Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Amazon and Copyright

I wonder how many people have read the small print and realise that Amazon owns the copyright on all reviews on their site? For some time, people have wondered why reviews for their books have suddenly gone missing. Sometimes, even the books have vanished, particularly if published to Kindle (but possibly not exclusively). A violation is the probable answer.

You cannot/must not copy a review from Amazon and use it word for word on your own website or in your own promotion. Do not review someone's book and use the same text on Amazon and Goodreads, for example. Amazon's bots will discover the clone and may react by wiping the Amazon version or the book, or your account if you are publisher.

I have received several references to this over the last few weeks. Many people have tried to argue with Amazon, but none have changed their policy so far. This may happen in the future, of course - but at present it's wise to avoid breaking Amazon's terms of service.

Two of my sources of information are Aggie Villanueva:  (a potentially useful website), and the advertising for a product:

All best wishes

Peter Taylor
Dont forget, I'll be hosting Sally Murphy and Sonia Kretschmar on March 6 ...look inside Sonia's studio - write a comment to go into the draw for a copy of 'Do Not Forget Australia'.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Book Crossing – Children’s Books

Someone close to my home, whose house is next to a bus-stop, has fixed a book box to the fence. The label says ‘Give a book, take a book or swap a book’. I see they’ve sold the house – I hope the next owners keep the scheme going.

Book Crossing  costs nothing to join. Members leave books on cafe tables, buses, park benches etcc for anyone to pick up, read and then release somewhere else. For preference a label is stuck inside, saying that the book is free to be picked up and read, and is travelling the world.

Those who register a book on the website, prior to leaving it somewhere, can generate a code for the label so that they and readers can track where it’s been – but no one ever knows the person who gave it or found it.

If you put ‘Book Crossing’ in Google ‘Images’ and do a search, you’ll get an idea of the labels and the places books are left. One picture shows children’s books in plastic bags hanging from a tree, in England, at the perfect height for children to take them. The picture was originally posted by Sally-Jayne Poyton, on the SCBWI UK Ning website (which can only be joined by members who live there).

What a great idea!

I think I should start a book tree in the park opposite my house. Sally-Jayne has suggested ‘we should have SCBWI book trees up and down the UK’. Why not Australia and worldwide?

SCBWI stands for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators –

Let's get children reading in every way we can!

Peter Taylor

Friday, February 24, 2012

Network Celebration

One of the most worthwhile activities that any children’s writer or illustrator can do is to network with other creators. Apart from feeling and becoming ‘part of the industry’ and not working in isolation, over the years I have learned a lot from members of many organisations and forums, and continue to do so – writing craft, opportunities, publisher and editor preferences, printing presses, publicity efforts that work, and much more. And I hope some of the things that I write in forum posts are helpful to others, too.

The SCBWI discussion board is a wonderful forum for members, and I try to regularly contribute to several on LinkedIn and Yahoo Groups, for example which is for southern hemisphere creators, and ‘CW’ - which has an international membership. You’ll be welcomed if you’re serious about writing for children, or illustrating, and would like to join us and contribute.

Today, I’m celebrating a long membership of ‘CW’ – you’re all wonderful - by holding a draw for one member of this group to win a copy of my picture book, ‘Kangaroo’s Visitor Gets A Surprise’, which has been wonderfully illustrated by Gail Breese.

It’s a dream to meet many of you personally. So if any ‘CW’ member would like to leave a comment, perhaps but not necessarily about the value of group membership – either this group or others you may belong to – or just say 'Hi', I’ll add your name into the hat and draw a winner next weekend. If you’ve clicked to follow the blog, I’ll give you two chances.

Many thanks for your kind words on Aussie Reviews, Sally!

There are more details of the book on my website, along with true facts about the Aussie animals depicted as characters.

But if you wish to make a purchase ($13.50), the easisest way is through Amazon:

With many thanks and all best wishes

Peter Taylor

Monday, February 20, 2012

Coming soon - 'Do Not Forget Australia'

On March 6th, I will be hosting author Sally Murphy and illustrator Sonia Kretschmar as they blog tour to promote their new book (out March 1st) ‘Do Not Forget Australia’, which is set in the First World War ...AND some lucky visitor will receive a copy. Please post a comment on the up-coming post before the end of March to go into the draw – follow the blog to get two entries.

