Highlights From The Launch

I’m a bit late in posting this—the photos and video from the launch of my first book, Charlie Weatherburn and the Flying Machine, held here in Melbourne a bit over a week ago.

If you weren’t able to attend (or if you just want to relive the moment) then this post is for you! Check out the photo album on Facebook for more photos of the day (big thanks to Adam Schilling who took most of the photos!)

The highlight for me was the talented Jodie Whitehurst performing the original song she wrote for the event (basically, my book put to music—how awesome is that???) Thanks to Rob for capturing this on video. Feel free to skip past the bit where I pretend I know how to dance about halfway through!

Book launch crowds

About 80 people showed up to The Book Grocer in Northcote

Matt signing books

I had a great time signing books for people

Tom receiving canvas print

Congratulations to Tom, who won the major door prize

Jodie singing to a room full of adoring fans

Jodie singing to a room full of adoring fans

Yen selling copies of the book

The lovely Yen, in charge of book sales

A huge thank you to everyone who came along. You all helped to make the day very special, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

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Charlie Weatherburn In The Northcote Leader

Yes, I’m concentrating my marketing efforts for my children’s book in the online space, but it’s always nice to see your mug in the newspaper, right?

This appeared in today’s edition of the Northcote Leader, our local paper. I’m not expecting to see a massive spike in book sales as a result, but it is great coverage nonetheless. A similar article (sporting the same photo) also appeared in yesterday’s Preston Leader, the local paper for the next suburb north.

It’s difficult to know after speaking on the phone with a journalist exactly what parts of your conversation are likely to make it into their article. Julia asked a few prickly questions, and I was unsure how the answers I gave were going to make me sound. Thankfully, they chose to focus on the fact that I’m marketing my children’s book primarily via Twitter and Facebook, and overall it’s very positive press for the book.

Plus the newspaper clipping will make for a good “show and tell” for my daughter at school tomorrow!

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Win This Limited Edition Charlie Weatherburn Canvas Artwork

There are a ton of good reasons to attend my book launch at 2pm this Sunday (at The Book Grocer in Northcote), but one of the biggest is for the door prizes! First prize is this unique Charlie Weatherburn canvas print:

A signed canvas print of the first frame from Charlie Weatherburn and the Flying Machine

The canvas is mounted on a timber frame that measures 30cm x 30cm, and depicts Charlie at his desk. The image is taken from the first page of my children’s book, Charlie Weatherburn and the Flying Machine.

Here are the other reasons you should attend:

  • Second prize is a signed copy of the book
  • There will be beer and wine provided
  • I’ll be doing a reading, and signing and selling copies of the book
  • Musical entertainment for the kids (including Jodie Whitehurst singing an original song written inspired by the book!)
  • It’s free!

What more do you need? RSVP on the Facebook event page or by email to hello@charlieweatherburn.com.

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Why I Wrote Charlie Weatherburn

In the last week, a lot of people have asked me why I wrote Charlie Weatherburn and the Flying Machine. Here’s the story behind the book.

It’s In My Blood

I always did a lot of drawing as a kid. My aunt is an accomplished artist, and both of my parents are quite artistic, although they pursued their passion in other creative fields such as music and photography. But there’s no question that art, in one form or another, runs in the family. My folks always encouraged my interest in drawing and visual expression, sending me to summer art classes and providing my brother and I with a constant supply of materials: pencils, crayons, pastel crayons, watercolour pencils, and paints.

Charlie at his desk

But when Dad brought home the first family computer (an Apple II+ compatible) I began to immerse myself in a whole new world, and to a large degree left behind an important aspect of my personality. While I was learning about telecommunications network traffic congestion avoidance algorithms during my engineering degree, or writing software in BASIC, Pascal, C++, Fortran, Java, Powerbuilder, Forte, or whatever other language was flavour of the month, the artist within was always nagging away at me, eager to be satiated.

