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Category Archives: Australian Children’s Book Awards

Trends – New bends in the path to publication. By J.R.Poulter

Some time last year, Erica Wagner, Publisher at Allen and Unwin, was reported as having said, in relation to graphic novels, that there was a lot to be gained by submitting a  text already illustrated or mostly illustrated [Allen & Unwin publish purely commission only picture books]. Perhaps this may signal a change in direction that may even extend to those other illustrated tomes – picture books and picture book/graphic novel crossovers.

Some writers/illustrators I know have recently signed contracts for ‘print ready’ books.  This is not self-publishing, nor submission to a print-on-demand house but submission to a traditional, royalty paying publisher of a book that is ‘ready to go’ in publishing terms.

What constitutes a ‘print ready’ book?  It is a book that has been –

  • professionally edited,
  • proofread,
  • designed to industry standards,
  • professionally designed cover and,
  • if illustrated, has all images appropriately set.

This is a great way to go for authors who are able to pay illustrators and book designers up front. Most authors are not able to do this.  This then means all creators involved in a book project agreeing to royalty share and working between paid projects to collaborate on their book.

What have I gleaned about such ‘print ready’ deals? One company, smaller and reasonably new, offered a small advance and a good contract, by industry standards, with higher than regular royalty share for creators. An offer of help with promotion was also part of the deal. Another company, medium sized and established, offered no advance but better than average royalty shares for creators and help with promotion and marketing of the book.

How does this stack up against what is generally on offer now?

  • Small and middle range publishers, in general, do not offer advances.
  • Larger publishers offer advances depending on the book, depending on the author, and depending on the agent involved.
  • Smaller and middle range publishers often [there are exceptions] expect the author to do it all in relation to promotion, even requiring the submission of a marketing plan.
  • Larger publishers vary greatly as to how much promotion they will give a book.
  • Generally, publishers will submit copies of their publishing output for major awards, such as the CBCA, and to a selection of leading review outlets.

What’s the down side for author, illustrator, book designer, [often the illustrator], to go down the  ‘print ready’ publishing path?

  • It IS a lot of extra work for all creators involved to ensure the book is ‘professional’ standard even before it is submitted.
  • There is no money upfront.

Are the rewards worth the effort?

  • If you love collaborative work, it is a big plus.
  • Creators have much more project control to create the book they have collaboratively envisaged.
  • A quality product, ‘print ready’,  is a major bargaining point for creators/agents. ‘Print ready’ saves the publisher heaps!

The first company mentioned does small print runs, sells out their print runs, reprints and even sells out reprints and so it seems to be gradually snowballing.

It is too early to know in the second instance.  [I’ll keep you posted!]

My feeling is that, if Erica Wagner was sensing a ‘trend’ and if these companies make a success of it, we will see more such deals.  It’s something to think about!

My own news –

TOOFS!-Promo-3To be launched end of June – “Toofs!” a collaboration between J.R. and Estelle A.Poulter and illustrators Monica Rondino and Andrea Pucci.

Part III – Journey of a Book – the Launch, 13th July, 2012

The launch was wonderful, a chance to  see everything in place, admire friends’ exhibits, show it all off to friends and family and network! Sheryl Gwyther, Prue Mason of SCBWI and Michelle Richards [our wonderful Exhibition coordinator from Brisbane Square Library] organised the launch event. Jenny Stubbs, Coordinator of one of Australia’s leading children’s book festivals, “Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature”,  came down from Ipswich to open the exhibition. Jenny gave a stirring and encouraging speech to gathered authors, illustrators and friends, despite protesting she didn’t fancy herself a speaker . 🙂

Visitors included Dr. Virginia Lowe of “Create a Kid’s Book” fame and Lucia Masciullio of Blue Quoll Publishing, teachers and teacher librarians from Brisbane and Ipswich. Feedback has been excellent. It is vindicating, as an author or as an illustrator, to have people acknowledge the work that goes into a book’s creation and to have a new appreciation of the end result!

