Help I’m an Alien Quiz

Help! I’m a Book Award Nominee

Help I'm An Alien by Jo Franklin

Illustrated by Aaron Blecha

I’m really excited that Help I’m an Alien is nominated for the John Reckitt Library Hull Book Award. Hull is the City of Culture 2017 which makes the nomination particularly special. I am going to Hull in a few weeks to meet some school children who have been reading my book. I’ll be returning to the city on 28th June for the award ceremony itself.

This is  my first ever award nomination which is exciting and terrifying all at the same time.

  • What do I do if I lose?
  • What if I win?
  • What shall I wear?

Feel free to offer helpful advice in the comments below.

Meanwhile I’ve created a fun quiz for anyone who has already read Help! I’m an Alien. The answers can be accessed via the Help! I’m an Alien page of my website.

Help I'm an Alien Quiz

Click on me for the quiz

Chatterbooks Are Go!

By Jo Franklin

I’ve got a number of visits to Chatterbooks groups lined up in November. I tend to spend many hours locked up in my writing cave with nothing but my characters and my mad dog for company. I can’t wait to get out there and meet young readers.

What is Chatterbooks?

The Reading Agency have been coordinating Chatterbooks – the UK’s largest network of children’s reading groups – since 2001. 10,000 children belong to groups, which are run in libraries and schools to encourage reading enjoyment. The groups are run by librarians, teachers, teaching assistants, or volunteers – anyone with a passion for reading.

 Chatterbooks reading clubs help children build a lifelong reading habit. Because everything changes when we read.

If authors are lucky, they get invited to meet their readers.

Jacqueline Wilson discussing books at a Chatterbooks session

Jacqueline Wilson discussing books

My publisher Troika Books, set up a competition in conjunction with the Reading Agency, asking readers what they would take with them to another planet. The prize was some books and a visit from me!


Chatterbooks Visits

This month I’m visiting the winning groups from Kingston and Worcester Park, Sutton and I’m looking forward to meeting the Gateshead  group in the new year.

In addition I have a bonus visit lined up. I’ll be visiting Petts Wood Library on 7th November.


Petts Wood Library

If you run or are a member of a Chatterbooks group then please get in touch as I would love to come along to talk to your group about being an author and reading and writing.

Ebooks and Books – I Love Them Both

by Jo Franklin, Children’s Author

I love books. of course I do, I’m a writer. I am a reader too and my house if full of books. The amount of books in this house causes arguments sometimes as there is not room for them all. I have a clear out occasionally  but it breaks my heart every time. I like to look at them on the shelf. I like to remember how much I enjoyed reading each story. What if I want to read a book again?

Jo Franklin Bookshelf

I do have ebooks too but they are not the same. I miss absorbing the author’s name from the cover every time I pick it up and I miss being able to flick to the end to see what happens when I am not engaged enough to read every word, but am curious enough to find out how the story is resolved. It’s harder to flick through an ebook.

On the other hand I like the fact that my e-reader (an older style kindle) fits neatly into the front pocket of my satchel handbag and it’s good to carry so many books around with me without straining my back. I also love the fact that I can download something instantly instead of having to order it from a bookshop or online.

But the thing that puzzles me is the price of ebooks.

As an author, I am well aware for the need for books to be paid for whether they are in paper or electronic fromat. Ebooks can be a bit cheaper because the publisher doesn’t have to pay for printing, warehousing or distribution costs. It takes the author the same amount of time to write the book and the editor to edit it. With production costs lower, the margins for the publisher are higher. Authors generally get a higher percentage royalty on ebooks but there is a campaign to increase the figure because the Society of Authors don’t think authors currently get a fair share of the higher margin.

Recently I needed to read a book for research purposes. A memoir. Something outside of my usual field but with the same title that I was hoping to use for a new series. I’ll have to come up with a different title but I thought I’d read the book anyway as it might trigger some ideas.

But I was really surprised about the prices of this particular book on Amazon.

Hardback – 17.92
Paperback – 12.25
Kindle – 11.64

The Kindle ebook was only 61p less than the paperback. Why was that? It was published by a major publisher. I don’t have the answer, but the publisher was making a killing on all ebook sales and I hope that the extra margin was being shared fairly with the author.

