Need a new read for the new year?
We’ve been tinkering with the site for a while now—so you’ve probably already seen this if you’ve been here recently—but our little online shop is now up and running!
Click on over to the SHOP button right on top and you can order ebooks and paperbacks directly from us!
P/S The Painted Hall Collection paperbacks are exclusively sold here! You won’t find them in MPH or at any other bookstores.
Last month, we looked at how to get published traditionally in Malaysia—and we brought up the idea of a literary agent. So do you need one or not?
Here’s the whole ’nother post on literary agents we (didn’t) promise you. Keep in mind that no publisher in Malaysia (that we know of!) requires you to have an agent at the moment. You’ll only need one if you’re trying to break into the international market, or if you’re trying to sell foreign/translation rights.
But still, good to know lah!
What does a literary agent do (in the UK/USA)?
Whilst traditional publishers still represent the official gatekeepers to the industry, the entry point to getting published no longer begins with submitting a completed manuscript—or even a query letter and opening chapters—to a publisher. More often than not, the first foot in the door is catching that elusive unicorn: a literary agent.
A literary agent’s primary and most obvious role is to sell the writer’s work to the publisher. They are expected to know (or find out) what publishers want and match that to the manuscript and author they are representing. Part of this consists of putting together the final query letters and materials that the publishers see.
Translation: You pitch to agent, agent pitch to publisher. Agent = middleman.
Like that only, need agent for what?
Because… agents do more than just sell. They handle financial and legal matters, including
- negotiating contracts and payment schedules,
- selling various rights and licenses, and
- ensuring the contracts and deals comply with industry standards and best practices.
A good agent will have the clout, ability, and business acumen to get the author the best possible contract that maximises the author’s income streams rather than the publisher’s. After all, agents don’t work for free—they stand to earn between ten to fifteen per cent of the author’s income, even up to twenty per cent for foreign markets.
A lesser-known task of literary agents is to groom their clients and manage their careers. Not only must the manuscript be marketable, but the authors themselves must also be palatable to the public. This includes working with the author on their platform and public-facing engagements. Whether they are promoted for their celebrity status, credentials, or eccentricity, the author’s immediate sphere of influence—including their social media presence and/or other personal and professional networks—can and does influence a publisher’s decision.
A fairly new phenomenon is the provision of editorial assistance. In the past, agents focused on selling the manuscript, leaving editorial work to the actual editors in the publishing houses. However, some agents now provide editorial notes that writers are requested to work on before the manuscript is submitted to publishers. This acts as an additional service to the author and as a way to improve the saleability of the manuscript.
Translation: Actually leh, agent = business manager. They kautim all the business stuff so you focus on writing, not selling.
So why Malaysia don’t have?
Few literary agents exist outside the UK and USA English-language trade publishing industry (even in Europe). Those that exist are more likely to deal with foreign sales, translation rights, and other subsidiary rights rather than being the first liaison between author and publisher.
Publishers in Malaysia and Singapore all accept direct submissions and do not even use the same language of “solicited”, “unsolicited”, “agented”, or “unagented” in their guidelines. Most simply state that writers should send their completed manuscript to the given submissions email address. Some require certain formats or ask for a cover letter, but there are no standard rules or guidelines yet.
We believe that this is because local publishers do not receive as many submissions as those overseas. Writing is often still seen as a past time or hobby, or for the select “talented” few. As such, Malaysian publishers do not deal with the sheer volume of submissions that overwhelms trade publishing in the UK and USA.
The industry is also relatively informal and has more small independent presses than large publishing houses or conglomerates. This laid-back scene could also be a key factor. As the industry is small, it’s easier for publishers to work directly with the writers.
Translation: Market too small, no need agent. Just sell direct.
Anyway, I want to self-publish so no need agent lor
If you want to sell translation or movie rights, getting an agent might help you negotiate a better contract! A few successful self-published authors have used agents to advance their career. These include Andy Weir (The Martian), who jumped from self-publishing into a traditional publishing deal, and Hugh Howey (Wool), who sold paperback rights to separate publishers but held on to his e-book rights.
