The Tell-Me Tree and other summer news

Hello from London where we’re all patiently waiting for the warm weather to return! I hope you’re staying safe during this very challenging time. Aside from not seeing friends and family nearly as often as I’d like, it’s been pretty much ‘business as usual’ working at home here – well, apart from my husband working on the floor above me; the cat is now extra happy!

I’ve been busy over the last few months, working on a new picture book The Tell-Me Tree, as well as on translation and foreign rights projects for The Secret Lake – on which more below.

Children sitting below a tree talking and reading - the book cover of The Tell-Me Tree

For ages 4-8

As with so many of my stories, The Tell-Me Tree was a long time in the making, with the initial inspiration sparked after I spotted a face in the trunk of a London Plane tree close to where I live. Thereafter it took three years to come up with the final tale as I waited for the next spark! You can read the full ‘backstory’ over on my author website here. My great friend Anne Swift’s pen and ink drawings are as beautiful as ever, and Rachel Lawston (an ALLi partner member) has done another sterling job on the layouts!

In brief, The Tell-Me Tree is a picture book and activity book for ages 4-8 that gently encourages children to share how they’re feeling – whether happy, sad or somewhere in between – through conversation, writing and drawing, with friends, family or trusted grown-ups. The tone is intentionally positive and there are links at the end to download posters and templates to help children draw their own Tell-Me Tree, and to other activities that encourage conversation about feelings. There are also links for grown-ups seeking further guidance on opening up conversations if needed.

Publishing niggles – take note

It took 10 days for my colour proofs (printed in Poland) to arrive. I can’t speak for the US but if you’re in Europe you might want to be bear this timeline in mind if you’re bringing out a book any time soon. That said, a friend has recently received her literary fiction novel proofs from KDP within a matter of days. It’s possible the delays are unique to colour picture books and unrelated to the pandemic, I’m not sure.

Also, take care inside the KDP Dashboard as the set-up screen for print books seems to have subtly changed. How recent this is I’m not sure but Amazon now automatically presents a pre-ticked green checkbox with text that at first glance implies you’ve ordered proofs already. What they actually want you to do is to click on the text to place your proof order, at which point everything goes on hold. The confusion meant I hit the wrong button and my book went live instead of going into hold, so I had to leave it quietly on sale on Amazon for two weeks while awaiting the proofs! Happily no one noticed it there, and – happily too – the proof copies looked fabulous with just a couple of minor corrections to make. So even though the publish date shows June, it was actually July!

Using Kindle Kids’ Book Creator for the eBook

Below are a couple of screenshots from the fixed layout Kindle interior – built with Amazon’s free Kindle Kids’ Book Creator software. This includes ‘tap activated’ pop-up text boxes that can be used where the original text may be difficult to read on a smaller screen. As a reading experience it feels a bit clunky to start with but you soon get the hang of it. (Pinch and zoom does not work with this format.) You get to choose whether or not to include the pop-up boxes, which you create yourself. They are easy to do and I would always recommend them.

The eBook works on a Kindle Fire and most tablets and smartphones, but not on a Kindle Paperwhite. Personally I’m not a huge fan of the sideways slide function used to move through the story (I prefer that page-turn feel you get with ePubs) but, again, you get used to it.

Most importantly, this software has come on leaps and bounds since the first time I tried it four years ago. And whereas for The Christmas Tree Wish last year I uploaded all page spreads separately (just to be on the safe side), this time around I uploaded the print-ready PDF in one go and went from there. The instructions are very clear and it worked perfectly.

In short, if you have a colour picture book that needs to stay in a fixed layout format, this is a cost efficient self-serve solution that gives you another format to advertise. For the record, over 95% of my picture book sales are still in print, but the additional format adds extra marketing opportunities, including ‘free days’ if you’re in KDP Select.

The Secret Lake

It’s been a whirlwind 12 months for The Secret LakeIt’s a year since I published the audiobook and in that time it’s sold almost 4,000 copies. This has come as a very pleasant surprise and I think is due to word of mouth on the back of the paperback sales – we can’t advertise audiobooks on Amazon and I wasn’t really sure where to start beyond a few initial tweets. In the coming year I may experiment with FB ads but my experience continues to be that they eat my money whenever I dip my toe in! I’m aware of a few audiobook marketing sites, but I’m not sure how apt they are for children’s books.

Girl sitting and reading The Secret Lake by Karen Inglis

Over 200,000 print copies sold

Prints sales, translations and foreign rights

Meanwhile, print sales of The Secret Lake in English now have exceeded 200,000 worldwide – beyond my wildest dreams! In addition I’ve sold translation rights to Russia, Turkey, The Czech Republic and Albania and have contracts in negotiation in two more territories.

