Saturday, August 17, 2013

Fix the Boats

The original boat image is by Jimmy McIntyre - Editor HDR One Magazine 
(An old fishing boat Uploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons. 
I remixed it under the creative commons licence by adding the words ‘Fix the Boats’.

We argue in my family about who came up with the half facetious and half serious ‘Fix the Boats’ slogan.

I know absolutely and for sure that I thought of it. I was fatigued by politicians telling me that they were only sending asylum seekers to Christmas Island, Nauru and Manus Island to stop people drowning. Better to improve the Indonesian fishing fleet – cheaper and more humane. ‘Fix the Boats!’

Will knows for a fact he was the one who first said ‘Fix the Boats’. His argument is that it’s his sort of notion.

Push and Pull

I’ve been thinking about my family and our push and pull factors.

I once sighted and then lost sight of some document that suggested that my mother’s father’s family were pushed out of Scotland as part of a manoeuvre to rid the place of the poorest and most ignorant of its highland people. I was told they wept and grabbed keepsake sods of earth. Pure push if it’s true.

In the nineteenth century, my mother’s mother’s people journeyed from Devon to Queensland to take up country and turn it into stations. My mother told me that the family was attacked by Aborigines as the wagons rolled up country. We were unwanted and uninvited. We might have killed to acquire those stations. I don’t know. If the story is true it’s pure and calculated economic pull.

My father’s father’s family were Scots living as traders in Jamaica in the mid-1800s. The Jamaican economy turned against them and Ballarat’s booming, gold-fuelled economy sounded. Economic push and pull.

So me? I’m fourth or fifth generation on all sides but somehow I don’t feel as though I or anyone else has a particular right to this country – or any other country.

My children are a different story. They are fifth, sixth and second generation Australians. Dror, the father of my eldest son, immigrated here when he was ten. Will, the father of the other two children, came here as a refugee during the cold war. In both cases the critical pull factor was Australia’s native and introduced fauna.

Dror was asked to make a choice between staying in Israel and living with his grandmother or moving to Australia to live with his mother and step-father. The idea of seeing kangaroos hopping down the streets brought him to Melbourne.

Will was an Eastern European refugee, sitting in a refugee camp in Austria. He chose Australia for two reasons. The immigration officer waved a brochure under his nose that promised fast-tracked citizenship and then there were the rabbits. You can’t go hungry in a country full of rabbits.

Free Movement – Money, Goods, Services and People


I’ve been typing up some letters that my mother wrote to her first husband in the 1940s. She and Bob were living in America but she’d come back to Australia to visit her parents. The young couple was desperately poor during the first few post-War years. My grandfather wanted to give them some money but there was a problem. It wasn’t legal to transport Australian pounds to America. My mother’s letter is full of schemes to buy jewellery and then sell it when she gets back to the States.

Goods and Services

I keep trying to buy computer software from America. I keep trying to use Netflix. Each time, I feel the pinch of the continuing territorial nature of the movement of goods and services.


When I was born my father didn’t want to register my birth. He said to my mother ‘I want Victoria to be a citizen of the world.’ My mother thought the idea was irritating and registered me. I’ve always felt the world was as much mine as yours so maybe Dad succeeded.

Political Philosophy

I once heard someone arguing that globalisation will inevitably result in the free movement of people. There are precedents. The people of the British Empire used to be able to move freely between Commonwealth countries. Currently member citizens can move within the European Union and New Zealand and Australia have a movement arrangement.

The pejorative phrase for the free movement of people is ‘open borders’. The polite phrase is ‘migration without borders’.

