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:)



School Holiday Writing Workshop for Young Writers

I’m very excited to be presenting a writing workshop for writers aged 8+ at Dromkeen, Riddells Creek Victoria next school holidays.

If you know a young writer who’d like to come along, they can book through Dromkeen.

It’s going to be a fun workshop.

Dromkeen workshop flier

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

Writer’s Conferences – When and Where Are They? How To Find Out About Them

Following my posts about Why Attend a Writer’s Conference and Preparing for a Writer’s Conference I recently had a question from a blog reader, “How do we find out about writer’s conferences?”

CYA Success stor

CYA Success stories 2015 conference

So today’s post is designed to give you some tips on where to start.

I also wanted to mention that there are a lot of writer’s festivals around too. These are great for being inspired by other writers, hearing how they write and learning about their work and what their favourite reads are/were, but I find that conferences are a usually a better place to meet and present your work to publishers and agents.

So conferences are the focus of today’s post.

Seeing as I write for children and young adults, I find that the best place to start for these conferences is The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Their website is divided into regions so you can click on any region around the world and it will take you to a specific page that has any upcoming conferences listed.



SCBWI Australia 2010

One way to find conferences that might be worth going to is to look at the genre you write in and then research organisations for writers in those genre. Some of these organisations host their own conferences, others can give you information about them through newsletters and websites.

For example, there are organisations for

  1. Romance Writers – Romance Writers of Australia, Romance Writers of America
  2. Speculative Fiction writers – Conflux, Clarion
  3. Horror writers – Horror Writers Association
  4. Crime writers – Australian Crime Writers Association, Sisters in Crime
  5. Children’s writers – Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators
  6. Comedy writers


Reading Matters Conference – Held every second year by the State Library of Victoria.

Check with your state or national library – they may be able to give you information about upcoming conferences.


ACT Writers Centre

Booranga Writers Centre
New England Writers Centre
NSW Writers Centre
Hunter Writers Centre
Northern Rivers Writers Centre
South Coast Writers Centre
Sydney Writers’ Centre
Varuna – The Writers’ House

NT Writers Centre

Queensland Writers Centre

SA Writers Centre

Tasmanian Writers Centre

Writers Victoria

Writing WA
Katherine Susannah Pritchard Writers Centre

If you’re overseas – for example in the US, google writer’s centres in your state, area or town.


1. ASA – Australian Society of Authors newsletters – There may be an author organisation in your country that produces a publication that will list conferences in it.

2. PASS IT ON – e-zine for Australian Children’s and YA writers lists conferences and upcoming events.

3. BUZZ WORDS – for Australian Children’s and YA writers lists conferences and upcoming events.

Letters to Leonardo Book CoverBEST CONFERENCES I HAVE BEEN TO

There are lots of conferences I haven’t been to that I’m sure are fantastic, but I just wanted to finish by mentioning ones I have been to that have been extremely beneficial to me.

My book, Letters to Leonardo was picked up by Walker Books after I pitched it at the SCBWI Australia Conference in Sydney. I recently attended the CYA Conference in Brisbane and received three manuscript requests from publishers and one from an agent. I attended the 40th Anniversary SCBWI LA conference and apart from being loads of fun it was a huge global networking experience.

If you’ve been to a great conference or have any other tips on how to find out about conferences, please feel free to include them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)


Rainbow Street Pets – A Kid’s Book for Animal Lovers of All Ages

UnknownI know that this week I said I’d talk about how to work out which writer’s festivals to attend.  But being an animal lover from way back, I’m afraid I’ve been side tracked by Wendy Orr’s gorgeous Rainbow Street Pets.

Rainbow Street Pets is a collection of six stories for kids about all sorts of animals from a guinea pig to a lion cub.

The stories include Lost Dog Bear, Nelly and the Dream Guinea Pig, Mona and the Lion Cub, Buster the Hero Cat, Stolen: A Pony Called Pebbles, and Bella the Bored Beagle.

Each animal is special. Each story is full of action, great characters and a happy outcome.

At the Rainbow Street Shelter a cockatoo will greet you and a little round dog will make you welcome. All the animals there need children to be their friends. Meet Bear the border collie, Buster the marmalade cat, and Bessy the goat, as well as rabbits and guinea pigs and mice. There’s even a pony called Pebbles, but where does a lion cub fit in?

When I was a kid, I always dreamed of finding a runaway horse, and that’s exactly what happens in Stolen: A Pony Called Pebbles.

IMAG4165I think one of the things that resonates about these stories is their authenticity – the fact that author Wendy Orr clearly loves animals and that she knows what it feels like to be a kid who’s desperate for a pet.

