Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.
Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.
Hazel Edwards has been in the industry for forty years, and has written for various age groups. But she is perhaps most well-known is There’s A Hippopotamus On Our Roof Eating Cake, which celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year. As a kid, I remember having this, and There’s A Hippopotamus On Our Roof Getting Sunburnt. Hazel decided to highlight her publisher, Margaret Hamilton, so there are fewer questions, but what is here is an interesting view on what it was like being involved in such a popular book for both author and publisher.
Hippo-Pot-A-musing in a Time of Pandemic
Hi Hazel, and welcome to The Book Muse
Q. There’s A Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake was your first picture book, (1980) – and now the 40th anniversary edition has been issued (2020) , amidst the Pandemic Lockdown. How is your situation different from those for whom their FIRST book is due out? Especially as there’s little chance of publicity due to lockdown of all services?
A muse inspires, and sustains so…I’d like to pay credit to the quiet ones behind our books.
Editors, publishers, designers…and readers. And that this is a LONG process.
A reader, not the writer is the owner of the book, once it is published.
Any book requires lots of support, long-term. In this weird Pandemic Isolationism, I feel SO much sympathy for those creators whose FIRST book was due to appear in this time. They’ve been robbed of the highly anticipated book baby birth and the associated launch euphoria. But their book still exists and can have a life beyond these restrictions. It is an idea traveller and may yet continue post-Pandemic.
At least with social and digital media there are still ways of sharing ideas which can be infectious in the best possible way… in a time when we must find new ways of problem-solving.
Because some characters can have lives of their own ( most people know the cake-eating hippo but don’t know me) I’d like to thank the three generational fans but also the original Hodder publisher Margaret Hamilton who took a BIG risk on an unknown writer. A few weeks ago she set me her ‘memories’ and gave permission for me to share.
HIPPO MEMORIES from original Hodder Publisher, Margaret Hamilton A.M.
I have spent many decades working in publishing, specialising in children’s books, firstly at Hodder & Stoughton, then at my own company Margaret Hamilton Books. It makes me extremely proud to see that some of the books I originally published are still in print and being enjoyed by a whole new generation.
My special memories of ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake’:
• Opening the envelope from Hazel Edwards and immediately loving the story that she had sent and reading it to my colleagues at Hodder.
• Picturing in my mind illustrations by Deborah Niland, with the hippo being almost too big for the pages.
• Deborah wasn’t very keen but I talked her into doing the book, also to do the ‘hippo’ hand lettering of the title, which has been used for all subsequent titles.
• Receiving a letter from the Leipzig Book Fair, awarding Hippo the International Best Picture Book Bronze Medal in 1981.
• Being part of the audience at Garry Ginivan’s ‘Hippo, Hippo the Musical’, seeing so many children enjoying themselves. Thinking, who would have thought that simple story I found in an envelope would come this far?
• Visiting a restaurant at Lake Louise in Canada in 2017, having my phone with its hippo cover beside me on the table and the waiter saying, ‘Isn’t that the hippopotamus on the roof eating cake?’
• Receiving a copy of ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Christmas Cake’ together with a recipe for gingerbread, a cookie cutter and a card which said, ‘to Margaret from Hippo’. The gingerbread was very good!
• It gives me special pleasure that Hippo is 40 years old. How proud I feel that so many Australian children have read the books and love them — and there are now six other titles in the series.
• I have huge pleasure sharing Hippo with children who visit me at Pinerolo, the children’s book cottage, especially families who have booked the cottage on Airbnb. It’s very satisfying to see them recognise Hippo, parents and children alike.
• It was a very special pleasure to receive a copy of the beautiful 40th anniversary edition with a special tactile cover.
• Happy 40th birthday Hippo and congratulations to Hazel Edwards and Deborah Niland.
Margaret Hamilton AM. Also runs Pinerolo, the Children’s Book Cottage
http://www.pinerolo.com.au Visit post-Pandemic. And share YOUR book with her and other readers.
Q. Any hints for authors and Illustrators about publicising their NEW book during the lockdown?
A frequently updated author website is vital. It centralises resources like reviews, photos and links to social media like Twitter which is the most effective for solo creators short of time.
Use humour in anecdotes about your book. Never say “ Please buy my book’. Visuals are helpful, especially with the author and book and can be used several times with different captions.
Radio or podcasts have long term audiences and can be recorded from your home.
Building up a genuine, long term following is more important than a quick blitz of publicity.
Don’t despair that you didn’t have a launch. (Just a bit like missing a 21st birthday during the Lockdown as my grandson is doing.)
Don’t confuse with irrelevant answers. Or talk about your other books. Keep to the current one. Have a link to where it can be bought, easily.
While I’m considered a ‘vintage’ author with diverse genre books, today I’ve been asked to talk about the 40th anniversary edition of ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake’ (Penguin /Random House) being released in a time of Lockdown and the Pandemic. Few know I also write adult mysteries like ‘Celebrant Sleuth; I Do or Die’ (Audible) or the mini sequel ‘Wed, Then Dead on the Ghan’ (Kindle) . So I won’t talk about them now.
And congratulations to all the author and illustrators whose book babies are moving independently. They may travel places you had not envisaged because during the Lockdown people are READING more, in ALL formats.