Monday, November 30, 2009

I have uploaded five new reviews to Aussiereviews tonight:

Picture Book Review: Sheep, Goat and the Creaking Gate
, by Claire Saxby & Judith Rossell

Nonfiction Book Review: The Sisters Antipodes
, by Jane Allison

Book Review: The Sea Bed
, by Marele Day

YA Book Review: Swerve
, by Phillip Gwynne

Picture Book Review: The Lamington Man
, by Kel Richardson & Glen Singleton


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Snowy's Christmas Blog Tour Week 9

Time for another stop on the Snowy's Christmas blog tour. This week I am visiting with the lovely Sandy Fussell, at Stories are Light, talking about Christmas stories, and what makes them special. We'd love to see you there.

If you’ve missed any of the other tour stops, you can find them at:
Week One: 4 October Deescribe Writing Blog
Week Two: 11 October Write and Read With Dale
Week three: 18 October Alphabet Soup Blog
Week Four: 25 October Let’s Have Words
Week Five: 1 November Sally Murphy’s Writing for Children Blog (you’re here)
Week Six: 8 November Aussiereviews Blog
Week Seven: 15 November Samantha Hughes’ Blog
Week Eight: 22 November Robyn Opie’s Writing Children’s Books Blog
Week Nine: 29 November Stories are Light
Week Ten: 6 December The Aussie Christmas Blog
Week Eleven: 13 December Tales I Tell

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Snowy's Christmas Blog Tour: Week Seven

It's Sunday, which means another stop on the Snowy's Christmas blog tour. Today I'm breakfasting with my friend, talented WA illustrator Samantha Hughes. Drop by for some bacon and eggs at this link.

If you’ve missed the start of the tour, you can follow it at:
Week One: 4 October Deescribe Writing Blog
Week Two: 11 October Write and Read With Dale
Week three: 18 October Alphabet Soup Blog
Week Four: 25 October Let’s Have Words
Week Five: 1 November Sally Murphy’s Writing for Children Blog (you’re here)
Week Six: 8 November Aussiereviews Blog
Week Seven: 15 November Samantha Hughes’ Blog
Week Eight: 22 November Robyn Opie’s Writing Children’s Books Blog
Week Nine: 29 November Stories are Light
Week Ten: 6 December The Aussie Christmas Blog
Week Eleven: 13 December Tales I Tell

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Great News

Wonderful wonderful news today – especially if you are an Australian author, illustrator or publisher. The Australian government has decided NOT to alter the rules regarding Parallel Importation restrictions (PIR) for books. The minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs, Craig Emerson, this morning issued a press release announcing this decision – you can read the release here.

You can also read more about the celebrations on the Saving Aussie Books blog – and, if you’ve hiding under a rock for the past year and don’t know about this debate, you can browse the same blog for loads of information.

Or, you can simply join me in celebrating a victory for commonsense. One great way to celebrate is to go to your local bookstore and buy an Aussie book. Let’s support the bookstores and ensure their longevity. Independent bookstores, especially, would have been adversely affected by these changes – yet they are the bookstores which seem to actually know about, and support Australian books.

So, what are you waiting for? Start partying – and reading. Aussie Aussie Aussie!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Snowy's Christmas Blog Tour: Week Six

Welcome to week 6 of the Snowy’s Christmas blog tour, which stops here today. In previous stops we’ve talked about the inspiration behind the book, and the writing and illustration process. Today, since the tour is stopping here at a blog devoted to reviews, I thought I might chat a little about reviews and what is like when the reviewer (that’s usually me) becomes the reviewed (when I’m the author).

Firstly, a little about me as a reviewer. I own and manage website Aussiereviews, also writing the bulk of the reviews you’ll find there. My reviews are aimed primarily at parents, teachers and readers, being not heavily academic or analytical. My reviews are also generally positive. I have an unofficial policy that if I strongly dislike a book for any reason then I simply don’t review it, rather than posting a damning review. My reasoning for this is that I simply don’t have time to review every book that comes my way, so I would rather focus on the good ones. Having said that, if I see deficits in an otherwise good book, I am prepared to mention them. I have no desire to mislead potential readers, who are the intended audience of my reviews.

So, being an active reviewer, how does it feel for me to be reviewed by other people? Honestly? Great. As well as the reviews starting to come in for Snowy’s Christmas, I’ve also had a swag of reviews this year for my other new release, Pearl Verses the World. Most of the reviews have been positive, and it feels wonderful to know that people love my book. As a reviewer myself, I know that the reviewer is not writing the review for me, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t benefit from the affirmation.

But what about if the review is negative? That’s harder. So far, Snowy has had only positive reviews, but Pearl Verses the World had one review which was a real shocker. It was a print review, so I can’t link to it, but it basically said the book was depressing, unrealistic and shouldn’t be read. The reviewer, in spite of having the book in front of them, also managed to misname the author. To be honest, though, I was probably only mildly annoyed. After all, I’d been lucky enough to get lots of really outstanding reviews for the same book, so I figured that this one reviewer was having a bad day. Or maybe, just maybe, that book was just not a good fit for that reviewer. After all, not every book will be loved by every reader. And as an author it is unrealistic to think that every reviewer will feel the same about your book.

Which leads me to my next point – how I respond to reviews. Established review etiquette is that the author/illustrator/publisher should not respond to reviews – that includes trying to answer the reviewer’s opinions, as well as simply thanking the reviewer. The reasoning is that this breaks down the professional remove between reviewer and reviewed. I actually agree with this wisdom – to a point.
Pre the internet, that remove was supported by the fact the reviewer and the reviewed would not cross paths terribly often – apart from, of course, industry functions, conferences and the like. However, in the new internet age, everyone is closer to everyone else. Through social networking, especially, reviewers, authors, editors, publishers, publicists rub shoulders on a daily basis. In this world, it seems almost silly to pretend that the review process does not exist. As a reviewer, I do regularly receive emails and messages from people thanking me for reviews. I don’t expect them, but I understand why people send them. To date, I’ve only had one email from an author complaining about my review. This was difficult, especially as I felt that the author had misinterpreted my review, but I did respond politely to this email. I might add here that it is because of this close contact through social networking and so on that I don’t accept review copies directly from authors. By insisting that books come from publishers I am able to maintain some distance between myself and the author until after I have written the review.

As an author, I try to not respond to reviews of my own books, because of this etiquette - with the exception of reviews which appear as part of one of my blog tours. In this instance, I do thank the reviewer because, although the review copy has come from the publisher, the blog visit has usually been instigated by me.

