November 2009 has been a sensational month for me. It has proven that when you have a vision... Passion, determination and a lot of late nights can take you a long way! I'm still on a high from seeing my book, I Ate My Way Through Singapore & Vietnam, stocked in bookstores (it is now available at Ampersands Cafe & Bookstore, Storm Imaging and Glee Books); And I am blown away every time I meet a complete random stranger who believes in what I have produced and buys my book.
I am even more excited and always somewhat humble at the same time, every time i receive press coverage. In the latest copy of Ciao Magazine, I was interviewed for their feature article on blogging and publishing. Being featured alongside the names of some brilliant authors is so inspiring.
Anyway, here's the article for anyone who has missed it and hello to new readers from Ciao!
The Internet has revolutionized publishing, allowing a whole new range of voices to be heard. So is blogging the new path to literary fame? By Carla Caruso.
The Write Stuff
The literary scene has been buzzing for years about “nobodies” who’ve parlayed a blog into a multi-million-dollar book deal. Christian Lander, interviewed earlier this year by Ciao, went from a low-level copywriter to a bestselling, globe-trotting author with his own TV show when a blog he’d set up for the amusement of a few friends – Stuff White People Like – went viral and attracted the interest of major publishing houses. The time elapsed from his first post to signing a book contract and getting a US$300 000 advance from Random House? Less than three months. Starving in a garret for years working on your novel is so last century.
Inner West food blogger Jennifer Lam, the woman behind www.jenius.com.au, has combined both blogging and self-publishing to realise her dream – recently launching her self-published photographic memoir, I Ate My Way Through Singapore & Vietnam ($49.95) with 10 percent of the net proceeds being donated to charity KOTO international.
Lam gave up a dream job in advertising on the eve of her 25th birthday to fully immerse herself in food blogging, which led on to an interest in self-publishing. “Originally, I just did the book of my culinary travels for me and my family. I started showing it around and people asked about buying one. So I tweaked the design and decided to do a print run. Having a digital production background, I already had a relationship with editors and designers.”
Self-publishing seemed the best option for Lam. “I did think about contacting other publishers, but I didn’t want to have to re-write or edit it. And, I tried to brand it my
own way throughout, because I’m hoping in the future to publish other books by bloggers. I’m also really enjoying the marketing side of things – I’m doing it through unconventional means, like social media, and I’m selling the book at delicatessens, cafes and independent book shops, because I think it’s a really niche market.”
For Lam, the path of blogging and self-publishing (a year from the idea to the book being printed) has been a much quicker route to finding an audience than spending months, if not years, sending submissions to commercial publishers and hoping against hope that it will be one of the minute fraction of unsolicited manuscripts that ever make it past the slush pile.
Newtown children’s and young adult author Susanne Gervay reversed the process, becoming a blogger after getting a contract with a publishing house. “Selfpublishing [on blogs] bypasses all that rejection and you can connect with the world. I’ve done the traditional hard and rocky road and am published by HarperCollins Australia and by overseas publishers. I’m glad I’m there, but I didn’t love the knocks on the way. Bloggers have a better time,” she advises.
Fellow young-adult author William Kostakis, who grew up in the Inner West, but is now Bronte-based, also went down the traditional path of sending manuscripts out to commercial publishers. He inked a publishing deal at just 17 with his debut novel, Loathing Lola. Still, he says, “When I say that I scored my contract at 17, people immediately think it wasn’t a lengthy process. I mean, sure, it wasn’t as lengthy as some, but I sent off my first manuscript at 11 and had my first rejection letter before my 12th birthday. It was difficult to get noticed, sure, but the fact of the matter was, I just wasn’t all that good when I started out. The six-year slog gave me time to not only grow as an author, but mature as a person. The process was lengthy, and it was important.”
Kostakis received a lot of exposure post-publication via his blog, www.williamkostakis.wordpress.com, He’s enthusiastic about the possibilities of blogging (in fact, he’s teaching a Blogging for Beginners workshop at the NSW Writers’ Centre next April) but not so keen on self-publishing. “Yes, you should have your ‘sole creative vision,’” he says, “but sometimes, you need someone to tell you what stinks, someone to approach your story from a different perspective, someone to bounce ideas off, someone to help your idea grow and reach its full potential. You need an editor. When you self-publish, it’s all you. There’s no-one investing time and money in you, wanting to get the best out of you and your product.”
Jeremy Fisher, the executive director of the Australian Society of Authors, says writers shouldn’t shy away
from the new possibilities – particularly in the digital world. “Stephen King has tried to do a serial story online, which people had to pay for by subscription, but he gave up halfway through. Still, it’s just a matter of when the time is right. [Canadian sci-fi writer] Cory Doctorow publishes his stuff in its entirety online and many people still buy it in book form, because it’s friendlier to read. In Japan, there is also a whole range of SMS novels, which particularly appeal to female readers, and writers are making a viable business writing them.”
So, can it really be true? Does the Internet mean everyone has the chance to be a successful, published writer? Sadly, Fisher says no: “Everyone thinks writing is easy – until they start. It’s not an easy path, nor is it one that will likely make anyone rich in the short-term. And the competition is still intense.”
Ciao Magazine is a fortnightly lifestyle and editorial publication distributed to residents and retail outlets within Sydney's Inner-West -Leichhardt, Marrickville and Ashfield Councils. Ciao has a print run of 25,000 and a readership of 50,000.