Category Archives: Traditional publishing

An Opportunity for NZ Authors in Print

NZ Bookshop Day: seeking authors!

Bookshops are keen to have authors in store on NZ Bookshop Day – Saturday October 31. Whether it be a book signing, launch of a new book, a reading, or just dropping in for a chat and an opportunity for book buyers to meet their local authors. This is a great day for authors to connect with their local bookshop. The day has been established to celebrate the great local bookstores in New Zealand.

Bookstores must have their events registered by October 1st in order to join the nation-wide event so if you have a book possibility (signing, give-away, competition idea) get hold of your local NZ bookstore and talk to them about it. To check out the website GO HERE.

Photo Competition

There is also a photo competition for the best picture of someone reading a book anywhere in New Zealand. Check out the competition page here. At risk of disqualifying myself from entering I would like to share this picture of my daughter reading many years ago.


In the US, May is the month for Indie Bookstores (as opposed to book seller chains) to celebrate authors. Bookshops who participated reported huge increases in foot traffic, so if you’re an author of print books get on the phone and see if you can take advantage of this nation-wide event.

Heather Sylvawood – Amazon Author

Discover Quality NZ Authors

While attending a Writers’ Forum in Picton – a picturesque Port and marina in New Zealand, I was able to share experiences with a number of self-published authors.


Above: (Left) Me – Heather Sylvawood – absorbed in Walking on Ice by Emma Stevens; (right) Mike Ponder’s ”could-be-true” conspiracy novel about the Royal Family

Seriously good authors

Without exception the writers who attended the Picton Forum related difficulties over being taken seriously as writers of quality books. They all acknowledged that at the beginning of the Indie (Self) Publishing emergence there were books published that really required hard editing to bring them up to the standard of print-based books, but now, unfortunately, quality books are reaching the online shelves without a whisper of recognition.

What does it take to prove quality in writing?

And if you prove it – what then?

How can New Zealand author’s become recognised in their own country against the well-resourced distribution houses of America?

There are some small publishers and printers in New Zealand who are attempting to right the balance, yet they too come up against the confusion over the terms ‘Vanity Publishing’ and ‘Self-publishing’. As Dave MacManus from The Copy Press, printing and publishing house, defined it: vanity publishing is done when the author wants only a printed copy of their material for limited circulation among family and friends; self-publishing is for people who have written a book for general distribution. Put like that, why has the term ‘vanity publishing’ earned such a bad rap?

The Legacy of Vanity Publishing

The quality of a self-published book is imperative if the publication is to be taken seriously out in the reading world. Unfortunately self-publishing is still tainted by the lack of editing of vanity press editions and the editing by those who climbed fortuitously on the indie-publishing scene when still in its infancy.

The indie/self and digital publishing divide

Another area of confusion about the quality of the writing in self-published books – as opposed to traditional print published books – is that self-published books are not edited before they hit the … shelves/lists. That can be a legitimate complaint. With publishing on Amazon as a Kindle eBook so simple, authors, who needed to learn better, put their drafts out for all the world to see. And some of the writing is cringe-worthy with poor grammar, spelling mistakes and general clumsy construction making the book a hard read.

Prior to publication, however, many authors  of self-published books and eBooks spend hundreds of dollars employing one or more editors to hone their story to a reputable standard. The reality is that good authors do not want to be shamed by a less than perfect product.

Print on Demand changed the publishing landscape

Not every printed book you might choose to order will necessarily have been edited and printed by a traditional publisher. Many of the soft copy books you can buy online will have been self-published. They may have been printed by a print-on-demand (POD) publisher such as CreateSpace (Amazon’s print book publisher) or Lightening Source.  POD is when a title is printed and bound, one book at a time, in response to your individual order.

Alternatively, an author might have chosen to have their book printed in a small run by a printer like The Copy Press mentioned above, and may then advertise it through online bookshops. That same author could either engage a distributor to get their title into bookshops, or trudge the country hawking their book. Okay, it’s not quite as bad as it sounds, but some writers in our Picton forum described experiences very close.

