Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Kid Lit Blog Hop #35

Welcome Back to the Kid Lit Blog Hop
This week, my post is two fold.
I was hosted over at Becky Fyfe's blog the other day as part of the Chapter Book Challenge.

Hop on over to Becky's blog to check out my Crafting convincing Villains post....

I also have the awesome Billy Bob Buttons joining me in the bloggoverse today.

Last hop I reviewed his book.

Check it out if you missed it.

This hop I have the interview I promised....

He has some gold to share about Independent publishing, marketing and a little award that I am a finalist in, he he.

Take it away Billy Bob Buttons:

1. How did you get started as a writer?
Originally, I was a secondary school English teacher so I worked a lot with literacy. Then, back in 2002, inspired by the Harry Potter books, I decided to write a book about a girl who finds a magic bookshop called The Wishing Shelf. Eventually, I penned five books: Galibrath’s Will, Articulus Quest, Incantus Gothmog, Glumweedy’s Devil and Crowl’s Creepers. After ten years of writing, I was hooked. I then went on to write The Gullfoss Legends, TOR Assassin Hunter, TOR Wolf Rising, Muffin Monster and, finally, I Think I Murdered Miss.

2. Where did the idea of I Think I Murdered Miss come from and how much research did you have to do to rally nail the character Simon Spittle?
Basically, I was working on story planning with a group of Year 6 students in a London school. One girl was having problems coming up with a story to plan so I suggested, ‘Why not plan a story about a boy who accidentally murders his teacher?’ She thought it was a wonderful idea and so did I. So much so, I ended up writing the story myself.
The character of Simon Spittle is rather complex. Usually the characters in my books are just normal kids thrust into an exciting adventure, but Simon’s a little different; he has Asperger’s syndrome. This is what it says in the front of the book:
Simon, the hero of this book, has Asperger’s syndrome. It is when a person finds it difficult to tell others what they need and how they feel. They also find it difficult to know how others feel and what is the ‘normal’ thing to do. Often, but not always, a person with Asperger’s can be very, very clever and can have overly-strong interests. Simon, for example, is obsessed by Star Trek. Both children and adults can suffer from it.
I spent a lot of time (months) reading about Asperger’s and trying to understand how my character would behave and react in the story. It was a lot of fun but a lot of work. Hopefully, I got it right!

3. What led you to self-publishing?

I enjoy the control I have over the finished product. My books sell very well, most of them directly to schools. I Think I Murdered Miss has sold over 30,000 to schools over the last six months; I did that, not the publisher, so why share the rewards. I was actually offered a contract with a ‘traditional’ publisher for I Think I Murdered Miss but when I looked at what the publisher was offering me I realised I would be better off doing it myself.

4. I read you visit over 200 schools in the UK providing literacy workshops. How did that begin?
I think it is very important for an independently published author to identify who the reader is and target them. My readers are, for the most part, 9-12 year old children. So, I decided to visit schools, give workshops (being an ex-secondary school English teacher, I was qualified to do this) and do book signing at the end of the school day. Thankfully, it was the best decision I ever made. I have met with over 100,000 children over the last few years and many of the book signing are huge. I did a book signing at a big London school a few weeks ago and sold over 300 books. It took two and a half hours to sign them all; I felt like J K Rowling!

5. Can you give us a brief run down on how your book tours function as part of your marketing plan for your books?

I tend to visit two schools a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, totalling ten schools a week. There is a lot of organising to do and it helps I’m an ex-teacher and feel comfortable talking to children. Often there can be over 200 children in a workshop (I remember I once did a workshop in a London secondary school; I walked in and there were 1,200 children sitting in a huge hall waiting for me to begin!)
It is a very important part of my marketing strategy. It allows me to meet directly with my readers and, most importantly, it allows me to sell my books without paying a middle man e.g. Amazon, a bookshop or a publisher. Also, the workshops give me the opportunity to promote my books directly to my readers, motivating them to buy a copy at the end of the day.
But it is important to note that it is a big, BIG job to organise everything. Even contacting the schools can take weeks. I have been doing it for years and I have hundreds (probably thousands) of contacts in UK schools. Without the support of the teachers, head teachers (even the caretakers), I’d never be able to do it. And, of course, it’s important you enjoy driving; I spend a lot of time in London traffic.

6. Now tell us a little about The Wishing Shelf Book Awards you set up.
I set it up four years ago to offer an alternative to the big (very expensive) awards over in the US. The problem with most awards is, if you win, you win – fantastic! But if you don’t, you get nothing. I wanted to offer a very different award where all (ALL!) the authors who enter get all the feedback from the judging and a catchy quote to help them market the book. If the author wants us to, we even post the feedback on Amazon and Goodreads for them.
But the best bit is the judging. The children’s books are read and judged by children in seven schools we work with; the adult books by two Reading Groups, one in London where I work and one in Stockholm where I live.
The award is growing every year; last year we had over 150 authors enter and in April, we will be announcing the winners at AuthorCon in Manchester. It is very exciting and I love organising it. If anybody out there is interested in entering, check out
That was fascinating,
Thank you very much for joining us Billy Bob...
Find Billy Bob, over at
No off you hop!

Welcome to the 35th Kid Lit Blog Hop where twice per month (the 1st and 3rd Wednesday) we continue to develop a dynamic and engaged community of children's books bloggers, authors, publishers, and publicists. So, you are always more than welcome to join us by popping in a post and hopping around to meet some of your fellow Kid Lit bloggers and authors! We are pleased to welcome our friends from Wigu Publishing, publishers of the When I Grow Up I Want To Be... book series this week co-hosts. Please do take a moment to check out these fabulous books. Big welcome to Wigu Publishing!

Happy Hopping everyone and enjoy the Hop!

Kid Lit Blog Hop

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  1. Julie, you finally got Mr Buttons to join you :) and I am sure glad you did. It is fascinating to read how he actually rejected the offer by the publisher and went his own way. And I must say that this is a superb and inspiring example of hard work. I am amazed to read how he visits the schools and can handle almost 1200 children in a room for a workshop. Just amazing! I am an instant fan of Mr. Buttons!
    Thanks for sharing this wonderful interview on Kidlit Bloghop this week!
    -Reshama @ Stackingbooks

  2. Thanks so much for stopping by Reshama. Yes Edward is inspirational. The work he has done to get his books into the educational realm is incredible, not to mention the positive influence he has on the kids during his book tours. Great stuff.

  3. Great interview, Julie. Edward, thanks so much for sharing about visiting schools. I'm a retired HS English teacher, and schools are a big part of my marketing plan. Keep up the good work. Thanks also for The Wishing Shelf Awards. I entered (not a finalist :( and looking forward to hearing from my reviewers.

  4. Thank you for your interivew Julie. I cannot believe how many school visits he's done! That isunbelievable, that is precisely what an author has to do to connect with his target audience. As we know, it is notoriously difficult to tap into the middle grade market, right? Thanks for sharing in the Kid Lit Blog Hop! :-)