Tag Archives: Kim Donovan

Spring makeover for Electrik Inc

Pip spring cleanSpring has sprung early at Electrik Inc thanks to the design team at The Curved House. They swept in like a new broom sprucing up our blogsite, installing a bright new banner, sorting out the clutter and generally making sure everything worked. We’re delighted with the result and our mascot, Pip, is very happy to be centre stage championing ‘Our Books’. A big thank you to Kristen Harrison and Rowan Powell.

And congratulations to The Curved House on their own new ‘make a book’ project for children. The creative agency have established a new division, Curved House Kids, and are busy creating books which primary-aged children can either illustrate or write themselves. What a fantastic idea! Check out their website here.

And while we’re on the subject of promoting reading and literacy, we’d like to thank everyone who supported our Stories for Stockings campaign just before Christmas.  It created a great buzz with the magic spreading far and wide all the way to Japan via more than 100 facebook shares.

Jenny Landor, Co-founder



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Do you believe in books?

Children are reading fewer books than ever, with increasingly more time spent on games apps, Youtube and text messaging. Sadly, many are becoming non-readers. After reading this report in theguardiancom, we are campaigning to persuade Father Christmas to include a story in every child’s stocking (ebooks as well as physical ones). We need your help to make this happen.

If, like us, you believe in books, help spread the magic – please like this post and share with everyone you know.
Thank you.


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Murder Mystery for Kids: Kay’s Halloween Launch


Talent, hard work, patience and determination – all were rewarded last Wednesday when Electrik Inc’s Kay Leitch launched her dazzling new murder mystery for children, Treasure This. There was only one word to describe the atmosphere as fans, friends, writers and family packed the Comedy Cavern at The Victoria, Bath, to celebrate the crowning moment in Kay’s journey to publication – ‘electrik’.

Mystery, suspense and humour: Kay holds her audience spellbound

Mystery, suspense and humour: Kay holds her audience spellbound

There were no bats flying. And certainly no vampires present. But the orange-jacketed books with heroine Addy silhouetted in front of that ominous garden shed, gave the occasion a decidedly Halloween feel. So did the hunt for dead bodies! Very small, ingeniously hidden, yellow ones, I hasten to add.

Most spine-tingling of all, however, was the hushed silence which fell on the room as Kay picked up her debut novel to read. You could have heard a pin drop. And the faces reflected in the extraordinary mirror on the wall behind her, confirmed that we had stepped into another realm. The wit and humour which infuses every scene of Treasure This, produced laughter in the Comedy Cavern, although the mood changed quickly to shock and suspense as two bumbling thugs invaded the once cosy world of Roseleigh Manor.

It was a fitting evening for Electrik Inc’s second birthday. We were proud. Kay is the second in our author collective to become an independent publisher in her own right. BOLDbooks, her company name, says it all. She follows in the footsteps of Kim Donovan whose St Viper’s series goes from strength to strength, with a growing fan base among younger readers.

The team. From the left: Janine Amos, Jenny Landor, Kay Leitch and Kim Donovan.

The team. From the left: Janine Amos, Jenny Landor, Kay Leitch and Kim Donovan.

‘One of the joys of writing Treasure This,’ Kay told her audience, ‘was being part of the Electrik Inc collective, and knowing that the book would go through three professional editors before it was finished. We want to write and produce quality books for children, and publish them independently. With the seismic changes in digital publishing over the past few years, it’s become much easier to do that.

‘I don’t believe for a minute that physical books are dead – too many of us love them. I certainly do. But books are evolving in really exciting ways. All this means writers can take control – of their novels, of how the cover looks, how the book sounds – everything. I hope quality independent publishing can co-exist with traditional publishing, which means readers get more choice – more good stories, which is what I want to write.’

Book signing begins

Book signing begins

A former Sunday Times and Cosmopolitan production editor, Kay is more used to writing the headlines than making them. Yet she’s already been the subject of a feature article in The Bath Chronicle, with a caption her editors love: Kay’s Killer Debut Novel. The marketing rollercoaster has got off to a flying start.

Treasure this moment, Kay. You’re a star!

Jenny Landor, Electrik Inc Co-Founder


The author. Kay Leitch launching Treasure This at the Comedy Cavern.

