited to the publisher’s office where she showed me books she had published. They looked exactly what I had envisaged for my books – attractively designed with photographic content. All of the books she had published were about animals. That day the publisher said she would send me a contract.

I waited. For months. When I wrote asking when I might expect the contract, the publisher replied (after some weeks) apologising that she was now unable to publish my books; that she had closed her doors.

I then submitted to all other publishers I thought might be interested and when I had exhausted all possibilities, I put my manuscripts in the proverbial ‘bottom drawer’. Years followed and I had more or less forgotten about my animal series. Then one day I was reviewing a beautifully designed, attractive and well-written non-fiction book by an Australian publisher I’d not heard of before – Big Sky Publishing, based in Sydney. When I saw on their website that Big Sky specialised in non-fiction books, I remembered my manuscripts and made a submission.

I sent my manuscript by Word document attachment by email on 13 January, 2015; receipt was acknowledged the next day, and them on 12 February I received an email from the publisher Diane Evans saying the company was interested. Diane phoned me three days later and all three books were contracted the following month. Submitting a manuscript and having it contracted in less than two months is something I hadn’t experienced in many years. This was the beginning of what has turned out to be a very happy journey for me. The publisher was a total delight to work with, and when I was sent samples of the artwork to approve, I was even happier. Diane’s sister Sharon who is responsible for book promotion has also been a blessing in the publishing process. I’ve learnt that Big Sky Publishing has its own book club (Red Gum) so my book will reach so many more children than would be possible with most other publishers. On top of that, Jodie Bennett who also works with the Evans’ sisters has been responsible for the production and delivery of bookmarks and posters – all in full, bright colour, and like the illustrations in each of the books, beautifully designed and presented. Each of the books feature lots of gorgeous illustrations combined with coloured photographic images of adorable dogs and cats from Best Friends Rescue and Little Legs Cat Rescue. The inclusion of real-life images and stories of the charismatic animals from these pet rescue organisations adds another level of education and inspiration.

I could not really have imagined that that the Awesome Cats, Dogs and Horses’ books would turn out as brilliantly as they have. My whole experience with Big Sky Publishing from start to finish has been an author’s dream… in fact I really couldn’t have dreamed it, only hoped for it.

So here’s an enormous thank you for all of those at Big Sky Publishing for their vision, their courtesy and great communication, and for their hard work turning once rejected manuscripts into books that I feel immensely proud of.

Where can people buy Awesome Cats and Awesome Dog?

The books retail for $14.99 each. Here’s where you can get Awesome Cats:


… and Awesome Dogs: http://www.bigskypublishing.com.au/Books/Children/Awesome-Animals-Dogs/1124/productview.aspx

More about the books

Author: Dianne Bates

Publisher: Big Sky Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-925275-38-4 Dogs

ISBN: 978-1-925275-40-7 Cats

Publisher: Big Sky Publishing

Pages: 150

Format: Paperback

Size: 234 x 152mm

RRP: $14.99 (Paperback)

RRP: $6.99 (eBook)

Publisher – Big Sky Publishing T: 1300 364 611 F: (02) 9918 2396

Distributor – Woodslane, phone: (02) 8445 2300 F: (02) 9970 5002 info@woodslane.com.au www.woodslane.com.au

Awesome Animals is an entertaining new non-fiction animal series for kids – a Guinness Book of Records meets Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Awesome Cats and Awesome Dogs are the first two books in the series published in October 2015 by Australian company, Big Sky Publishing.

Each beautifully styled book in the series features fascinating stories about animals from all over the world. In them, you will discover true stories and amazing facts about our best-loved pets cats and dogs.


Visit these great blogs and find out more about these Awesome Animals books were created.

5 October Di Bates http://diannedibates.blogspot.com.au/ Article: Working with Big Sky Publishing

6 October Karen Tyrrell http://www.karentyrrell.com

7 October Dee White wordpress.com

8 October Clancy Tucker blogspot.com.au

9 October Susan Whelan http:// kids-bookreview.com

10 October Elaine Ouston elaineoustonauthor.com

11 October Sandy Fussell sandyfussell.com/blog

12 October Alison Reynolds alisonreynolds.com.au

13 October Kate Foster http://www.katejfoster.com/blog

14 October Robyn Osborne http://robynosborne.com/blog-2

15 October Sally Murphy http://aussiereviews.com

16 October Georgie Donagheycreativekidstales.com.au

17 October Melissa Wray http://melissawray.blogspot.com.au

How to Stay Optimistic About Your Writing

Today’s world is controlled by economists and accountants.

So unfortunately, the reality is that a great deal of modern book publishing is more about making money than making a difference.

It doesn’t matter how lyrical your lines or how moving your monologues, the publisher’s decision about whether to publish your book will be based on how much money they think it will make.

Fortunately, these days there are other options open to storytellers and creators who want their work to be read by others.

There are smaller presses and there’s the opportunity to independently/self-publish your work. (Although as I warned in last week’s post there are pitfalls to avoid here as well.)

Last weekend I went to a fabulous Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) workshop run by the very talented and inspiring Simmone Howell.

