Even I’m shocked at how easy it is to self-publish yourself today. A couple of weeks ago, I had in my metaphorical hands on a final version (hah! — what I thought was a final version) of my eBook and thought “great, now I can set a date for my book’s release!”. This decided, I uploaded a Word document (formatted as needed) onto my chosen vendor sites, added an image, filled out the various details — and then a few clicks later you could pre-order my first book.
Many of my potential readers, unfortunately, are family or friends who have never laid eyes on an eBook. These are the type of people who hear you’re publishing a book and want you to “sign a copy plz smiley face”. Except there’s no hardcopy and likely never will be.
My mother, bless her, wants to support my book-writing endeavours. But she doesn’t own an eReader and told me she’ll buy the file and that’ll be that. It’s monetary support, I should be delighted — but it got me thinking about all the others in my network who will do the same thing. They might want to read the book and then tell me through gritted teeth how much they absolutely adored it, but they don’t know how to read an eBook.
So. If your nephew/daughter/significant other/friend has published a book online and you don’t want to see the death of hope in their eyes as you keep saying “not yet, not yet, but I will get to it”, here is your guide. (Well, unless you have no intention of reading it in the first place. Shhh.)
Do you have an ebook reader already?
If you have a Kindle (Amazon) or a Kobo or a Nook (Barnes & Noble) and your friend has published on the site your device corresponds to — hurray! Just go to those websites and/or apps and buy the book. You can load the eBook onto your device and go your merry way.
Do you have a computer?
To read the eBook you bought on Amazon, download Kindle for your PC.
To read an Amazon file on your Mac, download this version of Kindle.
Similar options exist for Kobo (download here). So if you do buy an eBook from a vendor who also has a program that lets you read the file, it's a no brainer as to whose software you need to download. Look around their websites.
To read an EPUB (book file) on your PC (one you got from somewhere like Smashwords or you know is DRM-free) — double click the file. It should open up in your browser (eg. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome), but if not, right click on the file and go to “open with”. Once you click that, you can choose your browser to open it.
To read the same EPUB file on a Mac — good news! You have iBooks already! (Or should; check the app store for it if you lack it). Double click on your downloaded file and it will open for you. If not, do the usual “right click” and “open with”.
If these don’t work, you can download the free software Calibre (for Mac or PC) to read the EPUB you’ve bought, so long as it doesn't have DRM.
Do you have a smartphone/tablet?
Some ebook vendors have free e-reader apps so you can read your ebook on the fly. If you have an Android phone, use the Google Play Store to find and download the free apps for vendors like Kindle, Kobo and Barnes & Noble (if you've bought the book through them). For iPhones, check your app store.
If your EPUB ebook didn't come from the aforementioned vendors and you have a Samsung/Andoid device:
Go to Google Play then download and install Google Play Books. This is a free app that lets you read non-DRM EPUB files on your phone. The process of getting your file onto your phone is explained here. Usually you can email it to yourself and download the attachment.
Another app from the Google Play Store which may help you read EPUBs on your Android device can be found here.
Download the app iBooks. Add the EPUB into your iTunes on your computer and sync this to your phone. Don't know how to do this? Read about it here.
Too complicated? Get this free program for your iPhone or iPad. Get your book on your phone by downloading it (eg. you can email the file to yourself as above [so long as it's DRM-free]).
This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a starting point. If in doubt about anything, Google it. ;)
And, because I am a terrible human being, I will use this moment to pimp my eBook (space opera! romance! gods!), which will be released on October 20, 2017. Find pre-order links here.
Fair warning: I have been a Star Wars fan since the age of 4, when my mother plonked me in front of The Empire Strikes Back on VHS. As such, this is an overly long review for a Star Wars book. :P
In Expanded Universe (EU) novel The Truce at Bakura, published in 1994 and set directly after the second Death Star goes BOOM, the very first chapter sees fan favourite Wedge Antilles in a spot of bother. So imagine my nostalgia-ridden delight when Aftermath's (also set directly after aforementioned BOOM) very first chapter saw Wedge Antilles getting into...a much bigger spot of bother.
