Wild Side Publishing: Big Success in Little Ruawai

Wild Side Publishing has amassed a catalogue of over forty titles – pretty impressive for a publisher run out of Ruawai while Auckland and Wellington book companies are struggling. 

Specialising in e-books and NZ Christian genre titles, Wild Side Publishing is operated by Ray and Janet Curle. Janet – under her Janet Balcombe name – did well with The Wild Side when it was released in 2016 and became a finalist in the Ashton Wylie book awards. 

Ray Curle with Janet
Ray and Janet Curle

Janet’s story revolves around conquering “a feral meth addiction” in another life, which included kidnapping.
Janet says she didn’t know she was a writer until 2014 when what was then entitled Take a Walk on the Wild Side was published.

Janet also headed the 2017 collection Radical Lives Vol 1, a collection of true stories, with Vol 2 soon to be released. 

Check out Wild Side’s impressive catalogue here. 

Get in touch with Janet –  janet@thewildside.net .

radical-lives-vol-i Janet Balcombe the wild side

Whangarei Author’s Witch of Wyckham Series

Kaitaia-born author Kate Hargis has released the first two books in the Witch of Wyckham series.

Kate, who now lives in Whangarei with her husband and their three sons, says she was always an avid reader. “I dabbled with writing in the past, but had never polished anything enough to consider publishing.  That was until the start of 2016 when I suddenly found myself in front of my laptop with an insistent heroine inside my mind, begging for her story to be told.”

Fast-forward two years and three manuscripts later, with a half-finished fourth also in the pipe-line, and we find Kate, too impatient to go through traditional publishing routes, instead deciding to self-publish the first two books in the series through Kindle Direct Publishing.

‘Awakening Ivy’ is the first book in the Witch of Wyckham series, followed by ‘Entangling Ivy’.  Book 3 will be out later in 2018, with book 4 scheduled to follow in 2019.

The series follows Ivy, a young, small-town witch who, just discovering her powers, is forced to learn quickly when suddenly thrust into the middle of a supernatural investigation.  She meets the Lazarus brothers, Rangers who sacrifice their lives to keep the general populace safe from things-that-go-bump-in-the-night and need a witch on their side.  One that knows what she’s doing!

Uncovering a danger close to home, along with discovering that one of the brothers has a dark secret, Ivy realises she needs to get good at this witchy stuff before it’s too late!  Tragically left with no-one to learn from, she’s forced to make a deal for knowledge that could mean binding herself to an unknown devil.  “But better the devil you know, right?”

Entangling IvyAwakening Ivy


Northland Writers In Flash Fiction Finals

Northland Writers In Flash Fiction Finals

Michael Botur


Northlanders achieved highly in this year’s National Flash Fiction Day competition, which celebrates one of the shortest forms of creative writing.

13 year old Jana Heise, who was raised in Whangarei, won the NFFD Youth Award on June 22. Her story was then performed, with those of other Northland and national finalists, at a workshop and open mic event on June 24 in Kawakawa put on by Bay of Islands resident Kathy Derrick, who is a National Flash Fiction Day Committee city chair.

Former Whangarei writer Lola Elvy was in the youth top ten shortlist and Michael Botur was longlisted three times. Lola’s mother Michelle Elvy, who lived in Opua and Whangarei from 2008 to 2014, contributes much to flash fiction, as one of the editors of the Bonsai anthology, which will be published in August by Canterbury University Press. That collection includes at least six Northland flash fiction writers.

Flash fiction is a form of storytelling with a strict 300 word limit. National Flash Fiction Day is celebrated each year on the shortest day. This year’s competition attracted around 500 entries.

Northland has just three percent of the country’s population but achieves disproportionately well at flash fiction. Flash fiction took off nationwide after Ms Elvy and friends published the first edition of Flash Frontier magazine in 2012. Highest-placed Northland writer and top ten NFFD finalist Vivian Thonger of Kerikeri said when she arrived four years ago, the region was “a flash-fiction writing hotspot where people at all levels of experience could learn and hone their short-form writing skills.”

Thonger said flash fiction can be addictive. “It doesn’t take long to write a piece, yet it’s a delicate game trying to fit meaning and tension into 300 words or fewer. It’s a kick getting published, and it feels less painful when you’re rejected; you bounce back and try again quickly, or have several pieces on the go at once.”

“Many of us have a collection of vignettes, of unforgettable moments, stuck in our heads; flash is a way to bring those snippets to life as a feeling evoked, or a brief encounter leaping off the page, real or imagined, like a frisson of truth or recognition passing between you and the reader.”

