Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Marketing a Book on the Internet (When You're a Dummy).

I’m exhausted. All day, I’ve been doing something I’m not used to – marketing. Oh yes, I post an occasional ‘hey-remember-this-book’ type post on Facebook or Twitter, but today I’ve been all over, multiple times, posting photos, videos and links to bookshops. My friends will probably all unfriend me if I keep it up much longer.

The truth is, Famous Animals Volume 1 has been out for over a year now. The promising sales at its birth have petered to occasional sales at local markets. Those market sales are still gratifying, because I’m able to see who buys them and why (like the man who bought it for his friend’s 65th birthday), but they’re not exactly rushing in to buy it. Amazon UK has reduced the price again, meaning it’s wanting to get rid of the three copies it has sitting on its ‘shelf’. So my marketing is partly to try and give it a kick.

Another reason is that I have Volume 2 (Musical Animals) almost ready and I want to try to get it published by a traditional publisher. I’ve had a number of other traditionally published authors, and booksellers, tell me that it would take off much better if I did. It might be easier to do that if they think people are interested.

The third reason is the recent release of a ‘Famous Animal Leaders’ Calendar on Redbubble. I’ll write more about that on here very soon.

There is another reason, but I’m not going to go into it right now. I’ll wait until I have seen, first-hand, a book that is about to be released. If you’re British, you’ve probably already seen the author being interviewed everywhere and can work out why my interest has been piqued (and my pride dented somewhat).

On the upside – today I learned how to boost a post on Facebook (I’m sure they’ll appreciate the HUGE amount of money I laid out. At least one of them will be able to get Macca’s for dinner.) I aimed it mainly at British Grannies. I'll get onto Australian ones next. I figure they're the ones who buy it most - for their grandchildren.

I’ve also posted a video to Twitter for the first time. Now all I need to do is work out how you do that on Instagram. Gee, I do wish sometimes that I was thirty years younger, so I understood all this stuff.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Creating from photos

This weekend, I turned a log of wood into a series of patterns that I might upload to Redbubble and two book covers – already loaded onto Magic Owl Design. Why? Well, because I could, really. It was fun. That’s what art has become to me lately – simply fun. I find myself racing from one experiment to another, becoming happier and happier as I go along. Whether others think they’re wonderful doesn’t really cross my mind, unless the art is a commission, of course, in which case I slow down a bit and concentrate on what they want.  Otherwise, I’m simply rolling with the flow of whatever happens and enjoying every second of it.

So how does a log of would become a piece of art? This way, basically... 

Start with a photo of an interesting log of wood.

Smooth the texture out so it looks painted.

Lay the result in various patterns – reverse the image,  maybe overlay it here and there and then mess around with the colours and blends. Photoshop is full of surprises when you play around with it.

 With these particular results, I saw possibilities for book covers. If you look closely you can see a man in the first picture. That's what inspired the first cover. The second, I cropped, stretched and added all sorts of filters and gradients to it. 

Voila! Two more pre-made book covers for sale.

And sadly, I now have to stop and go and live real life. My family do need to eat after all. 

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

What do you do when you're not researching?

When I was at university and wanted a rest from studying for exams, I would read. Not any old book, but books by authors like Sir Walter Scott. They were hard to read, so kept my brain in the right gear for studying while still being a relaxing change. In the same spirit, I thought that as I'm in the middle of doing the research for "Famous Animals Volume II" (stay tuned) I'd write a blog post that required a little light research.

My friends of Facebook are woefully aware - because I keep boring them with the results - that for Christmas, I was the happy recipient of a new camera. I've taken a huge, one could even say embarrassing, number of photos since then, of which this is one -

Sorry to the squeamish amongst you. I should probably have put a warning. Aren't they like something out of a horror movie? These things used to terrify me as a nine-year-old, just out from England. Their name, 'Spitfires', is enough to scare anyone. As an adult, I'm less impressed by their name or their spikes, though I admit I did stand back a fair way to take this photo. I was quite surprised to find them, as I hadn't seen any for quite a few years. Of course, I hadn't actually been looking for them.

Spitfires are not caterpillars, but are the larvae of the Sawfly, which isn't a fly but a form of wasp. It's an unusual wasp in that it doesn't have a thin waist or a sting. The female lays its eggs inside eucalyptus leaves through a serrated ovipositor, hence the 'saw' part of its name. The larvae stay together in clumps like this during the day and move apart at night to feed on leaves. If they're disturbed while in these clumps, they exude a liquid from their mouths which smells strongly of eucalyptus - a deterrent to all but the most hardy predator. Note the use of the word 'exude'. They don't spit...but the name 'Dribblefires' doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it?