It has been published by Walker Books Australia, ISBN: 9781921529863, so you know it will be have been wonderfully and lovingly produced, and it should be available from a bookstore near you or from online merchants ...but please support a bookstore if you can.

‘Henri lives in the French village of Villers-Bretonneux. Billy lives in Melbourne, Australia. These two little boys, who live thousands of miles away from each other, share one story that unites Villers-Bretonneux and Melbourne in history.’

It’s visually stunning, as well as a moving and inspiring story for children 5+, but which will be enjoyed by adults, too. 

I’ve sent Sally and Sonia the questions and I’m looking forward to receiving the answers that should tell the back-story of its creation – but you will be able to ask your own questions through the ‘comments’ as well.

They have both won many awards for their works - please check out their websites:
Sonia Kretschmar   Sally Murphy

All best wishes

Peter Taylor

Friday, February 17, 2012

Inspirational - Donkey Library

There’s no need to explain this one. Please just watch, enjoy and be inspired as books are taken by ‘donkey travelling library’ to children in Colombia.

I also recommend that you check out this link to other travelling libraries - eg by camel in Kenya - and different ways of delivering books:


Thursday, February 09, 2012

Dickens' Short Story

As I've written in a previous post, I'm writing a 'creative biography' of 'Mad James Lucas' the hermit, who Charles Dickens used as the subect of his short story 'Tom Tiddler's Ground'. This he published in the Christmas edition of 'All The Year Round' in 1861, and it can be read online at

James Lucas lived in Hertfordshre, England, close to the town of Stevenage and not far from the Knebworth home of Dickens' friend, Edward Bulwer Lytton. The house in which James boarded himselfself up, and never left for 25 years, was a wreck when he died, and it was demolished about 100 years ago and the site turned into a field. The only traces of the house that remain are brick fragments in the soil. I keep a couple close to my desk, but maybe I should actually put them on my desk to encourage me to spend more time completing my story! On the opposite side of the road is a large pond with an island. Could this be the one that Dickens described '...its accumulation of stagnant weed, and its black decomposition, and in all its foulness and filth, was almost comforting, regarded as the only water that could have reflected the shameful place (James's house) without seemingly polluted by that low office'? I'm not 100% convinced, but Dickens would certainly have stopped on the banks and looked at James's house from this spot.

The site of Elmwood - James Lucas's house - now a farm field

Peter Taylor

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Dickens' Desk and more

Charles Dickens was born on February 7th, 1812, so on this bi-centenary I have looked through my collection for something appropriate for you. Here’s an engraving of his desk, which I have scanned from ‘Harper's Weekly’, published in New York on January 7th, 1871. He always had to have particular items for his eyes to linger upon while he took brief rests from putting quill to paper. Any of these objects would have been instantly missed if it had been removed. On the left hand corner  you can see there was a French bronze of two rather fat sword fighting toads:

I have read that others included a bronze of a dog-fancier, with little dogs under his arms and in his pockets; a long gilt leaf and a rabbit sitting on its haunches; a huge paperknife which he often held in his hand while giving readings, and a green cup, decorated with cowslips, that was always filled with fresh flowers each morning before he started to write. Wherever he worked, his calendar was always set to the correct day and date and placed in front of him.

Is there anything on your desk that you ‘must have in place’ before you start writing, or do you have a set routine? My grandfather was a farmer and as soon as he stepped outside the house in the morning he picked a fresh flower from the garden for his button-hole. I'm more casual.

Of interest to illustrators may be the character sketches that Phiz (Hablot Knight Browne) did in the development of Mr Dombey. This is taken from ‘Phiz – A Memoir’ written by Fred Kitton in 1882:

Dickens’ works were often first released in serial form. The Tale of Two Cities was published in ‘All The Year Round’ without illustrations, but also available in monthly parts with Phiz’s illustrations from Chapman and Hall.

In America it was serialised in 'Harper’s Weekly', with illustrations printed from woodblocks engraved by John McLenan. My copy of May 21, 1859 says the story was ‘Printed from early proof sheets for which Messers. Harper and Brothers pay the author FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS’. Big money in those days!

