Monday, February 26, 2007

The Children’s Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye

The second-hand bookstores of Hay-on-Wye are famous worldwide.

The Children’s Bookshop is situated on outskirts of town and is owned by Judith Gardner.

Judith moved to Hay-on-Wye in 1978 and like most people in the town, she started her career working for Richard Booth who owned several bookshops in Hay. She spotted about 300 children’s books for sale in Richard Booth’s 30p shop and originally purchased them for a relative working in a school. Soon after she rented some shop space with her husband, he sold clocks one side, and she sold the children’s books she’d bought on the other. The venture grew from there. She now has over twenty thousand second-hand books in stock.

At the moment, the concentration of books is from the late 1930’s to 1980’s. They are books to read rather than works of art. She deals mainly with adult collectors, teachers, writers or researchers, rather than children.

Collectors look for series books written about the same characters, such as the Hardy Boys books and the Pollyanna books. Another area for collectors is girl’s school stories by authors like Angela Brazil, Elinor M Brent-Dyer and Dorita Fairlie Bruce. They give a snapshot of social history. Basic adventure books like the Biggles’ books by Captain W. E. Johns, especially the early ones, also sell well. Boys’ school stories are not sought after as much. Judith mentioned there is also a big market in second-hand scouting and guiding books.

She explained the second-hand book trade is like dealing in stamps and a totally different market to selling new books. Older books can sell for much more than there original cover price, but a book is only worth what someone is prepared to pay for it. If the author has signed the book, it can alter the value, if they add a doodle it could add an extra £20.

There is also a first edition mania. A first edition Debbie Glori book starts from around £100 and could sell for as much as £500. The first Harry Potter books were sold under the name of Joanne Rowling and these fetch enormous amounts of money.

However, there are trends in the second-hand book sales in the same way as there are with new books. Second-hand book trends tend to go in decades, as people often want to show their children and grandchildren what they were reading as a child. At the moment, they are beginning to come into the 1980’s, especially with annuals from that era and science fiction and fantasy titles are very popular. The Children’s bookshop operates a free book search service for books not currently in stock. An online catalogue is available and they offer a worldwide postal service. Visit the website at

Friday, February 23, 2007

SCBWI Professional Series

Yesterday, I went into London to, amongst other things, attend the first of this years SCBWI professional series. Pamela Johnson gave us an excellent masterclass on novel writing. I had a wonderful time and met up with a load of my friends. It was wonderful to meet everyone again and to meet some new people too, whose names I have seen on Wordpool and teh SCBWI forum.
The venue this year is the Theodore Bullfrog Pub near Charing Cross. It was ideal. I am looking forward to the next meeting in April.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Ten Reasons to Attend Writing Conferences

Reason One – To Counteract Isolation
Writing, on the whole, is a solitary pursuit and consequently can be very lonely. Everyone should attend at least one writing conference a year to counteract this isolation. This is also why I recommend writer's join writing forums. See: Writers Forums and More about Writer’s Forums.

Reason Two – The Aspiration To Write For Children
Writing conferences and events, such as the SCBWI-BI Writing Day and the Professional Series, are where people who write for children go to meet other people who enjoy writing for children. They draw a wide range of participants from beginners to the most experienced writers, but everyone who attends has a common interest - a link – not only the aspiration to write but the aspiration to write for children. there are other conferences that do not specialise in writing for children but, offer workshops and relevant talks such as the Caerleon Writers Holiday (my personal favourite), the Arvon Foundation and Winchester's Writers Conference.

Reason Three – To Learn From The Professionals
It is an occasion to ask experienced writers how they achieved their success in the hope that you too can travel down this rocky road. At a conference or social writing gathering, you can put aside the pressures of daily life and talk about the craft and business of writing, share your own experiences whilst learning from professionals who know the pitfalls and advantages.

Reason Four – For Inspiration
Other people’s big break may not be your approach, but the inspiration of their success may be the prompt you need. Feed off of their enthusiasm. Just a tiny sentence or story heard at a conference or writing event could trigger a whole range of ideas in your own mind. Who knows? It could be just the encouragement that pushes you in the right direction.

Reason Five – For Indulgence
A writing conference is an opportunity to indulge in your favourite pastime. You can attend informative courses and workshops that inspire you with ideas, start your creative juices flowing whilst keeping up-to-date with current trends and developments in the publishing world.

Reason Six – To Understand The Publishing World
Why do we pay out substantial amounts of money if it is not motivated by the desire to be a published children’s author? An understanding of the publishing process is essential if you want to achieve this vision. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

The workshop leaders are there to offer tips to writers on trends in national publishing and advice how to approach and work with editors. Their aim is to help you understand the publishing process as well as to help you improve your writing skills. In general, people are flattered to be asked for their views and advice.

Reason Seven – To Network
The most important benefit of a writing conference is not what you can learn but the connections and relationships you make. Talent, craft and skill do enter the equation but it is, ‘who you know’ that can tip the balance in your favour.

Everyone who attends the conference as a speaker or as a participant has his or her own networking agenda. Many of them have done their research in advance. They have looked at what speakers are attending the conference before they arrived. Don’t stalk these people, but chat to them and hand out your business card. Find out something about them and think of something interesting to talk about in advance to break the ice.

