Categories
Writing Life

Giant news!

No three things post today … just one HUGE thing instead. Small! has been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2023!

I can’t thank all the amazing booksellers at Waterstones enough for championing Small! from the start – from hosting the launch party to inviting me in for events and letting me scrawl my name inside their copies. I’ve loved every second.

Giant thanks also go to:

  • my brilliant indie publisher, Everything With Words . It’s great to be flying the flag for small (but mighty) presses with this prize
  • Rory Walker, Small’s illustrator. So much of the book’s humour comes from Rory’s wonderfully daft artwork – he brings the words to life in ways I could never have imagined
  • my agent, Lydia Silver, for believing in Small! (even when the big publishers turned it down). It wouldn’t have found a home without her.

Waterstones announces the overall winner on 30th March. Until then, expect me to pop up with my book stamps and signing pen in Waterstones branches everywhere.

Here’s a mini gallery of my signing excursions so far.

Oh, and if you haven’t read Small! yet, do pick up a copy in your local Waterstones. You could even pre-order the sequel, Small Bites Back, too ๐Ÿ˜€

Categories
KidLit

Books I can’t wait to read in 2023

1. Libby and the Highland Heist

Jo Clarke, illustrated by Becka Moor

I loved reading Libby and the Parisian Puzzle last year. This cosy mystery for kids was exactly the kind of book 7-year-old me would have devoured. So I can’t wait to see what mysteries Libby will have to unravel next as she heads to Scotland to visit her new friend, Connie.

Luckily, I don’t have long to wait. Libby and the Highland Heist is out on 19th January. Pre-order at Waterstones (or head to your local indie to bag a copy).

2.Villains Academy

Ryan Hammond

Unsurpisingly, I’m a sucker for stories set in unusual schools. So I’m really looking forward to visiting Villain’s Academy in February.

Has Bram the werewolf really got what it takes to be a proper villain? I’ll be first in the queue to dive into this silly (and spooky) story to find out!

Villains Academy is out 2nd Feb 2022. Pre-order at Watestones for a special sprayed edge edition.

3. Michael, the Amazing Mind-Reading Sausage Dog

Terrie Chilvers, illustrated by Tim Budgen

Michael the sausage dog has a rare talent: he can read minds. But is it enough to turn him into the su-paw-star of his dreams?

I was lucky enough to read an early draft of Michael’s memoirs, so I already know his journey to Hollywoof is heartwarming and hilarious. And his sidekick, Stanley Big Dog might just be one of my all-time favourite supporting characters. I can’t wait for the rest of the world to fall head-over-paw for this fabulous story.

Michael The Amazing Mind-Reading Sausage Dog is out on 8th June 2022. Give your future-self a treat and pre-order now.

Which books are you looking forward to reading in 2023? Let me know in the comments ๐Ÿ™‚
Categories
Writing Life

Q&A with author Hannah Moffatt

This Christmas Eve, the lovely Emma Suffield invited me to do a Q&A on her brilliant blog. Take a sneak peak here, then head to Emmaโ€™s page to read the rest (and discover lots of other interviews, too).

Iโ€™ve always loved writing. But it was watching Neil Gaimanโ€™s Make Good Art speech on YouTube that spurred me on to be an author

Q&A with author Hannah Moffatt
Categories
Practical tips Writing Life

Reflections on my debut year

3 things I did

1. Celebrate every win and milestone

2022 was my book’s debut year and I was determined to enjoy it! Sometimes, there were big things to cheer about – like being The Bookseller’s One toWatch or The Sunday Times’ Children’s Book of the Week. (I’m well aware how lucky I am that my little book had such a great start, and I’ll be eternally grateful to my publisher for working so hard to get SMALL! in front of the right people.)

But I celebrated the quieter moments just as much. The first bookshop to share pre-order links for SMALL! (Thank you Rocketship Bookshop!). The Instagram message from a mum telling me how much her daughter loved my book. My first school assembly. Running a ‘create a swamp creature’ workshop for three boys who didn’t want to leave. And, very occasionally, readers coming to my workshops on purpose. I’ll be honest, I usually roped in any children who happened to be nearby when I was about to start.

This year has been full of little wins and whether you’re publishing your first book or fifty-seventh, holding on to those moments will make every late night editing push or plot-hole-panic worth it.

