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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Hinde

Hollybee off to Bologna ...

Updated: May 22, 2023

Line drawing of cover illustrations on dummy book
Dummy cover and book ready for sending

Time marches on and while I find it frustrating not being able to spend as much time as I want to on my picture book, Hollybee due to other illustration commitments, I am overall happy with progress.

Sophie Siers of Allis the Little Tractor fame, and owner of a small publishing house, took Hare to the Frankfurt Book Fair late last year. While there was interest shown in the book, no rights were sold, so when an opportunity arose for Hare to go to Bologna with Sophie, I leapt at the chance. “It would be nice,” said Sophie, “if I could also take your hedgehog book with me too. You’d only need to supply me with a dummy copy.”

To have Hollybee head off to Bologna was too good an opportunity to turn down, although at the time I knew there was a huge amount of work to be done to make this happen. I hadn’t completed any illustrations and had only just resolved the main characters gender. Sue had the files for editing which she turned around really quickly, but I was already donkey deep in illustrating another book with a deadline for mid-April. Not the best of timing, but I’ve often found there is never a good time to do anything, you just have to get on and do it. So I divided my days with mornings working on the publishers book, and afternoons working on Hollybee.

Hollybee has changed yet again! It was bound to happen and I think I’m more relaxed about how my stories change … writing picture books is really tricky and illustrating them can be even trickier especially when you’re attempting to find a balance between scary and exciting imagery.

Sue’s daughter happened to look at the files and questioned the ‘scaryness’ of one of the illustrations. Admittedly it was one I was never truly happy with, which is always a good indicator that I should stop and think on it for a bit. The problem was resolved quite quickly, although that page may change again, but hey, it’s my book so I can do what I like with it!

Imprint and second title page of Hollybee Hope wants a Prickly Coat picture book
Imprint page and second title page

And then of course I woke up early one morning with the realisation that I would need an ISBN and barcode ASAP. The staff at Nat Lib are so helpful and understanding – ISBN received by lunchtime. Barcode next, and the online option is really good although the BarcodesNZ's process can be a bit confusing. The ISBN is inserted almost after you’ve paid.

The good thing about acquiring an ISBN is the publishing date - it becomes a self-imposed deadline. So allowing three months for printing and shipping, the book files would need to be supplied to the printer by the end of May, which is definitely doable - there’s nothing like a deadline to keep one motivated!

I had spoken to my local printer about making me a dummy of Hollybee and while $160 seemed high, I knew there was a bit of work involved. Due to time constraints though, they were only able to print out and trim the pages and cover, leaving me to put it together. I ordered two copies of everything – just in case. That weekend, and two days before couriering the dummy to Sophie (talk about cutting it fine!) I was in the studio wielding my scalpel blade, roughing up the spine of the pages that were clamped to my desk. A coat of PVA glue was spread over this and left to dry completely before applying a second coat, this time over a piece of gauze wrapped around the spine and overlapping 5mm on the first and last pages. Not sure that this was going to stand up to the thousands (hopefully) of people flicking through the book. I threaded a needle with thin but strong crochet cotton and stitched the pages. After scoring and folding the cover I used a two pot mix of glue to attach it to the book and left it to dry overnight.

Hollybee Hope reading a book about a hedgehog's physical characteristics
One of the spreads in the book


So Hollybee and Hare have spent a lovely few days together in Bologna. I’m looking forward to hearing from Sophie once she gets back, as to how it all went and if there was any interest shown. Fingers, toes and legs crossed!

But for now it’s back to my Scholastic deadline …

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