Goodbye Fall - Hello Winter

That's it! October is done in a snap of the fingers. Fall colour came and went in a week or so. Now, as I look out the window, the mist settles on naked branches and the nights are wrapping themselves around us. Sleep (the studio cat) is putting on his winter weight. Soon there will be snow.

While everything else is going into cold-storage, my work is hotting up! First on the drawing board is a new manuscript I'm illustrating for Charlesbridge's imprint, Mackinac Island Press. And darn it, I can't divulge much about it YET. I tell you, the not telling the hardest thing. I'm excited to be working on this book - and it's going to be a little different from anything I have done yet, watch out for it Spring 2013.

I also found out that my two proposals for workshops at New England SCBWI 2013conference have been accepted, maybe I will see you in Springfield, Massachusetts next year! FUN! (I can't tell you what those are about yet either).

More good news - from my publisher Kane Miller. The book I illustrated in Spring this year will go straight to trade and also be an e-book. Yippee! And I can't tell you about that yet either!! But it will be on their Spring list soon.

I should have called this blog post, 'Stuff I cannot tell you YET'.

I did leave the attic a few times - for an author/illustrator day at a school in Mid Maine and then last week I shadowed the fabby author Lynn Plourde at my local elementary where she was doing workshops with the kids for two days. Lynn REALLY puts her all into those visits and I can see why she is invited back time and after time ... she is something to aspire to!

Mid month we had a family break to Florida to visit hubby's family. It was lovely to see the sun and swim in the ocean. Still very warm down there.
And not forgetting the Edward Gorey exhibition at the Portland Library, Maine. OMG!! It was wonderful and sparked a need in me to start delving more into Gorey's work. It's hard to admit that I didn't know Gorey's huge body of work till I came to America. I knew his illustrations from old Possum and Hilaire Belloc and Edward Lear's books, but not his prolific talent. What a sad education I had back then! Anyway I am making up for it now. I viewed the exhibition with Maine illustrator/author Jeannie Brett and we had an excellent lunch after. Worth the 4 hour round trip! I leave you with some pics from the exhibition. If you were effected by the Hurricane I hope life returns to normal for you soon. Thanks for visiting with me!

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Today Miss Marples' Musings

I met Joanna Marple back at LA SCBWI Conference in 2011. As a fellow Brit we connected pretty much right away. It's the tea .. a bonding thing.

Joanna is an interesting individual .. she lives and works in Nice, France and rides a big, beefy motorbike and whenever I catch up with her she is usually in an airport or another country.

This week I am lucky enough to be featured on Miss Marple's fabby blog ....

We get pretty deep into it here, so there are some secrets  and DEEP THOUGHT. (OK, fairly deep ....)

She also describes me as 'Highly Relational'. I like this, although not really certain of the meaning, but will store away and utilize at some point, somehow. (Perhaps in discussion with 'im indoors: 'Look, I am Highly Relational, you should know that by now.' GRIN.

In other news from The Wacky Brit I got to visit with the grand folks at Harlow Gallery in Hallowell, Maine and subjected them to a meandering Power Point presentation of my life (so far). They were very kind and even laughed at some bits. I hope they were the funny bits. Afterwards I got to have lunch with the lovely and talented Jeannie Brett who unexpectedly turned up to see what I was on about.

Here are some pics from the day ...

 OK ... got thumbnails to work on ... and some exciting news to announce soon! Watch this space.


How to Organize a Blog Tour

Here's the thing, 'Hidden New Jersey', which I illustrated and is published this month is a book about another state. I live in Maine. It's a fair way to New Jersey. I don't have a lot of money available for big launches and travel.

I wanted to help with promotion ... but to be frank, I live in a very rural area of Maine, there are limited resources and limited opportunities to promote. And it's a hard sell ... a book about Maine will draw some people to book store signings - but a book about a state outside New England? NOT so easy.

This is not a huge book and the publisher had limited resources for it.

The answer for me FIRST was a BLOG TOUR. Like a book tour, but in virtual space. There are all sorts of sites out there to help you set one up, but here's what I did:

 One of the most fun things about the blog tour was that Simon and Schuster illustrator, Debbie Ohi,
 created this fun sketch for her blog interview with me! Thanks Debbie!

I have, over the last couple of years, built up contacts with a good network of writers and illustrators who blog. So where better to start? I put a post on Facebook /Twitter/Google/SCBWI listserv asking for anyone who would be interested in taking part in my virtual book tour.  To my surprise I got quite a few takers.

