You don’t have to be a children’s writer to be inspired by award-winning author Karen Inglis, who has not only written and self-published multiple books for children of various ages, but also marketed them so effectively that ALLi appointed her our official advisor to other children’s authors. Lessons you might take away to learn from Karen’s example include:
- having the courage and determination to go all out for your writing dream, which in Karen’s case included taking a sabbatical from her day job to kick-start her career as an indie author
- to work hard at building a schedule of appropriate promotional events, learning to understand your audience and its preferences and constraints (in Karen’s case, she focuses on schools and bookstores)
- to make every book the best it can be, revisiting your back catalogue to look for continuing improvements (look out for the new cover coming soon to Karen’s latest children’s novel, Walter Brown and the Magician’s Hat)
What is your proudest achievement to date as an author?
I’m going to list three here, if I’m allowed – but if I have to call it one, it would be The Secret Lake.
- The first was holding the print proof copy of The Secret Lake in my hands. Back in late 2011, it was a really big deal getting it out, as there were far fewer user-friendly formatting tools around, and I didn’t know anyone in the UK who was self-publishing. Joanna Penn was around, living over in Oz then, but everyone else was in the US. And not a children’s author in sight! Then, when Waterstones told me “it really doesn’t look self-published” and went on to stock it and have me for signing events, I felt doubly proud!
- Another key moment was receiving my first royalty cheque from Amazon, which I still have here in my office. There was no way to cash it in and they didn’t do electronic payments in those days. It’s for $34 and technically I think I’m still owed that!
- Finally, I was bowled over when Sue Nott, Head of Independent Commissioning at CBBC, read The Secret Lake a few years ago and told me how much she’d enjoyed it and how suitable it would be for television adaptation. She encouraged me to submit it and while it wasn’t picked in the end, I still feel immensely proud. (In fact, I’ve not exhausted all the routes she suggested, so who knows….)
What’s the single best decision you’ve ever made?
- To take a sabbatical in late 2010 from my day job of writing for the financial industry and pull out all the children’s stories I had written when our sons were younger. I spent many months rewriting and editing The Secret Lake, Eeek! The Runaway Alien and Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep, working with a work colleague who was doing the same. At the time, I was considering approaching agents, but then stumbled across CreateSpace. The rest is history… All of these titles are now self-published and in the hands of over 9,000 readers between the three of them.
What’s been your biggest surprise as an indie author?
The day in 2016 when I received an email from ALCS (Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society) asking whether I was by any chance the author of Eeek! The Runaway Alien who they were trying to track down, because they were holding £371 in copying royalties from schools for me! Gulp!
What’s your greatest challenge an indie author, and how you deal with it?
Staying motivated, especially in the early days, when trying to set up school visits. It is a huge amount of work obtaining contacts, tailoring emails and following up. It can be disheartening when you don’t hear back or can’t get past the school office.
But the more I’ve done it, the more I understand just how busy schools are, and that my contact is just one of myriads of admin tasks staff are dealing with. I no longer take it personally.
Over time, the task has become much easier as I now have a proven track record and can offer references and testimonials. I was in five schools over five days for World Book Day week earlier this year, and had to turn two down! The hard work paid off in the end, and I just love meeting my readers.
How do you get and stay in a creative mood?
I carve out free time with zero distractions and set myself a deadline. Unfortunately, I am appalling at both!
But once I do this, I find it easy – I love to dream, think and write (in silence). On the research side, I’m listening to lots of audiobooks in the gym at the moment, for a more grown-up story I’ve had on the go, on and off, for the last couple of years. Researching topics you don’t know – in this case genetics – really gets the creative juices flowing!
How do you remain productive and motivated?
I’m always motivated, but to try to remain productive I make endless lists. Then I make the mistake of going onto the FB group and getting sidetracked with a conversation or another very useful training podcast!
There is always so much to learn. Then it’s back to the list.
What’s your favourite thing about being an author-publisher?
Being master of my own destiny, and having the ability and flexibility to change my mind or take corrective action when things aren’t going as expected.
Also, never having Sunday evening blues and not having to commute to my job.
What are your top tips for other ALLis?
- Don’t be tempted to hit publish until you are certain that your book is the best it can be.
- Make use of beta readers, editors and proofreaders – and professional cover designers. Listen to your feedback.
- If you have a Mac, get Vellum for book formatting– what are you waiting for?!
- Finally, if formatting isn’t your thing, outsource to one of the recommended providers in ALLi’s directory.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently mapping out my book on self-publishing and marketing children’s books, in advance of running a masterclass on this topic in Leicester in November.
It has been on the ‘to-do’ list for eighteen months, but a combination of other writing projects, a bit of day job work and a major building project got in the way. That is all now over, thankfully. It may not be out until the spring, but then again, I want it to be the very best it can be.
After that, I’ll be bringing out the sequel to Walter Brown and the Magician’s Hat.
Oh – and I’m just waiting for the proof of a new cover for Walter Brown and the Magician’s Hat. It recently won a Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon Award, gaining very high marks for story but lower for the cover, so I’ve now redesigned it gaining feedback along the way from fellow children’s authors and kids.
MORE GREAT ADVICE FROM KAREN INGLIS, VIA THE ALLi ARCHIVE
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