Friday, August 23, 2013

Interview with Kiwi Hybrid-publisher Christine Hurst

Christine Hurst is a local children's book author with some fantastic titles to her name. She has been traditionally published for a few years now and has quite a few kids books lined up for publishing. At the end of the month she has plans to launch her latest book 'Symphony Smythe and the Baked Bean Birthday Party', which is her first self-publishing project, first in the line of several. I'm gonna let her tell you all about it though.

Christine, thank you for joining us today. Can you tell us about your career so far as a published author in NZ?
I started writing quite late in life (in my early 30’s), as I never thought it was something I could do. After a few years of dabbling in different genres (FYI – I’m useless at poetry) I had my son and started reading children’s books again. I knew straight away that I had found the right genre for me.

What was the best resource you came across when you first started writing?
A writing community called KiwiWrite4Kidz. They were a group of new and published writers who banded together to support each other and offer workshops, newsletter, set up critique groups and general writerly camaraderie. Through them, I met up with the five ladies who now make up my ‘writers group’. We meet once a month to discuss writing, the industry and eat cake. We also go away once a year for a weekend retreat to escape the pressures of life and just write. We critique and edit each other’s work and we trust each other implicitly. They have become firm friends and I don’t know what I’d do without them.

What has been your favourite project to date and why?
The non-fiction book I wrote in 2007, called Wired for Sound. It was a commissioned piece for an educational publisher and I was given a short period of time (one month) to write it, and I was given very specific guidelines regarding the chapters. I had to conduct a lot of research about things like how speakers work, and how coloured lights affect the aesthetics of a stadium. It was great fun. I haven’t written another non-fiction book since, but I have plenty of ideas on the back burner and plan to venture down that road again soon.

What was the best piece of advice you were given when you first started out?
Write everything down. At a writing meeting early on, I met someone who advised about having a notebook to write things down in. As a particularly forgetful person, I have pen & paper with me always, by my bed, in the car, I dictate into my iPhone, and I’ve even been known to race out of the shower, soaking wet, looking for pen & paper. Why do all the good ideas come in the shower, I wonder?

You have your own publishing house. Why did you set this up?
Just this year (2013). Deciding on a publishing company name was an interesting process. I didn’t want my publishing company to be my name and I wanted to be sure that it was also available as a domain name. I had a list of hundreds of ideas and they were all taken. A couple of my favourite domain names were available for sale for a hefty price, so I ended up with a very limited choice. Once I had decided on Prickly Cat Publishing, I commissioned my award-winning book Designer, Cheryl Smith from Macarn Design, to come up with a logo. And I just love the outcome. 
Why have you decided to self-publish your next series of book?
The publishing world is changing rapidly. I know there are writers out there who have had huge successes, and have built lasting relationships with their publisher. I’m not one of those fortunate ones. I decided to take control of my own destiny and shape the future to be what I want it to be. Ultimately I would like to write and publish fulltime, and self-publishing is the key step in that process.

Can you tell us about the process you took to get your books self-published?
I researched for months on who was self-publishing and how they were doing it. There is so much information out there, often contradicting each other, so it can be very overwhelming. I read APE by Guy Kawasaki, which was fantastic and also POD for Profit by Aaron Shepard. All the research showed that books have more of a chance of selling when they have been professionally edited and designed. So I commissioned an editor, Sue Copsey, and my book designer and we met to discuss the series. Because this series is illustrated, I researched several places to best hire an illustrator and decided on Elance, a freelancer site. I had over 65 proposals to the job I posted and after much deliberation, narrowed it down to the wonderful illustrator I’m using. Her style was exactly what I was looking for and I have to say I am thrilled with the results. It was important that I find someone who was available and willing to continue working on this series with me, and she fit the bill perfectly. The books will be available as both eBook and print books.

What was the best piece of advice that started you in the right direction to self-publishing?
There probably wasn’t one piece of advice, but I saw others dong it and knew that I could do it too. In my research there are a lot of people who make it sound really easy. It isn’t. And a lot of writers will struggle with the non-writing side of self-publishing. And there is a lot of that – collaboration with other professionals, decisions to be made, marketing, distribution, technical challenges and costs to pay. You have to enjoy the process of self-publishing, and it’s not for everyone.

Can you please tell us about your new self-published series - Symphony Smythe?
Symphony Smythe was a name that came to me many years ago. I wrote a few stories, but they weren’t quite right, so I parked them. When I decided to self-publish I thought this was a great series to start with, to build a following. Symphony is the ordinary girl with the extraordinary life. She has quirky parents, and as an only child, they feature quite heavily in her life. Maybe because I have an only-child myself I have taken some of that family bond and translated it to paper! The Symphony Smythe stories are part of a series I’ve called Short & Sweet Reads which will be somewhere between 1500 – 4000 words, and illustrated with B&W artwork throughout. I envisage these books being placed with other ‘quick reads’ in libraries and bookshops.

Thank you again, Christine, we really appreciate your wisdom.

For more information about Christine and her books, please visit her sites:

Blog & site for writers:

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