If You Don’t Buy Australian Books as Xmas Gifts You Are Garbage

Now that we’ve gotten that clickbaity heading out of the way, I would like to apologise. Sorry, that was a bit extreme, you’re probably not garbage. But the point does stand.

There’s an article I love to reference which is about how to support your author friends – people are mostly good and want to support their friends. And people are mostly smart, and know that being an author is a sucky job that has little to no rewards, and that there are lots of little things you can do to help an author, that means the absolute world to them.

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And at this time of the year, the best way you can do that is by buying an Australian book for someone at Christmas. This is such a win-win situation – buying presents suck, buying books are easy, they’re great gifts and people actually appreciate the thought behind getting them. And it helps when you aren’t just like ‘here is a book for you, family member’ but are actually like ‘I loved this, and I thought of you, and now I want you to have it’. That makes the recipient feel special, I believe.

For the last two years, my personal challenge has been to only buy Australian books for all my Christmas gifts (except for Bridget, who gets something fancier. But often a book too). It’s been really rewarding so far. I’ve had several occasions where people have made a point of letting me know how much they loved the book I chose for them.

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This is also not just about supporting authors you may know – this is also about Australian books in general. There are all sorts of things going on at the moment – Amazon looming over us all, parallel importation, the scrapping of arts funds – that basically penalise Australian authors for being authors. It impacts on bookshops and on our own literary culture in general. It’s basically a really really good thing to do, OK?

Here are some books which I’m buying people for Christmas:

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Zoe Norton Lodge is the funniest person in the world, and this is her book, which features funny stories about her life. Duh. Buy this for people who will appreciate laughing at things. Buy this for that family friend who only watches the ABC. Don’t buy this for your famously humourless great-aunt Edna. She probably won’t get it. OR MAYBE SHE WILL, AND IT WILL CHANGE HER LIFE!

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This is a great book. Antonia Hayes is a wonderful writer. I feel like this is a good book for dads, because dads are interested in science. Some dads are.

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Defender by Chris Allen is ACTUALLY the book I’m buying my dad. Me and my dad read thrillers over the Christmas break, and Chris Allen writes a mean thriller. He was a paratrooper and the Sheriff of NSW, so he really understands thrills.

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The Going Down Swinging Longbox is the perfect gift for some kind of mysterious family member that you know nothing about: perhaps your cousin’s new wife, or your distant and haughty grandfather. There’s so much in here, including Australian treasure Andrew Denton, and best writer in the world Bridget Lutherborrow’s short story collection, that you’re sure to somehow make them happy.

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Best Australian Comedy Writing? This is obviously the perfect Christmas gift. It’s comedy writing, and it’s the best. I’m buying this for my sister, because she needs to goddamn lighten up. That was a little joke. She appreciates jokes. That’s why she’s getting this book.

 

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Hey, who put this here? Pretty sneaky of me. But no, seriously – you can buy it for 10% off at the Spineless Wonders website throughout December, so it’s a good gift for that weird nephew that sits in the corner, or for your grandma’s seventeen cats. Also, I know Kinokuniya in Sydney has about twenty of them, because they let me sign them all and now they can’t return them, which was pretty dumb of them.

 

Merry Batmas – get my book for cheaps

Hey, look. I’ve been banging on about my book a lot, for like an entire year and I’m frankly sick of it. You’re probably sick of it. We’re all sick of it. There’s been a metric fuckton of amazing people who have bought the book, supported the book, come to see me read and just be plain amazing. I want to thank you. You’re amazing.

But I also understand that it’s hard to make cash dollars in the big city, that times are hard, that books are expensive, that sometimes you just can’t buy a goddamn book, even though you really have the best intentions of doing so. I do that all the time. I apologise to all the amazing books that i’ve wanted to read this year, but have been tooooooo poor.

So anyway, because of all this, I have reduced the price of the ‘Bats ebook to 99c, for a week or so in December.

Whaaaaaat? Are you mad? That’s like five red frogs. Basically, here’s my book. Just have it. I want you to read it. I hope you enjoy. I’d really be flattered if you could take the time to have a read, and maybe share the link around and let anyone you know who is the kind of jerk who likes stupid short stories about funny supermans about it.

Here’s the link to Amazon Australia: http://bit.ly/BatsAmazonAU

And Amazon US: http://bit.ly/BatsAmazon

THAAAAAAAAAANK YOU.

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So I’ve published a book, oh my god what now?

On Sunday March 1st, A Man Made Entirely of Bats burst forth unto this world, shrieking and pissing furiously as literally dozens of onlookers watched in horrified awe. Let me say this about the entire publishing experience: it’s been an unmitigated joy. I feel so warm and protected by all the people who have supported me and my tiny rabies-filled baby. From the good people at Spineless Wonders, to all the amazing folk who bought a copy of Bats during our pre-release drive and are currently staring baffled at my personalised message, to the gorgeous hordes that came to my launch, to the people who have written nice things about the book… it’s just all been amazing. Thank you.