The author. Kay Leitch launching Treasure This at the Comedy Cavern.

Read more about Kay’s launch here: http://kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com/

Her book is available via Amazon and Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath.



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Super Villains pretending to be Ultra Ordinaries

Magical moments come in all shapes and sizes and can brighten our lives at any time. Some are a pleasant surprise, like rainbows on a cloudy day. Others are the realisation of a dream. The kind of dream that encompasses hard work, perseverance, talent, patience, and the ability to run around doing twenty-five things at once while still maintaining the outward appearance of sanity. The kind of dream that starts with a blank sheet of paper and ends in a local bookshop filled to the rafters with screaming, whooping, whistling, clapping children. All practising their evil laugh, just like Dr Super Evil in St Viper’s School for Super Villains.

Kim Donovan launching St Viper’s School for Super Villains at Topping & Company Booksellers of Bath

This was Kim Donovan’s magic moment: Friday 15th June, at Topping & Company, an independent book store in Bath, when the launch of St Vipers proved that all her tenacity (writing, rewriting, proofreading, editing, organising illustrations, correcting illustrations, formatting pages, swearing at the computer, re-formatting pages, banging head against the wall and re-re-formatting pages, marketing, organising, writing to schools etc etc…) – all that hard work was worth it.

Writer slave!

Green balloons bobbed everywhere, the kids wore super-villain masks and yelled their evil laughs and bought the book until the tills were smoking. St Viper’s School for Super Villains was a sell out and Toppings had to break into the box of books which had been set aside for school visits and brought along ‘just in case they need them’. Boy, did they need them. Kim signed books while the queue grew ever longer.

The Team. From the left: Jenny, Kay and Janine

It was a magic moment for Electrik Inc, too, and the culmination of all our blood, sweat and proofreading,  seeing our first ‘baby’ safely delivered – and so well received. Toppings declared it a ‘great success’, parents beamed, and the kids lapped it up. They loved the story, they loved Petherick’s illustrations, they loved the characters. Just seeing them jumping around pretending to be Demon, or Stretch, or Wolfie, made me realise how fantastic it is to write books that children love. There they were, up late, in a wonderful book shop, wearing fun masks and being read to by a lovely woman who told a story about a school where it was not only okay to be very naughty but was actively encouraged and on the curriculum. Unblinkinbelievable! What bliss. So this was their magic moment too. And that’s what it’s all about.

The Author, Kim Donovan

Here’s to more magic.

Kay Leitch

The Illustrator, Petherick

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May The Force Be With You

‘May the force be with you,’ Lu Hursley wrote in an email to me after reading my last blog. At times, the process of independently publishing St Viper’s School for Super Villains has felt like going up against The Galactic Empire.

But no longer a Padawan am I. A publishing Jedi like Yoda, I think. Proficient in formatting, contract negotiation, producing illustrator briefs, finding suppliers, selling to bookshops, distributing books, balance sheets, blogging/tweeting/facebooking, facilitating creative writing workshops in schools, I have proved myself. Yet, very little time for writing this has left me.

For the last six months I have made very slow progress with the second book in the St Viper’s series. I pick it up in fits and starts and it takes me ages to get back into the story. I’m not in a playful, creative mood either. The business hat I’m wearing won’t come off! Alarm bells are ringing.

In the Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, Mark Croker says, ‘Most of the bestselling authors at Smashwords publish more than one book’. Journal articles talk about how successful writers write every day and set target word counts and top earners spend more time writing than marketing their books. Writers find that blogging ‘can eat up far too much creative energy ’(see below for ref).  And that’s just blogging on its own. However, ‘Blogging is one of the most important and cost effective ways that companies have to promote their brand and spread their message,’ according to http://www.netlz.com/seo-blog/2010/01/02/the-importance-of-blogging-  It’s a dilemma ─ no doubt shared by every professional writer.

I must confess it’s been exhilarating to take control of the publishing process and bring a book to market myself with the help of my wonderful friends, the other Electrik Inc co-founders. The mystique has gone out of book production. I know exactly how long tasks take to complete, how much they will cost and most of the pitfalls (I’m sure a few more problems will jump out on us as time goes on!) The more I do myself, the more I feel I can do. Set up our own on-line bookshop ─ makes perfect sense. Consider publishing other people’s books ─ we have the skills. Distribute books nationally ourselves ─ it just needs some research into warehousing and transportation. However, there is a price to pay.  Everything takes time away from my writing.