Hybrid authors like Howey benefit the most from an agent’s experience in selling translation, foreign, and movie rights, as well as breaking down the sale of territorial publishing rights—an aspect often out of reach for self-published authors, whether through lack of contacts or lack of business know-how. Getting the advice of an agent—or a lawyer specialising in rights—would be the best way for self-published authors to navigate the tricky and difficult management of rights that goes beyond the text in their books.
Translation: When you’re famous, maybe you might need one.
Ok. So I can ignore agents for now
Yup! The need for literary agents hasn’t made its way over to Malaysia yet. If you need one here, it’s more likely for the sale of subsidiary rights (translations, movie deals, foreign rights) rather than the publishing deal.
We’ve talked a lot about self-publishing your book, but what if you want to get a publishing deal? How do you really get published in Malaysia? For those unfamiliar with the business of publishing, the process looks something like this:
- ??? something magical happens here???
- Book appears in bookstores!
Here’s a brief rundown of how to get from the writing bit to the published bit.
Polish your work
First drafts are rarely ready for publishing, whether you decide to self-publish or are trying to attract the eye of an agent or publisher. You’ll need to go through your work with a fine toothcomb to work out all the snags and snarls. You have several options for this, including self-editing, sending your work to alpha or beta readers, or engaging an editor.
Research literary agents (international) and/or publishers (local or regional)
Getting an international publishing deal generally means you need to get an agent, though some small presses do accept direct submissions—that’s a whole ‘nother post for another time! If you’re targeting only publishers in Malaysia or Southeast Asia, you’re likely to NOT need an agent (or get strange looks when you talk about agents).
A literary agent is the person who will help you sell your book to a publisher. You’ll need to research which agents are open for submissions and what kind of books they represent. There’s no point in submitting your Wonderful Fantasy Novel to an agent who only represents Literary Novels or vice versa—that’s just the best way to rack up useless rejections.
Once you have a list of agents and publishers who might best represent your work, you’ll need to start approaching them.
Going on submission
Look up the submission guidelines for your selected agent(s)/publisher(s). Most agents & publishers require a cover letter, a synopsis (for fiction) or a proposal (for non-fiction), and sample chapters of your manuscript, however, these requirements and/or the format may sometimes differ. Some might want them in attachments, or some might want them in the body of the email, or some may use specialised submissions forms such as Submittable or Moksha. Do your due diligence and follow their requirements.
If you are looking for Malaysian-specific publishers, MABOPA has a list of publishers that you can look up here: http://mabopa.com.my/index.php/members/
Your submissions package
Your standard submissions package consists of the following:
- A Cover Letter
At minimum, a cover letter tells the agent who you are, what you’ve written (a synopsis or a blurb), and why you were the best person to write it. Here are several guides to cover letters and how to write them:
- A Synopsis or Proposal
Your cover letter already has a 1- or 2-paragraph synopsis of your novel which looks like the back cover blurb, enticing potential readers to want to read the novel. It’s full of mystery and potential. This is not that.
A one-page synopsis is a full summary of your novel, including the ending of your story. Not all agents request this at the start, but they may request it after reading your cover letter so it’s always good to have this ready.
If you’re writing a non-fiction book, what they’ll look for is a proposal. As some non-fiction books are written on-spec (as in it’s not finished before you approach an agent or publisher), this is usually a chapter-by-chapter outline of what the book will cover.
Some useful guides can be found here:
- Sample chapters
Most agents will request the first three chapters or the first 50 pages of your novel. Even if you’re submitting a proposal for a non-fiction book, it’s likely they’ll ask for a sample chapter. This is for them to evaluate the quality and style of your writing to help them decide if they like it enough to want to represent you.
- A One-Sheet [in-person pitches]
If you’re going to a writing conference that has in-person pitches, agents in the USA prefer a one-sheet. (No one in the UK mentioned this at all, so it might be an American thing.) This is kind of like your cover letter, only made pretty. It still has your 2-paragraph synopsis, your bio, and your contact info, so think of it as a brief resume for your book. Here’s a useful guide with several samples:
A Full Manuscript Request
So far, all you’ve sent to the potential agent or publisher is a sample of your work. If they like what you’ve sent so far, they’ll ask you to send them the full manuscript. If they didn’t like it, or you sent your letter to the wrong person, you’ll get a rejection.