I’ve learned a huge amount about contracts during these negotiations and have been able to put on my ‘plain English business copywriting hat’ more than once to simplify some of the flowery language used in the draft contracts I’ve been sent. Each time it gets easier.

I’ve also recently commissioned translation of The Secret Lake into German, working with the translator I used for The Christmas Tree Wish, whom I found through one of the German literary translation associations. To complete the team, I  have a German children’s book editor lined up, found through Reedsy (though, as it turns out she was already on my research list!), and a proofreader recommended by the editor.

These new ventures are all part of the evolving world of self-publishing that is giving us more chances than ever to spread our wings. I shall be adding detail about them – and more details on Amazon Advertising –  in an updated edition of How to Self-publish and Market a Children’s Book which I hope to bring out in the autumn. I am pleased to say that pretty much all of the information in the current book holds true, but it will be good to add to it 24 months on. (For those of you who have the current book, I will provide an overview of the new additions in the linked dropbox folder.)

I will of course keep you updated about the timings for How to Self-publish and Market a Children’s Book as we get to autumn. Meanwhile, if you have young children or are a teacher, librarian or health professional and decide to buy a copy of The Tell-Me Tree please do let me know what you think. And if you could find a moment to write a short review online that would be wonderful!

Kids talking and reading beneath a tree - the front cover of 'The Tell-Me Tree, by Karen Inglis and Anne Swift

The Tell-Me Tree should be available to order from non-Amazon stores and high street bookshops by the end of next week (17th July).

Stay safe, Karen

Posted in Blog Update, Children's Books, self publishing, Self-publishing, The Secret Lake, Translation | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Free Online Children’s Book Mastery Conference 15th-19th Jan

A belated Happy New Year from a dark and rainy London. I hope you had a restful holiday period and are ready to take on 2020!

I shall be posting again soon to update you on news from a groundbreaking 2019 for me personally, and what’s coming up in 2020. However, I first wanted to let you know about a FREE online Children’s Book Mastery Conference that I was invited to take part in and which will be running from Wednesday 15th to Sunday 19th January.

UPDATE SUNDAY: Sign up now to get free access to day 4 (depending on time of day) and day 5 and you’ll get free catch-up access to all of the sessions next weekend for another 48 hours.

logo and speaker images for the Children's Book Mastery Summit

Wed 15th – Sun 19th January: sessions free to access for 24 hours

Format, speakers and schedule

The summit brings together over 25 experts, including many bestselling children’s authors, editors and expert marketers, all of whom will be sharing their strategies for successfully creating, promoting and marketing children’s books. Pre-recorded video sessions will run starting at  8:00 ​am EST​ | ​5:00 ​am PST | ​​1:00 pm UK time on each day and will be free to access for 24 hours afterwards.

I shall be focusing on school visits and establishing your brand locally in my session. These are, of course, a vital part of any children’s author’s book marketing strategy.

Other sessions include (but are by no means limited to):

  • How to find inspiration and craft a great children’s story
  • Strategies to help you create better characters
  • Plotting and writing style techniques, to ensure a polished children’s story
  • How to create a picture book with precise, actionable steps
  • How to improve your manuscript with revision and feedback
  • How to get the best illustrations (within your budget)
  • The best ways to market affordably and efficiently
  • Creating non-fiction books for kids
  • Using social media to grow your online presence
  • Understanding direct fulfilment if you don’t use print on demand
  • Acquiring honest reviews and building a following
  • And much more…

At sign-up you’ll get a free ‘Playbook’ with top tips and download bonuses from each speaker, including cheat sheets, free course offers, free books and much more – all focusing on children’s self-publishing and/or marketing.

Remember – the free sessions are only available for 24 hours, so take a look through them and get organised!

>>  Find out more and claim your free ticket to The Children’s Book Mastery online conference

Optional lifetime access (advance notice) – Premium Pass

Just so you know, you’ll be given two options to upgrade to a Premium Pass offering lifetime access to the sessions – the cost is $47 if you sign up after free registration, or $67 if you sign up later during the conference. If you choose either upgrade option, I will earn a small affiliate fee which will go towards time/costs. Or you can simply enjoy the conference for free as it runs during next week!

That’s it for now. I will update you with my other news in the coming week 😊.