So, to Snowy's Christmas. To date Snowy has had, as I’ve said, some wonderful reviews, from:

Dee White, who said “It’s a truly Australian Christmas story with Aussie animals and landscapes. The tale is beautifully told by Sally Murphy, and David Murphy’s bright, funny illustrations give the book extra bounce.” (You can read her full review HERE)

Rebecca Newman, who said “this is a great picture book for celebrating Christmas in the heat.” (You can read her full review HERE)

Dale Harcombe, who said “It’s lovely to see an Aussie Christmas book that reflects the wildlife, colour and landscape of Australia instead of snow etc.” (You can read her full review HERE)

Pat Pledger, who said “In her captivating story with an Australian setting, Sally Murphy has managed to capture the spirit and fun of Christmas, while exploring the theme of fitting in and finding your own niche in life.” (You can read her full review HERE)

Being reviewed can be confronting. But I suppose the best advice I can give any author is to remember that every review is only one person’s opinion. And every review, good or bad, is publicity for your book.

If you want to learn more about Snowy’s Christmas you can follow the rest of the Snowy’s Christmas blog tour at the following links. See you there:

Week One: 4 October Deescribe Writing Blog
Week Two: 11 October Write and Read With Dale
Week three: 18 October Alphabet Soup Blog
Week Four: 25 October Let’s Have Words
Week Five: 1 November Sally Murphy’s Writing for Children Blog (you’re here)
Week Six: 8 November Aussiereviews Blog
Week Seven: 15 November Samantha Hughes’ Blog
Week Eight: 22 November Robyn Opie’s Writing Children’s Books Blog
Week Nine: 29 November Stories are Light
Week Ten: 6 December The Aussie Christmas Blog
Week Eleven: 13 December Tales I Tell
Snowy's Christmas is available across Australia in bookstores, Kmart and Myer,a nd online from stores including Booktopia.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

New Reviews

Phew! What a busy day. I have been busy on a big update of Aussiereviews and have finally finsihed. There are twenty new reviews for your enjoyment. You can click on the links to peruse the ones you're interested in:

Children's Book Review: The Visconti House, by Elsbeth Edgar Reviewed by Sally Murphy
Solving a mystery brings two friends together.
Children's Book Review: Australian & World Records 2010 Reviewed by Calum Murphy
More than 250 amazing records.
Children's Book Review: Pilot and Huxley, by Dan McGuiness Reviewed by Claire Saxby
Hop aboard for a wild ride.
Graphic Novel Review: Captain Congo and the Maharaja’s Monkey, by Ruth Starke Reviewed by Claire Saxby
Captain Congo’s new adventure.
Children's Book Review: Dog Squad, by Meredith Costain Reviewed by Claire Saxby
A new Lightning Strikes novel.
Children's Book Review: the Locket of Dreams, by Belinda Murrell Reviewed by Claire Saxby
A gold link to the past.
Picture Book Review: I Love My Dad, by Anna Walker Reviewed by Claire Saxby
Ollie and his dad.
Children's Book Review: By the Picking of My Nose, by Martin Chatterton Reviewed by Claire Saxby
A wacky tale of Shakespeare's childhood.
Picture Book Review: Together, by Anna Pignataro Reviewed by Claire Saxby
Mother-child love.
Picture Book Review: Clem Always Could, by Sarah Watt Reviewed by Claire Saxby
Learning to swim.
Children's Book Review: Robot Riot, by Andy Griffiths Reviewed by Claire Saxby
A new 'Schooling Around' story.
YA Book Review: In the Shadow of the Palace, by Judith A Simpson Reviewed by Claire Saxby
An adventure in long-ago India.
Children's Book Review: The Smartest Dog of All, by Ian Horrocks Reviewed by Claire Saxby
A boy and his dog.
Children's Book Review: Pyro Watson and the Hidden Treasure, by Nette Hilton Reviewed by Claire Saxby
Adventures by the sea.
Book Review: Picnic at Hanging Rock, by Joan Lindsay Reviewed by Sally Murphy
Another Popular Penguin.
Book Review: Of a Boy, by Sonya HartnettReviewed by sally Murphy
A gently moving tale.
YA Book Review: The Immortal, by Michael Panckridge Reviewed by Sally Murphy
A gripping story.
Graphic Novel Review: Scarygirl, by Nathan Jurevicius Reviewed by Sally Murphy
Children's Book Review: Yikes! by Alison Lester Reviewed by sally Murphy
In Seven Wild Adventures Who Would You Be?
Children's Book Review: The Land of Mirthful, by Sally Morgan Reviewed by Sally Murphy
Book Two in the Stopwatch series.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Today I added six new reviews to Aussiereviews. Youc an read them by clicking on the links.
A true story.
Children's Book Review: All the Colours of Paradise, by Glenda Millard
The fourth title in the Kingdom of Silk series.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Have just finished adding seven new reviews to Aussiereviews. Click on the links to read them.

Children's Book Review: The Puzzle Ring, by Kate Forsyth Reviewed by Sally Murphy
An absorbing fantasy.
Children's Book Review: Ramose - Valley of the Tombs, by Carole Wilkinson Reviewed by Tom Murphy
A bind-up of the Ramose series.
YA Book Review: The Night They Stormed Eureka, by Jackie French Reviewed by Tom Murphy
A gripping time travel adventure.
YA Book Review: Third Transmission, by Jack Heath Reviewed by Tom Murphy
Third and final story in the Six of Hearts series.
Children's Book Review: The Python Problem, by Darrel & Sally Odgers Reviewed by Sally Murphy
Fourth title in the Pet Vet series.
Children's Book Review: The Wombat and the Grand Poohjam, by Jackie French Reviewed by Sally Murphy
Part of the new Mates series.
Children's Book Review: Inspector Jacques, by Darrel & Sally Odgers Reviewed by Sally Murphy
Jack Russell Dog Detective, book number 11.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Author Interview: Gabrielle Williams

Today I am delighted to welcome Gabrielle William, the author of new YA novel Beatle Meets Destiny to my blog. Welcome, Gabrielle, and congratulations on the release of Beatle Meets Destiny

1. Your last novel was for adults. What prompted the change to writing for a young adult audience?
Being an adult is full of responsibility and housework. I wanted to relive the fun days of being a young adult, so I created these characters that I would have liked to hang out with when I was younger. Then I spent the next 18 months with them each day, writing about their misadventures, which was great. Very invigorating. It inspired me to go out and misbehave in real life.

2. Were there any challenges in writing for a younger audience than previously?
The challenges of writing for a younger audience are much the same as writing for an older audience – namely the challenge of sitting still at the computer writing, instead of checking emails, reading the newspaper, doing the sudoku, looking up obscure sites on the internet, drinking coffee and hanging out with friends. Over the years I’ve discovered it’s very difficult to write a novel if you’re not actually sitting down writing it. Rule number one: sit down and write the damn thing.

