Monday, 26 August 2013

Don't make me unleash the pop-ups...

I have a confession to make...I am an Indie author. I hope you are still reading, and have not immediately decided to Google someone better known, an author who has a reputation for writing good books, a name you can trust. I'm asking you to give Indie authors a chance, hear their stories, make up your own minds on the merit of their work.

In today's blog, I'm telling my story, my experiences of writing. I decided to write children's stories, as I suspected I had the skills...a degree in English Lit., Graphic Design qualification, and a love of drawing. I also have four children at home to provide inspiration, an insight into what children like, and honest feedback from my target audience.

I found the stories quite easy to write once I had my initial ideas, and discovered I had a talent for writing in rhyme, which I enjoy doing. The illustrations were more time consuming, I invested in a Galaxy Note tablet and find the pen very effective for creating computerized images that still look very much hand drawn.

I was very pleased with the results of my work, and like every budding author, suffered the delusions I would see them in print in the very near future. I soon discovered this would be very hard to accomplish. I've written before about poetry being a very unpopular writing technique in the world of publishing. I found this to be true even more so within children's publishing. My list of contactable publishers grew smaller and smaller, as I realised it would be a waste of time and money to send my work to publishers who clearly stated they did not accept poetry. I read that many publishers will not accept unsolicited work, and an agent would be required to act on my behalf. I struggled to find agents who would consider poetry of any kind, my chances were very slim. However, it was a case of "you'll never know unless you try", so I posted out thoughtfully composed covering letters along with my stories. I waited patiently on replies, excited whenever I saw post through the frosted glass...

Sadly, my hopes and dreams of my work soon being in print were deflated time after time, like the yellow balloon behind the door which I had envisioned as a generous publishing contract.

I have to say I really think that publishers are missing a lot of potential best sellers by not accepting rhyme or poetry. Have they never heard of The Gruffalo, or any other of Julia Donaldson's wonderful rhyming tales?  How about The Cat in the Hat, or many other stories by Dr. Seuss? I could be wrong, but I believe these books sold quite well didn't they? I'm pretty sure they would not have been adapted into films if they were not much loved stories.

I decided, reluctantly it must be said, to go the Indie route. I consoled myself by thinking "Indie author" actually sounds quite cool. My first book, Andrew's Fairy Tale was eventually available as an ebook on Amazon. I say eventually, because the formatting process to make the story look good on different tablets, phones etc, was painful. Anyone considering publishing this warned! However, in the end, the book was available for sale on Amazon. I found that very enthusiasm didn't last. I waited patiently for the sales, become addicted to checking KDP Select, which allows you to track each and every sale. I was getting nowhere. My book was, and remains, a tiny grain of sand within an enormous beach of competing books. I am not a celebrity, do not have hundreds of reviews, and am basically invisible to an Amazon customer. There is also the problem of authors offering FREE downloads. Everyone loves a bargain, myself included. I can perfectly understand why people choose the free options, and so I thought I would give it a try...give my book a kick start. The free downloads worked quite well, my sales rank went up, and although I didn't make any money, I was delighted that people were now actually reading my story. I also received two 5 star reviews, and was confident my selling opportunities would have improved when the promotion ended. Unfortunately not, there were a few sales, but nothing like what I had hoped for.

I focused on writing my second story, The Bankrupt Tooth Fairy and made it available for print through Createspace. I feel my book has a lot of potential, it is a very imaginative story, and also encourages kids to look after their teeth. I sent copies of the book to agents and publishers, and played the waiting game again. I was very excited to receive a letter from Austin Macauley saying my book had been passed on to senior editors. I had usually just received a blunt rejection letter. A few weeks later I received a publication contract. I'm sure you can imagine my delight, my dream of my work being recognised as worthy of being published was coming true! However, upon reading more carefully, I became much less enthused. Austin Macauley wanted a substantial amount of money from myself, to help cover costs, since they were taking a chance on an unknown author. I researched the company, and it seems they are a vanity publisher, which is essentially the same as self-publishing. Maybe there are success stories with this company and other authors, but it was not a risk I was willing to take.

I refuse to give up, and still hope to make a success of my writing. Createspace is a good option for self-publishers, but as an author from the UK, the shipping costs are too high for me. I want to take my books to local bookshops, present school workshops etc, and so am planning on printing the books at a local printer myself.

 My journey so far on the route to becoming an established author has definitely had its problems. One area which I am pleased with, however, is my new-found understanding of social media. I enjoy writing my blog, and have built up followers on both Google Plus and Twitter. Considering I was like Billy Crystal in Parental Guidance not so long ago (his character was asked "Do you tweet?" to which he replied "I'll tweet, I'll make any noise you want!"), I have definitely made progress. 

I hope you've enjoyed my blog, and would now consider supporting Indie authors. Genuine reviews are a great way of doing this,  call me old-fashioned, but I don't believe in paying for them. I don't make any money from my blog....please don't make me unleash the pop-ups!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Children's Books.

I've not blogged about writing, or books, for quite a while, and as a children's author I guess I should! The 9th of August was World Book Lovers Day, so for today's blog, I'm writing about books I have enjoyed reading with my children, and some I remember from my own childhood.

 One book which will always be very special to me is "There's a House Inside My Mummy" by Giles Andreae. I often read this to my 3 year old during my pregnancy with his little brother. The book is so sweet, and a delight to share with young children. Written in rhyme, the style in which I myself write, the story never tires, and I would thoroughly recommend it, especially to any parents-to-be struggling to answer awkward questions about growing baby bumps. Interesting fact, Giles Andreae is also the creator of the Purple Ronnie greetings card that have brightened many a special occasion.

