The Procrastinate-Busting Power of Podcasts (Yes, Podcasts Can Bust Procrastinating)

Hi all,

as you may be aware, I recently finished National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Last week, I wrote about my experience here. NaNoWriMo was a success for me, not simply because I wrote the 50,000 words necessary to “win”, but because I created (most of) the first draft of my middle grade WIP.

However, NaNoWriMo did take its toll. By the time I hit 50,000 words on 27th November, I was exhausted. My brain felt like a fried egg and I fell into a literally heap.

I may have won NaNoWriMo but I had lost my will to write any more of my NaNo work.

I could think of nothing worse.

A break was needed. A distraction, something to recharge my enthusiasm for my project.

So for the next week, I mindlessly surfed the biggest distraction of them all: the internet…


one day after the other…

…until I stumbled upon a podcast guest hosted by an agent I met during last year’s trip to New York City for the Writer’s Digest Conference.

This agent’s insightful feedback and advice struck a cord with me then, and has remained with me since, so I was interested to hear what he had to say. In this podcast, he spoke about what makes characters entice a reader to read past the first few pages: who the characters are, how they got to where they are, what they want, and what stands in their way. It was all stuff I’ve heard before but, for some reason, hearing it again from him had a profound effect on me.

My brain woke up. It was like my characters knocked on my head yelling, “Hey, what are you doing? You heard him. We have so much more to say. Your characters are your book. Get writing!”

The podcast reignited my interest in my project.

Now I’m a huge fan of podcasts on anything to do with writing, whether that be on an aspect of the craft itself, on the business and marketing front, or as a guest speak with one of my favourite authors. There’s something special, almost intimate, about podcasts. It’s as though the speaker is only talking to you.

And in our time-poor world, their ability to educate, inspire, and empower – whether you’re on the commute to work, or while you cook, clean, or exercise – makes them a fantastic multi-tasking means to an end. We all get stuck at times with our writing but by listening to podcasts, at least you feel like you’re doing something about it. Well, don’t you? And maybe one might just be the thing you need to get moving again.

The Write Life recently updated their list of  twenty inspiring podcasts for writers. If you haven’t introduced yourself to the world of writing podcasts, this is a good place to start for a bit of binge-listening 🙂 (Or if you’re in a literally heap 😦 ) And my favourite of the Australian podcasts is the Australian Writers’ Centre So you want to be a writer podcast, with Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait.

Hopefully, you’ll hear something on one of these gems to pull you out of any procrastinating slump.

And fulfill your writing goals.

Until next time,

Happy writing,


Are you a fan of podcasts and, if so, which would you recommend to writers, and why?

And have those who NaNo’d this year been able to maintain momentum after December 1st hit?


Things I Took Away From the NSWWC Open House with Penguin Random House (Apart From Valuable Manuscript Feedback)

Hi all,

Last Friday, I attended the New South Wales Writers Centre (NSWWC) Open House with Penguin Random House Australia (PRH). I thought I’d share some of the key points I gleaned from this day, as I know there were some who, unfortunately, were unable to attend due to the limited number of seats on offer.

After the introduction of representatives from the departments of publishing, editorial, sales, marketing and publicity – including an overview of their respective roles – the group launched into a mock acquisition meeting. Those stating their case on why a book should, or should not, be given the green light included (from left to right in the pic below):

  • Catherine Hill, Deputy Managing Editor, Random House Books
  • Belinda Connors, Key Account Manager, Penguin Random House
  • Karen Reid, Publicity Director, Penguin Random House
  • Sarah Hayes, Editorial Assistant, Random House Books
  • Lex Hirst, Commissioning Editor, Random House Books
  • Tom Langshaw, Editor, Random House Books, and
  • Meredith Curnow, Knopf Vintage Publisher, Random House Books

This session was very insightful – and entertaining! Key points included:

  1. When a manuscript reaches the acquisition stage, a lot of work has already been done to get it to the level required to offer (of course, this doesn’t mean the author will accept any offer made, and a project can still be shelved by PRH for a multitude of other reasons. So while a lot of work has been done, there are no guarantees, my friends!)
  2. An author’s ability to adapt is a definite plus when determining whether to acquire his or her work. Have they demonstrated this adaptability already?
  3. An editor may be passionate about a book, but if the sales or publicity team don’t share that enthusiasm, things can get interesting.

