Welcome!

Children's Author Lou Treleaven at the reading event at Hay's Galleria

Hello, hullo and even hallo.  I’m Lou Treleaven and I write picture books and junior fiction published by Maverick Arts Publishing.  I also run a critique service for writers and enjoy writing plays and sketches.  My next book due out in September is Daddy and I.

You can email me at lou.treleaven@sky.com, or click on the links for events, book news or critiques.


Advertisements

Seasonal signed books giveaway!

As 2017 thinks about putting on the kettle for its hot water bottle and taking its nightly medication, I would like to thank the followers of this blog for another year’s loyalty with a signed book giveaway.  This will be for my new picture book Daddy and I, sumptuously illustrated by Sophie Burrows, plus my two early readers that came out this autumn which have delightfully cute pictures by Dean Gray and David Creighton-Pester.

To be entered into the random draw, just comment below by the end of November, and I’ll get them signed and sent to you in time for… shh!  You know what!

An interview with Tiny Tree

Following blog subscriber and critique customer Fiona Barker’s picture book acceptance by Tiny Tree, I caught up with James Shaw from Matthew James Publishing to ask him about his new picture book imprint and what he might be looking for in a submission.

Tiny Tree logoWhat made you decide to launch a picture book imprint?  How many picture books are you planning on publishing each year?

Not only am I a big fan of literature in general, I am also a huge art fan and a very visual person. Since taking over MJP I was always excited by the prospect of working on picture books, and as a father of two small boys I am constantly surrounded by the wonderful possibilities so many other publishing companies had produced. For me it was an obvious step. Although it hasn’t been easy, it has been very worthwhile.

As a small independent we don’t have a quota for how many books we publish each year and can be quite picky. Next year though we already have about 10 titles on the way, with many more submissions still filtering through. We like to keep it to no more than 1 a month though.

What length picture book are you looking for?  And do you accept rhyme?

We like to have 32 page picture books, but we will stretch to 48 or drop down to 24 at a push. We have done much longer titles, but we prefer 32 pages as a rule. We accept rhyming and non-rhyming books, the story is the important thing, and as long as it is told well it doesn’t matter if it rhymes or not.  Honestly not always fussed about a particular word count but we do find that around 600 words works best for children’s picture books.

Are there any topics that you are particularly attracted to?  Do you like books with a message?  What about humour?

Humour is really important to us. As a parent it is easier to read a book to my kids 40 times if it is funny. However, we at Tiny Tree love to provide books with a message. Bullying, friendship, loneliness, change, anything that could affect the life of a child is perfect. We want to stand out amongst the crowd, but we also want to provide something to the children, and the parents, above and beyond a beautiful book.

How are your authors paid, eg flat fee or royalties?  Do you pay an advance?  Do you sell foreign rights?

Our contract states a royalty of 10% on print versions, 25% on electronic versions. We also discuss with the author incremental increases in royalties based on sales. We don’t usually pay an advance unless one is required for a piece we absolutely must have. As a small independent we want to focus all our budget on producing and marketing a great product, and we like authors who are focused on that goal as well.

We can and do sell foreign rights, although we haven’t had much opportunity to up to this point. We have done our own translations for titles, to work with the authors from other countries though. Like any traditional publisher we are always looking for new avenues of sales for books and to make sure they get as much exposure as possible.

How do you find illustrators for your picture books?  Is this something the author would get involved in as well?

A multitude of ways really. Sometimes an author/illustrator will come to us with a title they have already illustrated, like Binx the Jinx. Sometimes an author will know someone who they would like to use or they have worked with before, like Russ Brown and Jamie Cosley. Sometimes we get portfolio submissions from illustrators which we keep on file for possible work.

There have only been a couple of times where we have had to find an illustrator from nothing, but there are so many organisations and communities out there that it always very simple. The only problem comes with trying to match up the work and trawling through hundreds of possible illustrators when there so many talented people out there.

What attracted you to Fiona Barker’s book?

Fiona’s book attracted me in a number of ways. First, it was a simple and heart-warming story. There is a message there, but it is surrounded by just a simple, funny, inviting story that makes it easy to read and something I could certainly see myself and others coming back to. Fiona herself is also easy to sell; she provided a great deal of marketing information, she already has a great presence and she has an approachable persona that makes it simple to plan around her.

She also provided us with an illustrator that worked perfectly for her title. Although having something illustrated before submitting can sometimes be problematic, in this case it really worked in her favour.

