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Inspired by history

Michelle Morgan - Wednesday, January 11, 2017

In January 2013, I wandered into the quaint Gerringong Historical Society Museum on the South Coast of New South Wales to see their special exhibition. It was 8o years since Sir Charles Kingsford Smith (aka Smithy) landed Southern Cross on nearby Seven Mile Beach at Gerroa, before taking off again early the following morning, 11 January 1933, on the first commercial flight to New Zealand.

I'd been toying with the idea of somehow including this amazing historical event into the new novel I was writing. As I wandered around the exhibition, inspecting each old photo and artefact, reading every newspaper and magazine, I became more and more excited. A couple of hours later, I walked out of the museum and headed straight to Seven Mile Beach.

After parking my car on the side of the road, I headed along one of the sandy tracks to the beach. I walked slowly, taking in every sight, sound, smell, taste and texture in the surrounding bush. I ran over the sand dunes to the beach, just as I'd imagined my main character would. I was channelling the teenage boy deep inside who I could picture there on the beach when Southern Cross landed and took off  in 1933.

That historic event was the hook I needed to develop an important part of my main character's story. Over the following months, I finished the first draft of Flying through Clouds. It has taken me nearly four years to edit and reshape that raw manuscript into a novel that will be published in April 2017. I went back to the museum recently to thank them and to once again be mesmerised by their modest and unpretentious exhibition.

I am sincerely grateful to the Gerringong Historical Society Museum for bringing to life what I had read about in books and online resources. But I am most indebted to pioneering aviators like Sir Charles Kingsford Smith who flew such basic planes with canvas bodies and timber wings across oceans and continents. If it wasn't for their courage, tenacity and adventurous spirit, the airline industry wouldn't have developed at the rate it did. Many of the early aviators lost their lives, including Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, who disappeared in his plane, Lady Southern Cross, off the coast of Burma in 1935.

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The adventure continues

Michelle Morgan - Thursday, December 22, 2016

This past month has been ridiculous. And exciting. Just when I thought the publishing business couldn't possibly get any busier, it did. When 100 uncorrected proof copies of Flying through Clouds arrived from the printers, it felt like Christmas had come early. Although these advance copies don't have the final beautiful cover, I can finally see what I've been working so hard towards for nearly four years.

I've sent out more than 70 advance copies so far to reviewers, bloggers, a few authors, selected bookshops and educational suppliers. My efforts have paid off, and Australian Standing Orders have ordered over 1,000 copies of the book. It's a great start!

Authors, Jackie French and Bill Condon have read advance copies and graciously allowed me to include review quotes on the final cover and/or inside the book. I'm over the moon! You'll have to wait until Flying through Clouds is published on 2 April to find out what they have to say. You can also read Bill Condon's full review in Buzz Words in February 2017.

I've been lucky enough to be offered two author interviews. My answers to 12 Curly Questions will be appearing on Kids' Book Review around April, and my Foot in the Door interview with Di Bates will be published in Buzz Words in March 2017.

I'm hoping to get more reviews in 2017, including one from Sandy Fussell, who reviews children's and young adult books in the Sunday Telegraph. Fingers crossed they all like my book XX

In the middle of all this excitement, my proofreader (Sarah Fletcher) finished the proofreading and sent me her recommended changes in Adobe Reader. I'd just about finished proofreading the manuscript myself and making changes on one of the advance copies. I spent the following week going through the proofreader's recommended changes and my changes to work out what changes should be made to the final manuscript. It was painstaking but a critical task. I was so pleased to send the final changes to the cover designer / layout artist (Arielle Gamble) to make the changes to the laid-out manuscript. I also sent her the Acknowledgements to be included at the back of the book.

I've been getting more printing quotes but I'm still not sure exactly how many copies to get printed. I'll work that out sometime in January. I also started preparing teachers' notes for Flying through Clouds, which will be available from Australian Standing Orders as well as on the Books page of my website.

I can't believe I did all that in three weeks. It's almost Christmas and I'm looking forward to putting my feet up and having a well-deserved week off. And a glass or two of bubbly to celebrate.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 


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Continuing adventures of a self-publishing author

Michelle Morgan - Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Another busy month has zoomed by in my self-publishing adventure. I've taken a few giant steps forward and a couple back, but I'm getting there.

It was exciting to receive the Cataloguing-in-publication entry for Flying through Clouds from the National Library of Australia and then to find the catalogue entry on Trove.

It was even more exciting when I received the laid out PDF file for the uncorrected proofs back from the cover designer / layout artist ready for printing. Well...I thought it was ready for printing until I discovered that the page extent needed to be a multiple of 16. So after minor reformatting I sent the PDFs of the cover and internal pages of the uncorrected proofs to Griffin Press to print 100 copies. I expect to receive the books back from the printers any day now.

I finished compiling an Advance Information Sheet (AIS) with book, publication and author details as well as front cover and author images. I'll be emailing the AIS to bookshops, reviewers and bloggers in the coming weeks, and sending off uncorrected proof copies of the book when they come back from the printer. I also updated my website with the information on the AIS.

