I joined the Ladybird Trade team earlier this year, so I'm relatively fresh!
To get here, I studied Graphic Arts at LJMU, specialising in Animation and Illustration. I enjoyed the character design and storyboarding elements of animation –all of which has proved very useful since – but found my passion leant towards children’s book illustration at the end.
So when I got work experience and a part-time role in Macmillan Children’s Books, it was a real click moment, I knew Children’s publishing suited me. I pursued and landed my first full-time role at Nosy Crow early the following year. It was a fantastic first job; immersive and agile and an exciting place and time to learn about all the different areas of children’s publishing. I worked across Novelty and Picture Books, plus all kinds of odd jobs, before moving to Bloomsbury to work in Picture Books and creatively manage a great list. I enjoyed the opportunity to work with narrative design, beautiful artwork and collaboratively with editorial.
When I saw that Ladybird was relaunching and looking for a Senior Designer, I recognised that to be part of an iconic and established brand at this stage was too good an opportunity to miss. Especially, once I met James (Stevens, Art Director) and saw the launch list. Now, I work across novelty books, picture books and non-fiction in lots of different and new formats, which is a bit of a commissioning dream when looking for new artists!
It's a cliché but, there’s no such thing as a typical day, which is probably why there's a lot to enjoy!
My day generally involves developing and looking at new ideas for mechanisms, formats and artists. I work to get projects started and acquired and match up illustrators and design with existing and new ideas. Once a project is signed up and underway, I’ll commission, brief, set up layouts and text design, work on cover concepts and branding design. I give and take art direction and refine mechanisms and design at various stages, ensuring that we get feedback and input from sales, rights and more creative heads as we go, right up until the project goes to print and finally to bookshops!
I enjoy the variety of the work and creative problem solving, plus there's nothing quite like seeing new ideas or looks come to fruition. I get to work with great, creative and energetic people both in and out of house. They keep the work interesting, ideas flowing and my curiosity alert.
My early memories of Ladybird are, of course, the iconic hardbacks. Most vividly: 'Well Loved Tales'. I adored the artwork, loved the stories and at times felt a teensy bit scared! Looking at some of those titles today, such as; Beauty and the Beast, The Tinder Box, and Rumpelstiltskin, I can see why. The format of the hardbacks is also perfect for learning more about the world at that age, too. They're easy to hold, contain clear content and are beautifully accurate. I've almost taken for granted that much of my knowledge of nature and how things worked was gained by reading Ladybird books.
Today, we’re respecting the history of Ladybird, with equally great content and design. The beauty is the heritage titles exist so we can build on that legacy, without needing to replace it. We're not tied to a rigid or set look and are adapting what we need to.
The updated Baby Touch series has been a fantastic example of working with a legacy and the success of updating a design. It's striking and has gone down well internationally.
There’s an emphasis on original ideas, too. The Ladybird Trade list had been ticking along, but it was maintained rather than grown in the last few years. We now have a bit of an opportunity to experiment across novelty, picture books with a purpose and fresh subjects and angles for Non-Fiction. The needs, interest and tastes of parents and children have changed so we’re reflecting that in our choices of projects and artists.
Often the simplest ideas done well are the most fun. There’s a new, fantastic Busy Day novelty series which uses flaps so cleverly, that it really is quite magical!
Well, being new here means most of the projects I'm developing are at an early and top-secret stage, so I can’t share those, yet!
I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with a real mix of talented artists and exciting books, which are memorable in their own right for different reasons. To cheat, I would say sending my first book to press at Nosy Crow was utterly exhilarating and nerve-wracking; it was a novelty title on a tight schedule needed for Bologna book fair. I recall Adrian making a harried airport dash when it got stuck at customs!
I'll always remember the moment it finally arrived at the office. We'd pulled it off! I've felt utterly excited seeing projects become books ever since.
Honestly, without really considering it before, books would have. I've always been an avid reader.
I'll not mention people I've worked and am working with, and not all of the following work in publishing, but.
I have long admired the work of David Hockney, Edward Gorey, Janet Ahlberg, Sara Fanelli, Oliver Jeffers, Laura Carlin, Lucinda Rogers, David Shrigley, Eric Ravillious, Edward Hopper, Yuri Norstein and the master that is Richard Scarry!
I love their work for many, distinct reasons, whether it's their colour palettes, textures characterisation, sense of place, use of humour and/or emotion because in every case it makes me feel something. What links them for me is they each have a distinctive visual language and built an engaging world in their work. You believe their world and as a viewer can escape into it, which I think helps us try to make sense of this one.
It’s a great time to work with Ladybird Trade. We’re actively looking for new artists as we grow the list and come up with new ideas!
