The Fun of the Fairs…

…Book fairs that is! 🙂 It’s that time of the year again, every publisher is gearing up for two major book fairs. Bologna and London.

I recall going to my first book fair. I was so very green. A new writer and illustrator, fresh faced, confident and hungry to get published. I had been preparing for this day for months. Trawling through the Writers and Artists Yearbook to familiarise myself with the companies and potential contact names. Fighting with the online booking system to try to make appointments (and failing). I had left it all a bit too late. So many companies had booked their time with their clients months in advance. There was no hope for me to get even a few minutes of their time, but I had registered and paid my entrance fee, I was going anyway!

I prepared all my work for presenting to potential publishers, packed my bags, traveled to the fair, logged in, a very nice gent scanned me into the building, I checked my surplus into the cloakroom and then stopped.

I was there! A joy, an anticipation filled me… Then I thought… What now?

I found myself becoming overwhelmed by the sheer size of the place. The endless aisles, crammed with stand after stand.It doesn’t matter how much preparation you do, it never seems enough! I had no idea what to do next. So I stood and watched what everyone else was doing. Everyone seemed to have a purpose, they seemed to know where they were going and I realised that very few people were alone, as I was.  I must have looked daft as I stood there motionless. My mind reeling with advice for myself. ‘take a deep breath’ ‘let’s find the children’s publishers’ ‘don’t panic!’

That last one was the one that brought me out of my stupor, then I took a deep breath and went to find a map and an adviser to help me understand how to best use my time and where would be good to go first. The map was doable, but the adviser was not. So I took my first step…The hall was immense, so many aisles with stands of differing sizes, each one full of people. Some in meetings, some browsing the bookshelves, but all of them busy and with purpose.

I wandered around for the first hour, I found the stands of the companies I had researched. I even managed to talk to a receptionist on one and got a contact name. This is it, I thought, this is what I am here to do. Get names, meet people, talk talk talk!

And that is exactly what I did. My first fair didn’t get me the big publishing deal I was hoping for, instead it started me on an even more exciting  journey -not that I realised it at the time- I started my journey of discovery, discovering the highs and lows of publishing and the imminent changes that faced the industry as a whole. I started to learn the inner workings of the industry machine and I realised I could provide support for the huge machine and help to maintain its efficiency in the future.

My advice if you are attending a book fair for the first time:

Prepare prepare prepare, but be flexible once there!

Know why you are going and set yourself goals for each day you attend. Start small and build up but most of all – talk to as many people as you possibly can.


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Time is in short supply.

My Apologies that I have been lax on the blogging front of late.

I tend not to write unless I have something worthwhile to say.

Or when I feel the need to throw my thoughts out into the ether to see if anything inspirational comes back.

But as the year hots up the blogs will increase in quantity with updates on the business process, interspersed with other topics, so I hope not lose quality in the process!

Please join in with your thoughts – any feedback or discussions would be great to inspire follow-up blogs.

New blog post coming soon! 🙂

Thx for reading!


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I want to help Freelancers

I have had many people ask me why I want to build a business with freelancers instead of employing a team of workers.

Both have their merits and I agree that a dedicated team would be a more stable (but costly) option – knowing that I have someone on hand to do the job when it lands.

However, I have spent my life as a freelance worker and I know the benefits.  I also know it can be a very lonely place. Never-more-so than a freelance starting out in the publishing world.

When I started out, the one thing I was wanting was FEEDBACK.  I spent 8 months submitting manuscripts to various Publishers and Literary Agents – it was a thankless task and after the 6th rejection letter, I started to wonder if it was ever going to go anywhere. I was prepared for this however; I had read all the books that tell you how to send successful submissions, how to write a successful covering letter and synopsis, as far as I was aware, I had done everything to the best of my ability but I was still getting rejections. Was the work not good enough? Would they prefer it if I send it without illustrations? These are questions you never get answered when submitting work, so I decided to network, go and talk to people face to face… where to start?

‘Start close to home’ I thought. The London Book Fair was imminent. I registered (not fully understanding what it meant when it said it was a rights and licensing fair – I soon learned). But there were still publishers there, I could finally get someone to look at my book and be able to see for myself, their reaction! Body language! Never underestimate how powerful it is.

The London Book Fair, regardless of the fact that it was not the ideal venue for an unpublished author and illustrator, was the greatest experience of my publishing career. Within 2 hours I knew I had potentially successful product, but I had packaged it wrongly!

It was from this point on, that I decided that I want to help other freelancers stride more confidently into their future. I wanted to provide a support network that gives feedback, not just me, but from other freelancers in the network.

When I set up VixenUK I decided I would dedicate a sector of my business to developing the VixenUK Freelance Community (website coming soon).

I understand, first hand, how difficult it is to get into creative businesses (having worked in 2 of the most difficult to break into) and I also understand that many creative people don’t know how to network and sell their work. Some simply don’t want to, they’d rather focus on their creativity.

Selling your work and selling yourselves as the worker is an essential part of getting jobs but… you are the creators not the sales people! Which is where I can help. You simply have to ‘sell yourself to me’ – get me to buy into your work, skills, desire and prove your work ethic is something I can sell on and I will!

I am blessed (some may say cursed) with the knowledge and ability to be both creative and business-minded, however, even though I posses these skills, I find it is impossible to do them at the same time which means I spend my time flitting between the two… selling myself, my business and products, and then having to develop them (sometimes the other way round). I need a team of people I can rely on to be creative when I am out selling and bringing in the contracts. I am finding that the more contracts I attract the more I am having to multitask business and creativity and it is becoming more difficult to find the right balance.  I realise I cannot do this alone I need to delegate some work!