Self-promotion is an awkward companion for many writers

Coming to terms with the need for self-promotion brings blushes to faces of many authors. Writing is what they do – not marketing.  The two activities of writing and promotion are diametrically opposed – one is a solitary, introspective activity; the other forces you to engage with others (many others) and put yourself out in the world, vulnerable to criticism and judgement.

Getting out and promoting your book is hard work and you have to get over your personal fear of rejection when someone (and this is inevitable) rejects your request to buy, sell-on-behalf, stock or otherwise help you to earn some recompense for your months of hard work. Ironically, our tax department views most writers’ endeavours as a ‘hobby’ because many of us profit by only a few cents per book.

Self-promotion, though, is the only way we are going to get noticed in the over-crowded digital world. In the world of digital publishing (eBooks and POD) we really have to use the scatter-gun approach. We need to Tweet and Link-in, advertise on Facebook and our websites, blog and plain beg our friends and relatives to spread the word.

NZ Writers to Follow

Now to introduce you to a few of the writers I met over the weekend. You’ll see what a varied bunch we are.

1. Emma Stevens;     2. Mike Ponder;    3. Wendy Scott

1. Emma Stevens has learned by trial and error how self-promotion benefits an author. She happily takes on talks to U3A, Probus Clubs, libraries and the like, and was rewarded recently by being interviewed by the NZ Woman’s Weekly. It’s all good publicity and you get to sell copies of your book after the talk, she explained.

Her book Walking on Ice has captured the imagination of many readers in its autobiographical description of her online romance with a teacher from Alaska and their eventual return to the isolation of a school there. The story does have all the great elements for a gripping story: the apparently insurmountable odds for a romance to flourish and the heroine and hero’s sad separation, and finally their reunion in inhospitable environs of Alaska.

2. Mike Ponder is both artist and writer. His book The Windsor Conspiracy is based on popular belief/gossip, but little known suspicion, about what really moved the House of Windsor after the war years. Is Prince Charles really a Windsor? Was the Queen Mother an evil manipulator? This fast-paced thriller is based on a conspiracy behind Britain’s Royal Family.

Mike uses snatches of history, real and conjectured, to weave a mystery around what really did happy under the Queen Mother’s ‘reign’.  Watch out for the next story and review your review your understanding of who is the power behind the throne and who might be the ‘heir apparent’.

3. Wendy Scott – Surrounded by the wild West Coast is it any wonder that Wendy’s imagination gives rise to stories of magic and witches? She says of her life: “When my partner, son (5 months), dog and I moved back to NZ we lived in a house truck for 3 years while our off-the-grid house was planned and built. During this period I wrote on a solar powered laptop and completed many correspondence courses from the AWA.”

She’s a prolific writer of adult fantasy, children’s novels and now branching into romance.


4. Suzanne Clark;   5. Tony Sandall;    6. Heather Sylvawood

4. Sue (Suzanne) Clark lives in Collingwood, Golden Bay and began writing after retiring from teaching. Sue enjoys researching her subjects and building a what-might-have-happened novel from what she uncovers. Both Awhina’s People, a pre-european story about Maori warring between tribes, and His Father’s Will, a story of one of her own forebears have been based on extensive research and interviews with those who could shed light on early events.  Mrs Lacy, however, draws on her knowledge of living in a small community, like the environs of Golden Bay.

5. Tony Sandall – horse trainer extraordinaire has written a non-fiction, how-to book in which he shares the learning of a life time,

“My method teaches you to work with your horse through the early kindergarten months so he becomes quiet and obedient in all circumstances, ready to move on to whatever discipline you ask of him,” says Tony.

It’s one of those must have books for serious riders trying to correct a bad habit in their mount, and those who are schooling a young horse. “Essentially, the method involves the use of a specially designed strap or rope to restrict the movements of the horse during the early teaching process.”

