As a writer of fiction, should I …?

Recently I jointed a Facebook group intended to support self-publishing writers.

Writers drop into these sites at different stages of their journey. Some are wiser than others. Some are innocents, meaning they are still trying to find their wayand still looking for the signposts that will guide them.

I count myself as fortunate. I was already published in short fiction and consequently had joined the ASA (Australian Society of Authors) through whom I was able to enrol in a two day online seminar on the pros and cons of becoming an independent publisher. The knowledge provided has been invaluable. This steered me through all the following stages.

Regardless of which road to publishing is traversed, much of the journey is the same.

Stage 1. Write the story until it seems ‘finished’ after many edits and revisions by the author.

Photo by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash

Stage 2. Hone the manuscript through professional editing – structural, line, copy.

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

After Stage 3, the path divides. Choices must be made. But before doing so, the writer needs to take a step away in order to see the work as a product and thus be able to gather the essential components for selling and publishing. Some of this will be to prepare synopses – structural or themed, and to establish a genre while identifying keywords. Research of similar books and likely publishers for your genre is needed. Pitches and taglines need to be developed and a short author biography written. These are needed no matter which path is chosen.

Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

Stage 4. Which path? (a) Approach a literary agent (see here, (b) submit to a suitable commercial publisher, or (c) become a small business and professionally and independently publish your own book. There are many choices here, too, and these require considerable time to research and work through.

For me, it was publishing through IngramSpark who (if you are willing to invest the time and energy) have numerous helpful, illuminating and practical guides to learn from and follow. My book (BETWEEN) may not be a multi-seller but you can find it offered for sale on all the online booksellers – to name a few Booktopia, Amazon, The Book Depository and even (dare I say) on Kogan, and Barnes and Noble – both for ebook and print on demand sales. The cost to publish through IngramSpark is minimal. The costs come before publication: the cost to edit to the finished standard is something that should be calculated whether going the commercial road or independent, and while the cost of typesetting (book layout) and a professional cover illustration may be taken care of by a commercial contract, for the indepdent publisher, this is an investment into a professional publication and is reasonable.

I order print copies from IngramSpark and sell from my own website. I promote through social media and have a plan to visit local bookshops with a view to selling on commission. I am also planning library and book club talks. Independent publishing also require to pay attention to the legal obligation that a commercial publisher would take care of, such as (in Australia) the National Library registration and supplying copies to your local state library authority.

Bottom line, I believe considerable research is required before finding the answer to the question above: ‘As a writer of fiction, should I …?’

Connecting my fiction with a work of history

Again I am talking about Ian Townsend’s Line of Fire. Reading it took me back to my teenage years. His characters lived in pre-World War Two Rabaul while I had lived in pre-Independence Rabaul (1960s) but life and the inhabitants had not changed very much between my recall and Ian’s narration. While the circumstances of Ian’s story sit behind my stories (the shambolic preparations for an invasion, the impact of Japanese occupation and extreme bombing by not only the enemy but also the allies), Ian’s novel is mostly located within the social group that locals would call ‘Europeans’ or “Expatriates’. Mine is about those who are almost invisible – neither indigenous nor western – and yet Ian does not overlook them. On page 174 of Ian’s novel, there’s one appearance that works for me here. It’s the early stages of the Japanese Naval attack on Rabaul and a key character (who hadn’t been seen since his home was bombed) is led to a place ‘called Refuge Gully behind the town, where about 30 civilians … and about 200 Chinese and New Guineans were camped … The Chinese shopkeepers had nowhere to go. They kept their wives and children with them, terrified after having read about the Japanese massacre of civilians in Nanking.‘ My novel’s characters are based on the stories I have heard from Chinese, Mixed-Race (their name for themselves) or Malay/Ambonese families of Rabaul, many of whom had lived in Rabaul for two or three generations, and too many of them no longer able  to return to their country of origin for a whole raft of reasons.

In 1975, a new nation of Papua New Guinea (PNG) was focused on uniting its many tribes and language groups. These nation-less souls were very worried about their futures.

Line of Fire

Ian Townsend’s excellent novel (already mentioned in an earlier blog) should be first book to be acknowledged.

About the Book

The little known and intriguing WWII story of an eleven-year-old Australian schoolboy who was shot by the Japanese in Rabaul in 1942 as a suspected spy – a compelling story of spies, volcanoes, history and war.

In May 1942, in the town of Rabaul in the Australian territory of New Guinea, five Australian civilians were taken by Japanese soldiers to a pit at the base of a volcano and executed as spies.

A mother, her brother, her husband and her friend. And her 11-year-old son.
Who were these people and what had led them to this terrible end, under the shadow of a volcano?
Acclaimed 4th Estate author and award-winning science journalist Ian Townsend has uncovered a fascinating story that sheds new light on a largely forgotten but desperate battle fought on Australian territory. The Australian Government, unable to reinforce its small garrison, abandoned more than 1500 Australian soldiers and civilians as ‘hostages to fortune’ in the face of the irresistible Japanese advance. Set against the romantic, dramatic and ultimately tragic backdrop of Rabaul in WWII, this is a wholly intriguing narrative of Australian history, military conflict and volcanology, woven together with the story of one ordinary but doomed Australian family.

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9781460750926
  • ISBN 10: 1460750926
  • Imprint: 4th Estate – AU
  • On Sale: 01/02/2017
  • Pages: 320

Book Details

First blog post

Hi there. First blog and I still haven’t got WP under control, so please be patient. This website has a dual purpose. One is for me, the writer and reader, to explore any aspects of the joint practices of writing and reading, including my own efforts. The other is to gather information and to acknowledge any stories I come across about a town called Rabaul in Papua New Guinea. I spent six short years living in during my teens but it left an indelible mark. As author Ian Townsend (Line of Fire 2017) suggests in his non-fiction novel, anyone who has ever lived there, continues to love it. It stuns me that so little is being written , and this implies so much history is already lost.  And the few works, academic or creative, that have been written are scattered. Will the efforts of the rare breed of storytellers who tackle the difficulties of limited research material slip between the cracks?