Read other reports of the Exhibition on Anil Tortop’s Blog and the SCBWI Facebook page. Better still, go along and have a squizz – Level 2, Brisbane Square Library, George Street Brisbane CBD, from 13th July to 31st August, 2012!

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Part II – Journey of a Book – setting up, hanging in there

The set up, which I thought would only take an hour, stretched to all morning. Coordinating the set up of an exhibition this size with so many ‘exhibitors’ had Michelle Richards, the Brisbane Central Library’s exhibition coordinator, running a million directions at once, advising as to ‘how [it was something new to a lot of us], finding stands and  suggesting modes of  display, and generally guiding us all through to ‘VOILA!’ – one  fascinating and very varied exhibition!

But there was more – not just the glass cases to set up, but hanging around to do the hanging!  this was not as straightforward as it sounds. We had to somehow attach our paintings to fine dangling wires and – here’s the worst part GET THEM TO SIT $#@*# STRAIGHT!

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Journey of a Book – Part I – children’s literature creation under the microscope

Books are created from the imagination and inspiration of authors and the insightful vision of illustrators. They are then crafted. The authorial crafting may be right brain with a touch of editing or slow and laborious left brain plotting. For an illustrator, it may be  inspiration flowing like rivers from brush or  stylus or it may be  storybook or dummy creation then rethinks, scrap some ideas, adapt others. Eventually, a book emerges that is then ‘ready for submission’. These days, that may mean  adding animation and audio to make the book a digital production for app developers like  Utales or Flying Books, or for YA, formatting it for Kindle or Nook e-publishers. It may mean self publishing on Createspace  or Lightningsource, Smashwords or Lulu.  Or it will mean the long road via submission to traditional publishers.

If the latter is chosen, the publisher will often require more editing, changes and perhaps more changes. My own book, started under contract to one publisher, was already well underway with the inimitable Sarah Davis as illustrator. We were having a ball creating our book. Then our publisher was taken over and the new publisher wanted  to  institute changes. At first, the major change – ‘get rid of the dead bird’ – seemed straight forward. Then we realised  the book needed the bird but, to keep it, we had to  make some big adjustments. An injured bird can’t just disappear in a children’s book, it has to get better and be released, which, in our picture book, meant its story  had to be woven into the fabric of the main story seamlessly. No problem, a few days and Sarah and I had nailed it! As book creators, you have to be flexible and, especially if going the traditional publisher route, you can’t be too precious about your creation.

SO! This exhibition is about the journey numbers of wonderful children’s and YA books took from creation to  bookshelf! Each book has a different creation story to reveal – something the public doesn’t see, it’s behind the scenes. Now the reader can take a peek backstage, behind the scenes to how it all came together!

THE SET UP

Setting up was not straight forward. The spaces has to be utilised to best advantage and the  items displayed needed to be seen from as many angles as possible given I had a two shelf rectangular glass case.  I didn’t end up using everything I brought with me. It would have been too cluttered. Last minute inclusion, bulldog clips, proved life-savers! They held the  photographic prints in place.

I had never ‘hung’ a painting before at an exhibition and that proved ‘interesting. Sarah Davis sent up her wonderful original painting via kindly courier, Peter Taylor, but it was unframed. I had no time to find a frame. Fortunately, I had one around the house that was  a good match colour-wise though not quite the  perfect size.

Given my exhibit was about my close collaboration with Sarah, the items displayed needed to reflect the two minds working together to make a new creative whole – our book! Sources of inspiration, stages in text change, changes in images, cover and trivia relating to the characters, objects and places in the book, all combined to make a successful ( I hope you agree) exhibit!

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The Exhibition, Journey of a Book, has a wide range of book journeys exhibited, from YA novel, like David McRobbie’s, to real life adventure  by Prue Mason, picture books like those by Kathrine Battersby and chapter books like the one by Angela Sunde, to non fiction works on calligraphy as an illustrative art form by Peter Taylor.

