Category Archives: Telling Your Story

The Genesis of Busybird Publishing – the short story

The Genesis of Busybird Publishing, image by Les Zig

Many people ask me about why the business is called Busybird. I guess it was an organic genesis. Let me try to give you a short version …

When I was a child living in the bush, I spent a lot of time hiding under a blanket watching birds. My favourite bird was the cheeky Willie Wagtail flitting from branch to branch showing off his beautiful blue-black tail feathers in all their fanlike glory, and the little Superb Fairy-wren, so delicate and pretty.

This fascination was further encouraged when my stepfather went to Melbourne and came home with posters of bird species from the Royal Melbourne Zoo. My little brain would attempt to pronounce the Latin names without much success but I learned about what noises the Whipbird made or what region the Welcome Swallow lived in.

Fast forward to adulthood and I began to collect bird trinkets: earrings, necklaces, scarves, ornaments, even a bluebird tattoo. Friends and family started to give me gifts that featured birds. I’m not sure what this fascination is about. It may be that I am an air sign, or I love the idea of the freedom that wings might give me.

In 1998, when I was making handmade cards (using feathers as a design element), it seemed very natural to name a business ‘Busybird’. I wasn’t after the ideal of ‘being busy’ but more so the industriousness of my feathered friends.

In partnership with my husband Kev Howlett, we tackled design and photographic work. The digital landscape was changing rapidly during this time. We got one of the first ‘bubble’ Macs, I learned how to send an email and got my first mobile phone (a red Nokia, no querty keyboard). I still have the same mobile phone number today.

We were fortunate to get a contract with Ford Motor Company digitizing their catalogues and this kept us very busy for almost ten years. But like anything in technology, a company in Sri Lanka out priced us and we lost the contract. At the time were were devastated but it allowed me to go back to school to learn about publishing. I had intended to learn about writing in order to finish my novel but I fell in love with the publishing process.

In 2007, while studying my Diploma in Writing & Editing, I met Les Zigomanis. We immediately found that we worked well together and had similar views about the writing industry. We decided to publish a short story anthology called [untitled] with a couple of the other students.

This was a VERY steep learning summit. This experience made us realize how many mistakes you can make when you don’t have all the knowledge about self-publishing, in terms of time and money.

This experience also made me realize that this is where I wanted to be: bringing books to life. I love the whole process and I love being part of this journey with people. It really can be cathartic, life changing, satisfying, frustrating, fun and rewarding.

Ten years on (we changed the trading name to Busybird Publishing) and we’ve  (the whole Busybird team) now worked with over 200 people to bring their book out into the world, and countless others to improve their writing.

I like to think that we are like a midwife. We’ll hold your hand, wipe your brow and whisper words of encouragement. We’ll also be there when you hold that baby up to the light and bask in the wonder of what you have created because we feel as much pride in the outcome as the creator.

What a blessing to be able to help give something wings and release it out into the universe. Everyone deserves a chance to have their story told, to have a voice. It’ll have different resonance for different people but it’s the value of being able to tell it as much as it being accepted by a reader.

If you’ve been thinking about your story, why not attend my next Life Writing session THIS Saturday.

Blaise, the book chick

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Show me the money: getting paid in publishing

Make money from writing

You wrote a book. Congratulations! This is in itself a great achievement. If it’s worth publishing, then how much money will you make?

Traditional Publishing

You may have heard terms such as advances and royalties in relation to book publishing but have no idea how they relate to your book. To understand how the industry works, you first need to know where your book fits. If it’s published by a traditional publisher, you will have been offered a contract that stipulates how much advance (if any) you receive and what the ongoing royalty rate is. Usually an advance is payment of royalty ahead of book sales. This money will come off any future royalties.

Royalty is usually set at 7.5–10% of the recommended retail price for a print book and 20–50% for an ebook. Some publishers may set the royalty on the NET price of the book. This is the price that the book is sold to the bookstore. Bookstores receive 40% discount on the RRP.

Here are some figures, based on a book that sells for $30.

Scenario: 10% royalty on RRP of $30 = $3 per book to the author

Scenario: 7.5% royalty on RRP of $30 = $2.25 per book to the author

Scenario: 10% royalty on NET of $30 ($30 minus 40% = $18) = $1.80 per book to the author

Scenario: 20% royalty on RRP of $12.99 (ebook) = $2.60 per book to the author

If you sell 1000 books and your royalty is 10% on the recommended retail price of $30, you will receive $3000. If you received an advance of $5,000 when you signed your contract, those royalty payments will come out of the advance, meaning that there is still another $2000 of royalties before your ‘debt’ is paid. Bear in mind that if you never sell more books than what your advance is worth, you don’t owe any money back to the publisher (but check your contract!).


Technically, there are no royalties when you self-publish. But you could say that you get 100% royalty, after costs. These costs are something that need to be monitored very carefully in order for you to make a profit. That’s why you need to do your homework to determine the best way to self-publish that is going to give you a good return on investment.

What are these costs? Some are once off, such as the publication costs: editing, design and layout, proofing and imagery. Ongoing costs are printing and marketing and commissions to bookstores and distributors, if you use them. If you are thinking big and want your book in bookstores, think about the commissions that they get (40%) and distributors (30%).

Scenario: RRP $30. Bookstore gets $12, distributor gets $9. You are left with $9. Can you print your book and cover publication costs?

Scenario: RRP $30. Sell on website using Paypal (cost $1.20 in fees). You are left with $28.80.

Questions to ask yourself: do I need to be in bookstores? Do I need a distributor? How will I market the book to get into readers hands?

Assisted Publishing

This type of publishing is a grey area because technically you are going 50/50 in the project, then getting 50/50 in royalties. Unless the company you sign up with is very transparent about how they work and you can’t work out how much money you will actually get, please steer clear of them. You may never see a cent.

The publishing industry is changing rapidly. The ‘old’ model, where a writer was paid by royalty is no longer the only way and new models of this system are also being created. The best way to work out what is best for you and your writing long-term is to educate yourself on these different scenarios and look at opportunities in terms of where you are in your writing career. In other words, if you are being offered an advance of $10,000 but you think you’re worth $50,000, take your time to consider your options.

If you’d like to know more about publishing and marketing your book, why not check out the many workshops that we run at Busybird Publishing. The next Book Camp is on Saturday 12 August and will cover this content in greater detail.

Blaise the book chick

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