Karen

PS  Here’s the speaker information and free registration page once more

Posted in Blog Update, Marketing, self publishing | Leave a comment

Christmas picture book: planning, launching, translation

Happy December, all! It’s been a while since my last post – and for good reason: I’ve had my head down finalising my new Christmas picture book The Christmas Tree Wish, which is now out not just in English but also in German and French! I had meant to post an update here sooner but have been so absorbed managing the marketing and translations that finding the time has proven somewhat challenging!

I have to confess that translations were not on my plan when I started on this project. But when Amazon recently announced they were opening up Amazon Ads in Germany I felt it was an opportunity not to miss. I also felt that, since the story is not rhyming (phew!) and only 700 words (930 with back matter and the bio/copyright page), it offered the perfect case study to test the ‘direct translation’ process, on which more a little later.

  two picture books with Christmas tree images

Inspiration for The Christmas Tree Wish

The Christmas Tree Wish is a story that had been going around in my head for years after I saw a small, bedraggled Christmas tree left unsold one dark evening a few days before Christmas. My heart went out to the little fellow and I just knew I had to write about him and give him a happy ending!

From the outset I was certain I wanted hand-drawn illustrations rather than digital, so it was a question of finding the right person. Until I did, I kept playing with the storyline then putting it away for months at a time as I could never find a satisfactory ending.

That all changed when a great friend Anne Swift – an architect by day, but who has always been incredibly creative in other ways – drew an image for her son’s then girlfriend for a family story. As soon as I saw it, I knew the style would be perfect for my story and couldn’t believe I had never thought to ask her to try her hand at children’s illustrations! After that it was a race against time to get my storyline finalised if we were to have any chance of being ready for Christmas.

It took three whole days of sitting down and thrashing things out to find the missing link I had been searching for. Anne read the story and was up for it. I then realised I had the unenviable task of cutting back word count from a hefty 1,400 to 700!  But I did it. Deadlines really do work!

 

The story really is written from the heart and, in many ways, it gives me the same tingly feeling I experienced when I conceived of and wrote my bestselling time travel adventure The Secret Lake.

Christmas book marketing opportunities and challenges

I’ve been running Amazon ads in the UK/US since mid October and – after a few weeks of testing – the book is finally starting to earn its keep. A small team of advance readers gave it lovely reviews and these certainly helped support the ad campaign when they came through. It took time to test and identify which keywords and bids worked best, and this continues to be an evolving process. Competition is extremely stiff in the run-up to Christmas!

More recently, several local print and online magazine articles that I pitched with press releases back in October have come to fruition, with the The Christmas Tree Wish being featured in their December issues. In the case of the print magazines, these are being distributed in a five-mile radius from where I live. I always make a point of directing readers to my local bookshop/s in these releases before mentioning that the book is also available online. Shopping local is, as we all know, so important – and the local angle makes it more relevant for both editors and readers.

I have to say that it only occurred to me quite late on that having a Christmas-themed title really is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it makes a perfect seasonal gift, which means it should be easy to ‘sell’. On the other you really do have a very limited window in which to market your book. Once Christmas is gone, it’s gone! At the same time, you need to have everything planned well in advance, when it’s really hard to feel Christmassy at all! Having to cram all of this activity into six to eight weeks is an ongoing and quite exhausting process.

Knowing how many author copies to buy is also a challenge as I can’t, of course, plan to sell leftover stock through my school visits throughout the rest of the year. And whilst I could, of course, use some next year, a lot can happen in 12 months and I may want to update my back matter by then.

I will report back on all of this once the Christmas season is out of the way.

The translation process

Once I made my decision to embark on translations I hired literary translators and editors (one of each) in each language so that I could be sure that the final products would be of professional quality. I have a degree in French and am still pretty fluent, so on that basis I could have skipped the editor role and perhaps relied on French contacts. However, being the control freak that I am, I wanted to be sure that the final text flowed as well as it could. Ditto for the German edition – I have German ‘O’ Level from back in the day but that’s about it!

How I found my translators

I found my translators and editors by searching online at Amazon.de and Amazon.fr sites (seeing who had translated well-known children’s books from English then googling and contacting them) and also looking at overseas translations agencies. My gut told me to avoid the popular online translation sites, as I felt I couldn’t be sure of the credentials of the translators. Having completed a literary module as part of a Post Graduate Diploma in Translation course (French to English) many years ago, I know just how crucial it is that your translator should not only be a native speaker, but also be sensitive to the voice and rhythm required for literary translation. They also need to be confident in knowing when not to translate word for word, and in how to express an idea differently but without fundamentally changing the story’s core or author’s style.

