Well, actually I’m not, but my book is and it will be read by the amazing actress Suranne Jones (of Dr Foster fame) on Friday 15 December at 6.50 pm on CBeebies. That’s tomorrow! I’m so excited. I’ve had to keep this quiet for a long time as I found out by accident when the BBC Pronunciation Department (who knew?) emailed me to find out how to say my name. That was way back in April so I presume the reading was filmed then, though judging from the photo they have definitely got into the wintery mood with snowy clouds and even the Snow Queen’s ice palace in the background!
The illustrator, Maddie Frost, has done such a gorgeous job on the illustrations and I’m so happy for her that they get to be seen up close on screen. All her textures are scanned in from a variety of different materials and found objects which makes her work unique. I love it.
So I’m getting ready to put on my dressing gown and slippers, grab my hot cocoa and enjoy. But I won’t be going to sleep – oh no. I’ll be watching it another fifty million times first!
To celebrate the launch of my two new books, The Snowflake Mistake and Letter to Pluto, I am giving away a signed copy of the two of them. To be in the draw, just comment below with your most helpful writing tip. Hopefully we will get a good pool of knowledge we can share!
Here’s mine: Don’t be afraid to write a terrible first draft. No one will see it! Silencing your inner critic is really hard, but just tell them (or it) that you’ll be letting them out when it’s editing time, and they can feast on your words then but not now.
The moment I mastered this tip, my productivity increased by about 500%! What’s your most helpful piece of advice?
I’ve just had a lovely time doing author events in three local Waterstones stores in Hertfordshire. First I read Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip to the children, and then we made some crazy crafts that the professor would be proud of! It’s so exciting even just being in a Waterstones – the buzz of having famous authors whispering to each other in the shelves, the enthusiasm and passion of the staff, the tantalising new titles laid out just begging to be bought… bliss! It was hard not to go on a splurge and I finally caved in at the last visit and bought my daughter some cracking young adult titles including a signed Rainbow Rowell – what a find!
Thank you to all the children who came to St Albans, Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield Waterstones stores – you were stars and Professor McQuark is very proud of your gadgety glasses and extraordinary oojamaflips!
Thank you to everyone who came to my book signing at WH Smith in Luton last week. We made lots of pairs of glasses (some with special powers) and amazing oojamaflips with wings and even parachutes. Photos of these incredible inventions are now up on Professor McQuark’s website.
As promised, here’s another update on my journey to publication. Really I should be talking about the illustration process, but as that’s still happening (and very exciting it is too), I’ll write another post about that when I can give you… wait for it… the whole picture. Sorry about that.
With five or six months to go before publication day and not much that I can contribute to the text at this time, it’s a good time to start thinking about promotion. Fortunately my publisher Maverick held an author’s day last week where we discussed that exact topic. The timing could not have been better, and I’m now buzzing with ideas of how I can promote my book. So here are the main points I picked up. I hope they’re useful to you too.
No one can force you to go out there and promote your book, but it helps a huge amount. The publisher will promote you using social media, press releases, presentations to buyers etc, but only you can produce the author in person. You have nothing to lose but some spare time and possibly your dignity.
There are basically four types of author visits you can do: library visits, school visits, bookshop visits and events.
Libraries are very welcoming to authors. Library visits are likely to be around an hour and may consist of a reading, a short activity and book signing. You should be able to sell copies of your book directly to the public. Also check with the library that they do actually have your book for loan. If not, prompt them! Summer holidays are a good time for parents looking for activities.
Be brave and walk into your local bookshop. Introduce yourself and ask if you could come and do a book signing session. This is often a good way to get your books into bookshops that wouldn’t normally stock you. For example, Waterstones only order centrally but they are allowed to support local authors. The bookshop will then order in stock from the wholesalers (Betrams and Gardners are the two big companies). Be proactive and offer an activity or a reading rather than just a ‘buy my book’ approach. Mention the visit to local press and radio beforehand.
You can contact local primary schools directly by emailing their Literary or Key Stage One leader. Make it easy for them by providing e-posters and flyers. You can also include a form that allows parents to pre-order signed copies of the book, to be collected on the day. The school should have a budget for author visits and you will be expected to charge. You can find guidelines on how much at the Society of Authors website. They also have a useful pdf about author visits. You no longer need to be CRB checked (these days DBS checked) to visit schools as long as there is a teacher in the classroom at all times. However you will probably find that having an up-to-date DBS check makes your approach look more professional. And it’s very useful to have a teacher present at all times anyway! You can get a DBS check and insurance through the National Association of Writers in Education at www.nawe.co.uk.
Events can range from school fetes to county fairs to literary festivals and radio station visits. Think laterally and try to find a connection between your book and the local area or event. You can buy copies of your own book at a good discount and resell them. Add value by signing and personalising the books.
There are various directories of authors you can join if you want to be contacted about a visit, such as contactanauthor.co.uk.
When you’ve read your book out, what else can you do to keep your young listeners entertained? Thanks to author Alex English for sharing this resource on 103 things to do after reading a picture book. And don’t be desk bound – children love songs, rhymes, games and dressing up, so think about the content of your book and how you can transfer this into some educational playtime!
Right, I’m off to buy a lab coat, four pairs of glasses and a big bag of props. Author visits may be nerve-wracking but they sound like they can be a lot of fun, too!
Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip will be published by Maverick Books in January 2016.
Hello fellow subbers. This bulletin brings news of some non-fiction successes.
I have a chapter on Social Media for Writers included in the second edition of The Handbook of Creative Writing, just published by Edinburgh University Press. I can honestly say it’s the most comprehensive and thorough guide to creative writing I have ever read! So many different types of writing are covered, including the more unusual types such as flash fiction, song lyrics, memoirs, humorous fiction, literary magazines, writing as therapy, screen writing and many other areas that aren’t covered by the regular manuals. (Great to read a chapter on writing for the theatre.) Also discussed are MAs, writing in the community, how to present yourself as a writer, teaching writing, making a living as a writer and even the theory and history of creative writing as a leisure activity. At over 500 pages it doubles as a useful paperweight!
Also out this month is July’s Writing Magazine which includes my article on grammar checking software: The Proof is Out There! I love punning titles and this one just about slipped through the cheesiness filter. Now there’s an idea for a useful piece of software.
There’s some new opportunities for YA out so I’ll be posting on them soon. In the meantime, keep subbing and good luck!
It’s an exciting month for me, fellow scribes. My short play The Voices is being performed as part of Ghost Dog Productions‘ new writing night at the Horse Bar, London, while previous play Love in the Time of Magicka is currently ‘on tour’ at the Little Black Box Theatre in Bristol and then next month at the King’s Arms in Salford, with a new director and cast for each location. All three venues are fab ’boutique’ theatre spaces that love new writing.
Meanwhile my article on decoding the mystery of blogging stats is in this month’s Writing Magazine (misleadingly labelled April issue, as magazines are from the future).
Exciting times! Meanwhile I’m working on a full length play for a competition, plus some more short pieces. But never fear, I shall still be watching out for opportunities to submit to children’s publishers and for writing tips to share with you. My main tip this month: take every opportunity that comes your way. You never know what might happen!
How exciting – I’ve been interviewed over on the blog of Martyn Beardsley, prolific writer for children and adults and author of the Sir Gadabout Books.
If you’ve popped over from Martyn’s blog then unfortunately you will now be caught in an endless loop for all time as I’m about to direct you back to the interview at Rambles of a Writer. Sorry about that.