Still doing the day job

20th October 2006 at 01:00
Like John Howard, Debbie Edwards (Debra J Edwards to her readers), has self-published her children's novel and markets it direct to schools.

But she has not given up the day job. She teaches full-time and is on the senior management team at Nutley primary school, in Surrey. This term she's moved from Year 2 to Year 6 and taken on curriculum innovation and the library. So she does her school visits (free, like John Howard's) in her planning and preparation time on Thursday afternoons, and tries to get home in time to phone children's buyers at bookshops. She is her own sales department.

"In my early days I called more than 200 branches of Waterstone's to ask them to take one or two copies," she says. "Ottakar's have taken it too.

I've done some good events with them and they're setting up a tour of schools for me. They like me to do some storytelling, and being a teacher comes in handy.

"WH Smith lets me set up a table and bring my books along. But if you sit at a table you don't sell anything, you have to walk up to people and introduce yourself. I'm not naturally pushy, so that was the hardest thing."

She overcame her diffidence enough to spend part of her summer holiday in Boston promoting the book to the US Barnes and Noble chain.

She wrote Aggie Lichen: Pilp Collector, the story of a stroppy teenage tooth fairy, in 2003 and spent eight months sending it to publishers and agents, before paying for advice from a literary consultancy, Cornerstones.

"Its report said 'she certainly can write', which encouraged me to press on and publish the book myself," says Debbie Edwards.

So she set up her company, Purple Ray Publishing. Fifteen months after publication, she's sold 1,300 copies and has reached a third edition.

She says: "I haven't broken even yet but it'll happen. I love the feedback I get from children who read it. A Year 6 child wrote recently: 'This will make you laugh your socks off'. That's more real to me than anything a publisher might say."

She recently finished the sequel to Aggie Lichen, Arty's Revenge, to be published in November with a launch at an Ottakar's branch.

Her termtime schedule includes getting up at 5am some days to write. "But I can't complain, I love it."

Aggie Lichen: Pilp Collector by Debra J Edwards, Purple Ray Publishing Pounds 5.99. See stockists and forthcoming events on www.purpleraypublishing.co.ukCornerstones advisory service for authors is on 020 8968 0777, www.cornerstones.co.uk

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