If you get a full request, OMG CONGRATULATIONS! This doesn’t mean that they will represent you, but it does mean that you’ve got good stuff going for you. So send that baby along and go celebrate a little.
OMG so tension
At this point, all you can do is wait. This can go in several ways:
- We love it and want to represent it.
YOU MADE IT!
…not yet, actually. This just means that you have an agent. Now you need to sign official stuff and then the agent will have to sell the book to a publisher (which takes another million years) and then it will take another 18 months or so to actually hit the bookshelves. But this is now out of your hands—your agent will be doing ALL THE WORK on your behalf for their 15% cut and you just have to keep waiting and praying and making decisions like “yes, we will go with this publisher” or “no, I want more money” (lol, you wish) or “oh no what do I do with this bidding war?”
Or if you’re really unlucky, your book will still not sell after a few years and then you have to decide whether you want to stay with this agent or if you want to try your luck somewhere else. Just keeping it real here, folks.
- We liked it but can you fix this and resubmit?
This happens on very rare occasions. You’ll have to decide if you agree with the changes they are requesting. If you agree, then fix it and resubmit it. If you don’t, move on to the next agent or publisher.
- We liked it but…
These are the worst. This means that they liked your work (yay validation, your book is a good book) but not enough to make them want to sell it. This could be because it doesn’t quite fit what they usually sell, or they’re already representing a similar book, or they just don’t know what to do with it.
You’ll just have to continue submitting to the next agent or publisher on your list and keep hoping for the best. Maybe you might do another edit and fix stuff that you think might make your book better.
- Sorry, no.
This is pretty clear cut. It’s a no. Moving along…
Wah, like that take how long?
As a general rule, traditional publishing takes like a gazillion years between finishing your novel and seeing it in the bookstore. In practical timelines, here’s what you can expect:
- Signing an agent: anywhere between three months to a few years. Agents seem to take at least three months to request a full manuscript. From there, it may take anywhere from one week (if it’s an easy no) to maybe six months or more for a decision. Seeing that you may have to approach several agents over several submission cycles, this could take a very, very long time.
- Getting a publisher: nobody knows, really. Once you sign an agent, the agent repeats the same process above on your behalf with the publisher. Even if the agent is really, really close with the editor, publishing decisions rarely rely on only that one person. The agent has to convince the editor, who has to convince the managing/acquisitions editor, who has to pitch it at the marketing meeting… This is really a business tender. Getting numbers and proposals together takes time, so this could take months at minimum.
- Seeing the final book: 18 months. This is the only bit which has something of a set timeline. This 18 months includes edits (again!) and doing all the marketing stuff like getting a pretty cover, press releases, sending out Advance Review Copies (ARCS) for review (6 months at minimum), printing and distribution.
There you have it. The mysterious side of publishing demystified.
Wait, wait, but what if I only want local publishers?
Everything above applies… just delete the parts about the agent. This means you’ll:
- Polish your work
- Research potential publishers
- Submit to publishers
- Wait for a reply
- Get published! Or try again.
Okay, so you’ve written your masterpiece, your 80K-word novel, your 40K novella, or something in between. It’s all shiny and pretty and you need to find an editor to make it even shinier. We talked a little bit about the different types of edits in the How Much Does it Cost post, so if you need a quick refresher on developmental edits, line edits and proofreading, check out that post. The question now is, how do I find an editor? Do I really need one?
Finding an Editor
One of the main reasons people tend to look down on self-published works is the quality of the writing. In the early days of self-publishing on Amazon, anyone could just put up their first draft, slap on a cover and hey, published! Then the entrepreneurial writers came along and made a business out of it, producing works polished enough to compete with trade publishing. However, the bad name still lingers—and you still do see some sloppy first drafts up for sale.
