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9 July 2019

BWF 2019 program announced; first authors for MWF named

The program has been announced for the 2019 Brisbane Writers Festival (BWF), which runs from 5–8 September.

Over 160 writers will appear at the festival, which in recognition of the UN Year of Indigenous Languages will explore the ways in which Australia’s traditional custodians convey story. First Nations guests include authors Tony Birch, Melissa Lucashenko and Claire G Coleman, actor and author Uncle Jack Charles, and rapper, dancer and actor Danzal Baker aka Baker Boy.

Baker will headline the festival’s opening night celebration at the State Library of Queensland, along with writer, actor and comedian Steven Oliver, and poets Omar Sakr, Solli Raphael and Melanie Mununggurr-Williams.

International guests include British author Jasper Fforde, US-based novelists Ann Weisgarber, Joanne Ramos and Karen Thompson Walker, American poet, sociologist and author Eve L Ewing, and American feminist journalist Gemma Hartley.

Local guests attending the festival include Benjamin Law, Clementine Ford, Ashley Hay, John Marsden, Jane Caro, Richard Glover, Rosalie Ham, A S Patrić, Steven Carroll, Lucy Treloar, Melina Marchetta, Kristina Olsson, Hedley Thomas, Jessica Townsend, Maxine Beneba Clarke and former prime minister Kevin Rudd.

BWF’s schools program, Word Play, runs from 3–6 September and features guests including teacher librarian Megan Daley and children’s authors Karen Foxlee, Jessica Townsend, A J Betts, Jenna Guillaume, Oliver Phommavanh, Lili Wilkinson and Will Kostakis. A day-long YA program, Love YA, will run at Brisbane Square Library on Saturday, 7 September, and features writers Claire G Coleman, Alison Evans, Benjamin Law, Jax Jacki Brown and Michael Earp.

To see the full program, visit the BWF website.

The first guests for the Melbourne Writers Festival (MWF) have also been announced.

Sonic Youth co-founder and author of the memoir Girl in a Band (Faber) Kim Gordon, Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt, and Black Lives Matter activist and author DeRay Mckesson are the first three international guests named to appear at this year’s MWF, which runs from 30 August to 8 September.

MWF artistic director Marieke Hardy said each of the guests ‘is a trailblazer’. ‘Kim Gordon revolutionised alternative music and changed perceptions about women in music,’ said Hardy. ‘Deborah Lipstadt interrogates antisemitism on a global scale, while DeRay Mckesson puts his heart on the front lines in the war against racism. We open ourselves up fully to hear their stories and their passions; what they fear, what they hope for and what they love.’

Each of the three guests will also take part in the Antidote Festival at the Sydney Opera House, which runs from 31 August to 1 September.

This year’s MWF will be held at State Library Victoria (SLV), after 10 years of being based at Federation Square. The festival precinct will include the Wheeler Centre, the Capitol Theatre and other nearby spaces.

The full MWF program will be announced on 10 July. For more information, see the MWF website.

These news story first appeared in Books+Publishing. Books+Publishing is Australia’s leading source of print and digital news about the book industry, keeping subscribers up to date with the latest industry news, announcements, job advertisements, events, trends and more.

Self-publishing essentials with Ellie Marney: Promo, marketing and all that jazz (part five)


Welcome back! In the last article, we started talking about promoting in concrete ways—you can catch up with that article (and the three before it) right here. Now we’re talking advertising. This is a BIG topic—this article isn’t comprehensive, but rather offers an overview of some of the advertising options available to self-published authors.

The first (and most obvious) thing to remember is that advertising your book costs money. There’s no ‘cheap and easy’ way to advertise—while you can spend conservatively during your testing of ads and ad platforms, accepted wisdom is that ultimately you get better return on investment (ROI) and higher book sales once you ‘scale up’. And here’s a crucial tip: don’t spend on advertising until you have more than one book. Advertising works best when you have a catalogue of titles that you can funnel readers towards.