The characters we do end up with are nobodies, but you do root for them to escape their dire circumstances. There are two too (not a typo!) many dei ex machinas for my liking and I would have preferred to have seen a lot more Wedge (personal bias leftover from the EU, admittedly).
This book is advertised as the "journey to The Force Awakens" but it's really not - it doesn't link up well at all. At the end of the day, this is just a book about Rebels and Imperials getting off a planet. There are changes in the galaxy, and they're shown, but they're obvious. I've seen all this in the Expanded Universe, right down to warring factions of Imperial remnants. This is old. I wanted new.
Casual fans can leave this one at the bookshop. Those fans, like me, who watched the EU slide into utter ludicrousness and enjoyed some of the last attempts of the EU to redeem itself (i.e. Honour Among Thieves) will enjoy Aftermath, but will close the book feeling vaguely annoyed.
The moment you know that you truly want something, is the moment you're afraid to lose it.
I reflect on this tonight, because in 6 days I will be married.
I didn't understand that the love between two souls can reach such a depth that staying by one's side is not an obligation, but a necessity. You cannot breathe unless you can hear their own breaths. You cannot resume living until you know that they will continue to do so.
On the Edge: My Story changed my perspective. It taught me that love was very real and much greater than I had ever imagined. And I cried and cried and cried once I understood this.
This evening I stumbled across "My Marriage Didn't End When I Became a Widow", written by Lucy Kalanithi. Her husband passed away from cancer. His last gift to the world was When Breath Becomes Air, a memoir which he wrote as he faded away.
The cynical side of me, the one that studied editing and publishing at university, notes that his wife writing such an opinion piece just before the book is released is a classic manoeuvre to drum up interest and sales. That compulsory marketing class paid off, I see.
The more passionate side of me, the one walking down an aisle this coming Saturday, barely made it halfway without bawling. Lucy Kalanithi's grief seems, to me, the way I would react if I lost the man I am about to marry. I would be the type to lie on his grave so that only soil and grass divides me from his withering husk.
Strange, for I have spent most of my life saying that once the body is vacated, it's no longer a person.
So I read this article, mindful that in less than a week I will be marrying my soul mate. It makes my fear of losing my husband even more painful and real. It's so very, very possible. And I will fall apart without him. I really will.
Lucy Kalanithi didn't change my perspective. Her piece confirmed that I really have come a long way since I was younger, when I lacked the true meaning of love and loss.
As much as I look forward to using this emotional knowledge in my work, I will never forget that it comes from a very real and scary place.
Once a week, I indulge in a ritual that has stayed with me for many years. I open up a webpage, find my way to the Australian singles chart (ARIA or Take40, either will do) and then listen to new tunes, passing judgement and deciding which ones get to become one with the Force...I mean, my music collection.
Music is a huge part of me. I was raised by parents who favoured the 70s and 80s. My education continued at school where the hits of the 90s were sung from classroom verandahs (I was always Posh Spice, because of my half-Englishness and discerning taste, obviously, and not my attitude, not at all). During the 00s, I spent time as a radio DJ with my finger on the pulse of modern music. To complete my wealth of musical knowledge and taste, I discovered fanvideos online (clips of TV shows or movies set to music that supposedly matches the characters) - and along with those, I found music that never hit the airwaves.
During all this, I picked up an appreciation for many genres. Though my collection still heavily favours 80s pop (Duran Duran forever, amirite), it also contains jazz, classical, instrumental (I have a huge weakness for violins & cellos), indie, rap, R&B, gothic rock, death metal, club and whatever else you can poke a stick at.
And I'm extremely glad, because I'm one of those people who listens to music when I write. Oh, not all the time. Just when I need it. As someone who has led a very happy life, I find it difficult to draw on my own experiences when I need to write certain scenes. I do like to make my characters suffer - so bring on the music! Adele is probably the most obvious - need to write about a break up or loss and regrets? She's the queen.