A traditionally published book is often pared down and polished until it shines. Sometimes, honestly, a self-pubbed book is sent out when it’s just merely gleaming. That’s often a big difference to readers—and yet, it’s an easy mistake to avoid. As we said in our very first post:
“Self-publishing isn’t about doing away with the gatekeepers. It’s about making yourself your own gatekeeper. Releasing a book that isn’t quite ready or good enough will harm your career as you’ll put off any potential readers. Before you self-publish, please be sure that your book is the best that it can be, not according to your own standards, but in accordance with worldwide publishing standards.”
Actually, let’s amend that: before you send your work ANYWHERE, make sure your work is the best that it can be. Because if it’s not that great, the agent/publisher isn’t going to take you on either.
So with all the freelance editors out there, how are you going to find the right one for you? Here are three questions to ask that will help you pick the right one.
1. What are your weaknesses?
It’s not nice to talk about weaknesses, but sometimes you need to. If you’re great at story plots but not so great at grammar, you’re better off looking for someone who’s more of a line editor. If your language skills are awesome but your plot and story development are meh, you should be looking for an editor whose strengths are in developmental edits.
Ultimately, every writer needs both, but when you’re hiring an editor, you should really concentrate on finding someone who can help shore up your weaknesses.
2. Does the editor understand your vision?
Everyone has agendas. Even you. You probably have a specific vision for your story and what you’re trying to achieve with it. And sometimes the vision your editor has for your story is going to be… different.
The most important thing about a good editor is that they understand what you are trying to do as a writer and then work with you to achieve that through your work. So if you’re aiming to write The Great Malaysian Novel using Malaysian English, you’re not going to work very well with an editor who insists on italicising every local term or correcting everything according to the Queen’s English.
3. Do you get along with the editor?
This doesn’t really have anything to do with your writing, your writing style, or your work. It’s to do with personality. You could have found a really great editor with really great pointers on how to improve your work, but if everything they say or the way they say it makes you bristle with annoyance, your partnership isn’t going to last very long. Either you’ll get upset, or they’ll get upset, and then one of you will up and leave.
So like that how?
What you need to do (and I’m sure the editor you’re scouting will want too) is a test edit. This could be a page or a chapter of your work, something relatively short and not time-consuming. This will give the editor a feel of your work and what you’re trying to achieve. You’ll also get a taste of how the editor works and what kind of comments they give (and how they give it).
From there, both of you can evaluate if your partnership will be mutually beneficial (and you wouldn’t mind paying money for their services) or if you should continue looking for someone else.
Remember that the editing process is a partnership. Not everything your editor says is correct, and not everything you want to do actually works. Finding the right editor is like finding the right dance partner: you need to trust each other to take the lead at different points in the process.
If you’re looking for an editor, consider Teaspoon Publishing’s Services. We’re nice, we don’t bite, and we specialise in fiction. 🙂
Whether you’re organising your own reading or you’re invited to read at an event, every writer unfortunately needs to be prepared to face the public. It’s a scary thing. You could, I suppose, get by without it and be the hermit-recluse-type—but it’s as much a promotional thing as anything else, especially as an unknown (not-yet-famous) writer.
People tend to buy books at events where they can get the author to sign and dedicate it to them, even if they were ambivalent about it before. You might even wow the crowd so much with your reading that they rush to buy more of your work (one dreams)!
Here are some tips to make your reading a success.
Nail down places, dates and times
You definitely want to show up at the right place at the right time and on the right day.
Also ask if there is a sound check or any form of pre-event prep that you could attend just to get a feel of the place, understand how the microphones (if any) work, and to release some last-minute jitters.
If they can give you a run sheet of the event, even better! Then you’ll know who you’re reading after, how much time you have to panic in the bathroom before it’s your turn, and how much time you have to read.
Tip: The more prepared you are mentally, emotionally, and physically, the better you’ll do.
Choose Your Story/Excerpt
Who are you going to be reading to and/or what’s the audience like?
If it’s a children’s event, pick something fun and exciting and maybe a little weird (kids like boogers and poo and dinosaurs). You’re unlikely to get these invites unless you write for children, though.