3. There are lots of issues which arise in the book – fidelity, stalking, drug use, health issues, superstition, family loyalty... Did you set out to write an issues based book and which of the issues do you see as being most important?
When you put it like that there ARE a lot of issues in the book. I didn’t really set out to write something issues-based, and I certainly would never want to get all preachy about things, but I suppose I explored concepts and ideas that I personally find interesting. And also things that have happened to me or friends of mine.

4. Why John Lennon? What inspired you to use a famous person’s name for your main character – and why John Lennon specifically?
Hm. I’ve been asked that a lot and I’m not really sure. His name just kind of came to me. I guess I liked the idea of a character who’s named after a famous person. It seemed to say a lot about his mum, that she would name him John Lennon. It also opened up opportunities for a bit of comedy.

5. Now, about you. What lead you into writing as a career?

I worked in advertising for a long time. But after I had kids and started working part-time, the juicy jobs I’d been getting in advertising started going to other people who were still working full-time. And I found myself writing Myer catalogues and retail television spots and I found it incredibly unsatisfying. So then I applied to RMIT to do the Creative Writing Course where I had this fantastic teacher, Olga Lorenzo, and as I went on, I found that I really wanted to write novels.

6. Do you write full time? What else makes Gabrielle Williams tick?
I’m lucky enough to be able to write full time, which is brilliant (in between sudoku, emails, trawling through the internet, etc). As for what makes me tick; I’ve got a hubby and three children who keep me quite busy, and then I’ve got my buddies who I catch up with a lot, and I do karate, and I sometimes manage to squeeze housework in there somewhere (but let’s be honest, I don’t manage to squeeze in the housework a whole lot. Busy. Doing other stuff).

7. What advice would you give to others who want to write for young adults?

Do it. Do it now. Just don’t write about vampires (seriously, how many vampire novels can the market sustain because it collapses in a toothy, bloody heap?).

8. Lastly, what are you working on now? Is there another novel brewing?

Yes, I’ve got another novel in the pipeline, but I can’t tell you much about it because if I tell you I’ll have to kill you.

Thanks so much for your time, Gabrielle. And thanks for not killing me.
You can see my review of Beatle Meets Destiny here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Have just finished adding seven new reviews to Aussiereviews. Enjoy!

An idyllic resort with a heart of darkness.
YA Book Review: Word of Honour, by Michael Pryor
The third in the Laws of Magic series.
YA Book Review: Beatle Meets Destiny, by Gabrielle Williams
Imagine your name is John Lennon and you meet a girl whose surname is McCartney.
YA Book Review: Brown Skin Blue, by Belinda Jeffrey
A wonderful debut novel.
Children's Book Review: Untangling Spaghetti, by Steven Herrick
A wonderful collection.
Nonfiction Book Review: How to Balance Your life, by James O'Loghlin
Practical ways to achieve work/life balance.
YA Book Review: Worldshaker, by Richard Harland
A page turning fantasy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I have just added eleven new reviews to Aussiereviews. Enjoy - especially the review of Just Macbeth, reviewed by another of the Murphlets.

YA Book Review: Little Bird, by Penni Russon Reviewed by Claire Saxby
A new Girlfriend Fiction title.
Children's Book Review: The Chimpanzee Book, by Dr Carla Litchfield Reviewed by Claire Saxby
Our closest animal relatives.
Picture Book Review: Her Mother's Face, by Roddy Doyle Reviewed by Claire Saxby
About remembering.
Children's Book Review: The Great Barrier Reef Book, by Dr Mark Norman Reviewed by Claire Saxby
Visible from space.
YA Book Review: Something More, by Mo Johnson Reviewed by Claire Saxby
Even sisters sometimes need a friend.
YA Book Review: Bloodflower, by Christine Hinwood Reviewed by Claire Saxby
An intriguing read.
Children's Book Review: The Gorilla Book, by Dr Carla Litchfield Reviewed by Claire Saxby
2009 is Year of the Gorilla.
Children's Book Review: The Crocodile Book, by Malcolm Douglas Reviewed by Claire Saxby
Not a good pet.
YA Book Review: Pop Princess, by Isabelle Merlin Reviewed by Claire Saxby
An adventure in Paris.
Children's Book Review: Firesong, by Libby Hathorn Reviewed by Claire Saxby
Set in 1950’s Blue Mountains.
Children's Book Review: Just Macbeth! by Andy Griffiths Reviewed by Calum Murphy
Double, Double, Toil and Trouble.

Monday, July 20, 2009

New Reviews

Have just finished adding seven new reviews to Aussiereviews. Am especially proud of the review of Reformed Vampires, which was contributed by my darling daughter.

Children's Book Review: Lighthouse Girl, by Dianne Wolfer Reviewed by Sally Murphy
An amazing blend of diary, narrative, picture book and scrapbook.
Nonfiction Book Review: Captain Bullen's War, edited by Paul Ham Reviewed by Sally Murphy
The Vietnam War Diary of Captain John Bullen.
Children's Book Review: The Blue Stealer, by Darrel & Sally Odgers Reviewed by Sally Murphy
The tenth title in the Dog Detective series.
Children's Book Review: The Wand and the Sword, by Mike Zarb & Robin Gold Reviewed by Sally Murphy
The second Belmont and the Dragon story.
YA Book Review: The Good Daughter, by Amra Pajalic Reviewed by Sally Murphy
Alternately hilarious and insightful.
Book Review: My Extraordinary Life & Death, by Doug MacLeod Reviewed by Sally Murphy
A surreal diary.
YA Book Review: The Reformed Vampire Support Group, by Catherine Jinks Reviewed by Emily Murphy
An absorbing plotline and a cast of quirky characters.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Layman’s Guide to the Cheaper Books Debate

There is a big debate raging here in Australia about the scrapping of Parallel Importation restrictions for books. Whilst the debate is fierce, if you are not closely involved in the industry, then the issue is hard to understand, particularly because it's become clouded by unsubstantiated promises of cheaper books for all. So, today, I present the following, in an attempt to demystify the issue for those not in the know.
A Layman’s Guide to the Cheaper Books Debate

I want cheaper books. Let’s face it – everyone does. I also want cheaper fuel, cheaper groceries and cheaper housing, among many other things. In recent months, newspaper headlines have proclaimed that scrapping the mysterious PIRs will result in cheaper books. At the same time, you have probably heard authors, publishers and other book-ish people opposing the changes. You could even be forgiven for thinking they are wrong – after all, if it’s going to mean cheaper books, that has to be a good thing. Right? Wrong. Scrapping PIRs is not a good thing – not for the book industry nor for you, the consumer. In order to show you why, I’m going to take some time to explain to people who perhaps haven’t followed the debate, what the issues are.

Firstly, What are PIRs?

