On Saturday 11th March, I attended my first SCBWI event: The Lunchtime Social – Self-Publishing Discussion with Debra Edwards and Camilla Chester, held in Cambridge at De Luca Italian restaurant. Author Helen Moss coordinated the event.
First to arrive, Alex Mellanby, author of The Tregarthur Series, followed by Peter Hayward, writer of educational stories: Learn with Alex and Anna, Jamie Stevenson, picture book illustrator, Caroline Laidlaw, educational materials author, and two new members Dan Greaves, and Tanya Farrugia, illustrators and picture book enthusiasts.
Norfolk children’s fiction and YA author, Debra J Edwards began the discussion by regaling us about her inspiring journey to writing. She left school at the age of fifteen and returned to University, graduated and became a primary school teacher. In 2003 she made a resolution – to write a novel. Not only did she accomplish this, but she has now written four: a trilogy about tooth fairies, Aggie Lichen: Pilp Collector, Aggie Lichen, Pilp Collector: Hero Required, Arty’s Revenge, and Marvin’s Curse her first YA novel.
Initially, Debra’s route into publishing was plagued by rejections which she kept and placed in a folder. Undeterred, she secured an agent but lost her. She is now a proud member of Golden Egg, an initiative overseen by Imogen Cooper, previously Head of Fiction for Chicken House Publishing.
‘Golden Egg provides talks, workshops, and one2one editorial support.’ Golden Egg Academy.
Debra admitted that she chose the self-publishing route because she is a ‘control freak.’ She did just about everything she could herself, apart from employing a book cover illustrator. She set up her own publishing company: Purple Ray Publishing, organised a business account, ordered ISBN’s, bought barcodes, (simple mistakes can happen so authors make sure you put the correct bar code on the right book!) She opened an account with Waterstones, as well as Gardners Wholesalers – and negotiated a wonderful deal, 35% rather than the industry standard of 55 %.) The only relinquishment of control came in the form of her first book cover. She had intended a fairy image on the front cover of Aggie Lichen, but soon realised that this wouldn’t be cool for young boys so instead she decided upon a star! Now that Debra is an established author, she has reverted to her initial idea of fairies. Debra comes with a plethora of promotional material to hand out at schools: bookmarks, postcards, business cards, and ‘a don’t forget to review note,’ etc. She has discovered that E-books haven’t been very lucrative, and neither have bookshops, as they normally take a cut of 50%. Instead, she has made most of her profit from attending schools, doing talks, and workshops. This involves a lot of time, and personal engagement with schools – she’s a busy lady emailing up to three hundred schools a week.
Next up to join the illuminating discussion, author, dog walker, Camilla Chester whose debut novel Jarred Dreams is suitable for ages 9 and above. Her second book, EATS ‘is a culinary adventure tale, full of twists and turns that will have the kids on the edge of their seat.’ Camilla followed in Debra’s footsteps but took a slightly different route. Camilla was shortlisted in the 2015 New Author Prize with the National Literacy Trust and Bloomsbury. Initially, she also secured an agent but found that this didn’t magically produce a publishing contract. So, she joined SCBWI and met Debra. Thereafter, she accepted an invitation to her daughter’s school to talk about writing. This positive experience acted as a catalyst; Camilla found that the children were so encouraging about her book. So with this positive reaction from her intended audience, she made the decision to self-publish with the support of Matador Self Publishing. Matador expects their clients’ work to reach a certain level of quality and in return for a fee they simplify the process for their clients. If your work is accepted Matador quotes a price based on word count. In Camilla’s case the cost to get her book produced was £700. This is the set-up fee; it doesn’t include structural editing or a proofread. Nevertheless, Camilla decided this suited her style of authorship. She stressed that Matador doesn’t free you from promotional requirements. There is still considerable marketing to do, and you must believe in yourself, and ultimately believe that you are a children’s author. The downside to self-publishing is cost; you have to pay for it all. The book cover to Jarred Dreams cost Camilla £500, and she purchased 1000 copies, at a cost of £1,610 (to break even and recoup her outlay she would have to sell 603 books,), as well as this Camilla spent £280 on promotional material. To counterbalance these costs Camilla set about recouping some of her expenditure by charging for talks.
