Q&A with A&U and Self-Publisher and author, Michelle Morgan

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On Sunday July 30, SCBWI members met at the beautiful Double Bay Library in Woollahra for the pleasure of an afternoon with Allen and Unwin publisher, Anna Macfarlane and author and playwrite, Michelle Morgan. Anna spoke about Allen and Unwin’s place in the publishing world and her place within it, while Michelle gave a fascinating account of her journey as a publisher and author, after she decided to enter the world of self-publishing for her latest novel, Flying Through Clouds.

Anna Mcfarlane

Anna is a publisher of books for children and teenagers at Allen & Unwin. Before that she worked on children's books at HarperCollins and at Pan Macmillan where she was children's publisher until 2008. During her career Anna has published many bestselling authors and illustrators such as Terry Denton, Ursula Dubosarsky, Phillip Gwynne, Andrew McGahan, Danny Katz, Frances Watts, Gregory Rogers, Andy Griffiths, Jaclyn Moriarty, Markus Zusak and Michael Leunig among others. She is looking for stories that make her laugh with| flawed but redeemable characters, exciting new voices and fearless storytelling.

Anna is a distinguished publisher and charming speaker, with a very croaky voice, she very generously made her way to the library to chat with us about the way her house works, the agonising process sometimes of saying no, finding new talent. She spoke about how very, very busy they are and that the best way to approach them is still through their Friday Pitch. Have a look here to see if you have something ready to pitch. https://www.allenandunwin.com/about-allen-and-unwin/submission-guidelines/children-young-adult-submission-guidelines

Michelle Morgan

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Michelle Morgan is a full-time writer who lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands (NSW). FLYING THROUGH CLOUDS is Michelle’s new historical novel for young adults. Michelle’s first novel, RACING THE MOON, was published by Allen & Unwin in 2014, and released in the UK and US in 2015. Four of her plays have been performed in Short Play festivals in Sydney, Newcastle and Armidale. She has also co-written several songs with her husband, and is currently working on a new play.

 

Flying Through clouds: The Story

It's not easy being a teenage boy growing up in the tough neighbourhood of Glebe in the 1930s. It's even harder when your dream is to become an aviator., your parents are dead against it and your girlfriend's father is the school principal. But Joe has even bigger challenges he must face if he wants to achieve his dream. He has a plan and wont let anyone stand in his way.

Michelle Morgan’s first book was published through Allen and Unwin and having never considered self-publishing, found herself in a series of fortunate events that changed her mind and she decided to take the reigns of her next book and publish it herself. When she was writing her next book, she found herself at the Byron Bay Writers Festival in a session about self-publishing. Her interest was peeked. She enrolled in a self-publishing workshop at the University of NSW and an editing course at the University of Technology, Sydney and was convinced this was what she would like to do.

Her plan was to:

  • Buy ISBNs, barcode and a QR code
  • Get quotes for a copyedit/Proofreading, cover and layout, printing and distribution.
  • Develop a publicity strategy
  • Update her website and social media
  • CIP info, legal deposit and submit book info to ELR PLR   

Then came a number of decisions:

  • Assess all those quotes
  • Do a copyedit to make sure the book is a high standard
  • Print uncorrected proof copies
  • Decide final layout and cover
  • Approach people for endorsements and reviews.

When she was considering design, she went to books she loved and contacted those designers with a design brief, wanting them to do the cover and the layout. She was extremely happy to secure the expertise of Ariel Gamble, daughter of the late, incredible, Kim Gamble.

With endorsements, Michelle hit the jackpot by securing endorsements from esteemed authors, Jackie French and Bill Condon. This is what Jackie said:

‘Superb! Adventure combined with a deep understanding of our history - and some of its most exciting bits.’ Jackie French, Australian Children’s Laureate 2014-15

Good huh?

After publishing 100 uncorrected bound proofs, she sent them out to a variety of places including media outlets and Australian Standing Orders, who took 1040 copies. She then signed up a distributer, Dennis Jones and Associates, knowing that all the hard work of publishing would be worth very little without one.

Then came the media, which was time-consuming. She had to organise the following:

  • Media release
  • Reviews and endorsements
  • Write articles
  • Use and create social media channels
  • Organise a book launch
  • Organise a book tour and events
  • Print posters and bookmarks
  • Organise a blog tour
  • Organise interviews
  • Send emails to friends, family and contacts about the book

A Few Last Bits:

Just before printing, the proofreading changes were given to the layout artist

Proofs checked

Michelle organised Griffin Press to print 2500 copies

It was published on April 2, 2017

eBook published on Amazing Kindle

Embarked on book launch and tour

Print on Demand edition available on Amazon from July

Other ebook formats will be published through Smashwords in July

Michelle told us it was a long and very time-consuming process but she was very happy with the editing and design process and Flying Through Clouds is beautiful.

The eBook is available on Amazon Kindle, iTunes, Kobo, Nook & Smashwords. You can buy a hardcopy from bookshops, online suppliers such as Booktopia, Book Depository & Amazon or at http://www.michellejmorgan.com.au/books

Teachers’ Notes are also available on Michelle’s website or Australian Standing Orders website. http://www.michellejmorgan.com.au/

SCBWI Success Story – Jenny Blackford

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If I hadn't been in the audience for Linsay Knight's guest spot at the January 2013 SCBWI meeting in Sydney, my two books of poetry (The Duties of a Cat and The Loyalty of Chickens) would never have been published.

Linsay was at that SCBWI meeting to talk about Pitt Street Poetry, the poetry press that she and her husband John Knight had recently founded. She passed around copies of a few of PSP's superbly-produced books, including a gorgeous little illustrated pamphlet of poems, Etruscan Miniatures, by Tim Cummings.

So, I wondered, might they consider a book of poetry for kids? By then, some of my poems and stories had appeared in the School Magazine, and Linsay had published one of my stories in her Random House anthology 30 Australian Ghost Stories for Children, but we'd never met, and I was too shy to go up to her during the break.

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That week, though, I screwed up my courage to email Linsay, asking her whether she would consider looking at a manuscript of poetry for kids. Miraculously, she replied with a yes, so I spent several weeks frantically editing all my suitable poems. Quite a few of them were about cats, including "The Duties of a Cat", which had recently appeared in the School Magazine.

Three weeks after I sent off the manuscript (through it felt like three years!), Linsay wrote back saying that she and John were interested in publishing just the cat poems, as an illustrated pamphlet primarily for adults. Would that be all right? I was, of course, overjoyed. The Duties of a Cat, illustrated by Michael Robson, was launched in December 2013. You can find some reviews here. It's not just for adults; it received a Highly Recommended rating in Reading Time, where Elspeth Cameron called it "a small but utterly charming publication of beautifully crafted poems about cats."

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Three and a half years later, The Loyalty of Chickens was been launched into the world with a cheep and a squawk at the Newcastle Writers Festival in early April 2017. It's a full-length book of poems for people aged 11+, with a beautiful chicken cover image by Gwynneth Jones. Many of the poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in the School Magazine.

The Duties of a Cat was all about cats (and the human condition), but The Loyalty of Chickens only includes one chicken poem. There are magpies, crocodiles, pterosaurs, pelicans, slugs, dogs and even human beings.

Jenny Blackford's Bio:

Jenny writes poems and stories for all ages, often with a tinge of magic. Her stories and poems for kids often appear in the School Magazine, as well as in Australian and international anthologies. The appeal of her poems spans wide age groups; some poems originally published in journals such as Westerly and Quadrant have been reprinted in the School Magazine.

Read more here.