Next I drafted an email to all of them with details about my book, a press release from the publisher, a PDF copy of the book, links to my website, the book trailer I created and email for the author so that they could ask her questions to. (I let her know first!)

I also sent high res jpegs of the book cover, me and a couple of images from the book if required.

I asked bloggers to schedule a date during the month of promotion (so they wouldn't all get clumped together). I also asked if they would be interested in doing a giveaway on their blog, which most took advantage of. It's a great way for them to get people to their blogs too ... a good deal for both of us.

Most of the bloggers sent me questions to answer as part of the review.  I didn't send back standard answers - it was more fun and more interesting to answer individually and if people read the different interviews, they would find out something new each time. Anyway, it seemed like courtesy to me.

I did approach some of the bigger blogs, and was happy that a few of them took me up on reviewing the book. Although I didn't do a giveaway on these blogs, the exposure was invaluable. With the bigger review blogs you have to dig some times to find the info to submit your book ... and some require you to send a physical copy. Some big blogs only review books that they are personally interested in and specifically do not want submissions, and some only from the publisher themselves.

I kept my publisher's marketing contact at Charlesbridge informed of activities and that they complimented what they were doing. They were happy to send review copies to many of the bloggers, which then were used as the giveaways on the blog. A couple of the bloggers were international so I sent the winners of the giveaway copies directly. (we made France and Australia!)

Make sure you keep a note of everyone you contact - believe me after a day of looking at sites, you forget. Also you will want the info for the next go around. As the blog  reviews came online I re-posted them on all my social networking sites/blogs giving both the book and the blogger exposure. I made sure I kept a calendar and chased up giveaways etc and to say thanks to the blogger! Several of the bloggers also posted reviews to Amazon/B&N for me, which was wonderful.

In all I was interviewed on about 17 blogs - here are some of the links:

It was a great experience and one I will definitely repeat at in the future! Thanks to all my great bloggers and reviewers! (HUGS)

I set up a Facebook Page for the book. In the 2 weeks run-up to publication day I posted trivia questions about the book, (which I then cross posted). I also shared info about the book, the author and illustrations. When the blog tour started I posted the links and info about winners. I invited people to join the page, and posted the link on other FB pages that talked about New Jersey. I also joined other groups about New Jersey and posted the links to the book and trailer. My lovely friends on Facebook/Twitter were kind enough to share the links also. It was fun to see people from NJ and elsewhere joining the page!

I contacted all the usual local media and then I got online and emailed newspapers and radio/tv stations in New Jersey. I liaised with the author and publisher on these to see what they were doing. The response wasn't huge (hey it's not Snookie!), but several newspapers wrote articles on the book and this is still ongoing.

I have applied for a couple of book festivals in New Jersey and am waiting to see if I have been accepted. It would be fun to go down to the state and meet with folks who know the places I illustrated, and meet up with the author!

Free and the best publicity. I have done a talk locally about the process of making the book and have another planned next month. This is great because it does not focus solely on the book, but is more a general talk about what I do, showcasing the illustrations from the book. Always give out information about yourself, with perhaps a bio and list of your books with ISBN numbers and where they are available. I expect to continue promoting the book this way in 2012 and there are plenty of organizations I can talk to in the communities.

Because this book is heavily involved in geographical and historical facts, I am looking at producing a program that schools can utilize when they are looking at the States as part of their curriculum. I may use the help of a professional in working this program out, and it's something I want to do in the new school year. It would have been nice to be ready for the launch of the book ... but I feel it will be relevant later on as part of a program I can offer. Sometimes you can't do everything at once!

So - none of this cost me very much to do, except for  my time. I feel that this book is a kind of slow burn deal ... because it will always be relevant I hope to be able to keep promoting it at various times throughout the year. For example to museums and historical sites in the state itself, as well as out of state.

Here's what I learned: I should have started thinking about this earlier. Be more prepared ref bloggers and reviewing. Think about how this is relevant to the local community around you and how you can share. As it is I am tackling that in retrospect. It's not all about book signings and book festivals. Make it relevant. I will be more aware of what I can do outside the main stream (no pun intended!) with my next project.

I want to say thank you to Jeannie Brett, local Maine author and illustrator who shared her knowledge with me and has a book out about New Jersey this spring also!


On the bedside table:
This week I have been looking at the illustrative work of Matt Phelan. So  I have a ton of books. I love his style, it is free and yet intimate.