“How’s the book going?”

Thank you cards

“Hey, how’s the book going?”

If had a pound for every time someone has asked me THAT question over the last 9 months, I’d be more than financially able to fund the printing of my second book! Unfortunately, I don’t get paid when I get asked that question, however, I have often thought that perhaps I should start charging people a pound if they would like to hear the answer to THAT question.

So how is my book – The Tickle Monster – going? Well… no one ever said it was going to be easy is how I should begin my answer. Self-publishing is tough. Not tougher than I expected but tough all the same. It’s lots of fun – if you have the time, money and oodles of energy – but if those elements are lacking in abundance then get ready for a rough ride.

Back in February, I decided to bulk order over three-thousand copies of The Tickle Monster. It’s a very risky manoeuvre in the realms of self-publishing and many SP authors turn their backs on this route due to huge financial implications*; instead, preferring to print-on-demand. Although POD is an extremely popular way of printing copies of ones book, you are not afforded the quality that you get when using a professional printing company that understands the intricacies of colour, style and quality. In my mind, most consumers appreciate a quality product.

I started the year with a plan and that plan was to self-promote my book; starting off small by visiting local bookshops selling five books a go for starters, visiting local schools to read the book, blogging, using social media, whilst slowly infiltrating the ‘bigger’ bookshops before starting on the second book. It was a big plan and lot of work for little old me, especially as I was still working full time!

Fast forward to April and I’d cut down to working three days a week, giving me two days to focus on the book. I sent out emails to all the local schools and slowly but surely began to receive responses asking me to come in to do readings of the book, with some schools asking me to facilitate writing workshops. I’d also visited three of my local Waterstones branches and two of them agreed to buy 5 copies each of the book, as I’d hoped. The book was on the move!

From April until July, I think I visited over twenty primary schools, pre-schools and nurseries! I was very lucky that someone truly wonderful and talented made me my very own Tickle Monster toy to take with me on my visits. The response from the children, teachers and parents has been overwhelming. Every school was a fantastic and unique experience and I so enjoy encouraging children to use their imaginations! Sales of the book were not always as consistent as I’d hoped they’d be, but where one week I would sell one book, the next week I might sell ten.

Once the schools started winding down for the Summer term, I’d planned on taking some time off, whilst also swapping my focus to getting more copies of The Tickle Monster into bookshops. Without a doubt, this has been the most difficult part of the process and the only thing that has made me break-down in tears – for feeling like a failure. Trying to sell to bookshops is tricky. Trying to get distributors to agree to stocking your book is even trickier. Trying to talk to the same person on the phone is impossible! Many promises have been made to me over the last nine months about stocking and buying my book, however, none have come to fruition as yet. I’m a tiny SP fish in a hugely competitive publishing pond. I now understand that where I may sound like a good idea to one person, another may disagree, or someone more well known will come along and me and my book are long forgotten. Unfortunately, this is the lament of many SP authors, however, I am told that I must keep going because it is only determination and a good quality picture book that will eventually win through!

I have to be honest and say that August has been the lowest point of this adventure but a learning curve all the same. Unfortunately, I find myself working full time again until October half term. After that, I can get on with more school visits, selling more books and printing the second book of the series! Most of all, I’m continuing to learn that this business has it’s ups and downs, and that unless I’m some celebrity’s dog with a fine publishing contract (damn you Miranda Hart and Peggy!), I’m just going to have to keep plugging away and being patient.

Thank you to all those family and friends who have continued to ask me how it’s all going. Your support is always appreciated!

I hope that answers THAT question. X

My Everest


The Tickle Monster on vacation!

It seems we now find ourselves on the other side of 2015… what surprises will 2016 hold in store for The Tickle Monster and Monster Books Publishing?

Having taken some time off over the Christmas holidays to take a well earned breath and to let the delightful craziness of the last few months of 2015 sink in, Monster Books Publishing are back on the case! I have a big year planned for the Monster Wood Book Series and plan on getting at least another two books published in the next 12 months. Ambitious, I know, but I feel The Tickle Monster has led the way magnificently for me to continue writing the series.

We have now sold out of our first batch of The Tickle Monster – (I think there are two left on Amazon for anyone who would like to buy one and hasn’t done so already). We are also ready to give the okay to our fantastic printers – Spot On Print in High Wycombe – to print the ‘now we are taking this seriously’ load of The Tickle Monster books.

Having taken a few weeks off from promoting and writing, it has given me the opportunity to think about how I would like to promote and sell my books over the next year and beyond. I can now say that I have put my grand plan – isn’t that what the Head Witch says in The Witches?! – into action and am having to constantly remind myself to take a day at a time and complete all the steps that I have set out for myself. I am determined to make something of this, but I am under no illusions that I have a mountain to climb. This next year will be my Everest.

