The Rare Monkey picture books are illustrated by Jeffrey Mundell and written and solo-published by me, Joanne Gale.
Our bookmaking adventure started around 2013.
By the end 2014 The Rare Monkey with the Colourful Bottom was published and ready to share. Due to popular demand, in 2016 we created and published The Rare Monkey Can’t, Couldn’t, Can!
This year The Rare Monkey Can’t, Couldn’t, Can! was shortlisted for the Rubery Book Award (children’s) 2017.
At the mo, I choose to print all our books here in the UK to the highest standard – this supports local and saves carbon.
Both Jef and I are passionate about creating high quality, imaginative and original stories. Both our Rare Monkey books celebrate and encourage being and liking one’s self, as well as finding joy and an appreciation in the fact that we are all unique.
We both hope you enjoy our books as much as we have enjoyed creating them. It’s been an adventure we wouldn’t change.
Writer and solo-publisher.
How did The Rare Monkey books begin?
Jo: I started working as an actor in my late teens and via acting, I have also found myself also gaining experience working in drama teaching, children’s entertaining and retail. It was also via acting that I met my partner Jef back in 2012. In 2013, Jef and I were chatting and I made up this story about a Rare Monkey, who was very sad because he was constantly teased for having a bright, colourful bottom. I jotted the idea down and didn’t think much more about it.
In 2014 a friend suggested I join The Princes Trust as I’ve never had the finances for uni or higher education. I was accepted onto The Trust’s Explore Enterprise Program and was encouraged to make my own work; I remembered The Rare Monkey character and decided I would write his story and create a picture book.
Why print in the UK?
Jo: When looking at printing overseas, the cost was cheaper, but I was finding it difficult to find information about where their paper was sourced from and the conditions their staff work in. The printer I use here in the UK is FSC approved and has a good green policy. Printing in the UK also means our books don’t have to be freighted which hopefully helps save some carbon and hopefully supports local/UK jobs too.
Why publish your own work?
Jo: A number of reasons. I don’t think a traditional publisher would take a chance on me: I’m a young writer, with no university education or recognised writing credits. I’m also an actor and there can be bad stigma around that, unfortunately. I also don’t have a large social following and I’m not a celebrity. I’m also not a fan of conforming to fashions of the time; I’d rather make work that’s true to myself, is imaginative and often a bit out the box.
Self or solo-publishing has given me an extremely valuable experience. It’s allowed me to pay attention to every aspect of my book and make it to the highest quality I can. I’ve also learn (and continue to learn) lots about book production and publishing which I knew nothing about back in 2013. I also get to keep everything personal, which is lovely. I check every book I send out, I communicate personally with bookstores and costumers and do my own accounts and have a good bash at marketing. Every time our books get positive feedback, it makes the compliment even more special. I had no idea I could ever create a book from scratch; it’s taken a lotta hours, but seeing our work stocked and selling (often to customers I don’t know) is therefore something that means everything.
Tell us about The Princes Trust?
Jo: The Trust do a variety of courses. I joined their Explore Enterprise Program back in 2014 when I was 24. The Trust encouraged me to make something of my own, take a chance on myself and follow my passions.
The are a wonderful charity who try and help as many young people as they can. Right now the economical climates tough – we live in a time of austerity, with wages seldom rising and the gap between the few that are wealthy and the majority that are poor ever growing. I would highly recommend supporting the Trust if you can.
Jo: I still have a mentor from The Princes Trust who offers fantastic support. I’d like to develop my skills further as a writer and hopefully one day be able to fund doing a writing course. I’m working on a number of short stories at the mo and have also written a character piece which I’m hoping to act in and probably film later this year. Check out my other website www.patternsinthejam.com for more info.
What’s your favourite colour?
Jo: I wear a lot of blue and grey but I also love oranges, pinks, greens and yellows. White and black are also stunning and can be very powerful. Can I just have a rainbow? Or the monkey’s colourful bottom?