6. Heather Sylvawood – (And this is me unashamedly promoting myself!) I call myself an emerging Amazon writer and publish most of my work as Kindle eBooks. I started with non-fiction, moved into children’s stories written to be read by adults, short stories for adults and finally I have one published novel – More Than I could Bear – A Lesbian Affair. The story, set in the 1970s, follows Laura and Anna who are both the main carers for their autistic daughters. The story relates the many ways families cope with the effect of lost hope, stress and depression caused when a family member has an intellectual disability. Its shocking climax illustrates the tragedy of women left unsupported in an age when disability was a hidden phenomena.

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Writing is hard work

WriteGear website

by Amazon Author Heather Sylvawood

When I started writing as a semi-fulltime, professional career, I had this naive idea that the writing would take care of itself and all I’d have to learn was how to market my books.  How wrong could I be (and how right)!

The job of writing

First of all I found that writing doesn’t just flow – not all the time. Sometimes my fingers would fly and out would come the words that conveyed just what I wanted. Other times I would plod along. I realised that a structure, something I could work from when I couldn’t see where the story was going was necessary. It didn’t stop me from having those inspired moments – it simply kept me going when I flagged.

Flagging energy for a story is also something I came across, particularly when I got into novel-length writing. Short stories could be written in a day and then revised at leisure; novels, however, take so much longer. It is so easy to be disheartened along the way.

Professional Writer is an amatuer who didn't quit

Flagging writing moments for me

I found the following moments needed all the perseverance I could muster:

  • About the 5000-6000 word mark (day 2 or 3) – I would look forward and see those miles and miles of words stretching forever into the future. I would wonder if this story was strong enough/interesting enough to continue into a novel-length book.
  • About the 20,000 word – By then my daily word total would have slowed a bit. A 2000 word binge was all I could manage and the enticement for blogging and posting on Facebook was becoming hard to resist.
  • About the 40,000 word mark – I was halfway, yet I looked back and thought how hard the writing had been and I still didn’t know exactly how the story would end. Would it be good enough to warrant another 50,000 words?
  • About the 70,000 word mark – Rolling on to the end. I knew now that I would finish and I couldn’t wait to get there. I found my writing showed the rush – I didn’t ‘milk’ the climax enough; I needed to give my characters their last opportunity to shine. Editing and allowing the climax to happen naturally was vital at the end.
  • About the 80,000 word mark – I knew I was going to get there, it was simply a matter of a couple of days, but I kept getting distracted by my research for my next novel. I would stop and write up my ideas and even the beginning paragraphs as I took breaks in completing the current novel.

But now two are complete – one published: More Than I Could Bear, and a second in editing phase: Family Ties and Rainbow Bonds. And guess what? I’m onto novel three: a sequel to More Than I Could Bear, called A Pearl Among Swine.

Editing my writing

So a story/novel is complete. What next? Edit, edit, edit. It’s a challenge to edit your own work. You have blind spots about your sentence construction and spelling. Especially with my novels I found it was hard to actually ask anyone, including my life partner Tre, to read my work. I didn’t want criticism – I wanted only affirmation.

Heather Sylvawood editing, edfiting, editing

Who wants criticism?

As it turned out Tre was a wonderful critic, but in the end I asked another friend, who had been a proof-reader for a print publisher, to look it through and she came up with many issues neither of us had spotted. Thank-you Karen.

You need the feedback, not just about spelling and punctuation, but for sense. Were those items mentioned in the novel around at the time depicted? Would he/she really have said that? These were questions I had to answer, or alter in my writing, to make the reading experience flow for a reader. Even cross-cultural issues were important to consider in order to allow readers from many backgrounds to understand what was going on.

Marketing your finished writing

Once upon a time print publishers took on this role. If you were a big name you had your printed books on the front tables of every bookshop. If you were a lesser known writer your books would go on the back shelves, spine outward. If you were an unknown writer then you hardly had a chance unless some obscure editor, looking for the next big seller, LOVED your work.