Here I am celebrating SMALL! being in the window of Waterstones Salisbury

2. Take joy in other authors acing it

I feel there’s one rule that all authors who want happy lives should follow: don’t compare yourself to other authors. If someone else has more sales, is on more shortlists or takes home more prizes, cheer for them. When a few authors in my debut group were nominated for the Carnegie, I genuinely squealed over my breakfast. One of the biggest joys I’ve had this year is seeing so many brilliant debut children’s authors doing brilliantly. And a win for any one of them feels like a win for all of us, as it shows children, teachers, booksellers and librarians are giving new, non-celebrity books a chance. That’s got to be worth cheering, right?

3. Give and share where you can

Giving your time as an author isn’t entirely selfless. When I write letters to schools, do I hope a few pupils might buy my book? Of course. When I create downloadable games and activities on my website, do I hope they’ll encourage teachers to use SMALL! in the classroom? Yup. And when I run events in bookshops, do I hope a few of the families that come will also buy my book? Absolutely.

As an author, there’s an obvious benefit to giving your time. But those little acts aren’t selling copies for me in the thousands, hundreds or even the tens most of the time. Instead, I hope they’re getting a few children excited about reading, as well as writing their own stories.

Of course, sharing doesn’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) be all about you. The shares that have done best for me this year were my Reading Adventure, shouting about 15 debuts young readers might enjoy. And my book review postcard template – helping readers write reviews like holiday postcards for any books they’ve enjoyed.

3 things I wish I’d done

4. Accept you’ll never have enough time

I had no idea just how much time promoting a book takes. This might vary a bit depending on the kind of marketing budget you have and whether there’s a team making resources for you. But if you’re eager to do things yourself, you could lose days:

  • making a website – if you’re building your own, leave lots of time for it
  • visiting bookshops
  • visiting schools
  • writing letters to schools
  • blogging, tweeting, TikToking etc
  • creating activities to go with your book
  • agonising about any of the things on that list you haven’t done yet.

I’ve loved promoting SMALL! But I’ve also struggled to get the balance between writing and promoting right. The result is that I almost always feel guilty about the things I’m not doing.

That guilt extends to the many fab books I know I’m not reading and shouting about, too. My TBR pile has never been bigger.

Going into 2023, I’ve promised to be kinder to myself and accept I can’t do everything. I’ll also try not to use promoting as an excuse to avoid the harder job of actually writing a new book…

5. Pick a good signing pen

In Goldilocks style, it took me three goes to find mine.

My first pen looked nice but the ink blotted into the pages.

My second pen didn’t blot, but the nib was too thick for my handwriting.

The third pen (a fineline version of pen two) is perfect. Here’s a pic of my Ultra Fine Sharpie in all its glory.

Third time lucky: my favourite Ultra Fine Sharpie

6. Ask for reviews

Amazon reviews – if you get over the magic 50 – help more people find your book. Even though loads of people have said lovely things about SMALL! I’m nowhere near that number.

I’ve posted occasional tweets asking for reviews and reminding everyone that you can buy SMALL! from Waterstones or your local indie and still review it on Amazon. But I’m fairly sure I’m asking in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The problem is that reviewing isn’t on most people’s radars. Before getting a book deal, I don’t think I’d ever left an Amazon review – even for books I LOVED. Looking back, I reckon my best chance to get reviews would have been to ask the parents at my events. It’s something I’ll try and do more of next year.

In the meantine, if you’re looking for a gift for me(!) or another author in your life this festive season, head to Amazon and leave a review. It won’t cost you a penny and it’ll mean the world to them.

Authors, what do you wish you’d known before you published your debut? Share your wisdom for other debuts in the replies.
Categories
Writing Life

Bookshops (and booksellers) I’m thankful for

1. The Rocketship Bookshop, Salisbury

The Rocketship Bookshop will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the first shop to post pre-order links for SMALL! months before anyone else was even talking about it. And it was the first shop I visited to sign copies, which was another pinch-me moment.

Jo, the owner really knows her stuff. She hosts all kinds of events and does gorgeous picturebook readings. And, oh, the wrapping! Order online and she’ll wrap your books beautifully – often with paper and bows that colour-cordinate with your chosen bookcovers.

If you’re looking for the perfect children’s book, Jo will find it.

Order from The Rocketship Bookshop here.

2. Waterstones, Ashford

I’ve visited lots of branches of Waterstones in the last few months (and have loads more on my list) but Emma Pullar in the Ashford branch is extra special. She’s been the biggest champion of SMALL! but also of so many children’s authors I love. She posts great recommendations on Instagram and Twitter and has a packed calendar of book events in her branch.

I was thrilled to run one of my first ‘Create a Swamp Ceature’ sessions for SMALL! with her. And because she’d worked so hard to tell young readers about the book beforehand, I met my first bookworm who’d already read it. (As a debut, I’m used to drumming up event interest from children and grown ups who happen to be in the store when I’m there. The idea of children coming to meet me … on purpose still feels extraordinary.)

