Monday, 23 November 2015

The Great Big Launch of Rabbit's Big Idea

Sunday, 22nd November finally arrived, and Rabbit's Big Idea was officially launched at the Botany Library.

Wow, what a great event. I had a great turn out and sold lots of books. Thank you to all the people that helped, came along, and of course to those that bought a book, or two, or three!

Congratulations go to Kate and Nathan who won the raffle for my two prizes. Kate loves her plush Rabbit toy (handmade by yours truly) and Nathan was over the moon to win the cute library tote.

Thank you to Chris Marnewick, author of Shepherds and Butchers (currently being made into a feature length movie - awesome), for introducing me and for saying such kind words. You've a great mentor and wonderful friend.

One thing that worked well at the event was having a drawing table for the kids. I made colouring-in sheets asking them, 'What is your big idea?' They were able to colour-in Rabbit and draw their own big ideas. Some of them were so sweet. A lot of the kids said their big ideas was to be authors or artists. Go for it!

Of course, thank you to Leigh and the Botany Library for hosting the event. It was the perfect venue.

So, I can let out a great sigh of relief now, and take some time to think about my next book, or two, or three. I also noticed that someone has borrowed a copy of Rabbit's Big Idea from the Howick Library for the first time. Yay!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Article in Times Newspaper

One of the things we must do as self-published writers, is to not be afraid to brag about what we're doing!

I rang my local newspaper and told them about Rabbit's Big Idea and that I would be hosting a book launch at the local library. They were happy to write a story about it! Below is a link to the article for you to read.

Self Belief Begets Rabbit Book

Although I was nervous to ring the Editor, I did it anyway and I'm so glad I did. So if you have a book launch coming up, shout it from the rooftops, or at least to your local newspaper.

See you Sunday at the launch. Only three more sleeps. Ahh!!!

Monday, 2 November 2015

Tips for Hosting a Launch for Your Self-Published Book

Hosting a Book Launch

Like I have said before, I'm no expert, these are simply my experiences, and if you, like me, are venturing into the wonderful world of self-publishing, maybe some of my experiences can be of help to you. I certainly hope so! My book launch is scheduled for Sunday, 22 November 2015 so watch this space to see how it turns out, better still, come along and see for yourself!

As self-publishers, we are also self-marketers, so it's important that we put in just as much effort towards this endeavour as towards our physical books. Here are some things to think regarding book launches.

Set a Date and Select/Book a Venue

I set the date and venue for my book launch before I even started working on the illustrations for my picture book, Rabbit's Big Idea. This was because I felt that if I had set a date and actually booked a venue then I absolutely HAD to carry through with my plan to produce a book. Otherwise, my resolve could have easily dissolved and turned into a project that never quite got off the ground. I also chose a date that gave me plenty of time to produce my book, with room to spare. I wasn't sure how long it would take, so I gave myself a good buffer. I was doing everything from scratch, so my learning curve was quite steep. I probably won't have to book a launch so far out next time. I picked Sunday, 22 November because it was nice and close to Christmas (picture books make great gifts, don't they?) and also, choosing a Sunday means that most people should be free to attend.

I had some choices to make when selecting an appropriate venue. The most important factor for me was the location. I wanted the facility to be in my local area and to be close to shops so that people walking by could drop in. The public having access to ATM machines in case they did not have cash was also important to me (as I would be selling books for cash only.) Other important factors were the size of venue - not too big, not too small. I decided to go with my local library because I have an on going relationship with them, and my main contact there was more than happy to lend me a room for free. The library also has the added benefit of being situated inside a mall, with a glass wall visible to the public. I'm sure I will get plenty of walk ins! The library also has its own Facebook page so they can promote the event for me on there as well.

You can just as easily do a launch at your local bookstore or even at your house. It all depends on what you would like to get out of your launch, your audience, and your budget. Remember, you don't want to spend more on your launch than you will make in sales! Like most things, keep it simple.

Promoting Your Book Launch

I set a very small budget to have 50 good quality invitations made. I keep a stash in my bag so that I can hand them out as the opportunity presents itself. Having access to Facebook means that invitations can be sent this way, but having an actual, printed invitation makes a bigger impact and greatly increases your chance of people actually showing up, I believe. Below is a photograph of my invitation.

To make my launch more enticing I have promised people a door prize and cake! What could be better? My door prize, or should I say, buy a book prize, will be a basket with a soft toy version of my main character, a library book bag with a print from my book on the outside of it, and copy of my book. I made the soft toy myself, and I have to say, I'm pretty pleased with the result.