We often hear how editors are inundated with the wrong material because writers haven’t done their homework. Networking helps to identify the people who have inside knowledge and who know the right individuals to contact. It can be just the lead you need to break into a particular market.

Reason Eight – To Socialise
Use the opportunity to socialise, so publishers will be able to associate your face with a name the next time you submit your work to them. Whilst socialising, enquire about their interests, what they are publishing, what they are looking for, so you know exactly if your area of skill and writing expertise is what they require.

Many writers have found success from being recommended to a publisher from writers they have met at conferences. And remember, a conference isn’t over when you go home. You should leave with a selection of e-mail contacts and business cards. Send these personal connections a query letter stating when and where you met. Often agents and editors are more likely to look at a manuscript if they have met you at a conference or writing festival, even if their normal policy is no unsolicited manuscripts.

Reason Nine – For the Opportunities
If a conference offers a one-to-one, as the SCBWI-BI Writing Day does, make the most of it. The personal touch does make a difference, and don’t forget - be polite – people will remember. If there are handouts, take them. Pick up those brochures and catalogues they are invaluable for the research into what people are publishing, their tastes and preferences. Make the most of the opportunities.

Reason Ten – To Offer Something in Return
You may also find you are able to offer them something unique in return. Volunteer to help or get involved. Use your skills to your advantage. You should always try to give something back, remember: ‘you reap what you sow’. Networking is a two-way process. Be helpful in putting people in touch with someone useful, they are more likely to return the favour.

Monday, February 12, 2007

How to Promote your Book

I thought this was such a great way to promote a children's book that I had to share it with you all.

I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Meet Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman will be officially opening the Museum of Oxford's 'A-Z of Literary Oxford Exhibition' at 12.30 tomorrow, Saturday 10th February. The literary treasures and personal quirky items on display will include manuscript pages from Philip Pullman's 'Northern Lights', original printing blocks and copper plates from Oxford University Press and a letter from J R R Tolkien. After the official opening with Lord Mayor Jim Campbell, Philip will be meeting children and signing books from 1-2pm.

Oxford has been the inspiration for much of Philip Pullman's writing. It's a place where the past and the present jostle each other on the pavement, and while of course that's true of many cities in Britain, for Philip, Oxford has a few extra dimensions.

Philip was recently given the Freedom of Oxford in a ceremony at the Town Hall in January this year. Oxford has an astonishingly rich tradition of children's story tellers, and Philip Pullman is a worthy successor to Lewis Carroll and C S Lewis. His Dark Materials is one of the finest imaginative works in English. While it creates and explores new worlds and new systems, its roots are in Oxford. The Lord Mayor was pleased to be able to give the freedom of the city to someone who has given so much enjoyment to children, and adults, all over the world.

To round off the day, The Story Museum is joining forces with the Museum of Oxford to give an amazing presentation by the illustrator and cartoonist Ted Dewan who currently lives in Oxford with his wife, author/illustrator Helen Cooper, and their daughter, Pandora.

Ted will be performing a special updated version of the classic tale, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, using slides, music and featuring not brooms, but inept electronic robots! Visitors will be able to see the story, hear the music (Ted's own synthesizer version of Dukas' famous scherzo) and then join Ted in a wacky robot making workshop for parents and children of 5-12 years.

Tickets to meet Philip Pullman are free, but limited in number tickets for the Sorcerer's Apprentice and Robot Making Workshop are very reasonably priced at £5 for children and £3 for accompanying adults.

For more information contact the Museum of Oxford.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

How to place your manuscript

One of the most difficult things about breaking into children’s writing is finding the right market for your manuscript. Many new writers are in such a hurry to be published they send their manuscript out to as many publishers as they can and often before it has even been edited properly. This is a big mistake.

It has also been recommended that you don’t write a word until you have a firm contract. This might be true of educational work but, less true for fiction. Even so, it is worth writing and asking for any writer’s briefs. That’s information about projects they are developing and not their underwear.

It's important to research your markets regularly. Don't send picture book manuscripts to publishers that only print educational non-fiction, or primary school educational non-fiction to a publisher that focuses on secondary education. I know this seems obvious, but we hear over and over how writers send their work to inappropriate markets.

Research the different publishers and what they produce. Libraries will give an indication of books they have previously published. But, remember to request their new catalogs, or go to the bookstore and browse. Make lots of notes. Look at the titles and the title page with current editorial contact information on. Pay close attention to the focus of the books. The more time you spend in this preliminary research, the more likely you'll be to find the right publisher for your work, and you'll spend a lot less on stamps.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Flat Rate Fees versus Royalties

This is a very old debate in the world of writing educational resources.

In the Society of Authors’ magazine The Author, Winter 2006 issue, Jenny Vaughan said, amongst other things, you should ensure you’re not being taken advantage of. This is good advice. It is so easy for new authors to undersell themselves. However, both forms of payment have their advantages and disadvantages.

On the plus side, flat rate fees are very useful as you can receive an often vital income quickly, whereas royalties provide a more long-term gain. But sometimes, you can spend ages writing a book, which is to be paid by royalties only and have very little come back if it does not sell well. whereas, with flat rate fees it often means you sign your rights away and you are usually writing to a very specific and tight brief.

Remember you should re-negotiate your fee on second editions. The publisher should pay a top-up fee and you should check the rights revert back to the author if the book goes out of print. The NUJ provides a very useful Freelance Fees Guide