Check out the following platforms, which are the most-used ad platforms for authors:

Amazon ads

Positives: On Amazon, you’re only advertising to people already interested in buying. Ads here can also help attach good ‘also boughts’ to your book, which is a type of free promotion. No special images are necessary—your book cover is the only image required. Amazon advertising is considered the easiest ad platform to use, and you can start with small investments. It’s almost the only platform that lets you push full-price books.

Negatives: Amazon ads only drive buyers around the Amazon ecosystem rather than attracting outside eyeballs. Largely algorithm-driven, it’s an opaque and confusing system. It’s hard to figure out what makes an ad relevant, and therefore shown to buyers, and even harder to replicate results reliably—as Dave Gaughran says, ‘Identical ads with the exact same keywords and bids and budget and ad text, rolled out a week apart, can deliver completely different results.’ Ads often turn themselves on/off inexplicably. Overall, Amazon doesn’t give users the information it needs to be better advertisers, so tread carefully.

Amazon charges the advertiser each time someone clicks on a link in the ad (cost per click). You can choose between two ad options: sponsored products ads, which appear on book pages and search results, or lockscreen ads, shown on the screen when your Kindle is sleeping. Lockscreen ads operate with a lifetime budget (minimum $100), and they’re not generally recommended, as it’s hard to get a good ROI.

Sponsored products is a keyword-based system—you can target your audience with up to 1000 keywords. Allow Amazon to choose the words (auto) or choose your own (custom)—custom is generally a better option. Test out your keywords with split-testing to find the best performers. Use lower bids and a lower daily budget ($5) until you get the hang of things, then scale up with higher bids and budgets once you have a more focused keyword set.

The ACoS—advertising cost of sale—is the amount you spend in advertising divided by what you earn. But remember! Amazon only logs your total sales. It’s not an accurate figure, because in reality you only earn 70% (or 35%, if your book is under $2.99/over $9.99) of the retail price. So check your figures: if your book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99 and you’re making 70% on each sale, your ad is making money if ACoS is <70%.

There’s a lot of information out there to help you get the hang of Amazon advertising (if that’s possible). For Amazon keyword tips, try this article, or check out Amazon keyword tools—some people swear by Publisher Rocket for keywords, or you could try YASIV or the Keyword Multiplier. Written Word Media has a primer on Amazon ads for authors or you can check out these two case studies of good advertising practise—there’s even a free Reedsy learning course on Amazon advertising. Invest in Brian Meeks’ book Mastering Amazon Adsor invest a great deal more with Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing Formula course, which is considered highly reputable.

Facebook ads

Positives: Facebook advertising is great for adding subscribers to your email list. Used well, it can become a giant network of connected advertisements that funnels readers towards your books and your list. Once mastered, Facebook ads can provide really good ROI.

Negatives: The system and the dashboard are fiendishly complex, making mastery difficult. Approval for ad images/text depends on Facebook rules that can seem arbitrary. Facebook is more expensive than most of the other platforms and can vacuum up advertising dollars fast (especially if you include your ad on Instagram).

To get started, set up a Facebook page—either specifically label it as being your author page, or label it according to the genre in which you’re writing/publishing (e.g. ‘Contemporary Romance Readers’). When your ads are displayed, they will have ‘Sponsored by [Name of Page]’ on them.

Prepare images and ad copy, then go to your ad dashboard and create your ad. The most critical aspect of advertising on Facebook is granular audience targeting. Use ‘interest’ targeting or ‘custom’ audiences (‘lookalike’ audiences are a form of custom audiences). Interest audiences are different Facebook-identified segments of the broader Facebook audience—target your genre or comparable authors with interest audiences. Custom audiences are audience groups based off information you feed into Facebook—they are more likely to be your key audience, but can take time to develop.

Try to advertise to as narrow an audience as possible—you can specify audiences by age, location, gender, behaviours etc. This is where it really helps to know your ideal reader (i.e. your book’s audience)—so if you wanted to target for your contemporary romance novel, you might choose a custom audience of younger women readers in the USA who like reading romance books on their Kindles.

The ad formats on Facebook are more complex, but it’s best to start with simple link-click ads with static images. Worry about carousel ads and videos later, after you’ve mastered the basics. The most important thing to look at is the click-through rate (CTR) (especially outbound CTR) to judge whether your ads are performing.

