Friday, January 29, 2010

Handling Rejection

Late January is the time when editors and publishers come back from holidays, like the rest of Australia. It's a time of excitement for some, with phone calls and contracts. For me the year began with two rejections.

I emailed a friend and her reply was sympathetic. She's a single mum with two kids and she has just joined an on line dating agency. Of the fifteen 'nuffies' sent to her, the only one she was interested rejected her before they had a meeting. Her take on it was, rejection sucks no matter what form it takes.

I guess I know I've progressed somewhat up the writing ladder. I submitted to my UK publisher and received an email rejection in a couple of days. In between time, I went camping with the family. I sat under the shade , with my feet in a river, drinking a cold beer and dreamt of my next book. It's like the time between buying a lotto ticket and when the numbers are drawn.

When I first began submitting to publishers, the wait could be as long as 9 months, which was a very long time to wait. Because of this long wait, writers who are just starting out often ask the question about multiple submissions. You'll get lots of different answers. I started out being a little indiscriminate about submitting and submitted to many at a time, anticipating rejection. I knew what those large white envelopes addressed to me, in my own handwriting meant when they were sitting in my mailbox. Sometimes I'd bring the envelope in and leave it on the bench and pour myself a large glass of wine before I could bring myself around to opening it.

Publishers get so many submissions, they can't give personal rejections to everyone and many are simply one line standard letters stating that your manuscript doesn't fit their list. My first submission was amateurish in the extreme, poorly written, with a cover letter which was an embarrassment. Thankfully, I received a nice rejection letter from Penguin, encouraging me to keep writing. Their rejection letters seemed varied was only later when I heard one of their editors give a talk that I found out they have rejection letters from about A to K!

Still, I knew I was progressing, when my rejection letters began to sound like someone had actually read the book and evaluated it's potential. My Grandad Marches on Anzac Day was rejected by a number of publishers before it ended up with Lothian. It continues to be reprinted every year. I still have the rejection letters which said 'we only publish works which have commercial potential or literary merit' and the one which said ' we like your book, but it would only sell once a year.'

I comfort myself with thoughts like this when I have a rejection now. However, then I have to pick myself up, read the reasons for rejections and decide whether I can a) improve the manuscript, b) target it to a different publisher or d) put it in the bottom drawer.

My husband is a teacher and yesterday had a professional development session where apparently the topic came up about handling rejection. He piped up with, 'I know all about that, my wife's a writer.' He told them that this was a bad week as I'd had a rejection and he was asked how he handled it and supported it. In a way, existing in my own little vacuum of self pity, I didn't realise it affected him. I share rejection with my on line buddies, who I feel really know what that rejection letter or email feels like. But maybe my friend is right, rejection is the same no matter what form it takes and it sucks.

But tomorrow is a new day and I'm really liking writing about mad chickens at the moment. Until then, my daughter wants a new haircut, I need to tidy the house and decide whether I'm really going to start stripping the skirting boards in the hallway.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Googleing On....

Further to my last post on the google settlement, I received an email from my UK publisher regarding their position on the google settlement. They will claim but make unavailable for display purposes. If an author disagrees, they can contact the publisher. By now, the time to opt out has passed, so those who have not actively done so will be deemed to have opted in.

The publisher recommended reading the following:

Also the link to the presentation given by CAL is to be found at

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

CAL Google Settlement Seminar

With the deadline of 28th January looming to opt out of the Google Settlement, I thought I'd better attend the seminar in Melbourne run by CAL at the State Library, to see how it would affect me...if at all.

The seminar was run by Karen Pitt, general counsel for CAL and her powerpoint presentation will be available via the CAL website by the end of the week.

For those in the dark, Google announced in 2004 that it was going to digitise the holdings of major US research libraries, without the permission of the rightsholders ie publishers and authors. Funnily enough the rightsholders objected and started a class action.

There is now a settlement on the table, whereby Google agrees to pay a one off payment to those whose works were digitised prior to May 5 2009. This absolves them from all liability for past scanning. As to the future, it depends on whether your book is classified as commercially available...which is deemed as being offered for sale new by a seller anywhere in the world to a buyer in the US, Canada, the UK or Australia. If it is commercially available,the default position is that the work is out unless rightsholders opt in.

One of the most useful parts of the seminar was the question time. question as primarily a picture book writer does this affect me.
Copyright for the text of a picture book is retained by the author while the copyright for the illustrations is retained by the illustrator. Therefore, both author and illustrator must agree to opt in/out. If one doesn't, the most restrictive ruling applies ie if my illustrator says no and I say yes, then the work is not included.

After the seminar my next step was to find out whether or not my works had been digitised. So that's where I am right now, with another tab open on my browser. Come with me if you like.

I've typed in
I've been here before but it was a long time ago. I've got the option of creating an account but I take a stab at what I might have put in as a user name and a password and I'm successful. I must be so predictable.

I'm told I can now manage my claimed books and inserts. I click on 'find and claim'
and then enter my name and publisher. Up pops a list of my books, including paperback and hardback versions. The most recent book isn't listed.

Notably, I'm told that none of my books were digitised prior to May 2009. I'm not surprised as I doubt my Australian picture books would be found in a major US research library. There are now other libraries which are participating in the library project including Oxford University, but no Australian libraries. So that means that I'm not entitled to the one off payment.

I am however surprised to see the listing of The Music Tree as not commercially available. Hmm, I know it is for sale in some places and I disagree with this. We were told at the seminar that if a rights holder asserts that a book is commercially available, Google will not display the book unless it is commercially available. Now I'm going to put that to the test.

