Mole Hunt – a Book’s Journey

Paul Collins

Once upon a time authors just wrote and the publishers published. But times have changed, of course. It seems that marketing/promoting a book is now as time-consuming as it is to write.

Mole Hunt – Book #1 in The Maximus Black Files, started off as a very rough draft. Rather than polishing it, I wrote books two and three in rough draft, too. I did this because I knew important material in book one might need to be changed to accommodate the other two books as they evolved. I see no point in slogging over a manuscript that might need severe editing or changing due to new ideas materialising further down the track.

Once I had all three books at first draft stage, I started in on polishing Mole Hunt. A year down the track I had the final product – well, as final as the author can get it before an editor wants massive changes!

Mole Hunt’s road to publication was long and arduous. But I’m used to that. Just about every Australian publisher also knocked Dragonlinks and The Glasshouse back before they finally found a home. Both books are my best-sellers. Either publishers “get it wrong”, or maybe they’re full to capacity and can’t fit more titles into their schedule. Regardless, I find persistence is the best piece of advice I can ever give to writers starting out.

So about four years after its first submission, Mole Hunt came out on June 1. Time to resume the publicity trail. I say resume because review copies go out to magazines and newspapers two months before the release date. Some magazines require a longer lead-time. Bookseller + Publisher, for example, works about three months ahead. If you leave sending them a review book with less time than that, you’re likely to end up in the also rans.

I have an excel spreadsheet filled with bookseller, reviewer and other email addresses plus a file called “publicity chances”. Any time I see a popular blog or review site, I take note of the URL and it goes into a specific file.

I kick off again by approaching bloggers and asking them if they’d like a guest blog from me, or an interview. The latter are easiest and best, because you can address a blogger’s queries pertinent to their readership. Blogs are harder only in that it’s difficult to write something different about the same subject. You can’t simply send the same blog to a dozen bloggers.

With social media the way it is, it’s important to have a presence with both Facebook and Twitter. I always post URLs where mention of my latest book has appeared. It’s also important to have a website. You have to make it as easy as possible for people to both see and contact you.

Another piece of advice I give is for authors and illustrators to write articles about their work. Sean McMullen’s Before the Storm and Changing Yesterday, for example, are time-slip novels set in Melbourne during Federation. He wrote about his subject, drawing on both books of course, and now two magazines are promoting him and his books via the articles. It’s free publicity, and the editors of the magazines are happy to have articles on a subject that their readerships will enjoy. It’s a win-win situation.

Here’s a run down of the plot. I hope you enjoy the book if you get a chance to read it.

Special Agent Maximus Black excels at everything he attempts. The problem is, most of what he attempts is highly illegal. Recruited by the Regis Imperium Mentatis when he was just fifteen, he is the youngest cadet ever to become a RIM agent. Of course, being a certified sociopath helps. He rises quickly through the ranks, doing whatever it takes to gain promotion. This includes murdering the doctor who has certified him, as well as a RIM colonel who Black deems to be more useful dead than alive. Now seventeen, he is a valuable member of a highly secret task force whose assignment is to unearth a traitorous mole. Unfortunately for RIM he is the mole, a delightful irony that never ceases to amuse him.

In the two years he has been with RIM he has only met his match once. Anneke Longshadow, another RIM agent, who nearly succeeded in exposing him. But nearly wasn’t enough. Now she is dead and he is very much alive to pursue his criminal activities.

Right now, Black has a new problem; one that will challenge him to the max. He has a lot of work to do and little time to do it but as with every facet of his life, he plans each step with meticulous precision.

Maximus needs to find three sets of lost coordinates to rediscover the power of the dreadnoughts – a powerful armada of unbeatable power, long since put into mothballs by the sentinels whose job it is to keep peace and harmony in the ever expanding universe.

Sadly for Black, complications arise. It seems Anneke Longshadow isn’t dead after all. Every bit his match, Anneke eludes the traps Black sets for her. Born on Normansk, a planet with 1.9 gravity, Anneke is more than capable of defending herself against Black’s hired help, the insectoid Envoy, and his professional mercenary and hitman, Kilroy.

Power-hungry, Black usurps the throne of Quesada, a powerful crime syndicate. His ultimate aim is to replace the Galaxy gate-keepers, RIM, with his own organisation. Matching him step by step, Anneke collects as her allies all those who Maximus has deposed in his march to becoming ruler of the universe.

Mole Hunt is published by Ford Street Publishing.
RRP $19.95
Paul Collins
Melbourne June 2011

Paul Collins was born in England, raised in New Zealand and currently lives in Australia. He lives in a historic bluestone home built in 1851 with his partner, fellow author, Meredith Costain, and a menagerie of pets including a kelpie called Jack and Molly, a red heeler.His many books for young people include The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler and series such as The Jelindel Chronicles, The Earthborn Wars, The Quentaris Chronicles and The World of Grrym in collaboration with Danny Willis. His latest book is Mole Hunt, book one in The Maximus Black Files.

Paul has been the recipient of the A Bertram Chandler, Aurealis, William Atheling and Peter McNamara awards and has been shortlisted for many others including the Speech Pathology and Chronos awards.

