2020 – A Year of Publishing in the Time of Coronavirus

It’s been a year of the unprecedented use of the word “unprecedented” and the majority of us probably didn’t realise what a year it would turn out to be, but isn’t that life! It’s one of those world-changing events where everybody on the planet has felt what it’s been like to go through the experience, all be it, filtered through each of our own world views and personal circumstances. I for one have really missed seeing my children as much (teens now) but I’m grateful for my lovely partner and her hilarious sense of humour that has got us both through some low days. It goes without saying that I’m sure we are all looking forward to putting this year far behind us!

And what a year it has been, one that we decided to relaunch Beachy Books and ensure we can create even better books and provide an even better service to our clients and authors.

And so, the year began with excitement in the air as I foreshadowed in my 2019 yearly roundup blog, I was very excited to be attending and exhibiting at the London Book Fair 2020 in March, alongside the Independent Publishers Guild (IPG) stand, had loads of meetings booked with booksellers, distributors and other publishing industry folk to hopefully gain knowledge, make contacts and do business… but, alas… it was cancelled, along with all other public events as “the coronavirus” swept across Europe and hit the UK. I was gutted. I was in the middle of incorporating Beachy Books, trying to get book distribution sorted, gain sales help, along with all manner of other issues I hadn’t realised I’d have to get my head around to have a hope of doing what I’d always wanted to do: Make Beachy Books a professional and valid business in its own right, work at it full time and start to publish a list of books under a traditionally published imprint, alongside my other work in helping people get published.

I found some solace in recording a few podcasts this year, one before the eve of lockdown, and an isolation special where some of my brilliant authors and poets on our list recorded poems and I read out stories. I had hoped to podcast more this year, but due to a combination of being too busy and not feeling so inspired during my walks it scuppered my hopes. I have some plans to reboot the podcast next year and attempt to make it more interesting, get others involved and attempt to make it more content-rich instead of just me rambling on about myself. Watch this space but don’t get your hopes up too high!

I admit at times throughout the crisis I was ready to jack it all in and I became very stressed and exhausted. I was working very long hours and most weekends just to keep things going. Because of various factors I was not eligible for any kind of government help apart from business loans which I steered clear of; instead I invested my own money into the business to keep things going and was so greatly helped by reaching out to the generous folk in the publishing industry such as the IPG, and my contacts with other professionals, who offered me so much support and help with the business and steered me in the right direction.

It is often difficult to sustain enthusiasm when working on books that won’t be out for some time, so it was a blessing when I started to get so many enquiries and submissions from authors, who found themselves furloughed or enjoying retirement, with lots of time to write and send us it all! Beachy Books has been inundated with submissions this year, so much so that we had to temporarily flip the closed sign on the submission door until the new year to catch up with the backlog.

Alongside business shizzle for Beachy Books I had the pleasure of helping a handful of authors to self publish, including our most senior client ever, at over 90 years old, who we helped to publish a hardback personal memoir about his amazing life. It was also great to once again work with the fabulous Shirley Adams (who I’d helped in 2019 to publish The Hungry Fox and Penny Feathers) to publish a new picture book she wrote in response to a child who contacted her with an idea on Facebook: I Want To Be Small Not Tall.

It was a dark few months for a while, battling with the isolation of lockdown, separated and missing my children, but I was very lucky to be living with a lovely and funny lady and together we battled through the madness, entertaining each other while both working long hours from home, and popping out for the regulation exercise walk-a-day during the first lockdown. I admit, I didn’t actually have my first Zoom call until a few months back, as most of my work could be done by emails and the occasional phone call with authors and clients.

Reflecting back, I realise I’ve had to wear so many “hats” setting-up or rebooting many aspects of my business, learning new skills and making new contacts. One day it was learning how to setup royalty runs, another day it was dealing with book distribution problems — of which there were many in the early days of the pandemic with bookshops suddenly closing and the whole book distribution network disrupted. Fortunately my great printers and distributors continued to run all through the pandemic, improving services day by day, and of course we all know bookshops did an amazing job of providing books to customers via collection and deliveries.

I had a bit of a blow when I had to ditch a distributor early on in the year after they just all went into furlough. I had barely signed-up with them, but luckily Gardners Books kindly reached out to us and helped get our first traditionally published children’s book on the rebranded Beachy Books imprint all stocked and ready for sale into the book supply chain: Thingamanose by Lynne Hudson – a silly, comically illustrated book that is a bridge-gapping book between picture books and chapter books, a longer picture book/part comic book that is written to appeal to slightly older children than pre-school kids. It was a thrill to see the book listed in The Bookseller Buyer’s Guide – another first for us!

Lynne was our first author to be signed on the new imprint and it’s been so much fun working with her as we really share the the same passion for rhyming books and comical illustration. I especially loved interviewing Lynne Hudson about her inspirations and background. We have already got some wonderful reviews and sales are progressing well. In spite of the pandemic, Lynne managed to arrange her own brilliant book signing in her home town of Weston-super-Mare at an artisans’ shop called the Weston Collective, just before the start of the second lockdown!

Alongside the publication of the paperback of Thingamanose, another milestone for us this year was to commission and publish our first ever audiobook, where we worked with a wonderfully talented voiceover artist called Amy Putt, who did a brilliant job of creating voices for all of Lynne’s characters in the Thingamanose audiobook available on Amazon, Audible and iTunes.

