the blog

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Recent Picture Book Purchases - July 2015

Some recent picture book purchases that have knocked my socks off--and will more than likely knock yours off, too. None of these will disappoint. Have made a few notes below, to push you over the edge and straight into your local bookstore.

This is just unbelievable. Truly. It's magnificence personified. Maps of all styles, colours, places and time? It's just pure bliss.

I had heard about Rivertime for so, so long and somehow, a copy just kept escaping me. I finally snaffled one and it truly is as beautiful as everyone says it is.

HUGE Blex fan. Colour, form, design, cleverness. He has it all.

A wordless book, this high contrast, poignant story is just awash with life and warmth.

Don't be deceived. This is not just a baby board book with graphic design style imagery. It's overwhelmingly goosebumping. Tears sprung after the first page turn. Divine in its simplicity and splendour.

I've had my eye on this book for some time and was delighted to stumble across it recently. Wordless and powerful. Stunning images.

Love love love Alice Melvin, and this beautiful book with page lift-outs and cut-outs is Alice personified. And I love how much she's personalised this one.

Frank is another love. His use use of retro styling and cleverness is just so Up There. Clever cut-outs form a play on words that will delight kids.

Molly Idle has made a PB series out of Rex. And lo, they are good.

Recent joint winner of the Kate Greenaway, let's just say there's a reason. I ADORE this book--in too many ways to mention, but suffice to say it combines stunning imagery with history, heroics, adventure, high detail and passion. Worthy winner.

A new found love, Julia's work is so free-form and luscious. It's a joy to peruse this book and I adore her colour palettes.

Not really a picture book--really a concertina map, but wow is it wonderful.

I've just ordered in All the Buildings in New York--and Aussie James has also managed to sneak in a Sydney version (of all the buildings he's done so far). Hankering for a collection I can display on my wall shelves.

I bought this from Closetful of Books on my recent trip to Singapore for the AFCC--and it's just toddler heaven. Not that I'm a toddler! But you know ...

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Peas in a Pod Colouring Entries

Some absolutely gorgeous Peas in a Pod colouring entries coming in! Aren't they just scrumptious?

Comp ends 31 July, so get your textas out! Click the poster below for more.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

a dream come true

One of my life dreams has been to illustrate my own picture book - and this dream has finally been realised.

Due for a January 2017 release, I'll be spending the next twelve months adding to this catalogue of adventurous children and hodge-podge objects and animals, for a high-page picture book very dear to my heart. I can hardly wait to show you all the end result!

Keep working towards your most heartfelt goals. With time and dedication, they absolutely can be realised. I couldn't be happier, doing what I love - writing AND illustrating. 

Here is a sneak peek at some of my bits and pieces ...

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Tickle the Imagination Issue 20 - Cocoon

Issue 20 of Tickle the Imagination magazine is almost here!

Here is a behind-the-scenes peek, including my knitting girl illustration. This and many other images from the 52-Week Illustration Challenge are appearing in a special article all about the Challenge. All illustrations used in this article were commissioned by Tickle editor Tanya Collier, with the theme of 'cocoon'.

Tanya says subscriber copies will be packed over the weekend and will be in the post first thing Monday, and the issue will be available from newsagents and other stockists, Australia-wide later next week.

Here's a little more of what's inside this issue... there's a fab 'leather and wood shelves' how-to from Hammered Leatherworks. You can meet maker Jo Rutgers from Little Village. Maya Anderson from House Nerd shares her favourite finds. There's tips for curbing your creative chaos with our favourite organiser Robyn Amott. Craft editor Helen from blossom & cat shows you how to create lovely fabric and rope bowls, and the editor plays with Annie Sloan chalk paint to create pretty platters ... plus so much more!

If you haven't discovered Tickle, you don't know what you're missing. Order a copy right here. Back issues also available. It's one of the most divine magazines on the market today.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Book Reading at Lellow Kids

Canberrans! Tomorrow, 8 July, at 10am, I'll be doing a book reading at Lellow Kids in Braddon (129/24 Lonsdale Street).

Come along for a bookish session--there'll be some Riley activity packs for the kids and I'll be doing a book signing!

You can RSVP to 6162 1272 or visit

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Ask Tana: How do I write a book proposal?

