The Fi & Books blog:

Self-publishing top-tips | News and info

Illustrator showcase | 30 word book reviews

A space where we share our thoughts on self-publishing, books, illustration (and amazing illustrators!) plus lots of other general stuff on reading.

Get a cup of tea (and a notepad if you plan on taking notes!) and enjoy:

Popular Articles:

> Top tips for selling your book
> The illustration process and choosing an illustrator

30 word book review - The Long Take.

- Published September 2019 by Fi and Books -

Woo hoooo *little happy dance* I’ve just finished reading the last book from the Booker Prize Longlist 2018!

Last on my list was The Long Take by Robin Robertson.

I genuinely put off reading this book for AGES. I nearly didn’t read it at all (😱) but luckily my obsessive compulsion to complete the Longlist every year (no idea who I imagine will tell me off if I don’t finish EVERY book!?) forced me read it.
Before I started the book I wasn’t keen on the fact that it was mostly written in verse. I’m not a big poetry fan (there are some exceptions, including the work of Don McKay 😍) and the thought of reading a book which was mostly ONE LONG POEM made me grimace a bit. Turns out it’s actually pretty good! It’s a mixture of verse and prose (phewf) and the story is truthful, melancholy, beautifully written and touches your heart.

Here’s my #30wordreview:

A haunting novel about a man unable to return to normality after WW2. Unearthing the lives and stories that get hidden when soldiers return from war. Better than I expected.

6.5 out of 10.

30 word book review - Snap.

- Published August 2019 by Fi and Books -

Glass of wine and a book anyone? Ah Friday evening, you were made for wine and reading. Obviously only after I’ve:

🍝🍝Fed the kids.
🛁🛁Bathed the kids.
👦🏼👦🏼Wrestled the kids into pyjamas.
🛌🛌Got the kids to bed.
👩🏼‍💼Changed out of my grubby kid-funky clothing into my comfies.
🧩Tidied the toy carnage.
👩🏼‍💻Done an hour of essential work.
🍝Put dinner in the oven.

THEN it’s book o’clock. This time it’s Snap by Belinda Bauer. This has been my least favourite book from the @thebookerprizes Longlist 2018. It irritated me. I’m too much of a book snob. Here’s my #30wordreview.

Crime novel about murder, love, loss and... knives. The first chapter grabbed me but the plot twists were illogical, the characters felt unbelievable and the cliches made me sigh repeatedly.

4 out of 10.

Bookmarks and advertising opportunities.

- Published August 2019 by Fi and Books -

Bookmarks are a perfect way to promote your book and they make a brilliant give-away at events/school visits! You can even sell advertising space on the back to your favourite local businesses. This helps you pay for the bookmarks, and can even make you money if you get more than one advertiser.

If you need any help, we can design and print your bespoke bookmark designed and printed alongside your branding and illustrations.

The Fi & Books illustration process and choosing an illustrator:

- Published July 2019 by Fi and Books -

Once you've sorted the wording for your story it's time for a very exciting part to begin... the illustration process! It is absolutely crucial that you pick the perfect illustrations for your book - these are the pictures that will bring your story to life, make it jump off the shelf and capture the imaginations of your readers.

However, and this does sound stupid - once you have selected your illustrator - as you LOVE their work and that's the style you would like, they will illustrate in the style you see. If you ask for a dog on a skateboard, that is what they will draw - a dog on a skateboard in their style. This is what you should expect!

This is where you match your wordings to future drawings. Using an A4 sheet of paper or a Word document, you copy the wording you want on that page, alongside a quick sketch, or description on what you want the drawing to portray. The more information you give, the better the brief for your illustrator.

You do this for page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4... you get the picture!

You pay a 25% deposit to make sure that you are commited to the project and makes sure our illustrator doesn't get burnt - which happens a lot in the industry. The Illustrator then goes away and illustrates your first page. This is to make sure they are on the right track to creating what you had in mind.

You get it sent via email with your wording added to the page. Oooo so exciting! If you love it, great! The illustrator continues with the other pages. If it isn't quite right, you email what you do, and don't like about the drawing and the illustrator will revise the picture.

Once this is approved the illustrator continues with the rest of the book, alongside the working on the page. Once finished this gets emailed to you for approval. And that's it - your story artwork is complete and it is ready for printing!

We have an amazing batch of illustrator that have been chosen for their talents (and the gorgeousness of their work!), we've found a real mixture of emerging and established illustrators who offer a variety of styles and illustration approaches. From watercolour paintings to pencil drawings, sketches and computer graphics - you can pick the style that suits the essence of your story!