Thingamanose by Lynne Hudson

We are very pleased to announce that following the success of signing Lynne, we will be publishing more of her writing in 2021, including a classic 32-page colour children’s book with a cat as the hero. Alongside Lynne Hudson, we have also signed three new authors on the Beachy Books imprint more of which we will post about early in 2021. And we are in early talks and drafts with more authors for 2022 and beyond (it’s weird thinking that far ahead!)

It’s also been busy over on our Partner Publishing imprint, which we have rebranded and defined more in terms of the service we provide and our royalty structure. In a nutshell this is a part-pay, part free marketing and sales imprint alongside the Beachy Books brand. We are excited to have already signed five new authors/poets, with another author soon to join the fold.

The first author to be published on our Beachy Books Partner Publishing imprint was Anna Southwell, who lives in the Isle of Wight. She is partially blind and writes all her children’s stories on a typewriter (you can read more about Anna in our interview). It was pleasure to be able to publish the 1st book in her Oliver Gruffle – Secrets of Harmony Haven series, The Runaways, just this December and we were blown away when BBC Radio Solent interviewed her live on the radio on publication day.

As a result we had one of the biggest spikes in visitors to our website and the book has had the fasted online sales in a single month that we have ever had! A fantastic success for author and publisher we think and we are looking forward to publishing more of Anna’s series in 2021 and beyond.

Oliver Gruffle – Secrets of Harmony Haven – book1: The Runaways by Anna Southwell

It’s been a pleasure to work with all our authors this year from contract issues to helping with editing and working on early designs of covers. We would also like to thank some of the fabulous freelancers we have worked with from editors to artists including the illustrator of the Oliver Gruffle books – Joanna Scott, and marketeer and publishing hopeful, Amy Butler, who is helping Beachy Books and gaining some experience. (Read her guest post on our blog about rhyme in children’s books).

We really do have a lovely variety of books due out next year and beyond and I’m already getting excited thinking about them all. Details of the authors and books on all our imprints will be revealed in an upcoming blog for books in production and scheduled for publication (which we refer to as “still at sea”) in 2021.

My head is spinning after such a busy year so it has been a relief to close shop over Christmas to recharge and just do nothing (apart from write this blog), but I think the rest is well deserved after this crazy year. Myself and all at Beachy HQ wish you a happy new year (it’s got to be better than 2020!?) and look forward to seeing you all on the other side when we roll the shutters up once again.

Happy New Year (ya’ filthy animals!)

Philip Bell, Publisher, Beachy Books.

Why is Rhyme Important in Children’s Fiction?

The first time we are introduced to rhyming is often through the nursery rhyme. From Baa-Baa-Black-Sheep to Humpty Dumpty, these quirky songs may seem like meaningless fun.

However, experts claim they actually provide a creative and playful learning opportunity and can be important for early development in literacy. To begin understanding phonics and to develop skills in listening and verbalising, nursery rhymes can help young children make sense of the complex sounds around them. Rhyming creates rhythm and helps patterns emerge within language. As explained in Mem Fox’s Reading Magic, ‘experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they are four years old, they are usually among the best readers by the time they are eight.’

Rhyming within children’s fiction is the next step up from the nursery rhyme and continues to be essential for a child’s literacy development. Reading or listening to a story in rhythm and rhyme can help children learn a broad range of vocabulary, alongside concentration skills and auditory discrimination. As young readers become familiar with rhymes, they can also start to anticipate the next rhyming word, which not only teaches them how to comprehend common sounds and letters, but also makes for a more rewarding, beneficial and joyful experience of reading. Sometimes the task of learning to read can seem daunting to a young child, but if the rhymes are there to support them and offer fun clues to match the pictures, it can become a much less pressured experience. Increasing the enjoyment of reading, as rhyming fiction does so well, thus encourages a life-long love of books in youngsters (which is ultimately what all bookish parents hope for).

Thingamanose by Lynne Hudson – a comical, rhyming children’s book by Beachy Books

If nursery rhymes are the first thing to spring to mind when you think of rhyming for kids, the second is likely to be Dr. Seuss, with his hugely influential rhythmic fiction. Dr Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham and so many more, paved the way for rhyming fiction filled with nonsense and silliness. The ‘Seussian’ world is one of fantastical animals and made-up words (the Lorax and Thneeds made of Truffula trees, for example). According to scholars of the author, his creativity stemmed from his own difficult childhood, which allowed him to understand the style of words and stories that would be most compelling for children. While made-up words may run the danger of confusing young readers, they can actually help raise an awareness of the sounds that certain letters make together, continuing to help with developing literacy skills. Beachy Books’ own Thingamanose takes inspiration from the fun rhythm, invented words and nonsensical rhymes coined by Dr. Seuss, proving this style of children’s fiction is equally as engaging now as it was 60 years ago. 

Rhyming makes for a more enjoyable reading experience, while whimsical plot and humorous language is often what sparks a real love of reading in children. Author and illustrator, Huw Aaron, discusses his personal passion for nonsense rhyming, stating ‘before Meaning or Plot or Character come along, funny sounds and jangling rhythms and bouncing rhyme are a young child’s introduction to the world of Story, and simple, silly pictures their doorway to Art’. Fiction by Dr. Seuss, Spike Milligan and Beachy Book’s author Lynne Hudson, allows young readers to have fun and escape the realities of the world around them with rhyming children’s book, Thingamanose. Perhaps most importantly, this style of writing can help to expand a child’s imagination. For so many adult readers, literature is pure escapism. Silly rhymes and nonsense stories are the best way to ensure that children’s fiction works in the same way for those just getting started on their own reading journey.

