The Momentum Blog
Posted March 7, 2014 by Mark
The latest episode of Podmentum is our Oscars special! We discuss our predictions, the major winners, what we thought deserved to win and lots more. We’re also joined by special guest Sam Sainsbury, senior editor from Pan Macmillan.
Tagged: awards, Books, films, movies, oscars, podcast, podmentum, publishing
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Posted February 17, 2014 by Craig Hildebrand-Burke
Recently, there has been a flurry of scandalous debate about a report and analysis into the changing world of publishing by Wool author Hugh Howey. Howey’s exceedingly detailed report suggests that – based on an analysis of Amazon sales – genre authors are much better served by going the independent and self-published route, as this will offer greater yield financially for their efforts.
Howey admits aspects of his analysis are speculative and inferential, as data on raw book sales is often undisclosed or incomplete. This, admittedly, offers the first point of interest. While box office on films, and sales and downloads on music and television are all widely available (allowing for elements of bias), figures on book sales remain obscure and coded behind veils of good intentions. There is the suggestion that book sales are undisclosed for our benefit, the implication being that perhaps we wouldn’t read what we read if we knew what everybody else was reading.
The report concludes with Howey wishing for greater transparency, greater understanding of how traditional publishing models lead to a benefit in sales. Others have criticised Howey’s lack of understanding in data analysis, and that he is offering a post hoc inference about data that wilfully ignores its limitations.
Regardless, the report comes at a time when many are looking and questioning the cost benefit of writing for a living. This recent surge of attention in demanding payment, and demanding transparency in the finances of writing suggests that writing as a profession has until now existed (and subsisted) on a level where we feel it lives beyond daily wages. How do we measure writing? Per word? Per hour? Per book sold? What constitutes a financially successful career as a writer?
And is that different from being a good writer?
Do we regard certain writing as ‘good’, even if it doesn’t make money? And does writing that makes money necessarily qualify for public recognition as ‘good writing’?
Howey directed his report at genre writers – mystery, thriller, science fiction, fantasy, romance – as categorised by Amazon. The suggestion is that the rise of self-publishing, and the rise of digital publishing, is seen as an opportunity for genre writers to earn more from non-traditional publishing pathways.
What I find odd is that this categorisation places genre as a money-defining result. That the genre – the label prescribed upon the writing upon publication (on Amazon) – is all important, and is placed as a premium ahead of any other qualities the story might contain.
And here we have the tricky problem of genre – as it currently is the dominant way we categorise the stories we read and the stories we write. Bookshops, real and digital, organise their shelves according to genre. But this is an imperfect system. Stories often defy genre, or alternate and transcend; stories combine and manipulate genre and set it upon the reader via subterfuge. How would Kazuo Ishiguro feel if Never Let Me Go was shelved in science fiction, given the very late and shocking reveal of that element within the story? The genre here is one part of the book, not the whole, and certainly not the label.
To follow further examples in my favourite field, this genre categorisation becomes even trickier when looking at an author like Stephen King. Once upon a time, in the world where Borders still existed, Stephen King books could easily be found in the horror section. He practically was the horror section. And while many of his books, particularly the early ones, are horror, this is again an imperfect system for categorisation.
Of his recent books, 11/22/63 is listed under fantasy, where it places #3 in a subgenre of fantasy. However, it is also listed under horror, placing at #92. And yet the book is clearly not a horror book. In fact, it relies really on only one element of fantasy to even qualify as that type of story. His earlier collection of short stories, Different Seasons, is also listed under horror, and yet is the collection that spawned the films The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me. Again, clearly not horror. So do we make excuses for writers who cross genres, but still define them (and their books) by the genre they started in, or dominate?
If we follow the idea of using genre to define stories, then we will end up with a never-ending spiral of subgenres upon sub-subgenres, to serve every whim of the reader, and every style of the writer. I would hazard that writers rarely view genre as a defining boundary on their imagination – so should genre be the label that prescribes expectation to the reader on what type of book it is? Should it explain exactly what it is?
Will we end up with a Science-Fiction>Alternate-Reality>Victorian-Gothic-Robotics>Anthropomorphised-Rabbit>Western>Young-Adult subgenre?
Obviously we do need some method of organising, and at the moment genre works – to a degree. But as a financial imperative? What about all the books that don’t fit genre? Why does Howey not include literary fiction as a genre itself?
There are many questions that come from the report, and many that suggest our way of viewing books, writing, and sales is imperfect at best, and fundamentally flawed at worst. The most positive take away for me is that everything’s changing very rapidly – how we write, how we publish, and how we read – and this can hopefully lead to a future where we can write and publish and read with greater ease, and freedom, and enjoyment.
For more on genre, Momentum authors Nathan M. Farrugia and Luke Preston, and Anne Treasure and myself are discussing Genre In The Digital Age for the Digital Writers’ Festival tonight at 6:00pm.
As it’s a digital festival, you can attend via the magic on the internet, and watch us all talk at digitalwritersfestival.com.
Tagged: Amazon, digital, digital publishing, genre, publishing, technology, writing
Posted January 24, 2014 by Mark
Here are the five most-viewed posts from the blog this week:Books, comics, ebooks, list, movies, Posts With Momentum, publishing, reading
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Posted January 23, 2014 by Mark
Dear person who decided to eat an apple next to me on the train this morning,
I have recently been inundated with relatively annoying seat mates, and have decided to pass on your companionship this morning. Please find my passive aggressive sighs and refusal to move my legs enclosed. I am sure that with the talent and enthusiasm you clearly have for apple eating in other people’s ears, that you will find an appropriate seat mate soon.
Dear electricity company,
We receive a large number of high quality bills every month, and we cannot pay them all. We have decided to pass on paying your bill on this occasion. We were impressed with the length of the bill, but do not usually pay bills that are so large. Please feel free to submit another, smaller bill at a point in the future. In the meantime, we wish you the best of luck in finding payment for the bill you have sent. May we suggest submitting it to the bin?
Dear person I haven’t seen since high school,
Thank you for your friend request on Facebook. Unfortunately I have decided not to accept, as our lack of contact for a decade kind of means that we aren’t really friends. Best of luck with increasing your number of Facebook friends.
Tagged: humour, publishing, reading, writing
Posted October 31, 2013 by Mark
In this episode we talk about the death of Momentum author Mark Brandon “Chopper” Read and what it means for publishers when authors pass away. Then, we all went and saw the new movie Gravity, and we chat about what we thought of the film and whinge about minor details. Finally, Mark sat down with regular contributor to the Momentum blog, Craig Hildebrand-Burke, to discuss Stephen King and Doctor Sleep.