The stories also trace the lives of the pet’s young owners and the very real issues they face. There are strong friendships between them and these link the stories together seamlessly. There are also Mona, Bert, Gulliver and the other characters from Rainbow Street Animal Shelter who appear throughout.

Apart from being a great read, one of the most important things about this book is that it teaches kids about pet ownership and the responsibilities of having a pet, but in a non-didactic way.

IMAG3188Showing the feelings, experiences and emotions of the animals allows the reader to see their points of view and understand that they have special needs that must be met.

Rainbow Street Pets is a book that the whole family can enjoy together. If you’re an animal lover like me, you’ll love these stories.

Rainbow Street Pets is written by Nim’s Island author, Wendy Orr and published by Allen & Unwin.

Next week, tune in for my promised post about Writer’s Festivals :)

Preparing For a Writer’s Conference – A Post For Unpublished Writers

Recently, I was asked whether an unpublished writer should attend a Writer’s Conference and my answer to that is definitely, “Yes!”

A conference can be the thing that gets you across the line – that turns you from aspiring to published.

Letters to Leonardo Book CoverIn 2008 I went to the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference in Sydney. I was unpublished but I had a novel to pitch. I was scared and even when I was sitting across from the publisher I was asking myself, “What am I doing here? Why am I doing this to myself?”

But as a result of that publisher meeting at the conference, my Young Adult novel, Letters to Leonardo was published by Walker Books Australia in 2009.

So as I mentioned in last week’s post, I believe that Writer’s Conferences are worth going to.

But now that you’ve scrimped and saved and agonised to get there, how do you make the most of the experience?


1.  Polish your manuscript until it’s the best it can be. Run it past crit partners, writer’s groups, whoever can give you constructive feedback to make this manuscript shine.

2.  Do your research – find out which publishers will be there. Look at their website, read books by their authors, talk to published writers, assess whether they are a publisher who might like/be prepared to publish your book. Look at the genre, topics and themes of the books they publish or the authors/illustrators they represent.

3.  Read reviews/interviews about the publisher or agent and assess whether they are the sort of person or company you would like to work with. When you’re making your appointments to pitch, choose wisely.

4.  If you have made an agent/editor appointment, Google that agent/editor to find out what they look like.  So that when you’re walking into a room full of editors/agents at small tables, you’ll recognise the person you have the appointment with. This will help you feel at ease and will also ensure you don’t waste valuable time looking for the person you’re meant to be meeting with.  Be warned though, this isn’t foolproof. Photos on the internet aren’t always current. If you have doubts, ask one of the conference volunteers to point your agent/editor out to you.

5.   Know what your book is about. This might seem strange because you wrote this book, but if you can’t say what your book is about in a couple of sentences then the concept might not be strong enough. You should have the concept clear in your head so that when you’re asked questions about it, you’ll be able to respond with confidence.

6.  If you’re pitching a series, don’t just focus on book one. The publisher or agent will want to know about your characters – will want to know that they are strong enough and well developed enough to carry the series. So make sure you’ve prepared biographies for your main characters and that you can talk about them with confidence.

7.  Prepare questions to ask the publisher or agent you are meeting with. This will help relax you and will also help you decide if these are people you would like to work with.


1.  Find out if any of your friends or online friends are attending – arrange to meet up. Even knowing one other person at the conference will make you feel more like you belong there.

2.  Don’t pitch to everyone you see. Just be yourself and enjoy getting to know people. If a publisher asks what you’re working on, then it’s okay to tell them, but try and have your concept down to a couple of sentences you can memorise so you don’t find yourself rambling.

3.  If you’re at a social event as part of the conference, now is not the time to pitch, hand over your manuscript or shove a business card or memory stick into someone’s hand. Networking.

4.  Being nervous is okay. Most people feel a little out of their comfort zone at conferences, but there are some safe questions you can ask people to break the ice. Questions like, “What are you working on?” “What sessions are you going to?” “Have you been to this conference before?” What are you looking forward to the most?”

5.  Often conferences have a social event on the evening before the sessions start – like a conference dinner or cocktail party.  These are a really good opportunity to meet some people before the conference so that you will feel more relaxed.

6.  Try and book into accommodation either where the conference is being held or where most people are staying. This will help you feel like part of the event.

7.  Book early so that you get to see the sessions, agents and editors of your choice.

CYA Success stor

CYA Success stories

Before you jet off to your conference, there’s another post you might find helpful – How Not to Scare Away Agents and Publishers.

If you have any other tips for writers going to a conference, please feel free to share them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing and conferencing:)