Copyright © 2020 Amy Butler

Amy Butler is an avid-reader, book blogger and Marketing and PR professional based in the New Forest. Her favourite book is Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree and she is at her happiest with a cup of fresh coffee and a new Historical Fiction novel. Amy is currently helping out at Beachy Books to gain experience in the publishing industry.

Author Interview with Anna Southwell, writer of the Oliver Gruffle series

Author Website Photo - Anna Southwell

Interview by writer and publisher, Philip Bell, with author Anna Southwell in November 2020 on the eve of the publication of the first book in her Oliver Gruffle – Secrets of Harmony Haven series, called The Runaways all set on the Isle of Wight. The book is published on Beachy Books Partner Publishing imprint and out 4th December 2020.

Bold text (Philip), plain text (Anna)…

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been concentrating on the Oliver Gruffle – Harmony Haven books and updating them for years. I first came up with the idea 24 years ago. It was before the Harry Potter books. I never actually read any of those as I didn’t want them to influence my stories. 

I’ve been evolving the books all along, adding different ones. I’m up to twelve so far. I just can’t stop inventing stories. I’m obsessed with it now! *laughs* To tell you the truth, with this coronavirus, I was kept busy and I didn’t go into depression or anything like that from being alone, because I was in my magical world, typing away and thinking of new stories. 

What was the inspiration for the Oliver Gruffle series?

I lived in the Far East for two and a half years, and outside the flats, where we lived, I would see animals and wild dogs running around with tin cans on their heads, because they were scavenging for food. An awful thing happened: we had a ginger cat that we found under a palm tree and took him in. He was beautiful and got on well, but he decided he preferred eating out and he started going around the villages, raiding the chicken coops, and often he would come home with a chicken! And then one day there was a group of people outside with machetes. They asked me who the ginger cat belongs to and I knew they would get him eventually and they hurt him really badly. 

I am a bit sensitive where animals are concerned. When I see them on TV, if they are being cruelly treated I feel sadness. And, of course, I had my lovely Border collie dog called Kim, and she was very wise, and she seemed to know every emotion you felt. As I mention in the book’s introduction, I was never allowed any animals as a child. I was always wanting a pet. I remember riding a bike on the Island and discovering some wild feral kittens and it was a hard lesson to learn that I could not keep them. My last cat I owned as an adult was from a rescue home. So that was how the animal stories all evolved. 

And I wanted to write a story for the grandkids!

Did you have a writing background in your day job?

No. I used to work for an Island builders’ merchants in Ryde. I was just an office girl, a typist, that sort of thing. 

How did you write the book?

On a typewriter! *laughs* I got through so many typewriters because I just bash away at them, but to be quite honest, because I’m visually impaired now, I know exactly where the keys are now – from my touch-typing days – so it’s been a lifeline for me to be able to continue to write new stories and correct ones I’ve written in the past and bring them up to date. 

How did your sight impairment affect the writing of the books?

My eye trouble started with me developing macular in my left eye, like a hole in the eye. One day my eyesight suddenly got very bad, but I could drive because I passed all the driving examinations and doctors said yes, you can still drive. I woke up one morning and I had completely lost sight apart from vision in my right eye that was good. Then I woke up one morning with blurred vision, so I had to go straight up the hospital, and they diagnosed macular vision in the right eye and there’s something else wrong with it as well now, but I have still got a small amount of vision in the right eye.

Now, I’ve got this wonderful light and magnifier from the hospital that’s very good for me so I can hold that over the typing and put it on. It’s been a godsend!

How have you adapted to write and edit your stories now?

I use a very bright LED light to shine it on the paper, so I get by. I don’t feel as if it’s deteriorated too much over the last couple of months. I think it’s stationary at the moment so I’m working hard! I’m working like mad to get all the Oliver Gruffle books written and published.

What support have you got on the Isle of Wight with your sight impairment?

Sight for Wight has been a club that has been an inspiration to me, because I joined the club and when I first went there I thought everybody was going be so morbid and I didn’t think it would be for me. Well, I had the shock my life when I went there – it was hilarious! It was a wonderful, wonderful group! I was so inspired by all the people; there was one chap who had written a story, you know, and there was another lady who could write poetry, someone knitting, and a lady crocheting. And I thought, hello, how can they do all this! And then there were two ladies in their 90s who actually both still lived alone and looked after themselves. And there’s a lady in Shanklin who rings me up, because we all keep in touch, and she’s been an inspiration to me. If she can cope, then I can cope! It’s a wonderful group. We used to go out for lunch and coffee breaks, but at the moment all this has closed down, but everybody is still all keeping in touch, so that’s lovely. They have wonderful volunteers that come in to look after us and help us walk without crashing into lampposts – which is my nightmare of a thing I keep doing! *laughs*

Are you born ‘n’ bred Isle of Wight?

I’ve lived on the Isle of Wight all my life. The one thing I’ve always loved is the Island and that’s why I wanted to base the stories in Oliver Gruffle on the Island.

What do you love about the Isle of Wight?

Everything! *laughs* I just love everything about the Island. I find it quite amazing we have people coming over here, then, all of a sudden, they are creating things themselves, putting their input into the island and I think it’s wonderful. What I’m saying is, the Island is magical. It seems to affect people. People seem to be kinder. 