Huge thanks also go to the other Waterstones branches who’ve hosted events with me, including Harrow (twice!), Salisbury and Worcester. And Filipa and the Trafalgar Square team hosted the most fabulous launch for SMALL! too.

Find your local Waterstones.

3. Ottie and the Bea, Blackheath

Should you decide to move house based on whether or not moving means you’ll get a local children’s bookshop at the end of the road?

I think so.

I’m a creature of habit and felt seriously wobbly about leaving the one-bed flat my husband and I were in for the last nine years. Even though the whole working, eating, cooking, living in the same room thing had lost it’s charm about a week into the pandemic.

So was getting an extra room to write in what clinched the move for me? Nope (although now I have it, its amazing). It was Ottie and the Bea. It’s an absolutely delightful bookshop and toy shop a short walk from my new home. It stocks plenty of children’s books – including signed copies of SMALL! – as well as an adorable range of traditional toys that would make perfect Christmas pressies for little ones. The moment I saw it I thought, yes, I could live here. (The area, not the shop, although if the owner, Julia were willing…๐Ÿ˜)

Visit Ottie and the Bea.

Which bookshops and booksellers are you thankful for? Let me know in the replies.

Categories
KidLit

Reading Adventure

Whatever you’re planning to do this summer, if you’ve got a book you can go anywhere. Here’s a downloadable list of destinations 6-11 year-olds can escape to. The chances are, these are places young readers won’t have seen before as every book on the list comes from a 2022 debut children’s author.

Let me know how far you travel by sending pics of the books you’re reading to me (@MissDePlume) on Instagram or Twitter with the #Reading Adventure.

Download the #ReadingAdventure travel guide

Enjoyed the adventure? Send a postcard!

If you enjoyed your travels this summer (or if you go on the adventure with your class) why not write a postcard, inviting others to join you? This PDF includes template postcards for all 16 books on the adventure.

Meet the tour guides

When you’re visiting a new place, it’s good to have a guide. You can meet them all on Twitter. Here’s my unrolled thread where I introduce them all.

Ready to go on a #ReadingAdventure this summer?
Here are some cracking destinations 6-10 year-olds can visit in the pages of books.
I’ll unroll this thread + include a downloadable list on my website today. But first, let’s meet your tour guides…
#ShareStuffSunday ๐Ÿงต

Wands at the ready! First up we have @FinlaysonPalmer: she’ll guide you through the magical village of Sparkledale in AUTUMN MOONBEAM: DANCE MAGIC #ReadingAdventure

If you ever find a boat to Crabby Island, @LetLucyB will show you around. (And if you love LEONORA BOLT: SECRET INVENTOR so much you don’t want to go home, Lucy might even take you on a second journey – pack a snorkel just in case.) #ReadingAdventure

Ooh la la, who better than @bookloverJo to lead you through the streets of Paris in LIBBY AND THE PARISIAN PUZZLE #ReadingAdventure

Dog-lovers can head to Australia with Kate and PAWS.
#ReadingAdventure ๐Ÿพ

@camillacauthor will help you handle the heat in Luton in CALL ME LION… if you can keep a secret. #ReadingAdventure

@MissDePlume (that’s me!) will guide you safely through the Stinking, Sinking Swamp in SMALL! #ReadingAdventure

London’s looking a little different in THE SECRET WILD. Don’t worry, @alexrevelyn will guide you through it. #ReadingAdventure

Off to the seaside in Edge? @fionalongmuir will show you round the local museum in LOOKING FOR EMILY. #ReadingAdventure

Feeling brave? @skyemc_kenna will help you through the dark forest in HEDGEWITCH #ReadingAdventure

Follow @yarrowtownsend to meet some most unusual flowers in THE MAP OF LEAVES #ReadingAdventure

@Emilie_London will show you around the seaside town of Pebblehampton. She might even introduce you to the local animals in THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF ALICE TONKS #ReadingAdventure

If you ask nicely, @annabelwriter might give you a tour of The Island in SKANDAR AND THE UNICORN THIEF #ReadingAdventure

Ready to visit a superhero-filled Nigeria like you’ve never seen it before? @TolaOkogwu will be your guide through ONYEKA AND THE ACADEMY OF THE SUN #ReadingAdventure

@justynedwards will take you on a magical mystery tour through the Fox’s Den in THE GREAT FOX ILLUSION #ReadingAdventure

Fancy some ice cream? Follow @_catgray to the world’s best ice cream van in SPELLSTOPPERS #ReadingAdventure

Or head to Blackpool with @JessScottWhyte. She knows where to find all the best sweets in THE ASPARAGUS BUNCH #ReadingAdventure

And that’s it! If you visit any (or all!) of our debut 2022 destinations this summer, why not take a photo and tag us? Don’t forget to use #ReadingAdventure

Originally tweeted by Hannah Moffatt (@MissDePlume) on July 17, 2022.