We cover a vast range of subjects from the magical realms of mermaids right down to diagrams of how a lightbulb works. Plus, we're on the lookout for new, well-executed novelty concepts too. If you can condense a big idea, into a simple image or mechanism and make it fun, that’s right up our street!
My general content advice for artists would be to make sure your portfolio content is age-appropriate. Try and include likely subject matters such as animals, homes, children, farms, jungles, space, and then how you want to interpret them to make them stand out.
We look for representation, so have a range of diverse strong, appealing characters. All shapes, ages, cultures, capabilities and sizes.
If you're interested in Non-fiction projects then consider how you can bring a level of accuracy to your work and make it beautiful and child-friendly. It should be identifiable but not necessarily hyper-real.
If you want to do picture books: consider the world in which your characters exist and how that may look. Characters and consistency are very important, as is the use of expression and emotion.
If you feel your work suits the very young and novelty, I'd say that we're particularly drawn to clever use of colour, texture shape and image-making. We love a graphic style with warmth and appeal in it.
I look for illustrators who enjoy collaboration. It’s great to be able to discuss an idea with someone who considers the content concept and how something works as a whole.
Also, timing and delivery are important. I always recommend or try to work with people who can meet deadlines where possible or communicate well, it makes all the difference!
Being new, I'm not taking credit for this, but, the Ladybird re-launch stormed out of the gates with 'Ten Minutes to Bed' picture books, by Rhiannon Fielding. It’s been a phenomenal success! Chris Chatterton's art is beautiful and there are a lot more characters to be discovered in the Land of Nod, so it's set to get bigger and better. The latest title on Meg’s (Designer) screen is even more stunning, if possible!?
Almost every time – that's the joy of collaboration!
If an artist has met, then pushed the brief it tends to spark new ideas for the design, which then builds on the original concept, so I love it and find it satisfying when there's some creative tennis involved.
Two projects at Bloomsbury, spring to mind, where this happened. The first was working with Deborah Allwright on ‘There are No Dragons in this Story’, by Lou Carter. Deborah considered and discussed every narrative visual element whilst making that book, it looks clear and simple now, but there were so many potential illustrative directions with the text. We reshaped the layout to fit the stronger ideas. It was at times unpredictable, but joyful experience to see it come together and surpassed my highest hopes.
The second was with Sarah Massini on 'The Girl and the Dinosaur', by Hollie Hughes. I’d worked with Sarah before, and thought I was familiar with her process and work, but she again thought about every facet and page turn. We both knew this was a magical, beautiful beast of a story, and we had something special, but still. I was quite emotional when the art and early proof arrived. It took my breath away!
Making a picture book is a team effort and can be lengthy, so it's great to have great memories of those projects. The end product was as beautiful as the journey!
It's a toughie, but I've whittled it down to five. So, in no particular order:
Pippi Longstocking, she's strong, clever, loyal, kind and bakes pepparkakor on a scale I can only envy – what's not to love!
Burglar Bill, my favourite reformed criminal and a big softie. Every child should have "I'll Have That" in their catchphrase repertoire.
Bernard from 'Not Now, Bernard', felt his pain, respected his stoicism.
Matilda, of course.
Finally, more recently, but still very much an all-time favourite is Biff from 'Dogs Don’t Do Ballet'. I think we all could all do with having a bit of Biff in us.
There's also a sense that what is a 'Ladybird book' has creatively broadened. Carolyn Suzuki’s F is for Feminism series, and Ben Rothery’s Sensational Butterflies and Hidden Planet kick started new precedents for what we commission, format choices and were very distinct, gorgeous titles, both set to continue. There’s too much to mention, really, but likewise, the 'Little World' books, 'Poems Out Loud', ‘Ladybird Tales’, 'The Big Book of Dead Things' and 'The Big Book of the UK' all caught my eye – high quality, big variety and lots of fun. It's why I joined.
It's still early days, so there’s a lot more coming! I'm excited to see two new novelty series: 'Busy Day' and 'Fairytale Pop-Ups' launch in 2020. I think they're going to make a splash!
Ashley - I have a background in advertising, business, and photography and have always had a great love for magazines. I’ve never had any experience in publishing or art directing so starting Bravery was a HUGE learning curve.
Elyse - I have a background in elementary education and have always had a talent for writing. After having my third baby, I was ready to pursue something that could utilize my talents in a meaningful way. When the idea for Bravery came along, I was ready to jump in head first.