The most comprehensive book on Facebook advertising is Help! My Facebook Ads Suck! by Michael and Mal Cooper, and Mark Dawson also has a book called Mastering Simple Facebook Ads which comes recommended—you can also pick up more advanced tips from Jon Loomer’s website . You can find a cheat sheet to help you with Facebook images for your page here.

Bookbub ads

Positives: Bookbub has the largest book-buying community in the world, and Bookbub featured deals generate excellent ROI, with a straightforward application process. Bookbub ads are a new thing, so you can get in early and master it before it becomes overrun. The website is highly responsive, and a good ad campaign can radically improve sales rank overnight.

Negatives: Featured Deals (and mastering ads) can be expensive. Deals are difficult to acquire—you don’t get to choose, Bookbub has to choose you, and the field of applicants is highly competitive. Your book must be in great shape and with a certain number of reviews before you apply for a Deal. Losing money to Bookbub ads is very easy—it requires a lot of testing to learn which ads serve best. Bookbub audiences are hungry for discounts, so pushing full-price books here is a way to lose money.

There are two points of entry into Bookbub advertising: Featured Deals, or Bookbub Ads. Featured Deals can be global, or focused on a particular market. You don’t get to choose which Deal you get—you can select a number of categories/markets you’d prefer, but it’s really up to the Bookbub gods. Make sure your book is discounted (free books often show a higher ROI—snag new readers with this loss leader) and ensure your platforms are well-coordinated before the date of your Deal (Amazon and Apple can both be slow to update price changes so plan well in advance).

Bookbub Ads are best used for launching, price promotions, or offering a free loss leader. They use a cost per click or cost per mille (CPM, per thousand impressions) system. CPM is often the least hazardous way to go, until you have an ad campaign that’s successfully serving. Use strong exciting images (created on a free program like Canva) and narrow targeting for best effect. Target with comp authors, but be selective—big-name authors with large followings will make your ad too scattershot.

For more info on using Bookbub, Dave Gaughran is the most up-to-date and has just published a book about it—he also has some wisdom on using Bookbub ads for authors who have wide distribution here.

Other advertising

There are other options out there—try the various book promo sites for cheap deals. These sites send out an email to their community members, and some of them have large communities. The most reputable are E-Reader News Today, Robin Reads, Fussy Librarian, FreeBooksy (and its sister org, BargainBooksy), My Book Cave, Book Barbarian and Book Adrenaline. You can also try doing some cross-promotion with other authors who might agree to do a newsletter swap, where you advertise each others’ books to your respective email lists—this should cost you nothing, but ensure that your cooperating author is writing in your genre, as it’s pointless advertising your sci-fi space opera to people who want cozy mysteries.

There’s also a whole community of people online who specialise in providing advice about book marketing, including Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson and more (I personally like Dave Gaughran’s approach—and sense of humour), so I encourage you to read around and do your research.

Good luck with your advertising!

Ellie Marney is a teacher and hybrid YA author. She lives in Victoria with her family and her most recent book series, Circus Hearts, was published in November 2018. Find her at or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.


Selling indie authors in bricks-and-mortar stores

Recently, Readings Kids bookstore in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton ran a self-published children’s books promotion. The two-month-long initiative included a feature window and an in-store display. Australian Self-Publisher spoke to Readings Kids assistant manager Dani Solomon about the promotion and stocking self-published books.

How successful has the promotion been? Roughly how many authors have participated?

We had around 70 titles by about 50 authors participating in the promotion—I would definitely call it a success. There are things I will do a little differently next time—I’d like to be a bit better at promoting them online, for example, and I will be stricter in what I take in so I can give people a little more time. Fifty authors was a lot to juggle.

Have there been any titles in particular that readers have been really attracted to?