I decided to look around at other books written by people I know ie children’s authors. In most cases from my random selection, the ebooks were about £2.00 lower in price to their paper equivalent. I think that is a fair differential. For one well established, very famous author, her most famous title was about £4.00 cheaper in ebook format. Maybe high volume sales are influencing the price. I hope this author has a water tight contract in place to protect their income.

But then I looked at a certain internet sensation turned ‘author’. The kindle edition was more expensive than the paperback. What is going on?

My head is spinning. I don’t understand it at all. Surely books should have one price. Ebooks can be a bit cheaper (but not selling for 20p), authors should be able to make a living and publishers are entitled to make a profit.

But one thing is certain – I am not buying a book which I consider to be overpriced – whatever the format. The title I wanted was available at a cheaper price second hand. So I ordered that instead. That means the author will not get anything from the sale. Nor will the publisher.  If the publisher had set a reasonable price in the first place, I probably would have chosen differently.

I wish publishers would agree a strategy for pricing books and ebooks that satisfies everyone.

Meanwhile I will continue to be choosy about which books I buy and in which format.

All About the Girls Heart Books Blog

by Jo Franklin, Children’s Author

I was recently asked to guest blog on Girls Heart Books. I was thrilled because I knew it was one of the original bookish websites that was aimed at children and had been running for a long time. So I asked Jo Cotterill and Julie Sykes more about it.

Girls Heart Books

Why did you set up Girls Heart Books?

Jo CotterillJo: Back in 2011, I was publishing my Sweet Hearts series with Random House. It was a lovely, feelgood series about girls with contemporary issues and a little light romance thrown in. They weren’t the kinds of books that got reviews or a lot of attention, mainly because a lot of people saw them as ‘chicklit for kids’. I was frustrated, and I knew a lot of other authors who were also writing the same kinds of books (Fiona Dunbar, Cathy Cassidy, Liz Kessler) who were really connecting with their readers and had amazing feedback from schools and visits, and yet they didn’t really have a platform from which to shout about their books. And so Girls Heart Books was born – initially a site aimed at girls who loved reading and who perhaps loved the kinds of books that we were writing but wouldn’t discover through traditional publicity.

Julie SykesJulie: I’d just finished writing both my Silver Dolphins and Fairy Bears series when Jo started looking for authors to join Girls Heart Books. I’d written 20 books in almost as many months and hadn’t had time to build an on-line presence. Girls Heart Books felt like a gift. Not only was it a way to connect with readers but it was exactly the sort of thing I’d have wanted to be a part of, if the technology had allowed it when I was a kid.

How long has Girls Heart Books being going and how many blog posts have you featured on your site?

Jo: It started on 1st May 2011 and as of today (5th May 2016) there have been 2,663 blog posts. In the first couple of years, I was very ably assisted by Susie Day and Keris Stainton, and when they left Julie Sykes stepped into the breach, for which I was most grateful!

How do you cope with the demands of posting regularly?

Jo: I don’t post regularly any more – I discovered that having a regular slot on the site plus managing the running of it was too much, especially as I have my own blog site too – We have a team of 31 bloggers who each blog on one day per month. We’re always over-subscribed and never have to look far to fill any spaces.

Julie: As well as posting the guest blogs, I also have a regular blogging spot on GHB on the 5th day of every month. I rarely know what I’m going to write about until a few days before my post is due. Then I look at the photos I’ve taken on my phone, listen to what’s going on around me and see what turns up.

Are boys interested in your site too?

Jo: Yes! We used to have a very prolific male commenter who was a total sweetie and very enthusiastic! I think he grew out of the site – but I know that many school librarians encourage their classes to use our site – and one told me that during ‘silent reading’ Girls Heart Books was one of only two websites pupils were allowed to access in her library.

What are you both up to at the moment? New books or books in progress.

Library of LemonsJo: I have a brand new book out called A LIBRARY OF LEMONS, which I’m very proud of. It’s a story of family and grief and the importance of friendship and reaching out to other people for help. It’s been a long time in the making (and rewriting!) but I’m thrilled it’s finally out there. My next book will be the second in my superhero series – ELECTRIGIRL AND THE DEADLY SWARM – and will be published by OUP in August 2016

Princess Ponies

Julie: I’ve been working on several collaborations but the only one I can talk about is the Princess Ponies series. I write Princess Ponies with the awesome Jeff Norton. Our American publisher has just commissioned us to write four books which will publish in 2017. Each book links to a special event and right now I’m writing a Christmas story. It’s hard to think about Christmas and presents under the tree when here in the UK spring is springing. But the ponies are great fun so it’s definitely worth it.