But saying this, acquisition meetings don’t usually end up in a war of words or a brawl on the carpet. Participants are really quite friendly to each other 🙂

The next session discussed children’s publishing with Laura Harris, Publishing Director with Penguin Random House Young Readers. I could have listened to Laura speak for hours, she was that enthusiastic about kids’ books. I was also interested to hear that Laura has worked with Mem Fox, Melina Marchetta and Morris Gleitzman, three of my favourite Australian authors.

Laura Harris

Key points Laura made:

  1. PRH receives about 3,000 children’s submissions per year in Australia, and publish about 100 (to be honest, the latter figure is higher than I thought it would be but I assume it includes agented submissions – I didn’t think to ask for clarification, sorry).
  2. The top four books for 2016 were all children’s books. And all for middle readers.
  3. Four times as many middle reader books were sold last year in Australia compared to YA (yet YA gets the lion’s share of attention in the children’s book sector).

Then it was on to discussing the editorial process, with Catherine Hill, Tom Langshaw and Lex Hirst returning to the stage to discuss books they have worked on. Key points included:

  1. A “really, really good book” can still require pages and pages (15 was mentioned in the example) of initial editing notes.
  2. Cover design should never be underestimated – it should communicate in a glance what the book is about.
  3. Editors love spreadsheets and graphs. Or so it appeared 🙂

Next was the art of promotion, with Karen Reid back in the chair. The key message for me from this was “SUB PLUS THREE”. What does this mean, I hear you ask? It means that the most effective time to promote your book is from submission until three months after publication. It’s much harder to achieve good results after this time. Something to do with modern society’s short-term memory problem, perhaps?

Now, where was I? Oh, that’s right. Karen’s other key points were:

  1. Authors must be able to speak in front of an audience, and must be able to describe their book succinctly. They should also have a professional photo taken for inclusion in promotional packs, review pieces, etc.
  2. Sale projection numbers influence the extent and breadth of any book tour to be undertaken.
  3. Never underestimate the influence of SEO (search engine optimisation)/SEM (search engine marketing) and Google ads.
  4. Write other pieces to place in newspapers and magazines – remember what was said about adaptability above? Include your blurb at the end with your online contact details. It’s another way people can learn more about you and your work.

The last session before lunch covered rights and distribution with Nerrilee Weir, Senior Rights Manager for PRH.

Nerrilee Weir

Nerrilee had a key message of her own: that your narrative must resonate with readers world-wide. You must “find the universal” in your work, so that it is able to travel. Other points I took away from her talk included:

  1. Selling rights to international publishers is all about pitching. This involves a lot of rejections which read similar to the ones you or I may receive as authors such as, “We didn’t fall in love with the voice” or, “We didn’t feel passionate enough about it”. Sound familiar?
  2. Audio is everywhere now and the Australian film industry is on the rise, providing other avenues for income.
  3. There are clauses in contracts to ensure that “lost in translation” issues do not arise when rights are sold to non-English language markets.

After lunch, I sat in a YA break-out group with four other YA writers, where we had an informal 30-minute chat with Zoe Walton, YA and children’s publisher with PRH. Zoe would have to be one of the nicest publishers I’ve met – and I’m not just saying that because she had good things to say about my writing in our individual session (see below). Anyway, in the group chat we discussed:

Offers – her recent YA offers are split 50/50 between agented and non-agented submissions, and most are contemporary by nature. Fantasy offers are scarce.

Synopses – she recognises how difficult synopses can be to write, and dislikes the style of All Caps when introducing a character’s name for the first time.

Trends – doesn’t see any dominant trend at present.

Individual fifteen-minute sessions followed the break-out group chat. One month previous, I had been asked to submit the first twenty pages of my YA manuscript, along with an author bio and synopsis, to Zoe. Although my manuscript is geared toward the US market, I was keen to hear Zoe’s thoughts on its merits.

I was extremely pleased that Zoe took the time to prepare assessment notes, which she discussed with me during our session and gave to me at the conclusion (thank you again, Zoe!) Her wonderful feedback was fairly consistent with that from US agents, who had received partial or full requests of my manuscript following my pitch to them last August. For those who don’t remember, it was at the Writers Digest Conference in New York City. Read more about it here:

So, where to now?