 

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LOOK AT THESE BRILLIANT PEOPLE

THIS BEN JENKINS GUY IS JUST SO NICE AND FUNNY and helped launch the book, what a goddamn prince.

THIS BEN JENKINS GUY IS JUST SO NICE AND FUNNY and helped launch the book, what a goddamn prince.

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Look at this fuckface

But there’s been a kind of unstoppable momentum up until this moment, all aiming towards the publication date. I’ve been annoying on social media, I’ve been wandering around thrusting my book into people’s faces. But the fact that it’s now published and in some bookshops and online doesn’t mean that it’s all stopped. Oh no, now it’s just began.

For me, I’ll be doing a lot of things. I’ll be doing readings and events and festivals. I’m heading down to Canberra later this month for the Noted Festival, I’ve got some exciting events at Giant Dwarf next month, doing something AWESOME with the Sydney Writers Festival, a comedy reading with some of my favourite authors at Better Read Than Dead in April… I’m going to be unstoppably in your face. That is what I’m going to be doing next. It’s not that I expect to make money from this collection of weird short fiction – I’m not trying to support my starving rescue dogs from the proceeds, or buy myself a white leather tuxedo. But I worked really hard on this book, and I’m proud of it, so I want to make sure that as many people as possible read it. I want to make sure I don’t sit idly by while it slowly fades away into nothing. Maybe it will be only read by a few dozen of the best people on earth, but it’s not in my nature to be complacent about anything to do with stuff I’m passionate about.

There was a great article in Seizure about what people can do to support a debut book, the weakest and most likely to die of all the books. I suggest you go and read it, because it’s just wonderful and 100% true: http://seizureonline.com/agony-aunt-friendly-fan/

Sometimes it is hard to know how to show support for the writers in your life. You toast them at the launch, slap them on the back or tell them how much you like their book. Don’t get me wrong, this is good moral support but it is very likely that the author you know is sweating it out. They are sitting at home staring at a crack in the wall that has begun to symbolise their life, because after years of slog, submission, acceptance and then sweet, sweet publication, nothing much really happens.

You may see a review or two, even in the serious literary supplement of a serious weekend newspaper, and assume that they are now your famous and successful author friend. This is most likely not true. From the outside they appear upbeat but their ears are ringing with deafening silence, punctuated by the odd review or mention.

So what can family, friends and fans do to help? Plenty.

This is what has rung true for me – it took me ages to realise that just because my published friends were famous to me, famous-to-me is not a position that sells books. One of my favourite things to do is only give Australian/friend books to people for Christmas. It’s an easy thing to do, and the recommendation that comes with it usually means the gift means more.

Anyway, this article has a list. I’m going to post this list.

So basically it is quite a challenge to get noticed as an author and the one you know is probably too bashful or prideful to ask for help. Here are some things that any friend, family or fan of an author can do to help raise their profile and get that clap-o-meter to move:

  • Buy a copy at the launch
  • Buy a copy from a bookshop
  • Buy a copy from a bookshop that doesn’t stock it and have them order it
  • Sneakily move your friend’s book to face-out when bookshop staff aren’t looking
  • Bring some friends to the book launch. There will, after all, be free wine and maybe even some cheese.
  • Depending on how close you are to your author, you may like to offer assistance to plan and execute the book launch (since this is often the author’s responsibility these days).
  • Say something online; Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, to name a few*
  • If you’ve got a blog, write a blog post or run an interview; after all, you’ve got access to an author!
  • Take your author out for a drink. Ask them how the publicity trail (trial) is going and encourage them to keep going, to reach out to more bookshops, libraries and bloggers if they seem to have lost steam. Which they may well have, because trying to get attention for their book may seem like banging their head against a particularly unresponsive brick wall.
  • Brainstorm networks for the author to tap. These could be local schools if the book has relevance, media contacts or events planners – to name but a few. Publishers are trying to promote a roster of books all year round – an author’s networks are invaluable.

Such a good list! In my job as Digital Marketer, we’ve found that reviews on Goodreads and Amazon etc are just really important. They’re the internet version of word of mouth. And word of mouth is king. Anyway, watch this space if you want to find out deets of any of these events and stuff, and also now that things have calmed down a little bit, I’ll start actually writing some shit for this blog, instead of endless self promotion. Speaking of which:

If you want to buy Bats, you can buy it in print from many places like here at Spineless Wonders, here at Amazon and here at Booktopia or you can buy it in ebook from Tomely or Amazon.

