Trudi Canavan

bestselling author of The Black Magician Trilogy

Trudi's Blog

Conclusion to the Pinterest Competition Experiment

Thanks to everyone who entered my bookmark competition. It’s been fun and interesting. The winners are at the end of the competition post. If you are one of these winners, please contact me via the email address under the ‘Contact’ menu above.

I’ve confirmed a few things and learned a few more. While I love Pinterest and see lots of potential there for interacting with readers, a few aspects of the interactivity will need to be developed before it can do what I’d like it to do.

First, what I learned. When I pinned the quotes I didn’t include in the label that they were part of a competition. So anyone who followed me on Pinterest but not on Twitter or this site wouldn’t have known they could repin them and win something. I’ll definitely have to remember to do that next time (if there’s a next time).

Second, I had problems seeing who had entered. Each of the pins showed a limited number of people who had repinned it. After ten it indicated that there were ‘+12 more pins’, but you can’t click on that or go anywhere to see those extra twelve people. I had to work out who they were from the notification emails Pinterest sent me. That would be more straight forward if those emails didn’t list more than one activity. Some emails show several pinners, doing a mix of repins, follows and comments.

At first I thought I could get around this in future by asking people to like as well as repin a pin. But it also limits the number of likes it show – up to 24 people. You wouldn’t want them to only like a pin, as it won’t make that pin appear on their followers’ feed.

Thirdly, I can’t contact the winners through Pinterest. There’s no way to email anyone of course. But there’s no DM (direct message) option as there is in Twitter, either. I tried to comment on their repins, but it wouldn’t let me. So I’m having to rely on the winners coming back to this website to see that they won, or see their names on Twitter.

Would I do it again? Well, it’s the difficulty with compiling a list of entries that puts me off running another competition through Pinterest. Searching through emails to find the repinners not listed under the pin is too time-consuming. Hopefully that will change in future, and I will be able to hold competitions for books. I hope so, because Pinterest does have a lot of potential for this sort of thing.

August Calendar – Ashaki Achati

It’s taken me a while to find usable reference photos for Achati. I’d always imagined Sachakans to be a broad and stocky people, a little like polynesians in appearance. Achati, however, is smaller and more refined than the average Sachakan. Scouring the internet, I eventually found one actor and a tourist shot to refer to for a general face shape. But for the clothing and body pose I searched for Mexican and Spanish costumes so I’d have a short jacket shape as a base (but, of course, removed the sombrero and decorations on the pants).

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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.

Win a Set of Bookmarks

As I said in my last post, I recently had a small initial run of bookmarks printed to give away at signings. Now, since I’m not going on tour this year, I thought I’d give readers a chance to own a set by holding a little competition. And as a little experiment and to reward my followers in Pinterest, I’m going to be running the competition over there.

I have three sets of bookmarks up for grabs. So, if you’d like a set of bookmarks and have signed up to Pinterest, choose which of the quotes you like best, click on it and it will take you to the pin of it. Repin the pin. Pinterest will send me an email notifying me of your repin. I’ll put those emails aside and next Tuesday, 10:00 am Melbourne time, I’ll pick a winner.

I have no idea if this will work, as I’ve not seen anyone running competitions on Pinterest before. I couldn’t see anything that said it was against the rules. So no promises that it won’t all fall in a heap. If that happens… well, let’s play it by ear. If it works, well, I might do the same sort of thing in the future but with books as prizes. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

(UPDATE: And the winners are… Kate Hackett, Paola Rq and Paul John. Please email me with your address!)

New Bookmarks

Last year I designed some badges to give away at my first Supanova and on the European Tour, and they were eagerly snapped up by fans. I also had some bookmarks made, but they weren’t so successful – something that I don’t think was completely due to the badges being more desirable. You see, the hard part of designing a single bookmark for myself is that it has to reflect several series of books, and in the end I opted for what was essentially a long business card with a list of my books on it. (And actually, the idea was I could fold them in half and they became business cards.)


Retrospect is a wonderful thing. I can now see that, when you trade in words, words might be what best publicises your books. I chose quotes for those badges that might appeal to people even if they hadn’t read the books. Maybe if they liked the quote, they might try the book. The fun part of giving them away was that the three quotes were equally popular, and I enjoy seeing whether someone will be a Thief, Magician or On a Quest badge person.


So I’ve taken the quote idea from the badges and designed bookmarks based on them. And added a fourth bookmark with a quote from the Black Magician Trilogy.

The new bookmarks

The new bookmarks will be a little extra bonus for anyone who comes to a signing. The old bookmarks? Well, they do make fantastic business cards, and I can still give them to people who want a list of the books I’ve written.

In the Mailbox 2: The Traitor Queen Giveaway

The other parcel to arrive recently was a box of The Traitor Queens. To celebrate I’m giving away a signed copy to a randomly selected commenter who correctly answers this question:

What is the vital difference between what can be done by the wearer of a blood ring, and the creator (as in, the person whose blood was used to make it)?

Comments close in 24 hours, at 10 am tomorrow morning in Melbourne, Australia. (Though if I get a lot of comments it may take me a while to select and announce the winner.)

(UPDATE) Comments now closed.
(UPDATE 2) Winner has been chosen. Congrats Maeve!

In the Mailbox: Mine to Yours

UPDATE – All books have found new homes. Thanks to everyone who commented. And sorry about the language/country mistake!

It’s been a while since I wrote an In the Mailbox post, mostly because nothing of note had arrived in a while. Then two things happened. First a batch of foreign language edition books arrived. Trouble is, I can’t remember which language it was in because then my agent had a clean out, giving me three boxes of foreign language editions she didn’t need, and they quickly became part of the general sorting out of what to keep. After I made sure I had one of everything I looked at the price of postage to the countries the book had come from, picked myself back up off the floor, and sent everything to charity. Well, except for these:

Set 1: The Dutch reissue of the Black Magician Trilogy.

Set 2: The Italian Black Magician Trilogy.

Set 3: The Spanish Black Magician Trilogy plus The Magician’s Apprentice.

All which I’m going to send to send to three lucky commenters.

Please take note:
One set of books per commenter. Please indicate which set/language you would like.

I will not separate sets of books. Posting books to the other side of the world from Australia costs almost as much as the book does, but the larger the parcel the more economical the postage is. If you want only some of the books, please give the rest to friends, family, the local library or a charity.

The first to leave a valid comment gets the set. Valid comments are ones expressing a wish to have the books, and an intention for them to go to someone who reads in the language (not that you wish one day to speak it, collect books, or think the cover is cool). I prefer to send books to people who will read them.

Bear in mind that while most of these books are in good condition, some arrived a little marked. It is a bit too much to expect books to travel halfway around the world and still be in perfect shape.

I will email you to get your address. If you do not reply in 3 days I will select the writer of the next valid comment.

I will sign and dedicate the books to whoever will receive them. I’ll leave some books undedicated if requested, but not all. If requested I’ll include a few signed bookplates as well, but only for the commenter who gets the books.

I’ll be sending them sea mail, so it’s going to take up to two months for them to arrive.

These three sets of books are all I have up for grabs so don’t ask me for another set or books in other languages.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.