There have been a few! The most popular, hands down, has been My Family Doesn’t Look Like Your Family by Tenielle Stoltenkamp. It’s about different types of families and it’s clear she has used professional designers because it truly is a beautiful product. It has a textured die-cut cover (I am normally not a fan of die-cut!) and the illustrations by Go Suga are unique, playful and bright. Having a well-designed book helps immensely but the text is important too and thankfully the text in My Family Doesn’t Look Like Your Family does its cover justice.

One of our other popular titles has been My Little Friends in the Mirror by Celeste Morgan, which started its life on Pozible. It’s a board book with a mirror on every page and again it’s really well-designed and has great illustrations by Michelle Carlslund. People really are very visual when it comes to books. One of my absolute favourites, and one that I hand-sell as much as I can, is My Kind by AFL player Eddie Betts—it’s a great book about how it’s cool to be kind. He has a new one out called My People, which aims to teach kids about the Aboriginal culture, and I am very excited about it. Most of the books mentioned above we will now permanently keep in stock throughout the year as they’ve proven they can sell themselves.

What convinced you to run the program and do you think you’ll run something similar in the future?

All of our Readings stores accept consignment books throughout the year. Due to space reasons in the kids shop we are rarely able to take enough copies for every consignment book to be displayed face out. This meant a lot of our children’s indie author titles were not being sold and it seemed a shame to see some of these really great books getting lost in the noise. I felt like I could do a bit more to support the authors and decided to only take submissions twice a year. This allows me to showcase them by making sure every book gets some time on display in the window and by giving them a prominent spot in the store with signage. Our next intake starts in July. I learnt a lot from the first intake and have fine-tuned the process a bit, but I fully intend to keep our indie author program running for as long as I work here.

What are the types of things that will convince you to take on a self-published author’s book?

A few things—is it well-written and well-designed? I think a lot of people underestimate how hard it is to write a good children’s book—especially a rhyming picture book. The same with illustration and design—these books need to be able to hold up in the presence of professionally written and designed books. People are a little more forgiving of indie authors of course—but not that forgiving!

Is it written by someone who has read children’s books before? It seems like an obvious thing, but it is always easy to tell when the author has not.

Does it have printing on the spine? No printing on the spine almost always equals no sales.

Does the book have a good message? It doesn’t have to be preachy or full of morals or even have a message at all, but I have had to turn down some books that have been a little misguided or old fashioned in what they were trying to say.

Is there anything you’ve noticed that successful self-published books have in common?

Without sounding too much like a broken record, well-designed and well-written books! Having said that, I am a firm believer that a good book will find a way to reach its audience and I am very proud to be a part of that process whether I’m selling professionally published books or books by indie authors.

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Excerpt: ‘So You Want to be a Writer’

In June, the Australian Writers’ Centre (AWC) published So You Want to be a Writer, by AWC CEO Valerie Khoo and bestselling author Allison Tait. Sharing the name of the podcast Khoo and Tait have hosted since 2014, the book is aimed at the growing number of people who want to transition into a career in writing, and answers the many questions the pair receive from people interested in the world of writing. Below, the authors share their tips on sparking creativity.

Embrace your tired self and five ways to spark your creativity:

Creativity is a strange and wondrous beast, liable to drop in on us when we least expect it. Or at least that’s what a 2011 study by Mareike Wieth and Rose Zachs published in the journal Thinking & Reasoning confirmed.

The study was titled ‘Time of day effects on problem solving: When the non-optimal is optimal’. It found that tasks involving creativity might ‘benefit from a non-optimal time of day’ with regards to our circadian rhythms.

What does this mean? It suggests that innovation and creativity are at their peak when we’re not at our best.

Basically, we’re at our most creative when we are tired. If you identify as a ‘morning person’, those early hours are great for analytical and logical problem-solving. However, your most creative and innovative solutions might be found in the evening—and vice versa for the night owls among us.

When she’s creating artworks, Valerie works a lot at night. During the day, she’s a logical analytical powerhouse in her role as CEO of the Australian Writers’ Centre. By night, she channels her energy into writing and her artwork. She often works in the wee morning hours, when the creative side of her brain well and truly takes over.

Allison is a night owl (though not as late, she admits, as she used to be). When her children were young, daytime hours were for family business and her freelance writing—the paid work. Nights were for writing the things she wanted to write.