PIR is an abbreviation for Parallel Importation Restrictions. Put simply, these are laws, currently in place, which prevent books being imported which are already being published in Australia. So, for example, when Harry Potter books are released, Allen& Unwin, an Australian publisher, has the rights to publish these books in Australia. So, a bookstore selling the latest Harry Potter must stock Allen & Unwin’s version rather than importing copies from overseas. If Allen & Unwin stops publishing the book, booksellers can then import it. Similarly, if a book is released overseas but no Australian publisher buys the rights to publish it here, booksellers can import the book and sell it in Australia.

The Productivity Commission has recommended the scrapping of PIRS. What this means is that, regardless of whether or not a book has been published in Australia, booksellers will be able to import the book from overseas rather than sourcing it from within Australia.

So, What’s Wrong With That?

There are several problems with abolishing PIRs. The most obvious is that, if Australian publishers can’t have exclusive rights to publish a book, they are unlikely to publish it. It would not be financially viable to put resources into producing an Australian edition of a book, only to find that booksellers instead source their stock from overseas. Why produce an Australian edition of Harry Potter when it will then have to compete, for example, against the US version?

Flowing on from this, Australian publishers will lose income. When an Australian edition of a book is purchased, the Australian publisher makes money. When that publisher makes money, they then have more money to spend on publishing Australian books. The money generated from big sales of the Harry Potter books, for example, can be put towards the cost of producing books by lesser known Australian authors, and on Australian topics. Without the income generated from selling these overseas books, publishers will be forced to cut back on their Australian publishing programmes.

If Australian publishers are forced to cut back on their Australian publishing lists, fewer Australian books will be published. Whilst some authors may manage to get their books published overseas, others won’t stand a chance. Books with an Australian focus are unlikely to be published by overseas publishers. Which American publisher wants to produce a book about Ned Kelly? A book about Aboriginal culture? A book about Australian birds?

A second, but related, problem is that, even if a book is written and produced in Australia, it may have to compete for shelf space with a foreign edition of the same book. At present, a book published first in Australia may be republished overseas with adaptations for that foreign market. The most obvious change is the alteration of Australian spelling to US spelling (Colour becomes color etc) – a prospect which should alarm teachers and parents. However, the changes run deeper than this. Cultural references, locations and even character names are adapted for foreign readerships. A vegemite sandwich might become peanut butter and jelly, a kangaroo might become a squirrel and so on. Australian identity is weeded out of the book to make it better fit the foreign market – and that is acceptable for that market. But to then import that watered down version of the book back into Australia because it may save a dollar or two is an idea with no appeal. Yet, with PIRs scrapped, it is a very real prospect that a bookseller may choose the foreign edition at the expense of the Australian edition.

These foreign editions have another disadvantage for the publishing industry. When an Australian book is republished overseas, both author and local publisher get less money per copy than if it were published here.

Looking briefly at an author’s share, it is important to spell out that most authors are NOT wealthy. Whilst some do earn a full time living from their writing, many many more rely on second and even third jobs to make ends meet. Whilst book prices might seem high, the income an author receives from the sale of each book is low. Author royalties are rarely more than 10% of cover price. More often, they receive less. So, when a book is sold for $25, the author receives a maximum of $2.50. At $2.50 a copy, the author needs to sell ten thousand copies of a book to make $25,000. Not a princely sum – and given that print runs are often much smaller than 10 000, you can see that writing books is not a wealth-generating strategy.

However, it gets worse. If a book first published in Australia is then also published overseas, the author’s cut diminishes greatly. Put simply, there are more links in the chain before the author gets her cut – and that $2.50 might become 50c. Now, if PIRs are scrapped, that author’s $25 000 income could become $5000. Hardly enough to feed a family, is it?

But Books are Too Expensive, Aren’t They?

Australian books are expensive, and that is sad. So too are Australian groceries and Australian petrol. There is no doubt that some books are available cheaper overseas, especially if you buy through sites like Amazon. However, there is little proof that it is the PIRs which are making books so expensive. The US (where Amazon is located) and the UK both have similar import restrictions. And, whilst Australia is considering lifting its restrictions, neither of these other countries are looking at lifting theirs. So, if the changes go ahead, they will have free access to Australian consumers, but Australian publishers will not have access to theirs.

One reason for the high cost of books in Australia is the margins which booksellers put on books. The bookseller’s margin is generally 50%. So, going back to that $25 book – whilst the author gets $2.50, the bookseller gets $12.50. But there’s more – some of the big name booksellers actually add a few dollars to the rrp – so the $25 book costs $27, the author still gets $2.50 and the bookseller gets $14.50. Discount stores such as Target and Kmart demand publishers give them higher discounts – up to 75% off the retail price. And guess whose income is cut when this happens? The author's.

But the Productivity Commission is Promising Cheaper Books!

No. The Productivity Commission is not promising cheaper books. In fact, their report states there is no guarantee that scrapping PIRs will reduce book prices for the consumer. The people who are promising cheaper books are the organisation which seems to have won the ear of the Productivity Commission – the Coalition for Cheaper Books.

Sound like a bunch of nice people, don’t they? Working hard together to bring cheaper books to the public. Unfortunately, anyone can give their group a touchy feely name. It doesn’t mean they have a touchy feely purpose. The ‘Coalition’ is in fact made up of some very familiar names: Dymocks, Woolworths, Coles, K Mart, Big W and Target. Only one of these has selling books as a core business. All of them have retail as a core business – and a responsibility to maximise their profits to keep shareholders happy. And yet we are asked to believe, because they call themselves ‘The Coalition for Cheaper Books’ that their primary aim is to reduce book prices.

Think, if you will, about recent press about grocery prices. Consumer groups have been hugely concerned that the virtual duopoly held by Coles and Woolworths in the grocery market has driven grocery prices up. This pair also holds a vast share of the petrol market – where prices again go up even as world oil prices drop. Coles and Woolworths (and their subsidiaries) make up a major proportion of the so-called Coalition for Cheaper Books. If they are not concerned with lowering grocery and fuel prices, why should we believe that they will decrease book prices? Even if they are able to source books more cheaply, there is no legislation to ensure that the savings are passed on to consumers. So, cheaper books for the retailers, possibly, but not for the consumer. Again, note that the Productivity Commission has not found nay evidence that book prices will drop.

In the only other country where PIRs have been scrapped, New Zealand, book prices have not decreased. What has decreased is the number of New Zealand books being produced, the income of New Zealand authors, and the number of New Zealand publisher. Why are we not learning from the New Zealand experience?

So, Who Should be Worried about the Removal of PIR’s?

In short – YOU.

But in more detail:

Authors/Publishers/Printers/Publicists: Thousands of people are employed in the Australian printing and publishing industry. The scrapping of PIRs directly threatens every one of these jobs, because it will diminish the number of books written, published and printed here in Australia.

Lovers of Books: Have you been to the discount bookstores cropping up all around Australia? These are full of cheap, remaindered books. Remaindered because they couldn’t sell. These shops have their place. But would you like every bookstore to be a remainders shop, full of imported books that couldn't sell overseas? If PIRS are scrapped, this a real possibility.

