Today I’m SUPER excited to welcome my dear friend and events planner supreme, Sara Veal onto the blog. Sara runs Huhbub, and she’s here to tell us about books promotions, thinking outside the box, and what Prince has to do with vegan baking!
What is Huhbub?
Huhbub offers events and campaigns that contribute to the community, with a focus on literature, technology and performance.
Services include: website, book covers, shareables, editorial, marketing, publicity and connecting people. If you’re an author looking for some general advice, I’m very happy to help! Every question is an opportunity to widen what Huhbub can offer, I’m always interested in learning more about what authors and publishers need. I am also keen to help creative people get fairly paid work.
So far Huhbub has helped a certain kickass author (Hi, that’s me – Andi) launch a new book series with a noughties nostalgia event to fundraise for Core Arts, teamed with author Lisa Dickenson to bring her Strong Women Squad to life in event form (fundraising for Women’s Aid and Coppafeel!), and thrown Prince a vegan birthday bakeoff cabaret to fundraise for Code Club UK.
Who is the person/team behind Huhbub?
Huhbub is basically me, doing what I love most! Three years ago, I was working in commercial publishing, pregnant with my first child, and about to go on maternity leave when I learned that 50% of the jobs at my company were at risk. I chose voluntary redundancy rather than face the uncertainty of whether I would have a job to return to or not.
I wasn’t sure what to do but it seemed important to those around me that I had a plan, so I announced I would freelance in book marketing as soon as I was able to return to work. When my son was six months old, I began setting about to make this happen, and somehow Huhbub emerged from the baby fog. (I realise on reflection the name was to do with the baby burbling sounds he made as he was learning to speak!) I decided to set up a limited company rather than operate as a sole trader and the process of figuring out a company name, brand and business plan was challenging but fascinating, and helped me rediscover what I loved to do professionally, something that I had almost completely forgotten in the wake of becoming a mum.
I realised that what made me really passionate was finding new ways to market books (and ideas!), and to bring different circles of people together to provoke conversations. I feel one of the best ways of finding a book’s particular audience is to put on an event, whether in the form of an online competition or in a venue, and for the event to offer some kind of immersive experience of the book.
For example, rather than simply saying this book is the next Eleanor Oliphant blah blah blah, create an event that brings the experience of reading the book to life. At Atlantic Books, I created an immersive campaign for Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hr Bookstore, that helped it go from being an unknown debut to a Waterstones Book of the Month, and at Mills & Boon, I supported authors like Rebecca Raisin and Jenny Oliver with campaigns and events, from a design-a-bookshop online competition to a pie bakeoff at Paper Dress Vintage.
My first official Huhbub event was launching Goodbye Ruby Tuesday, which was about a group of girlfriends who came together in the Noughties, with the friends reuniting at a funeral 10 years on. So I brought it to life with an event that was nostalgic for the Noughties, specifically 2006, just before it became widespread to be nostalgic about the Noughties, so it was an interesting and rewarding challenge!
The event was at Drink, Shop & Do, with a real-life Ruby (Deshabille!) headlining, and we received donations from Imogen Heap and Wicked the Musical to aid fundraising for Core Arts, a charity that celebrates the healing power of creativity, a particular theme of the book.
I had to put Huhbub on pause when I found I was expecting my second child, but since her first birthday (in March), it’s been coming to life again with the aforementioned events with Lisa Dickenson and Code Club.
Huhbub is also all the fantastic people I have had the pleasure of working with on projects, past, present and future, such as authors, graphic designers, magicians and burlesque performers. I’m always looking for wonderful people to work with.
How did you get into this/career path?
I’ve had a pretty wiggly career path guided by necessity and curiosity… I began working in journalism before I started university, and throughout and afterwards I had all kinds of jobs, from writing copy for a romantic gifts website to working in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s international development. I’ve always been a huge bookworm, so my dream was to work in publishing, and seven years ago, thanks to recommendations from authors I interviewed as a journalist in Jakarta, I managed to get my foot in the door with a few internships in London, and I went on to get my first paid job at Atlantic Books, in sales and marketing. In everything I did, especially when I began working in e-books, I wished I had a better understanding of digital, so I began teaching myself to code when my son was six months old, which led to receiving a scholarship to train as a software developer at Makers Academy, Europe’s top coding bootcamp. I completed my training just before my daughter was born last March.
What’s all this about Prince?
