Afronaut is a new publishing project from company Alanna Max, featuring books about and for African children, the Afronauts. Many have yet to see themselves in a book, despite the millions of folktales and stories from each culture on the continent.
It’s been a dream of mine to play back all the wonderful ‘nganos’, or stories from my childhood in Zimbabwe. But travelling around the continent it’s become very clear that an African childhood is very different from a European or American one. Some of these children experience or witness things that they really shouldn’t. So we knew from the very start of the project that the list has to be appropriate to its readers.
We’re joining a growing list of African publishers committed to making their businesses work in difficult economic environments as well as to reflecting cultures back to readers.
Afronaut will publish books, ebooks, comics, posters, articles, and educational material over time. The list will focus on African countries first on as many local languages as possible. It will not shy away from being topical or political and is aiming to work alongside international organisations whose focus is children.
Afronaut launches in Spring 2020, with several pre-launch activities planned online and offline.
Sometimes writers and illustrators question their ability. That’s normal and keeps us pushing for excellence. However, they shouldn’t question their saleability. That is for someone else to do, so let it go. There are people who know as much about selling as you do about creating, so you are in safe hands…
Teamwork is what makes a book succeed or fail. Besides the writer or illustrator, the editor, art director, designer, marketing, publicity, production and printing team members share the responsibility of making an idea the best book it can be.
This means you can concentrate on your special skill, safe in the knowledge that everything else is under control. No one knows for sure how many copies of a book will sell in a given period. You might think yours is the best idea ever, only to find its not a commercial success. Or, you might question why your idea is being taken apart, interrogated so aggressively, only to find on publication day that it is going to be a massive success…. Each member of the team has a valuable contribution to make, raising the overall quality.
Within the team there can be as much conflict as harmony; Editorial and design opinions are historically tense (editors often want more words, designers less). Or, authors who have a strong conviction their words are the exact right ones, and editors who weigh that conviction against sales and marketing insights. And no one is happy when sales people dismiss a cover that they all love. But the right thing for everyone to do is step back have a think and come back with a different option.
So, when you are finally ready to present your masterpiece to a publisher, you should also be ready to let go of your emotional attachment to it. Instead, be open to what your new team will have to say. They will probably point out things you haven’t considered and, more importantly, remind you that presenting your idea isn’t the end of the book building process but the beginning.
It’s taken a while to learn how to build a digital publication, longer than I thought, but it’s finally done. It will be available throughout January on the iBookstore, Amazon and on Issuu.
If you don’t know, Chicken Newspaper is a unique way to bring current affairs into the primary school classroom because it’s written and designed especially for them.
It is available in print and now digital three times a year.
I started the project because there are many stories that are good, but not books. They are more about how life is, or about what is happening elsewhere right now. These are the kind of stories that parents might discuss with children on the way to school, or that children might overhear, or they might be news stories that need further explaining.
We’ve managed to see pit free for schools for the last four years, but the realities of publishing means that is about to change. Still, subscription isn’t expensive (from £7.95 a year, which is roughly $10.00). ITs been an exciting and fulfilling project so far!
I’m not known for painting animals, it has to be said. It took a long time to accept that I could draw and paint animals that look like humans , mainly because I got hung up on the word that describes this process; Anthropomorphism.
Or, perhaps I couldn’t let myself enjoy considering the possibility. The work I do is mainly about people and objects and how they interact. I spent a lot of time doing that. But, as every day is a learning day, last year seemed like the perfect time to start focusing on a new skill – two new skills, actually; creating animal characters and then creating stories where they could be free. Creating them in my own way is like cutting through a thick jungle with a blunt blade and maybe one day things will start to come together.
It’s taken all this time to believe, understand and get excited about this new process. Here are a few from the sketchbooks. All of these characters have made their way in to a book idea with the working title ‘Norton’s Nose Knows’… I’ll leave it at that for now!