🌟NEW TITLE!🌟 How I Independently Publish Picture Books Now Available


I’m really excited to say that I launched my new book How I Independently Publish Picture Books this week! The book is available as a downloadable PDF on Etsy and as an ebook on the Kindle Store and tells you all about my own path to indie publishing my stories.

I’m entirely self taught and it has taken me several years to learn about the different steps and processes that are required to publish. I hope that sharing what I’ve learnt will help you to have a go at publishing your own picture books too.

I see the book as an ongoing project so please do get in touch and let me know what you think and if there’s anything else you would like to see included.

Meanwhile, I plan to share some excerpts here and am also currently working on my third picture book so will share some more insight into that too. But first I’m going to treat myself to a cup of tea and a mince pie to celebrate : )

Five Things I Learnt At The London Book Fair

Although I've been to the London Book Fair a few times before, today was my first visit as an illustrator and I have to confess I felt a little nervous! Although I share my illustrations online, I rarely share them face to face when I can actually see an immediate reaction. I spent some time last week printing out a selection of my latest drawings to create an up to date portfolio, packed up some copies of my books and some postcards to give to people and set off.

I started the day by attending some seminar sessions, followed by a good browse around the stands and then spent the afternoon in the Children's Publishing area listening to art directors and having a one to one portfolio review. I thought I'd share a few notes on what I learnt today.

1. A lot of the fair is about the business of books. It's a great opportunity for the industry to get together to have meetings and network in one place, which means being new to it can feel a little intimidating. People are rushing everywhere keeping to their schedules while you wonder round wide-eyed. Most of the big publishers have huge stands with lots of tables where colleagues and visitors are talking intensely. It's helpful to know that approaching stands to speak to editors or art directors on spec may not work as appointments are often pre-planned. However, the majority of publishers I spoke to were very happy for me to leave samples and to chat about their submissions policies.

2. Head for the area that is relevant to you. The fair is split into sections, Authors HQ and the Children's Hub for example. The floor space is huge so wear comfy shoes, allow plenty of time to get from A to B and spend a little time studying the map to ensure you know where you're going. Give yourself breaks and try not to worry too much about what everyone else is doing!

3. The Insight Seminar Programme is brilliant and worth the entry fee alone. As I'm relatively new to publishing I am still learning a lot (!) and the fair runs almost 200 conference sessions about all manner of subjects with a whole host of experts. The timetable is published on the fair website. Today I joined sessions about demystifying book distribution with Ingram Spark and getting started with Kindle Direct Publishing and I also listened to a presentation about book PR & Marketing.  Most sessions are about 45 minutes long and importantly the speakers are always very available for questions both during and after their session.

4. Take opportunities. When I was reading about the fair a few weeks ago, I noticed there was an Illustrator's Afternoon taking place in the Children's Publishing area, which included the chance to have your portfolio reviewed by an art director. After being so absorbed in independently publishing An Amazing Alphabet of Cake I thought it would be really interesting to be brave and to get a professional opinion on my work so I booked a slot. I met with a lovely lady, Strawberrie Donnelly from Scholastic, who gave me some really helpful and encouraging feedback and advice. Although I am really enjoying working independently, I also love collaborating on projects and it was great to investigate a little about whether my style is going in the right direction to make that possible. If you are an illustrator, I would highly recommend making a note to sign up for a portfolio review next year!


5. As a writer and illustrator I also love the fact there are some wonderful opportunities to see authors being interviewed. I didn't have time to go along to any today but enjoyed an impromptu brief speech by Author Of The Day Joanna Trollope who addressed the crowd of writers who were gathered at Author HQ. Joanna talked about how important failure is and how it is just part of your story. She also spoke about her process and how she loves to note down all sorts of things about people all the time. A turn of phrase, what people choose to wear and what that says about them, small habits people have, even things like what art they like. Joanna mentioned that she feels like, "Fiction is where we learn more about life than anywhere else..."

I hope you get the opportunity to visit the London Book Fair, if not this year, in the future. If you have an interest in books from any angle, it really is a great place to learn and to enjoy the company of people who love stories just as much as you do.