At a general event, find out what’s the age range of people who are likely to turn up. You don’t want to pick something racy or full of swearing only to find that there are minors in the audience and you need to censor yourself. Though you might still need to censor yourself at a public event with or without under-eighteens.
Pick a story, or a portion of a story, that’s exciting! Make sure something is happening and it’s not just all descriptions. Dialogue is good, but can be a little tricky—you might have to add in some additional dialogue tags for the reading, especially if you don’t do voices (as in, read each person’s dialogue in a different voice/tone). If you’re reading an excerpt that’s in the middle of the story, plan a brief explanation of who the characters are and how they got to where they are.
Tip: An exciting, action-filled excerpt is usually a crowd-pleaser.
Most of the time, reading events are organised waaaaaay in advance. Which means you’ll have at least two weeks to a month (or more) to practice what you’re going to read. Do it.
Read it aloud several times and time yourself. Besides making sure it fits the time allocated, you also get to see how consistent you are in your reading speeds. Underline tricky words or passages. Mark up places you should slow down or speed up. Put in the crescendo and decrescendo points.
If that sounds like drama or choral reading, it is.
Tip: Think about it as storytelling.
I know, I know, people call it a “reading” because you’re reading from a book or something that you’ve written down before. You’re not some kind of oral storyteller of old or performer.
And this is an important but, reading straight from the text and reading as performance has very different impacts. Think about all the boring readers or preachers you know and you’ll find that they always speak in the same tone of voice and at the same unvarying speed, usually really slow. And droning.
What makes storytelling exciting? Injecting drama into the piece. Whether that means lowering your voice at tense times, speeding up with the action, or actually shouting when the character shouts, this helps to engage the audience. And that’s what you want, even if you’re “just” reading a passage from your book.
Turn up. Early.
Budget to arrive at least 15-20 minutes before the event (or the pre-event check) because delays always happen and then you’ll be right on time, instead of late. (Or at the least let someone know if you’re going to be late because of unforeseen circumstances so they don’t panic when you don’t arrive when they expect you to.)
Tip: Even if you don’t panic if you’re late, the organisers will, and that makes for bad mood/feelings overall.
As mentioned earlier, reading your work can be a key marketing or promotional tool, so the last tip is this:
Remember to bring along copies of your books!
If you’re looking to read from your work, or want to attend one to see what it’s about, check out Readings @ Seksan.
Copyright is an important aspect of writing and creating content. It’s also a concept often confused by writers themselves.
What is Copyright? How can it protect your written works? How does awareness of Copyright save you, as a content creator, from getting into trouble with the law?
Creative works can exist in many forms:
- a photograph, image or pictorial work;
- sound recordings and musical works (a tune or song including its lyrics);
- dramatic works (motion pictures, theatre productions, pantomime or choreography);
- architectural plans and drawings; and
- for authors, this refers to their literary works: novels, pieces of fiction, essays, articles, blogposts, poetry, graphic novels/comics and so on.
Copyright is a concept created in law to govern the relationship between the creator (Author) and the end users (Readers) in relation to a subject creative work (the Written Works). The concept of Copyright in law allows people to use and share content, while providing an incentive to its creators, enabling them to earn income from their works while providing appropriate protection under the law.
What are my rights?
The rights granted to the author or copyright owner are:
- economic rights – the right to make money from the publishing, sharing, and performing of their works; and creating derivatives such as translations, audiobooks, digital copies, movie/tv adaptations, and merchandise;
- legal rights to sue anyone who breaches these rights i.e. commits copyright infringement; and
- moral rights:
- paternity rights – the right to be acknowledged as the author, and
- integrity rights – the right to preserve the works from distortion or mutilation.
These rights are exclusive to the owner unless he sells them, like a situation of commissioned writing, or licenses them to another. All use without permission is considered copyright infringement. However, there are exceptions, such as to encourage learning (education), commentary, and news reporting (fair use or dealings).
Copyright is one of the types of Intellectual Properties (others being Service & Trade Marks, Patents, Trade Secrets and Industrial Designs) which, although intangible, is considered property which can be dealt with under the law such as being sold, licensed, willed or inherited.