I now have a distributor - Dennis Jones & Associates. It's important to get a distributor if Flying through Clouds is to be available in Bookshops and from online book suppliers in Australia.

It's only in the last month that I've realised that my role as a publisher is quite distinct from my role as an author. It has been a struggle to temporarily set aside my creative side and concentrate on being a publisher - which I've never done before. I'm on a steep learning curve and it doesn't look like levelling out any time soon.

I've commissioned a proof reader to proofread the laid-out PDF of the manuscript. After making appropriate changes, I'll send the manuscript to the cover designer / layout artist to make the changes to the PDF using Adobe InDesign.

I recently drafted an Acknowledgements page for the book and I've been working on a media list. In the coming weeks, I'll have to concentrate on my marketing strategy. Then there's the eBook to think about...and Christmas!



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More adventures of a self-publishing author

Michelle Morgan - Saturday, October 29, 2016

I've been busy the last few weeks working on the copy edit for Flying through Clouds. Not only did my copy editor (Catherine Heath) do a great job, but she inspired me to write more. I was very impressed with the eleven-page style sheet she compiled; a must for any book. All of the suggestions regarding punctuation and grammar were spot on, and her questioning of irregularities in the text and verification of historical details were particularly helpful. During the copy edit, I managed to write another 5,000 words. As well as filling in minor gaps in the story, I also developed the characters more and incorporated a greater sense of place.

While the copy edit was taking place, I commissioned a cover designer (Arielle Gamble) to do the full cover design and layout of the book for printing. The four cover concepts that the designer sent me were all amazing and quite different to each other. When I canvassed friends and family there was a greater preference for two of the concepts, and I selected one of these. With a few minor changes the front cover was finalised, and here it is:

I love the simplicity of the design and colours. The soft watercolours give that dreamy feeling of being up in the clouds. The title font is reminiscent of skywriting, and the outlined plane evokes the dream that the main character, Joe, has of one day becoming an aviator. The book is set mostly in Sydney during 1932 and 1933, but there are guest appearances of a few other towns and cities in eastern Australia.

The next step in my self-publishing journey is to request CIP (Cataloguing-in-Publication information) from the National Library of Australia, and to compile an AIS (Advance Information Sheet) to send to potential distributors and book suppliers. I'll then arrange the printing of a number of copies of the uncorrected proof version of the book to send to reviewers and suppliers, having drafted a plain book cover for this purpose.

During this time, I'll take the opportunity to write the Acknowledgements and Dedication pages for the book and update my website. When all the internal pages are ready, I'll get the proofreading done.

And there's a marketing strategy to think about....

I'll keep you posted on my progress.

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Adventures of a self-publishing author

Michelle Morgan - Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I've taken the first steps towards self-publishing my new novel - Flying through Clouds - a follow-on to Racing the Moon. After attending an excellent two-day self-publishing seminar at the NSW Writers' Centre in August, I put together a project plan and launched straight into it. I'll be sharing my experiences on this blog over the next few months.

I've hired a professional editor to copy edit my manuscript - to check for consistency of style, grammar, spelling, sentence structure and punctuation, and make recommendations for appropriate changes. They will also look for consistency of voice, characterisation, narrative and format. When they send the copyedited manuscript back to me, I'll systematically go through the Word Track changes and comments, accepting or rejecting them and making further changes where necessary. Based on my previous experience working with editors at Allen & Unwin on my first book, I'll be accepting almost all of the track changes, and taking on board the advice to make further changes to the manuscript. I estimate this process will take me at least a month. I also had a structural edit done about a year ago with a different editor who advised on structural aspects of the manuscript, and as a result, I made significant changes to the manuscript - deleting some chapters, writing new ones, moving a few chapters around, developing voice, the characters and narrative, and a sense of time and place.

While the copy editor is working on my manuscript, I have been busy buying ISBNs, a barcode and QR code from Thorpe Bowker. As I intend to publish Flying through Clouds in different formats, I need more than one ISBN - one for the paperback book and one for each different eBook format. I bought a set of ten ISBNs, one barcode of the ISBN for the paperback, and a QR code, which links to the Books page of my website:

There is no information about Flying through Clouds on the Books page yet because I need to hire a book designer to do the cover. I recently put together a book design brief and contacted a few book designers whose book covers I liked and obtained quotes. My book designer is working on some concepts at the moment.

In my next blog post, I'll  give an update on the copy edit and new book cover. I also have to put together a media list and investigate printing and distributors.

So much to do but one step at a time.

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Another fun Children's Literary Lunch

Michelle Morgan - Friday, August 12, 2016

It was a privilege to be one of sixteen guest authors at the 2016 Children's Literary Lunch organised by CBCA Illawarra South Coast Branch. The 120 local school students and their teachers / librarians were an enthusiastic audience. I was lucky enough to be on a table with eight amazing students and their Teacher-Librarian from St Columbkille's Primary School in Corrimal.

After signing booklets and handing out bookmarks, postcards and other publicity material, the authors gave three minute presentations about their books. In my presentation I talked about Racing the Moon and billycart races, and then read an excerpt from Chapter 3, which is all about the Glebe Billycart Derby.

