Tag Archives: publishing

book launch!

It’s funny the twists and turns life takes. When I began this blog a few years ago it was with the dream of becoming a published author, yet this weekend when I finally found myself holding a novel bearing my name, it was as an illustrator!inside cover

As you can see in the photo, the book is The Mystery of The Disappearing Underpants by Nikki Young. It’s aimed at 8 – 11 year olds and centres on Harry, his best friend James and neighbour Stacey who form a spy club and spend their summer holidays solving mysteries. The premise immediately appealed to me because my brothers and I often pretended we were spies when we were kids and I loved the way the story started off light-hearted but ended up with a real mystery that’s genuinely exciting.

The book was released last week and on Saturday I went to the launch party! The journey down to Kent from up here in Northumberland was a bit of a trek – especially with a  two and a half hour train delay which led to me arriving rather more than fashionably late – but it was worth every moment. The launch was brilliant with pink fizz, book signing, cupcakes with my illustrations on them and conversations with some really lovely people. I’m so impressed with Nikki for all the hard work she’s put into the book and really happy to have been able to work with her to add that little extra something.

book launch

I left the launch full of optimism, cupcakes and bubbles and, as if that wasn’t enough, then went immediately to London and met my oldest friend for a meal. A night away by myself is a rare treat indeed – with no kids tea or bedtime to have to think about, I was so giddy I could barely find my way to the restaurant, but I got there in the end and we had a wonderful evening. I then went to check-in to my hotel, was told I’d had a free room upgrade and found myself with this view:

kings cross at night

Wow. It was a little louder and brighter than the moonlit fields of home but for the one night it was totally perfect! The next morning I had a leisurely breakfast (avocado and scrambled eggs on toast, freshly squeezed orange juice and not a child in sight – not my usual experience!) and then strolled off to meet my writing friends for lunch. And when I say ‘lunch’ I mean a six hour long food and drink fest where we utterly put the world to rights. Ah, bliss.

What I'm Writing meet up May 17

Finally, on the train home I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen for years and had a really good catch up. It was the perfect end to my weekend way. I arrived home and was able to give my sons a copy of Nikki’s book each. My middle son was so excited he’s now cleared a shelf of his bookcase for “Books illustrated by Maddy Bennett (my mum)”. If that’s not a reason to keep on drawing in every spare moment, then I don’t know what is. I fully intend to make sure he ends up with some books written by me on that shelf too. One day.

You can find out more about The Mystery of the Disappearing underpants (and buy it!) here.

books illustrated by Maddy Bennett

catch up – #WhatImWriting

September is here, the kids have gone back to school and – woo hoo! – #WhatImWriting is back!

After a summer without any of these sorts of writing posts I think a good catch-up post is in order… the problem is, my head is all over the place at the moment. Not in a bad way, but the summer was really full-on with all three boys at home, then the older two went back to school in the middle of last week and before I’d really had time to breathe I was off to York for a (fabulous) weekend at the Festival of Writing. I’m freshly returned from that and my head feels like it’s full to bursting with everything I’ve heard and learnt and with all the conversations I had with so many lovely people. I feel like I haven’t had proper time to think since July!

book spiral

So. This post is likely to be less of a perfectly-honed, shiny gem of a post and more of a roughly-hewn, chunk-out-of-a-limestone-cliff, sort of a thing. But maybe if I write it it will get me closer to working out where I am with my writing and what is next.

Right.

Um.

Ok, I’ll start with my limericks… in fact, wait a sec…. I’ll do this in an organised manner:

1) Limericks

I’ve been writing limericks for my blog for a couple of years, and have been wondering for a while now about publishing some in a book of some sort. I did have some published by Iron Press last year but I’m itching to do something a bit more substantial. Over the last few months a plan has started to take shape and I’ve been working on creating a limerick anthology for kids which I intend to have illustrated and then self-publish.

This summer I’ve been working towards this goal and have snatched every chance I can to write and edit limericks. I’m pleased to say I’ve nearly completed the collection. My plan is (or was) to request some beta readers this autumn and then start seriously looking for an illustrator and hopefully edit and hone and create a book that I can publish next year.

But then I went to the Festival of Writing which, although wonderful and inspiring, was also a bit of a reality check. Because I found myself in a room (multiple rooms in fact) surrounded by clever, talented people who share the same dream I do. Well, not exactly the same dream – I don’t think they’re all avid limerick-writers – but we were all there hoping to get published at some point and not only that, to ensure sales of those future books. I suddenly felt really aware of how stiff the competition was.

This very fact was also made very clear to us by the agents and publishers there. As the very funny (and sweary) David Maybury from Scholastic books said in a seminar (forgive the paraphrasing):

“All you lovely writers sitting there: you’re NOT going to get published. Oh f**k, I had that written down here and then ‘DO NOT SAY THIS’ written above it and now I’ve said it. It’s not true. Honestly. BUT it is really, really hard to get published.”

And he then went on to tell us about how, even if you did get published you might not sell many books and how it was all a gamble and people can get dropped by their publishers for not selling enough and… well… the reality of the marketplace did hit home.

