Word Travel with Tania McCartney
In November 2008, Tania McCartney self-published her first children’s picture book –Riley and the Sleeping Dragon, which will be made into a travelogue series for 0-8 year olds. Beijing Tai Tai – a memoir-style collection of blogs, columns and journal entries, was self-published in January 2009. Tania is an inspiring writer/editor/publisher powerhouse from Australia who also manages the children’s book blog, Kids Book Review. Ms. McCartney took the time to graciously offer illuminating advice for self-published authors and insight into the everyday inspiration of life. Please contact Tania directly to schedule an author reading or purchase her books.
The Writing Process
Writing really comes naturally to me. It’s something that just seems to pour from my fingertips, almost in a stream-of-consciousness. It’s always been like this. Generally, I work best if I just throw myself into it; sometimes I have no idea the direction I’m going to take with any given piece, but I find if I just start, a well opens up and it flows fluidly. When my writing flows, I don’t try to block the language that comes out – I definitely write in my own creative voice, and this can be hard to reign in when I write articles of a more restrained nature, such as feature articles, interviews or reportage. Creative writing is definitely my great love.
When and how did you first start writing?
It seems I’ve always written. I still have my creative writing books from third grade, and they are jammed with fantabulous stories that bring back such intense emotion when I read them. My first poem was published by my grandfather in the local newspaper when I was in elementary school, and I wrote my first book when I was ten. I finished my first novel at 19 and my first magazine article was published at 20. Writing seemed to be something I just had to do. There was no getting around it. Over the years I’ve written in countless genre – from novels to playscripts, workshops to non-fiction manuals, magazine feature articles to journal-style blogs, reportage and reviews. I recently wrote and published my first memoir and my first children’s picture book, both of which have had success beyond my wildest dreams. I hope to dip into novel writing again in the next five years but for now, my children’s book series will be a focus.
What are your influences?
It sounds trite, but everyday life inspires me. Everyday occurrences – the small things, beauty in the ordinary, highs and lows, mishaps and successes. The little things people do or say. I’m also heavily influenced by visuals – I adore photography and art and am frequently inspired by the talented people I meet; this is why working on a very visual multi-media children’s book has been such a joy. The other thing that influences me is travel. I get so inspired when I travel, and keep comprehensive travel books and journals. Seeing the different ways people live their lives, even the different way they think and behave, is like gold for my creative processes. It stretches me to think outside the box and come up with something totally new. I also become heavily influenced through reading. Always have. I love reading up on historical non-fiction, art, travel, lifestyle, craft, biographies, fiction and children’s books of all genre. I’m also a hopeless magazine addict.
What advice do have for others just starting to promote their book(s)?
There’s so much you can do to independently promote your work (regardless of whether you are published or self-published), but it is a full time job. You really need to put a lot of effort in to gain big. Firstly, though, I think it’s vital to write what you know. Stay true to yourself and don’t try to work on something that is not ‘you’ or that is outside your comfort zone or knowledge bank. That’s just a recipe for disaster. Once you are clear on your direction, you really need to get feedback for your work, even before you publish. Asking the advice of professional editing companies or publishers is not necessarily the way to go. In my experience, this road is highly subjective and not necessarily indicative of your talent or potential success. For me, seeking feedback from your target audience is vital. Being able to then adjust or rework your book, dependant on that feedback, is an art in itself, and will stretch you as a writer. Carefully researching your market is also absolutely critical. The book market is so incredibly saturated (with both good and – unbelievably – bad work), it’s wise to be able to offer something new. Something unique. This is hard to do in such a saturated market, but there is always room for fabulousness.
Once you’re published, be constantly on the lookout for ways to promote your work. Talk about it to everyone. Create a blog. Cruise other like-minded blogs and leave comments in the hope that people will check you out, but do NOT post ‘advertising’ for your work or beg other bloggists to visit your site or link to you. People will ignore it. Contact every form of media you can think of, especially local papers, radio and television, who are always keen for a local story. Offer calculated giveaways of your book – this is a fabulous way to gain mass attention. Send your book to appropriate magazines, newspapers, tv shows and websites in the hope they will review it. Ask them to have a book giveaway if they don’t wish to review your work. Join Good Reads or other book websites and talk about your work with others. Hold events and more events. A book launch, readings. Join your state writer’s society, and if your book is for children, join your children’s book council and do readings during Book Week. Also contact local schools and offer to read your book to students or talk about writing and publishing. You should not charge for this unless you are an established author and have that luxury.
Most schools are happy to have book signings where you can sell your work, so don’t be afraid to ask. Network and interact with other book writers and likeminded artists. Link with other businesses that relate to your book in some way and offer to do readings at associated store openings or events that correlate with your work. Offer calculated prize giveaways to charities or charity events. If you write for children, get your local school involved. Have colouring-in competitions so kids can win a book, or offer giveaways for fundraisers. Consider selling your books at local markets. Approach national book distributors to help get your books around (they will take a large cut) and sell on amazon.com and other online stores. Set up a system on your own website to sell, using paypal or other online payment options. Approach local bookstores or national franchises about stocking your book, especially during times of local media exposure. Learn how to write a good press release and send it out everywhere. Paid advertising is a waste of money and is not credible for authors unless you’re very successful.If you are carefully researched and not delusional about how good or bad your work is, the most critical element to successfully promoting your work, is – of course – self belief. If your work is truly good and you believe in it, your tireless work to get the word out will begin to ride on the quality of your work, and the word will escalate without so much personal effort. If you’re not getting excellent responses and the work is not taking off despite these continued efforts, you must absolutely reconsider the saleability of your work, without taking it personally (hard to do!). There is no magic formula to writing a successful book – but if at first you don’t succeed, let that one go, and try try again.
Riley and the Sleeping Dragon
Riley and the Sleeping Dragon, is a unique multimedia children’s book which follows the journey of Riley – a little adventurer who scours Beijing in search of the elusive sleeping dragon of China. Rich with the author’s beautiful black and white photos as well as adorable illustrations by Canadian artist, Mo Qovaizi, Riley’s magical discovery will captivate readers of all ages. Riley and the Sleeping Dragon is the first in a series of travelogue books for 0-8 year olds. The next adventure will feature Riley in Hong Kong, and will be released towards the end of 2009.
Beijing Tai Tai
Beijing Tai Tai is a hilarious collection of witty observations on Beijing expat life. Intensely personal, at times a little controversial, you will laugh and cry at this rollercoaster ride of honesty and openness as a mother and wife (tai tai) juggles suburban family life in urban Beijing. The perfect read for anyone who has been touched by life in modern China.
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