Monday, 22 September 2014

At long last...

"Well at long last Anastasia was NUMBER 1 in horses on Amazon through the weekend and until the early hours of this morning! Rachael’s first book, The Horses of Boughton Lodge, has made it after about two years and eight months! It ousted “Black Beauty” by Anna Sewell and that is some achievement indeed! Well done to Rachael!

Horses is the most difficult category to conquer in my opinion, for what it is worth. It really is so competitive!

When I was a schoolteacher with Primary children there was a Story Time period every day. The book most sought after was Black Beauty and I can envisage my Primary School colleagues, years after my retirement, are now reading Anastasia. Not just one but 17 of the first 32 listed. The list runs for 100 books but Rachael has the following positions 7, 10, 11, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 31 and 32. That is some going!

Beauty is as Beauty does! You may have heard it somewhere before dear reader.

I am delighted for Rachael’s success and I know if her late father had still been alive he would have been so proud of her. I am so very proud of her and I do wish her well in her next venture as a solo author.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Fergus writes... about a fantastic journey, inspiration and the world of writing

It has been a fantastic journey with Rachael and I am delighted she is to revisit her previous work and have it illustrated. Rachael and I have been together now for approaching three years and based on the latest figures, from a couple of days ago, she has the top aggregate sales figures for all her books for animals on Google. Rachael has 44 books and the gentleman who was the leader had, I believe, half Rachael’s sales but for just one book. Rachael’s total sales based on last week are double.
What have I contributed to Rachael’s success? Well practically nothing as far as Larry is concerned. The Story starts before Rachael was born, back in 1967 in the Basel Zoo in Switzerland. I was about 18 at the time and working as a Courier taking school children on holiday from England to Austria but doing the return run from Basel to Innsbruck where they were shooting The Sound of Music at the time.

Having a half day to kill I treated myself to a visit to the Basel Zoo where I found a Liger! I thought a spelling mistake! I spoke to a lady zoo keeper who knew the history. 'His father was a Lion! His mother was a Tiger!' she said. Where did he come from? Bohemia was the answer. Hence the Mad Professor from the Prague Zoo!
That’s my contribution full stop. The rest is all Rachael!

From 1967 until late 2012 I carried the idea around in my head for about 45 years! Rachael was working on Anastasia The Epic when I visited her and to be honest I was too scared to mention it in case she was not receptive. However, I plucked up the courage; how wrong can you be? Larry was born on 1st December 2012 and is now part of the considerable collection of Rachael’s books on Amazon.
Perhaps a few words of encouragement might help would be authors and here I am targeting mothers with little children at home. Many mums want to get into print. That is very healthy but a few words of caution might assist. Identify a story that is going to sell! That is the businessman in me coming out. Is the product marketable?

The Acid Test is sales!
We started with Anastasia as a young girl. She is still 16 and has been for the past 2 years! If you are marketing a series then the cover has to be easily identifiable.

If you are writing horsey stories for girls then you will have considerable competition. “Black Beauty” – what a great name! Anna Sewell sets the standard. “Polly Rides to Town” will never compete with “Anastasia and the Palomino Foals”, “Anastasia and the Russian White Stallion”, “Anastasia and the Puppy Farm”. You must capture the reader in the title. Then you must recapture her in the first sentence. ”A magnificent Palomino pony stood outside Polly’s house”. What a great start! Compare with “Polly was preparing her picnic to ride to ….” I have fallen asleep already!
Take time to consider the market. Horse books for young girls is an extremely competitive market? Could it make a film or TV Series? Have that in the back of your mind? Is it merchantable like Larry the Liger?

Your family must come first? Do you have enough time? Ask yourself this? Will it interfere with family harmony?
Neither Larry nor Anastasia have a bad thought in their heads. They have old fashioned values of good and bad!

When you write books you must write books people wish to read! Rome was not built in a day! It has taken about three years for Rachael to get to where she is today.
Children must be literate and numerate. That is the key to a successful life.