Nowadays Indie or Self-published work allows unknown writers/authors to at least get their titles and front covers on the vast shelves of Amazon, or Kobo or Goodreads (which is being bought by Amazon, by the way).

Heather Sylvawood sample books

The cringe of marketing books

Again I had to overcome a lot of fear to expose my work to the public eye. What if no one liked it? What if no one bought it? I don’t care, at least it’s out there. The reality is a DO CARE. I do want people to read my books and enjoy them – and there’s no reason why they wouldn’t enjoy them, I’ve won short story competitions and had amazing feedback from beta readers and other authors.

My next cringe was whether to ask my friends to help me market my work. Would they think I was spamming them?  Would they get cross at me taking their friendship into the realms of commerce? So far not one of my friends has firebombed my letterbox.

Expert advice

Recently I’ve been reading a number of Kindle books giving advice on publishing and marketing. I’ve become quite adept at telling whether the information they offer is applicable to my situation. One I have to recommend is The Indie Author Power Pack, by various authors including:  David Gaughran , Joanna Penn, Sean Platt , and  Johnny B. Truant .

One of the main messages I have gleaned from this wonderful ideas-dominated book collection is that the only way to move from unknown to well-known is to write – lots of books that  keep hitting the self-publishing  NEW lists and use strategic marketing to keep putting your books in front of your market.  Like all internet marketing success is a case of building your LIST.

So here it is – my published novel

BookCoverMoreThan  More Than I Could Bear

And if you want to get onto my list for notifications of new releases, or reduced-price sales please fill out the form you will find on my web page HERE.

Yours in the Creative Flow – Heather Sylvawood

What is a ‘Failure’ in Writing

I was talking with my daughter, also an accomplished though technically ‘unpublished’ author, and she reminded me of a truth I’d overlooked: writing and sticking at it is ‘success’.

November is when you write MORE

In 2014 I entered NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It’s a website invention of Americans, but now world-wide, where writers set themselves the task of achieving at 50,000 words in the month of November. The ideal situation is that you clear your month of any distractions and write rapidly from the heart to get as many words as possible down on paper.

My writing distractions

Well, my November was far from empty of distractions:

  • I was away from home for two weeks working
  • I was trying to supervise rather stressful and ever extending earthquake repairs on two properties
  • I was sleeping rough in one room of one of the houses under repair
  • I was completing interior painting at night after the workmen left (I wasn’t supposed to be on site during the day)
  • In the two weeks I was at home I was catching up and trying to prepare our home so that others could rent it for six weeks
  • And (did I mention?) I was trying to write

Success in writing

I didn’t reach 50,000 words. I managed only 42,000 in that month – a failure, I assumed.

My daughter, bless her, pointed out that 42,000 words is a lot of writing and far from a failure. It is for many half a novel and far more words than many ever write. And I am continuing to develop that novel, which is another success.

Writers who worked other jobs while writing

It would be ideal to have endless days in November in which to write. However, that is not what many successful writers experienced. In New Zealand, for example, Margaret Mahy produced her internationally successful children’s books while working full time in a library and bringing up two daughters.

T.S. Eliot worked full time at a bank, according to biographers. 

Environmentalist  (The Wilderness Letters) Wallace Stegner, and author of novels Crossing to Safety  and The Spectator Bird, wrote four hours early in the morning, then went off to teach at prestigious universities. 

How fast should you write?

Author and blogger James Thayer suggests a less rigorous schedule for writing than NaNoWriMo:

  • “Initial plotting:  one or two weeks.
  • Research and further plotting:  four to six weeks.
  • Drafting outline:  two to three weeks.
  • Writing the novel:  one page (300 words) a day.   Finish the novel one year after starting the first manuscript word.  If you work full time, 300 words a day is a reasonable goal.
  • Editing the completed manuscript:  about one month.