Camilla closed the discussion by sharing her thoughts on the pros and cons. Self-publishing enables you to produce books more quickly – there are no soul destroying rejections or disappointing agents but it is expensive and there is no guarantee that you will get your money back. Don’t expect to sell your much-loved books to lifelong family friends! Camilla found this out the hard way. It tends to be difficult to sell to a wider market, international sales are notoriously hard to achieve, so like Debra, Camilla has benefited by targeting schools, bookshops, and her local community.
Camilla writes for 8-12s. She has always written but after moving to Hertfordshire with her family in 2010 she enrolled onto an OU Creative Writing Course (receiving a distinction), joined several writing groups and then discovered the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) before publishing her debut, Jarred Dreams in 2016. Camilla’s second book EATS is out at the end of April 2017 and her third, Thirteenth Wish is due to be published in April 2018. In addition to being a Children’s Author Camilla runs a small dog walking business.
Debra J Edwards is a children’s/young adult writer living in Norfolk. She is a long time SCBWI member and part of the Golden Egg Academy. Her first writing outing produced an MG fantasy series, Aggie Lichen. The books tell the story of a gang of feisty tooth fairies trying to save their world. They are both funny and ridiculous. I mean, teenage tooth fairies indeed. Debra has also published her first young adult novel, Marvin’s Curse, as an ebook. She worked secretly under cover as a ghost whisperer in order to bring something extra to her central character. Debra is currently at dragon slayer bootcamp perfecting her new YA novel, The Iron City.
This report is featured in the SCBWI – Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators online magazine – Words and Pictures.
When six-year-old Laurel Logan was abducted, the only witness was her younger sister. Faith’s childhood was dominated by Laurel’s disappearance – from her parents’ broken marriage and the constant media attention to dealing with so-called friends who only ever wanted to talk about her sister.
Thirteen years later, a young woman is found in the garden of the Logans’ old house, disorientated and clutching the teddy bear Laurel was last seen with. Laurel is home at last, safe and sound. Faith always dreamed of getting her sister back, without ever truly believing it would happen. But a disturbing series of events leaves Faith increasingly isolated and paranoid, and before long she begins to wonder if everything that’s lost can be found again…
Edinburgh Book Festival
I picked up a signed copy of The Lost and The Found at The Edinburgh Book Festival. Here’s my link to my post if you’d like to see my write up of their talk – The Disappeared and my photo with Cat Clarke and Kat Ellis!!! https://kyrosmagica.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/edinburgh-book-festival-edbookfest-cat-clarke-and-kat-ellis/
This is a very simple cover, and if I’m totally truthful I wasn’t particularly impressed. I must admit this little voice in my head kept on saying, couldn’t you think of something a bit more imaginative Cat ?!!!!!! It’s a bit basic, just words, and yellow tape? But having read the book, the cover seems to match the story inside, this is a novel primarily about relationships, and emotions, there are no fancy shenanigans going on, so a simple cover kind of makes sense. So first impressions are sometimes very, very wrong!!!
I bow down to your superior book cover knowledge Cat.
Cat read the following engaging snippet from The Lost and The Found at her Book Festival talk:
I don’t believe it. I won’t allow myself to believe it. Mum’s trying to stay calm too, but I can see it in her face – something I haven’t seen for years hope. She thinks it’s different this time. They wouldn’t have called her otherwise. They think this is it. After hundreds, maybe even thousands, of crank calls and false sightings and psychics claiming Laurel was living with goat-herds in the mountains of Uzbekistan.