I’ve consciously steered my career back to one that allows me to be creative (I now work full-time designing user experiences for websites and mobile devices). I’ve gained confidence with colour (up until a few years ago, I would restrict my creations to black and white) and refined my style (I like to think of it as a cross between Marvel comics and Quentin Blake). And when my first daughter was born, our home library of children’s picture books began to grow. Slowly, I’ve been slowly collecting titles to indulge my own nostalgia as well as discovering new titles to share with my kids.

Graeme Base, Mem Fox, Pamela Allen or Lynley Dodd: these are the inspirational authors and illustrators who reignited my love of children’s picture books. However, it wasn’t a book by any of these greats that kicked me into action …

Charlie tinkering away with his tools

Motivated by Mediocrity

The motivation to tell my own story came not from a book that inspired or amazed me, but from one that left me frustrated and disappointed. I don’t want to name the author or the title, as that would be bad form, but it was a book that I felt was amateurish. The language was sloppy; the illustrations were passable; and the story was only half thought-out. And yet, it was a book that sold quite well, and inspired a ton of merchandise and thrust the author into the spotlight (for a while, before fading into obscurity). Basically, I thought: “I can do better than this.”

Not that the book is perfect, by any stretch. There is a lengthy laundry list of things that I wish I’d done differently, but during the production of the book I made the call that the effort required to address those issues was too great considering the benefit that each would deliver. In spite of its flaws, I’m very proud of how it turned out, and while it’s difficult to be impartial, I do believe it’s better than a lot of other kids’ books out there.

Scratch that Itch

Of course, I didn’t just suddenly think, “This book is crap, I’ll make one that is better.” Illustrating a children’s book is a challenge that I’d been thinking about tackling for years, and I’d had conversations with friends who had written manuscripts for books, with the view of possibly doing the illustrations for them. But in the end I decided to write my own (the details of that process are best left to another post). Stumbling upon that one frustrating book was the catalyst that ignited an idea into action.

Charlie in the air, looking a little worried

So that’s why I created the book—I wanted to prove to myself that I could in fact do better, and what you see in Charlie Weatherburn is the result. I wish I could say that my motivations were far more selfless, such as a desire to get kids excited about maths, or to educate others about a long-forgotten hero, or to tell a unique story dedicated to my own kids. These are all true, but deep down the initial spark to get going, and the drive to finish it, came from something far more selfish.

I made this book for me. However, I hope you like it too!

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Charlie Weatherburn Now Available for iPad & Kindle

If you buy Charlie Weatherburn from iBooks or the Kindle store, please leave a rating or comment. Thanks!

iBooksA quick update for those of you embracing the ebook revolution. Today I happened to log in to my Apple content provider account to check the status of my book’s application to be sold in the iBookstore. I applied to sell the book in all six countries in which iBooks is available (Australia, US, UK, Canada, France and Germany).

Usually my book displays a status of Not available in 6 countries and a bright red light. But today that light was green. This means that Apple have reviewed and accepted my book into the iBookstore. Woo hoo!

So, if you have an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, you can now search for Charlie Weatherburn and the Flying Machine in iBooks, and purchase the book on your device. I’ve listed it at just 99c (.49 Euros) so it’s a bargain in anyone’s language.

Here’s the link (will open iTunes on your computer).

Kindle Version also Available

Amazon Kindle

Charlie is also available on the Amazon Kindle online store (actually, it has been for a couple of weeks but I neglected to mention it here).

The Kindle version of the book is also competitively priced at just 99c. Get it here.

What About My eBook Reader?

I’m aware that there are other eBook readers out there apart from those sold by Amazon and Apple, like the Nook, Kobo and others. I am trying to find the best way to make the book available for sale for other ebook readers, and if you fall into this category, I appreciate your patience.

Ratings and Comments

If you decide to buy Charlie Weatherburn for your Kindle or iDevice, I’d love it if you could leave some feedback. Customers of both online bookstores store rely on both star ratings and comments to make purchasing decisions. If you love the book, say so in your review!

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One Book. Two Libraries. Two Experiences.

