Today I'm pleased to host Brenton Cullen for his current book tour for his book Ronda's Gang. Brenton has agreed to be guest blogger on Spinning Pearls, and has chosen to present this essay. (For more from me, read on at the end of Brenton's essay.)
The Writers: A Journey Through Writing Biographies
By Brenton Cullen
Brenton Cullen recently published his first non-fiction book, The Writers: A Collection of Australian Writers’ Biographies, with Lulu Publishing. A second edition was printed by I-Proclaim Press, in early April of 2008.
Putting together The Writers was a fun, and at times, difficult, process. It was also gruelling and troublesome. But nevertheless, I did indeed enjoy doing it. I first received the idea for a collection of biographies on well-known Australian children’s authors in December 2007.
I had just finished unwrapping all of my Christmas presents, and I was looking at a new book I had received for one of my presents. It was How To Self-Edit by Dianne Bates (my writing mentor). This book also proved very helpful when the editing process of my book came around.
Anyway, I turned How To Self-Edit over and read the back cover. A short excerpt, photograph of Dianne Bates, and a paragraph about her. I was sad that not much information was there about her. That had happened a lot with many of my other favourite children’s authors.
And then … it hit me! BAM! I wanted biographies on my favourite authors, why not write them myself? The first bit of writing material I did for The Writers was to make a list of the authors I would ask to be in the book.
The list looked a bit like this:
• Dianne Bates
• Libby Hathorn
• Duncan Ball
• Bill Condon
• Paul Collins
• Hazel Edwards
• Jackie French
• Sue Gough
The authors in the finished product of The Writers were all the writers above, except for Paul Collins and Sue Gough. Paul Collins because he hadn’t really written actual children’s books, but mostly YA novels, and teenager fantasy books.
I am a friend of Sue Gough’s, and met her at the 27th Annual Meanjin Writers’ Camp, and the reason she did not make it into the book was because she just was not that much of a well-known children’s author.
As soon as I had all the writers down that I wanted in my book, I sent each one of them a special email. In these emails were a list of questions, the biography request, and a request for a recent full-colour photo from each author.
After I had sent the emails to all six authors, I began to research them on Google. I typed in things like ‘Jackie French interview’ or just ‘books by Duncan Ball’. You know, general research starts.
About a week later, I checked my emails to find:
SIX NEW MESSAGES
All messages were from people by the names of: Hazel Edwards, Bill Condon, Jackie French, Libby Hathorn, Duncan Ball, and Dianne Bates.
‘Yes!’ I cried. ‘This is definitely going to be awesome!’
As a matter of fact, Bill Condon had actually been a later addition to the biography collection. He had originally not even been considered to be in The Writers: A Collection of Australian Writers’ Biographies. But when one author I had considered,
dropped out, I emailed Dianne Bates.
Bill very kindly agreed to let me write and include his bio in my book.
The Writers: A Collection of Australian Writers’ Biographies took me approximately two half months, if not three months, to complete. Those three months included writing time, research time, and also emailing the authors and waiting for them to respond time! But when that was all over, I had to add on about three and a half weeks for re-writing and editing time. So nearly about four months all together, for everything!
Self-publication had always seemed to appeal to me. ‘If I never get commercially published, then I’m doing it myself,’ is what I used to tell myself every time I got a rejection letter for a book of mine.
I first ‘dabbled’ in self-publishing when I went onto lulu.com, the website for Lulu Publishing.
After looking around Lulu Publishing’s website, I forgot about it for a couple months. But then, later on when I was trying to get The Writers published, I came back to it. I immediately got excited by the idea and uploaded my manuscript file to them right away!
I had to edit the book again, because I found a few typos that I had not noticed before. With Lulu Publishing, you were the boss, not the publisher! I got the chance to design the cover and back cover, enter information in, typeset it, etc, etc.
The whole thing was a very wonderful experience. Still, I would like my book to be published commercially, so I would appreciate any information or offers. I just checked my hits count for The Writers on lulu.com and found 253 hits. That’s in only four weeks, so far!
And after writing their autobiographies, all the authors in my book and I have become friendlier and are operating on a more personal basis, now. I have sold some few copies, so I look forward to selling quite a few more.
Promotion for my books, that I did all myself, had not really been a problem much at all. I sold copies at school, advertised them, and also put notices out. And every time my dad went away for a show I went with him with a good stock of books with me! I actually sold over $250 worth of books this way. So, as you can see it turned out to be quite profitable.
But as I said, it was a wonderful experience. But I suppose it will be even more wonderful if my book is commercially published! I am now working on a kids’ health book and a YA novel.
Brenton Cullen can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
His blog is ww.bjcullen.blogspot.com and he is currently finishing up a series of play scripts.
This is me, Sally, again. In the essay above, Brenton was discussing an earlier book rather than Ronda's Gang. However, much of what he says has to do with any and all books. Brenton's experience showcases the determination and proactivity needed to succeed in the writing business. And make no mistake, it IS a business.
Buy Ronda's Gang online from Lulu, and can follow Brenton's blog tour at
tips4youngwriters (18 March)
http://spinningpearls.blogspot.com/ (19 march) Here... and apologies for the late lift off!
Tales I Tell (21 March)