What We’re Reading
Tagged: chopper, doctor sleep, ebooks, gravity, horror, mark brandon chopper read, movies, podcast, podmentum, publishing, reading, Sci-Fi, science fiction, stephen king
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From the slush pile to the bestseller list: how zombies and rock stars got me a four-book publishing deal
Posted by Kylie Scott
I first heard about Momentum through my writing mentor, Louise Cusack. They were re-publishing her fantasy series “Shadow Through Time”. Then, a few days later, the small digital publisher’s head honcho, Joel Naoum, followed me on twitter. And I’ve got to say, the tweets these people tweeted––they were funny and a bit different. I liked that. Being a newbie writer is a terrifying process. I felt like I was ready to attempt the slush pile, but it was guaranteed I’d make all of the rookie mistakes. Joel, Anne and Mark, however, seemed to have a sense of humour. They weren’t as scary as some. Plus, they had an energy that was very appealing.
Then the day came that they tweeted of their dire need for erotic romance manuscripts. Enough stuffing around, I submitted. Following Anne’s tweets as she read my manuscript was an experience as funny as it was fraught. When I got the offer to publish Flesh from Joel, it was huge, as you’d imagine. Flesh, my post-zombie-apocalypse erotic romance, was kind of a strange book. Finding it the right loving home was a beautiful thing.
So we published Flesh and then Skin together, giving people all the zombie fuelled chaos and carnage with a suitably romantic happy ever after they could want for. Lick, my third book with Momentum, was a step in a different more contemporary direction. It’s about a twenty-one year girl waking up married to a rock star (no, shut up, it happens all the time). In July this year Lick hit the USA Today Best Sellers List. The Stage Dive series, of which Lick is book 1, will be published globally by the Macmillan Trade Group.
Momentum have been no less than awesome to work with and I owe them a huge thanks for all their support over the last year. And the good news is, we still have Book 3 in the Flesh series to come.author, digital, flesh, kylie scott, lick, print, publishing, skin, stage dive
Posted October 30, 2013 by Joel
I want to tell you a story. It was early in 2012, and Momentum had just launched. We were still setting up our office (no internet for three days, people; it was carnage) when we opened submissions for the first time – our very first Momentum Monday. We chatted about this on social media, casting our net far and wide to see what might come our way.
We expected a slow start but were amazed at the quantity and quality of the submissions that flooded in. And there among them, calling out to us, was a submission unlike any we had received. It demanded to be read.
“Zombie erotica?” It brought to mind the image of corpse-like hands grasping at each other in the dark. Not pleasant. Possibly funny, though. “Not what it sounds like,” said Anne, who had brought it to the initial meeting. “It’s an erotic love triangle set after a zombie apocalypse.”
I had to read it. It was, as promised, unconventional. An erotic romance set in dystopian Brisbane between a young woman and the two men who had stepped up to protect her in a world that had lost most of its conventional standards. It was pretty far off the reservation in terms of what I was used to in the world of traditional publishing. But it was compelling – Kylie’s voice was light, engaging, funny and authentic. And somehow, in the way it overlapped genres, all of which were having a bit of a moment in the sun, it was exactly what I’d been looking for.
We all spent the next few days talking about this amazing submission. We couldn’t get it out of our heads, and we very quickly offered Kylie a contract.
Just a few months later we were ready to release Flesh on an unsuspecting world. And the world had the same reaction to Kylie’s amazing novel that we did – fascination with such an intriguing concept, followed by the joy that comes with discovering something new, exciting and well done.
Flesh quickly became a bestseller and was followed by the sequel, Skin, another erotic romance set within the same world.
While a third novel in this series (tentatively titled Bone) is planned, Kylie told us she wanted to take a break from zombies and try a new adult novel about a rock star. We’re always happy to see writers work on other projects, especially when they end up being as good as Lick turned out to be.
The rest is history. Lick went on to become one of the best selling titles on Amazon on release and quickly made it into the USA Today bestseller list, propelling Kylie to her current position – poised to take on the world of traditional print publishing in a four-book global deal with Momentum’s parent companies – St Martins Press in the US and Pan Macmillan in the UK and Australia.
Kylie Scott went from being an unpublished author submitting to the “slush pile” to an international bestselling author in under a year. Her unconventional novel has become an unconventional success in a new publishing landscape that privileges no format over another. Her story proves that digital publishing and the communities that have embraced it are part of the future for any serious publisher. And that is no bad thing.Tagged: book deal, digital, digital-first, erotic romance, flesh, global, kylie scott, lick, publishing, rock stars, skin, zombies
Posted October 29, 2013 by Mark
Media Release: Global win for Macmillan Trade Group
London, New York, Sydney: The Macmillan Trade Group announced today, 28 October, that it has secured World English Language print and eBook rights to the bestselling Stage Dive New Adult series by Australian novelist, Kylie Scott.
It will be the first joint global publication from the new Macmillan Trade Group, who plan to publish simultaneously in print and eBook format worldwide all using the same updated cover.
Discovered by Momentum, a digital-only imprint of Pan Macmillan Australia, Lick, the first book in the series, was published on 1 July 2013 by Momentum. Within days it had found a readership around the world, racing onto eBook and the USA Today bestseller lists in the US and garnering thousands of passionate reader reviews on Amazon and GoodReads.
Amy Tannenbaum at the Jane Rotrosen Agency in New York then brokered the deal for World English rights to editor Rose Hilliard at St Martin’s Press, in a joint offer with Pan Macmillan and Pan Macmillan Australia. Jane Rotrosen Agency retains translation rights.
A four-book series, each novel is centered on a rock star hero in the fictional band Stage Dive.
The Macmillan Group will update the eBook cover of Lick, which they plan to publish in print in May 2014. The second book, Play, will be published in eBook in April 2014 and in print in August 2014, with the third and fourth in the series to follow in the months after.
Kylie Scott lives in Queensland, Australia and is married with two children. She is also the author of a dystopian romance series, also published by Momentum.
Scott said, ‘I’m thrilled that the Stage Dive series will be published worldwide by Macmillan. I’ve always dreamed of seeing my books on bookstore shelves, so it’s exciting for that dream to be coming true.’
Joel Naoum at Momentum said, ‘Seeing Kylie Scott emerge on the world stage, and to have her embraced in a truly global way by Macmillan, has been a major highlight for Momentum. It’s hugely exciting to be involved – whether as an author or publisher – in a group like Macmillan that is at the forefront of creating successful new publishing models.’kylie scott, lick, macmillan, media release, Momentum, publishing
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Posted September 6, 2013 by Mark
Momentum, the digital-first imprint of Pan Macmillan Australia, is announcing the launch of Momentum Moonlight, a romance community and publishing imprint, aimed at publishing new romance, erotica and new adult titles in addition to building a community of romance readers.
