SPECIAL FEATURE Published During Lockdown

Deputy Editor A. M. Dassu talks to B. B. Taylor about her first traditionally published book being released during the Coronovirus lockdown.

The Coronovirus pandemic has forced bookshops to close, halted book distribution and cancelled countless festivals and book launch events across the world. At a time where people are at home and seemingly have more time to read, authors are struggling to get books in to their hands.

Children’s author B. B. Taylor is one such author. B. B. has worked tirelessly for years in schools and libraries, entertaining them with her self published books. 2020 was supposed to be different; this was the year her middle grade novel The Vigilante Tooth Fairy was going to be traditionally published. She had two launches across the UK planned and we were all looking forward to celebrating her launch with her. I spoke to B. B. to find out how the lockdown has affected the promotion and release of her debut middle grade novel.

The Vigilante Tooth Fairy by BB Taylor, illustrated by James Shaw

Hello and welcome!

Q. First and foremost, huge congratulations for the publication of The Vigilante Tooth Fairy!
How did you feel when you got your book deal? What were your expectations of being traditionally published?
Thank you! It was very surreal when I got my book deal, all my work previously had been commissioned based or self-published projects so it didn’t quite feel real at all. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as I know each publishing house is different in how they operate and what they expect of you, but I was hoping it was going to be a positive experience and a chance to connect with a wider audience and new readers. I can honestly say though none of it felt real, and it still doesn’t really. Not sure if that will ever change, I’m just excited to see my stories out there.

Q. What has your experience of being published been so far? What barriers did you face, if any?
Publishing can be an extremely hard industry to break into, even more so when coming from a self-publishing starting point. A lot of people have a very specific idea in their head when they think of self-publishing and of course you have to make sure that the book you are producing can stand up to industry standards. In the early days it took a lot of time and effort to get my books stocked in bookshops and I had to build up relationships with booksellers and earn my place on their shelves, but this has given me the chance over the years to meet and connect with so many wonderful people, which in turn has led to a lot of unexpected opportunities. I was very lucky to have been signed by a fantastic publishing house who were supportive and positive but also very open to listening to my ideas too. I don’t have an agent which affects the paths I take too. Normally your agent submits your book on your behalf, whereas I am finding homes for my stories myself. Luckily with organisations like the Society of Authors and Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators there is lots of support, guidance and opportunities if you keep at it.

Q. How has your experience of being traditionally published differed to self-publishing your picture books?
Previously I had self-published picture books and a chapter book and also been commissioned for various picture books, chapter books and middle grade books, some of these were for charities and some were stories I just wanted to tell or enjoyed performing, but there was only me. So no marketing team or sales people or anything like that. In traditional publishing you are part of a team and there is accountability on both sides, in self-publishing it is up to you to make sure you use a decent editor, that your design and layout meet industry standards, that you are marketing and promoting your books professionally and effectively. You feel less isolated and more supported when traditionally published, but ultimately have less say than self-publishing where everything including the legal obligations and financial outlay is on you. I can only comment on the publishing houses I’ve worked with, but they’ve made me feel like part of a team or family and helped me see opportunities to expand the reach of my stories and the audiences they can connect with.

Q. What had you planned to promote The Vigilante Tooth Fairy and how have these plans been affected?
It has been very strange because the book came out literally days before lockdown. Most of my book sales usually come from my events which understandably have all been cancelled. I was due to do lots of school visits, library visits, book tours, festivals and public events which make up a large part of my time usually between writing. It has led me to look at other ways to promote the book and make it visible in a professional and effective manner, through social media, online presence and the support of my fellow book community, which I have been extremely grateful for, but of course it’s harder to sell a book during this time and there are so many amazing books out there that authors are trying to promote from isolation. I think as long as you are passionate and dedicated to your stories there are always ways to get them into the hands of readers.

Q. What do you think can be done to help children’s authors and illustrators effectively promote their books and get them into reader’s hands?
For me personally nothing compares to that buzz of meeting readers in person and getting to share my stories and inspire them to create their own stories, but the world has changed and we have had to change with this, using digital platforms and effective marketing plans alongside networking with educators, bloggers, booksellers and librarians. By using YouTube and other platforms I’ve been able to connect with readers and gatekeepers safely but effectively connecting with people no matter where they are in the world.

*All images courtesy of B.B. Taylor

B. B. Taylor is a  full time daydreamer and superhero in training, writing words and dreaming of stories.

Twitter: @BB_Taylor_
Website: www.bbtaylor-books.com


A. M. Dassu is a children’s author and deputy editor of Words & Pictures. You can contact her at deputyeditor@britishscbwi.org

You can find her on Twitter @a_reflective and Instagram @a.m.dassu

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