Teachers and Parents: Your children and students are already well immersed in American culture, thanks to television. If they no longer have access to books with Australian spelling, Australian history and Australian context, then we may as well kiss goodbye our unique Australian culture.

All Australians: Again, our culture is at risk. This is not an anti-US, or anti-any culture argument. It is good to be exposed to books from around the world, in the same way it is good to be exposed to music, food, experiences from around the world. But that global perspective MUST contain Australian experiences. In books, Australian stories are told and published in Australia, not overseas.

Okay, But What Can I do about it?
Get angry and get loud. The Productivity Commission has recommended that the government scrap PIRs. The Coalition for Cheaper Books has loudly (but falsely) announced that cheaper books will result. You need to let the government know that you don’t support the scrapping of PIRs. Write to your Federal MP, your Prime Minister, and his cabinet and tell them of your opposition.

Tell all your friends, neighbours, work colleagues about this issue, and tell them to get loud too. Write to your daily newspaper voicing your concerns.

Let people power stop these changes being implemented.

Please, get involved.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Verse Novel Form: Guest Blogger Lorraine Marwood Tells How and Why

I am delighted to welcome chidlren's author and poet Lorraine Marwood to my blog today. Lorraine's second verse novel for children, Star Jumps has just been released (you can see my review of it here), so I asked Lorraine to drop in and talk about why she chooses to use the verse novel form This is what she had to say:

Why use this genre as a way of story telling?

Years ago when I finally gave into my life long desire to write, I could only snatch a few morning moments before the cowshed work, before getting the six kids ready for school, or after the evening meal; to write down lines. I trained myself to write quickly- poems- maybe three a day about details that happened, words spoken, emotion expressed through the rural landscape. Poems were attainable, satisfying and I began sending them out into the literary world of journals.

Many were published. But I still wanted to write for children. I began to write poems specifically for children and many of these poems found their way into the journals of School Magazine New South Wales.

After gathering a collection of poems together, Five Islands Press published one volume ( Redback Mansion) and then later a second ( that downhill yelling).

Now, I wanted to evolve a longer piece of writing. I wrote a short prose verse poem about a picnic in a paddock. I loved the intensity of feeling and atmosphere and setting that prose poetry could give. I wanted to write a novel. But how to take the plunge?

Of course I'd read Sharon Creech's novels and Karen Hesse's novels and always enjoyed Steven Herrick's work. How could I find my own voice in the verse novel?

I researched my topic: I researched human accounts of gold finding and the turmoil and untold stories that were humped across the gold fields. Then I found a voice, an entry, an immediate creation of suspense and atmosphere that I wanted. The striking of atmosphere in the first few words of 'Ratwhiskers and Me' was the steering of the story trail.

'Boy, they call me boy.'

Yes! I was on my way to the exploration of theme and plot and voice. I could use what is kinda instinctive in my writing: my poetics.

The verse novel became an atmospheric device in itself. It is very conducive to the playing out of sensory detail, and the propelling of the bare bones of the story. And while it is shorter in words than an ordinary novel, it strips back the verbiage and puts the reader right there emotionally

.Recently two students from Latrobe Uni were researching the editing process and came to ask me a few questions. They highlighted the way I make a narrative of the verse novel rather than individual poems, and for me that was a point to ponder. I make this distinction because I do naturally write so much poetry. I wanted to experiment with form. And my version of the verse novel is one long poem.

Because my writing is always evolving, the subject matter of the verse novel itself dictates the way a book is written.

Star Jumps, my recently released novel allowed a more poetic vista of details like the ghostling breath of the cows on a cold frosty night. I wanted to convey to non- farming children, as much as possible; a real life snapshot of a farm at its most busy period- the calving season. I wanted to show the drought in action and the decisions that are constantly being made in many rural communities.

My words made flesh and blood of Ruby as she took us through her farm life and showed us hope played out. Only the genre of the verse novel allowed me to recreate the emotion of farming without the didactic and sentimental picture so often stereotyped as farming.

Thanks so much for sharing, Lorraine. You can visit Lorraine Marwood online at

New reviews

Today I added fifteen new reviews to Aussiereviews, contributed by Claire Saxby and Dale Harcombe. You can read each review by clicking on the link:

Picture Book Review: Big Bad Bushranger, by Bob Brown Reviewed by Claire Saxby
Includes a song.
Children's Book Review: The Adventures of Nanny Piggins, by RA Spratt Reviewed by Claire Saxby
A nanny like no other.
Picture Book Review: The Great Rock Whale, by Christine Paice Reviewed by Claire Saxby
A new legend.
Picture Book Review: Me, Oliver Bright, by Megan De Kanztow Reviewed by Claire Saxby
Times have changed.
YA Book Review: Yellow Zone, by Janelle Dyer Reviewed by Dale Harcombe
A well-resented novel.
Picture Book Review: God Is, by Mark Macleod Reviewed by Dale Harcombe
A good book for bedtime reading.
Children's Book Review: My Sister Has a Big Black Beard, by Duncan Ball Reviewed by Dale Harcombe
Quirky verses.
Picture Book Review: Goldilocks and the Three Koalas, by Kel Richards Reviewed by Claire Saxby
An Aussie take on a traditional tale.
Picture Book Review: One Dragon's Dream, by Peter Pavey Reviewed by Claire Saxby
Reprint of a classic counting book.
Picture Book Review: Come On Everybody, Time to Play, by Nigel Grey Reviewed by Claire Saxby
A lift-the-flap board book.
Picture Book Review: The Know it All, by Peter Whitfield Reviewed by Claire Saxby
A new Zen Tails title.
Children's Book Review: The Greatest Sheep in History, by Frances Watt Reviewed by Claire Saxby
A third adventure featuring trainee superheroes Extraordinary Ernie and Marvellous Maud.
Picture Book Review: My Aussie Mum, by Yvonne Morrison Reviewed by Claire Saxby
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie Mum.
Picture Book Review: I Love My Mum, by Anna Walker Reviewed by Claire Saxby
A day with Ollie B. and Mum.
Children's Book Review: Great Aussie Inventions, by Amy Hunter Reviewed by Claire Saxby
Loos, utes, you beaut!
I also added six new reviews earleir int he month, but owing to some stress at the time, forgot to list them here. they were:

Children's Book Review: Sting, by Raymond Huber Reviewed by Sally Murphy
Ziggy is the oddbee out.
Book Review: Witches Incorporated, by K. E. Mills Reviewed by Sally Murphy
The second in the rogue Agent series.
YA Book Review: Letters to Leonardo, by Dee White Reviewed by Sally Murphy
A stunning debut novel.
Children's Book Review: The Big Dig, by Meg McKinlay Reviewed by Sally Murphy
Dig. Put some water in. Swim.
Children's Book Review: The Donkey Who Carried the Wounded, by Jackie French Reviewed by Sally Murphy
The story of Simpson and his donkey.
Children's Book Review: Polar Boy, by Sandy Fussell Reviewed by Sally Murphy
Wonderful historical fiction.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Blog Tour: Dale Harcombe

Today, Dale Harcombe visits this blog as part of her blog tour to promote her book, The Goanna Island Mystery. Dale is travelling the blogosphere talking about her book and about all aspects of being a writer. She has kindly agreed to answer some questions from me about being reviewed.

