Welcome to my Authors 40+ Series – sharing the stories of amazing authors who published their first book over the age of 40. The series features talented, experienced and inspirational writers who share their (often non-conventional!) writing and publishing journeys honestly and articulately. Next to feature, is Jo Watson Davies!
1) What is the title and synopsis/premise of your first book and how old were you when you published it?
Stuff and Nonsense published at 55.
2) Tell me about writing the book e.g. where did the idea come from / how long did it take / what did you learn along the way?
The idea started from a writers’ course with Hull University’s Centre for Lifelong Learning. We did an exercise about children’s picture books and I drew on my experiences as a parent to write rhymes I thought would have engaged my sons when they were younger.
3) Tell me about your publishing journey step by step – what happened once the book was finished?
It’s actually been 6 years in development! It’s quite usual for an author/illustrator to produce a picture book, coming up with the theme, copy, art direction, and producing the artwork/illustrations themselves too. I can write but can’t draw so I had to find someone who could! I knew all about art direction from my career as a copywriter so I wrote detailed profiles of what I wanted the illustrations to include in order to brief an illustrator.
I received lots of help from other independent authors and illustrators and learned all about format, pagination, sequencing the book and much more. Feedback from children also helped as the language has to match the age group you’re aiming at.
I also did a free online course about copyright and intellectual property rights.
4) Who or what has helped you the most in becoming a published author?
Without a doubt it was stumbling across illustrator, Rich Fisk. We actually already knew each other as we both volunteered for a local football club and were on the Committee together but we didn’t twig for years what each other did away from football!
Once Rich was involved the illustrations came together pretty quickly and he just ‘got it’. He adapted his style to suit the theme of the book and I made some changes to the copy to better reflect his drawings. We also learnt from each other comparing loads of children’s books, sizes, formats etc.
5) What are the main obstacles you faced / overcame when writing and publishing your book(s)?
We were prepared to do the work ourselves and kept everything small and manageable cost-wise. We didn’t have any expectations of selling loads of copies, we just wanted to have some fun and see what we could come up with between us! There’s a lot of help if you look for it and just ask – the staff at our local library were brilliant at giving us feedback on what types of books engage our age-range children for example.
6) How do you promote/advertise your book(s)?
Anything and everything! Social media has been good, friends and family obviously but also business/work colleagues (especially those who are grandparents). We’ve approached local independent book shops/art projects and have had the books accepted on a ‘sale or return’ basis, but it’s too early to tell if that’s paying off. We’ve also approached a big chain who are considering taking it. And, we’re really excited about the book being a competition prize in 3 local magazines. A really nice thing we were able to do was to donate a book to a dyslexia support service and we’ve agreed that the football club can sell copies in their clubhouse and keep a proportion of the takings towards club funds.
You’ve got to be prepared to put lots of time and energy into marketing your books. We’re exploring lots of different outlets and it’s thrilling when we sell a copy. There are companies who will do your marketing for you for a fee, but we’re trying to keep all of our costs low and just learn as much as we can as we don’t intend to stop at just one book.
7) How did you celebrate the incredible achievement of your first book being published?
I had a box-opening ceremony with coffee and lots of cake!
8) What advice would you give to other authors about to begin their publishing journey?
Don’t worry about what you don’t know, just get on with what you do know. You’ll work the rest out on a need-to-know basis.
9) Where is/are your book(s) currently available to read and where can people find you online?
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org @Whatsitdoodah
Hessle Book Shop – 23-25 Northgate, Hessle @HessleBookshop
Traenerhus – 167 High Street, Hull @Traenerhus
J.E. Books – 12 Hepworth’s Arcade, Hull @JEBooksHullBookshop
Artlink – 87 Princes Avenue, Hull @ArtlinkHull
10) Are you working on anything new we can look forward to in 2019?
More Stuff and Nonsense!
Thank you for taking part in my Authors 40+ Series Jo! If you are an author who published their first fiction or nonfiction book over the age of 40 and would like to be featured in this blog series just like Joab, Toni, Todd, Elizabeth, Stephen, Iuliana, Tamsin, Julie, Lynne, Devorah, Paul, Joanne, Paul, D.P., Reyna, Michael and Christina, please get in touch!