19 to 20 November 2011
The Stripe Complex
King Alfred Campus
University of Winchester
I was born in California, to a large family of avid readers.
My first passion was poetry, and I received a B.A. in English from The University of Chicago, where I met my (English) former husband.
During a spell in London, where I raised our two children, John and Anna, I became the first member of Peter Usborne's creative staff, devising his first two successful series – including titles such as How Your Body Works, still in print after 35 years.
Originating and coordinating text and pictures, was a discipline that stood me in good stead: I am now the author of 50 picture books, including The Big Red Bus; Eyes, Nose, Finger and Toes (7 languages, sales of some 300,000), Do Like a Duck Does, and Does a Cow Say Boo? (Oppenheim Gold/Platinum Award Winners).
A more recent title, Sleepy Places, was greeted by the Independent as "Walker Books' best title of the year so far...perfection...instantly memorable."
I've now been happily settled for over 20 years in the West Country - deeply involved in human justice and environmental issues - but with frequent trips to London to keep up with 5-year-old Alice, my first grand-daughter, and yet another passionate book-lover.
How do we get our books known to their readers?
Having worked in markets ranging from the broad, mass-market readership of the Usborne books to the more highly selective up-market category of expensive picture-books, I'm aware that there are, traditionally, different routes to this.
Mass-market books depend on creating brand-recognition for a series (or even a publisher) rather than enthusiasm for a single title. For information books, this has been the case for years.
However, I notice that this is increasingly true even for young children's fiction. The big book-selling chains clearly find it easier to sell a Julia Donaldson, or a Lauren Child – almost the way you'd once buy a Ladybird – I've even heard parents discuss a purchase with their children in these terms.
Certainly, the books are presented and shelved this way. I don't know what we can do about this. The face of a book, its cover, is the first and most important way to attract a buyer's attention, but except for those best-selling authors, most of us only get that chance for a few weeks after publication – if that.
Nevertheless, good picture-books still do seem to make their way through reviews and word of mouth, and can by picked up and given new life by book-clubs, as well as libraries. I definitely see it as part of my job to provide the friendliest and liveliest publicity materials I can, to make that first impression, and of course, to be available for interviews.
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