Tag Archives: children’s books


Proposed publication date: 29th September 2013
Treasure This ebookTHEcover
A whodunit for any age
When 12-year-old Addison finds a dead man in her aunt and uncle’s garden shed, she’s sure they couldn’t have killed him. Could they? Super-sleuth Addy is determined to find out. But how can she make Caitlin (a wannabe Goth) and seven-year-old Leaf (in training for the SAS) believe her when the body disappears? Who are the two thugs watching Roseleigh Manor so closely? And the question that’s really driving her mad – how many more bodies are buried in that garden?

Addy’s investigations take her into the heart of old secrets and new lies, threatening to blow apart her family and everything she loves. Oh, and she’s got that maths exam to worry about, too.

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Calling All Creatives

Okay, peeps, listen up. Radical suggestion approaching at speed. Brace yourselves. I’m about to suggest something subversive. Something momentous. Something over-the-rainbow imaginative.

For a moment, I want you to consider the world without Amazon. No, darling, not the river. We really need that. Just imagine a world where authors (not publishers or technological third parties such as Amazon, Apple, Sony, Barnes & Noble, Kobo et al) sold direct to their readers. You, the author, make the sale, you send your lovingly crafted ebook, you keep the buyer’s email address, physical address and any other information they give you.

That means you have a ready-made mailing list of readers to market your next book to. For the moment, let’s not worry about storage for print-on-demand books, or trips to the post office. I’m talking about ebooks and how technology can help writers. And how corporations who own that technology – well, don’t help writers as much as they could. Some ebusinesses seem to see creative people as much less important than the technology that makes money out of them. They see us as troublemakers, like intelligent monkeys that should be kept in their place. Preferably in a subservient position, scribbling, painting, making music… for others to sell at a nice profit. Remember coal mines? Without miners, they were just dangerous holes in the ground. Technology doesn’t create anything. People do.

 You are important. And that mailing list of buyers for your work is important too. You need it. Every author needs to build an audience either to sell direct to, or to prove to prospective publishers that there is a market for their novel. Assuming you want to keep writing – and selling – your books, a mailing list is a top marketing tool. Without it, you’ll be lost. You’d have to keep going back to… oh look, you’ve guessed it. If you sell your book through Amazon you won’t get that list of buyers. You pay them a percentage to sell on their site and they keep the email addresses you generate and use them for their own marketing – tempting people to buy other books similar to yours. Clever, aren’t they. Penelope Trunk discusses this in Why Smart Authors Are Cutting Out Amazon.

I’m not seriously suggesting we do away with Amazon altogether – or any of the other significant ebook players. I think it’s great that readers have choice. It keeps us all on our toes. Besides, it’s another place to sell books. Also, you need to know what to do with the mailing lists in order to maximise sales, and many authors don’t want that hassle. They want to get on with important stuff, like writing. I agree with all that. Again, it’s about choice. And control. JK Rowling has already made her choice, with Pottermore. She keeps the profit her books generate; she keeps her fanbase mailing lists. Of course, we don’t all have the resources JK has. But I believe the underlying paradigm shift created by this kind of author-to-reader direct service is seismic and is a glimpse into the future (trust JK to give us that J!) As more writers with well-edited and professionally proofread books take control by setting up their own websites, then selling ebooks direct to the reader is only a technological leap away, as is reclaiming our marketing lists. Which would be good for writers, good for readers and good for the ebook economy. That way we all stay on our toes. Not on our knees.


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Help Will Always Be Given

Ever since I started writing ten years ago I’ve imagined my stories in bookshops: entire shelves dedicated to my books, with exciting displays in the windows of Waterstones or little notes attached to them saying ‘Highly Recommended’.  But it is incredibly difficult for independent writers/publishers to have their books stocked in shops. Even if you produce a high quality product, which book buyers think will sell, as Electrik Inc has with St Viper’s School for Super Villains, there is still the issue of distribution.  All the chain retailers and many of the independent bookshops like to buy from wholesalers and want books ‘sale or return’. Wholesalers ask for a whopping 55-60% reduction on the list price, which enables them to pass a fair discount onto the retailers. I understand everyone has to make money and I’m sure they do a brilliant job, but for an individual or a small publisher with a high print cost (a short print run is far more expensive), the financial figures don’t add up. Plus the real sting in the tail is that if the book fails to sell or gets a bit dog-eared and is returned, the printer and the wholesaler still have to be paid. In this case, by me.