Welcome Dale.

1. Has Goanna Island been reviewed at all? If so, where?

The Goanna Island Mystery has been reviewed by fellow author Delwyne Stephens on the Aussiereviews site. One of Delwyne’s daughters was also going to send a review to Blake but I don’t know whether it actually ended up happening or not. There should be a review of The Goanna Island Mystery by Dee White probably next week in Pass It On newsletter

2. Can you tell us about your best and worst review experiences as a writer?

I’ll start with the worst first. Not that it was particularly bad, the reviewer did have positive things to say about Chasing after the Wind but towards the end of the review he said, 'Though the novel culminates in a very moving reconciliation( not necessarily the one reader might expect) the potential sprightliness of the story is defeated by its lack of subtlety.’ Of course, no matter how many good reviews, the book got and others were great, they were the words I remembered. Having recently re-read Chasing after the Wind myself, I’m not convinced that he's right, but then reading is a subjective thing. The irony is that the reviewer Stephen Matthews was the publisher who published Kaleidoscope my poetry collection several years later, in what had to be the quickest I have ever had a manuscript accepted for publication. Less than a week after sending it off to Stephen Matthews at Ginninderra Press, I had the acceptance letter in my hand. Kaleidoscope had some great reviews in Artlook, Studio magazine and one by fellow author Sophie Masson. Another great review of it by one Sally Murphy is on the Aussiereviews site.

The best report ever came not from a reviewer but from a family. One is from the girl who read the book and the other is from her mother. According to the mother, her daughter was given Chasing after the Wind as a present by a friend and instead of reading it at school during reading time as she originally intended ‘she grabbed it every spare moment she had. This was exciting stuff as it was the first book to really get her in’ her mother said. 'The other letter came from the girl herself, Kimberly and she said.’ To say that I liked the book you wrote called Chasing After the Wind is not right, actually I loved it! I really got hooked, seeing I’m not a great reader and my Mum enjoyed it too.’ I also had a visit from the girl’s grandmother who was similarly encouraging and positive about the impact my book had on her granddaughter. To know I’d had such an amazing impact on a reluctant reader was better than any review. Interesting enough I had another t letter from tow girls who were avid readers and there response was just as positive as they ‘really related to the characters.’ Those are a few of several letters from readers that I up on the cork board above my desk to remind me during the discouraging times of the impact my words have had on others.

3. You review books yourself. Has being a reviewer influenced your writing, and in what way?

I suppose being a reviewer has influenced my writing, as has past work as a manuscript assessor. I tend to look at things very much trying to see them as the average reader would and make sure I don’t rabbit on with those boring bits people tend to skip over when reading.

4. Goanna Island is published by a publisher whose focus is the educational market. Did they send out review copies or is it up to you to do so? How do you go about seeking reviews for your books?

I have no idea if the publisher sent out review copies of The Goanna Island Mystery. I sent the book to Delwyne Stephens who was published by the same publisher and later to Dee White and Mabel Kaplan who asked for it , when setting up this blog tour. I haven’t seen any other reviews other than Delwyne's for The Goanna Island Mystery but initial comments have been positive indicating people enjoyed it. On the whole though, I haven’t actually done much at all in the way of seeking out reviews.

5. Do you think getting reviews is important? How does it help you as a writer?

With so many books in the market place, getting reviews can be important in bringing a book to the attention of readers, teachers, and librarians. Obviously positive reviews can help boost sales, which is always good for a writer but often word of mouth can generate interest to as readers talk about books they have read and liked.

Thanks for dropping in Dale.
Here are the dates in May and the blogs where The Goanna Island Mystery will be touring.

Monday 25th Dee White at

Tuesday 26th Sally Murphy at

Wednesday 27th Mabel Kaplan at

Thursday 28th Claire Saxby at

Friday 29th Sandy Fussell at

The Goanna Island Mystery can be purchased online from Blake.

You can learn more about Dale by visiting her website.

And, if you are an Aussie author or blogger keen to be involved in blog tours, you can find out about the Aussie BlogTours group here.

Monday, April 20, 2009

New Review

This review is NOT appearing on Aussiereviews - but I really need to share. The first review for my verse novel, Pearl Verses the World is online, here. Among other things the reviewer describes the story as "a wonderfully told story with heart".

I'm ecstatic.

Pearl will be released on May 1 - watch this space for a month of celebrations including a blog tour, guest bloggers, a verse-off and more. In the meantime, Pearl can be ordered online at Fishpond

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I have just finished adding another five new reviews to Aussiereviews. You can read each review by clicking on the link.

Author Interview: Sue Whiting

Recently, I reviewed the children’s book Freaky on the Aussiereviews site. Today, I am delighted to have the author of Freaky, Sue Whiting, drop in for an interview.

Welcome Sue.

Where did the idea for the story come from?

I was sitting in the staffroom at the school I used to teach at, when the school secretary came in with an email she received from a friend. The email told how a “friend of the friend” had bought a rare cactus from Mexico and planted it in his garden. Everything was fine until the day the cactus exploded and revealed huge spiders nesting inside it. Being arachnophobic, I was horrified – aghast! When I discovered the story was a hoax, an urban myth, I felt rather foolish – I had been totally sucked in by it – but I also had a rather delicious idea for a new story …

I’m not best fond of spiders, and recently had a scary encounter with a huntsman. Do you have a spider story of your own you can share?

I’m not particularly fond of spiders either – so it is kind of weird that I have written about gigantic tarantulas. I have many spider stories to tell, including the one where I totally freaked out when a spider walked across my windscreen when driving on the freeway. Screaming your lungs out and taking your hands off the wheel to wave them wildly around like a loon is not recommended when cruising at 110kph. Luckily my husband took control of the steering wheel and that is probably why I am here today to tell the story. I also have the huntsman down the front of my blouse story and the huntsman sitting on my head one and …

The Lightning Strikes series is a great format, especially for reluctant readers. Can you explain the series for those readers who might not have come across it yet?

Lightning Strikes is a series of high-interest, fast-paced short novels for kids 9+ who haven’t yet been struck by the reading bug. They are fun, quirky stories that reflect the interests and concerns of Australian pre-teens. They have great cover effects, so they look really cool too. They are published by Walker Books Australia. To date, there are twelve books in the series, with more planned for the future.