These days, she uses the mornings for creative thinking, plotting and planning in her head while walking the dog, before returning to her desk to write and manage the day-to-day tasks of her business (every published author is a small business). Afternoons are for family business, late evenings are for social media and organising the next day.

The main takeaway from this? Write even though you’re tired. Even though you think you’ll end up writing absolute drivel, what you end up with might be more creative than you imagine.

And remember, even 200 words plus 200 words plus 200 words all add up.

Five ways to spark your creativity

1. Allow yourself to be bored

We talked about this a little bit in the chapter on making time to write, but it’s worth repeating here, where is really counts. When you’re constantly stimulated by other people’s outputs—words, pictures, thoughts, opinions—you’re not leaving enough room in your brain to conjure your own.

Leave space in your day for the dreaming, the thinking, the drifting. When we’re left to do our own thing for even two minutes these days, our first impulse is to pick up a device. Don’t do it.

Sit with that uncomfortable feeling of having nothing to do. Observe what’s going on around you. Allow your mind to drift to a story you’re working on or an idea you’ve had.

Creativity feeds on boredom.

2. Give yourself a reason to write

When Allison goes to schools to talk to kids about writing, she tells them there are two reasons why she loves writing. The first is that when you write, you control the world. Nothing happens in your story that you don’t want to happen. Yes, people talk about characters taking over, but where do those characters come from? That’s right, they come from you.

Even as adults, this notion of ‘control the universe’ is attractive. If you can control nothing else in your day—and, let’s face it, who controls every single thing that happens to them?—you can control what happens on that page.

Remember this when you’ve had a bad day and you’re tired and over it. Go to your work in progress and take back control.

3. Give yourself tools to write

You don’t know what you don’t know. Valerie uses this expression a lot—it’s the reason she founded the Australian Writers’ Centre in the first place. We’ve both been immersed in words our entire lives, but we still take courses, read books about writing, listen to podcasts and learn from others.

If you’re feeling tired and finding it hard to front up to your writing, blast away the cobwebs by taking a short course or even a seminar. You’ll not only learn new things, you’ll also draw energy and inspiration from your teacher and the other students—even in an online environment.

Writing can be a lonely task. The only person driving your project forward is you. Take a moment to learn a new way forward—and find some support along the way.

4. Take yourself on a creative date

No, really. See the earlier chapter on this!

5. Read a book outside of your usual taste

If you usually read nonfiction, pick up a book of poetry. If your taste runs to serious literary fiction, try a romance novel. If you like memoir, try a children’s novel. One of the most often-cited pieces of writing advice is just one word—read—and it’s true that if you’re writing children’s fiction, you need to read a lot of current children’s fiction to get an idea of what’s out there.

But if you really want to spark your creativity, read other things. Things you wouldn’t necessarily read. Because they show you a different way to think and to develop ideas.

When she’s writing her children’s adventure novels, Allison reads a lot of adult crime fiction. Why? Because the success of a crime novel rests on a strong connection between tight plot and character development. She doesn’t take notes as she reads, but Allison knows she’s absorbing and taking on board the story’s rhythm and beats. The structure.

Does it end up in her work? Not directly, but Allison will also tell you that, as a writer, she’s the sum total of the thousands and thousands of different books she’s read.

And you simply never know where the spark of an idea will come from.

About the authors

Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait are authors of the book So You Want To Be A Writer as well as hosts of the top-rating podcast also called ‘So You Want to be a Writer’.

Valerie Khoo is the CEO of the Australian Writers’ Centre (AWC), Australia’s leading centre for writing courses. Since 2005 the centre has taught over 45,000 students and has evolved into a hot-house for talented writers, who are regularly selected by major publishers for book deals.

Allison Tait is an internationally published, bestselling author of two epic, middle-grade adventure series: The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher. She is a multi-genre writer, teacher and speaker with more than 25 years’ experience in magazines, newspapers and online publishing.