Presenting – the Lockyer Arts Festival

Can’t remember when I’ve had so much creative fun with such a fantastic group of multitalented folk! 13th to 16th January  we arrived in from all over – WA, NT, Vic and  ‘locals’ Christian and self.  We were housed in the Gatton Motel, a leg stretch away  from the main venue, not that we needed to walk. We were chauffeur driven everywhere by local Minibus/taxi owner Sue.

12a/aka 13

This is the door to my room, the non-existent  No. 13, on 13th January, a Friday, how lucky can you get!  Interesting how many places omit room 13, floor 13 etc etc. Do folk really think we are so bound by superstition and hangovers from the dark ages that we will eschew  a room or a whole floor just because of a place in a numeric sequence? Evidently it is so.

Presenting

Craig and I had joint sessions with small groups of ardent attendees in a series of workshops. All interacted with us freely and kept us on our toes with their questions.

We started with a draft of my story about the cow that swam the Brisbane river during the January 2011 floods. It was  over 700 words [too long for a picture book] but gave the background Craig needed to locate the story and characterise the little cow. This is a link to a newspaper article about her amazing survival swim.

It was a revelation and a privilege to work with Craig one on one as he sketched out his visual thoughts on the story with me reading excerpts and the audience  interspersing with comments. I cut swathes from the text as Craig’s expert hand created  wonderful image after image.

This is a glimpse of the creation process –

  1. A view of the Brisbane Rive in flood provided by Kim Byron from her newspaper collection on the event.
  2. Craig working on a charcoal image of  the little cow. He has a strong feel for movement and can create a whole range of emotions with sometimes the barely there addition of a line or a smudge.

I love the way illustrators  climb into the  visual universe of a story. Text says a family is sitting in a kitchen. The illustrator will look over their shoulders, look out the window, go out into the next room, climb the stairs to the attic or down to the yard and see where the  house is located in a community.

[more coming… I just need to sleep now…]

How not to do a Book Launch?!

When Jenny Stubbs, Festival Coordinator Extraordinaire, told me I had a slot to launch “All in the Woods” I was ecstatic! It was my first book to be published in the UK and a launch venue at the Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature, Woodlands, was almost too good to be true. Jenny facilitated a link to Aleesah Darlison who agreed to MC. BRILLIANT! What could go wrong?

The Ipswich Festival is always an exciting event! It is held at Woodlands, a stunning, heritage listed venue set amongst rural fields, magnificent trees and rolling hills – what a setting for a launch! The lead up to the day, Tuesday, 13th September 2011, was a real buzz! Then the unthinkable happened… The weekend before, my throat started to get that irritating little scratch and that niggly cough that sometime precedes worse. Sunday night it started to hit! Laryngitis!

Friends, good friends can be the saving of such worst case scenarios. I spoke (whilst I still had a voice) to Tara Hale, who designed the promo poster, would she be Guest Artist “Pink” the possum [cousin of “Ink” the animal hero of my book]. Next I contacted  Nooroa Te Hira, he has worked as a tour guide so I knew he would ace a reading of my book. Then I rang Christian Bocquee and asked would he help with nitty grittys like directing teachers and students to seats, distributing prizes and general moral support! Bless them, they all ‘volunteered’ unstintingly!

Result? Fun, fun, fun!  We had a ball, the book launch was a total success! The author having to use copious amounts of sign language but, hey, she has 5 kids so she speaks the  lingo with hands and fingers! 🙂

You can see some of the fun in the gallery below.

And the book, which was illustrated by wonderful watercolourist Linda Gunn

? It had been a truly international effort – written by an Aussie, illustrated by an American and published by a Brit! The icing on the cake was a nomination for the OPSO Award!

Here is a recent review by Kathy Schneider!

Where can you get it? Here!

“Mending Lucille”, Radio New Zealand review by John McIntyre

Cover, "Mending Lucille"

I thought I had probably long gone received the last of the reviews for my Crichton Award winning picture book, “Mending Lucille”. WRONG! Just got the loveliest, very belated review –
RADIO NEW ZEALAND:
http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/ntn/ntn-20110617-1037-childrens_book_review_with_john_mcintyre-048.mp3
Sarah Davis [my amazing collaborator, illustrator on this wonderful project] sent it to me today. It came out on 17th June this year! Better late than never!

