Tuesday 19 July 2011

Get your wellies out it's Festival Season - Guest Post By Nicola Wilkinson PR

Guest Post by Nicola Wilkinson - PR Fairy extraordinaire!  on Literary Festivals!

Festival Events – are they worth the effort?

When my good friend the Book Sniffer asked for my advice on festival events, I was only too happy to share my views. So in a departure from the usual doggy doctrine, it’s time to get down to the serious business of festival events – are they a good idea?

When it comes to the question of literary festivals, there’s a lot to consider. For a start, festivals now reach every corner of the UK from the established names (Edinburgh, Cheltenham, Hay) to the boutique (Port Eliot Lit Fest) to dedicated Children’s festivals (Bath, NCBF). A conservative estimate would suggest that there are now around 250 literature festivals to choose from! And with regard to those with a children’s programme,, a whole host of questions are thrown up - audience; public or schools? Small intimate workshop or play to the crowd? There’s no doubt that for the 7-12 age group, festivals offer a chance to meet your fans but the younger age group is a much thornier issue. In an effort to make things simple, I’m going to concentrate on events for the 2-6 age group and share my pearls of wisdom:

Festival events; the basics

Every festival is unique but most don’t offer a full fee (The Society of Authors and Illustrators recommends £350 for a full day and £150 for a half day) and ask Publishers to cover travel and accommodation expenses. The upside is that the marketing is more powerful, brochures are usually mailed out in the local area and advertising etc is widespread. The larger festivals will have a media sponsor with opportunities for coverage.
The downside is that your event is one of many and you are not the featured attraction therefore diluting attention.

Listen To Your Publicist

With so many festivals out there, it’s crucial to know which one is right for you. Your publicist will have first hand experience of the festivals that have the right marketing in place and deliver on audience size and book sales. Not all children’s programmes are the same.

Don’t Bank on Book Sales

While I have seen sweeping queues of children waiting to get their book signed – it’s usually for more established authors who have a fanbase eager to get their hands on a new release. Events for the younger age group tend to be smaller for logistical reasons resulting in fewer sales (e.g. an audience of 20 might result in 25% sell through). Not to mention families having to rush off after the event for feeding or toilet needs! However, do remember to sign stock for the bookshop afterwards; as the saying goes, a signed book is a sold book!

Forget the nerves…

If the thought of standing in front of a row of small children brings on an attack of nerves, don’t panic! Nerves are a good thing and make you mentally ready! Your audience is happy to be there and they don’t expect a professional show. My own 2 girls are delighted with a visit to the local playgroup rather than having another day listening to Mummy and are thrilled with the odd nursery rhyme, collage and storytelling from the helpers at the church. Reading aloud is a wonderful thing and brings a book to life. If you don’t know where to start, keep things simple and have a series of building blocks to fall back on.

The Event

I’ve seen full-on shows to comedy routines and art activities rivalling Mister Maker! It’s important to remember to be true to yourself.. As corny as it sounds, it’s best to relax and enjoy the event and in turn, your audience will too. Young children are a hard audience and are easily bored. Most adults can’t hold their full attention for more than 5 minutes at a time and small toddlers are no exception! Introduce variety with visual elements.

A workshop event works well and this can range from a simple colouring activity to a more complicated creation to take home! This format will put a limit on numbers as it’s difficult to co-ordinate a large number of small children with glue sticks! For the larger audience, take a leaf out of the marvellous James Mayhew’s book – James does brilliant events for younger children involving powerpoint (visual aids are always a plus!) plus live drawing and storytelling on stage. James is amazing at drawing and storytelling at the same time. This is a tall order to imitate but take some tips – reading your picture book with the spreads up on screen help the kids to see and therefore feel part of the event. Plus children always enjoy seeing drawing live (extra points if you let the children suggest what you draw!). Storytelling is a must as a good session will not just entertain the audience but needs to leave them with a lasting impression of your book. Another suggestion is to make up some actions for the kids to act out through the story.

Picture Book events are usually advertised for 4+ but do expect families to bring along younger siblings. Be prepared for a mixed age group and you won’t be fazed.

In conclusion, festival events are lots of work and expense and no, they aren’t going to make you an overnight success or instantly push your book up the bestseller chart! However, they can help to raise your profile in a difficult market. A programme of events around publication (including schools, libraries and bookshops alongside festivals) is good, old-fashioned grassroots publicity and help to reinforce a successful PR campaign.

Nic Wilkinson is a freelance publicist, specialising in children’s books. Follow her on Twitter @nicwilkinsonpr


Sunday 17 July 2011

A jolly holiday with Claude!

I have just returned from a long rainy weekend in Skegness...

With a shiny new bucket and spade, a brand new Bingo dabber (not even sure what that is!) and a full English breakfast made of rock.

 I hear it has been raining while I've been away but quite frankly I was unaware as I had my puggish snout well and truly buried in Alex T Smiths brand new Claude book Claude on Holiday.
Needless to say I didn't need the sun tan lotion!
Many loyal Book Sniffers will long be aware of my admiration for these tittersome books written and illustrated by the suave and super-talented cad about town Alex T Smith.

