Blog of September – An interview with Karen Inglis

Time for work
It is September, and a new year for schoolchildren beckons. With fresh beginnings in mind, I decided it would be good to let someone else speak this month!
So, for my very first guest, I would like to introduce Karen Inglis, a very enterprising and successful children’s author. I have come to know Karen through my writing, as we both write for children and young adults.
I asked her to talk about whatever she liked – explaining this blog follows my interests of conservation, philosophy, photography, spirituality, and literature – and not just my life as a writer!
This is her reply:
‘First I thought I could potentially do something about reading current and past children’s books as a way to keep me inspired and informed and to gain nuggets of learning about what does and doesn’t work— for example I read Little Women while on holiday and, before that ‘My Brother Is a Superhero’ which has recently been published by Nosy Crow. But in the end I have gone for something to do with the challenges and opportunities for children’s writers in the digital age — I hope this is okay?’
Absolutely! But  enough of the introduction, let’s meet her, and hear her thoughts, without further delay…
Karen Inglis_headshot_high res

Writing for children – challenges and opportunities

Firstly, many thanks, Isabel, for inviting me your blog. I’m honoured to be the your first ‘guest’.

You gave me a free rein in terms of what to write about – and I thought it would be useful as a fellow children’s author to talk about both the opportunities and challenges we face reaching our readers in this new age of digital publishing.

As with so many authors I was over the moon when self-publishing came along. My first children’s book, a time travel adventure, The Secret Lake  had been turned down by several publishers for being too ‘traditional’ and the ‘wrong length’ (too short) – yet I knew in my heart of hearts that if only children were able to judge it for themselves they would prove me right – and they did!  Since its publication in late 2011 teachers, reading charities and librarians have praised it for its manageable length and for the story’s strong appeal to both girls and boys. I’ve now sold well over 6,000 copies (over half in print and the rest mostly on Kindle). It continues to sell consistently on Amazon and in local bookshops and is always my ‘best seller’ at signings and school visits. As I had suspected all along, our children still love a traditional adventure story and when I wrote it I felt that perhaps there weren’t enough of these around for 8-11 year-olds.

However, while self-publishing allowed me to clear my first major hurdle – by allowing me to make my story available for my target audience – I quickly realised I had a new challenge. Unlike authors writing for YA and adults, I couldn’t take advantage of the other key development in the digital age and market to my readers through social media. Age 13 is the lower limit for Facebook and Twitter – and for good reasons (though I’m pretty sure this rule is regularly flouted!). But even if my target audience of age 8-11 were reachable this way, they don’t hold the purse strings, so impulse purchases are generally out of the question!  I did for a period try the alternative of targeting blogs and sites frequented by ‘parents’ but quickly ran out of steam as my comments and posts felt too close to a self-promotion feed, and this didn’t sit comfortably with me. Networking with children’s book bloggers has felt a more natural option and I do this sporadically – and I’ve had lovely reviews for my books from several of these. How many book sales this has led to it’s hard to say so I tend to view these as PR opportunities rather than getting hung up on whether I see a change in my print or Kindle sales.

While lack of access to my target audience frustrated me in my early days everything changed when I started doing book signings in local Waterstones and – most importantly – going into schools. It was then that I realised it was a case of swings and roundabouts. A key advantage that children’s authors have over writers of adult fiction is that we can reach our readers in huge numbers face to face – and in most cases make healthy sales at the same time. Naturally you need a good story to start with (which, of course, must be professionally edited and presented) and ideally you need an appealing website to refer bookshops and schools to at the outset. Beyond that it still takes a lot of organisation, self-belief and persistence to set up successful visits or bookshop signings – but where there is a will there is a way, and the rewards in seeing children’s reactions to your readings and answering their questions about your story and being a writer are priceless. The sales at the end of the day are simply the icing on the cake! I happen to write across a range of age groups so have on many occasions spent a whole day in a school and presented my books across all of their intakes – exhausting but hugely rewarding!

There isn’t space here to go into the many tips I have for approaching bookshops and schools but if you head over to my marketing tips page at selfpublishingadventures.com you’ll find lots of information.

To read more about my school visits also see my author website at kareninglisauthor.com  

The Secret Lake 72dpi cover

Karen Inglis lives in London, and since 2011 she has published four children’s books, including The Secret Lake, a time travel mystery for ages 8-11; Eeek! The Runaway Alien and Henry Haynes and the Great Escape — both graphic novels for ages 7-10 and 6-8, and Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep a rhyming picture book for ages 3-5. She has also produced an interactive children’s book app and an enhanced ebook of Ferdinand Fox.