Momentum publisher, Joel Naoum, said, “Genre is a major part of digital publishing, and Moonlight reflects Momentum’s dedication to the romance genre in particular. The romance reading community are voracious, passionate and increasingly form their communities online. We want to make sure we are in the same space as our readers.”
Momentum will publish two romance titles per month in 2014 under the Moonlight imprint, from a range of new and established authors. A new website and blog have been launched to complement Momentum’s already strong online presence and can be found at www.momentummoonlight.com. Website visitors will also have the opportunity to contribute their opinions and posts to the blog.
Among the romance authors that Momentum has already published are Kylie Scott, Caitlyn Nicholas, Jane Tara, Erica Hayes, Rhian Cahill, Lexxi Couper, Tracey O’Hara and SE Gilchrist, with several authors forthcoming in 2013, including Amy Andrews and Mae Archer.
“Many romance readers and writers have a fantastic sense of community about them. We’re all passionate about emotionally satisfying, well written stories. It’s not just about recommending the next great read, but also about encouraging and helping each other succeed in getting that story down on the page and published,” said Kylie Scott, author of USA Today and Amazon Top 20 bestseller, Lick, published by Momentum in July 2013.
“The success of authors like Kylie Scott reflects the way that romance readers and writers come together to support each other and celebrate each other’s successes. We hope the Moonlight community will help enhance these relationships for our readers and authors,” said Naoum.
For any further information about Moonlight, Momentum, or any of our authors, please contact Mark Harding, Digital Marketing Executive – Momentum: email@example.com
Tagged: media release, Momentum, moonlight, publishing, romance
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Posted July 19, 2013 by Mark
Here are the five most popular blog posts this week on MomentumBooks, list, movies, Posts With Momentum, publishing, reading, science fiction
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Posted June 12, 2013 by Anne
When people talk about serial novels, they often refer back to Dickens as the first and last guy who ever tried this format. Publishing in regular episodic instalments may have peaked in popularity back in Dickensian times, but the form didn’t disappear with the 19th century. Print serialisation declined in the early and mid 20th century thanks to a rise in the popularity of radio and television, but it’s back thanks to the relative easy and speed of digital publishing, and set to be more popular than ever.
Here’s a quick history of the serialised novel in nine books.
1836 – Pickwick Papers – Charles Dickens
First released as The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, this was to be Dickens’ first book, originally published under the pseudonym ‘Boz’.
1851 – Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe
This novel first appeared as 40 weekly instalments in abolitionist periodical National Era. It was contracted to be turned into a novel after the huge popularity of the weekly serial, and Stowe was reportedly skeptical that anyone would want to read it in book form. Uncle Tom’s Cabin went on to be the best-selling novel of the 19th century.
1873 — Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
Published in periodical The Russian Messenger, the series of instalments ran from 1873 to 1877. However the final instalments were not published in the periodical after Tolstoy clashed with the editor, and the first time Anna Karenina appeared complete was in book form.
1900 – The Ambassadors – Henry James
Initially published as a serial with several passages and three chapters missing in the North American Review periodical, the complete novel was finally published in full in 1903.
1984 — Bonfire of the Vanities – Tom Wolfe
1996 — The Green Mile – Stephen King
Published in six monthly paperback instalments from March to August in 1996, The Green Mile was then published as a single volume in May 1997. It has since been re-released in serial format.
2009 – Machine Man – Max Barry
Originally serialised a page a day for five days a week as Barry wrote, it is still available “as it was meant to be” from his website. The page a day serial began in March 2009 on Barry’s website, and ran until December of that year. Machine Man was published in its entirety in book form in 2011.
2012 - Positron – Margaret Atwood
The first instalment in this series I’m Starved For You (2012) was meant to be a stand-alone short, but was so popular that Atwood decided to extend it into a series for Byliner. The first three instalments have been combined into one ebook, but it is also available as single shorts, and is ongoing.
Adina’s novel was the first book that Momentum released in episodic form, in five monthly instalments from February to June 2013. The Dark Child Omnibus is now available, or if you’d prefer the serial format experience you can start with a complimentary copy of Dark Child Episode 1 right now.
So what did I miss? Any notable books that were first published in episodic form, particularly in the early to mid 20th century, would be helpful to fill in the gaps in my knowledge. Suggestions in the comments would be most excellent.
Tagged: digital publishing, digital-first, format, novel, publishing, reading, serialised novel, serials, writing
Posted May 31, 2013 by Anne
“Bailey manages to distil a daunting amount of research into an intriguing tale. It’s a warts-and-all accounting of historical figures and a worthy demolition of the fake idols created today for patriotic or religious adoration.”
To read the full review, click over to the Byron Shire Echo.
The book is available for purchase in both digital and (for the first time in Momentum’s short history) hardback. Let’s be honest, we’re pretty excited about digital books but a Momentum hardback? Wow.
Tagged: digital publishing, digital-first, history, non-fiction, print, print-on-demand, publishing
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Posted May 30, 2013 by Adina West
It’s finally happened. I’ve crossed over to the other side. The ‘published’ side. I’m starting to think of it as the Dark side. Because the last few months have been mad. Manic. And also, inevitably, filled with huge amounts of frivolous time wasting and not much actual writing.
Most of this I blame on the sustained state of heightened nerves arising from the fact that I’ve had four books released in four months, with another two releases still to go next month. They’re all actually the same book: Dark Child. But as it’s been released as a digital serial, one new episode has come out each month, each attended by a flurry of tweets on Twitter, and updates on Facebook, and hours and hours (oh, let’s be honest, days and DAYS) wasted obsessively checking sales ranks and figures on Amazon and the iBookstore. Why did nobody tell me it’d be like this? Actually, they probably did, but back then I wasn’t listening. I just wanted to be published!
It’s true though. For me, anyway. With a digital book release the problem is that you CAN keep a constant eye on it. With a print book, once the publisher has sent it out to bookstores it’s months and months before you have any idea what has sold. You’re pretty much forced to put it out of your mind. But digital makes information so much more accessible, with ranks that actually change hourly at some retailers. It’s an obsessive author’s nightmare. I think I’ll have to work through this new addiction with checking every single new review and watching rankings like a hawk until I’m good and sick of it, and then I’ll be able to move on. Because it’s certainly not helping me get any other work done!
Enough of the rant – but that might go some way toward explaining what I’ve actually been doing in the last little while. (I’ve also had sick kids, which is never fun, but they’re on the mend now.)
