Australian Self-Publisher
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12 September 2019

Awards wrap-up

Journalist Hamish McDonald’s self-published book Reasonable Doubt: Spies, police and the Croatian Six was nominated for two awards in August: the Bad Sydney Crime Writers Festival’s Danger Prize (which was won by the podcast The Teacher’s Pet), and the Waverley Library’s $20,000 Nib Literary Award, which recognises the role of research in fiction and nonfiction. McDonald’s book is an exploration of a 1979 Sydney police raid of a young Croation migrant family and the subsequent trial—a saga involving the Yugoslav secret police, ASIO and Sydney’s underbelly, and which McDonald calls ‘Australia’s biggest miscarriage of justice’.

Aislinn Kearns was among the winners at the 2019 Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) Romantic Book of the Year awards—known as the Ruby Awards—which were announced on 10 August at the RWA conference in Melbourne. Kearns’ novel Undercover Fighter­ is the third book in her ‘Underground Fighters’ series of books, set in the world of illegal cage fight matches.

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Wattpad introduces new monetised program; reports rise in user base

Self-publishing platform Wattpad has announced a new monetisation program amid a 23% rise in its user base, reports Publishing Perspectives.

In July, over 130 authors were participating in the Paid Stories program, which remains invitation-only. Contributors are judged on their ‘storytelling capability, writing quality, originality [and] personality’, as well as other factors such as their relationship with the Wattpad community. While the company declined to cite specific rates of pay, a spokesperson said some writers are making ‘tens of thousands of dollars’ in the program. Content produced by Paid Stories authors is reportedly getting around 5.5 million reads per month.

Wattpad has also reported a total of 80 million monthly active users—up from 70 million per month in 2018—and now has support for about 50 languages.


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Tenielle Stoltenkamp on securing stockists and reaching schools

In June, Readings Kids assistant manager Dani Solomon named My Family Doesn’t Look Like Your Family by Tenielle Stoltenkamp as ‘hands down, the most popular’ self-published title stocked at their store.

Stoltenkamp spoke to Australian Self Publisher about the motivation for her book, securing bricks-and-mortar stockists, reaching the schools and libraries market and treating self-publishing as a small business.

Describe My Family Doesn’t Look Like Your Family.

My Family Doesn’t Look Like Your Family blends counting and inclusive questions with bold illustrations crafted to represent diverse families of all shapes and forms.

My aim for the book was to ensure every child could see their own family on the pages and to know that—even though every family looks and does things differently—they have a place where they belong.

What inspired you to create the book, and why did you decide to self-publish?

My Family Doesn’t Look Like Your Family was inspired by the time I spent volunteering with The Pyjama Foundation. I was paired with an incredible young girl and her foster family, who I’m still close to today. Whenever I searched for new books to read with her I was struck by the number of children’s books that depicted one-dimensional families that were so far from her reality. This opened my eyes to the number of children who aren’t represented in the stories we tell about families.

My Family Doesn’t Look Like Your Family is my first self-published book. It’s a message I was passionate about bringing to life as I strongly believe in the importance of representation in children’s content. Self-publishing gave me the freedom to choose the team I wanted to work with to make this book a reality. I was also keen to learn as much as I could about the publishing process and the industry.

What has the response to the book been like from parents, booksellers and kids?  

The positive response has been overwhelming. I have received heartwarming stories from parents, teachers and social workers alike across Australia. The book has been used as a resource in so many different settings. Mum bloggers and school teachers have been huge supporters. As a result of their online reviews and seeking out the book from their local bookstores, we’ve had orders from independent bookstores in the USA, South Africa, Brazil and the UK. I’m so thankful to have worked with the amazing Go Suga on this book. Go’s illustrations brought the heart and vision of the book to life. Every time I see kids engage with the book I see them drawn to different elements. It’s beautiful to see how kids place themselves in the story and takeaway unique details from every page.

You have secured stockists at bookstores in Queensland and Victoria. Can you describe how you went about this process? What advice would you give to other self-published authors wanting their titles in their local bookshop?

I’ve treated self-publishing like starting a small business. A lot of time went into building a database of local bookstores and reaching out one by one. There were a lot that never replied, but those who have are passionate about supporting independent authors and passionate about the themes of the book.

You also have distribution to schools and libraries through James Bennett and ALS Library Services. Again, can you describe how you went about this process?