 

Details on how to submit to Tiny Tree here

Save

A critical year!

It’s almost a year since I started my critique service and I can’t believe how many manuscripts I have read!  I have laughed, cried (well, almost) and been blown away by the talent out there.  And the really exciting news is that one of my critique customers, Fiona Barker, has had her critiqued picture book manuscript accepted by independent publisher Matthew James Publishing Ltd’s new imprint, Tiny Tree Books!  More about that very soon, including an interview with the publisher to find out exactly what they are looking for from authors.

In the meantime I want to thank everyone who has used the service, and also let you know that I will be changing the price structure slightly in order to reflect the time I am putting in and make it a fairer system.  At the moment, if you submit multiple picture books you get a much cheaper price than those who submit one at a time,  which is great for the customer but means that because I do a full report on each book, the payment per book gets much lower the more I receive in one go.  So for future submissions, the price will be a set £25 per book up to 1000 words, and a further £5 per 1000 words thereafter.  This will actually slightly reduce the price of longer works but will also mean that each book critique will cost the same per person per book.  I hope this is acceptable and I look forward to reading more amazing writing in the year to come!author pic lou treleaven daddy and i

‘Daddy and I’ is out today!

Daddy-and-I-Cover-LR-RGB-JPEGI’m celebrating as my new picture book ‘Daddy and I’, illustrated gorgeously by Sophie Burrows, is out today!  It was a tricky one to write and to be honest I wasn’t expecting a yes from my publishers at Maverick… maybe because I’d just spent so long hammering away at it, trying to get every verse to include a different rhyme for the word ‘I’.  Sometimes you just wish you’d never started something!

I’d been thinking for a while of writing something that worked on two levels, the child’s point of view and the adult’s.  What can be quite a mundane experience for us can be full of wonder for a child because they see everything with a fresh eye.  A walk was the simplest way of expressing this, and I’ve got lovely memories of going for super-long walks with my Dad (probably quite short now I come to think of it) which we treated as a huge adventure.  I thought it would add a fuller background to the story to put it in the context of a Saturday visit where the child doesn’t necessarily spend the rest of the week with her dad, so the time they have together is extra special.  When I saw Sophie’s sketches I knew she completely understood what I was trying to say!Daddy-and-I-Spread-1-LR-RGB-JPEG1

I’m glad I finally got the chance to write the idea that had been simmering for so long.  Sometimes it can take a long while for a story to brew.  At other times it can be very quick.  One of the mysteries of the writing process!

And a last minute ‘good luck’ to anyone entering the Writing Magazine/Amy Sparkes/Julia Churchill picture book writing contest.  I know a lot of my critique customers are going for this.  I’ll be crossing my fingers for you!

Frequently asked questions #1: Do I need to find an illustrator?

I thought I’d use this blog to answer some frequently asked questions about the submission process, starting with one of the most common.  Do I need to find an illustrator for my book before I submit it?

jon writing letters with both handsThe simple answer: no.  There are various reasons for this.

  1. Publishers usually like to source their own illustrators.  They may even have artists in mind that they want to work with, and are waiting for the right manuscript to come along (as was the case with my own manuscript Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip and the illustrator Julia Patton).
  2. A publisher will often have a house style that makes their books stand out as theirs.  The type of illustrators they choose will reflect this.  Yours is unlikely to fit unless you are only ever targeting one publisher.
  3. Fashions change in children’s illustration as much as anywhere else.  Your publisher will have a much better idea of how your book should look and what will make it fit (or stand out) in the current market.
  4. The right illustrator takes your book to another level – it’s like having a co-author who comes up with brilliant ideas.  The publisher knows which illustrator will make the most out of your text.
  5. Your editor and designer have a wealth of experience in laying out books, not only in terms of pictures but in the way the text interacts with the pictures, the pacing of the text through the spreads, typography etc.  Rarely these days does text simply sit under a picture.  It’s more likely to be dancing across a page, growing and shrinking or even spiraling through a spread.  If you’ve already provided illustrations, this hampers the space the designer can use rather than allowing them to work with the illustrator.

Exceptions

If you are already an illustrator then of course you will want to provide your own illustrations.  (Picture book author-illustrators are amazing and, in my opinion, demi-gods!)  Another exception might be that you have already teamed up with an illustrator and you want to work as a partnership or not at all.  It will be harder to be published in this case as both words and pictures will have to be accepted.  And finally if you are self-publishing you may need to find your own illustrator.  Self publishing is not something I tend to cover in this blog but there is plenty of help on line if you do pursue this route.