Anyway, in the past week I’ve had to put on my extremely-professional-published-author hat, because I was on a panel with my agent and publisher at the Sydney Writers’ Festival talking about Dark Child and the entire process of how it was turned into a digital serial. It has been an exciting ride, that’s for sure, from the first introduction of the idea by my publisher Joel Naoum of Momentum, up until now. I was terrified at the thought initially, mostly because I felt it placed a lot of pressure on every single part of my book to perform; each of five ‘episodes’ has to carry enough weight to be satisfying, and yet leave enough enticement for the reader to continue. Obviously I ended up going for the idea though, given that publishing a first novel is pretty much jumping in the deep end anyway…
There have been a few readers who hated the serialised approach, and just wanted the whole book. And of course, despite (I think) being the minority they were the ones who weren’t shy about leaving reviews. Isn’t that always the way? (though I don’t mean to imply I didn’t get some lovely positive reviews too – I did, and I appreciated every word!) For the ones who wanted the whole novel as one, yes, you’re getting it!
The Omnibus edition is coming out 1 June, and contains all five episodes of Dark Child – it’s the complete novel as I originally wrote it.
So yes, for readers who prefer their novels as novels it’s possible to skip the serialised experience entirely. But as a bonus of the serialisation, the publisher is able to make Dark Child: Episode 1 (the first 20,000 words or so of Dark Child) available free for most of the forseeable future, letting readers try the first part of the novel before they decide whether to invest in the Omnibus. So go and get your free copy of Episode 1! It’s a nice meaty length that’s much longer than most samples, so I’m really happy about that.
And now I’m feeling reflective, and thinking ‘where to next?’ Because I always intended for Dark Child to be more than a stand-alone novel. I’m already working on a sequel. But what will that be called? Will I try serialisation again, and start the next round off with Episode 6? Do I call my next novel/serialisation ‘Season 2′, to mimic the style of television? Author John Scalzi is rumoured to be doing with his recent serialised collection The Human Division which was a novel released over 13 weekly episodes.
You used to just be able to release a book, and then its sequel. Not too many issues with how to label or promote a book in those familiar circumstances. But in this scenario…I admit I’m finding it all a bit confusing, and want to make sure readers won’t feel the same. Thoughts, advice, in the comments please? And also questions about anything else.
This piece was originally posted on Adina’s blog over at Stairways and Landings. You might like to go and visit her there. Otherwise head over here for more information on Dark Child and to preorder the Omnibus.Tagged: Amazon, author, dark child, episodes, iBookstore, John Scalzi, publishing, reading, refelction, serialisation, the human division, writing
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Posted May 8, 2013 by Alex
‘If “books are the windows to the world” as they say, then their pages are the magic carpets that lead us there.’ - EDEWEDE ORIWOH
‘If “pages are the magic carpets” as they say, then e-readers are the fabric of the magic.’ - ANONYMOUS KINDLE USER
‘Ereaders are great. Ebooks are great. Buy Momentum ebooks.’ - ANONYMOUS MOMENTUM PUBLISHER
Does an author have exclusive rights to the world they have created in their book, or series of books? Would you say intellectual property trumps the captured imagination of the fans? Can an author really ‘Lucas’ their franchise with sequels, reboots adaptations or revised editions to fulfil their fantasy, just because they had the idea in the first place? Or does the world, once set loose into the public domain, belong to the readers as much as the writer?
You can apply this train of thought not just to books, but across all mainstream entertainment media. This is from the Star Wars Special Editions to The Amazing Spider-Man reboot, to all the movie sequels that should never, ever have been made, and can never be undone. Many a time have millions cried out in terror, their voices suddenly tweeting a lot of complaints.
I tip my hat to authors. Family homes, cities, countries, worlds, even galaxies beckon for you to inhabit them and go on incredible journeys of wonder, gore, sex, technology, action, suspense, intrigue, and ‘OMG no way!’ They can be epic or intimate in scope, with events that can span a day, year, decade or even a century. They are the ones who take us on these sojourns of emotion.
A typical author sheds blood, sweat and tears in the creation of their work: tears from the struggle of getting a publisher; sweat from being told they have to work out how to use Twitter to help promote their book; and blood from smashing the keyboard after reading their first bad review. However, does an author’s role as ‘creator’ automatically mean they trump the rights of the reader?
Try to count the hours an author may spend imagining their world, dwelling on the characters and talking about their plot bunnies incessantly to their partners. What about all the writing, rewriting, re-rewriting, the endless struggle to get a publisher, having a mental breakdown that involves copious chocolate and/or alcohol, then somehow finally landing a deal? After all that there is that little thing called the publishing process to go through and all the marketing (read: tweeting) that goes into promoting the book once the text is finalised. The hours stack up. How long did it take you to read the latest instalment in your favourite series, and how do you think that compares to the length of time invested by the author? Unless you’re an epically slow reader, you’ll end up losing.
An author can take a year or more writing a book – six or seven if your last name is ‘Martin’. I may read that new book I’ve been waiting for in a day, over a weekend or up to a fortnight, depending on its length and how much time I have. One-on-one the author wins, right? Of course. The author has spent far longer on their work, no matter how dedicated I am to the series.
Like I said, one-on-one.
Whether you are thinking of a franchise spread over multiple mediums with a large and fervent fan base, or your more typical author who still has thousands of readers per book, the hours quickly sway from favouring the writer to the readers.
So, does the author of a book have exclusive rights? Does intellectual property trump the captured imagination of the fans?
Let’s look at a book-orientated example. You can barely open the internet without seeing a reference to HBO’s Game of Thrones. Whether it’s hating Joffrey or loving Daenerys, this nerdy series of books about medieval-like lords and ladies fighting for an iron chair with direwolves, dragons and ice-zombies thrown in the mix has captured pop culture imagination after being realised in television form. George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is the latest fantasy franchise to cash in on the ‘once-geek now-mainstream’ trend. While some fans of the first season may have mistaken the show for porn’s answer to endless complaints of lousy acting, low production values and flat storylines, the HBO show has unsurprisingly sky-rocketed sales of the books. New trade paperbacks and mass market formats, including those with covers to match the show, are everywhere, not to mention the Enhanced Ebook editions.
So what does Game of Thrones have to do with reader rights versus author rights? Well, quite a lot. George R.R. Martin not only gave HBO his blessing, but is a co-executive producer and writes at least one episode per season. It’s fair to say Martin enjoys a reasonable amount of influence steering the direction of the show. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss also fill in the role of ‘writers’ in this context. This begs the question (from me, at least), what about the readers?
Skip the next paragraph if you are not up to date with Season 3 Episode 2 of Thrones, otherwise keep reading.