Someone asked me how I felt about pursuing my dream and I used the only word that keeps coming to mind – determined. This determination has risen sharply over the months of creating the book to self-publishing it. I have had some AMAZING people support me through this process – in fact, they have been BEYOND AMAZING! But as always, there are people who find it difficult to be supportive and do not understand what it is that you are trying to achieve. I have come across many of these people over my lifetime and in particular, the last few months whilst trying to publish and sell The Tickle Monster. As horrible as it is to be on the receiving end of these people, I feel that they make me all the more ambitious and yes, determined, to achieve those goals. I don’t take any pleasure in proving people wrong but I do take pleasure in surprising people so that they walk away with a different outlook or different judgement.

My wonderful and supportive Mum said something to me when we did our book launch for The Tickle Monster. She told me that some people may look down on our book and what we are trying to do. They may feel embarrassed by us putting ourselves out there and they may think we are crazy, or even stupid. But we didn’t write this book for them. We wrote it and filled it with imaginative and innovative illustration for all the children out there. We wrote it to put smiles on faces, open imaginations and to encourage dreams of their own. The Tickle Monster is dedicated to my son William, but like my Mum says, it has been written for all children.

Here’s to the next 12 months of Monster Book Publishing. We are only at base camp but the summit is in sight!

It was the night before the book launch…


It is the night before the launch of The Tickle Monster and I am full of… flu! Yes, the illness that seemed to be striking down everyone but me, has finally sunk its achey, sniffly claws into me – primarily my chest and head. Normally I would laugh in the face of such an ill-timed (excuse the pun) virus but even a hint of a chuckle sends me into thick spasms of uncontrollable coughing and wheezing. So as I sit here in my bed typing away on my laptop, feeling more subdued than I ought to be feeling at this pivotal moment in The Monster Books journey, I can’t help but feel that this book, this longtime dream of mine, has been the silver – actually, golden – lining after the most difficult year of my life.

Working on The Tickle Monster has been a salvation of sorts and even though it has been eight years in the making, the right time to complete it was now. Had I forced myself to finish the book any earlier than this year, I really don’t think that it would have been published with the purity and passion that has gone into it on this second attempt. There is no fear attached to the creation of this book this time around – it was written and illustrated with enjoyment, love and affection. It was written because it needed to be read.

The first one hundred books are sat in neat little piles on my dining room table this evening. Everytime I walk past them and catch a glimpse of their shiny, brand new covers under the protective paper wrapped loosely around them, I can’t help but think that they are like little puppies – all sat there waiting to go to new homes. Although I very much admire their ‘never been read’ exterior, I cannot wait to one day find a copy with dog-eared corners and marked pages; the evidence of a much loved book that has been read and enjoyed, over and over again.

We have put in a massive PR effort over the last few weeks trying to get The Tickle Monster into as much of the public eye as possible and so far our Facebook page has reached over 1000 people and our Twitter has surpassed 130 followers. Small numbers at first glance, but big numbers when you consider how far and how fast we have come in such a short space of time. It’s been difficult for me personally ‘selling’ the book, as a huge part of that has been about selling myself as a bona fide writer of children’s picture books. It hasn’t been an easy transition for me – Facebooking, Twittering and blogging – but it is one that I am getting used to and learning to enjoy.

Someone asked me what has been the biggest highlight of this journey so far and I would say receiving The Tickle Monster book prototype. Actually seeing a creation that came from my imagination printed on beautiful gloss pages that would rival any other popular picture books out there was the best feeling ever. (Closely followed by an interview on local radio station, Wycombe Sound, to promote the book!)

Anyway, my coughing fits are getting the better of me so I think I will wrap this blog post up now. But not before saying a big thanks to all those involved in making The Tickle Monster happen. You are amazing!

Here’s to the first 100 books – may they are find happy homes!


The Tickle Monster has arrived!




I’m so excited to share with everyone that the very first copy of The Tickle Monster book has arrived! See picture above!

There actually was a time when I thought that it would never be anything more than a fantasy – me publishing a book for people to actually read – that I didn’t quite believe it when I received a phonecall telling me that the book prototype was ready to collect. I was so nervous when I was first handed the book that I almost didn’t want to look at it. I kept thinking, what if it wasn’t how I’d expected it would look? What if it didn’t look as professional as the other picture books out there? What if the entire concept just didn’t work as a book?

The last few weeks, although exciting, have also been nerve-wracking leading up to this point. I understand that I am a person of high expectations but I can also be full of incredible self-doubt; sometimes not trusting my decisions and instincts. So when I finally received the prototype in my shaking hands, all the negative emotions flooding through me disappeared in an instant. When I held the book, I knew without doubt that everything I had done to make my dream a reality, had been the right decision.

