Trudi Canavan

bestselling author of The Black Magician Trilogy

Trudi's Blog

A Pinterest Guide for Authors

Now that I’ve jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon, I’m noticing a lot of other authors are asking the same ‘what’s this Pinterest thing and why should I sign up?’ questions I asked a few months back. I may be partly to blame because I’ve been talking about it a lot, though with articles containing stats like these being tweeted it can’t be entirely my fault. So I figured I should write a bit of an advice post.

Pinterest is like Twitter in that it allows you to share interesting and fun links with other people. On Twitter your home page is a constant flow of tweets by the people you follow. On Pinterest you can look at what everyone on Pinterest is pinning, or just your followers. I recommend the latter, or you’ll be looking at an endless flow of nailpolish tutorials, weight loss motivational slogans, and mis-spelled religious sentiments.

As with Twitter, the best way to figure out who is on it and worth following is to find someone you know and look at who they are following. And here it offers a feature I wish Twitter had: you can choose which of their boards to follow. If Twitter had that function, I’d choose NOT to follow the rabid sports commentary of a few people I find interesting otherwise.

While in Twitter time sweeps your tweets and pins away unless someone retweets or repins them, in Pinterest they go into boards. This is a bit like favouriting tweets, except that you can categorise them and… well… how often do you go look to see which tweets a tweeter has favourited? Looking at other pinners’ boards is part of the fun of Pinterest.

So, once you’ve joined Pinterest and started following a few people, how do you make it work for you as an author? Well, I’ve written you a handy list. Which turned out to be rather like the one in this article on Sony’s Pinterest Strategy, but without the ‘business speak’ language, so I shuffled things around to follow a similar format.

1. Research what other authors are doing on Pinterest. Well, this is kind of obvious. You’ll find that some authors are using pin boards as, well, pinboards – in other words they are collecting images that inspire them. They’re also putting up pins of books: their own and other people’s. But like with most social media, the ones who ‘get’ the site and enjoy it also tend to have boards dedicated to things they like that aren’t necessarily related to writing and books, which gives a nice, more personal insight and makes them seem more human. I recommend checking out Tansy Tayner Roberts, Alison Goodman and Guy Gavriel Kay’s Pinterest boards.

2. Make your website Pinterest friendly. Once you’ve attempted to pin books you’ll start to see what makes a Pinterest friendly web page and what makes you swear under your breath and wonder if the author gives a damn about whether anyone can find information about their book on the internet. Ideally, create a separate page for each of your books with a good image of the cover and some information – a blurb at the least, an extract or link to one if you’re a smart cookie. Then look at what else on your website would make a good pin, like blog posts that have disappeared into the archive, writing advice and that short story you put up as a freebie. If necessary add an image to the web page for the pin. Something that compliments the text and might encourage someone to click through to your site. Often just words set against a plain background does the trick.

3. Create pins that are ‘spam safe’. The big down side to Pinterest is how easy it is at the moment for spammers to exploit it. As soon as a pin looks like it’s going to be popular spammers repin it and change the link so it leads to a different web page. There’s a reporting system in place but it does rely on Pinterest members checking their repins for dodgy links. Having pins of your books available in a board means pinners always have somewhere to go to find safe pins. And for everything else you pin…

4. Practise good Pinterest etiquette. Don’t pin or repin anything that doesn’t link back to the source. I know, it’s tempting to repin anyway when the image is so very, very cool. But not checking for spam links does nobody any favours, and how can you expect people to respect your intellectual property if you don’t respect that of other creators? (Oh, and yes the Pinterest iPhone app is a bit sucky for checking links. I now ‘like’ pins when using the iPhone, then check the links and convert them to a repins when I’m on my computer later.)

5. Be more than just a self-promotion robot. Create boards of pins other than your book covers that readers might find interesting. Pinterest is a visual medium, so ask yourself what can you offer here that you can’t elsewhere? I have a casting wish list board, a collection of images that inspire me, and include pics of objects and places that have inspired books I’ve written. Other board ideas might include fan art (with permission from the fans, of course), collections of favourite book trailers, a board of favourite movies, and a ‘soundtrack’ board of music you listen to while writing.