John McIntyre gave a very thoughtful, in depth review citing the use of “Mending Lucille” by the Monash Centre for Grief Education in the training of counselors working with children experiencing grief, loss or separation from a parent. Read more of this post

Children’s Book Festival, Family Day 3rd April 2011 – State Library Victoria & Wheeler Centre

“Books Are Fun”

Children’s Book Festival 2011,  Family Day 3rd April 2011, 10.00am to 4.00pm

State Library of Victoria and the Wheeler Centre

This free programme of ‘events’ over the Sunday was hugely popular.  It was described as “the biggest celebration of children’s books that Melbourne has ever seen”. Families and children’s book lovers crammed into venues to hear a wonderful assemblage of Australia’s leading authors and illustrators. They queued for meter after meter to meet authors and illustrators and have their load of precious books signed.  They waited for hours to be able to get into workshops, storytelling and performances.

The ‘Family Day’ was the brainchild of the State Library of Victoria and the Wheeler Centre who held, coordinated and promoted  the various sessions.  Authors and illustrators were fully utilised, most doing at least two events on the programme. [http://wheelercentre.com/static/files/assets/087ddc27/CBW_Childrensbooks_A4programme-DR7.pdf ]

Some notes from the day:

 

John Nicholson/Roland Harvey interview with SLV staffer

John Nicholson (architect) – author and illustrator

John started writing fiction. His publisher suggested he write non-fiction.

Working with A&U –  John has an idea and approaches them with it or they have an idea and approach John. At one stage they seemed to take a turn about with this process. He now just develops ‘the ideas I want to’. He prefers to work alone now.

John agreed with Roland, in  creating an authentic “Sense of place” it was important, if at all possible, to do the research for the text and images on location.

Roland Harvey (architect)  author and illustrator

History was something that always fascinated him and which initially led him to writing and illustrating books.

Family activities have inspired  some of his books – “At the Beach” and ‘To the Top End”.  “You need to know, to “feel” the place you are writing about. To research you should “be there to be really successful”. Otherwise ther is the internet but Roland considered this sort of research “much harder” in trying to create a real sense of ‘place’.

He collaborates a lot. His latest book is a collaboration with Mem Fox which was launched at the Family Day. He doesn’t publish any more  and mainly works with Penguin and A&U. He liked the freedom he had  as publisher. He surrounded himself with experts in each area. He found his best books were done “against the advice of others”. It was risky but he LOVED the freedom to do what he was passionate about.

His next project is another picture book based on family travels. He is also avidly exploring Apps and is excited about this development in children’s books.

Terry Denton/Chris Morpeth interview with SLV staffer

Terry Denton  author/illustrator

The place where I like to write/draw:

I have a studio in my backyard. It is quiet, no distractions.

“Gasp” is my favourite of my creations.

Denton and Andy Griffith go away for a week together when working on a new joint project to ‘get it started’.

Chris Morpeth (former teacher) author

The place where I like to write:

In a café over coffee – there are no distractions. At home, I get distracted with Nintendo and Mario. I make my stories up as I go along. I think the more you do the better you get.

Terry & Chris agreed  re book writing/creation, “If it is too organised, it doesn’t work!”

Leigh Hobbs interview with SLV staffer


Leigh Hobbs (former teacher) author/interviewer

His first version of ‘Old Tom’  was rejected. This version had an angrier look and  smoked  a cigar.  The next version, accepted, was more humorous and sly. Leigh draws the pictures for his books first as he has his ‘run of ideas’. Then he ”works“ to finish the book. He felt  he wrote books of the sort he liked a a kid. He loved Enid Blyton, Treasure Island.

A lesson he learnt early, was that children  want “Mums” kept within certain parameters, e.g. Old Tom’s ‘Mum’, Angela Throgmorton.

