The age of the Afronaut

african, design, idea, illustration, Ken Wilson-Max, kids, publishing, Zimbabwe

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.

Need to know more?

From Idea to Book #5

design, idea, illustration, kids, publishing, stories

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.

Books about food for children are tricky to get right, even trickier to sell.

From idea to book

african, character, children's books, design, illustration, Ken Wilson-Max, publishing, stories

Everyone has a story…

Everyone has a story inside them. Some of us tell it in a book or a play or on the stage, football pitch or boardroom. But most of us live our story, telling it to our loved ones, every day, year by year… the point is each story gets told and appreciated.

I have heard many wonderful stories and have learned to use the book as my medium. Let me share that way with you in a series of real-time posts, starting with an idea and ending (hopefully) with a beautiful book.

If you have thought of writing or illustrating your own book, or if you are just curious, then this real-time project will be of use before you get in touch.

All you have to do is follow the blog for regular monthly updates on the project. Please comment, spread the word and get involved!

Remember to sign up for automatic updates

Recent work: Chicken Newspaper’s Food issue

illustration

World Book Day

design, illustration, Ken Wilson-Max, publishing

WBD-fin

World Book Day is a celebration of authors, illustrators and reading. It is designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books marked in over 100 countries.

On  the 6th of March, children of all ages come together to appreciate books and reading.

The main aim of World Book Day is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading. But the two are no Longer as connected as the once used to be: electronic books, games and apps now form a growing part a child’s reading life. At the same time the number of titles published each year is almost unsustainable as it is staggering. 292,037 new titles and editions in the USA, 149,800 new titles in the UK for a start.

We’ve been led to believe that paper from managed forests is environmentally friendly and responsible.  Looking after the environment is slowly persuading businesses (like publishing) to rethink  their priorities, but, seriously, with the years it takes to grow a forest one has to wander if the act of chopping trees to make books has contributed to the current changes in our climate…

Perhaps we need to be thinking in terms of promoting reading more than books? I’m definitely in the keep books camp, but it would be great to see smaller numbers and higher quality. After all, the books we have are the ones we love.

http://www.worldbookday.com
http://www.sevenstories.org.uk/learning/world-book-day