Choosing a publishing name

When I first decided to self-publish, I was faced with a dilemma. Should I create a publishing imprint or publish under my own name? Much of the advice on the internet suggested I should create an imprint, but mostly that was to set myself up as a business and I’ve already done that. (I’ve been registered as a sole trader for tax purposes since I first started earning money as a writer.)

I was also keen not to hide the fact that I was self-publishing and I couldn’t see another reason to have an imprint name. So I self-published There Must Be Horses under my own name and don’t regret doing so. However, I have found that it looks odd in reviews, especially the ones in magazines where they just the title, the author and the publisher so my name shows up twice in swift succession. It also looks slight odd on the title page if I follow the traditional system of putting the author’s name under the name of the book and the publisher’s name at the bottom of the page in smaller type. That’s why all my future books will be published under the name of my own imprint: Kubby Bridge Books. In case you’re wondering, I don’t live near Kubby Bridge and don’t think such a place exists. The name came from playing around with my horse’s name and the name I use for larping (live action roleplay). I originally used it as a username in an online game and liked it so much that I decided to use it for my books.

I’m delighted that this change hasn’t cost me anything. Nielsen were happy to add the imprint to my account so I can still use the ISBNs I originally bought under my own name. It will deal with the problems I’ve discovered, but I’m still being upfront about self-publishing – the copyright page will make it clear that the imprint belongs to me.

 

For more information on writing, publishing and marketing books, visit my other site at helpwithpublishing.com.

Partying with Princess Ellie

Ist July was publication day for Princess Ellie’s Perfect Plan, the much requested 13th book in my Pony-Mad Princess series. So I’ve had a double celebration recently – the publication of the new book and the 10th anniversary of the series itself. To mark both occasions in an appropriately horse way, I sponsored the first ridden pony class at the Royal Isle of Wight County Show and invited Anne Finnis (the person who originally thought of the series) to come down from London to watch the event with me.

anniversary cakeAnne and her husband arrived on the Friday evening, so we started celebrating with cake and champagne. I’d baked the cake myself and, although I’m not the world’s best cook, it tasted okay.

We had to be up early on the Saturday because I was giving Princess Ellie books to the competitors in the leading rein class which started at 8.30. I really admired them for managing to look so smart so early in the morning. This is the young lady who came second. For some reason horse and pony classes at the County Show gives blue rosettes for first and red for second, although most places do it the other way around.countyshow1

Next in the ring were the two competitors for the First Ridden Pony class. Everything went well until a tractor starting up near by and frightened one of the ponies so much that he misbehaved and dumped his rider on the ground. Luckily she wasn’t hurt and I gave her a book to cheer her up. That left the one remaining pony as the winner, but he was so lovely that I’m sure he would have one even if there had been a dozen other ponies. His name was Huey and he also won the leading rein class too so he ended up with a championship rosette as well. You can see it on Jack’s jacket.

countyshow2His sister rode Huey in the first ridden pony class and you can see her rosette on her jacket. It had “The Pony-Mad Princess” on the ribbon tails because I’d sponsored the class.rosette

After the two classes were over, I’d finished my official role of handing out prize books so we went to explore the rest of the show. It was a lovely event, full of animals and country activities. The falconry display was fascinating – one of the birds flew so low over my head that its wing brushed my hair.

We thought it would be good to try some of the activities but pole climbing looked much too scary. I felt much safer  milking a cardboard cow.

cow

 

 

 

 

My publisher, Usborne, had asked us to post pictures of the day on Twitter, but it’s difficult to look at photos on a mobile phone in full sun. In the end, we solved the problem by hiding under my coat which earned us some strange looks from passers-by.

tweeting

 

A new use for old stories

stories for illustrationLike most authors, I have stories that are hidden away in a drawer or on my computer. Some have never been published. Others have been published in the past, but are now out of print.

Self-publishing provides a wonderful way to give new life to stories, and I’ve done so successfully with Perfectly Pony – a collection of pony stories and facts for readers of 7+. But it’s much more difficult to do with picture book texts because I only have the words, not the pictures.

So I set to wondering who might appreciate pictureless picture books. The first group that came to mind were sleepy children, lying back on the pillow with their eyes closed. They could listen to my stories and make their own stories in their heads.

Then I realised there was another group who might want them even more – would-be illustrators who wanted to try bringing a story to life with pictures. Why not make my stories available for them to practise on at college, school or home? And maybe they could also be used by teachers who wanted to trigger their students’ creativity.

That’s the idea that triggered Stories for Illustration – a selection of five of my picture book texts complete with tips on illustration and permission to copy them and use them in class and in portfolios. I’ve put gaps in the text to show where the page turns might go and added tips at the end of each story that look at particular issues the illustrator needs to consider. And of course, they are still fine for reading aloud to those sleepy children.