When I was young, I mean really young, I was given a bike and I used to cycle round the island, 50-odd miles, in a day, taking my picnic. That was how I came across the colony of wild cats, which I couldn’t catch! *laughs*

What was the inspiration for the animal characters in the book? 

I haven’t ever owned a pig *laughs* but I have a pig statue that I call Pickle. And when I look around my room there are so many animal statues. Anybody would think I’m a bit animal mad! *laughs* I’ve got three new stories that I’ve thought of this week, writing them down best I can. I lay in bed, super active at night, trying to think up stories. It’s a great joy to me to be able to do this. I just love it! I love writing. I hope when children read these books, they can come to my little world and enjoy them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.

That really comes across when I first read the story. Your stories are very imaginative, there’s lots of kindness in them, and also mischief and a nice warmth about them, which is different I think. Where does that come from?

It’s not all sweetness you know! *laughs* We go through different stages in different books, but nothing really, really horrible happens that would frighten a child. 

So, what are your favourite books or books that inspired you as a child?

I used to love Victorian era; I’m absolutely besotted with them. Life around the 18th and 19th century, how the way of life was, and the hardships people had to endure, because I had it hard when I was young, coming from a poor family. To tell you the truth I wanted to be a vet. But now it’s a different matter because I can’t read so well and I’m concentrating on writing the Oliver Gruffle series so that my grandkids have something to remember me by! 

What part of the writing of the Oliver Gruffle stories do you enjoy the most?

I quite like the conversations between the animals. I do admit I did find the first chapter very hard to do though. I went over and over it until I got it how I wanted it. I find it quite hard to have two animals speaking together, so I used to put a toy in front of me and pretend that was the animal in the book and talk to it, and imagine how he would look, what he would say back, and gradually it just began to develop. I think I am a bit crazy! *laughs*

Yes, I know what you mean. As a writer I know what it’s like to have your own invented characters speaking to you in your head. So, what other techniques do you use in writing and editing?

I always read my books out loud as if I’m speaking to a child. Now, I’ll tell you another little interesting story: My husband had dementia and it was quite a hard time for me, you know, looking after him, but luckily he did still know me, but he didn’t know the family. We always used to sing together. But the one thing he loved in the afternoon, when he came waddling in, was to listen to me read my books. I would read to him and do all the voices and he would sit there, thrilled to bits. And he said to me, ‘The one thing I want you to do, Anna, is try and get this into print for children to enjoy!’ That’s his words, so you have helped me keep my promise to my late husband and publish my book, and I’m thrilled!

Have you enjoyed the publishing process?

What you’ve done and all the editing, I think it’s really, really turned out a lovely book.

You know what’s show nice for me though, I was getting all these phone calls last night from my family, saying things like ‘Nan, we’re so-so proud of you!’ you know, and you wouldn’t normally say that to somebody, you know, you might be taken for granted normally, so it was so nice to just actually hear them say those words, because we haven’t got anybody in the family who does this sort of thing, it’s quite different, to actually get published.

Have you got any inspiring thoughts for anybody who wants to write their own stories?

I would say, if you’ve got a dream, follow it.

Philip Bell would like to thank Anna Southwell for her time in the interview. If you like the sound of Anna’s Oliver Gruffle series and want to read the first one then find out more here: Oliver Gruffle – Secrets of Harmony Haven – Book 1: The Runaways.

Beachy Books Author Interview – Thingamanose Author/Illustrator Lynne Hudson

Beachy Books publisher, Philip Bell, interviewed his recently signed author/illustrator Lynne Hudson on their newly rebranded traditional imprint, about her longer children’s book called Thingamanose, her writing process and how she got into illustrating.

Bold text (Philip), plain text (Lynne)…

Do you write full time?

I work part time at a hospital to bring in money while I work on my writing and drawing.

How did you get into writing and illustrating?

Well, I was actually applying for a job and I had to write a cover letter, and I just sat down writing these cover letters and I just really enjoyed it. (At this point, Lynne’s cat, Tiger enters the room and she shoos it out! -Ed) So, I thought I would have a go at writing a story, because I never really thought that I could write anything before. I just sat down and started writing things. I think the first things I wrote were pretty rubbish then I started writing things that were ok, so I sent them off to the Literary Consultancy for them to edit for me and they gave me a lot or really positive feedback. Things went from there really. The first book I had published was called Sniff by Hogs Back Books and then they asked me to illustrate one of their other books called Big Dog and Squiz. I’ve just been plodding on from then.

How long have you been writing and illustrating for?

I’ve have been writing for about 10 years, but I have been doing the illustrations for quite a long time. I trained as a Potter at Bath Academy of Art and when I left there, I taught night classes for a few years, but it wasn’t really me. But my pots were very plain pots that were covered in illustrations, and I realised that that was the part I really liked — the design and decoration on the pots. And then I cut out making the pots and concentrated on illustration.

I noticed when you sent your first submission, I really loved your illustrative, cartoon style. Is that something you are particularly into, or was it something that just came out and became your style?

I think it has basically been my style, but I did do a correspondence course with the College of Cartoon Art, that was over about a year, the professional cartoonist Dave Fellows, who was the chap that mentored me, sort of pushed me in the way or children’s illustration as he said that it was the best thing for my style of drawing. Sadly, he passed away in 2003, but I fondly remember he especially liked my caricatures of soap characters like Dot Cotton [see below].