If you produce a book that gets children reading you will have done a considerable service to the education of primary children.
Fergus Wilson

Friday, 12 September 2014

It's been a while! School holidays, reading and somewhere beneath the sea...

It certainly has been a while since I last wrote a blog post for which I apologise to those who read my blog!  Bizarrely, while I have been away people are still reading older posts which is great and it is nice to see there are regular readers and new ones too.

So what have I been doing for the last few months?  I honestly cannot account for all the time because it is all a bit of blur if I am honest (mummy brain - all mums will understand this!).  I have been writing bits and bobs but certainly not writing as voraciously as I was before.   I suppose I have been keeping my hand in.  The school holidays with young children make it difficult to focus on anything for too long but I have been jotting down ideas and writing some poetry.  I have also been setting the wheels in motion for a new project or rather an old one revisited! 

A few years ago I wrote a series of poems for children but after numerous rejections from agents (seemingly the only route to decent publishers at the time) I put them on the back burner (not literally as that would be silly especially as they are on my laptop!).  However, since mid-May Anastasia and Larry the Liger ebooks have begun to sell and sell very well indeed.  There were always some sales but never at such a consistent level and I know most of you will have seen my Facebook page posts ( about this.

When I worked with Fergus on the Anastasia and Larry the Liger series' it was the first I had heard of self publishing on Amazon.  I was unsure of whether this route to market would be a success however I was willing to put in the hours of formatting, cover creating and uploading to try it out.  Then the many hours of marketing on social networking sites and websites followed, often so many it would cause arguments in our house as I was spending almost my entire weekends writing and marketing.  Something had to give so I backed off a little and harmony returned to the household (well most of the time anyway!).  School and preschool visits were a pleasure; sharing Larry the Liger with children and seeing their reactions was fab.

I have recently instructed the extremely talented illustrator, Des Campbell, who also created the Larry the Liger illustrations, to create the visual interpretations of my poems. 
The preliminary sketches are just brilliant and I know I have found the perfect illustrator.  He interprets what I want and brings to life the words even better than my own imagination could!  I know the illustrations will bring joy and fun to children and to adults who read the books with them.

So what has inspired me to venture into picture books?  Well, during the long, school summer holiday period we went on a road trip and camping adventure that took us through four different countries.  I knew the long car journey would be tough for a 3 and 6 year old so I loaded my Kindle with all things suitable for the girls.  I made sure Larry the Liger was on there for Ella and some picture ebooks for Amy as she can't yet read.  The Kindle Fire is such a great device for reading and is wonderful for viewing images.  The Kindle Reading App can be downloaded to any tablet, smartphone, iPad and pc so the potential reach for ebooks is phenomenal!  I highly recommend it. 

I was very pleased to receive an email a few weeks ago about the new Kindle Kids Book Creator App.  Having never uploaded an ebook with images inside I was unsure how to go about it.  It isn't as simple as inserting an image as the text and images are uploaded separately however I won't bore you!  So the new App is just what I need hopefully and I look forward to trying it out.  I will let you all know how it goes and if it is as easy as it sounds!

As for the last few months well I can say this: I am amazed at the Euro Tunnel!  The journey was so quick and was over before I knew it.

What a great way to travel: under the sea!  Jason shook his head every time I said amazing which was quite a lot!  We were leaving England and arriving in France in a flash and soon driving through France, Belgium and Holland.  I can also say that 5 nights camping isn't for me but I would do a shorter stint because the girls loved it.  It was great to camp in a foreign country along with people of a variety of nationalities.  Ella made some lovely friends even if they couldn't communicate effectively!  Despite language barriers they still managed to play hide and seek, have fun in the playgrounds and collect pine cones in the woods.  It was rather idyllic in many ways.

I also had the pleasure to take Ella to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the West End.  She loved it, as did I, although the music is certainly not as memorable as either of the movie versions.  The staging was amazing and it was a visual treat and yet another inspiration for visual books!

Schools and preschools are now back in session which means I have some time once again to do what I love: writing.  My head is brimming with ideas and inspiration from our summer which is exactly how it should be.

The journey, and the next chapter, has begun....