“Not only will a schedule prompt you to steadily produce words, it will—when the undertaking at times seems overwhelming—offer a liberation date, “ suggests Thayer.

Avoiding NaNoWriMo Failure

Plot and Outline

Two of the things I did not do prior to starting my NaNoWriMo experience were:

  • Initial plotting and
  • Drafting an outline

I had no idea what to base my new novel on. I had another project on the mental boil but wasn’t ready to start on that. Then I picked up on an idea I’d started years before which was basically in note form.

After the first 3000 words I realised the concept would have to change dramatically so I started again and created a short biography of the characters – a large family, and an initial outline. By this stage five of the 30 days had gone.

Tip 1 – Don’t start NaNoWriMo before both those above tasks are complete

Researching the era

I had a clearly defined era that I wanted to set the novel in, but I discovered as I wrote there was so much I had forgotten. For instance:

  • What implements and appliances were around then?
  • How did people dress?
  • How did the ‘morality’ of different strata of society differ?

All of this information is pertinent to my new novel and I have had to stop writing to check if some plot twist could have happened.

Tip 2 – Think about and research the era in which your novel is set

Get started

This is the most important of all. Getting going was a major triumph in itself. I could have so easily decided that with all the distractions and lack of preparation and set-backs it was all too hard. But I started. and here I am over halfway through a novel I’m really pleased with.

It doesn’t matter that I only achieved 42,000 words in November – I started a second novel.

When you write those first words and the computer tells you you’ve written 492 words and your target is 90,000 the task may feel overwhelming.  But remember: “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” according to that famous quote by Chinese philosopher Laozi. 

Every 90,000 novel, every 150,000 novel started with just ONE word.

Tip 3 – Don’t let the possibility of failure stop you from starting to write – just start

Heather Sylvawood, emerging novelist and Amazon Author

Is self-publishing and promotion keeping you out of the Indie market?

In past decades, writers, good and bad, have been turned away from the gates of traditional publishing.  The published author was often the one who had managed to swim through a sea of rejections and keep crashing against the seawalls until they found a way in.

Self-publishing has changed in 5 years

Nowadays, with traditional publishers fighting Amazon, and self-publishers squabbling amongst themselves, you could be led to believe that becoming self-published is easy. You just have to write the book and put it up on Amazon.

Maybe that was true of self-publishing five years ago, but successful self-publishing today is a combination of carefully planned:

  • Writing for a popular market
  • Good editing (as it still is in traditional publishing)
  • Well designed book covers that catch attention
  • A carefully crafted launch strategy
  • Continual self-promotion


Today you have to develop a ‘presence’ on the Internet with Blogs, author websites, a regular presence on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, popping up with comments on other sites where writers/readers might be – like Goodreads website.

Self-publishing success = quantity

So where is the time for writing goals? Well, it seems from the blogs and books I read, authors can no longer linger over the fine details of a book until it reaches perfection. Instead they must be writing a book a month, or as writer Alex Foster in Writing a Kindle Book a Week suggests writing quantity and accepting smaller income from each publication.

Video Titled: How To Write More And Create A Daily Writing Habit

Joanna Penn, author of three thrillers, is setting her sights on a writing goal  of creating three books a year using a method suggested by authors Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rush The video is well worth a watch and you might want to follow-up with a look at Wesley Smith’s website where he demonstrates his method by publicly revealing how many words per day he puts on paper.(

Finding the magical key to self-publishing


Get the picture?

Currently challenged as I am, with editing my completed novel, juggling life and expectations of others, plus a part-time contract, how I can achieve a greater output eludes me. The trouble for me is that there are so many blogs and books to read on the subject, I don’t have time to discover the magical key to major output AND successful self-publishing.

So hello other writers who are struggling with this plethora of ideas and options. Self-publishing isn’t easier; it’s just more possible with a lot more work.

Heather Sylvawood, (struggling) Amazon Author