So, what would you say is the difference between an artist that can do one set scene, and an illustrator of a children’s book? What skills do you think are needed for children’s book illustration and even comics?

I think probably, I observe people and go around and have a little sketch book and go into town sometimes or other places and sketch people. I think you get a feel for how people are really, and their character.

I saw Shirley Hughes on the BBC 4 documentary What Do Artists Do All Day? Have you seen that? She sits in playgrounds observing people and drawing in her sketch book – actually, maybe that sounds a bit weird… *laughs*

*laughs* That’s basically what I do!

I see so much movement in your illustrations. It’s crazy really, it’s only a static image but yet there’s so much movement in it. I always like that kind of feeling. I think people are quite fascinated by the process and think it’s magic.

Yeah, *laughs* there is quite a lot of imagination goes in it, but I am also a bit of a people watcher.

So, does what inspires you to write and draw? What is your muse?

I think things just seem to jump into my head really. For this story, I was just walking into town one day and a phrase just popped into my head. Something about a girl called Rose, picking her nose. I just started writing it down and it became ‘Don’t Pick Your Nose Rose!’ (which was the original name of the story when Lynne submitted it to Beachy Books – Ed). I didn’t really know where it was going to go at first, it just kind of evolved as I sat down at the computer and wrote and built up the idea.

Rose is quite a feisty heroine in the Thingamanose story. What’s the inspiration behind her?

I think it’s probably me, actually.  *laughs* I have always been a bit of a nose picker! *laughs*

I was afraid to ask if you picked your nose! *laughs*

Yeah, quite a lot of my old school friends have commented about that! 

Going back to my inspiration from Rose, I think that she also came from having quite strict parents, who just kind of dismiss things you say, things like that. At work, quite a lot of the doctors are very dismissive and that really gets my back up. They don’t believe what you’re saying half the time.

So, are saying that your writing process is quite cathartic? *laughs*

*laughs* Just a bit, sometimes. I’m quite rebellious as well, like Rose! 

So, from Rose picking her nose… how did Thingamanose pop into your head? *laughs*

I think it’s probably just something that just popped into my head literally. I think it was just something that happened when I was sat down writing. I kind of go into my own subconscious; in my head it’s a video and I write down the film in my head. It’s like dreaming or daydreaming really. You are sat there writing but you are daydreaming at the same time and all these weird things just come out!

*laughs* I love it. That’s great! So, obviously when I read your story it was very funny. So, what do you enjoy about humorous writing? Is that your default writing style, you go for something funny?

I suppose so. I sometimes think it’s quite serious really, but I’m quite happy people think it’s funny. I think it’s just the way I am really.

So, do you mean Thingamanose is more of a serious story than a humorous one?

I can’t really put my finger on what it is. I think that a lot of people are laugh when they read it, but I think I’s quite serious *laughs*

*laughs* Erm, that’s quite interesting to hear that.

When I had it [the early draft] edited, the comments said it was quite revolting at some points! *laughs*

So, the early drafts were edited by the literacy consultancy?

Yeah, I sent that off last year for them to do it, but it’s obviously now changed quite a bit since then editing with Beachy Books.

And talking of Beachy Books, why did you decide to send your story to us?

They [The Literary Consultancy] did say it was a longer picture book and they weren’t sure what kind of genre it would fit into, because it sort of sits between a picture book and a chapter book. I used to get this quarterly magazine called Carousel and I noticed they were advertising some books and it mentioned that it filled the gap between the picture book and chapter book market, so I went on the computer and looked if they were taking any submissions and they weren’t, so after some research on the computer I came across your blog post [https://beachybooks.com/bridging-the-gap-longer-picture-books] about longer picture books and I emailed you and sent you off a manuscript, just by chance really.

I remember writing that blog it was quite a long time ago now and it was inspired by my frustration of how my daughter, who used to really like picture books, would end up feeling as if she could not read them, as they were associated with a much younger audience. She is a teenager now but still appreciates picture books, but at school she would be teased by other children for choosing to read a picture book when they were reading longer story books with little or no illustrations, which she wasn’t really inspired by in the same way. I also remember that feeling as a child of how wonderful picture books and comics were compared to books full of text. I love them now of course, all books.

Thingamanose is written in rhyme. Is that a writing style you enjoy?

Yeah, I think it comes a bit more naturally to me than prose, but it takes a lot longer to write. I just feel more comfortable with rhyme.

Do you have a favourite children’s book?

My favourite is Dr Seuss. You can probably see that from what I write. I love the Lorax with its environmental message. From childhood, I used to really love the Miffy books, the style and the simplicity.

Have you got any inspiring advice for budding writers or illustrators?

My advice is just to try it. Don’t think, ‘Oh, I’m not a writer…’. You never know until you try! It was when I enjoyed it, trying and trying and keeping at it. It was how I developed my own style and got better and better. With drawing, it’s the same really. Just pick up the pencil and have a go. My grandma was a painter and I used to sit next to her as a little kid. She used to give me old envelopes and a biro and I used to just sit there doodling all the time.

Is there a message in Thingamanose?

The story is just about parents listening to their children and not dismissing what they say. If they’ve got problems or a niggle then listen to them, don’t brush them off. The frustration of people in power just not listening to the small people.

Thank you Lynne Hudson!

Philip Bell would like to thank Lynne Hudson for her time in the interview. If you like the sound of Lynne’s writing and want to see her ilustrations, you can read more about the book, take a peek inside and buy a copy to support the author and publisher here: Thingamanose.