But seriously. Thank you SO MUCH to everyone for all the support. You’re all golden dolphins swimming in the sun.

 

 

Five Books from 2014 that I Can Remember

Hey, look, if I had even a hope of remembering all the books I read during 2014, I’d goddamn do an end of year best of 2014 style list. End of year lists are my jam – I unapologetically love them. I frequently go and read ‘best albums’ lists, and then spend the subsequent year really enjoying them, but being unable to discuss them in cool bars, because they are so last year. Anyway, I’ve decided to just fucking go with the flow and list five books that I read this year that spring to mind, because obviously they mean a lot to me.

1. Yes Please by Amy Poehler

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I love Amy Poehler, so it wasn’t really a surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed her book. What was the surprise was the method in which I enjoyed it. Yes, I laughed. I did this weird thing where I grinned really widely on public transport and just breathed through my nose a lot. It is goddamn funny. But it was also entirely genuine, and gave advice in the manner of someone you trust telling you something really relevant and truthful. This book came at a very good time for me – there’s all sorts of racks you flay yourself upon when you’re putting something as momentous as a book out into the world, even if it’s only a teeny-tiny book. Amy’s views on art making were refreshing and revitalising. And to be honest, her whole chapter about prize winning and ‘almost getting the pie’ was SUPER timely for me. God this book. I feel like I’ll be reading it once a year for sanity.

2. Dress, Memory by Lorelei Vashti

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I’ve been a fan of Lorelei’s for a while, having been introduced to her blog by my girlfriend, Bridget, who very rightly pointed out that it would be right down my alley. I enjoyed everything about this memoir – the tactile memories of the dresses themselves, the honesty, the humour, the style of writing. But this was also a very important book for me, because it helped confirm the direction I was going on with my own manuscript ‘Will You Look At All These Things?’. If you read this blog a lot, you’ve probably read some bits from it, but I’m basically writing a memoir, or as I describe it ‘a bunch of anecdotes from my life worth telling’. At various points while writing it, I’ve been filled with doubt about whether it’s worth writing – there’s no overarching narrative to adhere to, I’m not a celebrity, I’m relatively young and people are being mean to Lena Dunham about writing a memoir while young, and SHE’S a fucking celebrity with a TV show – what the fuck have I done? But the very description of this book salved some of those fears: ‘Dress, Memory is Lorelei Vashti’s piecemeal memoir of her twenties in dresses.’ Piecemeal memoir – I love that.

3. The Rook by Dan O’Malley

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Yep. Most fun had in book form. A really humorous yet still suspenseful urban fantasy, it just ticks all my boxes. Oh man. Basic plot: woman wakes up surrounded by creepily gloved dead bodies, has no memory of who she is, but finds letters to herself hidden in her clothing from before she lost her memory. Then basically has to play out a high placed role in a kind of Hogwarts style secret service. I didn’t want to stop reading this, it’s just so wonderful.

4. Crapalachia by Scott McClanahan

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Beautifully written, disturbing, playful, just absolutely excellent. I already talked a bit about this when I raved about how much I liked Scott McClanahanahanahan, but I can honestly say I haven’t stopped thinking about this book since I read it.

5. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

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I read this book as part of my Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge, and in doing so totally confirmed why I started doing this ridiculous challenge in the first place, and why I’ll probably be doing it for the rest of my life. But this book is breathtaking – and I don’t mean that in the trite, over-used way we’re used to hearing breathtaking. This book made me hold me breath in suspense, and release it in wonder. It was just gorgeous.

Urgh, Writing: judge my cover

So, I had a meeting with the designer who is hopefully going to design the cover of A Man Made Entirely of Bats. As per usual, I over-planned everything and arrived with a folio of covers I like and then babbled about colours and stuff, before finally having to admit that I am actually colour blind.

But covers are really important, it’s this horrible fact. I’m afraid that some books fail because the cover isn’t great. So, yeah. I’m heaps keen to show you my designers art, because he’s a genius, but I’ll wait for later. But I will show you so covers that I like. I asked people on Facebook too, and got some good uns. Are there some covers that you really like that deserve a mention?

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Slaughterhouse Party of Five – The best book/TV show mashups

It all started fairly tamely – I was writing an article on Slaughterhouse-Five for Writers Bloc, and I thought about that show, Party of Five and I posted it on Facebook.

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And it just kept going:

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At this point, I had people messaging me saying that they were having fun but they really should get some work done. But they kept posting them:

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By this point, I literally couldn’t watch things anymore as I had WORK. But who needs me?

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WILL IT NEVER END

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OH GOD COME ON

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HAHAHAHAHAHA

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No, but we had to stop before we start bringing movies into this. That can be next week.