Leigh Hobbs and Old Tom's evolution

Book Safari – the Journey to Woodlands! Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature

Peter Taylor, the multi-talented SCWBI Coordinator , Queensland chapter, and the Book Safari Coordinator, the inimitable Jenny Stubbs roped me in to help with the Book Safari tents at Woodlands. This was a first for me and proved to be an excellent networking and promotional activity. Opportunity abounded to talk to lots of teachers, students and other writers, illustrators, publishers and editors.  In other words it was reading, hearing, viewing and doing STORIES, pretty much non stop!

Links: Another great blog on the Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature –

http://misshelenwrites.wordpress.com/2009/09/09/more-on-ipswich-festival-of-childrens-literature/#comment-569

Here is a pictorial overview from the days I was there – 2nd, 3rd and 5th of September.  PHOTOGRAPHS: 1-3 Woodlands;

Woodlands, Ipswich from the approach road

Woodlands, Ipswich from the approach road

The heritage listed Homestead with the Book Safari banner at the entrance

The heritage listed Homestead with the Book Safari banner at the entrance

Why it is called Woodlands.

Why it is called Woodlands.

4-6 Editors, Presenters, Writers and more…

Kristina Schulz, UQP, Leonie Tyle, Random House, Dr. Robyn Sheahan-Bright

Kristina Schulz, UQP, Leonie Tyle, Random House, Dr. Robyn Sheahan-Bright

Julie Nickerson, Cheryl Gwyther, Dee White

Julie Nickerson, Cheryl Gwyther, Dee White

justin D'Ath's very unique book launch

Justin D'Ath's very unique book launch

7-9 Illustrators and workshops…

Behaving like Wild Things at the mask making workshop with Lee Fullarton

Behaving like Wild Things at the mask making workshop with Lee Fullarton

Lucia Masciullo shows us her new books x 2

Lucia Masciullo shows us her new books x 2

Lachlan Creagh inspires us with his own brand of wild things

Lachlan Creagh inspires us with his own brand of wild things

10-13 The nomads at their tents…

Peter Taylor,writer, illustrator, calligrapher and SCWBI coordinator

Peter Taylor,writer, illustrator, calligrapher and SCWBI coordinator

Author/illustrators, Helen Ross of Miss Helen Books and Lynelle Z. Westlake

Author/illustrators, Helen Ross of Miss Helen Books and Lynelle Z. Westlake

Lynelle Z. Westlake using every spare minute to create!

Lynelle Z. Westlake using every spare minute to create!

J.R.Poulter + books, Peter Taylor not losing a moment in the background

J.R.Poulter + books, Peter Taylor not losing a moment in the background

Jenny Stubbs and Book Safari Coordinators in handpainted, South African t-shirts designed for the festival

Jenny Stubbs and Book Safari Coordinators in hand-painted, South African t-shirts designed for the festival

MS Readathon Tent

MS Readathon Tent

14 & 15 Jenny Stubbs and the Coordinating Team outside the Jacaranda Room; MS Readathon Tent

16 – 19 The people who keep the writers and illustrators viable – the amazing folk of the BOOK GARDEN!

Douglas Fussell, author and early childhood adviser

Douglas Fussell, author and early childhood adviser

John Moffatt, Book Garden troubleshooter

John Moffatt, Book Garden troubleshooter

Deb Zavelsky, owner and children's literature supporter

Deb Zavelsky, owner and children's literature supporter

The Book Garden logo

The Book Garden logo

“Mending Lucille” – A Peak Inside

Mending Lucille - cover

Mending Lucille - cover

Mending Lucille has been described as …

“…a book to be treasured by all. It is the story of a young girl and how she copes with the loss of her mother. The illustrations are both stunning and sensitive… Mending Lucille is a story which will help any child coping with the loss of a loved one. It shows that time will heal but you never have to forget. The theme of grief is dealt with in a sensitive and age appropriate manner. The little girl is never given a name. She doesn’t need one. She is every child who has ever suffered the pain of losing someone they care about.”
I loved it.      “The Reading Stack”, Issue 11, August 2008, page 12

Peak inside nowhttp://bit.ly/VQxs1