Categories
Gifts for writers Practical tips Writing Life

Finishing touches

1. For the launch party: book cakes

eatyourphoto.co.uk

No book launch party these days is complete without book cakes. These personalised vanilla sponges were just perfect. They arrived bang on time, tasted great and added a splash of colour to the snack table. EatYourPhoto deliver quickly too (which was a huge relief after the first company I tried let me down).

Customised vanilla cupcakes from EatYourPhoto.co.uk

2. For your author ID: book necklace

NewLeaf on Etsy

Lovely necklace from NewLeaf

I’ve been wearing my book necklace everywhere – especially when I know I’ll be dropping into a bookshop and asking to sign copies of Small! I’m not entirely sure what the booksellers make of me when I walk in madly pointing at my neck saying, ‘I wrote this! Honest! Can I sign it?’ But no one’s arrested me yet and, on the whole, it’s been a pretty good icebreaker.

If a writer in your life has a book out soon, and you can get your hands on the cover artwork, I’m sure a gift from NewLeaf (whether you choose the necklace, earrings or pin badge) will go down well.

3. For signings: book stamps

getstamped.co.uk

Another thing that’s all the rage for authors on Instagram is book stamping. So, naturally, I gave it a try – creating a simple reward stamp that could have come straight from one of the teachers at Madame Bogbrush’s School for Gifted Giants.

And (as long as I keep the book VERY steady as I stamp) it’s worked well.* I’ve also noticed booksellers really like it. Lots have commented that children aren’t always interested in a signature squiggle, but they do like seeing the stamps.

I designed mine on Canva then loaded the design to getstamped.co.uk.

*Apologies if you’re the person who picked up my one smudged copy from Waterstones in Salisbury on my first day of stamping…

What are your favourite bookish accessories or launch day treats? Share your ideas in the replies.
Categories
Inspiration KidLit Practical tips

Happytown Must Be Destroyed

1. Funny words

The schnozzdongle

You don’t need to know what the schnozzdongle does to enjoy the word immensely (although if you read the book, you’ll certainly find out). I giggled every time it appeared. And that was definitely a tip I took away: if you know a an object’s going to crop up a lot in your story, give it a good name so it’s delighting, not boring.

It also got me thinking about Richard Wiseman’s research with the Laugh Lab to find the world’s funniest joke. It was the first time I’d read about the ‘comedy k’ sound (Hard ‘c’ or ‘k’ sounds are supposedly the funniest of them all). I reckon one easy way to tell if the words you’ve chosen are funny is to try them on Word’s ‘read aloud’ tool. If they sound daft in a dull robot voice, you’re probably onto a winner.

2. Funny places

The Dangles

When I’m writing, I normally struggle moving characters from one place to another. (And whenever I can, I cheat, and jump locations between chapters.) But in Happytown Must Be Destroyed, James has made a comedic feature out of moving through the setting of Owt.

The mournful chimes of the ice cream van led us along the Woofy Wynd, round the Three Sided Square and up The Dangles.

Beginning of Chapter 20

The daft place names that pop up throughout the book made me chuckle almost as much as the Snozzdongle. Because they so beautifully mirror the way locals talk about their home towns, they also made the story of alien invasion seem so much more believable. It was a really clever way of getting me to buy into the setting. It also reminded me that little details can make a big difference to a story. You don’t need to describe every inch of your world. In this case, cracking local dialect brings the whole thing to life.

3. Existential musings on the nature of happiness

Yes, this book is packed with gags galore, but there’s a big message about what it means to be happy running through the story, too. Is jumping around in a yellow tracksuit looking happy, the same as actual happiness? Spoiler: probably not.

I love a comedy contrast and this book is full of them. We’ve got ice cream vans with guns. We’ve got Leeza, the indecisive allergy-sufferer who’s somehow been tasked with saving the town. And we’ve got the entire story: a comedy romp that genuinely makes you think about what it means to be happy. It’s yet another example that funny isn’t the opposite of serious. Amidst all the fun, there are big messages to take away … along with even bigger smiles.

Happytown Must Be Destroyed is published by Hachette Children’s Group and it’s out now.