My Family Doesn’t Look Like Your Family was written with the classroom in mind and I knew schools and libraries were essential. I reached out directly to both distributors through their websites but ensured we included strong marketing materials, pricing models and promotional images from that very first email.

What would be your top tips for those starting out in self-publishing—what lessons have you learned from publishing My Family Doesn’t Look Like Your Family?

Have as many conversations as possible. Creating the book was the easy part. The majority of my time was spent researching the process and the industry from as many angles as possible. This meant meetings with bookstores, printers, self-published authors, childcare specialists and academics, PR professionals, digital marketers—you name it! I soaked up every detail I could. Also—be practical. Beyond the amazing stockists and distributors I work with, this is now an online business that requires a lot of time of attention (on top of full-time work and commitments). Think end to end about your operations, customer support and the personal time and financial investment required to see your book succeed in the long term.

What will you publish next?

I have the next few books (almost) ready to go. I’ve always been passionate about children’s content. As a society, we’re speaking more openly about deep issues such as identity, diversity and acceptance. I want to be a part of those conversations and to translate these important concepts into art and literature that children love and enjoy. I’m excited to partner with different creatives, bookstores and even publishers to bring these ideas to life.


Mike Nicholson on ‘This Imaginary Feeling of Being Australian’

This month, author Michael Nicholson spoke with Australian Self-Publisher about This Imaginary Feeling of Being Australian—a political satire that imagines Australia as a naval superpower.

Describe your book in under 50 words:

A typographical error causes Australia to buy 150 submarines instead of 15. The nation is outraged and The Greens are swept into government with Bob Brown as president, and Australia becomes a naval superpower. Just as he sets out to make Australia a better place he is kidnapped.

Why self-publish?

I sent my book to various mainstream publishers, but either they rejected it or didn’t bother to reply. Some authors feel self-publishing is like having a dunce’s hat on in the classroom of would-be authors, but l wanted it published and by going to an American company, Novum, they supplied an editor who corrected it properly and gave advice, which was none. But nonetheless they got the book onto Amazon in Europe, USA and Australia, and that is hard to do. Last year l ordered a copy and it was delivered to an obscure address outside Istanbul on the Black Sea, so Amazon delivers.

What year did you start and where were you based?

We visited my wife’s mother in Istanbul in January 2017. It snowed a lot, and my daughter, who was then 14, encouraged me to write another book. l had two ideas floating around, so l got busy. It was a wonderful book to write and the first draft took about a month, writing all day and night. Then when we got back to Melbourne l spent a month or so doing a final edit.

How many people did you contract on your book and what did you do yourself?

I sent my first draft to my best friend, Professor James Simpson, who was then chair of the English and history department at Harvard University. He thought there were too many men in it. So l changed the storyteller and the speechwriter to women characters. I wrote everything myself, since l had already written about five books and been a comedy writer and researcher for TV over the years; [I] set up and worked on Rubbery Figures with my brother Peter on the ABC and then Fast Forward on HSV 7 for many years in the 1980s.

What makes your book unique?

Generally political satires don’t sell in Australia, and The Greens only have about 10% of the vote, so l knew it would be hard to sell copies. Especially in a country that is basically conservative, and where the arts in particular are insulated and have ‘a club mentality’, yet grovel to overseas trends in Europe and the USA. Also Australia is well behind a lot of nations, like the UK and Germany, when it comes to policies that are forward thinking: saving old growth forests, coal mines, even recycling, just to name a few obvious ones.

What has been your biggest success?

Having a wonderful and critical daughter, Melissa, with my wife, Fatma, an architect from Istanbul, who makes us so happy. That’s easily my biggest success. However, producing lots of short films since the mid 1970s, which I wrote, filmed, directed, edited and got onto national TV is something l have been very proud of. Difficult challenges are always the most satisfying, if and when I achieve them.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Well l would like to get my book on school curriculums. At the moment, my daughter is in year 11. The first book this year in English was Macbeth. ‘It’s very hard to read old English, even though the plots etc. are interesting,’ she says, and I agree, but this book is 500 years old! And her second English book is Ransom by David Malouf. This book was written in 1972. With the world population at seven billion, with at least two billion English-speaking people, surely there must be books for year 11 students that are modern, fantastic and inspiring!

What would be your top tip for those starting out in self-publishing?

Well don’t be discouraged if mainstream publishers in Australia either reject you, ignore you, or mock you. If you feel your book is important then self-publish it, it’s not that expensive these days, only distribution is a brick wall.

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