Don’t neglect that research!
Last year, I participated in an online Children’s Author Academy course, run by New York Times bestselling author, Laura Duksta, who originally self-published her bestselling children’s picture book I Love You More and was then taken up by a traditional publisher.
Laura talked about the pros and cons of both self-publishing and traditional publishing and said that whichever way you go – and that has to be your own personal decision based on what you want to do with your book – make sure you do your research regarding editors, printing houses and publishers. At the time I was interested in two publishers in the UK who offered combined publishing/marketing packages for authors who financed the publication of their own book. I had asked both to send me information regarding their publishing packages. One sent me a very informative booklet which gave me a good idea of the kind of books they had helped authors to publish, their approach to marketing, and the successes they had had. I still had a few questions and when I sent them an email, they were more than happy to answer them.
The other publisher sent me a glossy catalogue of their current books and lots of newspaper cuttings with articles about mainly non-fiction books they had published. Having participated in Laura’s course, I proceeded to contact this publisher to ask them what percentage of their books were children’s books, particularly picture books? What kind of results had they achieved with children’s books written by new authors, particularly picture books? And what was the average number of books sold? Laura had said that every author is entitled to know these things, particularly if the author is paying out a large sum of money (and this publisher wanted a very large sum of money!). After several enquiries, I finally got a response. They told me that they did not think these questions relevant when authors were financing the publication of their book themselves and some books did well and some didn’t. What they advised was that the author should think of the whole thing as an exciting adventure, like a special holiday, and they should not be concerned about the return on their investment – they should just enjoy the process!!!! Needless to say, I crossed that publisher off my list. Thank you, Laura!
So, don’t forget that research – it most definitely is the key!
Helena Harper is a native of England, but she grew up in a household that did things somewhat differently to other English households, because her mother was German (her mother had met her father in Hamburg at the end of WWII, when as a British soldier he had been stationed there). This mixed background has had a profound influence on Helena and her understanding of so-called national divisions and whom we call an ‘enemy’ and whom we call a ‘friend’.
From an early age she loved to read and write, particularly fantasy stories, and later she enjoyed studying foreign languages. At Surrey University she studied German, Russian and International Relations and spent considerable periods of time in Germany, Austria and Russia as part of the course. After university she went into banking, but soon realised that was a big mistake. “I felt like I was being suffocated,” she says of the experience.
She then spent a year teaching languages at a private school in London, and enjoyed it so much she decided she would get properly trained. She did a Postgraduate Certificate in Education at Exeter University and then started her career as a modern languages teacher, a career which has lasted twenty years. During that time she has continued to write, concentrating primarily on fantasy stories for young children. However, in the past few years she has also discovered the joys of writing poetry for adults, and her first two books are poetry collections: It’s a Teacher’s Life…! and Family and More – Enemies or Friends?, which have been inspired by her professional and personal life.
Helena is now a private tutor and translator. She is continuing to write children’s stories, and illustrations for her first children’s picture book are now being done. Her aim is to see the book in print before the year is out. Many people ask Helena why she likes to write. She feels she can best express it like this:
The blank page calls,
the heart responds,
imagination spreads wide its wings
and launches into infinity…
the page fills,
the soul takes flight
and the spirit sings.
Copyright © Helena Harper