Tag Archives: professional independent publishing

Walking on Gold: Electrik Inc reveals more fantastic fiction

It’s like discovering hidden treasure and having to keep it a secret.  That’s how the Electrik Inc team felt when they first read Walking on Gold, the new novel by children’s author and Bath Spa creative writing lecturer, Janine Amos.

Aimed at 8-12 year olds, the book is the fourth novel to grace Electrik Inc’s independent publishing list and will be published in paperback and as an ebook on October 1.  Among the first lucky readers will be children attending the Bath Literature Festival where Janine will be presenting ‘Buried Treasure!’, a children’s writing workshop organised in association with The Roman Baths on October 5.

Walking on Gold coverWalking on Gold is a gem of a read with an intriguing archaeological twist.  The story concerns young Effie, a city girl who is transported to a wild and remote island, her mother’s childhood home.  The roaring sea and howling wind are strange at first but she soon begins to love her new home, especially when she accidentally uncovers an ancient golden brooch.  But there are family secrets as well as buried treasure on the island and when things go wrong, Effie needs all her determination to save everything she cares about.

Apart from having an exciting and moving plot, the novel manages to mix gritty realism (particularly in its handling of family relationships) with a writing style that is both magical and lyrical.  No surprise to learn that Dylan Thomas is the author’s favourite poet and word juggler.  Janine’s own Welsh heritage shines through, as does her passion for archaeology. She regularly takes part in archaeological digs herself, which you can read about here on her website.

Janine digging for treasureAt this year’s Bath Children’s Literature Festival Janine will be teaming up with The Roman Baths and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, taking inspiration from Bath’s Roman coin hoard.  There’ll be Roman coins to handle and props and activities to help children get started on a writing adventure of their own.

Janine, who co-founded Electrik Inc and gave the group its name, has worked as a children’s commissioning editor in London, Bath, Berlin and Chicago and is already a successful author with books translated into 14 languages.

Walking on Gold can be ordered online via Amazon and will be available at local bookshops to coincide with the Festival.  Janine will also be signing copies after the children’s writing workshop.

Jenny Landor

Co-founder, Electrik Inc

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Mission Possible

The last management consultancy job I undertook was to write a marketing strategy for a medium-size business (I have a Masters in Management). Then I started the MA in Writing for Children, fulfilling a long-held dream. For several years I forgot all about business strategy and management models and simply wrote whatever I felt like. Children’s fiction — lots of fantasy. It was wonderful! But now I find myself dusting off my old marketing folders for Electrik Inc members and also for me.

Before you can write a marketing strategy for an indie publisher you need a clear sense of what the business or individual is trying to achieve and their direction of travel. You need to look wider than the book that’s just been written. This would normally be documented as a mission statement. On Wikipedia it is described as:

“A statement of the purpose of a company, organisation or person, its reason for existing.

The mission statement should guide the actions of the organization, spell out its overall goal, provide a path, and guide decision-making. It provides the framework or context within which the company’s strategies are formulated.”

But as independent publishers do we need to be business focused? Having now published two books myself, I believe the answer is yes. From the moment I set up a limited company, I became accountable for the financial bottom line. I am responsible for paying the illustrator, graphic designer, ebook formatter, the printer . . . for their services in a timely manner. If I want to publish more books, the business has to generate enough income to fund these people again. I would also like to pay myself at some point in the near future — I am responsible for looking after my family, too. On Wiseinkblog.com they say that “the biggest and most devastating mistake indie authors make is that they forget to think like a publisher. A publisher understands its vision as a business and seeks manuscripts that reflect those values, principles, and its established criteria.” But the writer in me just wants to create, and that’s a good thing. I don’t want to be so market driven I stifle my imagination.

One of the main reasons I became an indie writer after the MA was that I wanted to have complete creative freedom to write what I wanted to write and not be pigeon-holed into producing a particular type of book for a publisher, just to meet their sales targets. However, I find the writer and independent publisher in me somewhat at odds. I have to find a way of balancing both sets of needs, as does a traditional publishing house.

I have looked at publishers’ mission statements for inspiration for my own one. What is interesting is how different they are and how those statements shape their business activities. Stripes Publishing said their mission is to “make books that children WANT to read, not because it’s good for them but because it’s fun!” While Scholastic said they are, “committed to providing quality, engaging educational content in digital and print formats for the next generation of learners, and their families and educators who guide them”. Clearly they will publish different types of books and market them in very different ways. On Random House’s website, they talk about “connecting  readers worldwide to adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction authors both familiar and new.” Here we have a real focus on distribution and marketing. I don’t believe my books will just be found by readers. Connecting readers with my stories is important to me as well.

Interestingly, publishers’ mission statements often leave out the need to be commercially successful, but it is usually documented elsewhere. For example, Egmont said:

Mission – stories are at the heart of all our activities at Egmont. Stories are our promise to the world. In short we bring stories to life.

Ambition – We are commercially minded. We are here to achieve results, both on the bottom line and within the media industry.

But I have decided to include the need to be commercially viable in my mission statement. I’m not vanity publishing or self-publishing on the cheap. Costs must be covered. Due to the low profit margin on my books, I’m also aware of the need to find different revenue streams. Note that Egmont’s focus is on bringing stories to life not books.  On their website, they said, ‘Our organisation can tell a world of stories in every medium imaginable’.  I also want to make story content that can be translated into other media. It would introduce new audiences to my work and help with funding.