6. Cross post/pin/tweet from your website and other social media sites. Again, kind of obvious.

7. Look at what publishers, booksellers and book bloggers are doing, and if any are on Pinterest see if there’s a way you can work together. It’s early days, but like with Facebook and Twitter there’s potential in Pinterest to run competitions, pin links to video or other content, as well as reciprocal pinning. Pinterest’s strength (though also its weakness) is in how creating a link is integral to creating a pin, which creates paths through the internet. When it works well, those paths lead people who are interested in what you’re pinning to something they want, be it information, a shop or just something really cool.

8. Have fun!

There are probably more ways that Pinterest can be used and enjoyed by authors than this. It is early days. If you’ve got any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

July Calendar – Anyi & Lilia

For July I’ve sketched Anyi and Lilia, thanks to the talented and awesome Rachel (winner of two Chronos Awards at Continuum a few weeks back). She posed in her leather jacket and in the novice robes for the reference photos, coping well with me saying helpful things like ‘look at someone standing behind you’:

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Click on the image to get to a full size version. As before, if you don’t know how to download and set images to be your computer screen wallpaper, seek the help of your usual source of computer advice.

The Craftonomicon Post

The weekend after unCONventional we headed off to Continuum 8: Craftonomicon, Australia’s National SF Convention. At most conventions there’s usually a member or three knitting, crocheting, drawing or doing some other form of creative passtime so a theme of craft isn’t as odd as it might sound to non-crafters. You only have to look at how many knitting patterns there are for science fiction, fantasy and horror inspired projects to see that there’s a lot of crossover interest. Craft is in my blood – you name a craft and the chances are someone in my family has tried it – so I’d been looking forward to (and preparing for) this con for months.

The first indication I had that the theme was going to be embraced with relish was at my first panel on Friday: “Crafty Characters”, in which Tansy Rayner Roberts, Jo Spurrier and I were panelists. We discussed our favourite books containing characters who practised handcrafts, the stereotypes that abound, and more. Jo spun yarn throughout the panel, Tansy quilted and I wove, while audience members crocheted and knitted. The only down side was I found it a little bit more challenging to moderate and weave at the same time.

A few hours later I had my second panel. Deborah Biancotti moderated Louise Cusack, Gillian Polack and I as we talked about “Writing Different Genders, Sexualities & Cultures” with a full room of audience members. The discussion was very interesting though one hour was definitely not long enough to fully cover the subject – or subjects as each of those mentioned in the title would have needed more than an hour to really get our teeth into it.

After a lovely dinner in the hotel restaurant we headed to “Spicks & Speculations”, a inspired by the game show, with sf author George Ivanoff quizzing the contestants. Much hilarity and obscure trivia followed. (And I actually remembered I had a camera.)

Saturday began for me with hauling a whole lot of stuff into the hotel for the activities I’d prepared. First up was a workshop I ran called “Con Bag Craft”. The idea was to use simple bookbinding techniques to turn the bits and pieces in the con bag that you don’t want into something useful. We made a notebook and booklet:

I’d also brought along t-shirts so that we could refashion them into ‘emergency’ backpacks if there was time. We only had an hour, which was just enough for the bookbinding, but the workshop ended at lunch time and the workshopees were keen to stay and try it. So we spent the next two hours snipping and tying, getting the bags almost finished. We had a bit of fun with it, and later one of the workshopees proudly showed me her finished bag. Here’s a not-particulary-good photo of mine:

After a rest and a much-needed bite to eat, I then headed to my next panel: “Playing God – a guide for beginners”, moderated with style by Michael Pryor. Alison Goodman, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Louise Cusack and I talked about our approach to world building, revealing diverse approaches but with a unifying theme of research, research, research. Then it was time for dinner, this time with the lovely Aussie fantasy author Jane Routely, and an evening chatting in the bar.

Sunday began with another panel of craftiness, “Crafts in Space”. Tansy Rayner Roberts guided another fabulous discussion, this time on what kinds of recreational creativity might be explored by future, galaxy-exploring crafters. My fellow panelists, Lyn McConchie, Sarah Lee Parker and I joined the audience in a fascinating discussion that made life as a space traveller sound much less tedious and sterile.

