Asking the family for help

Sometimes help comes out of the blue. The digitizers had asked us to test the authorform and the new Help page one last time. Since Kitty and I had re-written the automated Authorform several times, and the Help page once, I knew we’d lost objectivity. I didn’t like to ask author colleagues, in case they tried our site and found it inscrutable and never came back, as happened in January or was it December, when 70 responding authors from the ASA tried to get on to our website and couldn’t. The perils of thinking you’ve finished! I met one , Sophie Masson, at last week’s Bendigo Festival. “I’m so sorry,” I said, shame-facedly. “Will you ever come back?” And she laughed said, “Oh, I just realized you weren’t there yet.” She added that this happens to lots of websites. “Everyone knows that.”


I’m still such a luddite, I hadn’t.


Then, I thought: our family of authors – I’ll ask the family. That’s what you do with families – you ask for help.


In a letter indeed headed Help!, I wrote off to them:

We are planning to go live on Wednesday afternoon- yes, tomorrow afternoon- and very much need a maximum of 20 minutes’ help from you. As I’ve already explained, we’ve spent months re-designing and testing and re-editing and re-testing and re-editing the automated authorform and new help button and a fledgling promotions page in the most exquisitely intense way, and now we need them tested by new eyes . MPS, who’s releasing it to us tomorrow, has asked us to give them results by Friday afternoon.  As you know, we are racing towards a launch. If you can help out, it’ll take somewhere between ten and twenty minutes of your precious time, and I know it is precious – at least 2 of you are going OS on the weekend, and others have marking and assignments due-  so that this is a big ask.

What we need done in this little window of time is for you to go to our site,( you well know it’s , go to the authorform, and pretend  (1)that you have a make-believe book that you need converted; or (2) that you already have had this book converted somewhere else and just want distributed (displayed for sale); (3) or that you just want a small change in your book, such as an imprint page added; (4)you just want to have your book promoted, or (5) that you want to check our Directory of Services. Put in the details of your make-believe book and see how the site works for you. Note any difficulties  or typos or confusing bits (don’t spare us). And send them to me by Friday arvo.

If you could reply to this email asap, I’ll  assign you to do at least one of the five tasks above

– more if you’re able to- so that all the functions are tested.

Many, many thanks – this would be impossible without you!

Sue and Kitty


Then – another disaster. MPS had given us a BETA testing site, deliberately unfindable by Google, and had given us a secret URL for it- including the word –“auther” instead of “author”. Of course I saw it immediately, I hasten to say, but I didn’t realize that “auther” was unintentional- I imagined it was just the sort of error that creeps in when the digitizers are dealing with a second language, and assumed that the real URL (not sure how to express that!)contained “auther”.


Oh what a mess! Six authors wrote back offering help, and for a week they couldn’t get on- and neither could I. Then when I mentioned the typo to MPS, they were horrified- yes, it was a mistake! – the URL used “author” and wrote another email, sending another URL but spelling our name as Wutheringik. I was wiser this time around, but by now 3 authors had flown overseas, and another was busy minding the 3 children of one of those authors, as well as struggling to live her normal life. I ended up with a family of 4, which is probably what always happens in families. Then a totally new person – an ex-student now published in the UK and short-listed for prizes there – an author who’s not yet even on the site, came to me and said those dear but foolish words, “How can I help?”


So I labored through a 100 hour week, this time exploiting Gordon because Kitty had lost heart, and exploiting the newcomer for a day- who made excellent suggestions I wouldn’t have thought of, including the notion that it soon may become prestigious to be published by wutheringink, in a company of pre-loved authors! What a dream- and I’d never thought of it!


To my relief, very few errors had crept into the automated authorform, because Kitty and I had crawled over and over it- although t’s always possible for entirely new errors to creep in in the digitizing! -,   but we’d never proofed the Help page, and it needed 16 pages of meticulous listing of each mistake and its correction. We also corrected the fledgling Promotions page- I think this is a wonderful innovation, which we dreamed up in an excited late-night discussion on Libby’s sofa long ago, wonderful because established authors feel that epublishing is like printing you

Teaching creativity at 2014 Bendigo Writers' Testival
Waiting for students to defocus their attention, at 2014 Bendigo Writers’ Festival

r books and putting them in your garage ! (Kate Grenville’s image). And slamming the door shut! But there’s so much promoting of books that a website like ours can do- once it’s noticed – and so much we authors can do for each other. Why aren’t all the epublishing sites doing it??? And we corrected our fledgling Directory of Services, another late-night sofa inspiration, where experts can list themselves, people epublishing authors need- editors, proof-readers, designers etc


I sent off the big document last Thursday, and got a line thanking me and agreeing to 99% of the edits. Last night I sent off another email asking for a time schedule of when it’d all be ready. As yet no reply.


But joy! At the Bendigo Fesitval on the 8th August, I met up with Alan Davidson, the great friend and publicist of Australian authors, and explained what we were doing, begging him to help make us known – and he said those wonderful words: “Sue, I’ve got to help you.” What a heart he’s got! He worked out a press release with Bem and I. But yesterday I had to write asking him when we should tell the world about all this– for in two weeks I go overseas for a month, just as the others are returning. Should we launch while I’m away – or should we wait till mid-October?


It seems that websites, at least in the getting up of them, at least this one , involves enormous work, and then enormous waiting.

Oh- there are the emails I wrote, suspended, lifeless, in my Outbox!

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