April 3rd, 2013


The McIntyre Way™

First posted on the David Fickling Blog, 13 December 2012.

These days it's all about replication. I'll tell you something very few people know: Sarah McIntyre is actually four people. I'm one Sarah in a fleet of Sarahs:

Our parents always wanted a successful writer-illustrator in the family, and planned ahead. The magic number seems to be four, so they went to a certain clinic and did what they had to do, ensuring four identical children.

Growing up as a quadruplet was a struggle; all four of us knew we'd each need to forge our own path in publishing, but we fought like cats about who would get which role. Over time, we began to settle into the jobs that would suit us best. With all four of us working long hours, doing our own jobs, we can just about sustain one Sarah. But we manage just fine. Here's the breakdown:

Sarah McIntyre No. 1 does EVENTS. Sarah's of a rather didactic nature and enjoys inspiring children to learn. We don't need to feed her because she lives off school dinners, and she doesn't mind this because she adores turkey twizzlers. We don't need to worry about paying rent for her because she sleeps in the school loos. (We get away with this because security only check under the stall doors when they turn off the lights and she stands on the toilet until they go away.)

Sarah McIntyre No. 2 does BLOGGING and E-MAILING. Actually, this one's me. I'm a real techie, spend all my days chatting away with people online. I invest almost all the money we earn on our omputer equipment and software upgrades, but pasta and biscuits are cheap, so I get by. Not to brag, but I have a fancy boyfriend in a gaming world and he's done up our virtual flat beautifully. We might even hire a virtual cleaner for it one of these days.

Sarah McIntyre No. 3 does all of the ILLUSTRATING AND WRITING. This suits her well because she is shy and doesn't know what to say to people in crowds. She still lives with our parents and survives on instant coffee, with the occasional dose of electro-shock therapy to help her meet crucial deadlines.

Sarah McIntyre No. 4 is the PARTY GIRL. She's totally irresponsible, but she can chat up the hardest customer and wears great hats. She sleeps on night buses and sustains herself on nothing but canapés, which is undoubtedly a good thing, or how would she ever manage to fit into her party frocks?

Together, united under the name of Sarah McIntyre, we pose a formidable enough team to rival any other author. So anyone interested in publishing, our top tip is this: think ahead, make it a family business.

To learn more about THE MCINTYRE WAY™, ring our toll-free hotline 0800-GROW-AN-AUTHOR.


how can publishers best support writers and illustrators?

I'm speaking at a Booktrust seminar at the London Book Fair on Tues, 16 April, with PR guru Justin Somper, agent Stephanie Thwaites and Bookbrunch founding editor Liz Thomson. Here's a very professional-looking poster I made for it:

But I need your help. The seminar's called The New Demands On and Support For Writers, and if you're a writer or illustrator, I want to know: what is it that you need from your publisher that you're not already getting? Or what is it that your publisher is doing well, that other publishers might not have done for you?

Here's the seminar description:
Recent industry changes have seen a new wave of support for writers, with a proliferation of courses popping up, agents taking more of a proactive role and new competitions hunting for the best writing talent. However, at the same time, the demand for children’s writers to be singing and dancing all-rounders has never been so great, from blogging and social media to planning and performing ever more exciting and engaging events. What can we do to nurture our children’s writers and ensure that there’s enough space and support in the market for budding talent to shine through?

The singing and dancing thing's true; no one told me in art college that I was going to become a stage performer, and I never would have guessed how much I'd be expected to sell my own books. Fortunately, mixing with the comics/self-publishing crowd has helped a lot with this, because I've had some experience taking a book through all the stages between getting the idea to packaging to promoting a piece of merchandise at a book fair.

But... it's a real struggle. I sometimes feel that even if I work every waking hour, I still can't do all the things I'm supposed to be doing. It's not in my publisher's best interest for me to go off the rails, if they want to nurture me in a long-term way.

I suspect lots of you are in the same place as I am with this. How do you think our publishers and publicists can help us do what it takes to make the books sell and maintain a realistic workload? Of course, we'd love it if they did everything short of write/draw the actual book, but realistically, what are the most important things we need them to be doing?

We need a wish list! Please let me know your thoughts in the comments!

PS Of course, if you can replicate like mad, this is not a problem. (See The McIntyre Way™.)