When I arrived at Frome's first Small Publishers' Fair on 2nd July, I made a beeline for a man in a trilby - Barry Cunningham of Chicken House - who had just opened the event.
'Even after Brexit, the UK is still leading the way in children's books,' he told me. 'Forty per cent of all books sold in this country are for children - and there are so many routes to getting published, including self-publishing. It is a golden era.'
|Fran meets Barry Cunningham of Chicken House Publishing (and Harry Potter fame)|
It's a golden era in children's books. –Barry Cunningham
Barry set up Chicken House Publishing in Frome, Somerset, in 2000, and the company was bought by Scholastic in 2005. It has close links with SCBWI, runs the Times/Chicken House Prize and Open Coop, a one-day event when it's open to submissions.
Writing for children has saved the book industry. –Barry Cunningham
He had this advice for pre-published children's writers: 'It's not about your creativity, it's about knowing your reader - who is your audience?'
Also at the fair was the Frome-based Golden Egg Academy (GEA), run by former Chicken House editor Imogen Cooper, which has helped hatch some great children's books, including the recently launched Apprentice Witch, by James Nicol, and Beetle Boy, by M.G. Leonard.
|Golden Egg Academy editor Nicki Marshall|
'My love of Dennis and Gnasher led me to become an avid reader and a keen writer,' he said. Now he is a Patron of Reading and regularly visits schools, libraries and literary events in the UK promoting reading, literacy and creative writing.
I bought Frog and the Tree of Spells, published by Troubador, for my son. Inside Joffre wrote, 'Never lose your imagination.' I haven't read the book yet (neither has my son) and I know I shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but it did strike me as an example of how self-publishing done well can look just as good as a traditionally published book.
Lastly I visited, and joined, the Frome Writers' Collective and met almost simultaneously a woman who had just signed with an agent, and a woman who said she wasn't even considering traditional publishing for her historical novels.
What struck me as I left the fair was that there are so many ways in to this publishing lark these days and that all you need is talent, self-belief - and a bit of imagination.
Fran Price writes picture books and middle grade stories. Her middle grade novel was shortlisted by agent Gemma Cooper in the January Slushpile Challenge 2015. Her middle grade story, Nicole and the Paper Witches, inspired by her Mum's paper sculptures, was serialised in Aquila magazine. Fran lives by the woods and can often be found roaming around seeking inspiration for her stories. When she's not writing, Fran sketches, paints and makes pots.