If you are a freelance (in any field of work) wanting to find out more about the work and support VixenUK can offer please send me your CV via the email link on this website:

I look forward to hearing from you.

by Victoria Southgate

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The importance of Physical books for children

By Victoria Southgate


There is currently a huge shift in publishing towards digital formats and ePublishing, I am a great advocate for technological advances in publishing as it is a major aspect of the VixenUK business model.
The future of publishing must include ePublishing and appBooks but a digital future doesn’t have to be exclusive of physical books.

VixenUK is striding into the future, embracing the digital revolution but at the same time, not losing sight of the importance of physical books especially for children.

Why are physical books important for children?
Children’s development is ruled by discovering the physical world. They do this a number of ways but one that I believe to be of extreme importance is through the means of a physical book

The experience of textures and sounds from the early books, the colours and the voyage of discovery that takes place with each page that is turned, and the sense of achievement at such a simple task is something that has to be enhanced by a physical experience like lifting a flap to find something underneath, turning a page, and the joy of a parent reading the words that guide the child. An experience which I cannot see being matched by technology and a screen.

Children develop their fine motor skills through turning pages and being taught to be careful and gentle, otherwise the page gets ripped. They begin to understand the world around them can be fragile and tactile. They learn by feel.

Have you ever seen a child not touch something? They are programmed to experience through their senses, they pick something up, they feel it and in the early years they taste it, it’s only as we get older that the need to feel something to understand it reduces (though for some it never fully goes away. – for example – I cannot walk through a clothes shop without touching the fabric. That is the way I like to clothes shop.)

So a child without physical books could potentially miss out in other areas of development. (Though I am sure that many would learn the lesson through different means but perhaps much later in life.)
When I was a child, I learned that everybody treats books differently and I learned that you have to respect them. To some people, books are precious items, to be looked after and treasured, to other they are a throw away item, but to all they deliver an experience. For my family, books are precious, they hold memories for the reader and every blemish or worn page tells its own story.
The experience of reading a book that I knew my mother held and read when she was my age, seeing and feeling the difference in the feel of the paper was exciting and mesmerising and were experiences I will always cherish.

I can’t imagine that sense of being trusted enough to be given such a cherished item would be as intense with a digital format book, something that can be re-downloaded into the state it was before. Plus, technology will move on so fast, handsets will change,and the experience and feel of a digital book could not be passed down the generations.

Physical books will always have their place and are extremely important for children’s development and that’s even before we get to the content!

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A Universal Message

A great man, who was diagnosed with motor neuron disease in 1963 and given 2 years to live, concluded his 70th Birthday speech, this year, with this message:


“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist.
Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”

– Stephen Hawking


A message I think we could all take something from in our day to day lives.


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Finalist in the Local Business Accelerator Scheme

By Victoria Southgate


VixenUK is a finalist in the Local Business Accelerator scheme!

One morning in October 2011 I was reading my twitter feed and @DeborahMeaden had tweeted about a business scheme and that any new start-ups should apply. It took me a minute to decide to click through to the link she had provided and then another 20 minutes to complete and send the application form.

It occurred to me that thousands of people and businesses would apply, why would I get noticed? I didn’t know, but my belief that I have created a superb business spurred me on to fill in the application form anyway.

Over the next few weeks I saw the tweets become fewer as the deadline for applications passed. Christmas was on its way, I had a lot of meetings and discussions to fit in before the Christmas break (which, I had decided, would be a proper break this year! A reward for a year of hard work – I managed it for a week) Christmas was lovely and relaxing and by the time New Year came, I had forgotten about the competition.

I started the new work year with follow-up emails, and conversations and then a new mail popped up in my inbox: Subject: Finalist selection for Local Business Accelerator

“Wow!” I thought, opening it with trepidation… when a brief thought crossed my mind – ‘had I been shortlisted I should have found out before Christmas’. The trepidation had turned to curiosity and then I read the content of the email.

I should have been informed! It didn’t matter, in fact, it was probably a blessing because by not knowing I was able to have a relaxing Christmas and New Year, which means I am well rested and probably better prepared to deliver a presentation to a panel next week.

2012 is looking to be a fantastic year, whatever the outcome!

For more information on the scheme and its supporters go to:

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Ever wondered if you could illustrate a book?

Why not give it a go?


I have started a Flickr page and I am working alongside a Derbyshire poet I have added one of her poems that, I believe, could be a superb children’s book –  it just needs the right illustrations.

If you have never illustrated a book, you probably have doubts as to where to start.

Everyone works differently, so as a general guide:  I like to begin by sketching out the scenes – a bit like a storyboard – and then I work on character sheets so I know that the continuity of characters will flow throughout the book. Then I will choose my favourite scene and really have fun and play. Generally I come up with 4 or 5 different versions of the same scene and then amalgamate the best bits of each… that’s when I have a style for the story.

So what should you upload onto the Flickr page?

That is entirely up to you! I would be very interested to see your working drawings, sketches and book layouts, as much as I want to see a finished scene.

Most importantly HAVE FUN!

Please join the group and have a go.

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If I like your work and working ethics (and you want a job as an illustrator) I may choose, with your permission, to add you as a freelance illustrator.

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