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Elsie-Babe: Self-Publishing a Children's Picture Book

Updated: 23 hours ago

Self-publishing a children's picture book about a naughty tooth fairy who needs to learn how to share with her friends!


In today's blog post I am going to be talking you through my new picture book, how I illustrated it and the self publishing route we are taking. You can also be one of the first on the waitlist to pre-order Elsie-Babe. (EDIT: This now available to buy at https://nicolaellendraws.etsy.com with books being posted in April 2024)

An illustration of a fairy with ginger hair holding a tooth in her hand, on a blue background by Nicola Ellen Illustration

So first off, what am I doing and where did it all start?

Well, a few years ago, I was asked by anti-bullying campaigner Michele Fudge, to illustrate a poem that she'd had published when her daughter was 2 years old. Michele wanted to see this poem made into a picture book and I have been lucky enough to create the pictures to go alongside these words.


So that's what I am doing! I am in the final stages (as of August 2023) of creating this wonderful picture book about a naughty tooth fairy who keeps the teeth she picks up and doesn't share them with her friends. This book is so close to completion and it will be published in the next couple of months. You can actually sign up to the waitlist ready to pre-order during the Summer!



More about the Author

As I mentioned above, Michele Fudge wrote Elsie-Babe as a poem in 1997. Elsie-Babe was inspired by Michele's daughter when she was a toddler because of the chaos she created with her various antics. These would descend into a lot of laughter with everyone!


Though you might not know Michele as an author or a poet, she is a remarkable lady who campaigns against bullying in schools. Michele helped to abolish The No Blame Rule for bullies in school in 2011 to ensure children who were being bullied would be protected. Much of Michele's anti-bullying work included helping to support parents of severely bullied children, as well as the children bullied out of mainstream education. She has gained a lot of support from many well known people including Sarah Ferguson - Duchess of York, The Scary Guy and Helen Worth.


Michele Fudge, a head shot photo of a blonde lady wearing a white shirt with a house in the distance behind her
Michele Fudge - Author/Poet of Elsie-Babe

How did I get from sketches to final pieces?

Some pages came really easily and some take more thinking about. Most references come from real life. It mostly all starts the same though. I drew thumbnail sketches to work out the layout and then made a simple dummy book with basic sketches to find the best layout and work out where the text will go.


Once the layout has been worked out, I cut my paper the size the book will be and head to my sketchbooks. Sometimes I already have suitable sketches from previous times I've been out exploring and sketches. They can be used as the basis of a page layout - especially in Elsie-Babe's case having a woodland setting. One of my favourite places to explore is woodland and I love to draw trees. My interest of spotting fungi and wildflowers has also come in useful for this book!


A series of pencils of sketches planning the picture book Elsie-Babe by Nicola Ellen Illustration 2023
Sketches and plans for Elsie-Babe

I also drew my characters from real life too - mostly my daughter and my partner. My daughter is just the right age and height to draw for Elsie-Babe. I was able to capture the proportions much easier than I would have been able to without real life reference. It's always worth keeping a sketchbook on hand and sketching anything and everything because you never know what might inspire an idea or if it'll come in as good reference material for a future project!


Once I'm happy with my layouts and proportions, I get a basic outline down on paper for the final illustrations and I start blocking in colour. I layer my colours and materials to get the movement and opacity of colour I want. A lot of the backgrounds in Elsie-Babe are a layering of wax pastels and pencil crayon to give vibrancy and depth.


Once all the first layers have been completed, I get to collaging the characters and details, bringing the pages to life!


The pages are then photographed to be added to the computer for adding text. I photograph them rather than scan them because it gives them more depth and the accidental shadows enhance the details of the illustrations.


Where do I draw my inspiration from?

My inspiration for most of my work comes from my adventures out in nature. I love the outdoor World and all the insects, animals, birds, fauna that make it so beautiful. As I've mentioned in other blog posts, I take my sketchbook wherever I go, ready to draw things that catch my eye; beautiful landscapes, old houses, interesting trees, quick glimpses of ducks but to mention a few. These all either directly or indirectly feed into my final illustrations and paintings once I'm back at my desk.


So for this particular project, I took landscapes from those that I know locally. I have taken note at the scale of mushrooms against trees to get the scale right, I drew my daughter in various poses to get Elsie-Babe just right, I studied moths and other insects close up. I drew lily-pads from Renishaw Hall gardens. I sketched lots and played around with scale. It's also a really good excuse to pick up acorn cups and sycamore seeds to draw from too!


Scale has been one of the fun things to work with on this book. Seeing the World from the woodland floor like a fairy has been a lot of fun. At first I forgot there would be a difference between our eye line and a fairy view, so there are some very out of proportion drawings. Once I started playing around with the layout and scale more, the scenes became more realistic.


So, why are we self-publishing our children's picture book?

There are many reasons as to why we are self-publishing Elsie-Babe and the main reason is because we want to be able to have control over the how to book looks and how it is going to feel in your hands. It also means that we can bring the book to you within our own time frame - bringing it to you quicker than if it was being published through a publishing house.


Being in control also means we can choose our printers, ensuring they are local, have good ethics and print with really good quality. We can also choose to release a limited run of books - which is what we are doing. We are going to be doing a limited run of 50. So if you want to join the waitlist for pre-ordering the book, read on below to find out how!


A photo montage of illustrations from the children's picture book Elsie-Babe - a story about a tooth fairy by Michele Fudge and Nicola Ellen Illustration
A peek at some of the illustrations from Elsie-Babe



Do you want to be the First to hear of the Pre-Order?


We are opening up a pre-order about a month before Elsie-Babe will be released. So if you want to know when the pre-order is open, ready to buy your copy as soon as you are able, fill in the form below and I will let you know. I will also send you a colouring sheet of the Elsie-Babe world. You will also receive a few emails with behind the scenes info on the making of the book!


Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope you are excited for Elsie-Babe's release. It is so exciting to tell you about it and I really can't wait to show everyone more of Elsie-Babe!


EDIT: Elsie-Babe is now available to pre-order and books will be posted in April 2024. Head to https://nicolaellendraws.etsy.com to order your very own copy!




That is all for this blog post. While it's the Summer holidays, my blog posts may not be as frequent now until September! Enjoy your Summer!


In the meantime you can join my newsletter for studio notes. You can also find me on YouTube and Facebook, so head over to either of those to see what I’m up to between blog posts and newsletters! It’ll be good to see you there :)


Xxx

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