I’ve no idea how many I’ll sell and I don’t really care. What matters to me is getting my  stories out of the drawer and back into the world where they can be read.

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Discovering my author brand

group picture

Authors and teachers enjoying a group picture

Last week I spent an enjoyable day on a course in London organised by Usborne, who publish my Pony-Mad Princess books. There were only four authors (including me) working with Justin Somper and Phil Norman from AuthorProfile so we all got plenty of individual attention. And I needed that when it came to deciding on my author brand.

The other three authors were all on their first book so the themes of that story helped decide their brand. But I had a trickier task because the range of books I’ve published is so wide. There are more than forty so far including picture books, early readers, chapter books and a novel for older readers plus non-fiction books on subjects ranging from rainbows to special effects.

Justin encouraged me to focus in on the core of collage of book coversmy writing to see if I could find a common theme in my fiction and, to my surprise, I did. I now realise that all my stories are about  family, friendship and the power of love. So that was the first part of my brand sorted out.

The other part involved thinking about me rather than my writing. As soon as I started focusing in on myself, I immediately came up with the animals I love most – horses. But Justin encouraged me to think more deeply, asking lots of searching questions about my relationship with my favourite animals and how that relates to my writing. By the end of the session, he’d picked out three important phrases for me to remember. So I am:

  • the little girl who never got a pony
  • the author who bought a horse to help research her novel
  • the author who deliberately chose an imperfect horse

So I was able to come home confident that I now I know who I am. Thanks Justin and Phil for a great course. I loved every minute.

 

 

Exciting news for Pony-Mad Princess fans

book coverI love getting letters and emails from fans of my Pony-Mad Princess series, and many of them ask when I’m going to write another book. Until recently, I’ve said that the series was finished. I’d run out of ideas so there weren’t going to be any more Princess Ellie stories. But I was wrong. There’s now another book on the way – Princess Ellie’s Perfect Plan comes out in the UK in July.

The first Pony-Mad Princess books were published in 2004 so 2014 is a very special year for Princess Ellie. To mark her 10th Anniversary, Usborne are re-issuing all twelve books in the series with new covers and extra pages at the end that we’ve filled with quiz questions and pony facts. They also persuaded me to write a brand new story – a special Anniversary book will be published in the UK in July.

As soon as they explained what they were doing, I was keen to write the book. The only problem was deciding what it should be about. I’d used so many ideas that it was difficult to think of something completely fresh and different. I had long conversations on the phone with my collaborator, Anne Finnis, who came up with the original idea for the series. We thought about having an anniversary celebration in the book, but I’d already done that in A Surprise for Princess Ellie. Then we thought about having a royal baby, but it was difficult to work the ponies into the story and Will and Kate got in first by producing their own royal baby.

Finally, we decided to give Ellie a real problem to solve. The first book in the series brought Ellie and Kate together. Maybe this one should threaten to pull them apart. Desperate not to lose her best friend, Ellie would need to find a perfect plan to stop that happening.

You can tell from the title that this is the storyline we chose to develop. But I’m not going to tell you what happens. You’ll have to wait until the book comes out. If you want to be one of the first people to read Princess Ellie’s Perfect Plan, you can pre-order it from Amazon now.

 

 

Google v Authors Guild – a decision at last

It’s eight years since the Authors Guild first sued Google about scanning books and displaying snippets. During that time, the Guild claimed to be representing all authors, not just their authors, and attempted to sell us all down the river by entering into a deal with Google that would have given them permission to produce and sell our books without the copyright holders permission and would also have prevented us suing Google ourselves. The Google Book Settlement was over 200 pages long, hard to understand, very one-sided in Google’s favour and a nightmare for authors. It took a  great deal of effort and hours of time to fight but fortunately we won.

The judge who threw out the dreadful Google Book Settlement was Denny Chin – the same judge who has ruled that Google’s scanning and display of snippets is “fair use” under US copyright law. Judge Chin listened carefully to authors comments on the Google Book Settlement, even those like me who wrote him ordinary letters because we couldn’t afford to pay lawyers.

I’m sure Judge Chin was right in his decision over the Google Book Settlement so I’m happy to accept that his decision on the “fair use” issue is equally right.

The pain of wanting a pony

When I was a child, I wanted a pony so much that it hurt. I was nine before I learned to ride and my one hour a week on the back of a horse was the high spot of my life. Between times, I devoured pony books and, completely ignoring my mum’s rules, I sat astride the back of the settee and imagined my own pony adventures.

The desire for a pony of my own started as soon as I started riding and was fuelled by the stories I read. The few main characters who didn’t have a pony at the beginning of the story always had one by the end. But they lived in a world surrounded by fields, where there was always a convenient orchard in which to keep the object of their desire.

We, on the other hand, lived in suburbia: row upon row of similar houses with neat front gardens and not an orchard in site. A pony was unrealisable dream, but that didn’t stop me pestering my parents for one. I even entered a competition to win a saddle in the hopes that, if I won it, they would feel duty bound to buy a pony to go under it.