About So You Want To Be A Writer

Published by: Australian Writers’ Centre Publishing
Publish date: 8 June 2019
RRP: $25
Available from:


Diversity in publishing:  The good, the bad, and how you can help make a change

In recent years, there’s been a big focus on increasing diversity in publishing. Learn how you can encourage more representation and inclusion in books. Read more on the IngramSpark blog here.


Advice from the ISBN team

How is a barcode file opened?

Please do not try to open a barcode file. Barcode files are inserted, not opened. Do NOT double-click on the barcode to begin working with it. Open the book cover file and insert the barcode file from the toolbar as you would a picture file. The barcode file will automatically open at the correct size. Do not try to open the barcode file first and then attempt to move into the graphic design application you are using.

For more information, contact the Australian ISBN agency on (03) 8517-8349 during business hours or email

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Angela Ball on ‘ABC the ACT’

This month, author Angela Ball spoke with Australian Self-Publisher about ABC the ACT—which explores ‘the wonders of the Australian Capital Territory’.

Describe your book in under 50 words.

ABC the ACT takes readers on an alphabet adventure, moving from A to B, all the way to Z to discover the wonders of the Australian Capital Territory. Images have been captured from high and low, through all seasons, and matched with a lively storytelling rhyme.

Why self-publish?

I decided to self-publish to learn about the publishing process. I contacted a few publishers but interest in this type of book isn’t high and I wanted to keep the strong momentum I had with my book going. Once I started, I wanted to finish—I also wanted to have control over the process. Writing the book was an emotional journey, but once I finished, I tried to manage the publishing logistics as I would any other project or event. Having worked in the communications industry for many years, I used my experience of working with clients and treated myself as a ‘client’—although one with a rather large IOU! I have learnt so much about the process and industry from self-publishing, and am totally invested in giving my book the best chance of success that I can.

What year did you start and where are you based?

I originally had the idea for ABC the ACT about six years ago. After struggling to find an interesting way to teach my first two boys the alphabet and keep them busy with fun activities, I decided to combine my passion for photography with my writing experience. I also wanted to discover my adopted home. I was born in London, spent my childhood on the coast in Wollongong, attended university in Bathurst, and lived and worked in London, the Sunshine Coast and Sydney, before finally settling in Canberra. My older boys are in primary school, but I now have a three-year-old as my trusted advisor and critic.

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

I worked with a specialist book designer to help with layout and to bring the pages of my book together in a professional way. She has been amazing and also helped me source and manage the printing of my book. Both designer and printer are located in Melbourne. I will launch the book during Children’s Book Week this year and Karen Pang (a presenter from Play School) will read the book at a special storytime event in the Civic Library in Canberra.

With the help of a local videographer and editor, I have also produced a video of Karen reading the book with images brought to life through animation.

I’m lucky to have the support of my family—but everything else is all on me.

What makes your book unique?

The book really is one of a kind. As far as I know it’s the only alphabet book set in the Australian Capital Territory. The book uses real-life images, in context, and a rhyme using contemporary language. While the book is targeted at early readers, it provokes questions—‘What is an arboretum?’, ‘How do you say Tidbinbilla?’—that will engage older children. It’s also a very unique keepsake from the ACT, for visitors and locals.

What has been your biggest success?

To me, publishing a book and seeing it on the shelf in our family bookcase is a great achievement. Of course everyone hopes his or her book will be a success, but I feel like I’m partly there already.

What has been your biggest challenge?

It was a challenge finding enough time to spend on my book. I have three young boys and work full time, but the timing was right to do it now, so we worked it out together. As a self-publisher you have to continually ask questions, and spend time and money wisely.

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

My top tip would be to never fear asking a question. Ask as many questions as you need to. I would also say a sounding board or mentor can offer an alternative view, or help you form your own views or decisions. If you need expert help, get it. I’m not a designer and while I know how to use the software, my book deserved the best treatment it could get … from another professional. You can get very easily (and rightly so) emotionally invested in your book. If something doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t, but maybe it is … so test your theories and sleep on it.

What will you publish next?

After ABC the ACT, my next adventure is to write and photograph 123 the ACT. I also plan on creating online content for schools.

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