Zoe’s comments spur me to continue riding this roller-coaster life of writing. Although I’m still to hear back from three of the agents in NYC who requested partials/fulls of the same YA manuscript, I’ll continue to refine this piece and query elsewhere in the US market.

I’ll also complete my current WIP, a middle grade novel with a very unreliable narrator, to say the least. As Zoe seemed to like my writing style, I might even submit this project to her in due course 🙂

For now, and until next time,

Happy writing,


Six Words of Wisdom on Running a Crowdfunding Campaign

Hi all,

as someone not brave enough, at this stage anyway, to venture into the world of crowdfunding (I did recently pass on a publisher who raises capital to produce their books through crowdfunding means, but that’s another story), I thought I’d share the below post from a writer friend of mine who is.

So if you’re toying with the idea of running your first crowdfunding campaign, I suggest you read this post. And if you have used crowdfunding to achieve your goals, writing related or otherwise, I’d love to know about your experience.

And best of luck, Sara, on your upcoming trip to Iceland!

Until next time, happy writing,


Wow. Was it really two months ago when I launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for my trip to the 2017 Iceland Writers Retreat? Now, the “promotional” period is over (it ended this past Saturday), and thanks to people’s generosity I raised $2274. This falls short of the $3500 goal – but you know what? That’s still […]

via Six Words of Wisdom on Running a Crowdfunding Campaign (Plus, the “Final” Total for My GoFundMe for the Iceland Writers Retreat) — Sara Letourneau’s Official Website & Blog

What to Do (And Not Do) After Attending a Writer’s Conference

Hi all,

Attending last August’s Writer’s Digest Annual Conference is one of the best decisions I’ve made for my writing. Not only did I expand my knowledge on the craft and business of writing, but I met wonderful writers from around the world, and formed lasting connections with agents and other industry personnel. And I explored New York City for the first time!


Unfortunately, I am unable to attend this year’s conference but if you are (or are attending another), the attached post is worth a read – especially if you are pitching your work to agents and editors.

Literary agent Irene Goodman of Irene Goodman Literary Agency shares insider do’s and don’ts about what to do after you attend a writing conference to get the most out of your experience.

Source: What to Do (And Not Do) After Attending a Writer’s Conference

Until next time, happy writing,


The Gray Area Between Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction

Back in 2010, Mary Kole, who was then a literary agent, wrote a post called “Is it MG or YA?” on her excellent site  I should note that the publishing market has changed between 2010 an…

Source: The Gray Area Between Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction

Start Spreading the News, I’m Leaving Real Soon…

Hi all,


In a few days, I leave my beautiful sun-burnt country and fly to the Big Apple for a trip nine months in the making. As well as seeing the sights and indulging in a much-loved pastime (retail therapy), I will also be popping up to Boston for a few nights to research my next book and to meet with an editor. While all of this is vitally important, the main focus of my trip is to attend the Writers Digest Conference in New York City, where I will pitch my YA manuscript to agents.

The story I have written has been more than five years in the making, in between writing magazine articles and short stories, and stints working in publishing and government. After countless drafts, input from beta readers and an editor, and nudging from my husband and children with words like, “You can do this. You should do this”, I am about to, well, do this.

Preparing to “Do this” has resulted in a lot of agonizing over the wording of queries, synopses, and 90-second pitches. This, in turn, has led to my eyes rolling to the heavens while I silently scream, “What am I doing?” on more than one occasion. There’s nothing left of my nails and the bags under my eyes have become a permanent feature. I’ve just had a visit to the hairdresser to cover the increasing strands of gray, and don’t get me started on the fear of failure raising its ugly head during the early hours of the morning…

But then I joined the conference Facebook group and discovered there are LOADS of fellow attendees feeling the same way. Nervous. Excited. Overwhelmed. Excited. Scared. And did I say, excited? And I realized that we are all in the same boat, all following our dreams off the proverbial cliff to see if they (and we) have wings. All heading to NYC with a pitch in our heads – mine’s starting to sound like a broken record. All ready to soak up the wealth of information and networking opportunities to be discovered during and between three days of jam-packed sessions. And all ready to meet new people in this sometimes infuriating but always wonderful world of writing.

