Colour me bias, but there is something incredibly alluring about teaming with the new kid on the block. Being one of the ‘new kids’ is exciting but not without some measure of anxiety. EK Books publisher, Anouska Jones along with some of her debut list of authors and illustrators discussed some of the perks and pitfalls of establishing a new picture book imprint whilst simultaneously opening the Sydney SCBWI Conference 2016.
Publisher, writer, and editor, Anouska Jones has enjoyed an expansive history in the Kids’ Lit Industry. Her time with parent publishing company, Exisle Publishing and role as Senior Editor at Kids Book Review, meant that when Exisle decided to make the leap from primarily self-help nonfiction and fiction titles to an imprint that provided an ‘holistic and fun approach’ in books for kids, Anouska was the girl for the job.
EK’s ethos is simple; they want to deliver great stories with meaningful messages featuring memorable characters. An EK story has to mean something to its readers. Ideally it should follow one of two ‘strings’: the exploration of global awareness or the promotion of some form of emotional journey pursuing mental resilience and strength. And of course, they should all be told in the most beautiful and non-didactic way possible.
Another feature that sets EK Books apart from some of its larger counterparts is the global distribution model it has in place which aims to simultaneously sell books in countries such as the UK, US, NZ and Canada in lieu of having to sell international rights to them. This has the potential to maximise and maintain sales off shore however as the foundation of such a model means that manuscripts must be translatable and comprehensible to all of these international audiences from the printing get go, the author is faced with the occasional language consideration; mum vs mom being the most obvious example. In other words, an EK narrative that is internationally language neutral (or written in English that Americans will not stumble over at least) is preferable to stories with strong Aussie flavour and themes.
The imprint is currently enjoying a stream of high quality picture book releases. Since its inception in 2013 with less than four books on its lists, EK has plans to introduce at least 14 new books to the picture book market within the next two years. Authors and illustrators with a story to tell for four to eight year-olds, capable of imparting it under 400 words with glorious illustrations include the award winning Belinda Landsberry, Katrina McKelvey, Kirrili Lonergan, Susan Whelan and Gwynneth Jones. They revealed the origins of their stories with SCBWI delegates along with their relationship with EK Books.
In most instances the stories created by these picture book duos unequivocally moved the EK team in some way (sometimes to tears), illustrating a reoccurring view that it’s the strength of story that matters most in the making of a great book.
EK Books is an inviting and attractive landscape for first time picture book creators as illustrator, Gwynneth Jones attests. She is attracted to stories with a bit of a twist and relished, ‘putting her foot in to the puddle’ and getting it wet as it were. She has just completed a compilation boxed set of picture books for EK and is working on her fifth title for them.
Illustrator, Kirrili Lonergan could not name any real pitfalls working with EK either. In fact, she was so compelled to get her work to them on time, she completed her art finals by miners’ head torch light during a week of power outages right before her deadline date.
Author illustrator, Belinda Landsberry agreed, stating that EK books were the first to give her the opportunity of giving or sharing a part of what she considers her gift; the joy of storytelling in words and pictures.
If Anouska Jones could name any pitfalls at all about starting and developing the EK imprint it would be that to survive and make any kind of impact in the competitive publishing arena, one must have a clear vision and a solid plan to achieve it.
And the best part? The sheer fun of choosing your own publishing path to follow that allows you to put beautiful books together for people to love.
Who could argue with that?
Dimity Roving Reporter