After a quick lunch, it was time to head to the Craft Market. Not just to check out all the fabulous items for sale by creative fans, but to set up for my weaving demonstration. I brought in the materials and pre-warped looms to show six weaving methods, including the popular Ashford Knitters Loom with a project set up for people to try weaving on. Fellow fan and crafter, Emma Wearmouth, set up her spinning wheel and spent the afternoon showing how it is done. We had a lot of interest and plenty of people tried out weaving – perhaps even a few might even take it up. I do wish I had photos, but I was much too busy to stop and take any. I did manage to get a couple of breaks to check out the other tables, and bought a belt bag and a necklace:

I needed a good long rest after that, emerging for another dinner in the hotel followed by the Award Ceremony – Ditmars, Chronos, and many more. Afterwards everyone headed for the bar for much celebrating, which led to a late night pizza and cake run:

On the Monday I finally got to be an audience member in some panels. First up was “Independent Publishing & Speculative Fiction”. The effect of digital publishing was the main topic, which was well and sensibly covered. After lunch I saw “The Awards Debarcle” in which everyone was very fair and no fights broke out, followed by “Let’s Traumatise the Kiddies”, about kids tv shows of the past, which I suspect didn’t quite turn out the way it was meant to but was entertaining nevertheless.

And finally it was time for the closing ceremony. We headed home then. I was exhausted, but for the best reasons: two back-to-back fabulous, interesting, fun conventions run and attended by wonderful people.

Con Report: unCONventional

There was a time when I’d come home from conventions with a camera full of photos, but a few years ago I developed ‘camnesia’, a condition where you only remember that you were carrying a camera after the event. This is often exacerbated by the difficulties of taking photos when the subject you want to record contains yourself – which is why I have no photos from the Swancon in 2009 despite being a GoH. So at unCONventional I started every panel by asking for a volunteer minion, and handing my camera to then. Thanks very much to everyone who acted as my camera minion.

The con was held at the Surrey Hotel. The public areas of the hotel looked like an old english pub, and the rooms were simple but comfortable. It was a very cosy place, with wonderfully helpful staff. On checking out, they said they loved hosting the con as everyone was friendly, cheerful and didn’t get drunk and disorderly like some conference attendees or hotel visitors do. The food was good – especially the muffins baked fresh each morning. (Though the salad I had was very interesting. I asked for it without the blue cheese and it came garnished with crushed up potato crisps instead.) The restaurant area was great for gathering in to chat before and after events.

Friday:
The first day of the con began, for me, with afternoon tea with local Orbit staff and author Helen Lowe at a nice local vegetarian cafe called Kokako. Afterwards I returned to the hotel for an informal Kaffeklatsche with a few early arrivals. At 7pm Terri, the con chair, officially declared the fun had begun at the Opening Ceremony.

When I heard there was going to be a viewing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show with audience participation I had to watch. Here’s some of the audience settling in:

Afterwards I hung about in the restaurant chatting until late. Time zones were in my favour, keeping me alert. So alert that I decided to wait up until Paul arrived from the airport at 1:30am.

Saturday:
My con duties began with a writers workshop, called “That Got Your Attention”, which was about adding tension to descriptive writing. Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of the group, which would have been great because I suspect there are more than a couple of future success stories in there. They were all receptive students with oodles of talent, and I hope the exercises were useful, or at least fun to do.

After lunch I had my first panel, “Women in Fantasy and SF” with Lyn McConchie, Mary Victoria and Helen Lowe in which we covered a lot of ground, defining what a ‘strong’ female character is to us.

Afterwards I popped into the floating market and bought some drawstring bags – one that was perfect for my iPod earphones and the other I’m now using to hold a small, portable weaving loom. Dinner at a delicious Indian restaurant called Tiffin had been arranged by Helen Lowe, and included her hubby, Mary Victoria, and fellow FWOR members, Russell Kirkpatrick and Kylie Seluka.

We got back to find the Masquerade wasn’t quite at the dancing stage yet so we went upstairs to the restaurant area and got caught up in talking with everyone. But I didn’t stay up quite as late as the early start (according to my body clock) was catching up with me.

Sunday:
I stared the day in the audience of the “Getting Published” panel. This was particularly interesting in that nobody was there to talk about attracting a publisher’s attention – it was all about self-publishing. It covered a lot about promotion, which led well into my next panel…

“Promoting Your Book”, with Helen Lowe, Stephen Minchin and Grace Bridges, contained two small press publishers and two authors, but the issues were very similar. I ranted a little about authors who put a lot of effort into the latest blogging fad but don’t have basic info about their books, a bio and photo on their site – which is what bookstores, reviewers, and anyone who wants to pin your books on Pinterest, needs. We talked about what works for us and what didn’t seem worth the effort.