Other organisers of the Kawakawa event included Whangarei author Martin Porter, a National Flash Fiction Competition Committee member. Kathy Derrick is also judging the Whangarei Libraries Flash Fiction competition 2018, which is having its prizegiving on June 27.

Vivian Thonger’s Bay of Islands Writers Group is looking for more members. Contact vthonger@gmail.com to join.

Flash Fiction Finalists Gather at Kawakawa

Workshop and reading celebrate the shortest fiction form

National Flash Fiction Day has been celebrated at King’s Theatre Creative in Kawakawa with a meeting of the NZ Society of Authors Northland branch followed by a flash fiction writing workshop and readings of flash fiction.

The work of National Flash Fiction Day competition finalists Vivian Thonger, Jana Heise, Lola Elvy and Michael Botur was read, and there were contributions from flash organisers, tutors and flash fiction competition judges Jac Jenkins, Kathy Derrick and Martin Porter.

Vivian Thonger was this year’s highest-placed Northland entrant and received an NZSA Northland branch award. The Youth category of NFFD was won by former Whangarei resident Jana Heise. On the long and short lists also were Lola Elvy and Michael Botur.

Members of the Bay of Islands Writers Group were present at the Kawakawa event. Please contact vthonger@gmail.com if you’re interested in joining the BOI group.

Thanks to those who read their flash fiction at Kawakawa on Sunday June 24, including Piet Nieuwland, Lisa Young, Kim Martins, Angela Shaw, Ashleigh Butler and Tracie Lark.

Northland Writing News – June Updates

  1. Michael Botur is delivering a four hour fiction writing workshop at Whangarei Central Library on June 30.
  2. NZSA Northland Branch’s short story competition is still open
  3. Flash Fiction Day Celebrations and Writing Workshop – Kawakawa, June 24
  4. Flash Fiction Afternoon Club at Whangarei Central Library – July 3
  5. Only one more day to enter the Far North Poetry Competition!!
  6. Thursday 21 June, 5pm: Poets at ONEONESIX, 116 Bank Street, Whangarei

Ever heard of Kaitaia poet Miriam Barr? Miriam is a much-published poet who for years ran The Literatti performance poetry group in Auckland.

Check out her website here. https://www.miriambarr.com/events

Fiction Writing Workshop – From Inspiration To Publication


At Whangarei Central Library on Saturday June 30 Northland indie author Michael Botur will be delivering a down-to-earth workshop on fiction writing.

The four-hour workshop looks at how to get fiction writing completed and self-published, in particular looking at the workflow required to get a story polished on the page so authors can be confident publishing the work in a literary magazine or online.

The workshop covers voice, character, prose and editing, but Botur said the bigger theme of the day is understanding that words on the page are just the start, and reaching an audience these days is about capturing inspiration, checking that the words are good enough to publish, then sharing it with the world online.

“Things move so quickly in the writing world that publication options which made sense ten years ago may not be relevant anymore in 2018 – however, the fundamentals of how to get difficult pieces of writing completed remain the same. So I’ll be offering realistic advice about how to make the most of those hours in front of the computer screen.”

“We’ll also look at the workflow required to get a piece of writing to perfection, then get it read by an audience online.”

Whangarei-based Botur is author of several acclaimed short story collections and young adult novel, Moneyland, which has gained a cult following on the world’s largest publishing platform for teenagers, Wattpad – a site which has 65 million unique visitors per month. Botur said he recently blogged about how writers can have too much dependence on literary editors, whereas it is more rewarding to go online and put writing straight in the hands of the audience.

The workshop will include a brief introduction to Medium, Smashwords, Createspace, Wattpad, Bookfunnel, Goodreads and other online self-publishing and promotion platforms.

Registration is essential – please RSVP to Mike@michaelboturwriter.com.
Cost is $35 for the day – RSVP by email and Mike will invoice you.

Mike will contact you to ask for details about your level of writing experience, and give you some feedback on your writing to focus on for the day.

Check out Mike’s gallery of writing and publication at https://nzshortstories.com/

Where: Whangarei Central Library5 Rust Avenue, Whangarei

Should I Have To Pay To Get Published?

by Michael Botur

Commercial publishing versus self-publishing versus vanity publishing: it pays to know the difference.

Recently I’ve had two Northland writers approach me to report their negative experiences having spent thousands of dollars to get fiction books published without the critical response, sales or satisfaction they had expected. You’ll come across these publishing deals sometimes described as ‘hybrid’ publishing, referring to costs landing between author and publisher.