During the breaks I had a number of discussions with other authors about the current market. We are all in the same boat. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been published or not, it’s very difficult at the moment, particularly in Australia to get your work published through traditional channels.

So here are my tips to keep you optimistic in the face of publishing adversity.


At the SCBWI meeting I was surprised to discover how many of my children’s writing colleagues had entered the Scarlett Stiletto Women’s Crime & Mystery Short Story Competition.

It’s hard to slave over a novel for a number of years only to find that nobody seems to want to publish it at this time, in its current form. So it can be quite satisfying to work on shorter pieces like short stories (or paintings) and have the satisfaction of completing something you can feel good about in a much shorter space of time.

E-zines like Buzz Words and PIO provide information about publishing opportunities for shorter works, particularly in the fields of Children’s and YA writing. Your writer’s centre may also produce a magazine/e-zine which lists publishing opportunities in these markets.


If you’ve tried a particular market for your book, for instance Australia, and there has been no interest in it, consider overseas markets like the US, UK and Europe.

Sometimes you won’t have to change much about your book to make it more relevant to these markets. For instance, my book Eddy Popcorn’s Guide to Parent Training had a lot of interest in Australia but in the end, wasn’t taken up by a publisher.

UnknownI’m now rewriting the manuscript to adapt it for an international market. Instead of setting it in Australia, I’m having my main character Eddy, an Australian boy move to Chicago. This will not only make the story more relatable for the US market, but it has also added a whole new dimension to the plot.


It’s not about how old you are or where you’re from, it’s about the book you create and whether the publisher determines that people will want to read it.

Dorothea Tanning‘s first book Chasm: A Weekend was published in 2004 by Overlook Press, New York in 2004 when she was in her nineties.

imagesHarriet Doerr published her first book Stones for Ibarra to critical acclaim when she was in her seventies.

Unknown-2Helen Hooven Santmyer published the bestselling  And Ladies of the Club at age 88.

It was published originally in 1982 by Ohio State University Press and sold only a few hundred copies. Thanks to the efforts of several enthusiastic and well-connected readers, the novel was chosen by the Book-of-the- Month Club and given a 150,000-copy first printing. It was adapted as a television miniseries, and its author was compared with Jane Austen, Thornton Wilder and – yes, even Tolstoy.

The book that made Helen Hoover Santmyer a celebrity was in the works for more than 50 years. (And I thought that taking 10 years to write Letters to Leonardo was a long time :)


It’s great to have goals. I’m a big goal setter – it’s how I get things done.

But most of what happens in publishing is beyond your control.

You might have written a great book, but publishers have one on their list already that’s similar. Or marketing might have decided no more horse books, or a bestselling author might have been commissioned to write a book on the same topic/theme already.

There is so much happening inside a publisher’s office that you don’t know about. So try not to take it personally.

Their decision not to publish is not about you. It’s not about your writing. It’s not about how you look or where you come from.

It’s about whether the publisher thinks that your book will earn its keep and hopefully make a profit for them.

Try to be realistic about your goals and expectations.

Even if a publisher has expressed strong interest in my work, I always have a backup plan – someone to send the manuscript to if the deal falls through.

I ALWAYS have a plan for where I’ll send my manuscript to next if it is rejected.

Even though a rejection is disappointing, sending it out again means there is still hope and the possibility of acceptance.

And you never know when something might come back into vogue. Sometimes you need to put that manuscript aside for now.

I wrote a play in 2009 that was rejected. That same play has just been accepted by an educational publisher.


Unknown-1There will always be someone who seems to get the lucky breaks with publishers and there will always be someone with more bad luck stories than you.

Try to ignore what’s going on around you and focus just on you, on what you’re writing, on your goals, on making your own luck.

With social media constantly bombarding us with other people’s successes, it can be easy to lose sight of our own achievements. Sitting down to write is an achievement. Completing a manuscript is an achievement. Editing a manuscript is an achievement. Sending it out is an achievement. These should all be celebrated. They are not things that just anyone can do. Celebrate these achievements.

Remember that social media is a promotion tool. People never post on Facebook when they had a pitch with a publisher who said, “That story’s not for me.” But they post in big headlines when they pitch and a publisher asks to see their work.

People never post pictures of themselves being photographed with a waiter at a conference dinner – it’s more likely to be a photo of them with a celebrity author or publisher. It’s all about keeping positive, but it’s also about exuding an aura of success.

Be happy for the achievements of others, but most of all be happy for what you achieve. And remember that social media always makes things look glossier than they really are. For all you know, the food was terrible, the conference speaker put everyone to sleep and the accommodation had a rat in it. It’s just that people don’t tend to post these things on social media. They’ve spent all that money going to a conference, they want to believe that it was worth it. And honestly, most of the time it is.

I only mention this because social media gives a distorted reality. Try and keep things in perspective. If the conference looked great and you wished you were there – try and put $10 away every week so you can go to the next one and see for yourself.

Remember why you write. You write because you love it. You write because you have something to say. So keep writing and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. Write for you, write for the people who will one day read your words. Don’t give up.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Feel free to share your tips on how you stay optimistic in the face of adversity.