After returning to the nice vegetarian cafe for lunch with Russell and Kylie, I headed to another panel, “Geography in SF” with Russell Kirkpatrick, Stephen Minchin and Mary Victoria. Russell did a fine job of moderating. The combination of authors meant there were diverse world building examples, from Simon’s science fiction scenarios to Russell’s geographer’s approach, to Mary’s world as a tree.

Terri had snaffled a huge bag of Whittaker’s couverture chocolate ‘pips’ to use at the con, so with the help of the hotel kitchen staff I set up to make my special chili hot chocolate recipe. For the next hour I made frothy cups of spicy chocolate for con goers.

Fortified with chocolate, I signed some books then headed downstairs to do my GoH Speech. Or what I fondly call ‘telling yarns, with photos’. It covered what got me into writing fantasy, my three careers, and stories about the covers of my books.

The audience:

Dinner at a very nice restaurant recommended by Jo, the Navas Cafe, then we returned to get dressed up for the Sir Julius Vogel award ceremony. Lots of well dressed people there…

The presenters and some of the winners…

For the full list of the winners and nominees, head to the SFFANZ site.

Giving out awards to their delighted recipients is so much fun. Afterwards there were cocktails, which evolved into another lovely night of drinks and chat up in the restaurant area.

Monday:
After a relaxed morning the Closing Ceremony concluded the con at midday. We said our thanks and goodbyes. Here’s a pic of my favourite prop from the con, carried in just before the end of each panel:

I didn’t realise until then that I’d barely left the hotel, except for meals, the whole weekend – and hadn’t wanted to I was having so much fun. I had a wonderful, wonderful time. It was a very friendly, cosy convention and I’ll definitely be looking to return in the future.

Afterwards Russell and Kylie took us out to a famous black sand beach. It was good to take the opportunity to see something ‘touristy’ while we were in the country as we didn’t have time to explore New Zealand. We needed to head back home for Continuum: Craftonomicon, the national convention of Australia. More on that in another post.

Why I Love Pinterest

I’ve always been a little bit cautious about social media. Not that I dislike it – the dangers seem to be in liking it too much. I don’t want to get sucked in to the point of losing precious writing time (and typing time, now that I have to be careful to avoid RSI).

I used to write daily in my private LiveJournal page, though eventually I got tired of the limitations of the format. In 2009 I tried Twitter thanks to a recommendation from my publisher and have loved it ever since. Facebook, on the other hand, didn’t appeal. I prefer ‘follow’ to ‘friend’ for a start, I got spam instead of a reply when I tried to get in contact with them about the basic page one of my publishers set up for me, it has had so much bad press, and I really don’t need another social media account to keep up with.

Except… I just signed up with another one – Pinterest. Collecting cool links to awesome stuff by ‘pinning’ images into themed boards sounded like fun. After a bit of investigation into the pros and cons, I signed up and have been having a fabulous time ever since.

Pinterest, to me, is a perfect companion to Twitter. I used to trawl through blogs about writing and books each morning. Now I only subscribe to a few blog feeds, knowing that anything interesting and exceptional is going to turn up as a link in a tweet. What used to take hours takes minutes.

This didn’t work so well for the art, craft and design blogs. You really need a visual hook to get you to follow a link to a website. People tweet ‘This picture is awesome’ all the time, but usually it’s not so I’ve got into the habit of ignoring those tweets and I’ve stuck to my RSS feeds.

Well, now all I have to do to see the latest awesome visual stuff is to drop into Pinterest once a day. But that’s not all. Like Twitter, Pinterest can be a way to communicate with friends and fans. I have all my books up on boards so that fans can ‘repin’ them knowing they are safe (ie. the links don’t lead to spam). I’ve started pinning images of objects and places that inspired my stories, and another set that could inspire more. I’ve set up a casting wish list board, where I’ve selected actors to play characters in my stories. I’ve created a board with reference books I’ve found useful, one for books I’ve enjoyed, and more.