I have been putting on a brave face. ‘The ebook for St Viper’s is going to look brilliant,’ I say. ‘Buying books on-line is so easy.’ But secretly I have been feeling glum about not having my book in bookshops. So, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and did something about it. I visited Kathleen, the children’s book buyer at Topping & Co Booksellers of Bath, who was really supportive. She gave St Viper’s to her eight-year-old son who “absolutely devoured it” and, as a result, has offered to launch and stock the book.  Next I visited Harry Wainwright, the owner of Oldfield Park Bookshop. He offered to stock the book too. Harry was unbelievably generous with his time and gave me lots of valuable advice on marketing. He reminded me of the line from Harry Potter: “Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.” He said I shouldn’t be afraid to ask the book industry for help. I took his advice and went straight to Waterstones to see my friend John Lloyd. And he also came up with a possible local solution.

It looks like my fantasy will become reality. St Viper’s will be sold in local bookshops. But as Harry Wainwright said, ‘This is a pilot study to see if there is a market for your book. At some point soon you will have to take it to a national level. That requires a leap of faith.’ I walked home thinking about the challenges that lie ahead: funding large print runs (to bring the unit cost down), warehousing and distributing books, PR and sales on a countrywide scale and how to manage financial risk. For a moment I felt worried, but then I remembered that it’s okay to ask for help.

Kim Donovan

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The Price of e-Quality

I love rummaging in the 75%-off rail and finding a real gem – the dress I couldn’t afford that’s now the price of a cappuccino (well, that’s what I’d tell him) and in my size! Bliss doesn’t come any blissier. But we all know the pretend sales: the 50%-off signs that are up all year round and devalue the items because we know we’re not really getting a deal. For ‘special offer’ read ‘cheap tat we think you’re daft enough to buy’. Most of us are savvy enough to know rock-bottom prices don’t automatically mean a bargain.

So how much would you pay for a well-produced ebook for children? Think about it: new author, decent cover, seems well written, has a seal of quality (like Electrik Inc) and looks worth a read. 99p? £4.99? £8.99? Or £0?

A lot of people want free books, just as they want free films and free music. Maybe they think creative people have private incomes or rich partners, when the unpalatable truth is they’re more likely trying to hold down three part-time jobs, look after the kids, support their partner, care for mum and dad, clean the house, do the shopping, walk the dogs, feed the cats, have a tiny bit of a life and, oh, write…

Declan Burke discusses ‘Why should the price of ebooks…be on the floor?’  http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/features/2012/0221/1224312113036.html#.T0VqEnorjeg.email  and confirms there are different kinds of readers – those who want ever-cheaper books and those who’ll pay for quality. He’s talking mainly about adult ebooks but his remarks apply to the children’s market too. I wouldn’t buy a book just because it was cheap any more than I’d buy ugly clothes just because they had 50% off. If the price is too low, something isn’t right.

Look at what you’d pay and apply it to the hours of pleasure your child would get reading the ebook. Then apply it to a year of someone’s creative life. Okay, then, six months, because we can work when everyone else is sleeping… okay, okay, three months! (wow, you’re a hard taskmaster)… because we’re all geniuses and don’t need to rewrite, or pay line editors and proofreaders to check our work. And who needs a decent design on the cover anyway? And pay Amazon a cut? Who’s Amazon?

