Archive for the ‘ children ’ Category

Last leg

Helen has been working on Whooosshh for too long now. She told me that all she needs in life is drawing and running. She has been a “runner” now for a total of two weeks. She said “They are the two most honest things in life. You get out what you put in.” Not sure where her partner Kev slots into this exclusive lifestyle.

Not long now Helen. We are on the home run and the finish line is in sight. We may even be published before the Olympics.

Patrick George

Barnaby has been bought Opposites by Patrick George for his birthday. It has gone completely over his head, given he is two, can barely string three words together and far more interested in swiping flies with tea towels than learning about opposites. HOWEVER, it is absolute genius and I am slightly in awe of its concept and graphics. The Patrick George collection use really clever graphics and acetate to aid learning and are the product of husband and wife team Peter and Ann Scott and who started off self-publishing.In a slightly stalker fashion I emailed them to ask their advice on finding a reliable printer and Ann was incredibly helpful and encouraging so now I am even more in love with them

Key components of a successful children’s book

Audrey announced today that she didn’t like Whooossshh because of its reference to “scary legs”. Children of today are so ungrateful. Remind me next time to name a star after her or something equally as unoriginal. Actually i think it’s quite tricky finding a book which resonates with both children and parent. The contemporary books which really work for me by authors such as Oliver Jeffers and Catherine Rayner are really cool, succinct and void of drama. Yet, Audrey loves the old school fairy tales such as Alice in Wonderland and the Snow Queen.Myself and both my kids have found common reading ground though with the rhyming books such as those by Julia Donaldson or Eric Carle. Any book where a child can recite the words is doing their job. And that’s why Julia Donaldson, Eric Carle and not forgetting Michael Rosen (Bear Hunt) are genius.They are mostly based on rhythm, rhyme and repetition and with those 3Rs comes familiarity and the recognition of words. Let’s face it Kylie Minogue would still be working as a mechanic in Neighbours if it wasn’t for rhythm, rhyme and repetition. Here’s hoping the concept brings Whooosshh as much success.

How to self-publish a children’s book checklist

God this is taking forever. It’s a bit like waiting for someone to propose to you (speaking from personal experience) . Admittedly Helen has got the tougher gig. She has to translate my insane ramblings into images of beauty and then take constructive criticism on top of that. Suffice to say she knows I think she’s exceptionally talented but everything has to be perfect. So I’ve compiled a list of things for me to do while waiting for the illustrations. Incidentally I am being guided by this fab website I’ve found. It’s an American website but it’s all relevant to a British market or for absolutely everything you need to know on the children’s book industry buy “Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2012”
Create a website/publishing house:
This is really important especially when considering writing more books. Also it looks far more professional having a publishing house contact the press, rather than myself (even though it’s technically me contacting but they don’t have to tell them that).
Pen out a press release:
Aha, the beauty of being a journo is knowing what will or won’t land in the delete file of the publication’s computer. Press releases need to be ready to send to all relevant magazines (have a look in the Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2012 for a comprehensive list of magazine titles)
Press Releases need to be really succinct but promote the book simultaneously. So keep to the 5 Ws. WHO you are, WHAT is the book about, WHY did you write it or WHY the public should buy it, WHEN is it available in the shops and WHERE can it be purchased. Try to write two press releases – one for the local press (go for the local angle) and one for the nationals. The title needs to be really catchy and convey your unique selling point in no more than 4 words. Tricky but do-able. There should also be a quotation from yourself, expressing your feelings and pride for your book.

Visit a book shop (preferably a chain)
Start at A and go through every single title until you exhaust yourself at Z. Create a pile based on the following:
Likeable fonts: Different fonts suit different stories
Type of paper: Do you prefer a thicker or thinner page? What finish do you want?
Get some ideas for inner pages: have a look at the layout of the dedication page and publisher details page.
I allocated myself two hours for this and seriously underestimated the task. By the end of it I realised several things:
) My blood sugar levels had reached an all-time low and I was manic
) I’d found a lovely shade of coral for a chair I was having upholstered
) Major book stores are oversaturated and I can’t understand how anyone finds the time to choose a suitable children’s book, especially with your kids using your leg as a fireman’s pole.
) There are some terrible children’s books out there
Apart from that, it was a really useful exercise

Create a buzz
I despise the word networking but that’s exactly what you have to do. You need to become a familiar face in all the local places where you want to sell your book. Ideally we are aiming for one shop in most family populated villages/town to stock the book – that way you can go for the “exclusivity” angle when approaching shops.