Happy New Year and a Glance Back at 2019

And so, that was Christmas and I find myself writing this at the eve of another year, the eve of another decade no less. I can honestly say I have mixed feelings about 2019, and that’s not even going on about politics but on a personal level, those close to me have really suffered and it has been a very challenging time, but professionally, for Beachy Books, it has been very promising…

I noticed from looking back at my blogs that I hadn’t written a round-up of the year since 2017, which was the eve of a personal life crisis that sank Beachy Books for a while, but following a lovely encounter with my past and a blossoming new love my muse returned, and like Aladdin I resurfaced from the depths before I drowned and I found a renewed love of books, and writing, and publishing. So, I began to formulate a plan to relaunch Beachy Books and really really make a proper go of it all…

I’d learned a few things over the years, had some highs and some lows, but following a few submissions from talented writers and illustrators I became inspired again and relaunched (I also podcasted about it). So now, I have a base on the Isle of Wight and in Maidstone, Kent, and I am gaining more and more clients and new authors on the Beachy Books imprint. It’s exciting times…

Considering I really only fired up the publishing engines again mid-year it has been my most successful year so far. I measure this in terms of the amount of books published and recording my fastest ever sales.

I kicked off summer with the publication of our first poet, the lovely, literate, Sandy Kealty, with The Mermaid is Unimpressed, which received some wonderful reviews and she has been growing fans week on week through her relentless gigging and performing at open mic nights all over the UK. I’m very excited to tell you that Sandy and I have been working hard to get her new volume of poetry ready for publication in Spring 2020, which will be titled: The Mermaid Rides Again!

One of the highlights of the year was getting Sandy a slot reading at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival 2019 where we had her book on sale with Blackwells and also a very funny night out at the Author & Speaker dinner after, where it was fascinating to talk to publishing folk and meet some literary celebs like Alexander McCall Smith. I was gutted not to meet Alan Titchmarsh though as I wanted to give I’ve him a personal copy of Personae Vectenses: Isle of Wight Notables (Alan is one of the notables!) that we published in October.

Personae Vetenses has been our most popular and fastest selling book ever. The manuscript was sent to me by an ex-Islander earlier in the year and has been his labour of love for around 12 years and contains over 240 fascinating short biographies of people connected with the Island by birth, or having lived there, who have all had a wider impact on society.

In fact, our local wholesaler has ordered 4 separate batches of PV and has been stocking bookshops all over the Isle of Wight. I am truly humbled by the success of the book which really was a pleasure to work on. It vindicates all the hard work that went into design and typesetting, not to mention editing work and drafting! It has been a thrill to see the sales figures go up and up so thank you if you were a buyer or seller.

This year has also seen me work with a local talented children’s writer and illustrator called Shirley Adams who wanted help self-publishing. It has been an absolute pleasure helping to create her rhyming children’s picture books The Hungry Fox and Penny Feathers to great acclaim and reviews from children and parents. Shirley has already grown in confidence from performing her work in public and is now regularly doing reading and craft gigs at local events in libraries and bookshops, while working on new titles that Beachy Books will help publish next year.

I did other stuff too, mostly behind the scenes, building the business, making contacts, planning for 2020 and beyond. At one point my whiteboard didn’t have any white left, plastered with so many ‘todos’ I just felt a bit overwhelmed. I transferred it all to some nifty spreadsheets and priorotised it all, giving myself more achievable and realistic aims and deadlines… well, that was the plan, but I’m sure I’ll miss a few more deadlines because next year’s publishing schedule is already looking very busy. This is due, in part, to an event I organised at a local library where I offered publishing advice to the public. I met some very interesting writers and have now read some very promising manuscripts, one of which was a 70,000 word document on a very interesting non-fiction subject which I hope to publish in the future. More news on that in time!

A nice end to the year was joining and being accepted into the Independent Publisher’s Guild (IPG), which I will blog about in the new year. I also have some other exiting news that Beachy Books is going to be traditionally publishing a children’s author and illustrator (previously published) for Christmas 2020, as well as taking on more authors on the imprint.

I have more exciting news, but I’ll save it for the new year, but it has something to do with London and Books… To be honest, I am still a little dazed from Christmas and felt I had lost my way a bit these past weeks, however writing this blog has reminded me how much I’ve achieved in a relatively short time and perhaps I should stop being so hard on myself and celebrate my successes more so I can build on them…

I hope you have had a successful year and at least achieved some of the things you set out to achieve. But if not, never fear, there’s always next year.

Happy New Year from Philip Bell of Beachy Books!

Onwards…

Ep26 – Beachy Goes Traditional – Beachy Rambles – Beachy Books Podcast

Philip sounds excited to announce something BIG about Beachy! And he’s finally found his muse again and started a new novel… all while walking out in nature.

With thanks to Dan O’Neill who composed the wonderful music.

Subscribe via iTunes Store Link: Beachy Books Podcast

Other ways to subscribe to my feed: Beachy Books Podcast

Or just listen here:

Press play to hear the Beachy Books Podcast

Black Friday Beachy Book Deals 2019

It’s Black Friday and if you are still at a loss as to what to buy for a Christmas gift then how about buying a book for a loved one from an independent book publisher?

“Yes!” I hear you shout! “Show me the bargains…”

Well… here I have to confess I cannot directly control the discounts of our retailers, but I know there are some great online book bargains to be had if you spend a few minutes shopping around before you click on the buy button.