But I then had a very positive one to one meeting with Jennifer Parker from Matador books (a huge boon of the festival is that you get one-on-ones with agents and publishers). Matador are a self-publishing company who I’ve heard good things about. They offer marketing and distribution along side other services and have various freelance illustrators they work with so lots to offer someone like me. They don’t automatically agree to you self-publishing with them so I was pleased to hear they’d be happy to work with me. Jennifer also had an illustrator she thought would fit with my limericks and encouraged me to submit my full set of limericks to them for a quote. If I choose to run with my self-publishing plan, this option clearly has potential.

But… I don’t know. It’s going to be expensive. Hiring an illustrator costs a lot. And the whole ‘crowded marketplace’ thing is really living with me. Do I want to do it this way? Do I want to do it at all? And most of all, do I have it in me to properly promote and market myself? Is it worth the risk and the pressure? I’m suddenly feeling completely unsure.

2) Picture books

I’ve been working on all three of my manuscripts over the summer. Millie Tweed (my first book) is now at a point where I plan on submitting her (her? definitely time to let go of that manuscript – she’s become real!), and Pete and the Aliens (my third book) is very nearly there too. Mr Magic (book no. two) however, has taken a turn for the worse and now needs to be ignored for a few weeks/months before being re-built.

Before the Writing Festival I was planning on submitting to publishers and agents but now I’m thinking I’ll try agents as a first port of call. Having heard more about how the publishing industry works, I understand far more now about how incredibly useful an agent could be. The right agent can help you shape your writing career, edit and hone your work and point you in the right direction for future endeavours. Of course they can’t guarantee publication but they make it a lot more likely and a smoother process too. So my aim is to send Millie and maybe Pete out to them soon and see where we go from there. Having spoken to other writers I expect this to be a lengthy process but I have to start somewhere.

3) Novel no. 1

Remember that middle-grade manuscript I was writing? No? Well I hardly do either but I’d love to get back to it! I have 7000 words written and masses of notes. It’s calling to me.

4) Novel no. 2

I wrote 55,000 words of a psychological thriller last year. I’d love to finish it although having been to the festival I’m now even more aware of how crap what I’ve written is!

5) This blog

I love blogging but it takes up a lot of valuable writing time. My toddler has just dropped his nap so that time is now even more limited. Obviously I’m not going to stop blogging completely but I feel like I need to re-think things.
So that’s me now. Not remotely clear headed and, as I warned, this was a bit of a roughly-hewn post! I will attempt to write something clearer for next week. Hopefully a proper post about the Writing Festival – I learnt a lot and would love to share it.

I’m looking forward to reading about how your summers have gone!

Writing Bubble

Become The Best You – an interview with Reneé Davis

Many of us dream of being a published author – the excitement, the satisfaction and (hopefully) the plaudits… but what’s the reality like? I was recently lucky enough to grab an interview with the author, blogger, mum-of-three and all-round lovely Reneé Davis. Reneé self-published her first book ‘Become The Best You’ last November. Here’s a bit about the book:#btby

After her dysfunctional upbringing Reneé Davis knew she wanted more out of life, but had no idea how she was going to achieve it. She lived life in self-destruct mode for years until she eventually made peace with the past, ditched bad influences and behaviour, and got comfortable with what she saw in the mirror.

This book tells you how you can do the same. How you can change your life and break your own cycle of dysfunction.

Anyone is capable of doing it. You just have to want to badly enough.

I read the book myself last year and found it very inspiring. It’s full of practical, sensible advice that makes it relevant for anyone whether you come from a similar background to Reneé or are just hoping to change a few things about your life. The memoir sections make it much more compelling and meaningful than your average self-help book. I recommend it!

Hi Reneé, congratulations on your book! How did it feel to hit the publish button? (Is there even a publish button? I’m imagining it big and shiny and that when you press it a mini firework display is activated? ;)

To be honest it’s all a bit of a blur! There’s definitely a button on Create Space (submit perhaps?) that you press once you’ve done all your uploading and filled in all the forms. It then goes off to be checked by them and usually goes live on Amazon 3-5 days later. It was pretty thrilling I have to say, but my book went live within 24 hours which took me by surprise. I wasn’t anticipating it being available to buy quite so fast, and had to rejig time off work to bring my launch day forward. It was all fab in the end, but is worth taking into consideration if you are thinking of self-publishing.

How have things gone with the book since? Are you where you hoped to be at this point?

Funnily enough I wrote a post about this recently. The book did amazingly well in it’s first couple of weeks and even made it into the Amazon Bestsellers Top 50, which I’m so very proud of. Since then I’ve hardly had a moment to breathe between the kids and work, so book promotion has been bottom of my list. My 3yo has just started nursery though, so I’ll have a little bit of spare time to work on my plans for world domination.

How long did it take you to write (and edit)?