My children and I have very much enjoyed the Charlie and Lola books by Lauren Child, and The Large Family series by Jill Murphy. The fact that these books have been adapted for children's TV probably added to the appeal for my children, but the books are very enjoyable even without seeing the TV versions. My favourite Charlie and Lola story is "But I Am an Alligator!" My boys both went through a similar phase to Lola, where all they wanted to wear was a crocodile costume. I could often be seen hand in hand with a large reptile in Tesco. I have noticed my boys use the word "actually" quite often, I think that's Lola's influence!

 I grew up reading Jill Murphy's wonderful Worst Witch stories, which I will introduce to my children soon. The Large Family books are equally appealing, and her delightful illustrations definitely add to the enjoyment of the stories. My favourite Large Family book is "Five Minutes Peace", where poor mummy elephant is endlessly interrupted by her young children. What parent cannot relate to that?

I recently watched a film version of The Borrowers, which instantly took me back to my childhood. I was very pleased to dig out my Borrowers omnibus by Mary Norton, that's another one to add to my bedtime reading list for the kids. I know they will enjoy the stories of the tiny little people who are so inventive. In fact it has become a joke in our house if something goes missing, that "the borrowers must have taken it". Thinking about it, I was really quite a bookworm as a child. I can remember so many wonderful stories to inspire the imagination...the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis, Matilda and the BFG by Roald Dahl, Black Beauty, The Secret Garden, The Water Babies, The Box of Delights. My list could go on and on...

My own children, share my love of books, my youngest at 4 cannot read by himself of course, however, the older ones are very reluctant to read independently. My son loves being read to, and when pushed, is a very capable reader. Last year his teacher asked if he read much at home, as he had such a good vocabulary. Obviously, even being read to is still very valuable, I just hope he will soon become more willing to get lost in a book, and take enjoyment from reading, rather than seeing it as a chore. I wonder if most children nowadays regard reading this way? I hope there are still children who can resist the video games, TV etc in favour of picking up a book, but sadly, maybe there are just too many technological options which are more appealing.

Bedtime in our house involves stories, without fail. I have four kids at home, so I always hope they choose stories I like. The youngest sometimes asks for the same story night after night for weeks on end! Peppa Pig is indeed very loveable, but there's only so many times I can take reading about her trip to the dentist. Thankfully, he's quite happy for a different story every night at the moment. The older ones enjoy Horrid Henry books, which I agree are very funny. I was concerned that "Horrid Henry's Guide to Perfect Parents" would give them ideas, but so far there's been no problems. Enid Blyton's Amelia Jane books about the naughty doll have been popular, the illustrations have been modernised, but the books have really passed the test of time, being first published in 1939. We've read and enjoyed the Spy Dogs books by Andrew Cope, and my favourites of recent have been Mr. Stink and Billionaire Boy by David Walliams. Walliams had me trying to decide if I was reading for the kids, or myself!

Lastly, I'll add my own stories. Admittedly, my kids may be slightly biased, but they all enjoy "Andrew's Fairy Tale" and "The Bankrupt Tooth Fairy". The stories were inspired by them, and I was very touched when after hearing "Andrew's Fairy Tale" for the first time, my son had a tear in his eye when the boy fairy in the story had to go home. They like the illustrations and the rhymes. I'm being pestered to write a story about the other two and have a few ideas in mind. Watch this space!

Please feel free to add any books that really made an impression on you during childhood, or any of your favourites to share with children.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Do clothes have a "wear by" date?

I heard a discussion on an American radio station this summer regarding age appropriate fashion for women. I was interested in this, as a thirty-something year old who sometimes struggles with her wardrobe choices. I found an article online based on a similar survey, possibly the same one. The link can be found here:

The crop tops were abandoned a while ago, and I admit my hem lines have come down, the necklines have gone up. However, I still consider myself to be a young woman, and so surely I should have a modern, young approach to fashion? Having heard on the radio, however, that short skirts should be ditched at 35, bikinis at 40, and long hair at 42, I began to wonder if my theory was right...
I Googled "How to dress in your 30's", some suggestions were OK, but others had me wondering if I'd typed a 5 instead of a 3. I'm not saying every day should be stilettos and short skirts; as a mum to young children I'm much more likely to be found in my jeans, top, flats uniform. However, I don't like the idea that I am fast approaching the age (according to the survey), where wearing these would be considered too young for me. I was reassured that I don't necessarily have to switch to granny shops in the near future by another online article. "The rules for looking 'appropriate' are not what they used to be", is something I'd agree with. I believe that if you feel confident and the clothes look good on you, you should not feel obliged to donate them to charity when you reach a certain age. This more open-minded article can be found here:

I've decided not to be guided too much by "wear by" dates, and in fact, as a kind of rebellion to what I'd heard on the radio, bought myself a new bikini...not itsy bitsy, not teeny weeny, but a bikini nonetheless. I'm hoping to get a few more years out of it before I hang it up for good.

I will continue to follow fashion, some I will invest in, others I will graciously leave to younger women. The recent fashion of Minnie Mouse ears as worn by Cara Delevingne featured in Grazia magazine, was quite something! If only I'd known, I could have bought some at Disneyland and been the coolest mum at school...or maybe not.