It's very possible that a song I find on the chart becomes a "theme song" of sorts for whatever I'm writing at the time, if the lyrics and mood speak to me. And that song gets flogged repeatedly until I no longer hear it when it's played.
Music gets my creative energies going. And it reminds me of a time when I could, at the push of a button, subject people to music they absolutely HAD to hear. Well, the people in my local area anyway!
When I was 15 (and, by then, producer of my radio show), I bemoaned the fact that most modern music was trash. I'm still that crotchety young granny. I find that most music now sounds EXACTLY THE SAME (obviously I know what I'm talking about - trust me, I was a radio DJ and there can be only ONE opinion haha).
So if that something "a bit different" comes along, I love it.
And it becomes part of my work.
Over the past few years, we have seen the rise of webseries. The Internet has become the platform for shows that thrive on a short format. They are a fascinating and creative way to tell stories, so I'm going to share with you my top 9. :)
9) Riese: Kingdom Falling
In this steampunk fantasy, Riese, after a coup has unseated her parents from power, is on the run from the current empress and her minions. Accompanied by a wolf, Riese begins to make discoveries about what's really going on.
The setting is intriguing and one of the most interesting ones I've encountered. Sadly, not a lot seems to happen over the whole series. It feels unfinished, and likely won’t be. But it’s one I will re-watch when the mood strikes me.
8) The Book Club
As an unashamed fan of Community, I hunted this one down for Danny Pudi who I find to be quite funny. A bunch of guys get together in a book club to discuss the books they're reading. Except the story always seems to come to life in hilarious or disturbing ways, depending on the subject matter.
From ninjas to Samara-type villains, this is a short-lived but easy to watch show. I really wish there was more!
7) The Legend of Neil
One day, a loser with a dead end job and a cheating girlfriend gets drunk, plays Legend of Zelda - and somehow ends up stuck in the game. He is now an elf questing to save a hot princess. Can he make something of his new life, even if it’s not real?
That theme song. That theme song. Ahem. Geeky hijinks poking fun at computer game logic. It’s enjoyable, adult fun.
6) Chad Vader: Day Shift Manager
Perhaps this one should be titled The Misadventures of Darth’s Vader Younger Brother Who Happens to be a Day Shift Manager at a Supermarket. Force shenanigans and amusing co-workers (Weird Jimmy is my favourite) make this repeat viewing for me, even if the quality drops in the later seasons. I used Kickstarter to help fund the fourth season and have my name in the credits of one episode. :D
5) Video Game High School
In the near future, video games are all the rage and those that triumph therein become global celebrities. BrianD, a so-so gamer, accidentally kills a reigning champion then receives an invitation to attend Video Game High School.
Girls, gaming, high scores and low blows - this show has it all. With longer than usual episodes for the format and decent production values, this feels like it could easily have a place on TV. The story, though cliched, is amusing. I’ve only seen 2 seasons so far, but I look forward to the last one.
4) The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl
This webseries follows J, who begins the series recently dumped and dealing with the regret of sleeping with a clingy co-worker. Added to this, she is awkward in social situations and cannot handle her job. J begins a relationship with “White Jay” which is extremely squeeful.
It’s so easy to relate to J - there’s always been those awkward moments in your life and those horrifying coworkers and those attempts to come off as cool, calm and collected only to end up looking completely disorganised and weird. I only meant to watch a couple of episodes, but then I just had to know what happened next.
3) Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
An aspiring supervillain chronicles his rise to power on his vlog. He’s accomplished at stealing and creating various weapons, but he can’t form a coherent sentence around the girl he likes. As this is a musical, very catchy songs ensue.
This is the first webseries I ever saw so it has a very important place in my heart. I know all the songs (so does my mum) and no road trip is complete without the soundtrack. It’s a neat little twist on the superhero genre and the cast is A+.
2) The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
Elizabeth Bennet, though possessing a useless degree and no fortune, has an entertaining vlog charting the challenges she and her sisters face, dating and career wise. While Jane is very fond of Bing Lee, Elizabeth cannot abide William Darcy, the owner of Pemberley Digital. Be honest; you know where this series is going.