I tick the boxes and claim all the books listed.

Now I am on the claim form.I click on 'assert rights' for The Music Tree and am asked whether the rights have reverted to me...which they haven't because frankly it's not out of print. This is getting complicated.

I click submit and claim and I'm back to the main claim form. I certify that the book was published in one of the countries listed. Now I click on Claim and it confirms that I have one book claimed and five pending.

Next, click on Manage claims and inserts. Hopefully now I'm at the stage where I can tell them it's commercially available. If I don't change this then Google will be able to make all display uses for my book, including print on demand and public display at libraries (no different from my book being in a library anyway but I don't get PLR)

I click on the title of the book and come to the part where I can challenge the commercially available status. Interestingly on this page it states that I challenge that it is not commercially available in the US. This is possibly a throwback to the original settlement, whereas in the new settlement the definition has been widened. I'm asked to provide proof of my challenge. So I open yet another tab in the brower and go to amazon uk and find my book for sale. Sadly for my ego, it is reduced to £2.98. Strangely it lists the publisher as Orchard, not Lothian and the publication date as May 2008...did someone sell the rights overseas and not tell me??? I also go to Dymocks and find it at RRP with Dymocks on line. Hmm, if anyone wants a copy it's cheaper to have it shipped from the UK. How's that for book miles. I copy and paste these listings as proof that it is commercially available.

I now get to control the display uses. As the book was deemed not commercially available, Google has all the boxes ticked. I'm going to change them.

I tick Consumer Purchase, but specify a price of $US 28. I want to remove it from Public Access Service but this means I have to also remove it from Consumer Purchase, so I do so.

I select Preview, which means that it can be displayed as a marketing tool and I select the Fixed Preview option which means that only 10% of the book can be displayed. I also allow Snippet display, Front Matter display and Advertising.

There, I'm done.

For commercially available works, payment goes to the publisher and then flows on to the author via the agreement in the contract.

Apparently the ASA supports the ammended settlement saying that will 'provide income opportunities for authors of out-of- print books.

As the deadline for opting out approaches, I'm not going to opt out. As a picture book writer, I don't think the Google Settlement is going to affect me. My publisher is still the rightsholder for all my books. The advice at the seminar was to contact your publisher if you wished to discuss the status of your works. If the work is in print, both publisher and author must direct google and the process is initiated by the publisher. If the rights have reverted to the author it's a whole different ballgame.

Ahh, I hear children stirring, my time of peace is over. I must say however my two beautiful daughters deserve a medal for sitting through the seminar with me for over an hour. They did enjoy the meringues and biscuits afterwards though!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Freezing or Roasting!!!!

Ahh, back in sunny Australia and feeling a little like a writer again. Geographically the UK is much smaller than Australia but still it felt so much bigger. When I came back to Australia in 1992, I felt terribly isolated but Skype and the internet have changed all that. My daughters can keep up with their friends and even take them on a tour of our house with the laptop. I'll miss my family over in Scotland but I hope that I've tempted at least some of the cousins to come out and visit. I've promised Stuart that I'll take him somewhere camping where it doesn't rain! We'll also miss some great friends we met overseas but hope to meet again some day.

Before leaving the UK, I was lucky enought to attend the Hodder Christmas Party in London. It was vewy vewy scary. I wanted to make a good impression, so I bought a new red coat that I'd been eyeing up for weeks. Then we stayed at friend's...and my husband who is a compulsive tidier put my new red coat in their cupboard and we left it there. Let me tell you, there were tears and tantrums. However, on arrival as it was an upstairsvenue, we all checked our coats in downstairs, so no one saw the coat I'd had to borrow at the last minute anyway. Shhh don't tell my husband though.

I'd been looking forward to this ever since the invitation popped through the mailbox but the actuality was daunting. Suddenly there was a room full of strangers and some of them were probably famous. I started the process of trying to read name tags without appearing to be starting at people's breasts. I noticed Shirley Hughes on the first round.

I got back to where I'd started and thought it would be easier with a drink in hand. Then I did the rounds again. Couldn't see Emma Layfield, my editor, and began to panic. I did consider slinking out and going back to the hotel where my family waited but I thought that wouldn't be a very good example to set the kids. So I gritted my teeth and made my mind up to just walk up and introduce myself with the rather pathetic 'Hi, I'm Catriona from Australia and I don't know anyone...' Someone up there was looking after me. By chance one of the people in the group had worked on my book 'George and Ghost' and said that she loved it.

I was then introduced to my wonderful editor, Emma...who then introduced me to Cassia Thomas, the illustrator who I'd been really keen to meet. We chatted about the book and before I knew it, I was chatting away to people I didn't know as if I did it every week.

The Christmas speech included acolades for books from both Orchard and Hodder, both of which are now under the umbrella of Hachette. Some important pointers for new writers...the age of the bookshop is over, whether we like it or not on line bookshops are here to stay and....we are all responsible for our own marketing. Every author should have a webpage, a blog and be tweeting and twittering for all we are worth. Hence my resolution to resurrect my blog.

Finally, the wine ran out and the venue had to leave. A conga line of die hards headed off to the nearest pub, while I headed back to my hotel with my new friend Alison Murray. As she's from Scotland, I used my other accent. Alison doesn't have a website, so that's her project for the new year.

So the new year begins for me back in my old house. It feels like I've only been away for a moment as putting on my old life is like putting on an old familiar piece of clothing...only it isn't because none of my old clothes fit!