Social Networking
I said I would rather eat my own toenails then go on facebook but where Whoooossshh is concerned, I would sell my soul to the devil. For all its negatives, when used properly ie for promoting your business, social networking can be one of your strongest allies and really is the biggest reason why this is the perfect time to self-publish. I’ve just found a really easy to understand website on how to promote your business on facebook. Even Barnaby could manage this. Right off to find my husband to set me up on this thing.

Marketing strategy

Just popped into an award winning book shop in Cheshire to loosely inquire if they stock self-published material. The owner pointed disdainfully to a corner of the shop (labelled self-published) so bleak I may have detected damp. Who exactly is going to look in the self-published section for a children’s book? And I’d just spent £25 on Dan’s valentine present Collins Complete Book of DIY. Who said having kids kills the romance? Anyway I digress. My new marketing strategy is to sell Whooosshh in anywhere that isn’t a book shop…right off to the hairdressers.

Dreaming up ideas for children’s books

The theory goes that everybody has a novel or book in them somewhere. But to label yourself an author, you probably need to publish more than one title to be deserving of that title. Whilst waiting for Whooosshh to emerge in its entirety I have been busy writing more books. Out of guilt, I have written one for Barnaby which encapsulates his rebellious nature and for which he probably won’t thank me and the third one is written with the “OCD and feisty” character of my niece in mind. Very soon I will run out of children to write about and then it’s career over. But the point is that writing with a character in mind really works for me as it helps me to get “the voice” of the book right, which is really important. The Horrid Henry series by Francesca Simon and similarly all of Roald Dahl’s books are so appealing and visual because of the strength and complexities of the main characters.
Once the character is developed, the rest is a complete mystery. You hurl the character into the unknown and hope they lead the way for you. In an interview in Bookwitch children’s author and illustrator Debi Gliori makes reference to writer Philip Pullman’s dislike of planning. “ He wrote a piece that I cut out and have kept and quoted from extensively, about how looking for ideas is a little like going out fishing at night, you push your boat out in the dark, you have your little lantern, and he talks about the amazing creatures you pull out from the depths, and I just thought “Yes! He has nailed that down so well.”

More stumbling blocks:

Helen and I have become slightly obsessed with the way men sit. I’ve never noticed before but it’s difficult for a man to assume a seated position without looking curiously camp. To cross or not to cross? That is the question.

Stumbling blocks

I may have just answered my own question in the previous blog as to why there are few children’s books about fathers and daughters. ..It is a tragic sign of the times when you can’t draw a man in a child’s bedroom without it looking creepy.

Was there life before google

Helen and I have just ‘fessed up that we owe all our creativity to google. She is using google images to find what “a flying child” looks like and I have embarrassingly admitted to using “what rhymes with higher”. We comforted ourselves with the fact that if Jim Morrison had have been alive during the google awakening, he would have come up with something better than fire, higher, liar and erm pyre.

What’s the story?

To outdo last year’s thoughtful anniversary gift to my husband of Terry Wogan’s autobiography oh and the previous year’s gift of erm… nothing, this year the pressure was on to deliver something truly meaningful, so I presented him with Whooossshh, the story of our little girl Audrey who goes on a magical journey on her daddy’s shoulders.
It was 3 weeks late of course in line with my on going battle with timekeeping. There were tears. (Not mine, his) My god, there were actual tears. Amazingly as the only time I have ever seen him cry was whilst watching Seabiscuit on a long-haul flight to New Zealand . But nevertheless if I could reduce someone as emotionally challenged as my husband to tears, then this was a clear sign that Whoooooosh might just take off. Audrey’s god mummy and artist Helen agreed to do the illustrations, although she still insists she can’t draw – judge for yourselves at a sneak preview. We’ve decided to self-publish (albeit blindly) to retain some control over our product but mainly because agents and publishers take such colossal commission. And although the recession has hit big industries such as publishing, cottage industries seem to be flourishing more than ever, thanks to social networking sites. So aside from this being the most gorgeous story ever, it’s also a rite of passage – the tale of a reluctant journalist and a flitting artist who have committed themselves to writing children’s books.It’s a big ask from two work – commitment phobes – but hey we’re doing it for the kids!