My second favourite adaptation of Pride and Prejudice EVER (obviously a certain 1995 miniseries trumps all others). The setting and characters are perfectly updated and I love that Charlotte is finally given something interesting to do.
1) The Guild
The webseries to end all webseries…es. Codex lives most of her life online in “The Game”, where she has a guild of players who she quests with for hours at a time, though she has never met any of them. This all changes when one of her guild mates tracks her down with the intention of wooing her.
The Guild made webseries cool and it made Felicia Day a geek superstar. And deservedly so! This really resonates with me because Codex's journey, over six series, mirrored what was going on in my life at one point. I loved the characters so much that it was very sad to say goodbye to them.
Each year in November writers go into hibernation mode, scoffing any caffeine they can get their hands on and pounding on their keyboards, hoping to each that golden word count of 50 000 before December starts (anyone who hits this number is considered a winner). It's now November 2015. So game on, once more.
I used to think I'd never be able to write more than a few thousands words. I liked short, punchy fanfics which I threw up onto the Internet for a quick review or two. But then one year I started writing. And writing. And kept going. And somehow I ended up with 60 000 words. I was so shocked and thrilled - and knew I absolutely could do NaNoWriMo.
Below are this year's stats so far. I'm quite chuffed with the breakneck pace I'm keeping, but 10k a day is hard to maintain, even for someone who's attempting to be a professional writer.
Some people have criticised NaNoWriMo, saying you can't possibly get quality writing when you're vomiting up as much as you can. No first draft is going to be perfect, no matter what month it's written in. I'm not disputing that. But it's a LOT easier to edit 50 000 words of dubious typing than it is a blank page.
I use the NaNoWriMo method all year round. And I've written five books doing so.
And if there is one question you need to ask yourself, it's this:
How do you know you can finish a book if you never try?
But then one day a lotto ticket changed my life.
2013. I was a checkout chick at a local supermarket, struggling to find a use for my worthless Master degree. It seemed no job was forthcoming. So I bought a ticket. I won zilch. Zippo. Nothing.
BUT. While I waited for that inevitably disappointing draw, I asked myself, "What would I do if I won millions of dollars?"
I didn't think of holidays. I didn't think of houses or cars or anything else money could buy me.
"I would just write," was the ridiculously simple answer.
And BAM. I suddenly knew what I wanted to do with my life.
I had no idea what to do with this revelation - at first. Then I applied to do a Certificate of Editing and Publishing (and was accepted!). I finished my first, second and third books. I committed myself to my dream. And I've never been happier.
Maybe that was a winning lottery ticket after all...
Just where was that chick anyway? Did anyone actually finish the game?
I left no clues on this blog for my departure (a pre-wedding honeymoon). However, often my clues will turn up later in my writing. While I loved reading about castles as a child, I had never stood in one so I had no idea how to convey that in writing - until I visited the UK and stood in many, many castles. I was fascinated by those perched atop rocks and how the type of rock used could decide the outcome of a siege. My YA fantasy goes into this a little bit.
I once visited Dartmoor and became quite taken with the rugged tors guarding the windswept land (on a related note, I learned that you should never mock tors - I was justly punished by one, but that is a story is for another time!). So now one of my characters lives on moors studded with menacing boulders.
I have cherry-picked details from different locations to make up a fantasy setting. But one day I am hoping to use the places I have visited as backdrops for my stories. My most recent adventure took the better part of a month and I was able to add new cities and countries to my growing list of conquests. I also returned to Britain because it is a wonderfully magical place. No Hogwarts necessary.
So where in the world was I? Perhaps time - and my stories - will tell. ;)
PS: For those who hate mystery, I will at some point in the future post my adventures to the travel blog linked in my sidebar. I am feeling a little burned out and more than a little jetlagged so you may be waiting a while!
Unless indicated otherwise, assume these are for Australian authors only, though some websites don't say. I will mention it if a publishing house takes authors from other countries.
open to all authors across the world
Looking for: adult fiction, commercial women's fiction, erotica, romance, YA fiction. Non-fiction including memoirs, biographies, narrative histories and illustrated non-fiction.