Contact your local newspaper and radio station and let them know about your book launch - they may run a piece on it. Free advertising! I called my local newspaper and they will be doing a piece on my launch. I just rang up the Editor and let them know what I was up to. It was nerve wracking, but sometimes we have to do things out of our comfort zones and do some shameless self-promotion. If you don't, no-one else will!

Contact other bloggers about your launch and send them copies of your book to review. I have yet to tap into this resource. I'm actually not sure who or what is out there, but I've heard it's a valuable tool so I will definitely be looking into it. Having your book reviewed is scary, but very worthwhile.

Benefits of Hosting a Book Launch

  • Hosting a book launch builds excitement about your book and allows you to sell a big chunk of books at one time.
  • It helps to build your brand and let people know who you are.
  • Hosting a book launch opens up other avenues of marketing and distribution. For instance, when I contacted my local bookshop about stocking my book, the first question they asked was, "Are you doing any marketing of your book?" When I told them I was hosting a book launch at the local library they were very excited and more than happy to stock my book. Maybe they might not have been so enthusiastic if I was doing nothing.
  • Friends, family and the general public get to celebrate what an amazing thing you have done by producing a book! It's a big, and sometimes lonely venture, so having a time to say, 'Good on you,' is very worthwhile. You've done well, my son.
  • It gives you an opportunity to say 'thank you' to anyone that has helped you with your project.
  • It gives you an opportunity to do further networking and book yourself to do author talks at schools, pre-schools and other appropriate locations.
  • It gives you an opportunity to blog about it on your blog! Ha ha...
All the best and I hope you have much success with your book launch.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Rabbit's Big Idea by Elise De Silva is now available to purchase online

Rabbit's Big Idea is here!

A heart-warming picture book about resilience and creativity.

'One evening, while the moon played dot-to-dot with the starts, Rabbit was woken up by something strange... It was an idea!'

Purchase your copy today. Follow the link below.

Available in paperback and ebook.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

How to Illustrate Your Own Picture Book If You Can't Draw

You Can Do It!

I'm passionate about more writers getting their wonderful picture book manuscripts into print, but for many, the one thing holding them back from self-publishing is their inability to draw or paint. However, I believe that even if you don't have an arty bone in your body (which can't be true because otherwise you wouldn't be a writer) there are still ways of producing fun, powerful images that will make your manuscript sing. At the end of the day, have a go, and if it doesn't work out, you can always go down the road of collaborating with an artist. Remember, a lot of wonderful picture book illustrations are not perfect - their appeal is in their imperfection.

I Can't Draw

Here are some ideas for illustrating your book yourself if art isn't really your thing:
  • Ask your children/grandchildren/nieces or nephews to draw the pictures for you. Okay, it's not technically illustrating it yourself, but children's art has a wonderfully innocent and whimsical feel to it which may be perfect for your book. Spike Milligan had his kids draw a few pictures for his book Bad Jelly the Witch. In my book, Rabbit's Big Idea, Rabbit had drawn a few pictures for his big idea so I had my children draw his pictures. I wanted that genuine childlike style in the illustration which is almost impossible to replicate as an adult. Just make sure to get the parents' permission and acknowledge the artist/s in your credits.
  • Use collage. Simple shapes cut out in bright-coloured paper can be very effective. Eric Carle uses collage extremely well using painted paper, as we all know. Check out his book My Very First Book of Shapes, it's a great example of what can be achieved with simple shapes and lots of colour. Tell me you couldn't do something like that! Another great collage artist is Hanoch Piven He uses unusual objects to build his images and has been featured in Time and Rolling Stone. He confesses that he cannot draw, so he lets objects do the drawing for him.
  • Take photographs. Maybe your story could be illustrated with photographs. At Home With Tog: A most unusual rabbit by Sue Copsey is a gorgeous example (you can download the ebook from Amazon - This style won't work for every story, but it's worth considering. You can also do amazing things with photographs on Photoshop.
These are just a few suggestions, but I'm sure there are more. So get bold, get brave, and go for it! You may discover a hidden talent you never knew existed.

Happy illustrating!

Elise xxx

Friday, 4 September 2015

The Manuscript - Get It Right!

If you want to self-publish, it’s really important to start with the basics and get the manuscript right. Easier said than done, I know. With traditional publishing, if a manuscript is not up to scratch, it gets rejected. When we self-publish, we have to be extremely honest with ourselves, and ask the question – is my manuscript good enough?
Most of my previous picture book manuscripts probably haven’t been. But, I’m happy to say, now, I’m pretty sure I’m on to a winner. My first picture book, Rabbit’s Big Idea, is due to be released 22 November 2015 which is very exciting for me. However, I’ve been working towards the goal of having my work in print for over seven years now, and the following three recommendations have been fundamental in getting me there.