Dear Tania,
My manuscript is being taken to an acquisitions meeting! It's very exciting, however, the publisher wants me to write a proposal rather than just the cover letter I sent with the manuscript. What is the best format for the proposal?

Hi, Kirsty,

Congratulations! That's wonderful news and one step closer to holding your precious book in your hands!

Writing a solid book proposal is important. You are effectively selling your book to a team. You want them to want it! Some publishers have a set format they require for book proposals, but if you are just asked to write one without guidance, here are my tips.

The publisher already likes your work, so their interest is a given. But an acquisitions team's main focus is:

a) does the work suit their ethos?
b) is it marketable/sellable?
c) is this author proactive, dynamic and able to help market their work?

Check the publisher's ethos or mission statement. Many have it on their websites and if they don't, you can get a solid understanding of what it might be from their current book list. Or ask the publisher directly.

For marketability and sales potential, you'll need to make your book sound 'needed' on the market. Does it align with current trends or current affairs? Is it unique in some way? Does it fill a market gap? Essentially, you need to ensure the book fits a spot in the market and an audience. Don't expect a publisher to find your audience for you. Think about where this book fits in the current market and who it would sell to. Research this well.

For proactivity, be sure to make it clear that you are active and willing to help market your book. More on this below.

Proposals vary enormously, depending on the book type in question, but in general, a proposal can include the following (if it's a long proposal, it should include a table of contents, but a short one doesn't need that):

  • A short overview of your proposal.
  • A clear and direct synopsis of your book. Make it relatively detailed but not too long. Like all elements of your proposal, it should be well-edited. Don't waffle and don't include too many personal elements. 'I wrote this book because...' is okay, but one or two sentences is enough--not an essay.
  • A idea of your target market--who they are, and why they will relate to or buy this book. Including some kind of stats or facts will help.
  • A short competitive analysis on books, websites or products that are similar to yours and compete with yours. Most importantly, state why your book stands out and/or how it is better/will attract more sales. Be factual and don't use hyperbole.
  • If you say your book is completely unique and has no competition, you will need to then prove it's not so specialised or whackadoodle that your buying market proves too small.
  • Provide an author biography with what you have already achieved and what you're working on. Are you a specialist in your field? What makes you stand out? List any other book titles here. Be sure to list memberships and affiliations (member of CBCA, SCBWI, etc). The more industry-involved you are, the better.
  • Show how present you will be if this book goes to print, and suggest ways you can market and promote it. Be sure to state your online presence, website links, social networking capabilities,  and other platforms or achievements, eg: I am a reviewer for BookBlogs, I already have experience with speaking to children, I have set up a blog for my work, I have media contacts, etc, etc. Be confident and firm about what you WILL do, not what you COULD do.
  • Provide three sample chapters for fiction and the entire manuscript for a picture book. Yes, provide the work again, even if it's already with the publisher. You may have made some fresh edits between now and then, so provide your best work (though not a complete redraft!).

When you're done preparing your proposal, go over it and ensure you've met the following:

  • The reason this book should be on the market and what its unique selling points are.
  • Who will buy this book? What will they love about it/get from it?
  • Why YOU? In what way would you make a valuable asset to this publisher's stable? Are you consistently writing new material? Are you target market savvy? Do you already have an audience or web-presence? Do you understand the importance of proactivity?
  • Can you be easy to work with? Show this by being well-researched, confident, warm, professional, direct and succinct. If you are faffing or asking a billion questions that you can easily find with a Google search, publishers may baulk no matter how much they love your proposal.

Good luck!

See all the questions so far ...

Friday, 3 July 2015

A Kids' Year Series!

Tina and I are delighted to reveal the covers to books 2 and 3 in the A Kids' Year series, which is now going international! A Scottish Year and An English Year will be released in the UK (with a small run in Australia and New Zealand) this September--and next year we'll be releasing two more titles (but the destinations are hush hush!).

We have so loved working on this series. A dedicated website for A Kids' Year books will soon be up and running, so watch this space. In the meantime, for those Aussies wanting to snaffle a copy of the limited local editions, you can pre-order A Scottish Year here and An English Year here.

More on the books, below.

A Scottish Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Scotland's Kids OUT SEPTEMBER
(September 2015, EK Books, $19.99, hard cover, 9781921966873)

Five little Scotts ready to take you on a journey through twelve months in the life of Scottish kids. Meet Isla, Sophie, Dominik, James and Rashida - Scottish children representing a multicultural blend of culture and race that typifies our beautiful country.