And I love the old advertisements in the magazines, too:

Peter Taylor

Sunday, February 05, 2012

1880’s Print Run

Randolph Caldecott not only illustrated songs and poems, such as ‘John Gilpin’s Ride’ and ‘Come Lasses and Lads’, but also provided cartoons for ‘Punch Almanack’, works for ‘The Graphic’ magazine and illustrations for books by other authors - travel books and stories. He illustrated 3 books written by Julia Horatia Ewing:

 ‘Jackanapes’ in 1883

‘Daddy Darwin’s Dovecot’ in 1884

‘Lob Lie-by-the-Fire’ in 1885
  The advertising on the back cover of ‘Daddy Darwin’s Dovecot’ gives printed copies of ‘Jackanapes’ as ‘Thirty-fourth Thousand’ and on the back of Lob Lie-by-the-Fire as ‘60th Thousand’ with Daddy Darwin’s Dovecott as ‘40th Thousand’. They sure were popular!

I’m very curious to discover how many copies were printed in an average first print run of a children’s book in these times. One has to remember, however, that many English colonies did not have well established publishers of children’s books, so a large quantity would have been exported (less than 50 children’s books were published in Australia before 1890), and America was also a ready market. These books were published in London by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and E. And J.B.Young and Co in New York, but were all engraved and printed by Edmund Evans in London.

I always love drawings which are used for, or incorporate, capitals to start chapters, as Caldecott provided in ‘Daddy Darwin’s Dovecot’:

Here's the Frontispiece from ‘Daddy Darwin’s Dovecot’:

and an illustration from ‘Lob Lie-by-the-Fire’:

Don’t you love the rich ink colour on off-white paper?

You'll find more images of elderly books on my Writing for Children website in the History of Books section, and I've also provided some pictures and an account of the work of Sir John Tenniel - illustrator of 'Alice in Wonderland' and Punch

Peter Taylor

Saturday, February 04, 2012

From Past Experience

One of the nineteenth century’s early authors and illustrators of coloured children’s books can still teach us a marketing lesson or two. Kate Greenaway took favourite pictures from her books ‘Under the Window’, ‘Mother Goose’, ‘A day in a Child’s Life’ and provided the outlines from the pictures in ‘The Marigold Painting Book’, for children to colour.

The original picture and poem that goes with this one come from 'Under the Window':

The finest, biggest fish, you see,

Will be the trout that’s caught by me;

But if the monster will not bite,

Why, then I’ll hook a little mite.

Here's another one in 'Under the Window':

Tommy was a silly boy,

“I can fly,” he said;

He started off, but very soon,

He tumbled on his head.

His little sister Prue was there,

To see how he would do it;

She knew that, after all his boast,

Full dearly Tom would rue it!

That’s nice, isn’t it? His sister, Prue, knew he’d hurt himself but she didn't try to stop him – she wanted to see what method he’d use. Still, that's typical of kids.

For this one, she only provided a detail in 'The Marigold Painting Book':


‘Scraps’ of her pictures were also created to stick into albums, clothes designed to match the illustrations, a Birthday Book, another painting book...

Here are some of her painting tips - for watercolours, I presume, but the same would apply if using gouache paint (ie artists’ quality opaque poster paint, which can be diluted until it’s transparent):

A good paint box should contain the following colours:

Ivory Black, Sepia, Vandyke Brown and Burnt Sienna.

Crimson Lake, Vermillion, Light Red and Yellow Ochre.

Gamboge, Emerald Green, Prussian Blue, Ultramarine Blue

The brushes must be washed clean, rinsed and dried after use. Never leave the brushes in water, and never lay them flat on the table. Take plenty of colour in your brush. Try first on a piece of spare paper to see that you have the right shade, and that your brush is not too wet or too dry.

Always begin at the top and colour downwards, from left to right (if you are right handed).

The edge of a colour may be softened with a clean damp brush.

For purple, mix red and blue. (My paint collection has Alizarin Crimson that I mix with Ultramarine Blue to make purple.)
For green, mix yellow and blue.
For orange, mix red and yellow
For grey, mix Prussian Blue, Crimson Lake and Sepia

Ultramarine Blue is the purest blue, but it doesn’t mix as well as Prussian Blue. It is useful for skies and for the grey shades in flowers.

All cold colours which are to serve as shadows to warmer colours should be laid on first, and generally warm colours over cold should be the rule. Blue is a very cold colour. Crimson Lake is a colder red than Vermillion or Light Red, and Gamboge is a colder yellow than Yellow Ochre. Orange is the warmest colour in nature, and blue the coldest.