The Lost and The Found manages to engage the reader in very dark subject matter, the return of an abducted girl that has been sexually abused, who now has to readjust to living in a world in which she has had little or no experience. Can you imagine being locked away for years and never been let out of captivity? How horrendous. Cat Clarke doesn’t take the obvious route, telling us Laurel’s story, instead she focuses primarily on Faith’s emotions. Making Faith the main protagonist of the novel instead of the more obvious choice Laurel, gives the story a much different, possibly more light-hearted feel. The novel tackles surface and deeply hidden emotions so well.
Faith, the seventeen year old younger sister, of abducted Laurel, tells us her story through her eyes. Of course she is beyond happy that her elder sister has returned, after thirteen very long years, but little by little we see tiny aspects of sibling resentment, and a ton of guilt creep into her emotions. A shocker, or what, The Lost and The Found doesn’t put a sugar coating on Faith’s response, instead it is an honest, and believable account of how Faith and her family respond to the return of her sister. Things are not the same any more, and Cat Clarke manages to convey this in well crafted plot ideas: the family have moved to a new house, her bi-sexual father is no longer married to her mother, and is now in a relationship with a Frenchman called Michel. Not surprisingly many changes have occurred after such a long time period, so how is Laurel going to adjust? From the mid-point of this novel we start to see hints that Laurel is damaged, she was bound to be. These strange behaviour revelations bring about a new dimension, a revelation, and mysterious aspect to the novel that is most definitely a plus, but no more about that as I don’t want to spoil it for you.
The characters are wonderfully crafted, all of them seem believable and engaging. I particularly had a soft spot for Faith, but Laurel’s step dad Michel deserves a mention too. He seems a bit left out of the loop when Laurel returns. Suddenly the original nuclear family of mum, dad, and the two girls bond together in a tight knit group. Again this is believable, so likely that this would happen when a much loved daughter returns after being abducted. But, Michel remains a rock of support and understanding for Faith. Also the relationship between Faith’s father and Michel allows a modern twist to the conventional nuclear family with the new dynamic of families with gay parents, and generally gives step-parents a better, more positive image.
I didn’t engage as much with Laurel as a character, but this was bound to be inevitable with the story resting firming in Faith’s hands.
The role of the press is an interesting aspect of The Lost and the Found. In Faith’s eyes they are portrayed rather like vultures, and each family member is either repelled, or fascinated by the possibility of public appearances, book deals, etc. Fundamentally we are all different, no two people will behave the same in these horrendous circumstances, and this gives the reader an insight into the characters’ personalities and motivations.
The Ending: (****Some Spoilers Below****)
I’ve been mulling over the conclusion to The Lost and The Found a lot. My initial reaction was, you’ve got to be kidding me, but then it hit me like a sledgehammer!
Certain aspects of the plot twists I suspected, others I didn’t see coming. Such a difficult book to conclude, where do you go with it? Whatever you do someone is bound to suffer, and in the end both families pay an equally dreadful price. The equilibrium of fairness is shared. Is it believable, or sustainable? Maybe not entirely, but I think Cat Clarke wanted to make a heartfelt point, and she succeeds in doing that: In prolonged media campaigns for abducted children it is always the kids from white, clean cut, (by this I mean – no drugs, no time spent in prison,) middle class families that are given the most press, and are cared about more. It seems to me that Cat wanted to add another dimension to the story by making Faith’s family a little different, a little off the run of the mill, by adding her father’s relationship with Michel – fuel for the media campaign, but not a reason for the press to lose interest.
Personally I think Faith’s final decision is fuelled by her understandable desire to keep the shocking revelation a secret, both to protect her family and the girl that has been abducted. Who can blame her? So a thought provoking ending, I’m still thinking about it as I write this review….. That can only be a good thing, books that make you debate certain aspects long after you’ve finished them are by far the best books in my opinion.
So would I recommend The Lost and the Found?
Absolutely, I’m so pleased that I read this! Go get a copy!! Great characters, emotions that you can really relate to, and a fast paced mystery too.
It’s got to be 5 stars.
Please do leave a comment, I love to chat about books.
Have you read The Lost And the Found? Did you find it engaging too?
Bye for now.
Marje @ Kyrosmagica xx