On a case by case basis, you may get convincing answers from HBO as to why Kahleesi’s visions in the House of the Undying were replaced by the ones featured in the TV show, or why Peter Dinklage didn’t lose more of his face in the Battle of Blackwater Bay, and so on. I’m happy to let Peter keep his nose, so I’ll let that one slide, but the visions? I would like to have seen them. Everyone will have different nitpicks they are willing to concede, or for which they are deeply upset. I’m largely lenient towards changes in the show as I appreciate a lot of stuff on the page would not work on screen as well as what HBO decided to do. The showrunners have also given nods to the fans: Cersei says she heard Tyrion had lost his nose, acknowledging the difference between the book and the show; and Gendry criticises Arya for not spending one of Jaqen H’ghar’s kills on King Joffrey or Tywin Lannister. The latter is a conversation never seen in the books, but a common fan reaction. To me, this indicates that Benioff, Weiss and Martin are listening and engaging with the readers to create the best adaptation they can.
Do the readers get a say in the Thrones adaptation? Of course not, there are far too many differences of opinion for HBO to conform to, and why should they? So far HBO have shown they not only understand make good television, they understand the books as well. If anything, Benioff and Weiss represent the readers, and are our voice in ensuring the characters we have come to love – or pray that they die – are treated with respect. They were fans of the series before the show came into being, after all. It may not be absolutely perfect in the eyes each individual, but for most, it will be pretty damn close.
If you find Martin’s books too gargantuan to tackle, or just think boobs are far better on the screen than on paper, there are plenty more examples. The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings have all shared some criticism on how they have been adapted to film. They have also enjoyed a lot of fan adoration, from both readers and filmgoers-only. I chose Game of Thrones as my main example, though, as George R.R. Martin has a constant, active presence in the writing room, exercising his ‘author rights’. J.K. Rowling exercised some for Harry Potter, but loosened the reigns after the first couple of films, or at least that’s how it seemed.
Are you a Game of Thrones fan? Have you read the books too? What do you think of the show as an adaptation? Have your say in the comments below.
Have I picked a fair example with Game of Thrones, or is the fact the TV show has received such high critical acclaim make the changes in the adaptation ‘acceptable’? Is a critically unsuccessful but ‘true’ adaptation a failure? Can you think of any examples?
In terms of ‘reader rights’ being respected in adaptations like Game of Thrones, I think we will have to hold our breath and pray to the Old Gods and the New. Can we make a practical difference? Not likely. Does that render readers’ combined hours of love, dedication and eyestrain as obsolete? Not to me. Then does no power come with no responsibility? I suppose so, but it doesn’t take away my sense of entitlement.
What do you think about the rights of authors vs the rights of readers? Are we sentenced to just watch whatever may happen to our favourite books with no say?
Alex Lloyd is an editorial assistant at Pan Macmillan Australia. He interned briefly at Momentum before Pan snapped him up for full time employment. You can follow Alex on twitter at @AlexDNLloydauthors, Books, characters, fandoms, Game of Thrones, George Lucas, george r r martin, HBO, publishing, readers, reading, sean bean, spiderman, star wars, television, writing
Posted March 26, 2013 by Erica Hayes
The book industry is changing, and publishing contracts are changing with it. We’ve seen higher ebook royalties, the demise of large advances, strange ‘profit-sharing’ arrangements that didn’t make any sense. But it seems that many authors feel publishers still don’t get it. They don’t get what we need, or why, or what they can do to make themselves an attractive prospect.
Of course, not every author has the same needs. But here’s my take on things I’d like to see from publishers in the new age.
The no-advance contract
Sure, authors love an advance. It’s guaranteed income, and a statement of faith. A no-advance contract shifts the financial risk away from the publisher towards the author, who presumably has spent time and effort (which equals money) on writing the book.
Not all the way. The publisher still pays production costs. A self-pubbed author owns 100% of the risk—but they also keep 100% control. If publishers don’t pay an advance, I’d like to see them offer more control in return. How about more consultation on promotion and marketing? In particular: cover prices. Higher retail prices for ebooks are a big disadvantage for trad-pubbed authors right now. Let’s see more experimentation and audacity there.
One seldom mentioned point about advances: that’s where the author’s promotional budget used to come from. ‘Spend at least half your advance on promo,’ people used to say. These days, we’re expected to do more with less. Now, it’s with nothing. Higher royalties are great, but you don’t see the money until it’s too late to do book release promo. So let’s see more no-advance publishers broadening and consulting with authors on their own promotional efforts, in return for no up-front payment.
The rights grab
I’ve seen contracts recently that take pretty much every right you have. Audio, feature film, short film, graphic novel, theatre, game, picture book, hologram, cartoon, stone carving, porn movie adaptation, and the partridge in the pear tree’s firstborn. For the life of copyright. In other words, forever.
Forever—even with an ‘out-of-print’ clause—is a very long time. Personally, I’m more comfortable with automatic termination after a set period, with option to renew. Not a contract that never ends unless I make a big expensive noise, and probably not even then.
Giving away all those extra rights leaves a bad taste, too. True, some authors don’t have the resources, or an agent, to exploit movie rights, for example. It remains to be seen how much effort these publishers make to exploit them. Historically? Zilch. And if your book sales are so gargantuan that you attract attention from movie producers, the odds are you’ll attract agents, too. I’d rather pay an agent 15% and control the deal.
If I self-pub? I keep all my rights, with no options or first look at everything I ever write ever again until judgement day. Higher royalties in return aren’t enough, not when I can get 70% from self-pub. I’m not sure the publishers can offer anything that’s worth it… except a contractual promise to produce what they buy. If I sell you audio, you have to produce and make available the audio book. If I sell you TV rights… oh, wait. You’re not a television studio? Guess you won’t be needing those, then.
So why do we do it?
Don’t get me wrong: digital lines don’t have the monopoly on lousy clauses. Some foul contracts are floating in the sewers under print houses, too. So why do people sign?
Because self-publishing isn’t for everyone. Some writers genuinely can’t afford the costs. Some haven’t the time, or the desire. Some just like the idea of having their books on a publisher’s website or catalogue, and the benefits that might bring. Some already tasted self-pub, but didn’t like its flavour.
But if I’ve learned anything in my brief 5 years of publishing? It’s that a publishing contract is like any other business arrangement. Do your due diligence. Get contract advice from a professional with recent industry experience—what was happening last year, or even last week, might not be current anymore.
And don’t assume that any contract—whether it’s from a paperback imprint in NY, a Big 6 digital line or a smaller press—is ‘industry standard’. Even if the publisher tells you it is. Find out what other houses are doing. Talk to other authors. Join writing organisations. Hell, get an agent. That’s what they’re for.