I stroked the cover of The Tickle Monster and marvelled at the finish and colours that were more vibrant than what I thought they could ever be. Looking inside was another visual experience and there was absolutely nothing that I felt disappointed with as I gently turned each page. Upon coming home, I raced up the stairs to my son’s bedroom where I pulled his huge pile of picture books down from the top of his bookshelf and flicked through almost every single one – just to compare them with my book. I looked through some of my most favourite picture books and for the first time, I didn’t feel intimidated by their brilliance and beauty. I know that The Tickle Monster is definitely going to hold its own on any bookstore bookshelf and it’s now that the real challenge begins; getting it into the public eye and most importantly selling it.

So, what now? I’m plugging the book as much as I can on the most popular social media channels, emailing local nurseries and toddler groups to come and do readings, publishing the eBook on Amazon (AVAILABLE TO BUY NOW!), setting up The Monster Books website, opening my business bank account and approaching the local radio station to see if they will let me pop along to speak about the book to their listeners. It feels as though this is the hardest bit and I suppose that is true of most start-up businesses. (If only I had my own Lord Sugar with a few grand and camera crew to help me sell my books to Waterstones – wink, wink!)

The book will launch on Tuesday 1st December 2015 and will be available to buy through www.themonsterbooks.com. Although we have had a few pre-orders of the book, I do feel anxious that they may not sell beyond friends and family – eeeek! These do feel like scary but exciting times right now!

As always, thank you for reading and I welcome any ideas, advice or comments



An exciting thing happened at Monster Books Publishing Ltd yesterday – our very first block of ISBN’s came through! A truly momentous occasion – (yes, that’s as momentous as my occasions come nowadays!) – as I never thought I would be the very proud owner of ten brand new ISBN numbers, one of which has been allocated to my very first book – The Tickle Monster!

It will certainly be a nervous couple of days as I wait impatiently for The Tickle Monster book prototype to come back from the printers – especially as so many last minute changes were made to the layout, wording and illustration. I actually recalled the book three times from the printers to make changes – that is how crazy I have been about it. When I finally gave the printers the green light, it was as traumatic and exciting as sending my son off to school for the first time! But sitting here now and writing this post, I can honestly say that I am so happy with the final draft of the book and I really cannot wait for everyone to see it and share in the joy that is The Tickle Monster!

In the meantime, and in a valiant attempt to make the days zoom by until I get to see my finished book, I have been busying myself with other projects. Many of them revolve around doing research into the best ways of getting my book into the public eye and how, as a self-publisher, it is so important to make sure that the right paths are taken to increase a books popularity. I have been reading articles and blogs from other self-publishers, some of which have been massively helpful in pointing me in the right direction and even steering me away from the not so obvious pitfalls of self-publishing. Karen Inglis has written a super step-by-step guide on how to self-publish a children’s picture book and gives valuable insight into her personal experience of doing this.

I have also been writing down the names and contact details of local nurseries, toddler groups, pre-schools and children’s centres in the hope that I will be allowed to come and share with them The Tickle Monster story. I feel that this will help to increase my confidence in getting my book out there and showing it to strangers – as I feel that they really will be the most honest audience of all. As well as doing local research, I have also been setting my sights another level higher by doing some crafty Linkedin stalking of book buyers from some of the big high street chains and stockists; really just getting their details ready for when I feel the moment is right to do the ‘big pitch’.

Numbers are quite important in this game too and I have spent a lot of time researching prices, margins and quantity – which in my situation, is pretty much an unknown quantity at the moment as I am still a step or two away from being able to sell my first book. Slowly, slowly though and first, I know that I need to get everyone interested in The Tickle Monster. And so by the power of Twitter, WordPress and Facebook, I am hoping that once I get a handle on how to do it successfully – yes, I have even done research on this 😉 – I can really start making some progress in the world of social media.

And as with all other writers – I think I can just about say that I am one myself now – I am reading and writing and reading and writing. I have designed the next monster for our second monster book of the series – he is just gorgeous (in a slightly dribbly way), with the story currently going through its third edit. As well as The Monster Books, I have been writing my other blog – a more personal health and lifestyle blog which goes by the name of www.4milesdaily.com and I am also excited to share with you that I have started writing my first novel. Oh, and I have also entered a short script writing competition – I will let you know how that one pans out.

All in all, I’m really just enjoying having an outlet for the creativity and having something to look forward to. I am extremely proud that I have marched forward, bit the bullet and chased my dream and know that I couldn’t have done without certain people. To those that believe in this project – thank you.

Please feel free to leave any suggestions, comments and advice. Hopefully, by my next post I will be able to share a picture of me holding the very first copy of The Tickle Monster!

