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sleepy pegasus

Have a good weekend, everyone!

julius zebra: this book is funny!

I got to be a judge in the final year of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, and since it ended, there's been a big gap in the recognition of funny books. Many of the best of these books are illustrated, but too wordy to bag the Greenaway illustration medal, and too reliant on pictures to win the Carnegie writing prize. Funny books are more difficult to write than serious books or even books that make us cry. It's easy to dismiss funny things as less consequential or important than serious ones, but political cartoons that cleverly capture an idea often have far more impact than an impassioned article. Sales show that kids LOVE funny books, and laughing at a situation can often help take away the fear of things that would otherwise be scary or worrying. Comic timing is one of the most difficult skills to master... so why haven't we been heralding Britain's best?

Well, never fear! Some of my friends are ON THE CASE and have been scheming to develop This Book is Funny!, with plans to seek out the funniest books. I was at the pub a couple weeks ago with Alex Milway, Gary Northfield, David O'Connell and Matt Baxter (who all make funny books and comics) and Matt showed me the red logo he'd designed. Here it is!

And the very first book they're featuring on the website - - is my studio mate's upcoming book, Julius Zebra. Wahoo! Here are a few words from Alex Milway about the project:

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some more #nonidentikit drawings

Playing around with a nose shape... a couple more #NonIdentikit portraits. (You can read my Huffington Post article about the NonIdentikit Challenge.)

pictures mean business: some challenges

Over the weekend, I had a direct-message Twitter conversation with writer-illustrator James Mayhew and he was suggesting we come up with a hash tag for this campaign to get illustrators credited for their work. We batted around ideas until I suggested #PicturesMeanBusiness, which we both thought seemed to fit in both senses of the phrase: Professional illustrators ARE business people, and we're standing up to be recognised as people who bring money into the economy with what we do.

But illustrating the hash tag is tricky! Corporation-approved 'business' images usually include a person in a suit, or rather safe, dull logos. I first thought of this one:

But it's boring. It's not really what I do. I don't go to work every day in a grey suit. Many of us love bright colours and draw very silly things. And that's not to say these images have no power or sales value, just that they're not drab. So for now, I’ve written the hash tag on a fat blue pegasus. (Why not?) But use the blue pencil if it makes you prefer, or better yet, rework the hash tag phrase using one of your own characters or images!

Update on the Nielsen situation: my agent Jodie Hodges and Charlotte Eyre at The Bookseller are looking into how Nielsen listings work so we can be well-informed before approaching them. Basically, I've realised there's a problem and flagged it, but I don't have access to Nielsen BookScan so I don't know all the details of how it works. Very few illustrators do, we're all learning right now.

You can read my earlier post on the subject here.

So what does it mean if you support #PicturesMeanBusiness?

1. It means you believe illustration (and cover design) contributes to people's decisions to buy books.

2. It means you respect the profession of illustration as a proper skilled profession and not some cute little hobby.

3. It means you think top-quality illustrators should be able to make a living from their work.

4. It means you feel upset when you see a review of a much-loved picture book and it only mentions the writer's name.

5. It means you believe illustrators should be listed on databases with the books they've created, just like writers, in ways that their books and sales can be tracked. (If business can't see illustrators' contribution to business, they will assume illustration doesn't contribute.)

How can you support the awareness campaign?

1. Use the hash tag! If everyone adds #PicturesMeanBusiness to their tweets, it will keep the conversation all in one place, instead of slipping down the Twitter stream. Hash tags can also be used on Facebook and Instagram. We've seen the power of the hash tag in the #JeSuisCharlie movement.

2. PUBLISHER CHALLENGE! Be attentive about your Nielsen data! Whoever is entering the data, make sure they know it’s essential to include the name of the illustrator (and translator, where appropriate).

3. WRITER CHALLENGE! When you show off a beautiful new book cover, mention the people who made that cover happen! It might be the illustrator who also did the interior illustrations, or an artist paid to do a cover for a text-only book. It might be assembled by a designer. If it's your book cover, find out who made it and share the news! This information can be very hard for your readers to discover if you don't share it.

4. PUBLICIST CHALLENGE! Mention the cover artist! Lots of news books are coming out right now and you're tweeting covers. If you can't fit the name of the illustrator or designer in the main body of the tweet, consider including them in the 'Who's in this photo?' option:

People WANT to know this stuff! It makes your tweet more interesting and share-worthy. A couple days ago, I saw a lovely cover tweeted with no mention that it the image was created by Jon Klassen. JON KLASSEN! Best-selling writer-illustrator who won last year's Greenaway medal and the Caldecott medal in the USA. WHY wouldn't a publicist want to shout this from the rooftops?

5. BOOK LOVER CHALLENGE! Find out who drew the covers to your favourite books! See if they're on Twitter or have a website. Post the cover, the hash tag, the illustrator or designer's name, and some way we can find out more about them (their Twitter name or their website).

6. ILLUSTRATOR CHALLENGE! get a Twitter account. You don't need to write a single tweet, but if you can just have your name there, with your website in your profile, it makes it much easier to link to you. Encourage your illustrator friends just to get an account, with a web link.

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crediting illustrators

Great to see this apology printed in today's copy of The Bookseller! Let's hope this means more attention to crediting illustrators, fingers crossed. (And proper credits to translators, too, so they don't have to go through this same process all over again.)

Photo tweeted by @childrensbookil

I think this is the article mentioned at the end, and you can catch up with what it's all about in my previous blog post, with some updates in the comments.