What happens next?

So how does your publisher find an illustrator?  While you are going through the editing process and refining your text, the publisher will also be researching artists and asking for sample pages to be created.  They may approach the artist directly or through an agency.  You may see these samples and be asked for your opinion but you may not!  Rest assured, your publisher knows what’s best for your story.

After the illustrator has been commissioned they will produce sketches for each page which are put together into a dummy pdf together with the text.  Again you may be asked to comment on this.  Once the roughs have been agreed, the illustrator finalises them with colour and detail.  The whole process can take a few months, but when you see the detail that goes into a picture book it’s surprising it’s not a few years!  By this time your text is normally complete too and you will be asked to look over the finished pdf and check for typos etc.  The book then goes for printing which can take about three months if it’s being printed abroad.  Finally you and your illustrator have a bouncing baby book – and you may never even have met!

Picture book competition

I couldn’t wait to tell you about the exciting picture book competition in this month’s Writing Magazine!  It’s open to any unpublished and unagented writer and the prize is a lunch consultation with top children’s agent Julia Churchill (plus a subscription to Writing Magazine – oh, and £200 as well).  And who knows where that could lead?

From my critique pile I know loads of you have some fantastic picture books waiting for the right opportunity, and there’s no entry fee so I urge you to give it a go!

Your text should be no longer than 800 words and can be rhyming or prose.  You can present it in page spreads or as continuous text.  No illustrations, pop-ups etc.  Details here.

There’s also some great tips on picture book writing from prolific picture book writer Amy Sparkes in the accompanying article (August edition).

Closing date is 29 September.  Good luck!

Things I learned from Get Writing 2017

Get Writing 2017I was delighted to attend the Get Writing Conference at the weekend as a delegate/author.  Organised by Veralum Writers, the conference has grown each year and now attracts some amazing speakers and workshop leaders.  I attended two workshops: comedy sketch writing with Mark Keegan and writing historical fiction with Emma Darwin.  Both were hugely helpful and I now feel fired up to have a go at both disciplines while their excellent advice is still ringing in my ears.  The great thing about writing children’s fiction is that you can encompass so many genres and styles.  So watch out for a historical crime comedy thriller picture book in the distant future!

Here’s some pointers I picked up during the day (which also included talks and panels) that I hope will be useful to you too.

  • Some people read a book a day, and two at the weekend (lizlovesbooks.com).
  • Psychic distance is a thing and it’s rather useful (thisitchofwriting.com).
  • Writers love cake.  Not a tip, but it helps to know you are not alone.
  • Successful comedy sketches are often about subverting the balance of power between the characters.
  • You don’t have to be a ‘plotster’ (planning) or a ‘pantser’ (not planning) – there is a middle way.  You need to choose the route that works for you.
  • The British love a bit of wordplay, ambiguity and, of course, innuendo.
  • Research before or after writing, not during (unless it’s crucial).
  • BBC Writers Room is an oft-recommended resource and for good reason.
  • Don’t blog unless you enjoy it.  But if you do, it can help open doors.
  • Use Google Scholar to search for academic articles about your chosen subject.
  • Notice what your character notices – look through their eyes, not your own.
  • Comedy can have dark undertones.
  • Don’t sweat about the synopsis.  Shock horror – half the time agents don’t even read them!  Even if they do, it can be just a quick glance to make sure you’ve got the story in hand.  Your letter and sample chapters are much more important.
  • Use escalation to take your comedy sketch from mundane to ridiculous (in a good way).
  • Watch Andrew Stanton’s Ted talk – The Clues to a Great Story.
  • Go to writing conferences.  Attend workshops.  Keep on learning.  Keep on writing.

PS – I will be randomly selecting the winner of the signed copy of The Snugglewump on Friday.  If you haven’t entered, just comment on my previous post to be in with a chance!

Signed book giveaway and workshop

The SnugglewumpMy new picture book The Snugglewump illustrated by Kate Chappell is out!  The Snugglewump is a featureless comforter with an inferiority complex.  When it hears the other toys arguing about which of them Molly loves best, it crawls out of the cat flap and ends up in a puddle in the local park.  Will the Snugglewump be reunited with Molly?  Could it be that she loves it best after all?  To find out, why not enter my free signed copy giveaway?  Just comment below and tell me what age group you like to write for and why.  I will print off the comments and draw one out of a hat!