From what I can gather, this particular group of hugging creatures is rather out of season. They're supposed to climb down the tree and pupate in the ground in the middle of spring and it's now the middle of summer, but maybe the unseasonal wet weather we've been having lately has spurred the sawflies on to laying more eggs. Whatever the reason, I'll be very careful when walking under that particular tree for a while to come. 

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Rosen Trevithick, Chocolatier extraordinaire.

Those of you who know me will have heard of today's interviewee before. I've been illustrating Rosen Trevithick's Smelly Troll books for a few years now. In fact, I interviewed her before, almost two years ago to the day. I have special reason to interview her again though. She has written a book that is very different to anything she's done before and will appeal to everyone I know - 'Chocolate Making Adventures'. Who doesn't like chocolate? And it's a beautiful book!

Hi Rosen, thanks for coming on my blog... 

 The cover of your new book makes my mouth water and I gain a kilo just looking at it, but what makes your book different from other books about making chocolate?

The other books are lying! Or, more politely put, many recipe books that claim to tell you how to make chocolate, actually tell you how to work with chocolate.

Chocolate Making Adventures is unique in that it tells you how to make chocolate itself, working with cocoa butter and sweeteners.

There are websites about making chocolate, but I’ve been unable to find any full-length books. I think the reason is that commercially available cocoa butter is a relatively new thing. I imagine we’ll see a lot more cookbooks on this subject popping up over the next twelve months.

  You’re best known for your novels for both children and adults, from trolls to naughty grandmothers. Why did you decide to do a book about chocolate?

I became addicted to making chocolate and obsessed with trying to find a way to make milk chocolate at home – it’s simple once you know how, but it took a long time to figure out why recipes I read online didn’t work, and to develop a new method.

I was getting behind with my writing projects but realised I could seize back those procrastination hours if I made my next book about chocolate.

Also, having spent so long perfecting recipes, I wanted to share them with others. Let ignorance stand between no man and his perfect chocola

  Could you tell us a little about the fantastic photos in the book? Who did them and how did she go about making them so fantastic?

The photos are by a wonderful lady called Claire Wilson. She is an experienced photographer who’s just taken an exciting leap into freelancing full time. I was lucky enough to be one of her first food photography clients.

When we started out, I didn’t realise that professional chefs have entire teams working to make food look perfect for photos. Usually a food stylist gets involved between the writer and the photographer. Because of lighting, sometimes photographs of artificial props look more like the food than photos of the actual food.

I didn’t know any of this and just blindly followed my recipes, regularly handing over chocolate with an apology, “It’s not shiny”, “They’re misshapen”, “The surface has bloomed” etc.

Claire not only had to photograph substandard chocolate but also take the role of food stylist, to come up with unique and interesting ways to present each one, as chocolate itself looks quite plain. In most cases, she used props and background to add interest and colour.

Each photo is a little work of art. I see the work as a photo book as much as it is a recipe book.

Claire Wilson

How difficult is it to create your own chocolate from scratch? Is there any special equipment you need to do it? Do you need certain conditions for it to work? (As an Australian, I’m imagining globs of melted chocolate all over my kitchen in the hot weather.)

Creating plain chocolate is very simple. I’ve seen recipes that suggest you just melt three ingredients together and allow to set. I personally feel it needs an extra step to ensure the ingredients don’t separate out, but even with my extended method, you can do the whole thing in less than an hour. Varieties like milk and white require a little extra attention, but once you’ve got the knack, you can easily prepare those in less than an hour, too.

As for equipment, you can make chocolate in a bowl above a pan of boiling water and leave it to set in whatever you have to hand. Perfectionists and people who are planning to make a lot of chocolate, will want to buy a slab and scraper for the smoothest possible results, and some moulds for presentation.

As for hot countries, a crucial step in my recipes is to spread the chocolate around on a cold surface, to quickly cool it. I imagine that would be difficult in a hot kitchen. I suspect you’d need air conditioning.

Do you have a favourite chocolate that you would recommend over all the others? Why is it so special?

My all-time favourite has to be peppermint cream. I just love the contrast between dark chocolate and the fresh, minty filling.

Then there are the peanut butter cups, which you can make with or without oaty biscuits. You can make peanut butter simply by blending peanuts. Nothing so simple should taste that good.

Oh, and the amaretto creams with boozy cherries are heavenly. I don’t drink, but I so allow myself one or two of these from time to time. They’re a real adult’s chocolate.

I also have a soft spot for homemade white chocolate, because it took me a very long time to work out the secret.

Claire Wilson

How can you make such wonderful looking chocolates and stay so slim? Do you not eat your own produce? 

I actually put on ten pounds whilst writing this book! But then I was surrounded by chocolate all day, every day for many months.

A trick I learned from a birthday card my sister sent me, came in handy: "If you can’t lose weight, fatten up your friends."

Thank you for having me on your blog.

Thanks for coming on, Rosen. My mouth is watering just thinking about all this chocolate!

