Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Crazy Profession, Part 2

OK, and on with the story ... and then we can really get stuck into puzzles and words and stuff.

Over the years (1990s and on) I kept working on puzzles on and off, but I was also running a graphic design business and homeschooling my kids, and wasn't doing puzzles that seriously. In 1997, when I was a web developer for the Australian Science Archives Project, I managed to sneak in a collection of puzzles, so clearly they were always something I was thinking about!

Finally, I had the opportunity to write a puzzle book about animals for the RSPCA. The Amazing Animal Puzzle Book came out in 2002.

I was ready for a change in the business, and decided to give puzzles a proper try. I did some cold calling (yuck!) and actually landed a job writing a book for the Royal Flying Doctor Service in 2003 — I specialise in 'themed' puzzles, puzzles written on a particular topic, so for this book the entire book was about the RFDS, and was printed in large quantities and given to school children throughout Melbourne to educate them about the history and activities of the RFDS. It was also sold through its Visitors' Centres around the country.

After this followed a similar book for the Alice Springs School of the Air (which featured drawings and stories from the students themselves) in 2004. In the same year I won an ACT Heritage Grant to research, write and publish The Canberra Puzzle Book, which covers the history of the Canberra region from pre-white settlement to the modern day. As a part of the grant, a free copy was given to every Year student in government schools in Canberra. And I delivered them to the 60 primary schools single-handed, that job alone took weeks! Madness, LOL ...

I even got my one and only book launch, which was great fun! It was held at the historic St John's Schoolhouse Museum.

The Canberra Puzzle Book has been very successful, and is still in print, in its third printing. I followed it up with a self-funded Junior Canberra Puzzle Book for little kids, in 2006. I print both of these books in-house as blackline masters for teachers, and they continue to sell.

In 2006 I decided that I needed to get out self-published puzzle books (which are very expensive to publish, if you can't find a paying client!), and approached various puzzle writers and publishers around Australia to see if they could offer me any sub-contracting work. Not that surprisingly, no-one could, but  Greg Parker in Brisbane (of Puzzle Wizard fame) needed a graphic designer to do his magazine covers for him! I still design his World of Crosswords and Crossword Magic covers to this day, and designed his web site.

Greg is my only puzzle-writing colleague, and a great friend. We have met in person several times, and it's so excellent being able to 'talk shop' — a real rarity for us both! Greg told me about his syndicator, Auspac Media, and with his encouragement I put together some sample puzzles and approached them. Happily they took me on, and I have been with them since 2006. (I'll explain what syndication is in another post.)

In 2007 I got a big break — Wiley USA contacted me to ask if I would like to be a technical editor for one of their puzzle book titles (Brain Games For Dummies). They had found me via my web site! The technical editor's job, in this instance, was to test every puzzle in the book for accuracy and difficulty level, and check over the text as well.

The work isn't well-paid — a flat fee for a lot of work — but I figured it was a 'paid' job interview! And sure enough, after doing this job, I was offered two books of my own, Word Searches For Dummies (2009) and Cracking Codes & Cryptograms For Dummies (2009) (more on these in future posts). I've also been technical editor on two more Dummies titles, Spanish Word Games For Dummies (no, I don't speak Spanish, there was a second technical editor who checked the language stuff!) in 2009 and Easy Crosswords For Seniors For Dummies in 2010 — all for Wiley USA. I've not had any Wiley book launches in Australia, as both my books have been published in America.

Since then I've been chugging along with my syndicated puzzles, but no other book opportunities have arisen. But there are a few possibilities in the wings ... fingers crossed!

I'll write about the process of writing puzzles more in the future, but this is the "career" path I've taken so far. Puzzle writing isn't a well-paid career, not by a long shot, and I have to do other things as well to cover my business costs, but I do love my work!

1 comment:

  1. It's not a career with a clear path is it. I am glad you can find enough other things to allow you to write your puzzle books, Sixty schools?? You need a medal!!


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