Was Freaky written especially for the series? If so, was it difficult to write a story specifically for a series?

I actually wrote Freaky several years ago and adapted it to the series brief. This wasn’t too difficult as it was already the right word length and pitched to the Lightning Strikes readership. I merely polished it up, added some informal text types (posters, signs, notes, internet articles) and ramped up the action and humour.

What advice can you give other writers about writing or shaping stories for existing series?

· Read as many books as possible already in that particular series to get a feel for the types of stories that work and to also know what has already been covered.
· Follow the guidelines / brief as closely as possible, taking care to keep to suggested word length and to pitch to the intended age group.

If you want to know more about Sue Whiting, you can visit her at her website, or her new blog. You can read my review of Freaky here or buy the book online at Fishpond.

Thanks for visiting, Sue.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

It's Tuesday, so it's time once again for Teaser Tuesday.

I'm go to 'tease' you with a taste of a book I'm reading, to get your interest piqued.

'As you are reading, you are almost certainly in the company of spiders. In a dark recess, whether under your couch or behind the buffet, the cupboard spider sits on her tangled web patiently waiting for dinner.'
From p22 Spiders: Learning to Love Them, by Lynne Kelly

Here's how Teaser Tuesday works:
Grab your current read.Let the book fall open to a random page.Share with your readers two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. Also share the name and author of the book, so that people can hunt out the book for themselves.

Please avoid spoilers!

Once you've posted your teaser, visit Should be Reading and post your link. If you want me to visit your post, you can also post your link in the comments section below.

Have fun.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Joining in on the spirit of Teaser Tuesday, I'm go to 'tease' you with a taste of a book I'm reading, to get your literary taste buds going.

'Milli and Ernest had simply invented a story about wandering off to take more detailed notes and losing track of time, and everyone believed them. It sounded just like something the conscientious Ernest would do.'

From p127 Von Gobstopper's Arcade, by Alexandra Adornetto

Here's how Teaser Tuseday Tuesday works

Grab your current read.Let the book fall open to a random page.Share with your readers two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. Also share the name and author of the book, so that people can hunt out the book for themselves.

Please avoid spoilers!

Once you've posted your teaser, visit Should be Reading and post your link. If you want me to visit your post, you can also post your link in the comments section below.

Have fun.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Musing Monday - Talking to Strangers

It's Musing Monday , and this week's question is:
We were all warned as children to 'never talk to strangers', but how do you feel about book-talk with random people? When you see people reading, do you ask what it is? Do you talk to people in the book store or the library? Why or why not? What do you do if people talk to you?

I LOVE talking to people about books, so if I see someone with a book in their hands, or browsing in a bookshop, I’ll often comment or ask about the book. However, it is important to be mindful of the person’s privacy. If they are absorbed in a book, do they really want you to interrupt them to chat about the story? My rule of thumb is that if the person makes eye contact, I’ll try an opening comment and see if they want to chat, but if their nose is firmly buried and their eyes are not leaving the page, I’ll take it as a sign that they just want to read.

As for talking to strangers – well, yes, my mum taught me that, too. But talking to a fellow booklover doesn’t feel like talking to a stranger. And, as a reviewer, teacher, and author, it’s my job to talk about books – so I do it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saturday Sum-up

A new feature here at the Aussiereviews Blog - a chance for other bloggers and reviewers to spread the word about great books they have reviewed.
Here's how it works: if you have reviewed a great book this past week, post the link in the comments section below and, during the day I'll add your links to this post. Don't be shy - spread the word about great books (and your great reviews, of course). If this proves popular, I'll make it a regular feature.

So, drumroll please for the first edition of...

The Sum-Up:

My review of Freaky, by Sue Whiting, at Aussiereviews
Shelburn's review of The Book of Shadowboxes, by Laura L. Seely
Becky's review of The Forest of Hands and Feet, by Carrie Ryan

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Four New Reviews

I have just posted four new reviews on Aussiereviews. Click on the links below to access the reviews.
And, happily for me, my own book, The Big Blowie, has also received a review today at Dee Scribe's blog, part of my blog tour to promote the book.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Review Process Part 3: Who Reads Book Reviews Anyway?

This is the third and final part of my three part series on the review process. Enjoy!

Who Reads Book Reviews Anyway?
by Sally Murphy

As a published author there's probably mention of review copies in your contract, and a certain number of copies of your book set aside by your publisher as review copies. If you've been reviewed you've probably either celebrated a good one or felt saddened or angered by a negative one. But have you ever really stopped to think about who the review is for and whether it affects sales of your book?

Type the phrase 'book review' into a search engine and you'll get millions of results. Narrow the search by adding a genre or subject (say, 'children's book review') and you'll still get thousands of results. There are hundreds of websites and books devoted to book reviews, with many many more sites devoting varying amounts of their sites to the reviewing of books. In print, too, there are vast numbers of publications reviewing books from magazines devoted just to book reviews, to newspapers and special interest magazines which have a page or a column devoted to reviews.

So with so many reviews being published, there's a good chance someone is reading them. But just who is reading those reviews of your book?

1. You, the Author. Of course you're reading the reviews of your book. If you're not, you're missing out on something. Yes, there are some writers who refuse to read reviews just as there are actors/directors/musicians who don't want to know what the critics say. That's their right, but I'm here to tell you, it's a good idea to hunt down reviews of your book and read them.
The number one reason for doing this is that a positive review will make you feel good. Actually it will probably make you feel better than good. You'll copy the review and send it to your writing friends, your family, your son's teacher in fact anyone who has the fortune (or misfortune) to be in your address book. This good review tells you that your book is just fine, and helps banish any niggling doubts you might have had.
Of course, if the review is not so good, you won't feel quite so elated. You might cry, or throw things at your computer monitor or rant and rave. You still might copy it to your writer friends or even your family so that they'll share in your condemnation of the reviewer who dared criticise your baby. But, after your anger or sorrow has died down, you might learn from the negative review. She said your plot is thin? Have another look at your book. She might be right and you can learn from that, or she might be wrong and you can learn not to submit future books to her for review because she doesn't know what she's talking about. If you get several negative reviews saying the same things, there's a good chance the reviewers are right and you can choose to be devastated OR you can choose to work on the points the reviewers have identified in your next book.

2. Other Writers. Yes, other writers who write in your genre will read your reviews. They'll be trying to stay abreast of what's being published by which publishers, and what's hot with reviewers. If you are not regularly reading reviews of books being published in your genre, how are you keeping up with new developments?

Those other writers will probably be cheering with you when you get a good review and empathising with you when you get a negative one because they've been there too, or hope to be reviewed themselves one day.

3. Publishers. Your publisher will be reading the reviews of your book. They'll be looking for feedback on your book, wanting to know if their instincts were right, and whether their marketing efforts have resulted in publications choosing their books above others to feature in their publications.