Happy writing:)




Self-Publishing/Independent Publishing – Avoiding the Perils

These days, many authors are venturing into the world of self-publishing, now often referred to as independent publishing.

It can be a great thing to do for so many reasons. But it can also make you vulnerable to being ripped off.

I’ve recently been approached by a number of people who have fallen into this trap and are seeking advice.

They have paid thousands of dollars to have their book published and haven’t yet seen a copy of it.

Unfortunately, it’s often too late by the time this has happened.

So, in this post I’m hoping to provide practical tips to help you avoid these perils and others.


Self-publishing should not cost you thousands. Companies are preying on the elderly, and people in rural areas who don’t have the knowledge to know that they are being charged way too much.

If a company doesn’t have cost indications on their website then be wary.

Check out the company you plan to publish with.

  1. Ask them for references – and always follow these references up.
  2. Also do Google searches for online reviews and feedback about the company.
  3. Contact your local writer’s centre or organisation to see if they have any experience dealing with these companies. You can even ask the question on social media.
  4. Join Facebook Groups  or pages like The e-book experiment  and Self publishing questions where you’ll have a forum to ask questions as you follow the path to publishing your own book.
  5. Beware of fake testimonials and awards on websites. If a company states, “We are the nation’s leading independent publisher”, investigate this statement. Make sure it’s not just something they are saying about themselves to make them look better.
  6. If you decide to self-publish through a company, it can be good to use someone who has been personally referred to you by an author who has had a great experience with them.

10 TOP WRITING TIPS COVER - For adults - Discover the writer in youI’m not going to delve into the stages of self-publishing here. But yes, your book should be properly edited before you publish it, it should have a well designed cover, and you should ‘tag’ it so that readers who search for your book will be able to find it.

And if you intend to publish online then you should spend time online familiarising yourself with the self-publishing world and learning about other people’s experiences.


You can publish your book as an e-book through Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, Pubit (Barnes and Noble) or Kobo’s Writing Life.

You don’t have to pay thousands to get someone to do this for you. It’s something you can do yourself. It takes patience, but it’s worth the time and effort to do it properly.

Publishers provide free guides on how to do it:

Amazon – Free book, Building Your Book for Kindle
mashwords – Free Style Guide
ubIt – Not quite as straightforward but they have FAQs that can help you – and generally the formatting will be the same or similar for all online publishers. You might also find this article helpful.
Kobo – You’ll find formatting information on the Kobo Content Conversion guide.

10 TOP WRITING TIPS COVER - For adults - Ideas and InspirationGetting the format right is one of the most time consuming and essential parts of producing an e-book. If it’s not right, your file will be rejected so it’s worth taking the time.

I’m not advocating for any particular publishing system, but I have published on both Amazon and Smashwords with some success. I haven’t tried Pubit or Kobo but I’m sure their formatting and marketing would be similar.

Print Books – POD (Print on Demand)

Print on Demand can be a way to publish small numbers of print books, making it more affordable. What this means is that you only publish the number you want.

Lightning Source, Lulu and Createspace all provide these services.

Lightning Source has a print and shipping calculator so you can work out exactly how much you’ll have to pay to get your print books published and shipped.

Lulu Books also has a cost calculator on their site.

If there is no cost calculator on site then I would be wary. Don’t let any high pressure sales person talk you into paying more than you can afford or more than you want to pay.


Those shiny companies I mentioned earlier often ask for thousands of dollars to market your book and they don’t do anything you can’t do yourself. They don’t increase your Amazon or your search engine ranking significantly. These are things you have to do yourself by having a regular presence in the online world and getting yourself out there.

Some companies charge around $2,000 to set up your website, get you on Facebook and Twitter etc – but these are all things you can do yourself for little or no cost.

  1. Set up your own website/blog – you can do this for free through Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, LiveJournal, Weebly and others. Read more here.
  2. You will find articles and guides on the internet about how to set up your platform through these mediums. Try to stick with sites that are linked to the actual platform itself. It might sound like a lot of work, but you could be saving yourself thousands of dollars by doing setting up your own blog or website.
  3. To set up your own Facebook account is not hard. Facebook will tell you how.
  4. Same with Twitter.

Marketing an e-book is hard.

For readers, it’s not like walking into a bookshop and being able to choose from what’s available. There are millions of books online so people have to ‘search’ to find yours. That’s why it’s important to have a strong online presence so people will hear about your books.

The Kobo Publishing guide has some extra tips on marketing. There may be other free guides in the marketplace too. Online resources are also available. Some reputable sites are The Creative Penn and Writer’s Digest.

Want to make your own book trailer, The Creative Penn tells you how. You’ll also find marketing tutorials and posts at Writer’s Digest.

My rule of thumb is ‘don’t pay for anything you can do yourself’. You’ll find the end result more satisfying and you’ll learn more about what you’re doing so that you can avoid the pitfalls.

I hope you found this piece helpful.

If you have any other independent publishing tips to share, please feel free to do this in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)