Book one needs less attention now it’s published but I have only just started to write again. So I have to think carefully about how much I take on in the future. I am perfectly capable of doing it all but is it the best use of my time? Children want to know when they can have the next book. Write must Jedi writer.

Kim Donovan

Electrik Inc

*Reference not available on-line:  Kona Macphee. Blogaholic. Mslexia. April/May 2012

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A Picture Speaks A Thousand Words

My moment of extraordinary happiness.


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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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Independent Publishing – My Story So Far

St Viper’s School for Super Villains is about to be independently published and I’ve been reflecting on the last few months – the things I enjoyed, what drove me bananas, the challenges that lie ahead. And knowing what I know now whether I should be clever/stupid/crazy enough to do it again.


Taking control. I have nearly been published through the traditional route a couple of times. For a little while I had a lovely literary agent (the agency closed their children’s list). Movie companies even read one of my manuscripts with a view to buying the film option. But somehow my timing has never been quite right and luck hasn’t been on my side (Note – we inklings all have very different stories!). I needed to try something new to get my books in the hands of children or give up and earn a proper living. Then we had that Electrik moment in the Jazz Cafe which Jenny blogged about. Professional Independent Publishing was born.

It has felt incredibly liberating challenging the norm, creating a way to independently publish high-quality children’s books, in a way that meets our needs, building on both the strengths of traditional and self-publishing. I’m proud that we have been brave enough to have a go and of the product we’ve created.

Working with other children’s writers.  I loved being a creative writing student and really missed bouncing ideas around with other writers after the MA finished. It can be lonely working on a book on your own. Being part of Electrik Inc has allowed me to write and publish in a supportive environment. We have had a laugh too.

Seeing my book looking gorgeous St Viper’s has been professionally and lovingly line edited over and over again and it shows. The reviews of the book are brilliant. I also have the cover and illustrations I wanted. I’m a happy writer.


Where to start? Having to buy a new laptop because the old one wasn’t up to the job and Adobe Acrobat Pro to meet the printer’s requirements.  Researching POD companies and finding out after hours and hours of reading that our preferred supplier would only sell my book on Amazon.com not Amazon.co.uk and in American dollars (which they failed to mention). Generally trying to fit square pegs into round holes. We are a hybrid of traditional and self-publishing and nothing quite fits us. I must say that the ebook has been a walk in the park compared to producing a print on demand book. Mostly, what has driven me bananas is the time form filling and buying services has taken away from my writing. But on balance I think all the work has been worth it to get the book I want.


I’m happy blogging, tweeting and squawking but I could do with a whole army of clones to visit bookshops and schools to talk about St Viper’s. ‘Who is your rep?’ ‘Who are you using for PR?’ I am frequently asked in stores. ‘Err…that’s me.’ I feel incredibly small, like Julia Donaldson’s snail in the Snail and the Whale in a big world. It should become easier when we start marketing our books together, but for the time being it’s just St Viper’s. We will have to be inventive in the way we market my book. We must write fantastic stories that children talk about. It’s all possible. Like Donaldson’s snails on the rock it would be easier to be quiet, sit still and stay put, but I’d rather carry on with the adventure.

Kim Donovan

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Inspiration For The Imagination

 One of the frequent questions children ask writers is where they get their ideas from. Ideas can come from childhood experiences. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was inspired by Roald Dahl going to school close to Cadbury’s and regularly being given new chocolate bars to test. At this time, chocolate makers often tried to steal trade secrets by sending spies into rival factories pretending to be employees, giving Dahl fuel for his story.  Doctor Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) said his desire to create rhymes came from his mother, who would send him to sleep by chanting them to him and Horrid Henry was inspired by its author, Francesca Simon, growing up the eldest of four, desperately wanting to be an only child.

Places often spark creativity too. As a child, Cressida Cowell, author of the How to Train a Dragon series, used to go on holiday with her family to an uninhabited island. At night, her father told tales of Vikings and legends of dragons who were supposed to live in the island’s caves. She says, ‘It seemed perfectly possible that dragons might live in this wild, stormy place.’

