Thursday, 24 March 2016

Faber Children's Books - Behind the Scenes

@faberchildrens
A few weeks ago I attended a book blogging event at Faber and Faber where they showcased the exciting books they have coming out over the next year. As I was also wearing my  Events Editor hat for Words and Pictures, I took the opportunity to quiz Hannah Love, Children's Publicity Manager and Noami Colthurst, Commissioning Editor with some of the questions suggested by SCBWI members. 


 1) What are your thoughts on #coverkidsbooks?

Hannah: I think it's hugely important. My parents were lucky. I read like a hoover. If someone put a book in front of me, I sucked it up, regardless of what it was (Point Horror, A Little Princess, Animal Ark, Northern Lights, Goosebumps - it was quite a cocktail). But not all children are like this, and sometimes parents, grandparents and anyone else who knows and likes a child might want some guidance on what would be a good reading choice. Reviews of children's books are not for children, they're for adults who want to find their child a worthwhile and engaging read. I appreciate the argument that kids' books take a lot of the market, but also there are just a LOT of kids who like different things, and even a 'book of the week' is unlikely to cater all tastes. There needs to be more children's book reviews, covering more genres and age groups. We want children to read for pleasure, so we need to give the adults in their lives some help along the way. 


 2) What trends are you noticing in kid's publishing?

 Noami: I'm not actually seeing any particular trends right now. Contemporary romance/drama is still king thanks to the John Green effect, and I think this will remain the main trend for a while. I think everyone is keeping a close ear to the ground for what the next big trend will be, but in all honesty you can never really predict them - the thing that becomes the latest big trend is usually something completely left-field and different - hence everyone going mad for it. I suspect we will see twists on the contemporary romance/drama theme - either magical realism or one key fantasy twist within an otherwise 'normal' world.


 3) Who would you tip as the rising author for 2016? 

Naomi: Ha I have to back some of my own here! I suspect 2016 is going to be the year that Juno Dawson goes stratospheric, and I certainly hope that it is. I also think 2016 could be the year that Ross Montgomery becomes the household name he deserves to be - his third MG book (PERIJEE AND ME) is out in March, but his new venture into picture books (BUILDING BOY, September) offers a whole new, exciting side to his publishing. And finally - I firmly advise you to keep an eye out for Claire Hennessy. She is the Next Big Thing.
Perijee and Me by Ross Montgomery
4) What is the favourite part of your job? 

Naomi: Working with authors! It has to be, otherwise I'd be in the wrong job. There's nothing so fun, exciting or satisfying as working with someone to help shape their story and (hopefully!) turn it into a better book. But seeing that book then riding high in the bookseller charts is a pretty close second!

Hannah: Also working with authors! The best part for me is sitting down and working out what the biggest hooks are for a book, and then working that into a campaign that is just as fun for the author, through pieces, events and so on. Getting authors and their books in front of kids and watching that 'click' as everything comes together is why I do my job.

5) Which book do you wish you had published?

Naomi: A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING, by Ruth Ozeki. It's not actually a children's or YA book - but the protagonist is a teenager, and it's essentially a coming of age story, so I feel in another life it could have been top end YA. It's absolutely extraordinary - a masterpiece in plotting and playing with literary rules. I still think about it all the time, and its been years since I read it.
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki


 6) How do you guide a debut author through publication? 

  Hannah: For me, I always need to have a chat with the author, whether on the phone or in person, to work out what interesting stories they may have that will help me in the press, and also to help them plan an event that they feel comfortable performing in front of children in schools, bookshops and festival events. I'm aware a lot of authors don't write for the purpose of talking to hundreds of children, so I like to make that as easy as possible, as well as to create an event children will enjoy.

 7) What is the best thing a debut author can do for PR?

Hannah: There are so many ways! Being active online is big, not least because you'll garner an awareness of your contemporaries - not just competition but authors that you can be compared to or even appear with. Engaging readers is important on and offline - so do hunt down your own events. Your publicist will try and get what they can but are having to do this for all their authors as well as pitch to press and festivals. Just let them know what events you set up so they can help you out where needed. And I'm sure this one doesn't need to be said anymore, but don't engage with any reviews that you think are unkind - the moral high ground may be draughty and lonely but it's much better than going to battle!
Hannah Love and Naomi Colthurst at the Faber blogger brunch
8)  Does local exposure actually lead to anything? 

 Hannah: Yes, I think so. I have several authors who do very well in their home towns because they engage with local bookshops, get in touch with schools and so on. In fact one just got in touch to say her books were among the top selling titles over Christmas in a couple of shops her in area. Added to that, children's word of mouth, and that of their parents, is an important factor. If a parent hears that their friend's child has been unable to put down a certain book, they're far more likely to purchase it. And as coverage isn't that widespread for kids book, this is often a major way of growing author awareness. 

9)What is better: online or in person?

Hannah: There isn't a better really, as I firmly believe that both are important and both are what an author needs to engage with in the modern publishing world. You can just do one or the other, but you're more likely to get known and read with promoting your book at events as well as engaging with the (frankly fabulous) online reading community. 
10) Do they think entering competitions like ITV's Top Tales is a good thing or is it better to keep sending to agents and publishers?
L-R Hannah, Leah Thaxton (publisher), Noami, Natasha Brown (editorial assistant)

Noami:  I think you can and should be doing everything possible to get your stories out there, so enter competitions aplenty. It certainly needn't be a case of having one thing or the other - and if you win the competition, you will almost certainly have agents and publishers approaching you! 


11)Any go-to writers sites that agents and publicists lurk in lookingfor new talent? 

Naomi: Personally, not really. Agents seem to be keeping more of an eye on Wattpad 'sensations' nowadays but I think publishers are rightly sceptical about whether success on Wattpad actually translates into interest in the real world. I actually find Twitter can to be quite for good talent-spotting (I published a book from an author who was plucked from obscurity on Twitter) - the general rule being if you can be funny or profound (or even better, both) using only 140 characters you'll probably be even better when given 60,000 odd words to play around with.

I want to say a huge thank you to Hannah and Noami for taking the time to answer so many of the questions that were asked by SCBWI members. If you want to read more about the books Faber Children's Books have coming out this year, then please read my blog post here. 



@serendipity_viv
Vivienne is the owner & editor of Serendipity Reviews, which she has successfully run since 2009. Voted as one of The Guardian’s Top Ten YA book blogs of 2015. as well as Champion of Content in 2015 at the UKYA Book Blogger Awards. 

3 comments:

  1. This is such a useful post! I quite often forget to let my publicist know I've organised an event - timely reminder!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Fab post - thanks! I also forget to do that, Kathy!

    ReplyDelete
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