I am thrilled to introduce you to the lovely Sarah Jane Funnell.
I met Sarah through our day jobs, and am so delighetd that she has also managed to publish a children’s book in her spare time – no mean feat! Getting something published can be a real journey, so I asked Sarah all about her new book, Phillipa Knickerbocker Glory and the Ice Cream Castle and how she came to be published.
How did you start to write children’s books?
I started writing children’s stories whilst I was studying at Fashion Journalism at UCA University in Epsom. I went into Waterstone’s looking for Fashion Design books and at the time Alice in Wonderland was very popular. I’ve always loved fairytales and storybook style fashion narratives by the likes of photographer Tim Walker for Vogue. I was researching classic fairytale books and the children’s book section just inspired me to write my own stories.
The first story I wrote was Princess Rose and the Royal Tea Castle – a story about a princess who lives in a castle shaped like a teapot in a magical land full of tea leaves – which was published in a children’s anthology published by Rebel Books LLP.
Have you always written?
When I think back to when I was younger I used to write stories all the time. I would draw the pictures and make little books with cellotape around the edges to laminate them.
The idea for Phillipa Knickerbocker Glory came from seeing an ice cream cone on the cover of a magazine and instantly I thought of an adventure to a land of ice cream.
What process did you follow to get this piece published?
To publish Phillipa Knickerbocker Glory I had two options; either to send it to agents or publishers in the hope of getting a publishing deal, or publish it myself. I knew there was no other picture books with an ice cream theme currently on the market, which meant I needed to move quickly before someone else, filled the gap with a similar idea. Having thought of the story last May 2011, I wanted to ensure the book would be available for summer 2012 as ice cream was becoming a big trend in the fashion industry too.
I decided I would send the manuscript to two agents and after they both said no, I decided I would not send it to anymore and would go for it on my own.
One of my best friends went to a Toastmasters speaking event, met an author named Claire Carpenter who had self-published her own books with a series called Yes You Can books and she gave my friend her business card. I contacted Claire and she was more than willing to advise me on the company she used which is the company which I have also used to publish my books – Gibson Publishing.
I then got a bank loan and used my work Christmas bonus for the Trademark, commissioned the illustrations, approved everything page by page and then the book was sent to print by the self-publishing company.
It was then accepted with a UK wholesaler and is therefore available through Amazon, Waterstone’s and WH Smith online. It is also available to purchase from selected Waterstone’s stores where I have been running author book signings.
How did you find illustrator Amie Bilsby?
The Illustrator Amie is freelance for the publishing company. We had a meeting all together in London to discuss the project, Amie brought a sample of her work and I was more than confident that she would be able to produce what I wanted, follow my instructions and bring them to life.
How much visual creative control did you have over the project?
I had every creative control over the project and I own all the copyright to the artwork. I’m lucky in the sense that I have a creative eye, come from a design back ground and work in PR which means I have a professional skill set to be able to be so hands on and to know what will and won’t work creatively. With the project, I’ve also trademarked the brand name Phillipa in lots of different categories with the UK Intellectual Property Office. This will allow me the possibility to license the brand in future.
The creative process consisted of myself giving in depth instructions to the illustrator, page by page. I gave her inspiration pictures for every character and object and detailed everything from the colours and patterns such as the details on the ice cream machine, the textures and use of mixed media and even what the characters are wearing. The text in the book is very descriptive so the illustrations had to match perfectly, not only to what was in my vision but also what is described within the book.
I also had a website developed with the illustrations and have created a fun area where parents and children can print colouring-in pages from the book for free (www.phillipaknickerbockerglory.co.uk).
What are your next goals?
My next goals are to write and produce several more Phillipa titles so the book is a series. Following on from that I would also love to see it produced as an animation and an App and licensed in the Toy market.
What advice would you give to other writers aspiring to get a children’s book published?
My advice would be, if you have dedication, an eye for detail and the ability to see something through from start to finish along with the the means to fund a project then go for it. Self-publishing can be a great way to get your book published but unless it is of a high enough standard, there are no guarantees it will be accepted with a wholesaler or into book shops. If you want to test the water and write novels then an ebook might be a good place to start. Lots of companies can create ebooks for a small charge (around £100) and it can be a great way to allow you to develop a customer base and network of followers through social media promotion.
With printed picture books, the cost is more because of the illustrations. I have the ability to draw but I made the choice to appoint someone to do it for me which takes away the stress of trying to convey exactly what is in your vision as well as being a more timely option if, like myself, you work full time or have a family etc.
If you would rather try and gain representation with an agent who will hopefully find a publisher to take on the book then I would suggest researching the agents of authors whom your work is similar too or who work with a similar style of author and submit your work to them. The Writers and Artists Yearbook is a wonderful resource and Twitter is a great place to find contacts.
Thanks Sarah – what an insightful and inspiring journey. Thanks for sharing your story.
Check out Phillipa Knickerbocker Glory and the Ice Cream Castle on Amazon – the Mini Diva’s love it!