Monday 26 January 2009

Picture Book Author Sue Eves visits the Slushpile

Welcome to the first of an occasional series in which authors who have managed to escape from the Slushpile visit our blog and give us hope! Our very first author is Sue Eves, whose book The Quiet Woman and the Noisy Dog will be out on the 5th of February.

thank you for visiting us on the slushpile even though you are on the brink of picture book fame and fortune.

Sue: ha! That’s what I thought the last time round! When my first picture book was published, I thought I’d never see the slushpile again. On the contrary, I spend most of my time here. I've spent the last several years writing and submitting and being rejected just like everybody else.
The only reason I've nipped out of it this time is because I happened to bump in to the submissions editor at a children's book event who suggested I submit my work.

Candy: Before you decided on a glittering career of rejection by children’s book agents and publishers, you had a pretty good job as a Tamba, the sweet little dragon in Tikkabilla. What was it like being a dragon?

Sue: Sometimes, a little cold! This is us on a sleigh ride to see Santa in Lapland, for a Christmas Special.

Sue freezing for her art in Lapland

Tamba had a brilliant view - I had to be hidden under a thermal mattress and a blanket.

It was physically demanding and I lost a stone in weight during filming. The whole body is involved in bringing the puppet to life. I had an upholstered trolley (a bit like a mechanic uses to wheel under a car) that I manoeuvred with my legs while lying on my back and held the puppet high over my head while singing and talking at the same time. Yes, a sweet little dragon!

At the time, I said it was my dream job and it was. Now I have to say that writing has taken over. I commissioned Neil Sterenberg, who made Tamba, to build me a dog puppet for author visits so I will still be puppeteering but I won't be hiding this time.

Sue and her dog puppet made by Neil Sterenberg

My daughter loved your surreal first book which featured a child climbing into bed with a cow. Where did you get that idea?

I wanted to write a story about food and a young child's significant times of day. We love food in our house and before my daughter started school, we were always cooking. She was the age when breakfast, lunch, tea and bedtimes were a familiar and comforting routine.

The teatime picture book text I submitted was rejected 11 times so I skipped tea and moved on to bedtime and writing about delay tactics - another story, a drink, anything to avoid having to go to sleep. Her first toy was a cow and when we lived in a flat, her bedroom overlooked a row of back gardens. We would sit in a rocking chair, my daughter and her cow, with a book and look out at the moon. The bedtime story became the one about a girl whose cow wouldn't go to bed.

Sue illustrated her first picture book, HIC!

Ailie Busby drew the lovely pictures for your new book The Quiet Woman and the Noisy Dog. She is an author in her own right. Did the process of working together involve a lot of negotiation?

Sue: We didn't really work together. I had finalised the text with the editor and agreed on AIlie Illustrating the story before signing the contract. I saw her proposed roughs for my text before I realised that she was the author/illustrator of Drat That Fat Cat! Many people will be familiar with her vibrant art. We didn't have any direct contact. We only emailed each other after the book was completed.

Candy: Can you tell those of us who are still stuck in the slush pile what it’s like working with a real editor?

Sue: The most amazing experience for me was working with the editors.

The submissions editor emailed me to start with, passing on revisions that the directorial editor had suggested. I revised extremely fast because the points the editor raised made complete sense. Funny how you can work on a text for years and years and not see a problem until someone else points it out. The editor knew exactly what she wanted out of the story and I think she pushed me until we both knew the story was finished.

Once Ailie was on board, the editor was in the hot seat passing messages between us and forwarding picture samples to me. I didn't need to give many illustration notes but the ones I had written in the margins were ones she used because they were part of telling the story. The text hardly changed at all during the illustration process, so I think the editor did a brilliant job and Ailie's illustrations are absolutely the ones I had in my head - only better!

Candy: What is the single most useful piece of advice you can give picture book writers stil struggling to get published?

Sue: Join SCBWI and participate in your regional events. If you can't get to any - network online. For UK residents - set up a profile on the SCBWI Ning thing!

Candy: And finally, the question that is burning in the hearts of all who inhabit the slushpile: is there hope?

I think of it as more of a Mosh Pit than a Slushpile.

We take it in turns to hitch a ride on someone’s shoulders to get a better view, unless we’re lucky enough to know someone in the band. I'm having a great time at the moment and anyone can get there who is really passionate about the band!