The better-educated authors become, the sooner publishers will have to stop acting as if they’re the only game in town. Until they shape up their contracts, a lot of them aren’t even the best game in town. Some have responded better to the changes in the industry than others. Some have already moved forward into the new age. We authors have the power to encourage that behaviour, by not accepting poor contract conditions that come our way—but also by working with publishers, to let them know what they can do for us. If you don’t ask, you won’t get.author, book industry, contracts, new paradigm, no advance contracts, publishing, rights, scalzi, writing
Posted March 18, 2013 by Anne
On this week’s Podmentum Joel and Mark talk about world building with authors Nathan M Farrugia and Nina d’Aleo, and then Joel, Mark and I talk about how we got started in publishing, with some tips for those looking for a job in the book industry.
In the first segment Nathan and Nina discuss how they approach creating fictional worlds in their writing, and Mark and Joel join in to discuss their favourite world-building writers. A really interesting conversation for sci-fi and fantasy fans, with lots of culture recommendations (including the ubiquitous China Miéville, of course).
Then we talk about how we all came to book publishing, and Mark reveals something terrible that will make everyone hate him.
In the interests of diversity we all recommended something futuristic and science-fiction-y. You’re welcome. (Next time I’ll demand we all have something romance-based to recommend.)
Mark – Redshirts by John Scalzi
Joel – Strata by Terry Pratchett
Anne – Omens by Russ Andersen (article in Aeon magazine)
This week’s Podmentum was brought to you by Nathan M Farrugia‘s The Seraphim Sequence and Allison Rushby‘s Keep Calm and Carry Vegemite. You can buy them now from all good online retailers, just click on the covers to choose your favourite.book industry, bookshops, internships, job opportunities, Pan Macmillan, podcast, podmentum, publishing, reading, world building, writing
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Posted February 15, 2013 by Anne
On this week’s Podmentum we talk about the idea of reselling used ebooks, bingeing on books and television, and then the Macquarie Dictionary publisher joins us to talk about the Word of the Year.
Topic 1 Amazon second hand ebook patent
Amazon has received a patent for a system for selling “pre-owned” digital files, opening the way for a secondary market in ebooks
“Amazon’s business model has long been dependent on resellers of used books and other merchandise. But a U.S. patent that Amazon Technologies in Reno, Nev., received last week indicates that the mega-retailer has its sights on digital resale, including used e-books and audio downloads. According to the abstract, Amazon will be able to create a secondary market for used digital objects purchased from an original vendor by a user and stored in a user’s personalized data store.
Boston-based ReDigi opened the first marketplace for pre-owned digital music, which it launched in late 2011, redigi.com. Once a lawsuit that Capitol Records filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan over the way it handles music downloads is behind it, ReDigi plans to expand into e-books and other digital items. In a press release issued yesterday, ReDigi commented that “the Amazon patent is further proof that the secondary market is the future of the digital space and that there is no turning back.”
Motherboard article that so angered Joel (tell us why)
Topic 2 Serialisation
With the Netflix series House of Cards being the talk of the entertainment world for the past couple of weeks, we thought we’d take the chance to talk about how the consumption of content is changing. While TV used to be serialized and consumed in episodic chunks, the trend is now to binge-watch whole series. On the other hand, where we used to read a whole novel in a sitting, publishers are now experimenting with serialized novels in the time-honoured tradition of Charles Dickens.
John Scalzi – The Human Division (episodic narrative) 13 episodes
Alison Rushby – The Heiresses (new adult serial with St Martin’s Press)
“‘An e-serial is a series of digital-only discrete dramatic novella-length “episodes” that advance an overall “season” narrative arc through 4-6 installments, published at regular intervals at a low price. We are conceptualizing e-serials as a loose bridge between a full length novel and a TV show. An e-serial episode is analogous to a one hour drama, one installment of a season of dramas.’
In other words, think Downton Abbey, but in serialized digital book form! Yay!”
Mark Z. Danielewski – serial novel The Familiar (beginning in 2014) 27 volumes, first 10 to be published by Pantheon in 3-4 month increments
“’Volume’ speaks to it being a little different from a standard trade paperback book,” Danielewski said by phone Monday. “I can’t write something that takes months and months to read if we’re releasing one every three or four months. It’s possible that [our publishing] schedule could be accelerated. We’re constantly open to new ideas — where will we be in 2014? Maybe digital releases every week, every few months a trade paperback or hardcover. The novel is designed to accommodate, anticipate various platforms.”
The Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year for 2012 was announced last week, and the winner was “Phantom Vibration Syndrome”. We have the Macquarie editor Sue Butler in to have a chat with us about the dictionary and how they go about naming their word of the year.
Mark – The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Joel – Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
This episode of Podmentum is brought to you by Kylie Scott’s Skin
Tagged: Amazon, consumption, ebook, episodes, ereading, house of cards, John Scalzi, netflix, podcast, podmentum, publishing, second hand, serialisation, volumes
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Posted December 20, 2012 by Anne
On the last Podmentum of 2012 we discuss blockbuster movie franchises and their relationship to gourmet burgers, and then do a round up of the year in book publishing: the year of mummy porn.
Topic 1: Gourmet burgers
Topic 2: Yearly round up
PW’s annual accolade, for “shaping and, sometimes, transforming, the publishing industry”, has never gone to an author before: winners in the past include Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos, and, last year, Penguin US’s chief executive David Shanks. But citing the huge sales of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy – they have sold more than 35m copies in the US alone and brought in over $200m (£125m) in revenue to publisher Random House – Publishers Weekly said that James had exerted a comparable influence. “Because the success of the series continues to reverberate throughout the industry in a number of ways – among other things, the money it’s brought in helped boost print sales in bookstores and turned erotic fiction into a hot category – we have selected James as the most notable player on the publishing stage this year.”
Mark: Stephen King’s The Wind Through the Keyhole
Joel: Wild Cards series by George R R Martin
Hannah: Daniel Handler’s Adverbsblockbuster movie franchises, book publishing, bookrageous, burgers, Charlie Brooker, daniel handler, george r r martin, goodreads, intern, movies, mummy porn, podcast, podmentum, publishing, reading, stephen king, superman
Posted November 22, 2012 by Anne
Topic 1 – Why Publishers Hate Authors
HuffPo ran a piece by entrepreneur Michael Levin about his views on how publishers treat authors, including lines like
“It’s completely unfair, but destroying the options of a writer actually has some benefits for publishers. Which leads me to think that maybe publishers are actually happy when authors fail.”
