First-time author, Gill Ingram, describes her self-publishing journey, from the very beginnings of her writing, to being a published author.
I’m a first-time author and lucky enough to live in Frome, Somerset, alongside a great many other writers and creative people. It’s a place where it’s easy to get inspired! Five years ago, ten of us founded the now hundred-strong Frome Writers’ Collective (FWC) and later set up the Frome Small Publishers’ Fair and the FWC’s co-publishing imprint, Silver Crow Books.
Silver Crow helps local writers to self-publish high-quality books which will compare favourably with their traditionally-published companions and add to the reputation of the indie sector. To achieve this, we train teams of readers and liaise with our writers all the way through the publication process. We begin with the quality-screening of manuscripts but also provide joint marketing and promotion opportunities once the books are in print. The Self-Publishing Partnership (SPP) is one of three publisher partners we work with and Douglas and his team have always been very supportive of our aims.
Having seen eight other Silver Crow authors become published authors, this year it was finally my turn! It was definitely a bit weird, being on ‘the other side of the table’, but the reader reviews were as fair and honest as I’d hoped they’d be, and the suggestions really helpful. The next stage was to choose a partner. I opted for the SPP because I was able to visit them and discuss the manuscript in person. For me, it was very important to be able to have a face-to-face conversation.As I’m an illustrator as well as a writer, I also wanted to choose someone willing to take my ‘fairly particular’ (I’m avoiding the word, ‘fussy’) requests about the design, layout and reproduction of the images on board. The SPP team wereextremelyresponsive and courteous, despite the fact they must have been asked the same questions a hundred times before, and at the end of the process delivered what any author wants – the book as envisaged.
It’s taken me a long time to get to this stage. My family and my job (as a head teacher in a village school) were priorities for many years, and there wasn’t time for anything else. I’m art trained, however, and have always loved writing, so having the space in my life now to sketch and scribble is brilliant!
The ideas for my first book, ‘Zoe and the Very Grumpy Witch’, came from imagination, funny incidents, conversations, and stories I’ve been told. I have mixed familiar settings with fantasy settings and used my knowledge of events like ‘Talk Like a Pirate Day’ and the Halloween disco to build the school scenes. I enjoy all sorts of children’s books – there are some great ones around – but particularly like authors who play with language and ideas and make children laugh, so I’ve included a good dollop of silliness and wordplay in ‘Zoe’. I’m also very aware that while teachers (like Mrs Evans in the book) are busy trying to get the curriculum delivered, there are often children in their class with issues that are troubling them. For this reason, while I hope that my book will entertain and make its readers laugh, I’ve also tried to tackle the problem a lot of children face at one time or another – how to deal with feeling left out.
I originally planned just a few drawings, but the ideas took over, and I ended up with sixty – mostly pictures of the characters. Some of the images leapt onto the paper immediately, but others took a lot of drafting and changing before they felt right. You can see a few of the results on my website here.
Getting to this stage was certainly a challenge at times, butthe journey was never dull and often huge fun – so much so that I’m now thinking about books two and three! One of the best things about getting into print has to be the lovely comments that people have made, like this one yesterday: “I love your book – it’s fab for readers of any age! And your illustrations are witty and delightful.” What an achievement! Feedback like that makes it all worthwhile!
Zoe and the Very Grumpy Witch by Gill Ingram is for 7–10 year olds.