New Brush Lettering Website

Anyone who knows me knows I love a project. I've been spending some time resetting my creative mind but find it difficult to do nothing! So I've been enjoying getting back into brush lettering. I went to some workshops a couple of years ago and wanted to remind myself how relaxing and meditative it is. A while ago I thought about writing an online course but had a rethink and decided to simply share what I've learnt for anyone else who wants to get started.

I created a little website to do just that. Please click on the picture below to take a look.

5 YouTube Illustrators Who Really Inspire Me

I can't quite believe I only discovered my love of drawing about three years ago. I remember around that time noticing a comic day challenge hashtag on Twitter which led me to Frannerd... I started watching Fran's vlogs and it sounds strange to think of it now but until that moment I knew I loved doodling but I hadn't really thought about what illustration could be...

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5 Things I Learnt At The 'How to Make a Living (and a Life) from Writing' Masterclass

Although I've recently been totally absorbed in illustration as I work on my second picture book, my first love has always been writing. Over the years I have started writing various women's fiction novels but didn't quite find the impetus to finish one until I switched genre and found myself writing a children's novel for 8 - 12 year olds. I was over the moon when I typed the words 'The End'. But the truth is, the manuscript is now sitting in a drawer, waiting for me to decide what to do with it next. Should I send it to agents? Should I get a professional editor? Should I self publish?

Which is why when my friend asked me if I wanted to go along to a writing masterclass with her I knew it was just what I needed to prompt me to take the next step...

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A New Picture Book

Over the past few weeks I've been starting work on my new picture book. My first book, Angel's Great Escape, was written by me but illustrated by the fabulous Kristyna Litten. At the time I didn't think I could draw at all and loved how Kristyna seemed to see things in exactly the same way as me.

Since then I have practiced drawing almost every day and my new picture book project is a way for me to practice and to challenge myself. I'll be writing several blog posts over the coming months about my process and what I learn but for now, here's a sneak peek at one of the characters I've been working on.

Learning To Make An Animated Gif

This week, with a little help from my lovely neighbour who is a graphic designer, I've been teaching myself how to make an animated gif with Photoshop. As a (very!) small business, I have little or no budget for marketing so find myself trying to do lots of things myself. This actually means I am always learning and teaching myself new skills.

I wanted to make a brief animation to help to promote my picture book Angel's Great Escape on social media and didn't really know where to start. Luckily, you can learn almost anything these days by finding tutorials to watch online (and with the help of kindly neighbours!).

I am fairly comfortable with Photoshop but I only know the basics and hadn't really played with multiple frame animated gifs much before. Here's a link to one of the many tutorials but have a look around and find one you feel comfortable with. I created something quite basic but here are a few notes about what I've learnt.

1. An animated gif is created by turning the layers of the Photoshop file into frames and cycling through them. The animation below has 145 frames so 145 layers. It's basically a stop animation that puts me in mind of the old school animation techniques of my childhood favourites like Bagpuss and the Clangers. I used one layered PSD file to create each scene or layer and merged the visible layers then copied it and dropped it into the file that was going to be animated. I then went back to the layered PSD, undid the merge and repositioned the scene then did the same process again. And again! In each scene I moved Angel and Father Christmas a little further across. I nudged each one a maximum of 5 or 6 cursor taps each time to ensure that the finished product was fairly smooth. But at the same time, I nudged each up or down a tiny bit to give the movement a bit of a wobble as I wanted the animation to look quite rustic. I imagine there are several ways to achieve the same result but this process helped me to keep track of what I was doing and to be methodical.

2. I created the file at 1500 px x 1500 px in case I need to use it for anything else but then reduced it down to 400 px x 400 px when I saved it to help to reduce the file size. These dimensions seem to work well on mobile phone apps.

3. I was able to upload the animated gif directly to Twitter but had to save it as a video to upload it to Instagram. And for Facebook I needed to upload it to my website and then link to it from there.  Once again there are lots of tutorials online that I used to help! Here's one that neatly summarises each process. 

So much of the learning process to create the gif below has been trial and error. I enjoyed experimenting with the settings, composition and movement and making something that actually looks Father Christmas is flying by! I hope you have fun creating your own animated gifs too.