Christina Gabbitas interview

Christina Gabbitas is a self-published author of the Felicity Fly series of children’s books. The books encourage children to face common fears and phobias in a light-hearted way and the second book in the series (Veronica Vac) will be released in November. Christina will be undertaking a number of book-signings in the coming weeks.

Where did you get your ideas for the Felicity Fly series?
I had the ideas for the stories stored away in a box file. I always intended to do something with them at some stage.
As a child, I always loved to read rhyming books and poetry. I was also afraid of the dark, spiders, loud noises etc. Since having children and from observing other children, it seems that it is quite common. I wanted to create some different characters that were bright and bold, giving them all their own personality and different accents. Also I wanted to help children understand that it is OK to have fears and everybody has a different way of dealing with them. The book gives the opportunity to talk around fears and phobias.
The book is aimed at 2-6, as I wanted to encourage parents to read with their children from an early age. I also wanted to put some fun back into reading with young children, which is why I brought the characters to life by giving them all a voice. This is an opportunity for more interaction with your child by attempting the different accents.
The second in the series, ‘Felicity Fly’ meets Veronica Vac is due out on the 17th November and am launching at Waterstones Hull and WHSmith Beverley on the 24th November. This book also introduces the meaning of the word ‘nocturnal’. Willamena Woodlouse is vacuumed up by Veronica Vac and Simon Spider gets stuck in the bath (all ends well)

As a self-published author, what was the first step in getting your book published?
I contacted Nielsen Book Data, who were very helpful and informative, advising me of each step.

How long did the process take from start to finish?
I decided to pursue the idea in January 2012. I started writing the rhymes, then started to look for an illustrator. After approaching a few, I couldn’t find what I was looking for. I was chatting to my bank manager at Nat West, who knew an illustrator and passed on her details. I met with Julie Omond, who lives in Hull. We chatted and I gave her the names of the characters, explained their different personalities and an idea of how I wanted them to look. In answer to your question, five months.

I understand you will be appearing at quite a few bookshops in the coming weeks. What have been the challenges in organising your own book-signings and events?
I spent many years as a Fundraising Manager, so this isn’t too much trouble for me. I actually enjoy staging and organising them.
The first port of call is to contact the respective shop/bookstore, to let them know that you would like to stage a signing event. If at first you struggle with a bookshop, try other avenues, (there’s many ways to prove you mean business).
I staged my first book signing in a children’s shoe shop. The event went really well, selling thirty books in two hours was fabulous. I sold one to Vincent Reagan (a Hollywood actor, who appeared alongside Brad Pitt and had a prominent role in Troy). I actually didn’t know who he was at the time, but his daughter liked the book. I also had the CD playing in the shop intermittently.
I have found both WHSmith and Waterstones staff very helpful and friendly. It costs the bookstore nothing but good publicity, as they are mentioned in all my press releases, radio  interviews., Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin etc…..

What has been the most rewarding part of the publishing process?
The finished product! ( I say with a great sigh of relief). It’s wonderful to see, that after all your hard work, the book is there in front of you, bearing your name.

And the most difficult…?
Making sure that you have dotted the ‘I’ and crossed the ‘t’s.

What advice would you give to any other would-be self-publishers?
Ensure you have done sufficient research, so that you know what you are embarking on.
If you believe in what you are doing, you can take it forward and make it work, but be prepared for a lot of hard work. Don’t get disheartened.
Also remember, that you could have the best book, but without publicising and marketing yourself, your book will go nowhere. Start marketing the book before it goes to print, create interest and intrigue early. I set up a one page website beforehand and sold just over fifty books before going to print
Organise press releases, contact local radio stations. I’ve staged live interviews on local BBC radio stations, including York, Humberside, Leeds, Sheffield and the next is Lancashire. Each station differs in the time they give but more often than not it’s a 20-30 minute slot. It’s always better to offer to go into the studio as you will be given more time and can make more impact. I usually contact the respective newspaper and radio station ahead of a signing event.

Do you have plans to publish any more books in the near future?
There will be six books in this series, so I will be pretty busy with these for now. I have been asked to help with some other projects, so will be looking at these also.
I am also a poet and so need to finish my second poetry book. (for more information, please visit www.poemsandpictures.co.uk).

Christina’s upcoming book-signings include events at the following WHSmith shops; Trafford Centre, Metro Centre, Beverley, York Monks Cross, York Coney Street, Selby and also at Waterstones Doncaster.