Featured Author: Karen Allen

December 23rd, 2016

In the warm up for the festive season, Abby touched base with artist and author Karen Allen
Hi Karen, congratulations on your triumphant debut with An A-Z of Creatures! What inspired you to showcase some of the lesser known (and fantastical) critters of the world?

Thank you so much. It really has been a wonderful response to the book! My aim was to create an interesting book full of creatures big and small, and ones that were very rarely seen in A-Z books. Children are interested in the strange and the wonderful so they were my inspiration, really.
Your artistic style is richly detailed. What is your medium, and how long does it take you to complete an illustration?

I mainly use water resistant fine liner pens for the patterning, and water colour pencils to fill in the detail. Although the armadillo was done using Copic Markers, and a few of the other animals were coloured using Derwent Intense pencils. Each illustration took between ten to twenty hours to complete, times that by over fifty illustrations and you’ve got a few years of drawing and re-drawing!
Are there any illustrators you admire who inspired you to get into illustration yourself?

Maurice Sendak is my absolute hero. I read his book Where the Wild Things Are whenever I can to my littlest and still marvel at his unique style and glorious creatures. I do love the work of Shaun Tan and tend to love the illustrators who are more traditional.
You've sold out of your book in record time! We'd love to hear about your marketing and promotion techniques.

It all started with the first drawing, really. I slowly formulated a plan in my head that began with the realisation that as soon as the book was in my hands I needed to treat the marketing and distribution as a full-time job. Then, when the time came, I hired someone to help me market the book launch. I just happened to hire the exact right person who not only helped me organise a successful launch but has worked with me since! Her network is huge too, and she is willing to share!
I remember reading on a Makers blog about a woman just like me, not necessarily making a wage from her art, but who just took the plunge to hire someone to help do the things she could not do, and she went from strength to strength!
I also organised my launch at my favourite bookshop, Readings, knowing that they would take a commission but wanting to make it a “proper” launch! I’m a huge believer in intention!
Social media has been a huge positive force for me, I have been on Instagram and Facebook for years and so have a small but strong following. Also the Makers Community I am involved with are incredibly supportive! After the successful launch and with the help of my lovely assistant I booked as many markets, community fetes and school fetes as I could fit in the last three months. When I was down to the last 250 books we had a meeting and decided to Crowdfund for the next print run. The response was overwhelming and we hit the target within thirty days! Another huge success. The strategy was to post so much on social media that people would donate just to make you stop!
I sold the last forty-two books yesterday at a gorgeous country festival. I have the second print run coming in February and a new book planned for 2017. I am working with my assistant/business consultant/mentor in the New Year and we have great plans, which I have no doubt will come to fruition. I know I have surprised a few people with the success and my drive but for me there was no alternative, the book had to be a success. Simple.
How did you find the process with Little Steps, what worked well and what was challenging?

I worked very closely with Jessica and Angel and really enjoyed the process. There was a lot of communication and I felt listened to at every request. Not having any design experience I was willing to give that side over to the experts. I always get comments about the design of the book and the quality of the product, which is lovely. The timeline was challenging but as I was new to the whole process I just went with the flow. The challenge is living in a different state and I have actually never met you all, but I hope to in 2017!
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