Categories
Practical tips

Building a website #2

1. Updates

When you update pages, update your menus

Just after Small!’s cover reveal, I changed my homepage. I thought I’d been really clever by duplicating the page rather than starting from scratch. My plan was to redesign the copy in the background, then do a grand switcheroo on Cover Reveal Day. And it would have worked wonderfully, if I’d remembered to update my menus.

But I didn’t. So if you clicked ‘home’ in the top navigation from another page, you ended up back on my old homepage instead. On the plus side, my site doesn’t get many visitors yet, so I’m not sure anyone noticed ๐Ÿ˜‚

2. Pre-orders

I’d seen other authors putting all their pre-order links on a Linktree page and assumed I needed one, too. But, thanks to a free WordPress webinar, I learned about the Link in Bio template. It looks just like a Linktree page but doesn’t take traffic away from your website. Now that’s the page I’m linking to on my Twitter profile – in the hope that anyone ordering a book (fingers crossed) might stick around to read the odd blog or invite me to a literary festival…๐Ÿคž๐Ÿป

My Link in Bio page

3. Get the look you want

Avoid my design mistakes with a ‘Full Site Editing’ template

WordPress have just launched a new suite of templates that look much easier to edit than this one. With the older templates, there are some things I just can’t seem to change (like the vast amounts of white space between my content blocks). With Full site editing you can control everything – dragging boxes to make them the size you want. As soon as I can bring myself to do it, I’ll make the move to a new template. Full site editing is still in beta at the moment, so it might be worth waiting a little while for WordPress to iron out any kinks. But from what I’ve seen in the demo, it looks really user-friendly, even for beginners like me. It works on WordPress.com and .org but since I still haven’t made the move to .org, the new templates could well keep me where I am for a bit longer.

I’m still learning so much about web design, and this site is far from perfect. But WordPress webinars have been really helpful. If you’re with them, I recommend signing up to get a few extra tips. (You can also take a look at this blog from me.) Good luck!

Categories
Writing Life

Behind the cover reveal

Small! cover (mocked up with help from diybookcovers.com)

1. The illustrator

Rory Walker

Rory is an absolute marvel. I’m convinced most illustrators would have heard the brief, ‘can you draw me a friendly undead elephant with a visible skeleton and shimmery shadow memory of its former body’ and run a mile.

Not Rory.

His madcap cartoonist style couldn’t be a more perfect fit for Small! I was in love the moment my editor, Mikka, shared Rory’s first rough sketches last summer. And the final designs bring so much fun to the story – I hope young (and old) readers will giggle as much as me when they see them.

All the illustrations on the cover appear in black and white inside the book. And if you take a look at Rory’s website, you might get a sneak peek of a few more, including every author’s dream – a map!

2. The cover designer

Holly Ovenden

Sometimes your illustrator will be your cover designer too, but not always. (After all, they’re very different skills – I wouldn’t ask a pastry chef to whip me up a bouillabaisse.)

Holly’s a superstar of the book design world. She was named a Bookseller Rising Star in 2021 and shortlisted for Designer of the Year at the British Book Awards. (Take a look at the work on her website and you’ll see why.) So I’m totally honoured she agreed to work on my cover.

The colour, the lettering and the layout of the Small! cover were all Holly’s vision. I don’t think it’s easy working with someone else’s illustrations to create something new – but Holly’s design really pops. I totally LOVE it, and I hope you do, too.

3. The cover revealer

Jo Clarke aka BookloverJo

Not every book has an official ‘cover reveal’, but adding one to your publishing calendar is a fun way to keep the excitement going between your book announcement and the actual launch. And it helps people recognise your book when it lands in the shops.

My cover reveal happened on Twitter this afternoon, courtesy of the lovely BookloverJo. Jo is a school librarian, kidlit book blogger and soon-to-be debut author herself. Jo’s first book, Libby and the Parisian Puzzle publishes on 3rd March with Firefly press and you can pre-order now in all good bookshops.

Jo is an expert cover revealer, having done many a reveal before mine. And why do so many authors like me call on her? Well, as a librarian and blogger, Jo definitely has ‘kidlit influencer’ status. By revealing the cover, Jo’s not just making the moment feel even more special, she’s also helping lots more people see it. Thank you, Jo!

Disclaimer: In the spirit of my ‘three things’ format, I’ve stuck to describing three people who’ve had a big impact on the cover. But of course, huge thanks go to my publisher for teaming me up with such talent, and my agent for sharing her advice and artistic wisdom along the way, too. Publishing a book really is a team sport…

I’ve loved learning about cover design over the last few months. Do you have a favourite illustrator, cover designer or cover? Tell me about them in the replies.