If they are planning on publishing more of your books, they'll be looking for good reviews which they quote on covers and promotional material for those books. And, because they know exactly who they've sent review copies to, they'll be watching those publications for reviews and sending them on to you, to keep you informed.

4. Librarians. Libraries have limited budgets to spend on new acquisitions, so reading book reviews is one way of making informed decisions about which books to purchase (or not purchase). Reading review publications keeps the librarian abreast of new releases, and trends, too. Most librarians would not, however, make a purchasing decision based on one negative review of a book. If they are considering buying a book and see a negative review, they might look for further reviews, or consult colleagues or other sources of information such as booksellers.

5. Booksellers. Booksellers, too, need to keep abreast of new releases and new trends. They do receive lots of information from book reps, but may seek more impartial opinions from reviews when making purchasing decisions. Much as we think every bookstore should stock our book, bookshops have a limited amount of shelf space and must make informed decisions about which books to give that space to. Book reviews are just one element which can influence that decision.

6. Teachers/Educators. Whether at kindergarten or university level, teachers and educators need to be able to recommend good books for their students. School teachers especially need books they can share with their students, either for entertainment, or for information. Teachers may search book reviews for reviews of books on their current class themes, or for books to recommend to students looking for private reading material. At higher education level, educators are likely to be searching either for textbooks or for books which deal with the subject matter covered in their courses.

7. Academics. Academics will read reviews of books to keep abreast of new books in their area of interest. These will range from those with an interest in children's literature, who'll want to know about the latest children's books, to those from any number of disciplines interested in non-fiction offerings in their field. Because they may be using the reviews as the basis of their research or teachings, academics will often be interested in longer, more analytical reviews than other groups.

8. The Reading Public. No, I hadn't forgotten the reading public. Readers have been left until last on this list because, in my opinion, they are the most important group of review readers. People who read books can and do get book recommendations from book reviews. Some readers will seek out reviews online or in print to find book suggestions when looking for something new to read. Other readers will come across book reviews more incidentally whilst flipping through the pages of a newspaper, for example, or browsing a website but, having read the review, seek out the book.

Most readers are busy people and like having books recommended to them so a glowing review of a book in their favourite genre or on a subject they're interested in, will encourage them to buy a book. Perversely, though, a bad review can also have them seeking out the book to see if it's a bad as the critics say it is.

There are probably other groups of people who read book reviews, but these eight groups make up the bulk of the review-reading public. Next time you get a review you can picture all of these people reading it and (hopefully) heading off to buy your book.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Five New Reviews

I have just uploaded five new reviews to the Aussiereviews site. You can access them by clicking the links beolw. Enjoy!

The Devil's Eye, by Ian Townsend
The Sweet Life, by Rebecca Lim
My Candlelight Novel, by Joanne Horniman

I have also updated the feedback page, including instructions for those wishing to have their book reviewed.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Review Process Part 2: So You Got a Review - Now What?

Continuing my three part reprint series on the reveiw process, here's the second installment.

So You Got a Review -- Now What?
by Sally Murphy

So you (or your publisher) have sent out review copies of your precious book and now someone has written a review of your book in print or online. Wonderful! But, as an author, what can you do with that review? Reviews can make you feel good about yourself (and your book), but they can also be a useful marketing tool and serve as feedback to help develop your future writing.

Firstly, let's get the bad stuff out of the way and assume you got a bad review. The reviewer has said your characters are one-dimensional, or your plot is thin, or that your rhyme is forced (I had a review like that once and it hurt till I remembered I had used that phrase myself for someone else's work). Anyway, the reviewer is not a huge fan of your book, and now s/he's shared that message with the world.

If it will make you feel better, tear the review into tiny little pieces and burn them, or (if it is an online review) throw things at the monitor. Whinge to your mother, your husband or your best friend. Drink a glass of wine and eat a block of chocolate.

Then get over it.

The truth is, every writer gets a bad review sometime. And a heap of bad reviews could affect your sales. However, the truth is the success of your book does not depend on glowing reviews. Not every purchase decision is made based on reviews there are many consumers, librarians and booksellers who do not have the time to inclination to read reviews. There are also many people who will seek out a book and read it because of, rather than in spite of, bad reviews. They want to see if the reviewer is right.

I suggested above whinging to your loved ones. Let me also suggest that you limit this whinging to those loved ones. Don't whinge in your blog, on your website, or in your email groups, if you can help it. This is drawing attention to the bad review, which you don't want to do, can paint you as ungracious, and is also likely to irk the reviewer should they come across your words. Also don't whinge directly to the reviewer. You can disagree with them privately, but it is very bad form to try to get a reviewer to retract their words. Remember a book review is one person's opinion, not a personal favour to you, the author.

Before I move on from bad reviews, there are two more things you should do. Do consider, once you've calmed down, whether the negative comments the reviewer made have any relevance. Can you learn from the comments they've made to avoid making the same mistakes next time? Also, have you read the review thoroughly? The negative review may, in fact, just be a negative sentence or phrase. The reviewer who said my rhyme was forced, also, if I remember rightly, said she liked the storyline. She didn't hate the book - she was just telling it as she saw it.

Now, if the review is positive, the first thing you should do is a happy dance. Rejoice that someone other than yourself and your editor loves the book. Or at least doesn't hate it. Share the news with anyone who'll listen - and show them the review. This will spread the joy and may also spread the news of your book to people who haven't yet heard about it.

Next, if you have a website or blog, share the news of your positive review there. Tell people where or when the review was published and, if it is available online, provide a link to the review. If possible, include a quote from the review, but be careful here. The review does not belong to you. Like any other piece of writing, the rights to the review belong to the reviewer, or, if they've assigned those rights, to the website or publication where it was published. You need to ask for permission to quote from the review, especially if you are reprinting the whole thing. Most reviewers will be happy for you to quote them - I know I always am - but will want to be acknowledged as the source of the review, including a link back to their site, if online.

Thirdly, add extracts from the review to your press kit and/or media releases. What better way to convince media to cover your book news than showing them how much a reviewer loved it? Again, be sure to properly attribute the source.

Of course, by the time the reviews come in for this book, you are busily working on the next one, right? So when you receive these positive reviews, remember that extracts can be used on the covers and press material of your next book. This is the publicist's job, but they may well ask you if you are aware of any good reviews they can quote from, so be prepared with clippings.

And, just as with a negative review, you can learn from a positive review. The reviewer liked your characters, your storyline, or your unforced rhyme? Take the time to think about what it was you did in the writing of this book that you can replicate in your next project. You want to do everything you can to ensure the reviews for your next book are as positive as these ones.

Enjoy the feeling of being reviewed. A stranger has taken the time to read and comment on your book. Now you can grow the love by spreading the word.