Open Access: Selling Your Book in the Digital Age

This year Open Access took place on Saturday 6 September, 10am-4pm.

The full 2014 Open Access program is listed below, but speakers included author and twitter queen Anita Heiss, digital expert Anna Maguire, and authors Darrell Pitt, Dionne Lister, Summer Land, and Bruce McCabe, as well as Alice Grundy, Managing Editor at Giramondo Publishing and Cate Blake, Managing Editor at Penguin Books Australia.

A one day symposium focusing on how writers promote themselves and their work in the constantly changing world of publishing.

For writers and publishers, the challenge is always how to get a book into the hands of readers. Whether you self-publish or go with a mainstream publisher, whether it’s an ebook, print or both, the challenge of promoting yourself and launching your book into the world remains.

Open Access brings together authors, publishers, a bookseller, digital expert, and industry professionals to talk about how they do this – their hits and their misses.

Click here to read what speakers and audience members had to say about this exciting day last year, and subscribe to Newsbite through our homepage to hear about future events.


10.00 – 11.00
Don’t Get Left on the Shelf

Whether you have published your book digitally or in hardcopy you want to make sure it gets into the hands of readers and doesn’t remain on the shelf. Digital expert Anna Maguire, with bookseller Megan O’Brien from Potts Point Bookshop take you through what you can do to improve your sales.

11.00 – 12.00
Finding Your Audience, Creating Communities

Promoting your book is no longer confined to a discreet publicity campaign and author tour. It can be a 24/7 proposition and start well before your book is even published. A panel of authors speak about where you find your readers and how you build an audience. Anita Heiss (Tiddas), Dianne Blacklock (The Best Man), Elisabeth Storrs (The Wedding Shroud), and Dionne Lister (Circle of Talia series)

12.00 – 12.45 Lunch

12.45 – 1.45
How Did You Sell That Book? Publicity Campaign Case Studies
Robert Watkins
, Commissioning Editor at Hachette takes us through the very successful campaign created to promote Foreign Soil, the debut short story collection by Maxine Beneba Clarke.
Darrell Pitt
is a digital self-published YA author who was consistently selling over a 1000 books a month before recently being offered an eight book deal by Text Publishing.  He takes us through what he learnt about connecting with the right audiences for his books.

1.45 – 2.45
Bringing Books & Readers Closer Together

How do publishers identify the target audience for a book and what do they do to make sure books and readers find each other? Using specific examples Cate Blake (Penguin Books Australia), Alice Grundy (Giramondo), and Adam van Rooijen (Harlequin) with Lex Hirst (Random House & NYWF Co-director) discuss what goes into marketing a book.

2.45 – 3.00 Break

3.00 – 4.00
The Author as PR Machine

These days promoting your book is very much part of the author’s role, whether self-published or by a small or large publisher. A panel of authors discuss how they have gone about promoting their books either working alone, with a publisher or publicist. Featuring Summer Land (Summerlandish), Bruce McCabe (Skinjob), Chris Allen (Defender) and Johanna Baker-Dowdell (Baby & Business on Board).

About the Speakers

Chris Allen began his career as a soldier and was commissioned as an officer. He served with the Royal Australian Regiment, qualified as a paratrooper in Australia, England and France, undertook attachments to the Officer Cadet School of New Zealand and the British Parachute Regiment and deployed to South East Asia, Africa and Central America.

He was engaged in humanitarian aid work for CARE International during the 1999 East Timor emergency and in the wake of September 11, 2001 became involved in Australian government protective security. Chris provided top-level advice to Commonwealth agencies and diplomatic residences as a member of the Australian Federal Police Protective Service, and led the Counter Terrorist First Response Force at Sydney Airport in 2002.

After being headhunted to oversee an unprecedented security upgrade of Australia’s iconic landmark the Sydney Opera House, he later held the position of Sheriff of New South Wales, one of Australia’s most historic appointments, from 2008 until 2012.

Chris’s first novel in the Intrepid series, Defender, was self-published before being re-released by Momentum Books with his second novel, Hunter, at the end of 2012. Both novels rocketed to the top of the charts on iTunes and Amazon with Hunter becoming a bestseller and there is a US film / TV franchise in development based on his novels. His third title in the series, Avenger will be published next.

Dianne Blacklock’s first attempt at a novel was picked up from the slush pile at Pan Macmillan in the year 2000, and so began her career as a writer. Since then, she has penned nine novels of contemporary fiction, published both here and overseas: Call Waiting, Wife for Hire, Almost Perfect, False Advertising, Crossing Paths, Three’s a Crowd, The Right Time, The Secret Ingredient, and her latest, The Best Man, released in September 2013.

Dianne lays claim to having the most loyal fans in Australia, who have voted her in to Booktopia’s favourite authors list two years running.