TUESDAY THESAURUS – Chorleywood Indie Fair

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I am escaping! My favourite thing – off to have some fun with other authors, and have a lovely afternoon chatting of books and men!

Actually, it’s not till November, but I had to mention it now – Felicity, Reuben and I are going along, and I may even bring them out of Toxics to life, for a moment.

Meanwhile, in order to prepare for that, we are going to practice meeting our readers -I may even share with you my early experiences of reading aloud to my victims – something I have successfully avoided doing since school days :)

I would love to hear how it went for you, if you found yourself, as a new indie author – holding your book in your hands, and speaking those words aloud for the very first time!

 

Chorleywood Indie Fair

TUESDAY THESAURUS – CHILDREN’S LITERATURE

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As I am an author, and write for children and young adults, perhaps it is time I wrote a post on children’s literature!

But as I try to keep Tuesday Thesaurus a snippet we will not discuss the changing landscape of children’s literature from its early beginnings in the 1800’s – helped by the advent of the printing press, and cheaper, more widely available literature in Great Britain.

Although it is a fascinating topic, especially as we are now in a new revolution of the digital age.

Sitting on a train by a pink and blue i-padded pair with an accumulative age of approximately seven and three-quarters,  it was fascinating to watch the interaction of their chubby hands with the fast-changing, squeaking and bleeping reading screens in front of them.

My children had the early interactive books, but the ipad toddler has apps.

Speaking with another author, about creating a book app was absolutely fascinating. This idea seems an obvious progression from the fuzzy lumps, squeaky, lighting-up books with flaps and questions for the 1980/90’s toddler.

Meanwhile, I continue to write for their elder brother and sisters, but hold on – where has Ferdinand Fox gone?!

Ferdinand Fox Book App

 

TUESDAY THESAURUS OF THOUGHTS – Wise folk!

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Dawn is such a time for dwelling on simple thoughts, don’t you think?

I was thinking it time to list again some of the people I have met on this journey, who have been of inspiration and help to me.

Click on their names to learn more about them.

I hope you find a few new friends, too!

ADVICE AND SUPPORT:

DAVID GAUGHRAN

ORNA ROSS

DEBBIE YOUNG

HELEN HART AT SILVERWOOD

AUTHORS I can’t begin to name everyone – but thank you all of you I have met at SilverWood, and Alli, and online friends I have met blogging, and tweeting! As a hopeless failure at fitting in guest blogging, I will make time in the Autumn to play better:)

 

Tuesday Thesaurus of Thoughts – A book signing and a lot of fun!

 

DSC_0011One Saturday, not so long ago – I attempted a book signing event!

Having managed to face up to this need, I threw myself, my family, and most of my friends into the arena!

Here is the fun we had – if you want to join in try the Recipe for Fizruffs at the end, and enter the Old World with us! :

I hope you enjoy the clips and pics from my talented family and friends – a great day for all ending with a delicious lunch, and hopefully even a few more Old World fans ;)

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FIZZRUFFS – A Food of the Old World – See Chapter 14 of Toxics.

(Or the best we can make of them, in our World!)

For approx 16 Fizzruffs, you will need: 

3 egg whites, 175g caster sugar, 150ml whipping cream, yellow, pink, blue/green food colouring, coated popping candy.

Line a baking tray with silicone paper.

Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the caster sugar, a teaspoonful at a time, whisking well. Separate carefully into three bowls, and fold in 2 drops of food colouring, in each mixture, so you now have very pale pink, blue and green mixture.

Using two large teaspoons, spoon the meringues out onto the silicon paper, being careful to keep the three colours of tiny meringues well apart!

Put into a very gentle oven heat: around 50 degrees electric or Gas mark 1/4 . Leave for approx 3 hours. Remove and place on a cooling tray until completely cold.

When ready to eat, whip the whipping cream in a bowl until quite stiff. Place a spoonful on one meringue, sprinkle the creamy surface generously with the coated popping candy, and sandwich another tiny meringue on top.

Place in mouth, and wait for the fun to begin.

PLEASE SUPERVISE CHILDREN WHEN USING COOKING EQUIPMENT AND HOT OVENS – THANK YOU – ALL FIZZRUFF BAKING DONE AT FIZZRUFF BAKERS’ OWN RISKS ;)

© Isabel Burt 2014