Hello. It’s another Author Interview Thursday and I have to admit I’ve been looking forward to posting this interview for the last seven days. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a lady who is one of the most recognisable children’s book authors on the Amazon store. She has about 60 …yes, I didn’t make an error…60 published books on the Amazon store. Joy’s books are easily recognisable. My children went through a phase when they always requested Rocket Boy books at bedtime. Many parents and children know Joy Findlay’s books around the world. It’s my honor to have Joy with us today.
What key characteristics distinguish a Joy Findlay Book?
My books are designed to teach my kids something new about our world. I use bright, colourful images and illustrations to keep the stories or educational tools fun and interesting. And if I’m having fun writing, illustrating and designing them then I’m sure others will have fun with them too!
Tell us about your last published book and where we can get it.
My latest eBook is called ‘Pixie Courage’. It’s actually a story of my life in a gorgeously written poem about a Pixie Girl who realizes she doesn’t have her own name. She goes on a journey to find the Queen who can give her a name and along the way she meets an unlikely character who offers her a name of his own. I really enjoyed writing this one as it has so much more in it than just the words on the page. It is my hope that, along with my daughter, young women all around the world find who they are before they let other things or someone else do it for them.
How do you handle bad reviews?
Oh my goodness, earlier on I didn’t handle bad reviews. I have done a little research and discovered there is an unwritten rule book for dealing with people who are just really unhappy people and trash your work. Now-a-days bad reviews are like water off a ducks back. I’ve got enough reviews on each of my eBooks that I know which ones people don’t like with reason, and which ones are great with so many five star reviews that a one star is nothing.
What marketing strategy/channel has been most profitable for you?
Actually I have enjoyed giving my eBooks away to families all around the world. It’s amazing that in less than a year I have given away thousands of my eBooks in homes from down-under to the North Pole! OK, so maybe not the actual North Pole, but you never know!
How do you see self publishing evolving as more indie publishers come to the table and the tablet/eReader market matures?
I publish exclusively on Amazon because of their fantastic Kindle Direct Publishing and their Kindle Select Programme where my eBooks are ‘borrowed’ each month. Because of this I have seen that other children’s indie authors have also thrived in this market, and it seems more so than the traditionally published books. I think that pricing has played a huge part in this. Indie authors are able to ‘ride’ the pricing trends more than a contracted eBook from a large publishing company. This last holiday season (Dec/Jan) saw hundreds of thousands of digital devices being loaded with children’s digital content. I think that more and more families are buying digital devices for their children and as a result they are buying more and more digital content – eBooks apps etc – for their children’s devices. I don’t see this slowing down any time soon. But I think that the larger publishing companies are finding ways to finally get a slice of the eBook market with their own book apps etc. It’s been really interesting to watch.
Which of your books have you enjoyed writing the most?
I have written a few stories and poems about New Zealand beaches and New Zealand bush and wildlife. I am still trying to figure out how best to illustrate these as I don’t think my skills are good enough! 😮 But my current favourite is definitely ‘Pixie Courage’.
What mistake(s) did you make when you started out as a children’s book writer?
My biggest mistake was taking personally some horribly nasty reviews on a few of my Rocket Boy books. I nearly gave up, but I am so glad I didn’t Families all over the world have downloaded thousands of copies of my two Rocket Boy series. Imagine if I had given up after a few insignificant reviews!
Apart from children’s books are there any other genres you write in?
At the moment I am focusing on writing for kids aged 3 to 6. This is the ages of my two kids.
Do you believe in writer’s block and what do you do to overcome it?
I don’t believe in writer’s block so much as I believe in writer’s burnout – it happened to me last September. It took me eight weeks to write/illustrate ‘Princess Kiah and the Glass Slipper’, something that should have taken a lot less than that. I didn’t illustrate for three months after that! Having a settled home life again gave me back the energy I needed to overcome that season. A happy home is a happy home-based business!
What is the process from when you get an idea for a book to the point it gets published?
Actually the process is different with each project. It usually starts with an idea that I throw at my husband, Bevan. Laughter ensues if it works and the idea morphs into a story, or it doesn’t work and it gets written down in my ‘ideas notebook’ for another day. Writing can take a few days to a few weeks, remember these are just short stories, no longer than 32 pages long. Then my hubby edits, I get beta readers to critique the story, and I continue to work on it until we are all happy that the story works. I then hunt the net for inspiration for design ideas, take those ideas and create an illustrated character and the backdrop for the world of the story. From there it takes weeks for the story and illustrations to form into a book and with the help of my genius technical team (aka my hubby again) the book is formatted for publishing. Units are sent to anyone who wants pre-promo release copy for review. Once all the publishing issues are finalized like getting the book into the correct categories in the Kindle Store, then it is promoted and sold. Heaps of fun!
What is a typical day for Joy Findlay?
Feed the kids, cat and hubby; kids to school and kindy – takes most the morning it seems; eBook promotions on Facebook and Amazon; writing/illustrating/reading/research etc; kids pickups, homework, dinner etc. Just your usual home based business, except that I get to read and write and have way too much fun for the amount of money I am making!!!
What was the last children’s book you read and what was it about?
The ‘Life-Size Guide to Insects and Other Land Invertebrates of New Zealand’. What a giggle! I’ve been exploring bugs and spiders and wetas and praying mantis and cicada with the kids. They give me the shivers, but my son is fascinated with all things creepy crawly and my daughter just squeals at the pictures of spiders and wetas. Actually we found a BIG weta on the footpath on our way home from school two days ago and the book came in real handy for learning all about that huge insect! [A weta is a large forest- and cave-dwelling insect unique to New Zealand – look it up, as they are quite impressive.]
Have your children inspired any of the characters you’ve written about?