If you are an illustrator, please tell us what other colours you think should be in a paint box.

Peter Taylor

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Big Publishing Industry Mystery - Wish Lists

Two men had travelled from Sydney to Brisbane on business, and prepared to meet their client. The appointment was set for 11am.

“You’ve got the contract?”

“Yep – safe and sound.”

“And a pen?”

“Well, I had one ...but it’s gone. Must have left it on the plane.”

“I don’t have one either. We better get one quick. Something decent or he’ll think we’re ...well, I don’t know, I dread to think. Which way shall we go?”

After a couple of enquiries of other wandering shoppers, the two arrived at The Pen Shoppe. Buying a suitable implement was easy – but there was something else of interest in the shop. Calligraphy. Lots of it, and it looked good.

“Are you the calligrapher?” one of them asked the proprietor.

“This is not all mine, but yes, I do a lot,” she said. “Is there something you want written out?”

“Not exactly. You see, we’re book packagers, and we’re in town to sign a contract with an author for a book on yachting – but we know that Allen and Unwin want to produce a book on ‘how to do calligraphy’. Can you write one for them?”

Barbara Nichol replied that she didn’t have time, but suggested they contact me ...and eventually my first book was published – ‘The Australian Manual of Calligraphy’, which was also published by HarperCollins/Unwin Hyman in the UK and NZ as ‘A Manual of Calligraphy’. Many thanks, Barbara – I’ll always be grateful!

This took place in 1986.

But how did they know what was on Allen and Unwin’s ‘wish list’? How many publishers have wish lists and how do writers find out what is on them? This is one of the industry’s big mysteries to me. If a publisher really wants a book on a subject, you’d think that they’d advertise the fact or chase appropriate authors or experts.

I was ‘chased’ for my next book – well, not exactly, but in 2008 I asked an editor, who I’d never met or heard of, for virtual friendship on and along with acceptance, they asked if I’d be interested in a project. I’ve no idea why they chose me – I’d only had the one major book published years before. They must have read something on the web that I’ve written. Apart from my Jacketflap page, maybe it was my Writing for Children website, or contributions to PIO industry newsletter Yes, building a web presence can be useful – occasionally unexpected people do read it.

For that one, for Hinkler Books, I wrote sections on Science and Survival in ‘101 Things To Do Before You Grow Up’. George Ivanoff and Sofija Stefanovic also wrote two sections each.

But then it happened again.

When it was time to mail my chapters and ideas for possible illustrations, I addressed the envelope in calligraphy. “Oh,” said the editor, “that was a nice surprise. We’ve been thinking about producing a book on calligraphy. Can you write one?” They had a wish list, too!

Trade book number three – ‘Practical Calligraphy’, which came out in 2010.

Then, just before it was released, and on my way to my aunt’s 90th birthday in the UK, I stopped off a and visited stands at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. A described in an earlier blog post, when asked what I was looking at, I replied that I was trying to discover if they had any books that might compete with my new one and if they had any gaps in their list that I may be able to fill. One Canadian publisher had a calligraphy book on display – so we chatted. I discovered that they had a wish list, and their calligraphy book was never intended to be such. What they had really wanted was a book on fancy border patterns. I could have provided that. I wonder if they still want one?

On to the London Book Fair, on the way home. There was one publisher who definitely had a wish list. He pleaded with me: “We want a book of easy recipes that children can cook. Can you write one? Do you know of anyone...?” (I considered it, but had soon received a contract for a book that would keep me busy, and offered the information to my local SCBWI Chapter members.) Note: Just because the market seems saturated with books on a particular topic, if a publisher does not have one on their list, don’t be afraid to send them a proposal – they may still want one of their own.

When I pitched the idea of a book on ‘Fun Lettering for Children’ to the Managing Director and the Publisher on the GMC Publications stand, they instantly came up with the idea of ‘Calligraphy for Greetings Cards and Scrapbooking’. Did they have a card making/scrapbooking/calligraphy book already on their wish list? It was certainly easy to discover what I should put in a proposal.

This book went to press last week, so if there are any publishers reading this who have a wish list, I’m looking for a new project and can write on a wide range of subjects. Just let me know what you want and I’ll be delighted to send a proposal and help if I can.

Peter Taylor