Bravery came about after we had separate experiences with our daughters. I (Ashley) had the chance to dress up my almost three-year-old daughter as Rosie the Riveter for a Halloween photoshoot. I gave her a little background on Rosie the Riveter so she would have some idea about what was going on. The entire week afterwards she ran around the house pretending to build and fly airplanes. I was floored at how influenced she was by the little bit of information I had given her. It was in this moment a lightbulb went off for me. I realized she could have real women as role models and it could be interesting and fun.
I (Elyse) had an opposite experience with my daughter. As a four year old, she loved to dress up as princesses, but one day I heard her running around yelling, “Help me! Save me!”. When I asked her why she needed someone to save her, she replied, “Princesses aren’t brave, so I can’t be brave.” I realized at that moment that I hadn’t given my daughter any other options for role models besides what the world made easily accessible. I knew I had to change what role models she had access to.
There are a few things that we believe set Bravery apart from what else is on the market. First, it’s designed for both girls and boys. We believe that boys can (and should) learn about strong female role models just as much as girls should.
Secondly, the interactive nature of the magazine makes it stand out. It’s designed to be a resource that parents, caretakers, and educators can use to teach their children about strong female role models.
Lastly, the aesthetic of the Bravery is beautiful. We wanted to make a magazine for children that was designed so parents could enjoy it as well. We believe that children should be exposed to and learn to appreciate beautiful art and design.
Ashley - I was always influenced by my mom’s bravery growing up. She was a huge role model to me in the way she pushed to accomplish her goals and also pushed me to get out of my comfort zone and go for things. I also grew up with a large poster of Rosie the Riveter in my room with the statement “We can do it!” on it. I was incredibly inspired by Rosie and what women can do when given the chance. Many times, I remember feeling motivated by their stories and using that in my own life.
Elyse - I was (and still am) a major bookworm. As a kid, I read every book I could get my hands on. As I look back, I realize that the books I gravitated toward as a young girl had strong female characters in them: Ella in Ella Enchanted, Meg in A Wrinkle in Time, Hermione in the Harry Potter series. I was especially drawn to the story of Anne Frank. She inspired me to keep a journal for several years. I loved her optimism and bravery in the face of tragedy and cruelty. Anne’s story is still one that inspires me.
The biggest reward is doing something we feel passionate about and getting to work with so many talented people. We’ve been amazed as we’ve reached out to people all over the world to contribute to Bravery and they’ve said yes! With no previous experience in publishing, we weren’t sure how to go about things, what standard processes were, and if people would want to work with us. It’s been so rewarding to work with some really talented creatives.
One of the biggest challenges of owning your own business is the sheer amount of time and work it takes. We’ve sacrificed family trips, nights with friends, LOTS of sleep, and more to make Bravery what it is today. Sometimes it’s easy to feel burned out by the amount of work and stress that comes with owning your own business.
Each issue has a specific style to it, but overall I would say our style is very different from what you might think a typical children's magazine would look like. We like the art to be very simple and something that an adult could enjoy just as much as a child.
I think when Rebecca Green said yes to doing our very first cover, that was a huge moment for us. We had nothing to show her since it was our first issue and she took a big risk with us. We love the way the Jane Goodall cover turned out and it will always have a special spot in our hearts.
Another favorite collaboration is when Alice Lindstrom did the story illustrations for our Frida Kahlo issue. Alice is a paper artist and the details of her illustrations are absolutely incredible.
It’s so hard to pick, but the first four covers of Bravery are some of our favorites.
Make sure you’ve found your style. I’m always attracted to artists who have honed in on their style and have found their niche. If you want to highlight separate styles then put them in separate sections on your Childrensillustrators.com portfolio using their image set feature.
Our Temple Grandin issue talks a lot about autism, and we had a reader who ordered that issue to help tell her daughter that she had autism. She used the content in the Temple issue to show her daughter that she actually had a gift in the way she was able to process the world.
Everytime we think about that email, we get choked up. It’s exactly why we created Bravery—so kids could have strong female role models to look up to and so parents could have a resource to support them in the difficult and important conversations they want to have with their kids.
We’d love to grow into a podcast and YouTube content some day. Our goal is to be a resource for parents, teachers, and caretakers. We’d love to expand our platforms and reach more kids in more ways.
