PWF catch-up, Day 1, Session 2, LOST in the AMAZON

Chris Allen, author
Chris Allen, author
Michael Heyward, Text Publishing
Michael Heyward, Text Publishing
Aviva Tuffield, Affirm Press
Aviva Tuffield, Affirm Press
Terri-ann White, UWAP
Terri-ann White, UWAP

This was the blurb for this session:

Given the range of print and digital publication options available today, which is the best medium for your book? With Aviva Tuffield (publisher, Affirm Press), Michael Heyward (publisher, Text Publishing), Chris Allen (author, Momentum Books) and Terri-ann White (director, UWA Publishing).

My notes:

Terri-ann started by saying that ‘we need more readers.’ She asked for a show of hands for people in the audience who e-read, people who print read and people who do both. From memory it was less than half to the first question, a bit more than half to the second, and about half for the third. That probably doesn’t add up, oh well. I remember thinking: Oh good, not SO many people e-read only, but when she asked the question it wasn’t clear whether it was exclusively e-reading or one of several (two?) options they might use of reading platform.

She went on to say that most of us who have an ms won’t have it published in the way we expect. Quite often the case it you won’t have a book the publisher wants to take on (I suggest this point was emphasised in the last session of the day, The Pitch. More on that later.) She said there are lots of ways to get your writing out there. She said that whether e or print doesn’t matter very much to her – but Aviva said that the kinds of books she works on require the traditional approach. She cares about the words, the story. (Aviva is an editor as well as a publisher.) She doesn’t work on the types of genre/content that could work best in e but Aviva did say she wants readers to have choice in platform.

I want to publish books that entertain, change the culture and endure

– Aviva Tuffield, Affirm Press


More notes from Aviva:

– 98% of books are published simultaneously e and paper
– erotic fiction has taken off in e because people can hide what they’re reading
– she has certain reservations with traditional literary narratives being published as e; it’s very hard to browse Amazon and find what you might like. There is much better coverage (media, etc) with print books. You can put them in a shop window etc.

Michael said digital technology has opened so many doors. This generation of potential writers, it’s the best time because of those digital openings. E-books are a subset of the digital revolution. Everything at Text (established 1994) is about providing world-class service. It makes Michael ‘very cross’ to think Australian authors won’t get the proper or best editorial/marketing because they’re Australian.

It all starts and ends with editorial

– Michael Heyward, Text Publishing


Michael mentioned the new re-release of Elizabeth Harrower’s In Certain Circles. it was written in 1971 and withdrawn from the publishers by Elizabeth (not sure when, or why.) Michael said so much time and effort has gone into the production of this hardback and that while ‘the content is fantastic, nothing can replace to smell and feel of the book itself.’

Author Chris (who self-published I think? And is with Momentum Books now? Sorry can’t remember and didn’t write down) said one question writers need to ask themselves is: What is your own measure of success? If you want to be an international bestseller, you’ll put energy to that. It’ll be different for everybody (the answer to this question.) In 2 months he sold 2600 copies doing it by himself (but ably and luckly assisted by a wife who is a marketer). He said digital is great but you need print as well (he’s ‘asked all the time for paperbacks.”

Chris said people like to have a choice of how to read (this was a recurring theme of the session, and I don’t think anyone on the panel disagreed with this idea of choice. Greater choice can also equate to greater sales, yes?)

The death of the bookstore or book is grossly exaggerated

– Michael Heyward, Text Publishing


Michael said when a book is brought to a publisher there is usually no market; the publisher has to create it. But successful self-pubbed books have their own following. Bookstores have no algorithms – there is browsing. But publishing is about a person buying a book they didn’t even know they wanted.

With bookshops, it’s word of mouth selling. So much buzz can be created. A good independent bookstore – you cannot beat them. They are a wealth of information. – Aviva Tuffield, Affirm Press

[I have a note here, from myself. I’ve written: Now, in the room, there is optimism. They are already talking about the past transition being passed. ‘It was a really uncertain time,’ Aviva said. PAST TENSE. YAY.]

Aviva said in 2012, ebooks grew 105%, yes last year they grew by 18%. ‘It feels like some equilibrium is coming back in,’ she said. They talked about TS Eliot’s app for The Wasteland (sorry, that’s bad expression, not HIS app, an app for his poem). Michael said he was very envious of it, that it was a great idea. Michael said the Rosie Project, in October 2013 in the US sold 25K hardcovers (at about USD25) and then in e at about $1.99 they sold over 100K units. The paperback will come out in The States this year, and Michael said it’s interesting that the ebook version could drive the paperback sales.

Finding an agent who’ll get you published is harder than finding a publisher in Australia

– Aviva Tuffield, Affirm Press


Aviva on pitching:

She would never buy something on the basis of a pitch or synopsis. It’s all in the work, she said. For pitching a book, you really ‘need to know your manuscript.’

Michael: Don’t say it would make an amazing film. Just don’t.

Terri-ann from UWAP: Don’t give a blow by blow description. Give names of characters, elements. Tell me why I would want to read it.

Next up will be Session 3 ‘The Competitive Edge’ ft Inga Simpson (Mr Wigg) and three editors: Hachette’s Robert Watkins, Text’s Penny Hueston and Hardie-Grant’s Rose Michael.

3 thoughts on “PWF catch-up, Day 1, Session 2, LOST in the AMAZON

  1. Tell them why they would want to read it. That’s great advice for a review too – if you want to recommend the book, that is.

    I have reviewed The wasteland app. It’s very impressive. I was going to say that I’ve
    “read” it but you read it, listen to it, watch it, explore it.

    Interesting too the comment about e-format perhaps sparking print purchases. There’s a lot to fall out yet in this new (to use academic jargon which I almost never use!) paradigm, isn’t there.

    Anyhow, again, thanks for a great report.

  2. This is absolutely fantastic information, Jenny – you’re wonderful for sharing it here.

    “erotic fiction has taken off in e because people can hide what they’re reading” – I found this very interesting indeed and had never thought about it before.

    Aviva on pitching was also interesting and it’s amazing how many people I hear say, ‘the book I’m writing would make a great movie!’ so i had to laugh at Michael’s comment 😀

  3. Excellent! Am so happy it’s helpful. I know I always love to read people’s recaps of festivals or sessions I haven’t been at (and even ones where I have.) I like to share useful info, it’s the teacher in me I think. About to post next session now…

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