Eventually my parents compromised. They would let me have a pony if I saved up enough to buy one. I suspect they thought that would let them off the hook, but they hadn’t allowed for my determination. I went without sweets and presents for a long, long time and the money I received instead gradually accumulated until finally there was enough to buy a very cheap pony.

I never got it. By the time I hit my target, my dad had developed terminal cancer and my mum faced a future bringing me up on a widow’s pension that definitely wouldn’t feed a horse as well as a growing daughter. Although I finally got a horse of my own when I grew up, childhood remained a time of dashed hopes and unfulfilled dreams.

Maybe the pain of wanting a pony was a subconscious reason for my current choice of career. After all, in Jill’s Gymkhana, it is her mother’s success at writing children’s books that finally solves the money problems associated with keeping Prince.  But whatever the reason, now I write pony books myself, I am always aware that, for the majority of my readers, pony ownership is out of the question and even riding lessons may be an impossible dream.

Partying with publishers

Contrary to what many people think, authors’ lives aren’t a constant whirl of launch parties and champagne lunches with publishers. Contact with the people who edit and produce our books is mostly by email, and the reality of an author’s life is mainly sitting alone in front of a computer, trying to put words into meaningful order.

partyinviteSo the arrival of my invitation to Usborne’s 40th Birthday Party caused great excitement, especially as the venue was the Orangery at Kensington Palace. The words “posh do” flew through my brain, rapidly followed by a question triggered by the dress code:  “What’s a cocktail dress?” A quick email to Usborne provided the answer so I set off to the shops.

As always, I initially met with disappointment. Designers don’t understand women with big busts. They create a dress for a flat chested size 8 and then adapt it to size 18 by increasing all the dimensions, thus producing a dress for someone who is still flat chested but fat. Honestly, it’s only my bust that strains the material. I don’t need armholes suitable for an elephant, and I don’t want something that’s the same size all the way down. Watching Gok Wan has taught me I should be proud of having a waist so I wanted a dress that admitted that I’d got one.

I finally found what I wanted in a dress agency. Retro style with a halter neck, it fitted perfectly and made me feel good. With the addition of a pink bag and some sandals that looked reasonably smart, I was all set to go. So on Tuesday 11 June, I walked nervously down the extremely long drive to Kensington Palace.

The nervousness wasn’t due to the auspicious surroundings. It was caused by my tendency to turn up to events on the wrong day. Although I had checked the invitation countless times, I still had horrible memories of turning up for a party brandishing a bottle and a happy grin only to discover I was a week late.

Once I reached the Orangery, I relaxed. There were other women in posh frocks, several of whom were changing into high-heeled shoes too precarious for the previously mentioned long walk. I obviously was at the right place at the right time.

book coverAnd then we were inside, being greeted warmly by friendly Usborne staff and served wine and nibbles by waiters dressed in trench coats, hats and false beards The reason for this became clear when Peter Usborne gave his entertaining speech about the history of Usborne and revealed that one of their first books was The KnowHow Book of Spycraft.

His speech wasn’t just funny – it was illuminating. The piece that resonated most with me was “My work is my hobby and my hobby is my work”. That’s so true of writers and explains why so many of use never retire.

The Orangery was packed with fascinating people I would never normally get the chance to meet, and it was particularly enjoyable to meet so many independent booksellers. Although we’re often told they are a dying breed, the ones I talked to were definitely alive, well and fantastically enthusiastic about books.

Huge thanks to Usborne for organising such a great event. I returned home, bouncy and enthusiastic and totally sure I had chosen the right career.

Usborne have published twenty of my books so far: 12 in the Pony-Mad Princess series and 8 in the Amy Wild – Animal Talker series. There’s another book in the pipeline – more news of that later.

Help with self-publishing

Ever since I switched to self-publishing my books, I’ve been bombarded by questions from other authors thinking about doing the same. As a result, we’ve developed a new website called helpwithpublishing.com which has just gone live. It’s still in its early stages so we’d welcome feedback and suggestions on topics we should cover.

We’d also love to hear from UK-based editors, designers, illustrations and technical people who would be interested in being on our database of experts willing to help self-publishers.

The Price of Shoes

Last week I was a victim of credit card fraud. The fraudster spent almost £2000 on  a coach ticket, a stay in a hotel and some shoes. “That must have been an expensive hotel,” I can hear you thinking. But it wasn’t. The bulk of the money was spent on the shoes – £1600 for two pairs!! The fact that footwear could cost so much shocked me almost as much as being cheated.

Praise must go to MBNA for sorting everything out at top speed. It only took one phone call to get my card cancelled and the money refunded. So I’m no worse off, and the insight into how the rich live may come in handy one day in a book. No experience, however bad, is ever completely wasted for an author.