Call me old-fashioned, but I love a good bookmark, and I have a large collection ready for action whenever I need one.
Some of these have been made for me by those too young to read my books yet...
I have some that I've treasured since I was very young - I've had these two since I lived in California at the age of 8...
Some are souvenirs of bookish events I've enjoyed or at which I've spoken...
Bookmarks make great low-budget souvenirs of places that I enjoy visiting as a tourist...
So when I decided to produce some swag to promote my growing Sophie Sayers Village Mystery novels (four and counting...), a good bookmark was the obvious choice.
But as to the design, I was stumped. I love the gorgeous book cover designs produced for me by the wonderful Rachel Lawston of Lawston Design, but with three more books to come in the series, and three more spin-offs planned, if I featured the covers on my bookmarks, I'd either have to wait till I'd written the whole lot, or be stuck with bookmarks that didn't feature the latest additions to the series.
|Beautiful book covers by Rachel Lawston of Lawston Design|
Then came a light-bulb moment from an unlikely quarter. It was when I was planning the most recent Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival, the fourth of which took place last Saturday. (Diary date for the fifth one: Saturday 27th April 2019.
|Gosh, Festival bookmarks - bet you didn't see those coming!|
In previous years, I'd used my dad's watercolour of our best-known local landmark to promote the Festival, but this year, when adding a new venue to our programme, Hawkesbury Primary School, I shared a photo of it on Facebook.
Next evening, I was pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful sketch that one of the Festival authors, Thomas Shepherd, had produced, entirely unsolicited.
|Hawkesbury Primary School - Copyright Thomas Shepherd|
Ever the opportunist, I immediately sought and was granted his permission to use the image (which remains his copyright) in Festival publicity, putting it on the printed programme and on the website. He also kindly offered to provide a high quality print, which I bought as a thank-you gift for the School, which they liked very much.
"Do you take commissions?" was my next question, as my plot began to hatch...
A New Episode for Sophie SayersAs anyone who has read any of the books in the Sophie Sayers series will know, the stories take place in a pretty Cotswold village similar to the one where I've lived for the last twenty-seven years, and one of the focal points in each book is the village bookshop, Hector's House, where Sophie works and falls in love with the charming, enigmatic proprietor, Hector Munro.
Thomas's drawing gave me the idea of commissioning a picture of Hector's House to go on a bookmark that purports to promote my fictitious bookshop - though there's also be a line on there to promote my books more subtly than simply displaying the covers.
"Can you send me a photo of what you have in mind?" asked Thomas, which sent me scurrying around the Cotswolds looking for a building that matched my mental picture of Hector's shop.
The closest I could find was Nailsworth Computer Shop, which needed a few architectural adjustments to make it right.
Long story short: the drawing that Thomas produced was lovelier than I could possibly have imagined, and he even added touches of his own, such as Hector's personalised numberplate - and he's given me strict instructions to write into the series a mysterious event taking place in the hayloft above the garage!
|Hector's House - Copyright Thomas Shepherd|
It is now capturing the imagination of so many people who see it - including my dad, who has found a further application for the design: a promotional shopping bag!
I had fun giving them out when I launched the fourth book in the series, Murder by the Book, at the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival last weekend, and I now have a supply permanently stashed in my purse so I can pass them on to anyone I see reading a book, anywhere I go!
|A fan of bookmarks (ho ho)|
...and you're looking for an illustration of a key venue in your books to promote them, you know who to ask: Thomas Shepherd of www.shepline.com, who, as it happens, has also just launched The Imaginary Wife, the second in his extraordinary series about a man who marries his imaginary friend. (That is not his imaginary friend in the photo below - it's fellow Festival author Katharine E Smith!)
|Thomas Shepherd and Katharine E Smith at the Hawkesbury Upton Lit Fest last weekend (photo by fellow Festival author Kate Frost)|
To find out more about the Sophie Sayers series, visit the series page at viewbook.at/SophieSeries - or visit my website's fiction section.
To commission your own drawing by Thomas Shepherd, contact him via his website: www.shepline.com - and tell him that Hector Munro recommended him!
When I was sharing this experience with some local writer friends, one of them told me that the Nailsworth Computer Shop, on which the drawing was based, used to be a bookshop - how spooky is that?!