From start to finish it was almost a year to the day. I began writing bits and pieces when I went on maternity leave in the January, then it all ground to a halt after my son was born on Valentine’s Day. I took two months off while we all adjusted to our new addition, and started writing again in the Spring. By the end of Summer I had a first draft on my hands, which I then paid handsomely to be critiqued by an editor at a top literary agency. He had some great advice for me which I took on board, and spent the next three months editing and filling in the gaps. Once I was happy with the manuscript I sent it away for a second edit to ensure it didn’t have any glaring typos or grammatical errors. After it came back I had to do some tweaks here and there, then it was ready to be published. I’m sure I could have carried on editing it forever, but there comes a point where you have to say ‘this is good enough’.

The book is built on your own experiences – was it painful to write? 

As I explain in the book, I made peace with my dysfunctional past a long time ago, and feel very emotionally detached from it now. I find writing about the things I’ve been through really cathartic, and I get a great sense of pride knowing that I’m also helping others to help themselves by sharing my story.

How did you find a balance between self-help and memoir?

The structure of the book changed several times throughout the course of me writing it. I don’t think I was too aware of the need for  balance, it just naturally worked out around half and half.

What made you decide to self-publish rather than go down the ‘traditional’ route?

Time was and is my biggest constraint. I have very little of the stuff going spare and didn’t want to sit on my manuscript while I trod the long treacherous route of trying to find an agent. A book like mine is so niche, and there aren’t going to be many out there willing to take it on. I firmly believe that if you have the talent as a self-published author an agent/publisher will come to you.

Is self publishing a difficult thing to do? Is it expensive (especially having paper versions made)?

Not at all, especially now that Create Space are an Amazon company they make it very easy to self-publish. As well being available on Kindle, they print orders on demand so there is no outlay for printing, and they have various distribution channels to help get your book into shops and libraries. In terms of cost, I spent a fair bit of money on the book. Having two professional edits and a professional cover designed, doesn’t come cheap but was worth every penny in my opinion as my book looks every bit as good as the next book does. Of course the flip side of this is that all the royalties are my own.

What have been the best and worst parts of your whole writing/publishing/marketing experience so far?

Just not having any time to dedicate to book promotion. I’ve had moments of real frustration over it lately, but this is the reality of life with small children, and I have three of them (including a baby who is still breastfeeding).

Do you have any advice for writers out there?

Just write write write. Even if the words don’t really make sense at first, the only way you’ll ever get better at anything is by practicing. If you truly utilise every single opportunity you get to write, you’ll be sitting in front of a first draft before you know it. I used to stay awake after the baby had his early morning feed around 4am which gave me an hour and a half to two hours of writing time each day before the rest of the house woke up. Who needs sleep?! Oh and don’t be fearful of the editing process. I would say half of my original content didn’t make the final book, but I didn’t shed a single tear because what was left was much better.

What’s next (for both the book and you)? 

Next step for Become the Best You is getting it in front of people that could take it further. Not necessarily literary agents but mental health charities, magazines, influential self-help authors. I’m thinking well and truly outside of the box on this one. Next step for me is to start working on my novel. Guess I need to take my own advice and get writing! Watch this space ;-)

Thanks Reneé and good luck!

mumturnedmom

in a spin – #WhatImWriting

leaves2This week seems to have flown by – I can hardly believe it’s time for another #WhatImWriting. Hooray! Chrissie is hosting this week so if you’re looking to link up, please head over to Muddled Manuscript.

I’m not certain what to write about for my post this week as my brain is flitting all over the place, but I guess the main thing to update you on is my picture book. I’ve been working on it a lot and have now shown it to two more close friends of mine, both of whom are primary school teachers (and mothers), and therefore have particularly useful perspectives. The feedback has been really good: both positive and useful. I’ve now reached the ninth draft and think I’m very close to something I’ll be happy to send off somewhere. But where?

Well, quite. So while working on the book I’ve also been looking around at publishers websites, checking out what they’re looking for and how to go about submitting. I found this blog post by Lou Treleaven a really useful resource: it lists children’s book publishers who are currently accepting unsolicited manuscripts.

I did have a bit of a crisis of confidence while researching though, as all the publishers said they get masses of submissions every week. Not that I expected anything different, but there’s nothing quite like seeing that fact in black and white! They all said it would take three to six months to get a response from them, if indeed you received any response at all. And of course, as all writers know, you’ve got to expect rejection. I suddenly felt very small, like a tiny Jelly Baby person clutching a flea-sized manuscript trying to get anyone to even notice I was there!

So I started wondering about the possibility of getting an agent. I know you don’t need to have one to submit work but I assume that it’s a huge help in securing a publisher. It’s means there’s someone else backing you up rather than your little manuscript just sitting in the middle of a huge pile of other unsolicited submissions. Like having somewhere more noticeable for Jelly Baby-me to sit perhaps? Or lighting to enhance my lovely juicy colour?

But trying to find an agent is a huge task in itself and I only have one little book – would an agent even be interested? I feel I need to research more here. Any advice?

There are lots of other things whirling through my mind as well at the moment: work-related issues, some family stuff and other questions to do with my writing too. I feel I’m in a bit of a spin trying to work out what to focus on. I’m in a bit of a spin in general actually. I don’t even know how to finish this blog post. Haven’t a clue.

Like this?

Muddled Manuscript