The Book Launch With No Books

Jess pawley's book cover

Whangaparaoa author J L Pawley, who would go on to find a lucrative, traditional and respectful publishing deal with Eunoia Publishing Group in 2015,  endured ups and downs with a publisher who took a lot of money from Jess then provided books of low quality. There was even a book launch without books available – a harrowing experience Jess details in ‘Learning To Fly,’ which is free to read on Wattpad (picture taken from JL Pawley’s Wattpad page; credit J L Pawley).


Mangawhai author charged $900; says he received one book.

xlibris platinum pakcage

Mangawhai author Bevan Lawrence has repeatedly spent money with Indiana-based publisher Xlibris. Xlibris – usually the first Google result in any search for publishing options – charges authors a minimum of $US899; other options include the Professional publishing package, the Custom, Premium, Executive package and so forth, leading up to the $US16,000 Platinum package.

“I had always wanted to write and over many years have done so, but nothing I wrote seemed to me to be good enough,” Bevan said. “Finally I had the idea of joining several characters’ true stories into one; I just named the characters with the same name. So that book became Historical Fiction. Unfortunately my manuscripts were rejected by even boutique publishers, which I had approached because the mainline people just don’t even bother with unknown authors.”

“So it came down to self publishing companies. I made the mistake of being taken in by, I guess, my own vanity, hence the title of ‘vanity publishers’ who play on this human factor to get you on their hook. The company known as Xlibris published my first book. For about $800 dollars I got loads of publicity material: posters, book marks, business cards, an ISBN number, a listing on Kindle, a quick find app for the book and the book itself. One copy! A paperback, glossy cover, and well printed containing my illustrations. However despite the con of the first book I got two more published at a discount. The third one had some controversial information, so to avoid long possible legal complications I decided to publish under a nom-de-plume, you can’t sue a fictitious person. This has since caused a problem because subsequent novels are now printed under the nom-de-plume. I since discovered one could put their novels onto the web for free, and one can market them or should I say promote them online. My wife was infuriated by the frequent phone calls from my so called ‘representatives’ at Xlibris, wanting me to fork out yet more money to further ‘promote’ my work. My e-mail page filled with messages. No sooner was I getting somewhere with one representative, than they would be replaced with another. In fact all that a person may pay for at Xlibris, can be easily done by oneself. It has taken a long time and many hung-up phone calls to get Xlibris off my back. My advice is to stay away from vanity publishers.”


‘Rude Awakening’ for Northland author Lisa Spicer

the paper chase

Lisa Spicer, Northland writer, had the following experience with one of the publishers discussed in this NZ Listener article, ‘The Paper Chase,’ written by Felicity Monk.

“The day came when I had finished my 35000 word manuscript, I excitedly posted numerous copies off to appropriate publishers around New Zealand,” Lisa says. “There was no doubt in my mind that one of them was bound to say yes.  Weeks passed and eventually the rejection letters began to arrive in the mail.  Yes, this was back in the day when a) you could submit directly to a publisher without an agent, and b) a publisher did actually respond to your submission.

“It didn’t take long to exhaust all my publishing options in New Zealand.  On doing some research I decided my next best move would be to have my manuscript assessed.  Of course this was going to cost money, which I duly paid and employed the services of someone whom I felt had the appropriate credentials.  This I did not regret, I was given some good advice and told to increase my word count to at least 50,000 words for the type of novel I had written.  Once I had done this I could then pay more money and this person would then pursue a publisher on my behalf.

“I went back to work, improved my manuscript and resubmitted to the assessor and paid my money.  This is now where things get a little dubious.  Within three weeks I get a letter back from a publisher, offering to publish my book at a cost.  Quite an extensive cost I might add.  At that point in time I had never heard of the term ‘Vanity Publishing’, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I had the contract checked by a lawyer, and although he commented that the percentage of return wasn’t particularly fair considering my investment, I decided that it was worth the risk to just get my work out there.

“The day came when my parcel arrived, my first book all shiny and new.  I was excited and expectant that this was my big break.  There was celebration and then back to work.  I focused on my next novel, should a publisher come calling I wanted to be ready.  Six months later I received a rude awakening.  A statement of six monthly sales arrived with a cheque.  The sales weren’t great, but that wasn’t the shock.  Only 750 books had been printed.  It never occurred to me to ask how many books I was getting for my money.  It was clear to me now there was never any hope of getting an appropriate return on my investment.