I found this nice website that enables you to compare book prices across the main book retailers, including Amazon and Waterstones. Go to the website, enter your book details and the site does the rest…

BUT, please be aware it is no substitute for manually searching as I have noticed that this site cannot get book data from sites like Waterstones reliably, as well as other retailers on some of the searches I have made and I know our books are available at mostly every online book retailer site worldwide.

I have found the best way is to Google the book title and/or the ISBN, or use the various buying links we have provided in our book pages. Have a browse of our stock in our Books section if you want, but we’ve picked out a few best prices for some of our books below.

I’ve found that even on non-Black Friday days, discounts can go very quickly and can change by the minute, hourly and daily. Also some of the sites like Wordery.com are doing extra special Black Friday discounts for all books on top of the discounted books prices so please shop around to get the best bargain! Good luck!

Happy shopping and happy Black Friday 2019!

So, what have we got on offer?

Jack and Boo’s Snowy Day

Jack and Boo’s Snowy Day is a picture book that follows the adventures of two children who have an adventure in the snow, exploring nature and spotting wildlife. Winter fun for everyone! Great for children aged 2-7. RRP £7.99.

Jack and Boo's Snowy Day Link Cover Image

Waterstones is coming up best price but do shop around.

Personae Vectenses: Isle of Wight Notables

Personae Vectenses: Isle of Wight Notables contains 246 short biographies of notable people who have been born, or lived on the Isle of Wight who have all had a wider impact on society. From Queen Victoria to Alan Titchmarsh! RRP £12.99.

Hive is coming up cheapest, with Blackwells a close second but do shop around.

Lizzie

Lizzie is a story, told by her in 1979 in her ninety-fifth year, as she looks back at her youth in Ireland, her journey to Canada, and her life on the prairie. It is a tale truly of ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire’. A lovely purple hardback. RRP £14.99.

Lizzie by Rosey Messing - Published by Beachy Books - Cover Image 72dpi - Web

Amazon has got an amazing bargain but do shop around.

Grandma’s Roller Skates and Other Silly Poems

Grandma’s Roller Skates and Other Silly Poems contains funny, rhyming poems and silly illustrations. There are belly laughs, including a roller skating grandma, and a mischievous elephant, and a boy with a musical talent for playing his bum, and a mouse that flies to the moon, and a bookworm called Bertie – and don’t forget Giggling Gertie! Great for children and adults who like rhyme. RRP £9.99.

Cover - Grandma's Roller Skates and Other Silly Poems by David A Ballard ISBN 9781999728304

There’s a Black Friday discount at Wordery and discounts at Blackwells and Books etc. But do shop around.

The Mermaid is Unimpressed

The Mermaid is Unimpressed contains 29 funny, reflective and poignant poems. A lovely little read that will linger in the mind and make you think. RRP £6.99.

A fab deal at BookDepository and a bit off at Amazon but do shop around.

Well, I hope you managed to find a bargain.

Happy Black Friday!

Beachy Books Publishes Personae Vectenses – 246 Short Biographies of Isle of Wight ‘Notables’ from Queen Victoria to Alan Titchmarsh

Beachy Books is very proud to announce the publication of Personae Vectenses: Isle of Wight Notables by Phillip Armitage (ISBN: 978-1-9997283-2-8)

This book, affectionately known internally as ‘PV’ or ‘The Blue Book’ has been the passion project of Isle of Wight-born Phillip Armitage for some twelve years. In his own words, Phillip explains:

‘… I only stumbled across names at first. And then the names just came popping out of the blue. Some came from books I was reading on the Isle of Wight. I decided that there were so many names with an Isle of Wight link that it was worth putting together as a publication …’

And this was just the research and writing. It’s been a project on Beachy Books’s whiteboard for most of the year. It all started one rainy afternoon in February 2019, when an email from the author popped into the inbox:

‘Good afternoon, I see that you publish books related to the Island. I have assembled a file of information concerning 250+ folk who were either born on the island or lived there and had a significant influence on the wider world…’ 

And so, eight months later, after several drafts, weeks of editing and design Beachy Books is finally able to announce to the world that the author’s twelve years of labour is finally published.

Personae Vectenses: Isle of Wight Notables is a shiny blue volume filled with the famous and no-so-famous, those long gone, and others who are still active in their careers from Alfred Lord Tennyson to Mimi Khalvati, Robert Hooke to Elizabeth Meek.

Publisher, Philip Bell, is proud of Personae Vectenses, as he explains:

‘I’m very happy with the design of this one. I wanted it to have some imagery but have a fresher look than the typical local history book. The author loved the cover on first look and I’m confident the public will want to pick it up and buy it!’

‘Personae Vectenses’ at Blackwells Bookshop for Isle of Wight Literary Festival 2019 (before they all sold out!)

Early signs of pre-sales on Amazon and an early set of copies all selling out at Blackwells bookshop at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival 2019 bodes well for sales of PV. Philip Bell adds:

I have such a good feeling about this one. I think it will chime with a lot of locals and those who are just fascinated with how many people have connections to this wonderful diamond. As well as the interesting stories, I think people will also like the Location Index so they can see who lived in or was born in their own town. I hope Personae Vectenses becomes a local Isle of Wight classic.