Rosen's book is available as an ebook or in print from Amazon and other online stores.

Claire Wilson, Live Life Explore

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Blog Tour, Stop #5

I'm a little late in posting this, it's been a busy last few days, but Post #5 is up at the blog of Sci-Fi author Michael Brookes. Not only does he write his novels, he runs an online shop selling interesting sci-fi and horror t-shirts and is running a Drabble Festival in November (as well as doing his regular job). He's a busy man, but still found time to post my piece about the technical side of painting the illustrations for Famous Animals. You can read it and find out all about Michael's projects at this link

Monday, 28 September 2015

Blog Tour, Stop #4

Today, I've stopped by the blog of Rosen Trevithick whom you may remember stopped by this blog some time ago, nearly two years ago to be exact. She and I have worked together on numerous 'Smelly Troll' books. Rosen always asks interesting but hard to answer questions, but I've done my best to answer them.

                                                 Here's the link : Rosen's Blog  

From "Trolls on Ice" by Rosen Trevithick.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Blog Tour Stop #3

Third stop on the Famous Animals Blog tour is now up, this time at the blog of Australian author, Pauline Conolly. Pauline writes history (including 'The Water Doctor's Daughters') and her website is full of interesting information so make sure you take a look around if you're visiting for my post. Thank you to Pauline for inviting me to post and being so encouraging.

Here's the link: Pauline Conolly

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Blog Tour, Stop #2

The blog tour for Famous Animals Volume 1 continues. This time I've been interviewed over at Kath Middleton Books by the lovely lady herself. Kath used to be a reader, until she discovered she was a writer and since then, there's been no stopping her. You can check out her books here.

This interview is not so much about Famous Animals, but about my books and illustrations in general. I hope you'll support Kath by checking it out -

Kath Middleton-Books

Friday, 18 September 2015

I'm going on a blog tour...

Well, it has been a long time coming, but I'm thrilled to say that "Famous Animals" is now real and available all over the world. To celebrate, I'm setting off on a blog tour. I'll keep you posted here where I'm going to and I hope you'll support the people who've kindly let me onto their blogs to blather...ahem...I mean give really interesting information about my new book.

First stop is at the blog of Australia's own Sally Odgers, whose children's books fill a whole shelf in our school's library (and we don't have all of them). She's also an editor and you can find out about her services at Affordable Manuscript Assessments  . Even better, she's a dog lover, so she must be a good sort!

I'll write a long post, or maybe a book, some day about why it took so long to get Famous Animals off the ground, but for now, let's get the blog tour rolling. First stop...

Promote Me Please

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Coming Soon - "Famous Animals"

For those of you who haven’t heard, I have a new book coming out the next month or so anyway. Sorry, it’s not the sequel to Treespeaker (that’s still all inside my head), or even Larkspell, which has been patiently waiting to be finished for so long. No, this is a children’s book. Well, no, it isn’t really. It’s a history book. Well, no. it’s not really that either. It’s a book about animals. Er, well…it has pictures of animals. Sort of.

The above indecision about what the book actually is explains why I haven’t sent it to a ‘real’ publisher to try to get them to publish it. I just couldn’t think how to do it. How does one pitch a book that doesn’t fit anywhere? I couldn’t even tell you if it’s fiction or non-fiction. Librarians are just going to love it!

It all started with the 52-Week Illustration Challenge at the beginning of the year. The theme for the week was ‘Italy’. To me Italy screamed opera, so I decided to draw Pavarotti. However, I don’t really often manage to draw someone who actually looks like they’re supposed to. I prefer animals. Eventually, I hit on the idea of drawing a rat and calling him ‘Pavaratti’. When I’d finished, I realised that I could think of a whole lot of people whose names could be turned into animals. So I set to work and painted them. Soon I found I was thoroughly enjoying myself and making those I showed them to laugh. With the help of friends on the Kindle Users Forum, I made a long list of possible subjects. A book was born. “Famous Animals.” Not a very catchy title I suppose, but I wanted it to appear serious… but not.

In my dreams, the book would be a large coffee table book with just the high resolution pictures to keep adults and children alike amused. In reality, I can’t afford to print something like that without the cost to the customer being astronomical. Hence the confusion about what sort of book it is. Apart from each picture, there will be a short, hopefully witty comment about the animal persona, a short biography of the real person on whom they’re based and an interesting fact about the animal. So for Pavaratti, there will be something about Pavaratti, something about Pavarotti and something about rats.

Before I get it to the book launch which someone has kindly offered, there’ll be a series of adverts and hopefully a blog tour (thought that may come after). So expect to hear and see more of this in coming weeks. If I start to bore you, let me know?

By the way, I already have enough ideas for Famous Animals Volume 2 (Musicians), Volume 3 (Artists) and Volume 4 (Entertainers), so this could go on forever!