My son Zachy gave me the name Majory for the Queen in ‘Pixie Courage’. I have no idea where he’d heard the name before but it worked so well. Kiara’s plush toy owl was the inspiration for my Petal the Owl series. Wanting to show Zachy, my son, all the amazing images of space from NASA’s websites was what lead to the ‘Rocket Boy Adventure Series’ and subsequently the ‘Rocket Boy My First Reader’ series. They come in really handy for inspiration. I think my next book might be about bugs and spiders and other creepy crawlies, just because they seem so interested in them at the moment!
Toy Story or Shrek?
Toy Story all the way! Mainly because when Zachy was younger it was his favorite!
Which are scarier, dragons or monsters?
‘Monsters Inc.’ changed my view on monsters, as did a few of the gorgeous eBooks on sale at the moment on Amazon. ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ changed my views on dragons too, but I have to admit, I do love dragon stories!
What are your best memories from your childhood?
Reading the ‘Wizard of Oz’ with my father on the lounge-room couch. He’d always fall asleep and I’d have to nudge him awake because it was my favorite book! He also taught me about the stars. After a scary nightmare he’d come into my room and settle me, teaching me about the stars. Now that I think about it, that may be where I got my love of space from – huh, you learn something new every day!
What do you love best about living in New Zealand?
Not the bugs! Hahaha. I love New Zealand. It will always be home, no matter where in the world we end up one day. New Zealand definitely has its own culture, its own style, its own humour as you can probably guess. But its people, its land, its beauty, its shores, its sense of importance in the world, and its ‘No8 Wire’ attitude – or kiwi ingenuity – these are the things that I love the most about our beautiful country.
Has writing opened the door to more creative or social ventures?
Yes it has, until I moved cities recently and have had to start all over again. 😮 Ask me that question again in a year or so!
Any advice for budding writers out there?
I can’t draw to save myself, can’t draw perspective, can’t even draw a flight of stairs. . . . and here I am writing, illustrating and self-publishing children’s eBooks on Amazon and doing it well. Limitations are all in our heads, and have no part to play on where our hearts want to take us. Write well, illustrate well, learn from those who know the industry and just do it – but do it well! And when you aren’t having fun anymore – find a new love.
Wow! Thanks for sharing so much with us today Joy. There is so much to take away from this interview. I believe many people will visit this page again and again to remind themselves of the wisdom you shared here. I love what you said about handling bad reviews. Ultimately, not everyone will like what you do and sadly there are some interesting characters out there whose life mission is to pour cold water on what successful people are doing. It comes with the territory and should be water of a duck’s back. It is so clear to see that you love writing and publishing these children’s books. Something tells me we’ll definitely be seeing more books from your pen in the months and years to come.
You can discover more about Joy and what she’s up to by visiting her website – http://www.findlaybooks.com
You can also visit her author page on Amazon to see all her published work available on the Kindle platform
You can also LIKE and be updated on her facebook page
Feel free to ask Joy a question or leave a comment. Thank you.
Really enjoyed today’s post. I agree with Joy about bad reviews, getting a bad review especially if its your very first book can stop a new author in their tracks. But the thing to remember every book no matter how great gets has its critics from Harry Potter to the Bible (a bit extreme of a contrast, I know) but every book will have its knockers and put downers. Just give your self a pat on the back for having the courage to put something of you out there that will be here long after you’re gone.
Thanks for stopping over Barry.
I think this issue of bad reviews is one that most authors take too much to heart. To be honest, I actually like seeing one or two bad reviews in the midst of four and five reviews because that looks more real and authentic. Like you say every book has its detractors and it’s just the nature of the beast.
All the best with your publishing efforts Barry!
60 books? Wow! That is so inspirational!
I understand your response to negative reviews. We receive negative “reviews” everyday as we navigate through life. The key is to move forward, and I’m so glad you have with all those books! That’ll show ’em!
Thanks for stopping by Cathleen!
It was a pleasure interviewing Joy. I have to say am with her on Toy Story. My son got the box set over Christmas and watches it almost every day 🙂
Echo your thoughts on moving on despite negative sentiments or words from people.
Wonderful interview David. Inspiring and informative. I agree completely that bad reviews are often written by unhappy people. The law of averages dictates you will get several at some time in your writing career so best just ignore them and concentrate on the positive ones
Couldn’t agree more with you Janet.
It’s saddening to think that there may have been authors who started out at the same time as Joy who allowed these bad reviews to stop or slow them.
Well done Joy, enjoyed your interview 🙂
I have to admit Ruth, it was a pleasure interviewing Joy. The feedback I’ve gotten on this interview has been amazing and I’m hopeful we’ll be able to get Joy again sometime in the future.
I had a lot of fun with this interview, thank you David. And thank you Barry, Cathleen, Janet and Ruth for all your support and encouragement. If you’d like to pass on your email address to David I’d be happy to forward a copy of my latest ebook ‘Pixie Courage’ at no cost.
Funny that we’re talking about bad reviews, because today I happened to get a one star review for Princess Kiah and the Frog, but after 5 four stars and 7 five stars, well it doesn’t matter does it?
What matters most is that I’m having fun, I enjoy meeting other children book authors, and my books sell really well. Most of all, my kids think I’m the bees knees!
Thanks everyone, much Aroha!
Wow! Joy you’ve done it again!
I’m kinda speechless at this moment. I’ve informed the lucky recipients and will forward their emails to you in due course.
Thanks for your generosity with the books and sharing so openly with us. It’s truly appreciated.
Hope you’ll join us at some point in the future.
Yes definately, David. When ever you’d like another IV just send us a tweet! 🙂 Joy
Expect that tweet sometime in the future. 🙂