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.
It’s been an incredible few months.I’ve been slowly and steadily heading back to doing books full-time and it hasn’t been easy at all.
The plan was to return to the days when there were only books and book ideas on my work list. I have a couple of titles to try as ebooks and started planning for the Bologna Book Fair 2014.
But the idea of becoming a book publisher and a micro sized book publisher at that, worried me. That hasn’t gone away. It may be my vocation, but it’s still business, right? All that lies before me is an incredible schedule of trying to get the titles noticed, paying for a print run and then worrying about when (if) it will make the invested money back. It ooh several more weeks looking at numbers trying to find another way to minimise the risk. With th sol school publishing knowledge I have, it feels like the path gets narrower the further down it one travels. And its great like that; you might brush against a revolutionary new idea and succeed. But you might also brush against something disastrous.
The past few years I have started to value community. These are the people that we can all count on, in however small way. Your neighbourhood, your family, your friends around the world are all incredibly important. I struggled to tell these stories in book form for children. Its better when they are experienced in a different way, somehow. I’ve also been designing and editing newspapers and magazines so have been aware of the many ways to tell a story.
All this preamble is a fitting introduction to the subject of this post. I think I’ve cracked it; the other way to tell stories and still get everything I want!
It won’t be available everywhere. It starts in my neighbourhood early next year. It’s a quarterly. It involves its audience and their grown ups. It brings children’s content to the fore, not just children’s books and I think it’s the closes thing to a physical blog that have ever worked on. If it works, then it will grow and spread. Time will tell.
I haven’t had much time to add tot he growing collection these last few weeks, so I thought it would be good to show you the set so far in one blog post. ‘m going to be making some 3-d versions of these for a school event on June 19th. It should be fun! Details of that event will follow in the coming days.
It’s a rainy summer Sunday in London. Another one. I am due to perform at a festival called Zim Arts day, in South East London. Last weekend I performed at the Pop Up Festival of Literature, which was a great success.
I had a chance to watch James Mayhew in action, which was really good. I first met him when I worked at Orchard Books back in the 80’s. I worked on some of his books – his rich, saturated Chagall-like colour stood outing a sea of subtlety.
But I digress. At that time, promotion was a choice. It was not expected of writers and illustrators. It was controlled by the publishers and agents, all comfortable in the knowledge that it wasn’t necessary, really. They knew the prices they were selling the books were not likely to change as the had made agreements with book stores to keep them at a certain level. The Net book agreement is a topic for another post.
Jump to this decade and things are very different. Children’s publishing is a shadow of its former self. Authors and illustrators who don’t promote themselves are forgotten. It is part of the job. The biggest challenge is to wrestle your list of fans and followers away from your publishers and into your own control, if you are published. If you are not, the challenge is to build that community for yourself.
The event today is one of those opportunities. I have books published in 10 languages, from Estonian to Korean, around 60 books sunder my belt and my own countrymen don’t know me or any of this. It will be interesting.
Publishing is a team effort with each person playing a specific and vital role in the development of a book. It is also a space where one person with one idea can change everything.
Take diversity in Western publishing organisations. It has been discussed and argued for decades that a more diverse industry will be a more profitable one. But it hasn’t happened. On the other hand, is publishing in the huge markets like China or India as diverse as Europe or the US? Perhaps the timing of the idea and the practical need for action are not yet in sync.
Back to my main theme; to team or not to team. I have had the honour to work with a wide range of children’s publishing professionals, have taken my own ideas to them, or brainstormed ideas together and most of them turned out very well. On reflection it seems that ideas are the spark that activate certain people, while other people are the ones who activate ideas and teams into action. It’s always a great time to be a catalyst, or a troubleshooter. It is also important to be the doer, the closer, the support.With the right combination of roles in one team there can be magic.
Writing and illustrating means working alone most of the time, talking to yourself, fighting to stay disciplined and focused. Furthermore, I have witnessed teams dwindle or disappear or change as children’s publishing tries to find its new way forward. May author illustrators are despondent. Gone are the days of the shy writer living in a faraway place, afraid of the spotlight. Gone with them are potential masterpieces and best sellers. Gone are the reclusive but brilliant editors too.
Everyone has to be social media ready, loud(er), bigger, faster…
… but not necessarily better.
As publishing sheds its skin it is hard to know what will emerge. Hopefully something shiny and lightweight and full of energy.Teams will still be there, though, leaner perhaps, but still there.