My heart was all a-flutter when this landed on the doorstep of Book Sniffer Towers! *GASP* (and swoon)

A magical package of wonders - the envelope exquisitely decorated in such a way that as it was carefully unwrapped it revealed hilarious puggish doodles one after the other - What a delight!

Mouse and I were in rapture as we opened the letter to reveal, yes our very own copy of the long awaited new Claude Book Claude on Holiday - Can you imagine the will power required to save this treasure for our holidays - I can tell you we've been sitting on our hands ever since it arrived.

 The time came to head off on our annual jolly jaunt to the coast to take in the air.

Being the dutiful pug I packed Mouses case for her complete with tiny cat sized pink fur curlers, a photo of R-Patz in a heart shaped frame and a small tin of sardines in sunflower oil. Naturally I can't travel quite so lightly but was persuaded to leave behind my beloved smoking jacket and slippers.

No sooner had I donned my handkerchief hat than the heavens opened - I ducked into the nearest and finest tea room and whipped my copy of Claude on Holiday out of my satchel.

 Merely opening this book on the first page made the whole world seem sunny again.

Having only recently lived the real life trauma of packing for a holiday myself I did chuckle so when I read the page which describes Claude packing for his holiday - tehehe amongst other things..some underpants, a tambourine, some squirty cream, a lampshade some sticky tape (which comes in handy later in the story) and some slightly squished sandwiches.

Claude looks ever so pleased with himself as he stands over said bulging suitcase, And rightfully so - Alex T Smith is a master of humorous observation and every tiny detail is carefully put in place to cunningly make you laugh out loud in the most inappropriate of places (like a crowded tea room full of old ladies)  

Everyone should take squirty cream on holiday non?

I had tears literally running (ne POURING)  down my puggy cheeks as we are treated to Claude practicing his French on the locals and ordering a juicy bone ice cream,
and ...sellotaping his oversized trunks in place !
Over sized trunks secured with sticky tape!!!
And zoot alorez (one for the dads!) - there was this lady too and her cracking beach balls!

Swit swooooo ; )
The eagle eyed sniffers among you may spot a familiar face on page 37 - in my mind the chap being rescued from the jaws of a huge greedy shark by Claude looks suspicously like Mr Alex T Smith himself! (I wonder...)

So dear readers if bone flavour ice cream, a dramatic shark rescue, an equally gripping sandcastle competition, an encounter with a gruesome band of pirates AND a beret full of piratical loot aren't enough to wet your appetite then more fool you - you need to get yourself to the nearest bingo hall.
This is absolutely without doubt my fave summer holiday read and that my friends is a FACT.
What a perfect way to while away the hours on a damp weekend away in Skeggy.

I have arrived home full of beans and completely and utterly over the tippety top excited about Claude THREE!!! (there will no doubt be alot of sittings on hands until then! )

Thank you to the sunshiney ray of loveliness that is Mr Alex T Smith for sending us a copy of this stionkerrific story and for generally being an out and out smasher!

If one has managed to wet your appetite you simply must check out the following toot sweet!

Wednesday 13 July 2011

A day trip to the north with "the delightful" Simon Bartram

Well Lorks-a-Lordy - I have been "up north" ...

Can you imagine? I never thought I'd see the day, but do you know what - I had a smashing time. 

I arrived first thing to be collected in a horse and carriage by none other than Scribble Maniac Sir Christopher Mould - Always nice to see a friendly face and he even treated me to a fine cup of northern tea before a whirlwind tour of his fabulous studio, set in the regal surroundings of Dean Clough - He's a very talented chap indeed, it was smashing to stick my nose in his sketch books and have a good rummage in his draws.

The MASTER at work...

Image (c) Chris Mould

Images (c) Chris Mould

From Leeds I hot-footed it across town to Huddersfield where I met with the ever so charming Simon Bartram - What a lovely lovely chap - utterly delightful. 

He's been busy working away on the latest Bob picture book which sounds fan-bloomin-tastic! 
I had a sniff through his sketch books and looked at all his old comics. 
I do believe I fell in love with him at first sight and as you can see from the picture below
I think he felt the same ; )

I was then lucky enough to watch his event where he entertained a room full of librarians who sat open mouthed and aghast  as Simon explained that some of his individual painting for the Bob books take up to 5 WEEKS! He is a craftsman if ever I met one. He also tried to convert them to his first love Football ..but to no avail.

Well what a sterling day - I'd love to go back sometime - I hear that Seven Stories is worth a visit. I might even treat Mr Mould and Mr Bartram to a pint of fine ale to say thank you for such a wonderful trip (I shall have a small Babycham..with a straw!)

Friday 1 July 2011

How to draw a fox with the ever so dashing Owen Davey

Pencils at the ready people!....here is a fun activity to pass the time of day courtesy of the ever so dashing Mr Owen Davey! 

Here's a fox drawn by avid Book Sniffer follower Leticia Parra - LOVELY