We've also pre-agreed clear, simple and exclusive pricing with all of our illustrators so you know in advance what everything will cost. And you OWN the drawings, after all you have paid for them!

30 word book review - In our mad and furious city

- Published July 2019 by Fi and Books -

This was officially devoured like a bowl of strawberries and vanilla ice cream... and a glass of white wine too.

Here’s the #30wordreview of Guy Gunaratne’s In Our Mad and Furious City:

Following three teenage lives in a London tower estate. It lucidly and grittily portrays friendship, lineage, race and social class. I loved the language, it made me hear their voices.

8.5 out of 10

Our top tips for promoting and selling your book:

- Published 16th July 2019 by Fi and Books -

So you've got your book all ready, published, printed, real and ready to go... hurrah well done to you! You've done the really hard part. Now it's time to get your book out into the world so lots of people can enjoy reading it.

Got a plan? If you're not sure what to do next then fret not - we can help! Our self-publishing guru Fi has been there and done that (she's even sold 10,000+ copies of her books!) so here's our top tips on what to do now:

Idea 1: Make appointments with independent bookshop managers to introduce yourself and discuss if they would like to stock your book. Remember that you need to make it super easy to work with you - so get your trade price, RRP and invoices set up professionally before you go! Having a well laid out invoivce makes you much more credible.

Idea 2: Create social media accounts under your author name (or the name of your book series) to build your brand and allow your readers to follow and engage with you online. Think about channels like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter... or even YouTube!

Idea 3: Build relationships with valuable businesses like Authors 2 Schools who have existing relationships with schools all over the UK and can help you arrange author visits!

Idea 4: Create a website where people find out more about you, read about your book and buy your book online. (By the way - Fi & Becs Design & Wording can help with this bit!)

Idea 5: Set up a Sellers Account on Amazon.

Idea 6: Get a professional author headshot taken... aka some photographs of you in your natural habitat with YOUR BOOK! These are so useful for your social media and for promoting you, and your book at any events.

Good luck! Remember that your book is YOUR baby and your audience (whether you're at a school visit or posting on social media) will WANT to hear all about you, your journey and your book. Don't be afraid to sell yourself and stay confident - you've got a gorgeous product in your hands and people will want to read it!

30 word book review - Washington Black

- Published 30th June 2019 by Fi and Books -

Today we are all about tea, lemon drizzle cake, freshly picked strawberries and Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black:

A boy escapes a Barbados slave plantation via an unusual relationship that shapes his life. The unexpected plot twists kept my attention. The start felt much stronger than the end.

7 out of 10.

Welcome to our new business!

- Published 30th June 2019 by Fi and Books -

A few weeks ago I (Fi Woodhead) had a meeting with Authors 2 Schools, the company who arrange my Once-Upon-A-Slime school author visits. After an inspiring chat with Roger over a cup of tea, I drove home and I had an idea about the way I ran Once-Upon-A-Slime... I decided to re-brand it and set up a new concept to help other people with self-publishing! Introducing:

Fi & Books - publishing the self-published.

Alongside my Once-Upon-A-Slime children's picture books I also run a small boutique design and copywriting business called Fi & Becs Design & Wording with my sister Becs Jeffery.

My idea was to merge my two skill sets as a graphic designer plus a self-published author. Offering new authors the opportunity to take self-publishing into their own hands, but offer support such as illustration, editing and printing along the way! I also wanted to give aspiring authors the ability to pay the book printing prices normally only available to bigger companies. Essentially combining lots of helpful self-publishing services all under one roof!

After chattering to Becs (who also loved the idea)... two weeks later, following lots of excited website creating and a Facebook / Instagram hunt for new illustrators... ta dah, we have our new brand.

Don't worry the Once-Upon-A-Slime books are still available to buy! You can follow our journey over on our Facebook page.

We are also SO excited that Fi & Books is working in partnership with school author event specialists Authors 2 Schools! Fi started doing school visits back in 2010 and she's gone on to sell 10,000+ copies of her books, mainly via visits arranged in partnership with Authors 2 Schools.

Authors 2 Schools work with leading book publishers to bring popular children's authors to schools all over the UK. Excitingly, they wanted to partner with us to help more self-published authors visit schools! So if you really want to make money from your book, Authors 2 Schools help you on that journey.

Of course, you can sell your book via booksellers, bookshops or on your own website... but school author visits are a brilliant way to sell high quantities of your book and promote it at the same time.

Eeeee we are just SO excited to start helping aspiring authors get that story out of their heads and into a book. Take a look around our website and just get in touch if you have any questions for us!