Well done, Jo and Julie! GHB is a fantastic achievement and thank you for taking time out to talk to me.

I have now been asked to join the GHB. My GHB posts will be going out on 7th of every month.

Roald Dahl Day

13th September is Roald Dahl Day. The date was chosen because this was his birthday.

The name Roald Dahl is spoken with such reverence by teachers and librarians. Surely he is the greatest children’s writer of all time? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Fantastic Mr Fox. James and the Giant Peach. The names are so familiar now. If Roald Dahl was a category on the quiz show Pointless, the contestants would really struggle to think of a Roald Dahl title that no one else knows. Roald Dahl is famous. Everyone has heard of him. Every child has read his books.

But I have a confession to make.

The edition I owned as a child

The edition I owned as a child

I have only ever read one of Roald Dahl’s books. 
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

I really loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was a book I owned, rather than one I borrowed from the library, so I read it many times. This is the cover of my edition. I’m afraid I don’t know the illustrator’s name but it doesn’t look like Quentin Blake.
This book sat on my shelf in among a hotch-potch of other titles by lots of different authors. I didn’t have complete sets. I only had the Voyage of the Dawntreader, not the whole Chronicles of Narnia. (Was it called The Chronicles of Narnia back then?)

Roald Dahl wasn’t a phenomenon when I was a child.

There was no requirement to buy the complete set of Roald Dahl’s books for children. I don’t even know if they existed as a set.

I read books based on the cover or the blurb or a recommendation. Once I had read that book, I read something else and it may have been by a different author. In my case, it was definitely written by a different author. I didn’t even know who the author was.
There were some series, like The Little House on the Prairie. I read all of those. But I don’t think the author as a brand existed back then. So I wasn’t compelled to read the complete works of a selected author. I loved the Flambards books by KM Peyton, but I didn’t read anything else by her.

I wasn’t interested in authors, I was interested in books and because I wasn’t caught up on a wave of a phenomenon, I read very widely. Much more widely than my children do. Sad but true

I’m an author now and I hope that children will want to read my books. Most will be read because of the awesome covers or the exciting blurb on the back. Some will be read because a teacher or a parent has seen a review and some will be read because the child has met me at an event and is curious enough to know what this mad book woman is on about. I am unlikely to become a phenomenon. I’m not sure I want to be.

So enjoy Roald Dahl day. Read his books. Marvel at the illustrations by Quentin Blake. Laugh at the antics of the crazy characters, but next time you go to a library or a bookshop, pick up a book by an author you have never heard of. Read it. You might be surprised.

A book does not have to be a phenomenon to be a great read.

When is your book going to be published in the UK?

When is your book going to be published in the UK? This is the question I get asked all the time. By my friends, by my family, by the postman, by every stranger on the street, by children I meet at events, even by my own children. When I look at them blankly, they go on to ask ‘Why isn’t your book published in the UK?’

I suppose it’s a fair question. I am English after all. I write in English. I don’t speak any foreign languages. I don’t even go abroad that often, but I currently don’t have a book published in the UK, only in Germany, USA and France.

Why is that?Publishing is an international business. Books are bought by publishers from publishers or agents from other countries all the time. Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Hunger Games come from America. The Moomins are Swedish. Tintin is Belgian. Many of my UK writing friends have their books published in other territories, but I guess most of them have them published in the UK first.

Every publishing deal is different, but often when a publisher buys a book they buy World Rights. That means they have the right to sell the book on to other publishers. They have a rights department that sell books abroad. That doesn’t mean they sell the printed UK book abroad, that’s called Export (not something I know about at the moment as I don’t have a UK publisher). They sell the right for another publisher to take the manuscript and translate it for their market. This may happen when the book is first bought by the UK publisher or it may happen once the book has been published. It’s a good way for the publisher and the author to make more money from the original manuscript.

Sometimes a UK publisher only buys UK rights (or UK and Commonwealth or some other combo). The author retains the foreign rights and their agent tries to sell the rights to foreign publishers. Again this may happen while the book is in production in the UK or it may be any time after the book is published.

However, some manuscripts are turned down by UK publishers. Let me clarify that, MANY manuscripts are turned down by UK publishers. Even long established authors get rejections. Just because an agent can’t find a UK publisher for a manuscript, doesn’t mean that manuscript is rubbish. It just means the agent can’t match it to a UK publisher, who needs a book like that, at that precise moment.

