I had the pleasure today to attend the book launch of ‘The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf’ by Ambelin Kwaymullina. Described as a ‘pyschothriller set in a dystopian future’, it has a lot of levels within the narrative that, while aimed at teen aged readers, will resonate with readers of all ages. Ambelin is an attractive, intelligent and well-educated woman who ‘got lucky’ and had the book accepted by her publisher, Walker Books, with a sample first chapter and a synopsis. They were the first publishers she approached so some might say she is the exception that proves the rule you need to send out dozens of query letters to agents and be ready for rejection after rejection.
The thing is, Ambelin wrote a book for a specific readership and then approached a publisher that specialises in that market. Just as importantly, she wrote a great book with a super premise and wrote it well. All her ducks were lined up in a row, something most authors fail to do, then blame the publishing industry and the market and the government and everyone else but themselves.
The launch was a friendly, casual affair but none the less professional and well supported by the publisher with the General Manager and three or four of the key people in sales and marketing there to help out. The level of support given to this book was on show with several high quality printed pieces and other bumf. This is continued on the web site with a YouTube clip and other supporting media. While they wouldn’t say how large the print run is, I was assured it is significant, probably over 10,000 copies and that is a lot for an Australian book and more so for a first novel in YA, or Young Adult.
All in all, the launch confirmed my belief that the secret in selling books is to have a good book that has a market and then getting a publisher who will get behind the author. The author then has to get with the program and put in the hard yards and time and effort, just as Ambelin was doing at this launch. She also does seminars and workshops for young writers and uses her book as a teaching tool.
One thing that struck a chord with me was an anecdote Ambelin related bout her grandfather. He said a white farmer once painted a whitewash circle around his homestead and a whitewash circle around the camp of the local indigenous people and said you stay in your circle and I’ll stay in mine. This old gent said how he should have made the circles bigger so there was a place where the two interlocked; a place where black and white could both sit and talk about things, understand each other better. ‘The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf’ has a lot to say about some major issues. There are several themes running through this novel that educates as well as entertains, thrills and involves the reader. It is fast paced, Ambelin cut some 25,000 words at the suggestion of her editor to keep that pacing throughout the story. It is a story of a very strong, determined girl set in a future that has parallels with our own Australian past and even our present and immediate future. It isn’t available as an eBook but you can download a sample chapter and get a nice taste of something worth finishing. Great work Ambelin and well done Walker Books.