Nosy Crow’s First Publishing Conference

Refreshingly honest, knowledgeable and inspirational – Nosy Crow’s debut publishing conference.
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 The event opened with book love, took us from acquisitions to the launch, granted a rare insight to book selling and ended with the discussion of cutting edge digital trends. The day was filled with inspirational speakers and was packed with great ideas. Everybody – publishers, authors, readers – are engaged in ‘defining reading for the future’ Nosy Crow founder, Kate Wilson, told us as she wrapped up a fantastic day of publishing chat.
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Starting bang on at 09:30am, Lucy Mangan, Guardian journalist, argued that reading is innately part of how a child develops their sense of self. Books provide a ‘sense of solidarity’ and through this ‘children learn to recognize themselves and their experiences in stories.’ Touching on the relationship between reading for pleasure and social mobility, Lucy left attendees with the conviction that being human was deeply rooted in the stories we listen to and, importantly, the stories we tell.

Next followed a panel by the super-star Nosy Crow editors, Camilla Reid, Louise Bolongaro and Kirsty Stansfield. In a mere 45 minutes they answered questions on the best approach to submissions, what counts as a novelty, the method behind co-editions and why ‘commercial’ is not a bad word. A quick flick through the wish list gave some great prompts for new stories, from new takes on traditional subject matters, great boy characters, an exceptional fantasy series and innovative novelty ideas. When we broke for a quick tea-break, conversation was buzzing with new ideas, ponderings about the best way to approach an email subject and whether or not to re-write that synopsis … just one more time.

“Had a wonderful time at the Nosy Crow conference.  Highlights for me were the Tracey Corderoy talk and the panel of editors.  There was so much great information on what the publisher was looking for and what they felt was missing in the market.  For me it was very interesting to hear about the effort and vim that goes in to Tracy Corduroy’s live events, and throughout the day to hear about facts and figures of book sales, buyers and rights.  Melissa Cox gave a great speech about being a buyer for the biggest UK bookshop, Waterstones.  It was insightful to hear how the book world looks from her perspective and how much a buyer like that cares for a variety in the books that she sells.  There was a buzz, and Kate Wilson, a wonderful public speaker, kept the momentum going and answered in detail any questions she could.  The energy of a great publisher like Nosy Crow is an invigorating thing to see.  One author-illustrator turned to me and mentioned how proud he was to be a part of the Nosy Crow team.  And I can’t blame him, their conference gave a rallying cry for children’s publishing.  It was a palpable hit and I can’t wait for the next one!” – Author/illustrator Yasmeen Ismail

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photo courtesy Nosy Crow

 

Next, Hilary Delamere exploded the myths of being an agent. Elaborating on the rewards of talent management and the processes through which we chase the best deals, she explained everything from contracts to film rights and agencies to editors.Publishing is a ‘long and fascinating game’, Hilary commented, talking through the process of publication and strongly iterating that the journey has only just begun when the contract has been signed.

To talk about the journey, three ex-slushpilers and now fabulous Nosy Crow authors, Paula Harrison, Helen Peters and Sue Ransom spoke about their stories. From years of waiting to 12-hour response times, the authors demonstrated that publishing is different for everyone and that there are many paths. Under lying the morning was an undeniable importance of collaboration and The Bright Agency completely agrees. A book is a 360 degree relationship between the author, illustrator, editor, designer and press officer. Without a ‘collective vision’ beautiful content would not come together. Listening carefully, the audience remained undoubtly assured that being a published author is the best thing ever. And begrudgingly admitted that perhaps editors do have a point…

After lunch there was a talk from Tracy Corderoy. A lady known, not only for her fantastic children’s books, but also for her colourful and exciting live events for children. Taking the audience beyond the book launch, she made it clear that while self-promotion is one thing, making your readers happy is equally important. Using glitter and fairy cakes, costumes and story sacks, Tracy’s events aim to create fun memories for children. She emphasized preparation, bravery and creativity as the keys to hosting a good live performance. ‘Live the story’ she said, showing a picture of herself in a giant bunny suit.

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photo courtesy Nosy Crow

 

One of Bright’s own authors, Sue Hendra has recently held her own live event at the Edinburgh Book Fair. Affirming Tracy’s belief in preparation, Sue can spend hours planning her activities and creating her props. As an agency live events are one of our favourite things. We love to work along side our artists and authors to help them develop ideas and plans, making sure that their events are as special and engaging as possible.

Next Jon Reed, ex-publisher and social-media extraordinaire, developed the thread of self promotion further, explaining exactly why being active on the Internet is important.  Showing that branding is about more than just colour palates and font families, he covered everything from twitter to email campaigns. Sharing tips for time-saving, tailored software recommendations for authors, illustrators and anyone new to the blogosphere, Jon’s session was essential for anyone hoping to break into the world of publishing.

To take us from the publishers to the retailers, Melissa Cox, New Children’s Title Buyer at Waterstones and the lovely lady responsible for championing numerous Bright illustrators, gave a fascinating insight on how publishing works at the front end.

Going into depth about how a buyer builds a new brand, the lengths the team at Waterstones will go to maximize the selling power of a new title and lots of tips on everything from new formats, success in different age ranges, what makes a great cover and why good doesn’t always mean sellable. Passing on a few key tips, Melissa mentioned the growth of illustrated young fiction and it’s characteristic limited palate.  A bit more?

 

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We think Gab Alborozo would be perfect for Waterstones’ next showstopper series! 

As Kate Wilson rose to close the day and focus on the future, namely digital trends and innovation, the talk turned to Nosy Crow. With a publishing list engaged with developing both printed books and apps, Nosy Crow is a shining example that digital is not a bad thing. Standing against the idea that 0’s and 1’s are a quick solution, the team devote as much care and attention to their apps program as they would to a picture book list or a new novelty concept. And why wouldn’t you? For Kate, and Nosy Crow, the question is not digital or print. For such an innovative publisher ‘Everything is a story’ and so the question remains simple: What do the readers want to read?

For any prospective author/illustrator an event packed with such interest, positivity and advise is an invaluable resource. The time invested in laying out the industry as transparently as possible was patently clear and the passion and love for publishing was obvious from the outset. During tea breaks, lunch and the drinks reception, the team were readily available to answer questions and at the end of a great day I could not think of anything missed or left uncovered. My final words are for all of the unrepresented authors and illustrators who attended. I expect to see lots of brand new, market-targeted, snappy, succinct submissions flooding into my inbox shortly. Remember, no sirs or madams please!

 

Top Tips!

Know your market, look for gaps and don’t forget that a book has to sell

Keep submissions short and succinct

Trust your agent and your editor, listen to critiques

Never sign a contract without a knowledgeable person reading it first

Publishing the first book is only the start of the journey

Make live events fun, exciting and build memories with the children

Focus your online brand, blog, tweet and pin interesting things regularly

Use programs like Twitter and Hootsuite to manage content

Digital is just a new format and there is no reason to be worrying

Don’t give up and love what you do!