The creative side of me is still not inspired though, so I’ve looked at other artistic organisations’ mission statements. One of my favourites was for the Cirque du Soleil:

“Cirque du Soleil is an international organization founded in Quebec and dedicated to the creation, production and performance of artistic works whose mission is to invoke the imagination, provoke the senses and evoke the emotions of people around the world.”

Independent publishing is also partly a lifestyle choice for me and I want to include something about my personal situation in my statement.

I am wondering how different the electrik inc co-founders’ mission statements will be — I’ll be finding out soon! If they are different, our marketing strategies may vary greatly too. Here is mine:

To publish stories that excite me, and that I believe will be desirable to readers world-wide and be commercially viable. I will produce story content which has the potential not only to be a physical and electronic book, but which can be translated into other media, such as film, apps and computer games in order to reach new audiences and provide different revenue streams. I will work hard at making new readers aware of my stories, build the trust of my existing readers and form good relationships with suppliers and potential business partners. Because I also have a young family, and want to be a good mother, I will maintain a strict work/life balance.

This won’t stop me experimenting with my writing, but I will only publish stories through my company if they meet the requirements of my mission statement. In the future, I may find myself rejecting my own manuscript!

Kim Donovan

Author of St Viper’s School for Super Villains.

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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.

WHAT I ENJOYED

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.

WHAT DROVE ME BANANAS

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.

THE CHALLENGES THAT LIE AHEAD

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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Electrik Inc; what’s in a name?

Once upon a time – not so very long ago – four electrik inklings sat around a café table in the magical city of Bath Spa.  It was an unusual October day, hot as summer,  and so to stop themselves melting away,  they ate ice cream in the shade of a big purple umbrella.

While people filled the café,  laughing and drinking,  the pool of purple shade buzzed.  The inklings were excited.  They chatted about children’s books and telling stories,  which was what they were especially good at.  Then,  just as they were puzzling over how best to bring more stories into the world,  a piece of magic happened; a moment of electricity,  a zap of collective energy,  an inkling of a grand idea…

We realised we had everything at our fingertips to do the job ourselves.  With years of publishing experience between us,  advances in digital technology and the new social media, why depend entirely on the old publishing framework?  A tiny power shift had taken place;  the formation of a new team involved in professional independent publishing.

The point of the story,  however,  is in the name.  What would we call this crack ‘PIP’ team?  People have assumed that ‘Electrik Inc’ refers to the fabulous new technology which has given writers more control over the publishing process.  But for we four storytellers,  there was another more significant meaning.  ‘Electrik’ is about that magical moment of creative energy when the story comes alive,  the inkling rather than the ink.  It’s about imagination.  Without that there would be no publishing.

High-quality storytelling – whatever format that might take – was our focus,  we decided. And where we could,  we’d remain dedicated to physical as well as e-books,  as with Kim’s forthcoming series.

The switch of the ‘k’ and the ‘c’ wasn’t just a fun trick.  It carried a message too.  The ‘inc’ for incorporated expresses our collective nature,  the joining of creative forces.  We’re professional editors with marketing and production experience working on each other’s stories.  As such we’re growing an exciting new hybrid in the children’s market,  taking the best of traditional publishing (high quality) and self-publishing (agility) and blending the two.

On the day we were formed someone big in the world died.  It’s interesting that his company,  Apple,  (a giant compared to our tiny Pip!) is also stirring up the publishing world and taking on even bigger giants.  When we were writing our manifesto we included some of his words:

“Here’s to the crazy ones.  The misfits.  The rebels.  The troublemakers.  The round pegs in the square holes.  The ones who see things differently.  They’re not fond of rules.  And they have no respect for the status quo.  You can quote them, disagree with them,  glorify or vilify them.  About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.  Because they change things.  They push the human race forward.  And while some may see them as the crazy ones,  we see genius.  Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world,  are the ones who do.” ~~ Steve Jobs

Go inklings!

Jenny Landor

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Électrique; c’est magnifique!

Following the article in The Bookseller, we were delighted when news of Electrik Inc made it across the Channel to France.  Electrik Inc:  Coalition d’auteurs jeunesse autour du numérique.  Next stop The Universe and World Domination, as Demon Kid would say!

Joking apart, it was fantastic to see Kim’s cover emblazoned on ActuaLitté’s website.  We scratched our heads a bit about the article’s subtitle, but our excellent linguist,  Naomi Baster,  says it’s all good stuff.  It reads like a wake up call;  ‘Are you bored? This is new!’  Her translation appears on our news page.

It had me wondering how St Viper’s School for Super Villains might translate into French?  All those comic book ZAPs and KAPOWs and KER-RUNCHs – are they universally understood words?  It was the child reviewers from Authonomy who suggested the sound effects to Kim.  She duly incorporated them.  ‘Yes, she is a very good writer slave,’  I hear Demon whisper.

Whatever the French sound equivalents might be,  this book could travel.  ‘To the moon and beyond, hee, hee.’  Pipe down, Demon.  As I put on my sales hat (given to me by Mrs Benn from our earlier blog) these were the first lightning thoughts.  No doubt they will be revised and refined by our excellent team in the coming months;

  • Zap.  First book from Electrik Inc
  • Ker-runch.  Manga-meets-Beano comic book illustrations
  • Zoom.  Rocket-fuelled comedy involving characters with unusual super powers.
  • Hiss.  Set in St Viper’s, where it’s good to be bad
  • Kapow.  More mischief and mayhem than a bucketful of spiders
  • Ping.  Hotline to Demon Kid via blog
  • Roar.  Reviewed by 300 readers from Authonomy

Jenny Landor

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