In part 2 of my interview with Tim Harris, I ask him about his move to traditional publishing and how he goes about promoting his books – what he has to say is remarkable! Catch up on part 1 here.
So Tim, having had great success self-publishing Exploding Endings, what made you then consider traditional publishing?
I knew there would be some sort of limit in what I could achieve on my own. I had heard stories of self-published books going gangbusters (eg. ‘Wool’ by Hugh Howie) but I had to be realistic. I knew that finding a traditional publisher would open up distribution avenues I couldn’t source on my own. I also hoped it might allow me access to an agent to help with school bookings. Once I knew I wanted writing to become a career, it made sense to seek traditional publishing.
How did you go about selecting Harbour Publishing House? Was that a targeted approach or did you send to many slush piles?
Prior to Harbour Publishing House, I had only submitted to one other publisher – Penguin Random House, who are now ironically my other publisher. Harbour was an up-and-coming publisher with a well-presented website. I had a good look through what they did and it seemed a natural fit – they are also based on the south coast where my dad and step-mum live. I found them on Facebook by chance, then stayed up late that same night making a submission. It felt very inspired at the time, and I was thrilled to bits when they called to discuss a contract.
You have a new series out with Penguin Random House – what can you tell us about this? How did this contract come about?
Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables is the new series with Penguin Random House. At this stage there will be at least three books, with the first being released in September this year (2017). I’m very fortunate to have a few incredibly supportive advocates in influential positions. Word got through to Penguin Random House that Exploding Endings was doing quite well. I had a whole bunch of story ideas and we discussed the possibility of turning these ideas into a character-based series. I then pitched the idea of having the stories based on one class of students and their quirky teacher, Mr Bambuckle.
You have also had experience in the music industry – has that helped your writing/presenting/marketing in any way, do you think?
I think it certainly made me feel more comfortable on social media. I had managed a few band pages and my own artist page on Facebook, so it was familiar territory. My school presentations are essentially a performance, just like concerts were as a musician. Each performance requires a certain level of energy and enthusiasm to be injected into it. I think I probably understand my audience (for books) a lot more than I did for music. My goal is to never leave anything behind with a school presentation – a lot of preparation and energy goes into each one.
I love your unique blog ‘If a book were a song.’ How did you come up with this idea?
This was a great way to combine my two loves – music and books. I actually can’t remember how the idea came about. I have this feeling I was listening to a song that reminded me of a book… but I can’t be sure. The series is only six reviews old, and I’m looking forward to adding many, many more to it over time.
What have been the most encouraging moments in the path to publication?
Most definitely reader responses. The most encouraging moments have been when a parent or teacher has told me that the books have been enjoyed by children. This is especially pleasing if the student is a reluctant reader. Encouragement can also come from other writer friends and my ever-supportive family. My wife has backed me to take the plunge and it makes a world of difference.
What has been discouraging and how have you dealt with those times?
I was discouraged by major editing suggestions early on. I actually love the editing process now, and really enjoy learning ways to improve my work. The way I dealt with it early was to remind myself that every writer goes through the same process. Bad reviews can be discouraging if you allow them. I read them with a thick skin – after all, everyone has different tastes.
What do you do to promote your books?
School visits are the best form of promotion. I put a lot of thought and time into my presentations and aim to make each one the best possible experience for the students in attendance. I think if I do this, then the books end up promoting themselves. I also do a bit on Instagram and Facebook (not so much Twitter) to get word out there. There is an amazing publicity team at Penguin Random House and we have lots going on at the moment with Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables – newspaper interviews, bookstore signings, competitions, videos, the potential of a television spot, and so forth.
How are you linked in with the writing community now?
I interact regularly with other writers on social media. I’m still very much learning who is who, but am beginning to bump into familiar faces at events which is nice. Facebook pages such as Just Write for Kids are an excellent way to join discussions. I’m also a member of the CBCA Northern Sydney branch and plan to attend some of the events they put on.
What are three pieces of advice you would give to writers who are yet unpublished?
Persevere/write. I’ll lump these together as it’s very easy to let the words stop.
Read. Very basic advice, but study the genre you want to write in, as well as read widely where possible.
Have fun. Each of us have these lovely little stories and ideas we want to get down. Celebrate in the fact that you have the ability to share in your own unique way.
Thanks for sharing your tips and experience with us, Tim!
You can find Tim on his website here.
And you can find me on mine here.