She makes the point that a publishers job is to sell their authors, not themselves. I think we take a slightly different tack here at Momentum, in that we want to start a conversation around our authors that includes us, and is not simply facilitated by us.
Topic 2 – Tim Ferriss and Amazon Want to Reinvent Publishing
Barnes and Noble refuse to sell 4 hour chef because it is published by Amazon’s new publishing arm
“Our decision is based on Amazon’s continued push for exclusivity with publishers, agents and the authors they represent,” Barnes & Noble announced earlier this year. “Their actions have undermined the industry as a whole and have prevented millions of customers from having access to content.”
Topic 3 – Who Wants to Read This Stuff?
Joel on book apps and storytelling in the digital age
RecommendationsAmazon, authors, banned books, Barnes & Noble, book apps, Book Machine, enhanced ebooks, Faber, Felice Howden, Michael Levin, podcast, podmentum, publishing, Small Demons, writers
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Posted November 9, 2012 by Anne
Second podcast! We’re totally on a roll. In this episode we discuss the epic Genre versus Literature battle to the death in the wake of the inaugural GenreCon Australia, then we make fun of Joel for being such a gadget nerd. Also Mark outnerds himself in the recommendations. Enjoy.
Topic 1 - What we read: Genre v Lit
Arthur Krystal’s Easy Writers: Guilty pleasures without guilt in May in The New Yorker laid down the theory that the divide between genre and literary fiction is becoming less clear, and some genre fiction is now being afforded “literary” status.
Lev Grossman in Time April 2012 responded with an article entitles Literary Revolution in the Supermarket Aisle: Genre fiction is disruptive technology, challenging the idea that literary fiction should be regarded as “superior” to genre fiction. He basically lays down the theory that literary fiction is itself a genre with certain tried and true tropes that every book identified as such follows.
Krystal then responded to Lev Grossman with It’s genre, not that there’s anything wrong with that! in October, which had Joel absolutely apoplectic with rage, and convinced us that it was worth discussing.
Interesting look at horror in The Guardian recently with Horror: a genre literally doomed to hell?
*note – The Ian McEwan novel that was released the year before he won the Booker for Amsterdam was Enduring Love, not On Chesil Beach (which was actually released a decade later). To my enduring shame, I completely forgot about Enduring Love, which is actually one of my favourite McEwan books. Golf clap.
Topic 2 - Devices: how we read
Joel got his new Paperwhite last week and now that he’s had enough time to fall completely and utterly in love with it, it is probably time to talk about reading technology.
Mark’s Recommendation Star Wars Expanded UniverseAmazon, Arthur Krystal, author, Books, devices, digital publishing, DRM, ebooks, ereading, fiction, genre, iPad Mini, john birmingham, Kindle, Lev Grossman, literary fiction, memoir, non-fiction, podcast, podmentum, publishing, reading, review, romance, star wars, The Silent History, writing
Posted August 15, 2012 by Mark
• Commencing in November, Momentum, the new digital-only imprint of Pan Macmillan Australia will be releasing a series of 13 erotic short stories by new and established Australian romance writers
• Contributing authors include Rhyll Biest, Rhian Cahill, Kasey Channing, Cate Ellink, C.T. Green, S.E. Gilchrist, Keziah Hill, Shona Husk, Beverley Oakley, Kylie Scott, Tracie Sommers, Mel Teshco and Marianne Theresa.
• Each volume will be competitively priced and available globally
Hot Down Under – 13 red hot stories by 13 talented Aussie authors guaranteed to make you sizzle. Each story has an Australian setting. Some are rural, some are fantasy and some even have zombies. Announced just ahead of the Romance Writers of Australia Conference (August 16–19), the project was the brainchild of Tracey O’Hara, who will be contributing a story under the name Tracie Sommers.
‘I have loved being part of the Hot Down Under project. It originally started out as a way to help mentor new writers and soon became much more. We were all extremely thrilled when Momentum came on board. Erotic fiction has been huge long beforeFifty Shades of Grey came along. Erotic romance has been selling like hotcakes in the US for many years now and I published my first erotic short story in 2009. It is great to see an Australian publishing company supporting some great genre fiction.’ – Tracey O’Hara
Five of the authors are previously unpublished and were mentored by the established authors during the writing process. The resulting stories combine a fresh approach with years of experience.
‘Tracey O’Hara invited me to contribute and I loved the idea of being part of a solely home grown erotic romance anthology. It also gave me a great excuse to revisit the Australian post-zombie-apocalypse world of Flesh [due out from Momentum in October], only toying with the lives and loves of a different set of characters this time.’ – Kylie Scott
‘We had always planned to publish extensively in genres like romance and erotic romance when we first launched Momentum. However, we weren’t expecting such a gifted collection of new and established authors to approach us with such an accomplished project. More than anything, this proves that there is a vibrant and talented community of genre writers in this country who are looking for support from their local publishers. We can’t wait to get this project up and running and to help connect these stories and their writers with their audience.’ – Joel Naoum, publisher at Momentum
For any further information about the series, register interest in obtaining review copies, or to arrange an interview with the publisher or one of the authors, please contact Mark Harding, Digital Marketing Executive, Momentum.
Posted July 31, 2012 by Maggie Dana
One of the most frequently asked questions of authors is why they began writing. Their answers range from “I wrote my first story when I was five and I’ve been writing ever since” to “There are characters inside my head that were dying to be heard.”
At a recent writers’ conference my answer to this question invoked a couple of throat clearings, several red faces, and a lot of shuffling in chairs. I guess I’d hit a nerve.
“Boredom,” I said. “That’s why I began writing.”
The panel’s moderator gave me a sharp look.
Okay, at this point you—and the rest of the audience—can be excused for jumping to conclusions. Here I was, a reasonably well-dressed, middle-aged woman who clearly needed something to fill her time between hairdresser’s appointments, coffee klatches, and neighborhood cocktail parties.
Except you’d be wrong.
When I began writing I was a newly divorced mom with three kids at home, a massive mortgage, and two jobs that barely covered my expenses. One of those jobs was editorial assistant at a children’s publisher.
I worked in the super secret “New Products Department” and it was so secret that nobody else in the company knew what we did. Half the time, we didn’t either, but it involved lots of closed-door meetings, clandestine mutterings in the corridors, and much speculation around the water cooler. When my boss was in the office, I was busy. When he wasn’t there, I had nothing to do.
So when he was laid up in bed for three weeks with a slipped disc, I was bored witless. My workload dwindled to a ten-minute meeting at his bedside every morning. To keep from going crazy, I asked if I could help out in other departments.
“No,” he said, through gritted teeth.
The poor guy was in a lot of pain.