Last week I threw Prince a vegan birthday bake-off cabaret for what would have been his 60th Birthday, at Makers Academy. I’ve always loved Prince but particularly in the year before I became a mum, I became completely enamoured with his music and was lucky enough to catch him twice during his 2014 Hit and Run tour – the last time he performed in the UK. Since that time, I have learned how empowering technology can be – my scholarship and coding journey opened up a whole new world for me, and made me hopeful and excited about life again. So when I discovered earlier this year that Prince was the inspiration for and supporter of YesWeCode, an initiative to train 100,000 low-opportunity youths to become high-level programmers, I was keen to celebrate his work and support similar work in the UK. I put together a Prince-themed vegan bake-off cabaret to fundraise and raise awareness for Code Club, which aims to serve 100,000 kids for free by the end of this year. My ambition was to bring as many different circles of people together in the making of it, and to provoke conversations on diversity and inclusivity in technology.
To support Code Club text PRPL76 £5 to 70070. (Can also donate £1, £2, £3, £4 and £10)
Also consider becoming a volunteer! If you already know how to code, at whatever level, it’s a great way to give back and inspire the next generation, if you know nothing it’s a great way to get started! Just volunteering for one hour a week would make such a difference to yourself, your community and the digital future of the UK.
Talk Code – what’s it all about?
Code is basically behind pretty much everything we use in the modern world, not just websites and video games, but the magic that happens when you press an Oyster card to a reader or switch on the TV. If you peeped behind the curtain so to speak, you would see what might seem to be some alien language, bringing life to inanimate objects.
Funnily enough, one of the books I worked on, Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hr Bookstore, is all about the magic of technology and further encouraged me to want to learn to code, although at the time, I didn’t seem to have the time to begin. The hardest part of learning to code is knowing where to begin really, because it’s such a vast landscape of coding languages, frameworks, concepts and jargon, and thankfully my training at Makers Academy was a great help with laying the foundations for learning.
I’m still very early in my coding journey, and have mostly been learning in Ruby, which is one of the best coding languages to begin with in terms of getting to grips with programming fundamentals. I’ve always loved writing and writing programs feels similar to writing stories. I also love the problem-solving that is essential to writing code. The key to progressing with learning to code is reading error messages and finding ways to resolve it.
My coding journey has accompanied some very trying times in my life, and I find that when I code, my mind gets a break from worrying and anxiety. It’s almost like meditating. I often compare coding to cooking, because people learn to cook by following recipes, you can find a recipe for almost anything on the Internet, the way you can find instructions for most kind of programs… the more recipes you try, the more you learn about cooking without them!
What is SWS?
Strong Women Squad was founded by author Lisa Dickenson, and is a movement to celebrate, inspire and empower women. The event opens with a dance class, and continues with lightning talks and performances from amazing women from different industries. We had the first SWS event RUN THE WORLD in March to honour International Women’s Day and to fundraise for Women’s Aid – and learn the moves to Beyonce’s Run the World!
This time we supported Coppafeel! The event will began with a dance class learning the moves to Shake it Off, taught by Louise Andree Douglas, possibly one of the best dance teachers and dancers in the world!
The atmosphere was intimate and supportive. Our speakers and performers are always women who inspire us. We ask those we invite to speak for 5-10 mins on a topic of their choosing, although we’re also happy to offer suggestions, or perform for a similar amount of time.
We aim to encourage first-timers along with more seasoned speakers and performers. At the first SWS, we had talks about the London Living Wage, juggling parenting with careers, entrepreneurship, breast cancer awareness and humanitarianism, and hula hoop performances.
I’m so proud of the line-up for the summer party. We themed it around body positivity and movement. Our speakers included Megan Jayne Crabbe (bodyposipanda), bestselling author of BODY POSITIVE POWER, Kirsten Bayes (outreach coordinator for Campaigns Against the Arms Trade), Gina Hood (President of Bloom, a network championing women in communications), Samantha Siren, The London Mermaid, and Hayat Rachi, CEO of NEON MOON (body positive lingerie). There was magic from Louise Douglas (on double duty!), member of all female magic supergroup Chicks n Tricks, a hula hooping workshop from Pearl the Whirl (one of Marawa’s Marjorettes) and fire from Amelia Sparkles. And biodegradable glitter-face painting from Glitterlution! It was so colourful and sparkly!
What other exciting stuff have you got lined up this year?
I’ll be running writing workshops at Larmer Tree Festival, and chairing a panel – HIDDEN HISTORIES AND HEROINES – featuring Jasper Fforde, Viv Groskop and Catherine Johnson, to mark the centenary of the women’s vote in the UK.
I’ve also recently been appointed a trustee for the Arkbound Foundation, a new charity committed to championing diversity and inclusivity in media and publishing, so I look forward to supporting them however I can and getting involved.
There’ll also be another edition of SWS in the autumn, and I’ve got a few other projects I’m looking forward to announcing as soon as I can.
Can authors hire you to do awesome events?
Yes please! Get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to worth together, whether you need some advice, want help developing a campaign (of any scale) or collaborating on creating a fantastic event. Ask away, I’d love to hear from you!