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Turning a new page as authors go with the stream for launches


When social restrictions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of many local authors’ book launches, members of Australia’s literary community did what they do best and got creative.

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Over the past few weeks, Oz Authors Online, a grassroots, community-led digital platform for book launches and events, has quickly established itself as a space for writers of young adult publications to connect with literary community.

Alice Boer-Endacott, who has just released Dark Heart – the final book in her Legends of the Godkissed Continent trilogy – under her pen name A B Endacott, is one of the Oz Authors Online’s founding members, along with fellow writers Wai Chim, Dr Anna Whateley, Danielle Binks, Shivaun Plozza, and Jin Wang, and said the platform had hosted several successful online streaming events since its inception.

“It’s a replacement for book launches that were unfortunately cancelled but I also think it’s a very intimate space that allows discussion to take place in a way that I’m not sure otherwise does at a normal in-person community event,” Boer-Endacott said.

“So, if you were to look at, say, a panel at one of the writers’ festivals, they have a Q&A at the end, and that’s great, but what I’ve really noticed is how much engagement we get during the live event on the YouTube comments, the live comments stream.

“People have been a bit more intimate, I mean, you’re in a room by yourself to all intents and purposes, both are in your home. So, you probably are going to show a little bit more of yourself, as opposed to like a perfectly polished ‘author face’ that you put on.”

Brisbane author Whateley took part in an in-conversation event with ABC radio host Rhianna Patrick on the platform to launch her debut young-adult novel, Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal, on Friday.

Whatley said she considered herself “one of the lucky ones” because publication of her book had not been postponed.

“Luckily, Allen and Unwin made the decision to go ahead with the publication, even though we can’t do any in-person launch events,” she said.

Whateley’s novel is set in Redland City, southeast of Brisbane, and she said she shares many of the titular character’s traits.

“The diagnosis of my main character, Peta is neurodivergent – she has ADHD, she’s autistic and has sensory processing disorder,” Whateley said.

“She’s 16, she follows all the social rules and gets everything right, until she falls in love with the new girl, goes on the school ski trip and everything falls apart. She has to decide which rules to follow and which ones to break.”

Despite the fact many people have been using their time in social isolation to catch up on reading, Boer said the social restrictions had had a big impact on independent booksellers.

“A lot of independent bookstores are struggling because people go online to buy their books, and that is at the expense of bookstores,” she said.

“When I go into a bookstore I’m browsing, so even if I’m going for one thing, your eye gets caught on the shelf  and you go ‘oh, this is a cool book’, so the likelihood of you walking out with three books, as opposed to only the one that you initially wanted is a lot higher. So, that’s a big concern at the moment- directing traffic to specific bookstores.”

Anna Boer-Endacott

Whateley said the Oz Authors Online had “provided a really encouraging, safe space” for herself, fellow authors and booklovers at a time when social restrictions had eliminated the ability to host in-person events.

“With everything that has happened, it’s like having a little rock underneath you, so you feel a bit more stable as you go through the launching process.

“I’m really lucky to have had the other members of Oz Authors Online behind me, and it’s been really lovely to support other authors as they release their books because we’re all in this together and it’s always good when you feel you’re giving back and contributing in some way.”

Because the target audience is young adults, Whateley said she was also pleased Oz Authors Online had been able to simplify the process with a user-friendly stream instead 0f relying on Zoom and online ticketing.

“The thing that we’ve managed with our way website is that it goes live via YouTube,” she said. “We do write for young adults, and I don’t think there are many young adults, and it’s all very civilised much more likely to tune in to a YouTube stream.

“It’s really easy, it’s free, and it’s super fun because there’s a chat down the side and there are always prizes to win, and often a recognisable face or two, with the author or the person holding the interview.”

Brisbane author Kay Kerr will be launching her new teen novel, Please Don’t Hug Me, on Thursday, and Nicole Hayes and Adrian Beck will launch their AFL-inspired children’s fiction title, Little Legends: Ozzy Rules, next week.

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