“Why not?” I said.
“Because they’ll find out what we’re doing.”
“I promise not to tell them,” I said. At that point, our top secret project was a series of index cards on make-up tips for teens by a celebrity model with legs like a giraffe, tangles of blond hair, and teeth that were whiter than they needed to be.
My boss groaned. “I can’t risk it.”
“So what should I do?” I said, feeling cross that he didn’t trust me enough to keep my mouth shut. “I’m sitting outside your office doing absolutely nothing while everyone else is swamped. People will talk.”
“So look busy,” he said. More gritted teeth, plus a few curses. “Pretend you’re working.”
“Write letters, a shopping list.” My boss plucked a book off his night table. “I’ve been trying to get through this miserable thing for six weeks,” he said, wincing. “Do me one better. Write a novel.”
So I did.
On their time-clock, their typewriter (it was the 80s, okay?), and their paper.
And then, sweet irony, I sold it to them for $1,500—a princely sum.
From that point, I was hooked on writing for life.
Want to read more from Maggie? Her book Painting Naked is available at a special pre-order price until the start of August.Tagged: authors, Books, boredom, fiction, publishing, publishing jobs, reading, top secret, writing
Posted July 27, 2012 by Mark
1. Why aren’t you paid more?
Because I’m not a professional athlete.
2. Why are you always on Twitter?
I’m the hero that Twitter needs. Not the one it deserves. Or something.
3. Why don’t your friends ever eat?
Because they’re alcoholics.
4. Why don’t you tuck your shirt in?
Nobody does that anymore.
5. Why do you still buy books? Can’t you get them for free now?
Books are awesome.
6. Aren’t you running late?
7. Is the book you gave me for my birthday one that you publish?
8. Did you go to the bar? I thought you had a meeting?
We had a meeting at the bar.
9. Can you stop putting photos of your coffee on social media?
10. Why did you come home in a bad mood?
I had a nasty argument with my boss about Batman.
Tagged: list, publishing
Posted June 21, 2012 by Alex
From March to May this year I was a publishing intern at Pan Macmillan Australia and Momentum Books. I debunked the myth of intern slave labour purported by the media. I was looked after, gained insights into the publishing industry, taught skills I’d need for an editing career, and given invaluable contacts.
I interned as a part of my Communications studies at UTS for credit points towards my degree. My tutor was blown away with my portfolio submission of all the work I’d done. So, was that the end of my stint in the publishing world? Had my hours of unpaid experience been limited to helping my uni degree, with no chance of furthering my career?
It turned out to be just the beginning.
The stupendous Editorial Assistant at Pan Macmillan, who had been managing a lot of my work during the internship, was going on maternity leave and a fifteen month contract was advertised. Joel Naoum brought it to my attention and told me to go for it. I applied at the start of May. A month later I’m called in for an interview. The next business day, I was formally offered the job.
There is no question that my experience at Pan Macmillan made it all possible. Without the chance to show my skills and prove my suitability to the team, I would just be another applicant. The internship gave me the skills and connections to realise the dream; I’ve begun a career in the publishing industry. I start next Monday.
In my last blog, I touted all the fun I was having as an intern. Writing a follow-up entry to say I’ve gone from interning to paid work feels like a dream. So get out there, and give yourselves up as slave labour. You never know where it will lead.
Follow Alex on twitter at @AlexDNLloyd.Tagged: career, internships, Pan Macmillan, publishing, slavery, SMH, UTS
Posted June 12, 2012 by Mark
I’m writing this late on Friday night. We’ve been informed that on Tuesday, the final ruling of the coronial inquest into the death of Azaria Chamberlain will be handed down. As someone who has just begun a career in publishing, working on this book has been an amazing opportunity. I had grown up with the case on as background noise. Azaria vanished a little over a year before I was born, and Lindy’s ordeal through the court system, imprisonment and then freedom went on during my early childhood. It was always on in the news, spoken about by my parents and their friends at social gatherings, and as the years progressed the saga continued.
As a child, my understanding of the case was limited. How much can a child understand the many layers of the case? My parents didn’t have strong opinions on it, at least nothing they shared with me. My father was always a passionate advocate of outback and rural Australia, and he always spoke of the need to protect dingoes. He is a country person stuck in a city person’s life and body. At least, that’s how I think he perceived himself for several years.
He took us on a trip to Uluru when I was eleven. I loved it and felt connected to that place in a very real way. Whenever I return from an overseas journey, the first sense I have of being ‘home’ comes when I see the red centre of this country from 30,000 feet.
The first time I saw a dingo was near Uluru on that trip. We were on a day trip with a group of others and we’d stopped for lunch. We were fairly isolated. There was no main road, just a dirt track. One or two trees were the only shelter from the sun. It was eerily silent. Our tour guide whispered, and pointed. We all looked and there was a dingo, simply walking past. He wasn’t close, and barely paid us any attention, and was soon gone. What I remember most is the uneasy look in my father’s eye, and the way he positioned himself between me and the dingo.
I went to Uluru when I was eleven and I didn’t think of Lindy or Azaria Chamberlain once. When I go back, I know that I will.
I have a child of my own now, and working on this book has been a harrowing experience. My daughter is 18 months old. Over the previous year and a half I’ve watched her grow, watched her personality develop, and taken great pride in all her little achievements – learning to say ‘bath’ and ‘more’, understanding that she needs to cover her mouth when she coughs, playing hide and seek. But my favourite part of being a parent comes from those moments when she needs her daddy. Today I took her for a needle at the doctor’s. It hurt and she cried, and I wouldn’t have been anywhere else. When she’s distressed or in pain I need to hold her and protect her. I can’t stop the pain, but my grip on her makes her think that I can.
I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like for Lindy and Michael. To know that despite their daughter’s pain and distress there was nothing they could do. They didn’t get to hold her tight and whisper that everything would be ok. Because of this they never got to see her grow, and take pride in hearing her say ‘bath’.
Had Azaria lived, she would be a grown woman. Older than me, probably with a career and family of her own. And the world would not have known her name, and her mother would have never been wrongly imprisoned for her death.
Today is about many things for Lindy. It will be a painful and satisfying day where she will no doubt reflect on what she has lost but finally get to close a traumatic chapter of her life. I’ve never met Lindy, but I’m sure she’ll be thinking of Azaria.
I hope one day to take my daughter to Uluru, as my father took me and as Lindy and Michael took Azaria. And when I’m there I’m going to think about the little girl who vanished that night. Her body was never found. That place is now her place.
Tagged: Australia, azaria, azaria chamberlain, dingo, fatherhood, lindy chamberlain, parenthood, publishing, uluru
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