How do I get copyright protection?
The law creates Copyright protection over a piece of creative content, provided it is original (not copied from another source), automatically as soon as it is reduced into material form (recorded or written down). An author of a story or book, for instance, is generally not required to do anything further to enjoy copyright protection over her works.
In contrast, note that a story or concept which remains in the author’s mind and has not been crystallized in writing (no matter how well planned) can never receive copyright protection. Creative works which are not reduced to material form are regarded as ideas and are not upheld by the same shield of the law. Anyone is free to come up with different versions of the same story idea (think of the numerous versions of the story of Cinderella or Dracula in movies and books) because these are mere instances of the copying of an idea. That’ll be a reminder to never blurt out that brilliant story plot the next time you have a round of roti canai with a bunch of writers!
However, the copying of the way or manner in which an idea has been presented (the use of the same or similar words, exact plot or storyline, for example) by another writer is prohibited by law, as this amounts to plagiarism or copyright infringement.
Is my copyright applicable everywhere?
Because Copyright law is territorial in nature, the rights and protections available under Copyright may defer depending on the territory (country) in which that right is being asserted. Although general concepts of Copyright seldom differ, one of the most important differences is the way that copyright disputes are upheld (for example, some countries like the USA require that copyright owners register their right for administrative purposes, to aid proof in copyright disputes).
How long does my copyright last?
Another glaring distinction is the duration of copyright protection granted to the author/maker across territories. For example, the duration of copyright held by an author of works published in USA and UK is 70 years, calculated from the end of the calendar year in which the author or the last remaining author (if there is more than one author) dies, whereas that duration is only 60 years in India, and 50 years in most other countries including Malaysia, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines.
Any works that have exceeded that term becomes available for public use and sharing, subsequently referred to as works in the Public Domain. This is why classic literature such as Shakespeare is so cheap to buy in printed form, despite its brilliance. The term Public Domain also applies where the author, during his lifetime, gifts his work for general public use, i.e. has expressly waived his Copyright over it. You see this happening with some works shared under Creative Commons, and free and open-sourced programming software such as Freeworks, which have been specifically created to liberate users of the Internet.
So what do I do if someone copies my work?
Now you have copyright: does that mean you can rest on your laurels while someone copies it?
No, that right must still be enforced if you want to stop an infringer and claim compensation. As an author, you must actively assert your rights. The Courts are the upholders of your rights, so any copyright infringement must be taken up by way of a court action in the territory where the infringement occurred.
Like any other legal right, sitting idle for a long period may mean you end up waiving that right! Malaysian law, for example, requires legal action to be instituted within 6 years of the copyright infringement occurring (or is discovered). During a civil court trial, it all comes down to evidentiary proof: can you prove that the perpetrator copied your work or can he show that he had written it himself, i.e. that the offending work was original to him?
What about stuff I find on the Internet?
So, we’ve established that any content creator is entitled to copyright protection over their works. It must follow that one cannot copy any pieces of works they happen to come across and use it without the owner’s permission or license.
Common examples of blatant acts of copyright infringement are:
- copying photos from the internet and using it in your blog or as the background to your book cover;
- quoting someone else’s song lyrics or poetry in your story;
- splicing and inserting a snippet of a Hollywood movie in your book trailer which has been posted on YouTube;
- inserting an audio clip from a radio interview into your podcast.
But, if this is so wrong, why is everyone doing it so openly, you ask?
Mostly, because the copyright owner might not be bothered to take legal action against them for now. If a thief steals a cake from your bakery, you may not give chase or have them arrested, but you have every right to, correct? What if the copyright owner decides to make an example of people downloading and sharing her eBooks? She can, if her legal reach is large enough, make every owner of pirated copies cough-up settlement payment in the form of monetary damages.
Alternatively, think of it from a writer’s perspective: how would you feel if someone copied your work and passed it off as theirs? Even if they were to acknowledge your authorship, would you be happy if they went on to benefit from their post, leaving you with nothing but a nod of credit?
