Twitter and Tik Tok videos – how to launch a book during lockdown

Children's author Ruth Redford signing copies of her first picture book. Picture: Supplied by Ruth R

Children's author Ruth Redford signing copies of her first picture book. Picture: Supplied by Ruth Redford - Credit: Archant

Ruth Redford, who lives at Loddon, has worked in children’s publishing for almost 20 years. Her debut picture book, That’s My Daddy, is out now, in time for Father’s Day.

Ruth Redford with her debut children's book, That's My Daddy. Picture: Supplied by Ruth Redford.

Ruth Redford with her debut children's book, That's My Daddy. Picture: Supplied by Ruth Redford. - Credit: Archant

Tell us about the book...

It’s a celebration of daddies everywhere. We wanted to encourage children to identify their daddies in a fun and interactive way. Daddies come in all shapes and sizes but what is your daddy like? Is your daddy as big as a giant? Is he funny and cuddly? Are his feet ginormous or smelly? Hopefully it’s silly and fun but also a really nice book to share and talk about what your daddy is like.

Where did the idea come from and how long did it take you to write? 

I came up with the idea for That’s My Daddy when I was out running one day. One of the lines popped into my head and it developed from there – it was initially called The Daddy Catalogue! I did a first draft of the text and left it in my collection of unpublished stories for about six months. Then I happened to glance at it and thought ‘there is something here’ so I sent it out on submission to a couple of publishers. One of them came back and said that they liked it but made a couple of suggestions. I then sat on it on it for quite a while and then dug it out and submitted it again. And I was very fortunately picked up by Egmont Books.

Illustrations are a hugely important part of children’s books. How does it work with collaborating with an illustrator – did you have someone in mind who you wanted to work with?

Dan Taylor’s illustrations really have made this whole book come alive – it’s wonderful to see. I really love collaborating with illustrators, in this instance my publisher looked around for someone who they thought would work well with the ideas we had. I did some really bad drawings initially when we were developing it to show them how I thought it might be laid out!

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Dan came on board once the text was through the submission process and had been commissioned by my editor.

Tell us about your career in children’s publishing – how did you start out? 

I decided when I came to the end of my degree at Leicester University that I really wanted to work in children’s publishing and I started to apply for editorial assistant jobs. I was very fortunate to get a job at Ladybird Books, back then their office was in Nottingham. When they moved the whole office to London (they were part of Penguin Books) I moved with them. I stayed with Ladybird for around five years, moving up until I became senior editor.

I then took a career break and went travelling with my husband for a year. When we came back to London I very luckily landed a job as an editor at Random House Children’s Books. I stayed there for around three years until I had my first child and then became freelance. We then moved back to Norfolk – I grew up at Tivetshall St Mary and I really couldn’t stay away any longer!

I’ve now been a freelance author, editor and project manager for over 10 years and I love it. I work on a huge variety of projects from children’s licensing to adult non-fiction – although I specialise in children’s publishing.

What is it like launching a book during the coronavirus outbreak and how have plans changed because of it? 

It’s been very hard launching during this time. I had lots of plans to do events in various bookshops, including Waterstones and Bookbugs and Dragon Tales in Norwich, but all of those have had to be cancelled.

The date of publication was April 30 and we did a Twitter online launch which was great. And from then on I’ve used social media as much as possible. There are so many wonderful children’s books blogs out there and lots of people doing online story telling, so I’ve tried to get in contact with some of them and do promotion that way.

I’m currently making a video which is going to show you how to make a pop-up Father’s Day card. It’s all a steep learning curve and I’m learning lots of new things. I asked my 10-year-old daughter if she’ll help me to make a Tik Tok video for it, but she seems a bit dubious that I’m not cool enough for that!

How has the lockdown affected your creativity? And what are you working on at the moment?

The main way lockdown has affected my creativity is having three children aged from three to 10 years old at home. It’s very hard to home-school those different ages and I feel like I’ve probably failed them all!

Add in to that mix some project managing and editing work that I have on the go and time for creativity has been rather scarce.

However so much of my inspiration comes from my children, for example my four year old asked me the other day how long it would take to get to the moon and that sparked something off. In fact I must find the piece of paper I noted down some ideas on for it!

Do you have a favourite place where you like to write?

I tend to do most of my work in my garden office, which sounds very delightful, but is actually a part of the garage which has been repurposed. It is lovely being out in the garden though, especially in the summer when I can watch the birds. Less so in the winter when I have to put on 10 thousand layers to keep warm.

What were your favourite books when you were growing up? 

I was a voracious reader as a child. Favourites were I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith and Madeleine L’Engle’s books. I also remember pouring over the Richard Scarry Busy series and really enjoying the Bramley Hedge books by Jill Barklem. I really remember visiting Diss and Harleston libraries every week to get books out, I’d never have read as much as I did without being able to do that.