Tony Flowers entertained the kids after lunch with his amusing stories and simple illustrating techniques.

Many thanks to CBCA Illawarra South Coast Branch for organising and hosting this special event at the newly renovated Fraternity Club in Fairy Meadow.

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Byron Writers Festival 2016 highlights

Michelle Morgan - Thursday, August 11, 2016

It was a wet and windy three days at Elements of Byron in Byron Bay for the Byron Writers Festival 2016, but what an amazing program and range of authors.

So many sessions to choose from with six concurrent sessions from 9am to at least 5pm every day, not to mention two literary dinners.

Annabel Crabb was in fine form in her conversation with Chris Hanley. Her witty insights into political shenanigans brought gales of laughter and tears to the eyes. Annabel was joined by other political journalists, including Kerry O'Brien, Sarah Ferguson, Leigh Sales, Nikki Savva and Paddy Manning, all of whom have written books on political subjects in recent years. Their forensic discussion of recent events and players was fascinating.

Being a YA author, I was keenly interested in what authors such as John Marsden, Anna Feinberg, Nick Earls, Damon Young and Tristan Bancks had to say about their novels and writing process. Other authors that contributed to lively literary discussions, include Thomas Keneally, Debra Adelaide, Charlotte Wood, Anna Funder, Kathryn Heyman, Emily Maguire, Drusilla Modjeska, Kate Forsyth, Louise Doughty and Dominic Smith, all of whom gave thoughtful insights into their books and writing.

Something completely different was Archibald Prize Unwrapped, in which Rosemarie Milsom did a great job keeping the loquacious barrister, Charles Waterstreet in check while encouraging her introverted and talented artist brother, Nigel Milsom, who won the Archibald in 2015 with his stunning portrait of Charles Waterstreet.

My favourite sessions were Feminism Now and Indigenous Lives through Women's Eyes. Anne Summers did a brilliant job as chair of Feminism Now, allowing the younger feminist writers, including Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Melanie Joosten and Emily Maguire, to voice their concerns and individual viewpoints. You couldn't help but be impressed by their lively discussions and thought-provoking arguments.

The Indigenous writers were just as impressive, with Melissa Lucashenko chairing and contributing to the discussions with Delta Kay and Tara June Winch. Their love of Aboriginal culture, story and writing was inspiring. After hearing Tara read from her beautifully written novel, Swallow the Air, I went to the bookshop marquee and bought the book.

Mary Ryan's Books did an amazing job selling books at the festival. The bookshop marquee was often busier than the food and coffee stalls.

The sky was blue and the sun was shining when I left Byron Bay, inspired by all the wonderful authors I'd met.

Many thanks to the organisers, sponsors and volunteers who did an amazing job.

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New review of "Racing the Moon"

Michelle Morgan - Tuesday, August 02, 2016

There is a new review of Racing the Moon in the latest Historical Novels Review (Issue 77, Aug 2016).

The reviewer, Cindy Williams, writes:

"Racing the Moon is full of boyhood exploits that kids will enjoy. The short chapters and simple, direct language make it a quick and easy to read. However it also touches on the darker side of life, including bullying, domestic violence and sexual abuse. These subjects are handled with subtlety and could prompt some important discussion for children aged 13 plus."

In summary, Cindy states: "I would recommend it as a great book for teenagers studying Australian history."

You can read the full review on the Historical Novel Society's website.

Thank you Historical Novel Society and Cindy Williams.

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SCBWI Bologna Regional Showcase & Digital Catalogue

Michelle Morgan - Sunday, April 24, 2016

I was in good company in the recent SCBWI Bologna Showcase at the Bologna Children's Book Fair held 4 to 7 April 2016.

Racing the Moon was also included in the SCBWI Bologna Digital Catalogue that was produced to support the Showcase.

The Showcase and Catalogue promote Australian and New Zealand authors who are members of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators who had PAL books published between 2014 and 2016.

Thanks SCBWI !!

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Compare book prices with Booko

Michelle Morgan - Thursday, February 11, 2016

Prices for the same book can vary quite a bit between online book stores so it pays to shop around. But searching multiple book stores can be time-consuming. 

I recently discovered a website called Booko, which simultaneously searches multiple Book and eBook retailers using a single search. You can finally compare book prices with one search.

When you search on Booko for my novel, Racing the Moon, you'll find more than 20 online book retailers for the paperback, and more than 10 retailers for the eBook.

For each retailer listed, it gives the price you will pay as well as the delivery charge and availability. At the moment, the cheapest price for the paperback of Racing the Moon is Book Depository ($11.24), and for the eBook is Google Play ($7.65). The retailers listed are all hyperlinked, so with the click of a button or the touch of a screen, you can go to the appropriate page of the retailer's website to buy the book. How easy is that?

Although the differences between retailers for a single book aren't significant, it adds up if you are ordering several titles and/or multiple copies.

I still buy more books from my local independent bookshop. But when it's late at night and I need that book in a hurry...

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