As a writer yourself, you must learn to assert, and respect copyright owned by other content creators. Just to err on the side of caution and to maintain integrity of your reputation (especially if you are a business owner), do the right thing: pay the small license fee to use a stock photo for your blogs; request for permission to quote a passage from your favourite song/book/movie; shoot your own movie clip or animation sequence for your book trailer; hire a model and photographer to shoot your book cover photos; hire your own book cover designer!
Remember that copyright infringement always costs. You either pay before use (a small token licensing fee or taking the painstaking and circuitous route of contacting the original author for permission – a relatively paltry sum or effort) or you pay a fortune (after being sued in Court). Look around your workspace today – how can you better protect your work and stop yourself from wrongly infringing the rights of others?
Wah so mafan.
The intricacies and nuances of Copyright Law are numerous – lawyers like me take years to master it – but I’ve touched on the basics as far as authors and writing is concerned, with the hope that it provides some illumination. I pray you’ve found this post useful and worthwhile food for thought.
If you’d like to know more about Copyright and Writers, feel free to visit my blog on this topic at www.tina-isaacs.com/copyright-writers/.
This was a guest post by Tina Isaacs: Lawyer | Author | Actor | Vocalist
Tina Isaacs is a litigation lawyer turned fiction writer based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and is the founder of the Malaysian Writers Society. She has published numerous short stories internationally and within the region, most notably winning Runner-Up for the DK Dutt Memorial Award for Literary Excellence 2015, and having her story ‘Undercover in Tanah Firdaus’ chosen for the Short Story Collection of the 2015 SciFi Film Festival in Parramatta, Australia. Other than her qualification in law, Tina has a Master in Creative Writing from the University of Tampa, Florida, USA; is an active performer in the Malaysian musical and theatre industry; and is presently working on her debut novel, a dystopian thriller.
In this highly digital world, authors are often pressured to have an online presence. One question new writers frequently ask is: do I need to start a blog?
Our answer: it depends.
Ask yourself these two questions before you start yours.
1. What is the purpose of my blog?
A blog can be about anything you want it to be. It can be full of random musings about your life, your family, and your cats. You may decide to write about your writing projects or make it a technical(ish) blog, like this one. It could be about books you’ve read, short fiction, or just pictures. The Internet is full of blogs, so what will make people want to read yours?
- If you’re planning to keep it mainly for friends and family, posts about your cat or dog or random musings about your life may be enough.
- For fiction writers, snippets of your book, some short fiction and flash fiction, or updates on your writing projects may be the calling card you need to engage new and existing readership.
- If you’re writing a non-fiction book, posting about your expertise could help increase your credibility and visibility. People who read your blog and find your posts useful may very well go on to buy your book!
You need to know why you want a blog before you start one. Otherwise, it will just be a lot of work for no reason. As a writer, your blog is a place that can help you promote your work but if your blog is only filled with “buy my book” posts, what’s the point?
Ultimately, your blog should be about whatever you want your readers to know about you.
2. How often am I able post?
Blogging is a very time-consuming task. As you can see from the (in)consistency of this blog, it’s a lot of work! (We’re trying to do better, promise!) Writing a post can take anywhere from 5 minutes to four hours, depending on what you decide to write about. Obviously, if you’re just posting cat pictures, that should take about 5 minutes… except that you need to take the perfect picture of your cat, and then you get distracted by cat memes and oh look at the time! You’ve been writing that one cat picture post for two hours.
You don’t need to blog every day. To help you decide how often you should post, estimate:
- how much time you normally take to write a post, and
- how much time you can spare to write posts.
You can then set a posting schedule that works for you, whether it’s once a day, once a week, once a month, or anything in between. Consistency is key, even if we’re not the best examples of that. Regular posts help readers know when to check your blog for your latest updates.
So should I blog or what?
If you’ve got answers for both questions, you should have a good feel of whether starting a blog is right for you. Don’t worry if it isn’t. Not everyone likes blogging and it’s best to not have one if you’re just going to hate doing it and then end up abandoning it anyway.