Candy: When is the official launch date?

Sue: The Quiet Woman and the Noisy Dog
is out on Thursday 5th Feb and you can pre-order it now.

Thanks for inviting me to the Slushpile, Candy.

Sunday 25 January 2009

The Kreative Blogger Award

Angela has nominated me for the Kreative Blogger Award (which is actually a meme). When nominated one must list seven things they love and then pass this award on to seven "Kreativ" people.

I love lots of things but I have to keep to just seven things. So here goes:

1. I love the museumness of London. I love that the same things are still where they were hundreds of years ago. When I first moved to London I re-read Great Expectations and wandered around London seeing for myself the sites that were described in the book.

2. I love children. They are so much more fun than grown ups. They don't say "but ..." all the time, they don't set themselves deadlines and don't need a logical reason to do anything.

3. I love that Manila is like Sim City with buildings rising and falling and changing all the time. I love it but I also hate it.

4. I love people who tell stories. Journalists are fab people to be around when they're not being bitter and twisted. Authors are even more fab. When they're not being bitter and twisted.

5. I love cut and paste. As a young reporter working for a Manila magazine, I worked on stand-up-and-beg typewriters. When we wanted to edit our work, we had to take a pair of scissors and 'cut' entire paragraphs and 'paste' them where we wanted them. Imagine my joy when introduced to the 'cut and paste' power of computers. I am still joyful now.

6. I love being a fly on the wall. As a child, I loved going to the mad markets of downtown Manila to watch extraordinary lives being lived all around me. In London, it doesn't seem quite so mad. But it is.

7. I love doing something just for the sake of it. Maybe that's why I love reading instruction manuals. Oops, that's eight.

My Kreative Blogger Nominees are (in order of their names popping into my head):

1. Addy Farmer
2. Anita Loughrey
3. Sarah McIntyre
4. Fiona Dunbar
5. Miriam Halahmy
6. Paolo Romeo
7. Candice Lopez-Quimpo

Saturday 24 January 2009

Do websites and book trailers sell books?

Yesterday on Facebook, I launched my new wheeze - web mentoring workshops.

I've been trying out all the different website-creating tools that have emerged online since the advent of Web 2.0 ... and have come to the conclusion that like the dinosaurs, I as a web designer, have finally become extinct.

It's not that people don't need websites anymore, it's just that if you are a small business, a self employed individual or small organisation like most of my clientele it doesn't make sense to shell out a thousand quid for:
  • A website that you don't have the skills to maintain and update.
  • A website that will become obsolete from Day One. Read about it in the Trouble with Websites

  • A website that you can't afford to constantly be contacting your web designer for support and advice (unless of course, you marry one, which is what my husband did).

  • Something you have no idea what to do with. A website is only a tool. Once it's up there you've got to use it. That's something a lot of people who already have websites really ought to understand.
Anyway, I am hoping that a lot of authors will agree with my reasoning and sign up for my workshops. I like authors. I really believe that authors can do a lot more for themselves online.

Interestingly, the New York Times yesterday came up with an essay on whether websites sold books:
A survey released last June by the Codex Group, a research firm that monitors trends in book buying, found that 8 percent of book shoppers had visited author Web sites in a given week. It didn’t, however, say how many clicked on the “buy the book” link. Read it all
With publishers continuing to set new lows for book marketing budgets, the beleaguered author really has no choice but to face up his/her e-fears and engage with the internet. This has prompted the rise of a mini industry ...
Still, a sizable industry has sprung up around persuading them to do so. AuthorBytes, a multimedia company started in 2003, has built sites for more than 200 clients, including Paul Krugman, Chris Bohjalian and Khaled Hosseini. They cost from $3,500 to $35,000 — with writers paying about 85 percent of the time. The staff of 20 even includes three employees whose entire job is updating.
I love the Authorbytes websites. If and when my famous writer friends are ever granted lots of marketing spend, I will urge them to go get an Authorbyte site!

If and when.

Otherwise, I suppose they will just have to settle for cheap old me.

My first workshop is on 3 March 2009 in North London.

Monday 19 January 2009

YouTube Bit Me! (But I Deserved It)

I've gotten away with it so far but now, technology is catching up with me.