Illustrations and art direction / layout

As I knew I wanted full double page spreads with bleed, I chose to work with a specialist and experienced layout artist. Here I was following my own advice in How to Self-publish and Market a Children’s Book, where I recommend not to try doing your own layouts unless you are already a designer, or you plan to keep things extremely simple, such as having text on one page and images on the facing page. For The Christmas Tree Wish I used the highly talented Rachel Lawston, who also provided art direction that ensured that our tree characters had – um, character! This is Anne’s first children’s book and while her drawing style is off the scale in terms of style and appeal (see examples above and below), we both benefited hugely from Rachel’s input to ensure we made the very most of Anne’s talent. Thank you, Rachel!

tree characters from The Christmas Tree Wish children's book

A further learning curve for me was that Anne works in pen and ink on paper, unlike Damir, who has illustrated my other books and only works digitally. This meant getting my head around a whole new process for specifying the images to ensure they would be the correct size and definition for the print book. Working wholly digitally is of course much fast and easier to adapt if things go wrong, and we did have a few occasions where drawings had to be restarted from scratch!

All in all the project has been both enlightening and, as I’ve already said, exhausting – but worth every minute of it!

Where you can find The Christmas Tree Wish

English edition
You can find the print English edition of The Christmas Tree Wish on Amazon here and on most other major online stores worldwide. You should also be able to order it from your local bookshop, with delivery times varying depending on their distributor.  There is a Kindle version too if you prefer to share stories on tablets.

French and German Editions
You can order Martin, Le Sapin de Noël on Amazon here and Chris Christbaums Weihnachtstraum on Amazon here. No eBooks of these  available I’m afraid but I will plan these for next year. I simply ran out of time!

Amazon ads – a quick note

Just a quick note for those of you have bought How to Self-publish and Market a Children’s Book  to say that I am planning to add an overview sheet of the latest Amazon Advertising options into the online folder. If you are running ads you will know that a lot has changed in the last couple of months. It’s all for the good but can be overwhelming at times knowing where to start to make the most of what’s now on offer. There’s plenty of free advice and courses online so my notes will be extremely high level, but they will include tips on how to use your ad budget sensibly, and avoid making costly mistakes. A lot is trial and error, combined with careful monitoring, and we are all constantly learning from each other. Just in case of a delay getting my note up, three main tips I can say here are:

1/ Don’t bid high – the recommended bids are just too risky – I rarely bid above 0.25c/25p and often quite a lot less – even into single figures. Where I do bid higher it’s never above 30c/p and is only on a well-performing keyword that is already showing a good return on investment

2/ Research keywords carefully and be sure that they are relevant to your title. Relevancy rules.

3/ Make the most of the available search term reports to harvest new keywords for your campaigns.

That’s it for now. I hope that your writing and marketing journey is going well in the run up to the holiday season 😊🌲

Karen

PS: Please do share The Christmas Tree Wish details with friends and family who may have children or grandchildren aged 3-5+. And, as ever, if you buy and enjoy it would mean a lot if you could take a moment to leave a short review online. Those links again:

The Christmas Tree Wish on Amazon
Martin, Le Sapin de Noël on Amazon
Chris Christbaums Weihnachtstraum on Amazon

Posted in Blog Update, Marketing, Translation | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Children’s Self-publishing Event, Russian rights deal and other news…

Hello from a grey, breezy London. It’s coming up to the first of two May Bank Holiday weekends here in the UK — always a time that makes the nation smile, whatever the weather!

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival – May 11th/12th – an indie friendly festival

One reason I love May is it’s the month in which we have The Barnes Children’s Literature Festival, conveniently held down the road from where I live. It’s now in its fifth year and I’m grateful that what has become the largest children’s literature festival in London immediately opened up to indies following my request for a slot in its first year (2015)

As well as the many big names this year (Lauren Child, Judith Kerr, David Almond, to name but a few…), there’s also a fabulous free programme that over the years has welcomed many more self-published authors. So if you have kids and live within reach of London, do use the link above to look at the programmes and come along. I’m already looking forward to hearing Judith Kerr’s interview and attending Emma Carroll’s event!

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 09.51.09

Self-publishing children’s book event on Saturday 4pm

If you’re starting out in self-publishing, or just curious to learn how it all works,  I’m running a Children’s Self-publishing and Marketing session at the festival on Saturday May 11th from 4-5.30pm. This is the second year for the event and there was a packed house last year. I’ll have my book How to Self-Publish and Market a Children’s Book on sale on the day and there’ll be plenty of time for questions. The first half of my talk looks at children’s self-publishing options and the second half covers the crucial question of marketing.  Click here to find out more or book.

