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  • Debra Palmen

Still here, still going


You know I’m a terrible businesswoman, right?

Do I have a giant Instagram presence? No.

Do I have an enormous website? No.

Do I bombard you with daily Twitter updates? Hell no.

Heck, I hardly ever send Newsletters.

So I do appreciate you taking the time to read them when I do.

And just so you know, I do have an Instagram page, but just a little one (called French & Vintage, naturally).

And I do have a website, just one that needs a lot more attention. I keep selling the stock I planned to feature on the website, though, so I need to just put some aside.

I’ll do that after the next Collectorama antiques fair, fast approaching on 2 June at the Nambour Showgrounds on the Sunshine Coast.

On the positive side I’m not sending you endless spam, right? That’s good, right?

But yes I should be more assiduous on the Newsletter front than I am. I will be. Probably. Maybe.

In my defence – there’s not much in my defence, but such as it is:

I’ve been working on a succulents garden behind my house. It’s 30m long (yes, that’s 100 feet) and about 5m wide. The angle of the bed is 45 degrees at best and it has nonstop sun and lots of high winds. Using my “I’ll plant you and you take it from there” approach to garden design, I’ve had mixed results. Except for weeds. Weeds just lurve this spot.

And did I mention that every time I go out there something with fangs or barbs and definitely with poison bites me? When I dig a hole I’m guaranteed to hit a rock or an angry, angry ants nest, or both. Then there’s the occasional paper wasp nest, and the wasps always see me first and I’ve still got the scars from our last encounter, which I resoundingly lost. I’ve also discovered several giant snake skins, although so far (fingers crossed) not their usual occupants.

And oh yeah, I forgot to mention the local wallabies are seriously enjoying this fabulous new smorgasbord I’ve created for them. They don’t eat the thriving, getting out of control plants I wouldn’t mind being trimmed, no, no, no. The most tasty, lip-smacking, irresistible-to-wallabies plants are of course the most expensive. But the wallabies are so cute and clearly enjoying my efforts, I don’t have the heart to shoo them away. So it’s difficult, at times dangerous, and expensive work. But I’m making progress and really enjoying it.

Many years ago at a small chateau in the backblocks of France I saw a small “tapestry” garden. It was made from multiple succulents that had all grown into each other so the overall effect was a beautiful, abstract tapestry of plants. Lovely. That’s what I’m working towards, only a giant version suitable in size for the mountain stronghold. Cute and small just won’t cut it around here.

Our next buying trip is starting in mid-September, and planning is now underway.

This time we’re spending several days in Bangkok on the way over, where immediate hair straightening is the absolute top priority, plus there are some cool retro and salvage shops I want to rootle through. Our plans for a big side trip have been scuppered by various urgent car and septic system repairs we’ve had to spend most of our excess money on.

I’m sure we all agree that a functioning car and a functioning septic system are among a civilized life’s essentials.

So instead of a big side trip this time, we’re thinking about a quickie trip to Morocco. We like Marrakech a lot, getting there from the UK is easy and accommodation is affordable. And just phaffing about the souk by day and Jemaa el Fna by night can keep you occupied for days. So the planning for all this is now underway.

Plus, for the first time ever, on this trip we have agreed to guide a client around a Fair, showing them exactly where to buy, what to buy and explaining why we think it’s worth buying. It will just be one Fair this time, because we’re not leading tours we’re actually on a work trip ourselves.

But it will be interesting to see how it works, and if it’s enjoyable for all concerned and our client thinks it was worth it, perhaps we will consider offering extended versions to others who are interested in joining us in the future. Let me know if you might be interested.

I’ve been working on my book Little Beasties & How to Collect Them, which requires a lot of research before I start writing each chapter. I want to produce something really good so I’m taking my time and doing it right. But one thing I learned when producing Travel & Shop The World For Free is that books need to weigh under 500gm if you want to keep postage costs as low as possible, and therefore keep your book as affordable as possible.

So that means Little Beasties has just morphed from the proposed two larger volumes into three medium-sized. But that’s good. It means Volume 1 can probably be released this year, and each book in the series will now come in under the stipulated weight so I can keep them affordable.