Talk to the handThis week I donated copies of my book to a couple of libraries here in Melbourne: the Northcote Library, and the City of Melbourne library. The experiences of doing so at each library couldn’t have been more different.

Here’s how each of the conversations played out:

Northcote Library

Me: “Hi, I’d like to donate a copy of my book to the library.”
Staff Member: “Wonderful. Oh, look at that photo on the back. Your hair was so long! Hey, this is really cute. I’m going to feature it. Thanks so much.”

That was it. Easy!

I’m afraid there are no prizes if you correctly anticipated that the experience of donating my book to the City Library was not quite so straightforward…

Melbourne City Library

Me: “Hi, I’d like to donate a copy of my book to the library.”
Staff Member, looking annoyed at being pulled away from her important admin work to tend to the growing queue of people: “Uh huh. It’s a self-published title, is it?”
Me: “That’s right.”
Staff Member: “Well, we can take it, but there’s no guarantee that it will make it onto our hallowed* shelves. We’ll look at it, but it’s possible that it may just end up getting sold at a book sale for 50c or $1 or something.”
Me: “I see. And is there any way that I can find out whether my book has been added to the library or not?”
Staff Member: “You could check our catalogue, I suppose. But no, we don’t do any follow up. Who was next, please?”
Me: “Right. I guess I’ll take my chances then. Here you go.”

I guess I kind of assumed that libraries would always welcome the donation of a book to their collection. This is obviously my naïvete coming into play here (of course they would want a copy of my book. Why wouldn’t they?). However as I learned today, that’s simply not the case. Prejudice associated with the phrase “self-published” is alive and well.

I do understand that there needs to be a vetting process and a minimum level of quality that books should meet before they are added to a library’s collection. If someone decides to write a 900-page tome detailing every excruciating detail of their life story (like these 41188 people—and counting— have done) then it’s understandable that the library might deem a title as not being appropriate.

But surely there’s no need to be rude about it! Give the author the benefit of the doubt before discreetly placing his life’s work for sale in the bargain bin. At the very least I thought she might have shown some level of encouragement, even if at the back of her mind she was thinking, “Here we go again!” That’s the kind of dismissive attitude I expected from traditional publishers who authors approach in order to convince them to invest in a book, not from a library.

What annoyed me most about this interaction was that the staff member automatically assumed that a self-published book is of inferior quality compared with one from a traditional publishing house. Perhaps this is most often the case and this particular person has dealt with one too many life stories. However given the ready access that authors have to technology these days, I don’t believe this is necessarily the case these days.

Of course, I won’t dwell on the issue if my book is not accepted by the Melbourne City Library. I’ll take consolation that someone will be happy when they pick it up for a steal at the library’s next rejected book sale, and move on.

*She may not have actually uttered the world “hallowed”, but the sentence reads so much better with it left in, don’t you think?

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Charlie Weatherburn Tops Children’s Book List on Lulu

I’m delighted by the initial response to Charlie Weatherburn and the Flying Machine. Putting aside all of the lovely comments I’m receiving from friends and strangers, and ignoring the rave review on wired.com in the book’s first week, this morning I had yet another reason to smile:

The book is the #1 selling book in the Children category on lulu.com for the past week.

How about that! I’m delighted that so many people are finding that a story about a bumbling mathematician with dreams of achieving solo flight resonates with them and their children.

In addition to doing well in the Children category, the book is also #10 overall list on lulu.com.

I don’t know if you’ve explored lulu.com lately, but there are a lot of books on there, so this is a pretty big deal! A huge thank-you to everyone who bought the book or shared the ebook with their friends, parents and other book-lovers.

If you haven’t purchased your paperback copy of Charlie Weatherburn and the Flying Machine yet, you can order one today from lulu.com.

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Wired Reviews Charlie Weatherburn, And Likes It

Today the first review of my book appeared, not on a low-traffic blog belonging to a friend of mine, but on wired.com.