Karen Inglis discussing children's self-publishing -- seated audience and slides

Children’s Self-publishing event Barnes Children’s Literature Festival 2018

Karen Inglis giving a talk - audience and slides

Plenty of time for questions along the way – oh, and we’ll be indoors this year!

The Secret Lake – the journey continues

May has another special place in my heart, because it’s the time that Isabella Plantation, a magical woodland in London’s Richmond Park, comes into bloom. As most of you know, the woodlands and Still Pond (seen below during a walk last Sunday) were a strong part of the inspiration for my time travel adventure The Secret Lake which hit the Amazon UK bestseller lists last year and this, and is also now climbing the charts in the US and Canada.

Image of Karen Inglis standing in front of Still Pond, Isabella Plantation with pink azaleas

Still Pond just coming into bloom at Isabella Plantation – Sunday 28th April

Unbelievably, over 20,000 print copies have sold in the last year and the story now has over 100 reviews on Amazon UK  with a further 35 on Amazon.com. Certainly, selling in volume really helps with reviews which had been a steady but very slow burn until 12 months ago.

The game changer for raising awareness of The Secret Lake beyond my school visits was Amazon advertising which has become a vital part of my book marketing strategy and needs to be part of yours too. I talk about this in my non-fiction book alongside all the other things you need to be doing to get your book into children’s hands. And I’ll of course be discussing it at my event at the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival.

Russian rights deal for The Secret Lake

Yesterday I signed the paperwork for a Russian rights deal for The Secret Lake which will be coming out in hardback and paperback, as well as in eBook and audio format over there. The paperwork is being UPS’d back to Moscow today. I feel I should probably hold off naming the publisher or giving more detail until the advance is received (I hate to tempt fate!). Suffice it to say that it’s one of Russia’s largest children’s publishers so I think I’m in safe hands. Of course you’ll be the first to see a photo of me holding the translated copy when it finally arrives! They have 18 months in which to publish.

This is my second rights deal — I signed with Botart publishing in Albania in January and will of course post an update as and when the title comes out there.

Image of UPS express envelope

Envelope from Moscow containing my rights agreement 🙂

 

A new picture book for Christmas

I swore I’d avoid doing more picture books as it’s *so* difficult to get things right. However, a story I’ve had in my head for years just wouldn’t go away and I finally sat down and created the first draft a couple of months ago. Not having to deal with rhyme was a welcome change, but shaping the story to fit a 32-page picture book wasn’t at all easy. I ended up with 1,400 words, which is way too long!

Christmas tree undecorated

Following discussions and review by two trusted editors/writing colleagues, and after storyboarding and then working up rough sketches with my illustrator, we are now down to 750 words. My illustrator works in ink on paper, so the next stage is a whole new learning curve for me. (Damir, who does my other books, works entirely digitally.) Luckily we’re working with the wonderful Rachel Lawston for layout, so she is hand-holding us through this stage.

I’m sure more words will get culled once we get to the final layout stage, but it’s all going in the right direction. It’s a too early to share concept drawings I’m afraid, so above is a tree from Pixabay!

Eeek! — cover update

I just love the autonomy and flexibility we have as indie authors. It had been bothering me for sometime that Eeek! was missing a football on the front cover. I finally got around to asking my illustrator to make the tweak a couple of weeks ago. (Goodness knows why I didn’t ask for one to start with!) I’ve also updated the title font to make it stronger. To mark the occasion of the new cover, my illustrator has created this rather fun gif — I hope you enjoy!

Gif image of greem alien with spinning football and blue smoke coming from ears

Fun and fast-paced for ages 7-10!

 

That’s it for now — have a great weekend (or long weekend) when it comes. 🙂 And please do come and say hello if you spot me at the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival, whether or not you’re attending my event .

Karen

PS If you’ve bought a copy of How to Self-publish and Market a Children’s Book it would mean a lot to me if you could take a moment to leave a short review on Amazon or the store where you bought it. With many thanks!

Posted in Book festivals, Children's Books, Marketing, Self-publishing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Foreign rights deal, self-pub book update and other news…

A belated Happy New Year – I hope 2019 has started well for you!  This post shares some exciting news, along with my plans for the coming year. It also alerts those of you who have How To Self-publish and Market a Children’s Book about a couple of minor updates that you can grab online.

Foreign Rights Deal for The Secret Lake

Firstly, I’m thrilled to say that I’ve just signed a foreign rights paperback deal with Botart publishing house in Albania for The Secret Lake 🙂 I’d never heard of them (no surprise there) but it turns out they publish David Walliams, Jaqueline Wilson and Dr Seuss amongst others, so I think I shall be in pretty safe company!