We share the same insecurities and the same passion, no matter what genre we write. When we do finally all meet in person, it will be like catching up with old friends.

I, for one, cannot wait. I’ll let you know how I go.


What are the biggest things you’ve taken away from writing conferences you have attended? Besides books, that is!

Quick How-To: Add a Static Welcome Page to Without Losing Your Blog

Hi, guys! I’ve been MIA for a couple of weeks, and for a good reason – as you’ve probably noticed, I am now running #ComedyBookWeek. It’s been a full-time job for the last month or so, what with setting up an official website, approaching 100 book bloggers, and gathering 112 (and counting) books to participate. […]

via Quick How-To: add a static welcome page to without losing your blog — Ana Spoke, author

The Dark Side of Twitter Pitch Parties – The Need to Research Who Bites Your Hook

I remember a saying, it goes something like this: if you’re prepared to cast your fishing line, you better be prepared for what (or in this case, who) bites.


I think it applies well to twitter pitch parties. You know, those intermittent pitch contests where authors post hooks of their manuscripts to agents and publishers in 140 characters or less? Agents and publishers “like” the posts they want to see more of i.e. in a subsequent query. It still may not get you representation, but these queries may get fast tracked through the query slush pile if the author mentions that the agent saw the hook in a pitching contest.

I recently entered such a contest. I am by no means a regular participant, having only entered once before. I see it as a way to force me (with gritted teeth) to condense my story into a single sentence or two. Another way to hone my pitching skills.

Anyway, I received one “like” from a fellow author (even though the rules stipulate that “liking” should be kept for requests). And I received a tweet from a publisher requesting me to submit. Submission was to include my full manuscript. There was no corresponding “like” of any of my pitch posts, just a tweet that looked suspiciously like one of those automated DM’s you get when you follow some people (the fact that the wording of the tweet did not correlate to the hook in my pitch may have also had something to do with rousing my suspicions.) Real personal, it was.

Now I am someone who tends to research the death out of something. I have been known to research something until the cows come home (I did live on a dairy farm for part of my youth), so I researched this publisher and found some very interesting comments from authors who have dealt with them over the last two years:

  • The contracts sent to these authors read more like a vanity publishing contract, stipulating added costs to the author, although there is no indication from the publisher’s website that they trade in this manner;
  • If they questioned or attempted to negotiate anything in the contract prior to signing, it was immediately rescinded. Some were not even advised of this, but only found out after repeated requests for an update on negotiations. Others have not been advised at all;
  • There were authors approached via twitter pitch parties who received requesting tweets IDENTICAL in wording to mine i.e. a generic statement regarding our MC’s. This led me to wonder: did the publisher even read my pitches?

And, to me, the worst discovery of all:

  • There were authors who submitted their full manuscripts to this publisher upon request, who have since seen their private contact details and their work up on a third-party website without them granting permission for this to occur, and without signing any contract with the publisher.

Say what?!

It’s fair to say I did not submit to them. As far as I’m concerned, no contract is better than a bad one. But I did decide to research (yep, here I go again) other agents and publishers who attended the contest in question. While there were many reputable names and organizations involved, I was amazed at just how many names popped up who have received negative assessments by groups such as AbsoluteWrite and Preditors & Editors.

So, if I have any advice to give, it’s to DO YOUR RESEARCH on any agent or publisher who “likes” your post in one of these contests BEFORE submitting to them. After all, you should be doing this any way to ensure they are a good fit for you, as well as your manuscript.

I’m glad I did. I have put too much time, effort and love into my manuscript to have unscrupulous hands on it.

Happy writing,


Top Five Questions on Building an Author Platform

Hi all,

thought I’d attach a great new post from a fellow Australian writer I met last year at a publishing seminar and have kept in touch with through the twittersphere. Her name is Allison Tait. Check her out on Twitter at: @altait 

Allison has a great website at: which includes a blog I find to be both informative and entertaining. Her most recent blog post answers questions put to her on Facebook from writers regarding the importance of building an author platform. Thought I’d share it with you here as it reiterates the importance of making social connections in this mostly-solitary pursuit we call writing:

Also check out Allison’s other posts. It’s well worth your time.

Happy writing,