With the Season of Goodwill looming Beachy Books hopes Personae Vectenses: Isle of Wight Notables will be a popular Christmas book for anybody interested in fascinating historical biographies of people with connections to the Isle of Wight.

In the run-up to the publication there have has been some great local press coverage of PV on the web, social media and in print, including stories on On The Wight, Island Echo and Isle of Wight Observer who are running a give-away of two copies and reviewing in the local newspaper. More press coverage is expected in the coming weeks, including magazine features.

Obviously, with a book sub-titled ‘Isle of With Notables’ there is bound to be some debate about who was included, who was left out, but the author explains his criteria for including a ‘notable’ in PV:

‘They had to have lived on the Island for a reasonable amount of time, or have been born there. The most significant thing is, they had to have had an influence on the wider society.’

Incidentally, for those who are interested, Beachy Books enlisted the help of latin experts on Twitter to ensure the translation was correct, as the book was originally named ‘Personae Vectensis’. It was eventually confirmed that the ‘ensis’ ending is added to a place name to mean ‘from this place’, so ‘Vectensis’ means “person from Vectis”, however ‘Vectenses’ means ‘people from Vectis’. So, ‘Personae Ventenses’ was chosen as it is grammatically equivalent to ‘Notable people from the Isle of Wight’. Phew! Still with us!?

‘Personae Vectenses’ exclusively on first sale at Babushka Books, Shanklin, Isle of Wight

Personae Vectenses: Isle of Wight Notables retails at £12.99 and is available to buy on Amazon UK (and worldwide), and also at other online retailers such as Waterstones and WHSmiths. (Due to demand, if it says Out of Stock at any time, do not despair, just order away and you will get your book! It just may take a bit longer. Beachy Books are never truly out of stock and more are always printed upon order.)

If you are local to the Isle of Wight, the book is for sale at the following retailers (links to their Facebook pages): Babushka Books in Shanklin, Isle of Wight Traders in Newport, Medina Books in Cowes, Waterstones in Newport IOW and other retailers will join their ranks in the coming weeks…

Beachy Books Publishes First Poetry Volume — The Mermaid is Unimpressed by Sandy Kealty

I’m pleased to announce that Beachy Books has published the first new book on our rebranded imprint. Poet, performer and musician, Sandy Kealty, is hoping to make a splash with her first book of published poetry called The Mermaid is Unimpressed.

The Mermaid is Unimpressed is filled with 29 poems that Sandy has written over a lifetime of writing, as she explains:

The collection is taken from work over 7 years or so, which is taking my story through various stages of my life. It was long overdue to put a collection together. I feel that what I’ve been doing before is a bit ephemeral. To me, the performance I did was for the here and now, and then I’ll go away and do a performance for somebody else. But I like little poetry books. It’s time in my life to put together some of the work that other people have been enjoying over a period of years. I’ve chosen the ones for ‘The Mermaid is Unimpressed’ that I feel best tell the story.

Sandy has been writing since, in her words, ‘she was knee-high to a grasshopper’ and later started to perform her poems as a way of rebuilding her life following a tragic personal incident:

I started reading my poems aloud, seriously — as seriously as you can read my poems! — when I was living in Whitstable, around the 1995, after my first husband died. I needed to reconstruct my life. And I did it through dancing, singing and writing poetry. And then when I came to the Isle of Wight, I did an Open Mike at Quay Arts. This is where I felt particularly comfortable, fitted in and found friends.

Her influences are poets from the 40s to 60s, those who write in a direct style. She likes A E Houseman’s A Shropshire Lad, John Betjeman’s Summoned By Bells and Welsh Incident by Robert Graves. Sandy explains why:

It was poets who wrote with strong observation and utter clarity. I’m not one for mucking around. I don’t like obscure poetry very much. I don’t really like to spend hours working out what the hell they were talking about, it’s not me at all! 

It was an absolute pleasure to work with Sandy on publishing her book of poems and also lovely to work with another creative on the Island, Shaun Cuff aka The Constant Doodler, to do the fabulous cover that Sandy really loved:

The cover needed to be eye-catching. I think Shaun has made a most fantastic piece of work of that. The doodle is one line carried around. The mermaid’s expression is just right — I’ve felt like that at times, I truly have!

Sandy and I learned so much on the journey to publication and I am very proud of this book, and it seems Sandy is too from what she had to say:

It hasn’t been at all frightening. It’s been joyful and splendid good fun! It’s come out as we had planned. I like the feel of it in my hand. It’s the right size. It’s a lovely texture. It invites me to open up and have a look to see what’s inside! 

Well, I don’t think I could have summed it up better. If you’d like to find out exactly why the mermaid is unimpressed then you’ll have to buy the book.

The Mermaid is Unimpressed by Sandy Kealty – published by Beachy Books

The Mermaid is Unimpressed is available to order from bookshops, and can be purchased online, worldwide, at retailers such as Waterstones and Amazon.

If you’re on the Isle of Wight it is currently available in Babushka Books in Shanklin and IW Traders in Newport.

More details on The Mermaid is Unimpressed page.

Ep25 – Beachy Resurfaces – Beachy Books Podcast

Philip talks about the relaunch of his publishing business, what he publishes, walks around a different bit of country in a new county. And some writing woes…

With thanks to my friend, Dan O’Neill, who composed the wonderful music.

Subscribe via iTunes Store Link: Beachy Books Podcast

Other ways to subscribe to my feed: Beachy Books Podcast

Or just listen here:

Press play to hear the Beachy Books Podcast