They’ll be doing a print run of 1,000 for which they’ve paid me an advance. I’ll then earn a royalty once/if the advance is earned out. It’s not a huge deal as it’s a small market, but it’s been a fantastic learning curve; just the right size project to cut my teeth on. And because the deal is direct, there are no agents fees taking a slice along the way.

I had invaluable help from The Alliance of Independent Authors in negotiating the royalty and other terms — all part of the service if you’re a member. Having my lawyer son to check things over was pretty useful too.
two children looking out to a lake with a boy rowing towards them

Needless to say, I can’t wait to hold of a copy in Albanian – and I shall be intrigued to see what they do with the cover.

Initial estimates for the publication date are June 2019, however that may change. I’ll keep you posted.

So how do you get a foreign rights deal?

Of course, traditionally published authors have agents to handle this for them – or their home country publisher may also handle their foreign rights. However, the few enquiries I’ve made have drawn a blank as far as getting an agent just for foreign rights goes. This deal came about following an unsolicited email enquiry from Botart’s Editor-in-Chief, requesting a reading copy. It’s not the first time I’ve been approached this way. A few years ago Random House in Germany and a major Turkish publisher requested reading copies of Eeek!, though neither came to anything.

More recently, I’ve had approaches for The Secret Lake from Greece, Turkey, Iceland and (just last Friday) a major Russian children’s publisher. Whether any of these will come to anything remains to be seen, but at least I now feel prepared.

Following on from this – and on the back of my sales – this year I shall be researching ways to make contact with children’s rights buyers at London Book Fair. The Secret Lake continues to rank very highly on Amazon UK (around 500-700 as I write) – and has crept up the charts in the US. With print sales now standing at well over 20,000, and one deal signed, I’m hoping I may be able to get some more attention there. Whatever I learn I shall, in due course, report back.

How to Self-publish and Market a Children’s Books – minor updates

For those of you who have ‘How to Self-publish and Market a Children’s Book’  I’ve just posted an interim minor update document in the shared Dropbox folder.

This includes:

A minor correction to my instructions for how to create a simple mock-up for a picture book. (My maths clearly went out the window when I wrote it: I asked you to start out with double the number of sheets of paper you needed – my apologies! I only found out because I followed my own instructions last week to mock up a new Christmas picture book for which I’ve just completed the text!)

A couple of alerts/reminders about a few changes in the industry, such as Google+ closing down in April and Instafreebie rebranding to Prolfic Works.

Image of the front cover and interior of How to Self-publish and Market a

Check the shared Dropbox folder for minor updates

I must say that I had assumed How to Self-publish and Market a Children’s Book might sell two or three copies a week if I was lucky, but it’s averaging more like one a day, which is a very nice surprise. It’s also received some wonderful 5-star reviews – a big relief after all the hard work!

On that note, if you’ve bought a copy, it would mean a lot to me if you could find a moment to leave a short review on Amazon and/or Goodreads, or your store of choice.

If you don’t yet have it and want to find out more you can grab a sample or buy on Amazon here  or use these links to sample or buy in the Kindle Store,  Apple’s iBooks Store  the Kobo Store or  Barnes & Noble Nook Store

Audiobook, new picture book and other goals for 2019

I’m not known for goal-setting as I’m usually so busy I never have time to sit down and map out a whole year. However, here, at least are my aims:

  • Record an Audiobook of The Secret Lake – narrating myself but with professional editing/production. This is long overdue!
  • Publish a new picture book in time for Christmas. The title was chosen years ago and the text is complete as of last week. The story has been going around in my head for the last five or six years and has been in various stages of draft for the last 18 months. Finally it has come together and I’m now about to brief the illustrator. She works on paper and has an entirely different style to my Bosnian Illustrator – I can’t wait to see what she comes up with!
  • Try to sell more foreign rights for The Secret Lake – and possibly Eeek! –  whether directly or by finding an agent who can handle this for me.
  • Update the covers for Eeek! and Henry Haynes and the Great Escape
  • Finalise my partly-finished sequel to Walter Brown and the Magician’s Hat
  • Enjoy visiting more schools!

Perhaps by writing this all down I shall achieve at least half of them 🙂

World Book Day 2019

It’s World Book Day in the UK on March 7th and I shall be at four schools that week. I’ve already enjoyed school visits in October, November and January of this academic year, where the Reception year children have loved a new video I have of a hedgehog running up the road beside my family home.

Karen Inglis reading to Reception year pupils

Spreading school visits out each month certainly works very well and it’s something I want to try to make a habit of rather than packing everything into February and March, which has happened in previous years!