Original interview with Paul Collins can be found here:

Ford Street Publishing

Wardragon (The Jelindel Chronicles, Book 4)Paul Collins is the author of over 100 books for children from picture books through to young adults. He’s probably best known for The Jelindel Chronicles and The Quentaris Chronicles.

He’s both publisher and author.  He’s been self-published, turned his hand to POD, and is now an indie publisher with his own company Ford Street Publishing: 

Ford Street is a successful small independent Australian of children’s books. They aim to publish picture books through to young adult fiction. Ford has a strong presence in the market place through INT Books and Macmillan. Authors and illustrators submitting their work are strongly advised to study the types of books Ford publishes.

What is your role within Ford Street?
Everything rolled into one! Commissioning editor, publisher, proofreader, publicist, warehouseman, printer liaison, administrative/reception person. You name it. I do freelance out some editing and all the design work, though!

What is your typical day like?
I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time promoting Ford Street’s books. Mostly via social media, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, contacting online booksellers, etc. In order, though, take the dogs out for a run, shower, read the paper, breakfast, by which time’s it’s 9:30am and then it’s on the computer and the day really starts as per the “most job” description.

Do you get many unsolicited enquires?
I get one or two a day. Everyone gets replied to. Some of our best titles came through the unsolicited pile.

Would you consider a children’s book from further afield such as America?
I only publish Australian authors. The reason for this is that they’re here to promote their books. Authors and illustrators can go on tour here and promote their books in municipal and school libraries, and this is where a lot of our sales come from. Take this market away and it really is a struggle to make ends meet. 

Are you a self-publisher? Do you charge any fees?

I’d certainly make a lot more money being a vanity press! But no, I don’t charge. I generally pay a $2000 advance against 10% royalties. 

What’s the difference between Ford Street Publishing and a vanity press?
There’s no comparison. Ford Street pays its authors and illustrators, vanity press charges them.

Do you advise/or edit authors novels prior to publishing?
That’s a must. There’s always room for improvement. I think most level-headed authors know that, and some even expect it.

How many do you turn away?
Put it this way, I receive 350+ manuscripts a year, and I can only publish eight of them.

Do you have busier months than others?
The beginning of the year is usually the busiest, because that’s when I have to get serious about publishing schedules. And some people, as we know, don’t adhere to deadlines. Think of any friend who is never on time, and you’ll know what I’m saying here!

How close do you work with writers?
Pretty close. I know most of them personally now.

How many authors do you have?

I’ve published about twenty authors and illustrators. About half of them are first timers, the other half have published before.

How many books have you written personally?
Must be over 130 books and more than 140 short stories. You’re still a novice if you can count them lol.

Are they all the same genre?
I’ve written both non-fiction and fiction. The latter across all genres, but mostly fantasy and science fiction. Non-fiction includes eight books on martial arts, extreme sports, Egypt, etc.

Any favourites?
The Jelindel Chronicles and The Quentaris Chronicles. I liked The Earthborn Wars, but they were published in the US, so most Australian readers wouldn’t know them.

Are they available on places like Amazon?

Quite a few are, although unless books are warehoused in the US, it’s hard to get them listed, unless of course it’s via POD or e-book on Kindle. On this note I have started uploading Ford Street’s books to Kindle. So far I have about seven titles. It’s a slow process because books have to be converted. Although amazon reports huge sales in their e-books, I suspect many of those are the best-sellers, not unknown authors. Interesting times ahead!

Any tips for aspiring writers?
Persistence is the key.

Explain a little about your latest book?

A question people often ask authors is “Are your characters based on people you know?” In this case, yes, Clara is based on a friend of mine. She’s one of those people who lives a charmed life. Everything comes easily to her.

She exists in her own perfect bubble where everything is beautiful and easy. Perhaps because of this, she misses out on some of the more interesting aspects of life. If you don’t take risks, your life will be easy, sure, but flat, with no ups and downs.

So I invented the character of Clara, and made her a gardener in a glasshouse – a perfect bubble where everything is perfectly controlled.

I find picture books hard to write. I’m more likely to be writing fantasy novels than picture books. And in all fantasy novels or movies (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, etc,) there’s a structure. Hero is reluctant to leave their cosy home, a mentor comes along and gives them a kick up the butt to get out there and get a life! So using the fantasy structure, I decided I needed a mentor to help out Clara on her own personal quest to a more interesting life, and to help her break free from her paranoia.

And so this is where the boy comes into The Glasshouse – to help guide our reluctant hero, Clara, or “free” her and help show her that life on the outside can be just as good, if not better, if you’re prepared to take a risk. Then I had to think of something for her to be growing in her glasshouse. Tomatoes were the obvious choice – it’s about the only thing I can grow at home! But last year two pumpins, a Kent and Queensland Blue, suddenly appeared. And I thought they’d be perfect for Clara to grow in her glasshouse. They’re bigger and rounder and just generally more interesting – think Cinderella and Halloween for kids.

Paul Collins
Ford Street Publishing Pty Ltd
2 Ford Street
Clifton Hill, Vic 3068