I got the following email from YouTube today:
Dear Candy Gourlay,

Your video, Why Writers Need Agents, may have content that is owned or licensed by WMG.

No action is required on your part; however, if you're interested in learning how this affects your video, please visit the Content ID Matches section of your account for more information.


- The YouTube Team
Readers of Notes from the Slushpile will have seen this film I made with the kids on my street, to a soundtrack that included some blues guitar from Ry Cooder. I was rather spooked by the statement 'no action is required on your part' so I went straight to the video and had a look.

YouTube had solved the copyright violation problem by turning off the sound of my video. Next to the video a button appeared, offering to "Swap Audio". Thinking that some audio was better than none, I clicked the button and followed the wizards. Now the video now boasts a totally mismatched bit royalty- free blues soundtrack.

I was totally guilty as accused of course. I knew what I was doing. I'd even read the YouTube notices.
  • It doesn't matter how long or short the clip is, or exactly how it got to YouTube. If you taped it off cable, videotaped your TV screen, or downloaded it from another website, it is still copyrighted, and requires the copyright owner's permission to distribute.
  • It doesn't matter whether or not you give credit to the owner/author/songwriter—it is still copyrighted.
  • It doesn't matter that you are not selling the video for money—it is still copyrighted.
  • It doesn't matter whether or not the video contains a copyright notice—it is still copyrighted.
  • It doesn't matter whether other similar videos appear on our site—it is still copyrighted.
  • It doesn't matter if you created a video made of short clips of copyrighted content—even though you edited it together, the content is still copyrighted.
But of course I thought to myself, surely, in the vast scheme of YouTube video-dom, my itty bitty film was not going to attract any attention?

Not that I was unwilling to pay some kind of license to use lovely music for my little videos. But how?

I bought a book called Podcast Solutions:The Complete Guide to Audio & Video Podcasting 2nd Edition (I like reading manuals). The chapter on using music in podcasts opens thus:
Welcome to the minefield.
Apparently using music is not just a matter of one payment. You have to pay the writer of the song (composer's rights are handled by ASCAP, BMI and SESAC), the performer (record labels), and the owner of the master recording (or mechanical rights handled by the Harry Fox Agency). That's a lot of people to pay for a bit of fun.

The podcast book says:
Your best bet is to find music anywhere else but in your CD collection, unless of course your CD collection is made up only of independent artists who would be willing to grant you all rights to use their music ...
YouTube has not quite taken things to the level of the fingerprinting technology that MySpace uses to police its pages. But it's getting there. And giant media owners like Viacom spend zillions paying people to scour YouTube 24/7 for violations of their copyright.

I once was involved in the making of a radio programme for Radio 4. We were discussing adding some background music. I wanted to use some obscure Filipino pop music and asked my producer if there would be any copyright problem doing so. "Oh no," she said. "The BBC pays some kind of license that covers all that."

How I wish YouTube would charge us users "some kind of license that would cover all that". I would gladly pay.

The point really of talking about videos in this blog about children's books is that we are in the midst of a massive digital revolution in which conventional notions of copyright and royalty demand redefinition. The music and film industry have been struggling to define the terms of this new relationship that people (like me) have with media.

We are no longer just consumers, we want to become creators too.

What lies ahead for the book industry, late as usual, inching its way into the digital world?

Saturday 17 January 2009

How We All Used to Think Getting Published Was Like

Lucy Coats (Coll the Storyteller's Tales of Enchantment) posted this on Facebook:

How sweet it is to remember those days when getting published seemed such a happy, easy thing to do.

Btw you might be thinking, she's just posting videos. She's not really blogging. But hey, I'm writing! I'm writing! That's what we're supposed to be doing. Oh, and I've got some website work too. Boo. ZZZ.

Wednesday 14 January 2009

"I wish ... " video by my baby brother

My baby brother, Armand, who lives in the Philippines, just sent me this video he made using his own art and my daughter's voice:

Suddenly I can see a future full of animated book trailers.

Saturday 3 January 2009

Thrilling to What Kids Read in 2008

I took this survey of what the kids in my orbit were reading in 2008. What did I discover? They were all reading, they loved what they were reading and they loved talking about the books they read. Hooray! Reading is not dead after all!

If you can't see the video, view it here

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