Don’t forget, I have a whole section dedicated to setting up and running successful school visits in How to Self-publish and Market a Children’s Book, including download order form samples. It’s a lot of work putting these visits in place, but it’s more than worth it once you get there! Oh – and if your child’s school would be interested in a school visit do check out my school visits page on my website  ask them to get in touch. I also do Skype visits for schools abroad.

London Book Fair – will you be there?

I’ll be at London Book Fair again this year. I can hardly believe that it’s seven years since I attended the launch of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) there! Little did I know how much that would change my life. What a fantastic community of like-minded writers I have met since that time. If you’re going to be there do let me know and come and say hi. ALLi is running an event on the Thursday evening in conjunction with Amazon and that will be the place to be. That apart I’ll probably be there most days. You can find out more about ALLi here.

That’s it for now and I hope that your children’s writing and/or publishing journey is going well.

With very best wishes,

Karen

PS Remember, if you have How to Self-publish and Market a Children’s Book  it would be great if you could leave an honest review online, however short if you’ve found it useful. With many thanks!

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The Seven-year Pitch: The Story of my Children’s Bestseller…

Seven years to the day after publication, my time travel adventure The Secret Lake is hovering in the Amazon UK children’s bestseller lists for eBook and/or print for the fifth month in a row, variously ranking between 200 and 500 in the whole UK print store. They say the best things comes to those who wait – what better time to give some context to this ‘seven-year-pitch’ 🙂

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images of two front covers of the secret lake by karen inglis

The Secret Lake – old and new

It’s almost 20 years since I wrote the first draft of my time travel adventure The Secret Lake in which Stella (age 11) and Tom (age 8), while trying to find their elderly neighbour’s missing dog, discover a time tunnel and secret lake that take them to their home and the children living there 100 years earlier. And it’s seven years to the day since I self-published it. (Amazon shows the print publication date as 4th August but that is wrong – that’s the date I registered the ISBN, but I clearly did something wrong!)

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Notting Hill communal gardens

 

The story was inspired when some friends moved to an apartment backing onto communal gardens not far from Notting Hill in London. When I walked out and saw the children playing there I couldn’t help wondering what might happen if they could meet the children who had lived and played there in Edwardian times.

The lake in the story was inspired by a pond in a magical woodland in Richmond Park, close to where we live. We used to take our boys there to play when they were younger and it reminded me of the sense of freedom I had had as a child growing up in the Hertfordshire countryside. Even before we’d left Notting Hill that day of our first visit, this magical woodland setting had become connected with the story that was already forming in my mind…

Three children's book illustrations from Ferdinand Fox and the Hedgehog: Ferdinand Fox trotting along the street; Hatty Hedgehog putting her baby son Ed to sleep and mum and son hedgehog nose to nose

Still Pond in the magical Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park

There were many drafts in the early days (I didn’t plot, and things got very muddled!), and it was many months before I felt ready to show the story around.

My first step was to submit it for comment to an independent manuscript appraisal service, The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books, which I recommend to this day. Thereafter – and several rewrites later – I  sent it off by post to a half a dozen publishers only to be told that the story was “too traditional”, “not what children are looking for these days” or “not for our lists”. After the six- to eight-week wait to hear back, I was despondent – and many reading here will know that awful feeling of rejection!

I had better luck with my next story Eeek! The Runaway Alien (a humorous chapter book about a young alien who comes to Earth for the Word Cup), with Bloomsbury asking for more material, and an agent asking for a further version. However, when this eventually came to nothing I decided the odds of getting published were stacked against me in a very large, slow-motion lottery — so I packed everything away and went back to my day job as a business writing consultant where I knew I would at least earn from my writing.

After that The Secret Lake, Eeek! and various other stories lay in a wooden box under my office window for over 10 years. I used to glance at that box from time to time and think what a shame it was that no one would ever know the magical story of The Secret Lake. I also recall fleetingly wondering if one day my great-great grandchildren might discover it and bring it back to life.

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The Secret Lake sat in this wooden box for 10 years…

Discovering self-publishing and gaining control

In fact, it wasn’t the future grandchildren who would breathe new life into The Secret Lake. I took a yearlong sabbatical from my consulting work in late 2010 and pulled my stories out again. Around that time self-publishing via Amazon’s CreateSpace was being talked about online and, once I delved deeper, I knew it was for me: it would put me in control and allow me to get my story in front of children instead of sitting unloved in someone’s slush pile.

Early days…

It was a lonely business back then – no Facebook Groups or self-publishing organisations to join to swap expertise (and frustrations!). And book formatting tools were few and far between — and extremely clunky compared with what’s on offer today. I had lots of setbacks but The Secret Lake was finally born in print and for Kindle in September 2011.