They will take you through a year in the life of Scottish kids, from celebrations to traditions to events, to our everyday way of life and the little things that make childhood so memorable. They are our Scottish childhood.

A Scottish Year is a picture book bursting with national pride. It is a snapshot of who we are as a nation, blending our modern-day culture and lifestyle with past traditions and strong heritage. Its pages feature meandering text, dates and gorgeous illustrations, showcasing our five Scottish children at play, at school, at home, and enjoying the sights and sites of Scotland - from our heather-strewn Highlands to our historical cities, pristine outer islands and charming rural towns.

An English Year: Twelve Months in the Life of England's Kids OUT SEPTEMBER
(September 2015, EK Books, $19.99, hard cover, 9781921966866)

Five little children ready to take you on a journey through twelve months in the life of English kids. Meet Aman, Victoria, Amelia, Tandi and George - English children representing a multicultural blend of culture and race that typifies our beautiful country.

They will take you through a year in the life of English kids, from celebrations to traditions to events, to our everyday way of life and the little things that make childhood so memorable. They are our English childhood.

An English Year is a picture book bursting with national pride. It is a snapshot of who we are as a nation, blending our modern-day culture and lifestyle with past traditions and strong heritage. Its pages feature meandering text, dates and gorgeous illustrations showcasing our five English children at play, at school, at home, and enjoying the sights and sites of England - from the northern moors and breathtaking Lake District, to our pebbly seasides, bustling cities and historical country towns.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Finding Your Illustration Style

When you think of Graeme Base or Stephen Michael King, Shaun Tan or Dick Bruna, I’m sure an illustration style immediately pops to mind. Each of these talented people have a particular style they’ve honed over the years. It’s become a sort of ‘trademark’—instant recognition {also called visual branding} that’s highly beneficial in a marketing sense.

Illustrators often say they don’t ‘see’ their own illustration style, yet others can readily pick it in an illustration line-up. Less experienced illustrators say they have a dream style, yet they’re either not sure exactly what it is {lack of focus} or feel they’re not capable of it {lack of self-belief}.

I’m one of these people. I’ve watched and admired many illustrators over the years. Each time I’ve admired their work, a thought goes through my mind:

Monday, 29 June 2015

Ask Tania: What is the Most Widely Used and Accepted Illustration Software?

Dear Tania,
What is the most popular, widely used and accepted software used by illustrators for digital illustrations for children's books?

Hi, Catherine,

To be honest, it doesn't really matter how you produce your illustrations, so long as you can provide them in a format that suits your publisher--either hand-rendered illustrations that the publisher will have scanned, or as high-resolution digital imagery, most often PDFs.

Some illustrators (like me) create part of their work by hand and part of it digitally. I also use printed material and photographs which I scan into my computer and assemble into pages using Adobe Illustrator (AI). I find AI the most user-friendly when it comes to page assembly and layout, but that's probably because it was the first software I ever used.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

How NOT to Market Your Book

We hear so much about marketing books and how we can promote ourselves and our work. As with everything in our modern day world, the views on this topic are rapidly shifting, and what used to work is no longer as effective. In fact, it can even be detrimental to your journey or reputation. 

Here are my tips on how NOT to go about the promotion of your work.

Friday, 26 June 2015

The Types of Author You Don't Want to Be

I'm often asked questions on 'what to do' or 'how to be' something, and I love the challenge of answering these questions, but it's often the things we 'shouldn't' do that can have the most impact, and facilitate the most successful author journey. I've learned from many mistakes--both my own and the mistakes of others--and I continue to learn every day.

I hope this rundown on the types of author you don't want to be helps you avoid making common mistakes that may compromise your journey.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Resources for Authors and Illustrators

I really do believe that sharing is caring, most especially when it comes to books. On my blog and via some external links, you'll find many and varied resources to help you on your writing or illustrating journey--and even if you don't write or illustrate (and are just a creative person trying to forge your ideal path), there's plenty here for you, too.

Listed below are several resources for you to enjoy and learn from. Most are free and the KBR eBooks are just $4.95.

There are articles, experiences, questions answered, and even an e-book crammed with over 25 years of writing, editing and publishing experience.

This is just an initial list. I'll be adding many more links these coming months.

I hope they help you shine, you clever thing.
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