Dr Anita Heiss is one of Australia’s most popular authors. Anita’s most recent non-fiction book Am I Black Enough For You? won the 2012 Victorian Premier’s Indigenous Literature Prize and was a finalist in the Human Rights Awards (non-fiction). Anita was also a finalist in the 2013 Australian of the Year Awards.

Anita’s novels Not Meeting Mr Right, Manhattan Dreaming and Paris Dreaming all won Deadly Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Literature. Her novel Who Am I? the diary of Mary Talence, Sydney 1937 has been translated into French, Spanish, Mandarin and Farsi.

Anita has been listed as one of the Top 20 Women Shaking Things Up on Twitter!

Anita is a proud member of the Wiradjuri nation of central NSW and her latest novel is Tiddas.

Summer Land is a blogger and author of Summerlandish: Do As I Say, Not As I Did. She is a contributor for, Quarter Life Conversations and Ladybits on VICE. She currently lives with her husband, Paul, daughter, Daisy, and dog, Cooper, in Mudgee where she is hard at work on her next book (and her wine consumption). For all things #summerlandish follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and

Darrell Pitt is the author of the Jack Mason adventures. He caught the ebook self-publishing wave in 2011, releasing several books through Amazon and Smashwords. In 2013, he wrote one of Canadian website Wattpad’s most read adventure stories – Diary of a Teenage Superhero, garnering more than 50,000 readers. This success led to an eight book publishing deal with Text Publishing. His first book from Text is The Firebird Mystery with the sequel due out in July.

Alice Grundy is co-founder and editor in chief of Seizure, a launchpad for Australian writing, and managing editor at Giramondo Publishing. She has presented at festivals and conferences in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Kolkata and written for local and international publications including In Other Words, Australian Bookseller+Publisher and The Sydney Review of Books.

Bruce McCabe was born in 1969 and lived in Kenya, Fiji and Japan before returning to Australia, where he graduated in science from the University of Sydney. He worked for a variety of tech firms before making his name as an international expert on human factors in technology adoption and innovation. Along the way he published several hundred magazine, journal and newspaper articles, became a provocative weekly columnist in The Australian and earned a PhD in computer science. He travels widely as a public speaker and advisor to businesses, governments and science labs, writes constantly, and lives in Sydney with his wife, two children and a Staffordshire bull terrier named Suzi. Skinjob is his first novel.

Cate Blake is the Managing Editor of the General Publishing department at Penguin Books Australia.

Dionne Lister is a Sydneysider who has loved writing from a young age. She’s recently completed an Associate degree of Creative Writing and released the final book in her YA fantasy trilogy. Dionne has been self published since 2012 and is an advocate for professional self publishing while also working as a copywriter and editor.

Anna Maguire has worked in publishing and digital content for 25 years. Anna is author of Crowdfund it! published by Editia Books. Anna has spoken about crowdfunding at conferences and runs workshops on crowdfunding for writing projects. Anna also teaches publishing students and runs workshops for authors about digital strategy and publishing.

Megan O’Brien has been a bookseller for over 15 years and has worked in bookshops all over the East Coast of Australia, including managing the iconic Shearer’s Bookshop in Leichhardt.  She now works at Potts Point Bookshop where she is a bookseller, buyer and events manager.

Elisabeth Storrs is an ‘hybrid’ author who has experienced the traditional publishing route in Australia, and gained a readership in the historical fiction community overseas through self-publishing her Tales of Ancient Rome series. This has led her to securing an US publishing contract. She is an advocate for the international Alliance of Independent Authors, and a director of the Historical Novel Society Australasia and the NSW Writers’ Centre.

Robert Watkins is commissioning editor for adult fiction and non-fiction at Hachette Australia, and has been working in the Australian book industry for 18 years. Throughout his career he’s worked across sales, marketing and publicity – which has given him a wide perspective on what books have big commercial appeal. He’s primarily interested in publishing non-fiction with a leaning towards young, contemporary voices – but is also a big fan of contemporary fiction with a real Australian edge.

Adam Van Rooijen literally googled his way into book publishing when on a working visa in London in 2009. He typed in “random house job” and two weeks later he was working in the digital marketing team of Random House divisions Transworld and RHCP. He worked on campaigns for Dan Brown, Bill Bryson and Lauren Kate. He returned to Sydney in 2011 and has been working at Harlequin on growing their digital presence for Mills & Boon, commercial fiction and teen and digital-first programs.

Lex Hirst is one of the co-directors of the National Young Writers’ Festival and an editor at Random House Australia, where she currently specialises in digital-first romance books. She is also runs Factory Talks at the Sydney Story Factory, does occasional interviews for Final Draft, the book show on 2SER, and generally reads as much as she can. She blogs at Follow her on Twitter: @LexHirst.

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