Another six months rolled around, sales were even less than the previous.  My publisher said he was hoping to expand into Amazon, who were new to the scene at that time.  He also mentioned extending sales to Australia.  He talked a lot, he was going to do this and that. I nicknamed him ‘The Gonna Bird’ after a children’s book I had read.  Lots of promises but nothing happened.  I realised then he didn’t need to work for his money by getting my book sold, he had already been paid.

During this time I had someone hand me an article on vanity publishing, along with the comment, “This is who you used isn’t it?”  The article was fairly derogatory to those who attempted to cheat the publishing process.  It also explained something else to me that I had been unaware of.  In New Zealand we have two main bookshop owners, Paper Plus and Whitcoulls.  They purchase the majority of their books through a Company approved bookseller.   What is a bookseller?  They are the middleman between your Publisher and the Book shops.  They are going to push the books from their major suppliers aka major publishing houses.  Simply put small publishing houses don’t have the clout and have to work harder to get their books on shelves.  Although I do believe that since that time, our bookshops are required to buy a percentage of New Zealand based literature.

“I did complete my next novel, the second in a series from my first.  I did try to get that published, but to no avail.  I do wonder if having the first book published under the cloak of Vanity Publishing, tainted it. What did I learn?  They pay you, you don’t pay them.  It is something I have read many times since then.  I also suspect that the manuscript assessor I engaged only sent my novel to the one publisher.  I have no proof of this, but considering the response time of three weeks, I think we can safely assume that.  I also wasn’t prepared for the sense of shame I felt, when I realised that some people thought I had cheated the process.

“These days I prefer to do my own thing.  I am far less trusting now, even cynical.  The few publishers that will accept your work without an agent is growing less by the day.  Questions like “Do you know anyone famous or a celebrity who could promote your work?” really grate on me.  It’s all about the money.  Access to the literary world is changing, and despite my years of life experience, I am learning to change with it.  I recently self-published my first e book, and it didn’t cost me a cent.”


And now, a quick guide to the (very limited) fiction publishing options in NZ.

You can find a more comprehensive list of publishers at https://authors.org.nz/publishers/.

  • Random House and Penguin: ‘Random Penguin’ is the result of Pearson and Bertelsmann publishers merging in 2012. Penguin NZ and Random House NZ were subsequently brought together in 2014. For the first time in a while, Penguin is accepting open submissions of fiction manuscripts, but there is a big list of what they do not accept – poetry, short stories, screenplays and more. Read submission guidelines here. No fee charged to have your manuscript looked at, but you are unlikely to get any feedback on the manuscript if it is declined.
  • Allen & Unwin NZ – only accepts manuscripts through the Friday Pitch. Guidelines here.  No fee charged to have your manuscript looked at, but you are unlikely to get any feedback on the manuscript if it is declined.
  • Mākaro Press – Wellington publisher- covers the cost of publishing a few manuscripts as a standard commercial publication (19 commercial books published at time of publishing this update) but mostly asks for money from authors who would like to get their work published under Mākaro’s author-pays Submarine imprint (42 books published under this arrangement as at June 8 2018). Mākaro explains: “Our Submarine imprint is for our books published with the author contributing towards the costs. Usually this pays for the first print run, but can involve contributions to the editorial or design work depending on the project.” Mākaro Press, which has a Gmail address as its contact, and charges a fee to have a manuscript assessed.
  • Rosa Mira Books – They do e-books only. There is an interesting line on their website about whether the author gets paid or gets charged to publish with Rosa Mira – “We don’t pay in advance. In keeping with the trend towards greater author autonomy, publisher and author share in both costs and revenue. If the author has no money (or services to offer in lieu), we’ll look for alternative funding such as crowd-sourcing, grants or pre-selling.”
  • Mary Egan Publishing – high costs to the author for a high quality publication and marketing – that’s my opinion. Unlike many other places, the costs to work with Mary Egan Publishing are given on the website. My opinion is also that Mary Egan is quite successful in getting one’s book reviewed, which can’t be said for other publishers (imagine paying thousands for your book and getting no reviews… ).
  • New Holland Publishers: I’m pretty sure in the past New Holland didn’t publish fiction (fiction sells far less than non-fiction) but the publisher appears to be open to fiction submissions at the moment.
  • Scholastic: Overwhelmed by submissions, so currently closed to submissions as of June 8 2018.
  • One Tree House and UnderLeaf Press – open for submissions, and mostly looking for already-published authors.
  • Victoria University Press – open for fiction submissions, you don’t have to print your submission like some other publishers ask, and you don’t have to pay. Yay!