If you’re not familiar with wired.com, you may have seen the print version in your local newsagent. For nearly 20 years, Wired magazine has set the benchmark for reporting on technology and how it impacts culture, politics and the economy. It’s fair to say that many of my current views on freedom of speech, software patents and general politics have probably been largely shaped by articles that I’ve read in the magazine. I used to anticipate each issue with the same kind of excitement that was previously reserved for comic books when I was much younger. Additionally, when I first started building websites, wired.com’s Web Monkey resource was an invaluable reference.

In short, I’ve been a fan for a long while, so this review means a lot to me!

Matt’s illustrations are cartoonish and playful. I love his subtle use of the primary colors. But, his storytelling and ability to incorporate a wide range of mathematical and physics concepts into a book that is suitable for 4 to 8 year olds is where he excels.

I’m so glad that Dan and his kids enjoyed the book, and that he appreciated the effort that I put into getting the target audience excited about maths and physics. I hope you will too!

Read the review on wired.com »

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Download my book for free!

Because Charlie Weatherburn and the Flying Machine is self-published, I don’t have the massive distribution network of a traditional publisher. I do, however, have the internet … and you!

For this reason, I’ve decided to give away the PDF of my book for free for a limited time. That’s right: completely gratis. And what’s more, I encourage you to forward it to your friends. Some might call this “pirating.” I prefer to think of it as “recommending.” And you have my blessing to do so.

Downloading the book comes with no obligation, although I’d love it if you clicked Like on the book’s page on Facebook or signed up to the email newsletter. There are other ways that you can support the author if you decide that you like the book:

  • Buy a print copy of the book online or at the book launch later this month (the illustrations look fantastic on paper!)
  • Ask for the book at your local book store.
  • Email the PDF to your friends.
  • Link to charlieweatherburn.com from your Facebook wall, Twitter account or blog (if you have one).
  • Tell your friends in person, at mother’s group, at school … basically anything you can do to help me get the word out is appreciated.

I hope you enjoy sharing Charlie’s story with your children, nieces, nephews or friends as much as I did writing it!

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The Thank You Post

Charlie Weatherburn and the Flying Machine would not be half the book that it is without the network of people that I am surrounded by.

My friends, family and work colleagues were incredibly supportive during the writing and illustrating of this book. Whether they know it or not (they do now!), every one of the following kind souls helped me turn my idea into a reality. So a big thank you to:

Mum, Dad, Georgina Laidlaw, Chris & Claire Souter, Nick Souter, Andrew Dowdy, Jay Millington, Narelle McNaughton, Darin Bendall, Katherine Mok, Adam Schilling, Sapphira Butler, James Mansfield, Rob Shattock, Yen Vuong, Doug & Mary Reith, Ian & Jodie Whitehurst, Miranda Moreira, Catherine Acton, Nicci & Scott Leung

In particular, there are a handful of people to whom I owe a great deal for their input and assistance, and without whom this book would probably not exist. They are:

  • Luke Cuthbertson: For providing the pep talks and motivation I needed to “get it done.”
  • Kelly Steele: For providing critical feedback that helped shape the book into its final form
  • Hilary Reynolds: For her brutal honesty, experience and insights into what makes a quality children’s book
  • Andrea Innocent: For sharing her vast experience on bringing professionalism to the world of illustration
  • Kevin Yank: For answering technical questions about ebook file formats and network ports with patience and clarity

I’m also hugely grateful to the literally hundreds of people who have promoted the book via email to parent groups, friends, family, work colleagues, and posted about the book on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and elsewhere, often accompanied with flattering comments that make me feel all gooey inside.

And finally …

  • My wife, Kimberley: For her understanding and encouragement during the last two and a half years, while I toiled away on the computer until early hours of the morning. Like they say, behind every great man …

Hang on a sec. Did I just use the word “great” in reference to myself? I’ve released one book and already my ego’s getting out of control. Somebody bring me back down to earth!

But seriously, to all of these people—thank you, thank you, thank you!

Buy the print book from Lulu

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