1.      Read lots of books in the same genre as the one you are endeavouring to write in.

2.      Write. A lot.

3.      Join a critique group.
So let’s look at each of these points individually.

Read lots of books in the same genre as the one you are endeavouring to write in.
My dream for many years has been to publish my own picture book. Fortunately, I have two girls under seven so I have seven years of nightly picture book reading under my belt. There are books I love to read my girls, and books that, after one reading, I refuse to ever read again. Reading Barbie books brings me physical pain. I’ve also read the stories that make my children laugh, touch their hearts, or ones that provoke thought and discussion. All that reading has helped me to understand the rhythm of picture books and what kind of picture book writer I would like to be.
I also had a crack at writing a young adult fiction once. I did the same thing when doing that. I read as many YA novels as I could, all to get an understanding of the genre and what works and what doesn’t.

I met someone at a writing group once that said he never reads. I wondered how that was even possible. Maybe they didn’t want to ruin their style by improving it. A great writer has to be a great reader. The two can’t be separated, in my opinion.

Write. A lot.
You know, it doesn’t even matter what you write – just get Nike and do it! I’ve written speeches, an article for a parenting magazine, I’ve had a go at YA fiction, picture books, and now I’m working on a chapter book for under 13s. I’ve even started a blog! I never thought in my wildest dreams I would write a novel, but I did! And boy did I learn a lot. I don’t think it’s quite ready for publication, but it certainly wasn’t a waste of time.
If you’ve never really written anything before, and suddenly you decide, gee, I’d like to write a picture book, I hate to say it, but it probably won’t be the next international best seller. It’s actually quite an art writing a picture book. Similarly, somebody that has never cooked a day in their life isn’t going to go on Masterchef and come home with the crown and glory. Writing takes practise.

When I look at my early attempts at writing, it’s actually kind of embarrassing. I really had no idea. But at the time I thought I did. There were some manuscripts that had flashes of brilliance, but missed it big time in other areas. Gradually, over the years I’ve refined my skills until I finally feel I’ve hit the nail on the head with Rabbit’s Big Idea. And even then, that’s only after at least 15 drafts and countless rereads.
We don’t want to be negative, and doubt ourselves, but the quality of our writing will be a direct reflection of our commitment to improve it.

Join a Critique Group
I know some people think critique groups are a waste of time, but I don’t, especially if you are just starting out. You can read all you want about writing, and you can write all that your creative little heart inspires you to, but until you have someone else (who isn’t your BFF or your dear Aunt May) look over your work with a constructive yet critical eye, then you aren’t going to improve as quickly as you could.
I joined a critique group through KiwiWrite4Kids. The group has now disbanded after many years, but there remains a core group of us who have decided to stay in touch and continue to help each other with our writing. These are people whose opinion I trust and value. They are published writers and know their stuff. They are honest enough to tell me not what I want to hear, but what I need to hear. A good coach doesn’t just pat their players on the back and say, ‘Oh, you’re the best. That game was awesome.’ Okay, maybe when you were five that was helpful, but not if you’re planning to compete in the Olympics. You need your coach to say, ‘Hey, watch your lines, your missing passes.’ Or, ‘Great defending, but be more aggressive on attack.’ That’s the kind of direction we need with our writing, ‘I love where you’re going with this story, but where’s you third arch?’ So, I highly recommend finding some like-minded writers and get critiquing together.

This is especially important if you want to self-publish. You need that unattached, dispassionate point of view. Sometimes we miss things that are staring us in the face, but a fresh set of eyes sees the problem straight away. Offering your work up for critiquing is scary, believe me, I know, but it is only going to make you, and your manuscript, better.

Thanks for your time, and Happy Writing!

Elise xxx

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Follow My Self-Publishing Journey

After many years of trying to get my picture book manuscripts published in New Zealand and Australia through conventional publishing companies, with no success as you may have guessed, I have decided to be brave and self-publish. Through this blog I will be sharing my self-publishing journey, so that you can learn from my experiences, and I can learn from yours!

There are many writers out there that blog, and good on them, but many are very negative I have found. For example, 'Your book probably didn't get picked up because it's crap.' Or, 'There are people that can write, and people that can't, and most people can't.' I mean to say, is that helpful? I would like to be as encouraging as possible, whilst being honest. Do your best, learn from the best, and have a go. That's what I have done.

My next post will be called, 'The Manuscript - Get It Right'.