Sophie Masson is the award-winning author of more than 50 novels for children, young adults and adults, published in Australia and many other countries.
Her essays, articles and reviews have also appeared frequently in print and online, in many different outlets, and she blogs regularly.
For many years, Sophie has used the internet and digital media as part of her creative work. Her Isabelle Merlin novels, for instance, all feature an interactive internet element, which she created herself — the blog of a main character, a website on dreams, a band page and You Tube channel, clips made by another main character, and even social media pages on Facebook and Bebo for characters in her books. Her pioneering work in hybridising print and e-elements was highlighted in a Literature Board report on writers using new media forms. Sophie also makes simple book trailers for her You Tube channel, and is a regular user of social media networks.
Sophie Masson chats writing:
1. How long have you been involved in the creative industries, and how did you become a professional writer?
I have been involved in the creative industries for thirty years, starting out with publishing poems, reviews and stories in magazines and newspapers, and working later in journalism to support the writing of my novels. I knew nobody in publishing — I just kept sending things out, and when they were rejected, sent them out to another market.
I started accumulating a good track record, and finally my hopes were fulfilled — My first two novels — one for adults, one for children — were published within a couple of months of each other, in 1990. For a while after that, I had to continue supplementing my writing income with journalism, university tutoring and marking, writing brochures etc — but I’ve been a full time writer now for more than 15 years and derive nearly all my income from it, the rest coming from speaking engagements in schools and at festivals etc.
2. Do people offer you work, or do you have to chase it down yourself?
Both, really; I pitch to publishers (through my agent) but sometimes publishers will pitch to me. I’ve been invited to present stories for anthologies and even to submit ideas for a book in a series. With speaking engagements, I get approached by schools, festival organisers (through my publishers) etc.
3. Have you ever worked on a self-publishing project? What was the experience like – any traps or unexpected perks?
Yes, I have experimented with self-publishing, releasing the e-book collections The Great Deep and Other Tales of the Uncanny, and By the Book: Tips of the Trade for Writers, through my micro-publishing venture, Sixteen Press. With two illustrator friends, I’m also setting up a specialist picture book publisher called Christmas Press, we’re planning to release our first book later this year — this will be a print book, not an e-book and we’re shortly going to start a crowdfunding campaign for it. The experience with Sixteen Press e-books has been good — in terms of the fun I’ve had and the ease of doing it — but it sure isn’t going to make me rich! Despite lots of publicity I did online, the sales have been small — a good deal better with By the Book than The Great Deep, but still small. I didn’t expect big things from it though so it doesn’t worry me — and it cost me very little to set up. With Christmas Press, it’s different — very early days yet, we’ll see — but it’s fun having other people to work with.
4. How do you negotiate fees while freelancing for somebody?
With speaking engagements, I look at ASA rates generally. Very useful to have those! For book contracts, those are negotiated by my agent.
5. What single piece of advice did you wish you’d known when you were starting out in the industry?
Don’t waste your time worrying about a/reviews; b/awards. Aim for longevity, not celebrity.