Also I’m running a two hour picture book writing workshop at the Get Writing 2017 conference at Oaklands College, St Albans, on Saturday 3 June.  It’s an all day event where you pick which workshops you would like to attend as well as talks and opportunities to pitch to agents and publishers.  Plus lunch!  A lovely day – I have attended several times in the past.  More details and tickets available here.

How to write a covering letter or email

The covering letter is an important part of your submission package, but it shouldn’t be one you have to agonise over.  The main thing is to keep it business-like.  Introduce your work and yourself, and then let the writing do most of the talking.  In the States it can be a bit different as you may be asked to pitch your idea before being invited to submit a sample, in which case your initial letter will be more of a sell.  But for a simple covering letter to accompany your one-page synopsis and three sample chapters (usually – or whole text if it’s a picture book), these tips will help:

  1. Address the agent or publisher you are writing or emailing to by name if possible.  Dear Sir/Madam hints at a blanket letter to multiple recipients, or at the least a lack of research.
  2. Introduce your book with a snappy blurb and an indication of length and market.
  3. Include a short paragraph about yourself, focusing on relevant information, eg writing courses you have done, or any contact you have had with your target audience eg teaching, volunteering.
  4. It can be helpful to mention why you are approaching that particular publisher or agent.  For example, you admire the work of one of their writers, or you see that they publish books in rhyme.  Remember to keep the tone business-like.  This is, after all, a business letter.
  5. Don’t ask for feedback.
  6. End with ‘Yours sincerely’ if you are addressing someone by name – or you can end with ‘Best wishes’ if you like.
  7. Add a link to your website or blog under your name.
  8. Remember to attach your manuscript and synopsis!

Once you’ve submitted, make a note in your diary for three months’ time.  If you haven’t heard back by then, I think it’s fair to submit elsewhere.  But don’t give up hope – I heard back after nine months with a yes!

 

 

World Book Day fun

I had an amazing week last week visiting schools for World Book Day celebrations.  Did you know it was the twentieth World Book Day?  For parents the thought of concocting a costume for this sort of event can be stressful, but when you see what goes on that day and all the energy and enthusiasm that everybody shows, it’s so worth it (and if in doubt, wear casual clothes and go as one of the Famous Five!).

world-book-day-2017

First stop was Beech Hill in Luton, where I shared the story of Professor McQuark with the Early Years classes.  They then had the task of designing their very own wacky scientists.  I had a very tasty school dinner and then got to judge the designs and give out some prizes.  It was hard as they were all so fun and quirky!  I think my favourite was Professor Rainbow.

On Tuesday I visited St John Rigby in Bedford.  They had a very craft day making snowy pictures and spinners that pointed to the seasons inspired by The Snowflake Mistake, while the older years channeled their inner Professor McQuarks by making crazy vehicles.  Some even travelled in time!

C5xoBkJXEAQIxJG c

Any excuse to dress up as Professor McQuark.

Wednesday saw me going to Biggleswade to St Andrews (West) for a couple of big assemblies.  I had to project my voice as well as the book illustrations!  Everyone joined in with sound effects for the picture books.  After reading Letter to Pluto to the older pupils I explained to them the journey from an idea to a  published book.  We needed lots of volunteers to show how many people are involved.

On Thursday it was the big day itself – the twentieth World Book Day.  I was very excited to go to London and visit Surrey Square Primary School in Southwark the day.  The atmosphere was amazing and the teachers for each year group had co-ordinated their outfits so in one year the teachers were a set of crayons (‘The Day the Crayons Quit’) and in another year they were The Twits!  I did a mixture of assemblies, class visits and a workshop and felt like part of the Surrey Square family.

16997928_1292058360889159_3784098629147744224_n c

I always stir my ideas with a wooden spoon.  Call me a traditionalist but that’s how I am.

Finally on Friday it was back to Biggleswade to St Andrews (East) where, after a short scenic detour (ie getting lost), I arrived at a beautiful newly built school like something out of Grand Designs.  The children had been waiting very patiently for me and eagerly volunteered to help me find the ideas in my ideas sack to make the stories.  After a reading of Letter to Pluto and a session with the older pupils about the journey of a book followed by some fabulous questions, my World Book Day week was over.

I can’t wait for next year!