If you need help getting started, the upcoming Blogging from A to Z Challenge in April is a brilliant way to get organised. Whilst the schedule is gruelling at first, it’s a great way to fill your new blog with content and then ease down into a schedule that works for you once you’ve gotten into the habit of blogging. It also comes with an inbuilt community of supportive bloggers with whom you can network and find great support!
In recent months, we’ve personally been getting several queries about book blog tours and online book launches. After typing up email summaries several times, we’ve decided to just compile all those emails into one post about organising an online book launch!
There are several ways to do an online book tour, but most of them have to do with bloggers. Bloggers are your friends, if you still know anyone who blogs (you’ll probably find some on KLBAC).
Organising an online book tour/launch is as easy as asking all your family, friends, and random strangers on the internet to host you during launch week (or any random dates you think up). It’s also as difficult as planning launch materials, coordinating dates with the bloggers, or maybe hosting a live Facebook event. There’s a lot of coordinating and networking to do, so it may be best to leave it in the hands of the professionals!
If you’re considering an online book launch, here are several standard posts to consider.
The Cover Reveal
The cover reveal is like a pre-release drip, where you share the cover of the upcoming book plus basic details. This post works best if there are existing fans who are excited about the series, and if there is an ability to pre-order the book. At the bare minimum, post materials should include:
- the shiny new book cover (duh!),
- the book blurb/description,
- pre-order links (you gotta channel that excitement somewhere), and
- pre-order sales or promotional announcements (e.g. discounted price for pre-orders, exclusive goodies, additional bonus material, previews, etc)
The Launch Post
Usually posted on the day the book goes on sale, this is a general announcement to say hey the book is now out! Post materials usually include the following:
- the book cover,
- the book blurb/description,
- buy links,
- launch promo/sales announcements, if any (e.g if the launch price is only valid for a period before it goes up, discounts on earlier books, etc),
- author bio,
- author picture,
- tour graphics/banner, if any (mainly because pictures make it easier to share & garner interest), and
- an excerpt or preview (not too long, preferably an exciting hook from the book).
A Review Post
Reviews would usually be posted on or about the launch week/month. If they’re posted before the launch, resharing these posts will help you build more organic buzz as this is what others are saying about the book instead of you just announcing BUY MY BOOK. Reviews have the most impact 2 weeks before (if you take pre-orders) and 6 weeks after the actual release date (crunch time for a new release).
Review posts are slightly trickier because you need to send a review copy (digital or otherwise) to the reviewer hopefully one to two months before the launch so that they have the time to read and write the review. It’s also tricky because there’s always the chance that the reviewer might not like the book! If you can, politely request the reviewer to also post their reviews to Amazon & Goodreads when your book is available.
Post materials should include:
- a review copy to be sent to the reviewer/blogger 1 – 2 months before launch (they shouldn’t be sharing this with anyone else), and
- Everything from the launch post (the blogger can then decide what they want to add to the post)
A guest post is usually an opportunity for you to talk about your writing and/or your book. Some bloggers have a theme for their blog, others keep it open to the authors. If a blogger offers/agrees to host you, check with them if they have a specific topic in mind and if they have word count limits. Post materials would generally include:
- A guest post of about 500 – 800 words, and
- Everything from the launch post (the blogger can then decide what they want to add to the post)
This is just a bit of fun to get to know the author better. You can predraft a generic interview with FAQ-type things, but most bloggers would have their own questions to ask the author. Just make sure you have everything from the launch post on hand (especially your book cover and buy links)!
Facebook Live Events
Got a Facebook Page? Schedule a launch event where you invite all the fans on your page, and your newsletter, and random Facebook strangers to listen to you ramble about your book! Some launches use the live facebook video (which can be a scary thing) whilst others use frequent posts concentrated around a few hours on the web. This is a great way to interact with fans (and friends), give out some freebies, or con them into buying your book.
Book launches and blog tours can be exciting things… or they can be super dead. It really depends on who’s on your team and who’s excited enough to share your books (and about you) on social media! It’s also really cheap to organise if you’ve already organised your materials, can work out some graphics on Canva, and can work out a simple spreadsheet to coordinate who’s posting what when. Make sure you also share their posts on YOUR social media!