There’s so much more to writing a book than just the writing bit! If you go down the Indie route you must get across all the logistics of publishing. So after the writing I need to:

- find a professional (but affordable) cover designer who will take my idea and turn it into something striking;

- decide whether to purchase one or multiple ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers, which all hard copy and some eBooks require and which aren’t cheap);

- chose a nice font design and size for text and headings, remembering to not get too fancy-schmancy because you have to purchase a commercial license for some of those custom fonts and they can cost a lot;

- do the copy editing and content editing (which will take weeks just in themselves);

- organise a formatter;

- source a professional illustrator for each chapter lead page because I can’t paint to save my life, and the list goes on.

And that’s before I put together a launch team and start the marketing process, which is actually the hardest part of all.

Tackling the world of Amazon algorithms, Search Engine Optimization and especially Keywords, building platforms plus all the other stuff marketing gurus are supposed to be across these days isn't so easy when you're not a marketing guru.

But if you decide to abandon the Indie route and go with a traditional publisher, who will take a minimum of 85% of all your royalties, guess what's the first thing they ask you? They want to know in detail all about your marketing plan!

You still have to do all the marketing by yourself, even if you sign a contract with a traditional publisher. You can see why well established authors (let alone newbies like me) are ditching the traditional path and striking out as Indies. It's a brave new world in book publishing, which is exciting and daunting.

And on that very topic, the children’s books I’m assisting Calypso to write, tentatively called Calypso & Tallulah’s Great Big Enormous (& sometimes small) Adventures, are well advanced. The illustrator is working on the first illustration of Book 1 as I type, and I’m excited to be working with her. I want to launch several of these books simultaneously, so that’s taken up a fair bit of my time lately.

The first three books are written, the illustration briefs are completed, and the visual aids I’m providing to the illustrator – so she doesn’t need telepathy to understand what I envisage for each page - are well underway. Sourcing the right visual prompts has proven challenging but tremendous fun. I have a clear idea of how I want these books to look, and I hope that vision can be realized. We'll see soon enough.

Meanwhile, my local book shop manager has been so helpful in discussing what constitutes a good children’s book, as far as book shops are concerned. That means I’ll be taking the plunge and making these books hard cover. I should still be able to create a product cheaper than most other children’s books on the market, but it’s a bigger initial investment than I was anticipating.

The book shop manager also suggested Calypso-related merchandising, but I think we’re a little way off that. Instead, while looking for something I can give away with these books I discovered that I was the only person on the planet who had never heard of Adult Colouring Books.

It really is a thing. Did you know about this? It’s huge. People love it. And, what’s more, colouring has scientifically proven stress reduction benefits. It can calm your heart rate, lower your blood pressure and literally make you happier by flooding relevant parts of your brain with more dopamine (one of the happy brain chemicals).

So I’m putting together colouring books to accompany each of Calypso’s books. The images will range from basic to advanced, so suitable for beginners through to experienced, children or adults. Each colouring book will be based on the theme of each of Calypso’s books. And they’ll be free with every purchase of Calypso’s associated book.

You can see here the cover image for the first of Calypso’s Colouring Books. It should look terrific once it's coloured.

This will be the colouring book accompanying Calypso's first book, subtitled Sink or Swim. It's the story of how Tallulah overcomes her fears and learns how to swim, told - with only a few wisecracks - from Calypso's perspective.

I will send everyone on my mailing list this picture and invite you to give colouring a go. And then I'll ask you to send your completed picture back to me.

A panel of judges (mostly Calypso and I) will select a completed picture to be the colouring book’s cover. If you win you'll receive a free copy Sink or Swim (plus the accompanying colouring book) and be officially acknowledged in the book for your Superior Artistic Skills.

So when you get my email why not give it a go – it’ll be fun! And good for your health.

eanwhile, as you may have guessed, throughout this Newsletter I’ve included shots of some of the latest additions to our reproduction catalogue. I’ve had them done just in time for Collectorama and they’re fabulous, so I’m hoping for a big day. Hopefully we’ll see you there.


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