NOT accepting: plays, poetry, short stories, essays, mind body spirit, religious titles, health and fitness, children's books and educational texts.
Every Wednesday, you are given the opportunity to submit your manuscript here (pdf or doc format). They want a synopsis, first 50 pages or first 3 chapters of your manuscript and 150 words about yourself.
Random House Australia
Accepts: Fiction: sci-fi, fantasy, thrillers and popular non-fiction: biography, travel narrative, popular culture, biography, memoirs. Will also accept parenting, health, mind body and spirit, soft business and self-help, cooking, lifestyle.
DOES NOT accept: poetry, educational material or short stories
They want a hard copy sent to them (details here): 50 pages or a few chapters of your manuscript, a cover letter (see above link about that) and a synopsis.
Writing for kids and you live in New Zealand as well as Australia? Not to worry! They have a separate section for children's manuscripts. Follow this link. For these submissions, you will need to send your whole manuscript in an email as a .doc, .docx, .rtf or .txt. They also want a cover letter, a synopsis/blurb and a bit about yourself. Read the link for more details.
Penguin Books Australia
DOES NOT accept: poetry, educational textbooks or plays/scripts
From the 1st to the 7th of each month, you can email your whole manuscript as a word document (along with a short synopsis) to them. Make sure you read the full details on their site.
Currently they are not accepting children or young adult manuscripts but they did previously so fingers crossed...? ;)
Destiny Romance (part of Penguin)
New Zealand authors also accepted.
On the hunt for: historical (Regency) romance, contemporary romance featuring high-powered men and women, medical romance and erotic romance
Accepts: 25 000 - 100 000+ words and romance in these sub-genres: contemporary, historical, suspense, paranormal, fantasy, sci-fi and erotica
DOES NOT accept: non-fiction, children's or poetry
Online/electronic submission only. Full manuscript required. Not sure of the format but assume .doc is safe. Details here.
Accepts: fiction and non-fiction
DOES NOT accept: young adult, children's, poetry, self-help, screenplays or academic submissions
They want the first 50 pages or first 3 chapters of your manuscript script via email (Word documents only, no .pdf). Cover letter and bio also required. Details here.
Allen & Unwin
Not interested in: poetry, category romance, adult fantasy, science fiction, short stories or scripts
Email submission, allows pdf for illustrated manuscripts. First chapter wanted only. Details here!
Children's & Young Adult
Beginner readers, aged 5-7, word length 5,000-10,000
Confident readers, aged 7-9, word length 10,000-25,000
Middle-grade readers, aged 10-13, word length 25,000-50,000
Aged 14+, word length 50,000-100,000
Accepts: fiction AND non-fiction, but the latter has to have a narrative
Not interested in: picture book texts, poetry or short stories
First chapter of your manuscript sent as a word document. Send by email along with a synopsis. Details here.
New Zealand authors - you have your own section on Allen & Unwin! Read about it here.
Pan Macmillan Australia
Looking for: commercial fiction, literary fiction, non-fiction, commercial non-fiction, children's
DOES NOT accept: picture books, scripts, plays poetry or romance (romantic elements allowed, but not romance).
On the first Monday of every month, between 10am and 4pm, you can upload a submission here. Word documents only. Send a synopsis and the first 100 pages of your manuscript (50 pages for children's).
There are probably a few lower key publishing houses that I didn't have the time to look into. I hope this list is a good resource for you. :)
Alyce Caswell is an aspiring writer who apparently lost her mind, threw away a steady job as an office junior and entered the realm of imagination.
She has blamed her accomplice and husband for giving her this most excellent opportunity.
Alyce has written articles, poems, short stories, books
and several embarrassing blogs. She hopes this venture will avoid the usage of cat gifs.
Links of Interest
A Rambling Rover
Alyce's travel blog which features various castles, stone circles and bemused musings about the Northern Hemisphere.