That’s what happened to me with Help I’m an Alien.

I am extremely lucky, I have a wonderful agent – Anne Clark – and she has a brilliant Foreign Rights Consultant – Margot Edwards. They matched me up with a publisher who did want me book. That publisher, Coppenrath, happened to be in Germany. So my first published book appeared in print, translated into German. The good news continued. They liked my book so much, they asked for another two.

But Anne and Margot didn’t stop there. They have also sold Alien to the USA and France.

To me these publication successes are as important as other author’s UK publications. I can’t do much to publicize my books. I can’t do school visits because I don’t speak German, but I do get fan mail from German readers and I always reply to them – in English.

I think some of my author friends think I’m mad going on about my foreign deals. They seem to think they are insignificant. Maybe they only see their foreign deals as a bonus, they don’t have a relationships with their foreign publisher like I do and don’t bother trying to promote their books abroad. Or maybe they think the credit should go to the translator. Maybe they don’t have any foreign deals at all!

For me, because these foreign editions have materialized before a UK edition, I take a different view. Three different publishers like my writing so much they have turned my manuscripts into books for their market. They didn’t read a translated version, they read the raw manuscript and liked it so much they paid for someone to translate and illustrate it. My German translator is Christine Spindler and the illustrator is Der Anton for the Help series. They have done a terrific job, but it’s still my book. I’m very proud of it.

Even the US edition has been edited/translated for the US market. The title has been changed to I’m an Alien and I Want to go Home. A character has a different name, Freddo has become Eddie. All the punctuation has been US-ified (we don’t use the Oxford comma in the UK or double quotation marks and we think putting a full-stop after Mr and Mrs is very old fashioned) and of course there are the usual sidewalk/pavement, dollar/pound Americanisations. Alien-US is set in America.

Next up France. I haven’t started work with my French publisher, Albin Michel, yet so I don’t know how it will be, but I can’t wait to find out.

So that leaves only one question – when are my books coming out in the UK?

Wait and see.

Fiction Express


I’m thrilled to announce that I have a new book in the making.

After the October half term holiday, I am going to be writing for Fiction Express. This is a brand new venture for me.

Fiction Express are an online publisher that works with schools. This is what they say about themselves on their website :

“Fiction Express for Schools e-books are published in weekly chapters at 3 pm (UK time) each Friday. At the end of every cliffhanging chapter there are voting options to decide where the plot should go next. The readers have the following Monday and Tuesday to read each chapter in school, and will vote by 3 pm on Tuesday afternoon. The author then writes the next chapter, in ‘real time’, according to what the readers chose.”

The book I’m writing is called ‘The Bushcraft Kid’. I’ve already written the first chapter which will be published on the Fiction Express website after half term. Each class that has signed up to Fiction Express will be able to read my chapter and then vote on what happens next. Then I have to write it.

Just to clarify (to myself as well as to everyone else) I have to write a brand new chapter between Tuesday evening and Friday lunchtime every week for five weeks. Holy Moly! I’ve never had to write to such a tight timescale, but I am very excited to join the Fiction Express team of authors and look forward to the challenge. Apparently, I also get to blog directly to my readers. I can’t wait to meet them all and explore the world of The Bushcraft Kid with them all.

If you want to find out more about Fiction Express click here
If you use Fiction Express in your school, I’d love to hear from you. Either Contact Me or message me the usual Fiction Express way. You know what that is. I don’t, I’m new around here.

A Writer’s Friends

I belong to a few different writing communities, but the one I couldn’t do without is my crit group. Over the years the membership has changed slightly, but today in May 2015 the members are Alli Jeronimus, Jennifer Miles, Tasha Kavanagh and Emma Styles. We meet monthly and discuss a chapter or two of each of our work.

We are a team. We each give our individual feedback and then discuss the work as a group. There are often similarities in what we are saying. Occasionally there are big differences, but we all come to our meetings with an open heart. We want to help each other succeed. The crit group team celebrate and commiserate together.

This week was a particularly lovely celebration. Tasha’s novel ‘Things We Have in Common’ has hit the shelves to wide critical acclaim. It’s an absolute chiller of a book. Not one I could have written, but I am so proud to call Tasha a friend and so proud that the book was developed with the support of our crit group.

Well done Tasha!

Things we have in common snipped