Of course ebooks are cheaper to produce than physical books and of course prices should reflect that. But mainly, it’s only printers’ costs you save on. Next time you reach for that ‘bargain’, ask yourself if you’d go to work for six months (or three) for, let’s say, £1,980 (two thousand sales @ 99p. And that’s a lot; most new authors are lucky to sell five hundred). That’s about £165 a week, before Amazon’s cut or Apple’s (around 40% of your book’s list price, plus the VAT) or other expenses (ISBN numbers, £100 for ten), marketing, editing, proofreading, illustrations, cover design…

Rock-bottom prices for ebooks are, for me, the equivalent of the year-round 50%-off sales sign. I can’t trust them because I know the quality is probably rubbish (poor or mediocre writing, no editing, no decent design, no proofreading), so I walk away and look for something where the price fairly reflects the work that’s gone into the product. And yes, I think the Electrik Inc logo is one of the signs to look for.

I think prices will level out as more readers realise that if content is free – i.e. worth nothing – then we’re in danger of getting the writers we pay for.

What do you think? Tell us your thoughts on epricing. Should children’s ebooks be cheaper than adults’? (And remember, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter was much longer than Cormac McCarthy’s The Road so it’s not necessarily about the word count.)

Kay Leitch   Electrik Inc

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Bubble and Strife

In the same week that Publishers’ Weekly reports Amazon is estimated to have sold six million Kindle Fire Tablets in its fourth quarter,


Ewan Morrison wonders if we’re heading for an epublishing bubble.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jan/30/self-e-publishing-bubble-ewan-morrison      He cites similarities in epublishing euphoria to the recent property, financial and credit bubbles, not to mention the dot.com boom and bust. And yes, epublishing does seem to be streaming ahead at an incredible rate. More and more people want to buy cheap(er) books and, paradoxically, more people want to make money from self publishing. But what happens when the price of your hard work (a decent, professionally written and edited novel isn’t produced in a few weeks) is pushed so far down you end up working for almost nothing? Or worse, writing beyond midnight so some corporate behemoth can sell your efforts for under 99p, take a large cut and give their executives a nice fat salary thank you very much. I won’t cry if that particular bubble bursts. If we want to read well-crafted, professionally produced books, we shouldn’t expect to get them for nothing.

I have faith that word of mouth will work for good ebooks just as it does for everything else. JK Rowling didn’t start off with a £million marketing budget. What sold her early books was that kids loved Harry Potter and told their friends about him.

So if there is a bubble – and there might be, because millions of us are in love with this new technology – it will burst. What would we be left with? Well, lots of ereaders and lots of books. A lot of books that won’t be read and some that will. Just as it ever was. Except this time we won’t have mountains of paper books to turn into slush. They’ll lie stillborn in the ether. E-readers will gather dust under the bed or in a cupboard and only be taken out when something good comes along. And it will. The Annual Academy Awards have handed twenty-one Oscars to films based on children’s books this year. From Hugo (The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick), to War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/50363- I know there are more great books out there.

Bubbles can grow and burst. Adults and children (and Hollywood) will always crave good books.

Kay Leitch

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Children’s books: a good place to be

I was delighted to read the headline ‘Recession fails to bite children’s market’ (Caroline Horn 23.01.12 The Bookseller) www.thebookseller.com/…/recessionfailsbitechildrensmarket.html

That people continue to buy books for their children when times are hard is a cheering thought for those of us involved in the creation of the books themselves, as well as for those lucky young people reading them.

Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse is in its second week as the bestselling book in the UK (over all editions), and Quentin Blake’s illustrations on a new series of stamps from the Royal Mail, issued to celebrate the work of Roald Dahl, indicate the prominent position children’s writers and illustrators now hold. After so many years of being the Cinderella of the book world, Children’s Publishing has grown into a confident royal.

Business isn’t booming all down the line and the threat to libraries and high-street bookshops is snapping at our heels like the big bad wolf. Inevitably, this will mean fewer opportunities for children to discover a range of books. And what can we do about it? Plenty. We can join Alan Gibbons http://alangibbons.net/ to suport libraries in the Campaign for the Book, make use of online resources to spread the word about new books – others’ and our own – and take our stories and ourselves into schools for children to discover them first-hand. As Frank Cottrell Boyce said in his keynote speech for the Society of Authors CWIG (Children’s Writers and Illustrators Group) last year, “Everyone likes being read to; everyone likes being enchanted.” We are the enchanters – let’s get to work!


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