Utopia and Dystopia

I’ve thought that we might end up in a fully globalised world where economic and political cogs whir people around the globe. I’ve wondered what will happen to Australia’s construction and housing sector if we don’t have enough immigrants and refugees. I can’t help thinking about a Star Trek future of re- and dematerialisation or a future of consciousness down- and uploads, making borders obsolete. I wonder what would happen if all the Iranian, Iraqi, Sri Lankan and Afghani dissenters moved here. I’ve fantasised about Australia giving up car making and taking up boat building to profit from ferrying free movers. I’ve imagined Papua New Guinea flourishing from the cultural and economic stimulus of thousands of asylum seekers. Increasingly, I’ve pictured myself as a cultural refugee needing to seek asylum in a more liberal country.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Marketing Ebooks

The Light Heart of Stone on Kindle

2013 is my personal “Year of the Ebook”. Most of the other self-publishers whom I’ve met have focused on ebooks from the very beginning of their publishing journey. In fact, Patrick O’Duffy commented that he was ‘floored’ when he heard about my focus on The Light Heart of Stone as a traditional, physical book. I can understand why.

As a reader, I’m a huge fan of digital books. Having an iPad and Kindle has increased the number of books I read and I love the lightweight and portable format. As a publisher, ebooks make complete sense. While publishing a well-designed and high quality ebook isn’t inexpensive (at the very least there are editing, design and proofing costs), ebooks offer a much lower barrier to market.

I focused on The Light Heart of Stone as physical book because I had some really strong ideas about real world marketing that were better suited to a physical book than an ebook. Against those ideas was a complete mental vacuum when it came to marketing ebooks. I had no idea how to set about the task. I went so far as to produce an ebook with the help of Amanda Greenslade of Greenslade Creations. For all the good it did me… Amanda did a great job, but my ebook has been sitting on electronic bookshelves in cyberspace shops (Amazon, iTunes and Kobo) doing no business at all. On the other hand, its physical sibling has been selling: and selling well.

During the New Year period, I made a resolution to make 2013 my personal Year of the Ebook. My skills in physical world marketing had developed organically over many years. In the pre-ebook age, I worked in publishing and got to observe the operations of a couple of marketing departments. I’ve been involved with a various arts organisations. I’ve run a visual arts business and I have directed an art gallery. I don’t have comparable digital experiences to call upon.

I was worried about the time I’d need to come to grips with ebook marketing. I’m currently finishing a draft of a new novel and I’m about to start writing volume II of the Promise of Stone series. And that work can’t be set aside: not if I want to continue my professional life as a writer. The alternative of paying an ebook marketer didn’t appeal at all. It wasn’t just the money. Yes, I wanted to be sure I spent carefully and effectively, but I wanted to learn, not just receive a service.

I’ve been lucky in knowing Katherine Sylwester. Katherine is a Californian native who has lived and worked in my hometown in Australia and understands the particular Australian version of the worldwide book culture. Just as I declared 2013 my Year of the Ebook, Katherine opened Pale Blue Dot, a business designed to support the global needs of ultra-micro businesses. Nice! And the strong Australian dollar didn’t hurt either.

Katherine is doing my initial ebook marketing research and has prepared a simple strategy for me. I still get to do the ebook marketing work (so I get to learn, but learn in the context of Katherine’s support).

Katherine and I have lined up a number of sites and services that could be useful marketing tools. Some are free; others cost money. Our first target is a free US site called the Author Marketing Club. The Club was started by Jim Kukral, a business person and online marketer.

The Author Marketing Club site operates as a point of contact where authors can seek and offer reviews, discuss approaches, list their books, ask for advice and make use of some opt-in paid services. Is it good? Is it worth it? I have no idea but I’m game to give it a try.

To date, I’ve used the site to request review copies of other members’ books and have asked them to return the favour if they have a genuine interest in epic fantasy. I’m been completely upfront about my policy of not reviewing books unless I like them – so I’m under no obligation. I risk reading a few bad books, but I take that risk when I visit my local library.

I hope that this year will bring lots of ebook sales and that I come to some sort of understanding of the ebook marketing process.

The Light Heart of Stone on iPad
I'll let you know how it goes.


I may derive an advantage from mentioning the Author Marketing Club in my blog. Discussing the Club and including a link to the Club’s site may result in The Light Heart of Stone being featured on the Club’s website.