The Monster Books are here!

Tickle Monster Front Cover

The Tickle Monster roams around the Monster Wood.

He looks for things to tickle.

For Tickling is good!

Welcome to The Monster Books blog! This is a very exciting time for The Monster Books Publishing Ltd as we are right on the cusp of sending to print our very first children’s picture book, and through this blog I want to share with you my journey of finally realising my dream and the road to becoming a self-published and (hopefully) successful writer.

It has taken a long time to get to this point – 8 years in total – from concepts and ideas to applying for the first batch of ISBN numbers needed to sell our book at a professional level, which we are now sending to print, with first editions available in December 2015 – (conveniently just in time for Christmas!)

The Monster Books blog will provide information on the Monster Wood book series, and as this is very much a passion project and completely self-led, I thought it would be the best way to reach people who are either interested in our books and up-coming publishing projects or are perhaps thinking of embarking on a similar path. I want to share with you how it all began and where this endeavour leads to, so over the next few weeks I will try to share as much information about this process as possible.

The idea for the Monster Wood book series came from reading the many wonderful picture books that my then two year old, loved to read. Books are a huge passion – and requirement – in our household and I was fervently reading to my son from the age of seven months old. He would snuggle in my arms to have his evening bottle of milk and as he did, I would read him simple but colourful picture books; getting him used to what was, and would become, an important part of his bedtime routine. He is now ten years of age and an avid reader, as well as being a huge support and inspiration for the writing of my first book in the Monster Wood book series – The Tickle Monster!

The creation of the Tickle Monster came from a silly game that I used to play with my then toddler son. I would pretend that my hands had been replaced by the hands of the very feathery, tickly Tickle Monster, whose only goal in life was to search for things and people to tickle! It was a great game and bonding experience, which over time inspired further ideas for other monster characters. Soon we had lots of them – I won’t share them names with you just yet for fear of spoiling the surprise of our future books – and soon they naturally evolved into a family of different monsters, who lived in, and came from, the beautiful Monster Wood!

I could see clearly the many monsters that roamed this small and secret part of the world and I knew I had to write about them, and so that is what I did.

Having read countless numbers of picture books with my son, I soon had a very good grasp of what he enjoyed, pictures that engaged him and words that had him thinking. For me, rhyming books by far are the most fun to read. I think children very quickly latch onto the concept that different words can sound the same; thereby creating a rhythm to the story which increases the speed at which they remember those end words and can join in with the story. Before I go on, I feel I should add that I am also a huge fan of non-rhyming books, for example, Where the Wild Things Are, Funnybones, Mr Men, Silly Suzy Goose, The Hungry Caterpillar to name a few – but it has always been the rhyming books that go down a storm in our house!

Deciding on the first monster to write about was easy enough – it was always going to be The Tickle Monster – him being the source of the entire Monster Wood concept. Showing off his wonderful, cheeky character and zest for adventure made the writing easier and the first draft actually took only an evening to write. Subsequent drafts followed, before I felt brave enough to send it to a small number of children’s book publishers who would accept unsolicited manuscripts. Every single one of them responded – with rejections – but I did receive some valuable feedback that shaped the next part of my journey.

During the next two years I wrote three further Monster Wood stories and during that time, I hatched a plan to self-publish them. I will admit that I didn’t have a clue at that point what the task ahead would entail and I still hadn’t decided on how to illustrate my book. Feeling overwhelmed by the possibility of becoming a self-published writer it was another year before I discovered a children’s programme that would change the direction and concept of my book once again. Excited by what I saw, I designed The Tickle Monster – whilst off from work with a few broken toes – out of old feathers salvaged from the bottom of my son’s toybox. The design of the other monsters in The Tickle Monster book quickly followed and all were in different mediums e.g. one was made from fabric, one from a condiment, one was hand drawn and the other computer designed. I won’t give too much away but using various computer design programmes, we managed to complete half of the book before creative differences got in the way and the journey stopped dead in its tracks – for almost three years!

And here we are today, on the cusp of printing The Tickle Monster book! The second attempt at completing this project has happened very quickly, spurred on by my first attempt at writing a health and lifestyle blog. Being in the writing mode had me banging on the door of my long suffering illustrator again with promises from me to have more patience and be less pedantic. From this, wonderful things have happened and the final book is testament to how important it is to be on the same creative level and the ability to let ideas develop. Care, time, passion and patience has gone into what is now the end result and this has all been done whilst working full time, raising a child and dealing with all the other obstacles life throws at you.

Before I go, I would like to say thank you for the support and feedback we have had so far and I’m really looking forward to sharing our first book with you all. Off to the Monster Wood we go!