Old and new marketing: the long road to discovery

Once The Secret Lake was out, I set up a website, contacted and visited local bookshops and sent press releases to local magazines, newspapers and community newsletters, taking care to point to where it was stocked locally. My first event was a reading in our local library. I was terrified that no one would turn up – or that I’d have hordes – and I burst into tears from nerves the day before. In fact, there were seven children, seven adults and the library staff. It was perfect. The librarian even served tea and cakes!

Thereafter I began connecting with local schools, which entailed a lot of research and persistence. Gradually (very gradually) it began to pay off and my local author brand started to grow.

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One of many school visits with children listening eagerly to The Secret Lake

Then and now – children still know best…

My instinct that children still hanker after a good adventure story had proven itself long before its recent rise through the Amazon ranks. By the end of 2017 I had sold over 7,000 copies through a combination of school visits, local independent bookshop sales and signings in six branches of Waterstones (a major UK book chain) around southwest London – plus a steady trickle of online store sales in print and for Kindle in both the UK and USA. During this time the then Head of Independent Commissioning for children’s CBBC also read and enjoyed it, and recommended I pitch it to the BBC and/or to independent production companies. It didn’t get chosen by the CBBC in the end, and life and other writing got in the way after that. However, pursuing the second option is now high on my task list and I’ve even had an enquiry from Hollywood recently. (I am sure this will be case of ‘watch this space for a VERY long time’, so I’m not get excited just yet…).

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Waterstones in Notting Hill was the first bookshop to stock The Secret Lake. Several more branches in southwest London took it and I had many successful signings 🙂

What changed in 2018?

The Secret Lake has always been my bestseller at school visits but raising its profile beyond face-to-face events and my local bookshops has, until this year, been by far the hardest part of being an independent children’s author. And if people farther afield don’t know your book then they don’t know to look for it – be that online or in high street bookshops. This in turns means that children won’t know about it in sufficient numbers around the UK to spread the word and so fuel further demand.

I have Amazon UK to thank for the breakthrough. When they opened up sponsored product advertising to independent authors alongside traditionally published titles in early 2018 I was finally able to make The Secret Lake visible online where parents are looking for similar children’s books. The effect was almost immediate and the book began to climb slowly and steadily through the ranks. (This was before I updated the cover in May, though the new design has undoubtedly worked extra magic since and I couldn’t be happier with it.)

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By the time I started promoting it, The Secret Lake had 45 reviews, gradually built up over the years. These undoubtedly helped encourage sales once the book became visible, and the review numbers are now slowly growing. I’m so grateful to those parents and grandparents who have taken the time give their feedback, or help their child give their feedback. As any author will tell you, it means so much after all the hard work – and particularly in the case of children’s authors where our readers don’t have access to the online reviews platforms. So, thank you if you have left a review recently or in the past!

Not just Amazon…

I’m especially delighted to report that word-of-mouth customer requests have also led to independent and high street bookshops outside of my locality placing orders for The Secret Lake through wholesalers, with over 60 recent UK sales and similar in the US this way when I last checked. This is great news for bookshops and readers alike. For once, Amazon seems to be helping high-street bookshops make more sales.

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Local bookshops that have supported The Secret Lake. It’s now travelling farther afield…

Reflecting on my adventure

As The Secret Lake continues to land on hundreds of doormats in the UK, US and Europe (notably Germany) each week, I can’t help thinking back to those early rejections. I truly felt there was a gap in the market for more classic adventure stories – the sort I’d enjoyed as a child, but with a modern twist. I’m so glad that children, parents, librarians and teachers have confirmed my suspicions and given this story the chance to breathe.

pile of children's books - spine facing

A typical book order pile ahead of a school visit… (old cover)

In short, without Amazon and self-publishing, this story would still be in its box — how  sad would that be? (Oh, except, of course, for those curious future great-great-grandchildren! 🙂  Hmm, and therein might lie another magical time travel story…)

If you have a story you truly believe in, the chances are it won’t let you give up and you will get there eventually. And it will be a lot of hard – but enjoyable –  work!

Have a book-loving 8-11 year-old at home?

You’ll find copies of The Secret Lake on Amazon in your country here. It’s also available in print in all online stores worldwide. Alternatively use the link top right of this page to find your closest independent bookshop to place an order.

If your child has read and enjoyed it, it would mean a lot to me if you could help them leave a review online. Thank you!

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Posted in Blog Update, Self-publishing, The Secret Lake | 6 Comments