The site does have some teething problems – mainly pins linking to spam and images ending up in categories that they don’t belong in. You can’t alter links in the iPhone ap so I always put new pins into a “Links still to be checked” board to investigate when I’m on my computer. I also feel it isn’t right to pin something without crediting the source, so if the pin links to Google or Tumbler and I can’t find the original source I’ll un-pin it.

The hardest board to fill so far has been the Favourite Books one. I prefer to link to the author’s site rather than favour one bookstore over another, but too many authors have terrible sites without good images to pin or useful pages to link to – and some don’t have sites at all. I know I’ll be mentioning that in the “Promoting Your Book” panel… yesterday. (I’m writing this blog post and scheduling it to publish while I’m away.)

Like Twitter, you don’t have to sign up to see someone’s Pinterest boards. So, whether you’re in Pinterest already, or would just like to have a look at mine, head on over to my boards. Hope you enjoy them!

June Calendar – Lorlen

A lovely comment on a previous calendar post reminded me that I need to put up the June calendar before I head off for New Zealand. So here’s Lorlen:

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Click on the image to get to a full size version. As before, if you don’t know how to download and set images to be your computer screen wallpaper, seek the help of your usual source of computer advice.

Two Conventions Over Two Weekends

For the last few weeks I’ve been busy getting ready for coming SF conventions – preparing workshops, taking photos for slideshows, arranging transport, lining up our cat/house sitter, confirming panels, arranging meetings and meals, warping looms and researching weaving techniques…

Yeah, that last one seems unrelated to the rest, but it is relevant, as you’ll see.

The first convention I’ll be attending happens next weekend in Auckland:

… where I’m going to be the International Guest of Honour. This will be the first time I’ve been an international GoH. (At Imaginales I was one among many author guests.) I’m flattered, excited and a little bit nervous. I’ll be talking on panels, running a writing workshop, doing a speech/presentation and more.

The weekend after that I’ll be back in Melbourne, at:

… which, as you can see, has a craft theme. I’ll be talking on panels about craft in books as well as the craft of writing. I’ll also be running a very basic bookbinding workshop in which participants make useful and fun things out of con bag contents, and doing a weaving demonstration – which is why I’ve been warping up looms and researching weaving. Ironically, I think the weaving demonstration may have taken more preparation time than anything else I’m doing over these two weekends, but it’s been a lot of fun and a great reason to expand my knowledge of weaving. It’s also great when my non-writing interests and writing intersect. Which they also do in the Millennium’s Rule trilogy, but that’s a whole other blog post.

They are going to be two amazing, fun weekends and two very different conventions.

Cover of The Traitor Queen

The release date of The Traitor Queen (in August) is slowly and steadily drawing near. I now have a cover to show off:

Fabulous, as always. I think this is my favourite cover for this trilogy now.

Orbit posted a Cover Reveal last week, with more information, and you can go to the The Traitor Queen page for a blurb.

I usually add the first chapter as an extract about a month before the release date (August). I’ll do a blog post linking to it, and tweet about it. And I’ll definitely be blogging and tweeting when the book comes out (in August).

Did I mention that the book is out in August? Well, it is. That’s less than three months away!

2011 Aurealis Awards

On Saturday the winners of the Aurealis Awards were announced, in a fabulous ceremony held at the Independent Theatre in Sydney. The awards are always a great opportunity to dress up and hang out with other Aussie sf writers, editors and enthusiasts and celebrate our local talent. It was great to catch up with familiar faces, and especially nice to meet and chat to a lot of people I’ve only met briefly before, or only through the internet.

A big congratulations to both winners and shortlisted authors. For the results pop over to the Aurealis Awards site. I didn’t take any photos but there are always a couple of people snapping away.

In the Mailbox: Brazilian TMG!

I’ve been steadily working away at the early chapters of Thief’s Magic, which is the title this first book of the Millenium’s Rule has decided it wants. I’ve also been dress shopping in preparation for the Aurealis Awards this weekend. (Nothing of mine is up for an award, so I’m going to hang out with and cheer on my writerly friends.

But neither are particularly worthy of a blog post so I wasn’t going to do one this week. Then something exciting arrived the the mail yesterday, so I decided to do an early In the Mailbox report.

Looky-look:

It’s a new foreign language edition – the Brazilian edition of The Magicians’ Guild! Woohoo! Welcome to my worlds and stories, readers of Brazil. I hope you enjoy them.