Ideas for books are often found close to home. In Allan and Janet Ahlberg’s picture book Peepo their daughter Jessica became the inspiration behind Janet’s illustration of the baby and the story reflected Allan’s childhood. Eoin Colfer said Artemis Fowl was inspired by a picture of his brother dressed up in his Sunday best, and took on more and more of the characteristics of his own son. J.M Barrie got the idea for Peter Pan’s lost boys from Sylvia Llewellyn Davies’ children. They had recently lost their father and J.M Barrie would make up fantasies about a place called Neverland for them. As a young girl, Beatrix Potter had numerous small animals as pets and would draw them endlessly. She would go on to write and illustrate Peter Rabbit and many other well-loved stories. The Mr Men books came to life because Roger Hargreaves’ son asked him what a tickle looked like.

Objects can give authors ideas for stories too. The Sleeping Army by Francesca Simon was inspired by the Lewis Chess pieces in the British Museum. The church where Lewis Carroll’s father was a rector for twenty-five years has a stone carving of a cat’s face, which when viewed from below has a huge grin. People guess that this was his inspiration for the Cheshire Cat in Alice and Wonderland.

Writers say their work is influenced by other people. For Jeremy Strong it is Spike Milligan. Some books are based on Greek mythology, such as the Percy Jackson series or are influenced by the myths of the Northern Europeans, including The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. A seed for a book can grow from a conversation. Michael Morpurgo wrote War Horse after an elderly war veteran told him of the horse with whom he served during the Great War. Clearly, inspiration can be found in all sorts of places.

The idea for my book, St Viper’s School for Super Villains, came from my son. My husband and I worked out that whenever he came home from school with a new devious trick, he’d been playing with the older kids. ‘They’re teaching us to be villains,’ he said with a wicked grin. I’ve always loved baddies in stories: Cruella De Vil, Captain Hook, Dick Dastardly in Wacky Races. Villains are never dull and always have the best lines. I picked up a pen and started writing the story.

Kim Donovan

Electrik Inc

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The Top Bunk Test

The proof copy of my first Print on Demand (POD) book has arrived. It looks like a book produced by a traditional publishing house and I am delighted with how St Viper’s School for Super Villains has turned out. It feels miraculous, like holding my baby for the first time. I can’t stop gazing at Demon and his friends on the cover. I have even placed the book on the shelf to see how it looks. My brain seems to have erased all the blood, sweat and tears that went into writing and producing St Viper’s. I have shifted from thinking I am never going to do this ever again, to let’s have another ten book babies!

But not everyone is as in love with POD books as I am. Despite the success of indie authors such as Amanda Hocking, POD books have a reputation for lacking the quality of their mainstream counterparts. In The Guardian this week, Anthony Horowitz, creator of the Alex Rider spy stories, asked the question: how good are self-published books? As part of his research he read a section of a novel by a leading self-published writer and found that the text could have been improved with professional editing. ‘Publishers do, I think, provide an imprimatur, a sort of quality control,’ he said. The main criticism of POD books is there is no quality control of the content. ‘Companies like AuthorHouse and iUniverse say they will accept pretty much anything for publication,’ The New York Times reported. Horowitz quoted Sam Jordison, Guardian journalist, saying, ‘What do they do if the writer delivers a damp squib? . . . On the evidence, they’ll publish it anyway.’

Our challenge is to set the standard for self-publishing in the children’s market. My book has been professionally edited and is being published because Electrik Inc members believe it is good. Of course, the proof is in the pudding, and the story will shortly be reviewed by several respected and well-known children’s writers.

The other quality issues raised about POD books is that the design can look amateurish (a professional illustrator and a designer have produced the cover for St Viper’s School for Super Villains); the cover may curl and the glue that is used for the spine is not as good as the glue used in a traditional book. So, I put my POD proof copy to The Top Bunk Test. To explain, my eight-year-old son sleeps on the top bunk bed. To save him the trouble of going up and down the ladder to get books, he keeps a pile of them by his feet, under the duvet. He pores over them during the night and I often hear a thump as they fall over the side onto the carpet. Only the toughest of books can survive the top bunk. After two weeks of being tested, I can report that the cover has curled a little, but no more than the Puffin book with it, and the pages remain firmly in place. We are good to go!

Kim Donovan

Electrik Inc

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