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:

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

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 Article: Working with Big Sky Publishing

6 October Karen Tyrrell

7 October Dee White

8 October Clancy Tucker

9 October Susan Whelan http://

10 October Elaine Ouston

11 October Sandy Fussell

12 October Alison Reynolds

13 October Kate Foster

14 October Robyn Osborne

15 October Sally Murphy

16 October Georgie

17 October Melissa Wray

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:)



Why School Visits Make You a Better Book Creator

Book Week isn’t just a fabulous chance to celebrate books and their creation.

Letters to Leonardo Book CoverIt’s a chance for writers and illustrators to get out into schools and connect with our readers, to talk about our books and to talk about their stories – and their creative dreams.

Yesterday I visited Gisborne Primary School. I spoke to about 120 Grade 5s and 6s about what it was like being an author, and they had some amazing questions for me.

I also presented a workshop to 15 kids in Grades 3 to 6 who had won the right to attend the workshop by creating a winning story in the school’s story writing competition.

IMAG1578These kids were amazing. They had an incredibly diverse range of characters and story ideas. Their villains ranged from wicked grandmas to a gummy bear army. Their heroes ranged from small children to adult super heroes.

Whenever I work with young writers it always reminds me of what a valuable thing our imagination is.

Kids are not restricted in their thinking by what kind of story might sell or what they think a reader might want. Kids write from the heart. They write with original voices, they write the story they are compelled to tell.

IMAG1579So apart from the magic of working with young writers, and the satisfaction we get from sharing our love of creating with them, there’s a lot we can learn from our school visit experiences.

  1.  Don’t second guess yourself – telling yourself your story idea won’t work. If you like it, run with it and see how far it takes you.
  2. Don’t be hung up on what readers or publishers might want, write the story you want to tell.
  3. Enjoy writing for the sake of writing – because it’s fun and it’s something you love to do.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and brainstorm with others if you’ve reached a dead end with a story idea.
  5. Push the boundaries of your imagination – step outside your comfort zone and try new things: new genre, new writing styles, new ideas.

IMAG1580Thanks to the staff and students of Gisborne Primary for inviting me into your school and reminding me why I love being a writer.

Happy Book Week and Happy writing:)


Meet the Kids’ Book Publishers & Find Out What They’re Looking For

Alison Reynolds and I are planning a MEET THE KIDS’ BOOK PUBLISHERS event in Melbourne next May, 2016.

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 10.26.43 amIf you’re a Kids’ book writer or illustrator from anywhere in Australia, this will be your chance to meet major publishers.

The event is in its planning stages but we anticipate there will be publisher panels, pitching opportunities, manuscript and folio assessments.


This Professional Development Event will be for NEW and PUBLISHED writers and illustrators,


There will be discussion about pitching to publishers, what they are looking for in a pitch and what’s hot in kids’ book publishing in Australia at the moment.

We also plan to offer one-on-one assessments where you get to speak with a publisher or editor about your writing and/or your folio.


There is no obligation but if you think this is an event you might like to attend, please express your interest by ‘liking’ our Facebook page Meet the Kids’ Book Publishers 

Please feel free to share our page on writing and illustrator forums and with your writing/illustrator friends.

Also, feel free to ask any questions