Photography courtesy of Kimberley Murray, Liz Stanley, Liz Johnson, Priscilla Gragg, Anna Killian and Kirsten Wiemer
While in college, I did a number of internships both in magazines and then in book publishing. I thought my dream job would be writing columns on love, fashion, and pop culture (think SJP in Sex and the City). But after interning for a magazine and not having very much enjoyed the experience, I worked for Carol Fitzgerald at The Book Report Network and fell in love with the publishing world. I realized some of my best childhood experiences revolved around books. I had no idea there was such a complex, fascinating and creative process behind a book’s publication. Whole teams of people working together to spread the word about beautiful works of literature. And one person who gets to read endless stories and shepherd them out into the world.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with many brilliant editors, writers, agents, and colleagues who have made my eleven years in publishing such a delightful experience. I was lucky enough to work on a wide range of projects and learn an array of editorial styles that have helped shape my editorial vision and execution today. I started my career at Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, and was able to work on commercial successes such as Lauren Kate, Ann Brashares, Carrie Ryan, Nicola Yoon, James Dashner, Tyra Banks, and Zayn. I edited a nonfiction project by famous chef, Andrew Zimmern and was a part of the repackaging of Sweet Valley High. (The mass market editions of those books are still sitting in a box in my parent’s attic.) It was a dream come true!
While I’ve always enjoyed a dark teen mystery or coming-of-age novel, I have a deep love of middle-grade and this is the space I’ve been living in for the past three years. (I moved over from Delacorte Press to Books for Young Readers at Simon and Schuster in November 2016.) There is something so very special about this time in life. We begin to ask more questions and gauge our autonomy yet still want (and need) the guidance of our parents; we start to see the world around us in a new light—a playground of opportunity and promise just waiting for us to take that leap of faith. We still believe in magic, albeit in a more practical way, and we start to feel the ties of childhood friendships fray and perhaps tether themselves to different individuals. I could go on and on. At times I find it interesting that I want to dwell in the world that was so unpleasant for me growing up, yet at the same time I know it was the books I read and the adventures I took each time I cracked open that worn library binding, that helped me to escape the everyday nonsense that is middle school.
My area of expertise falls in the middle-grade to teen spectrum.
As I mentioned, I focus on middle-grade and teen but within that scope, I love to commission interior art to accompany the prose whenever I can. I have a novel that came out this past spring titled Meena Meets her Match that follows an elementary school-aged girl who finds out she has epilepsy. It’s perfect for Junie B. and Ramona Quimby graduates and the author, designer, and I just knew we needed to visually share Meena’s journey throughout the novel. Meena’s energy and love of color and art sings across the stage with a series of spot art illustrations that capture some of the key scenes in the story. I also love a good map.
I think it really depends on the content—sometimes a dynamic scene works, other times it’s an iconic image from the story. Whether the novel is poignant or more adventure-driven, I do feel the color palette should be bright and dynamic. You want the image to pop off the shelf, not fade into the backdrop.
The absolute best part of my job is asking my authors questions that inspire them to think about their plot threads, characters, situations, and themes in a new light. My goal as their editor is to provide them with the tools to reshape their novel to its highest potential. So I’m going to say that on a daily basis I communicate ideas that spark in my mind when I read drafts of manuscripts and look at title suggestions and sketches and then I provide the necessary conduit for the author to turn that lightbulb on to its highest wattage.
This is hard! I’m so proud of all my authors and their stories. Alright, if I’m forced to choose, one of the first novels I acquired at S&S was a touching coming-of-age story about a girl who finds mean notes about her on her classroom floor titled If This Were a Story. It touches on so many real and raw experiences in a delicate and moving way. The next would be a historical novel in verse called Lifeboat 12. Atmospheric and gripping, readers will learn about a little known WW II story packed within a sea faring adventure. And finally, The Paris Project, which comes out in a few weeks. I’ve worked with Donna for a long time and her pitch-perfect middle-grade voice wins you over from the first page. Full of family and heart, this is a story I would have read over and over again as child.
I’ve truly had some of the best bosses in the business. Their superb editorial skills, excellent methods of communication, and overall warm personalities have shaped the editor I am today. I’ll start with Beverly Horowitz, whose in-depth editorial phone calls could be works of art. Wendy Loggia, whose attention to detail helped me to realize there is no small act that goes unnoticed and that the smallest actions have the biggest payoff. Krista Marino, whose editorial letters are genius and help to bring out the very best in her authors in addition to her kick-ass presence. And my current mentor, role model, and boss: Justin Chanda, who knows how to capture an audience—whether it be by phone, email or in person. I hope I can effectively communicate such publishing passion and knowhow one day.
I’m happy to help a fellow writer navigate the publishing waters and attend conferences year- round to meet new talent. The world is always in need of more beautiful stories. For both illustrators and writers, it’s immensely helpful to attend portfolio workshops and presentations at conferences available in your area; this will also grant you the opportunity to meet agents and editors who acquire content similar to your style. The faculty will be there with fresh, proficient eyes and insight into the marketplace to help steer your talent in the right, most successful, direction.
Finding new voices and seeing stories change and grow, to when they finally reach their audience, has been an excellent adventure . . . and a dream thus far.
My first job in publishing was with First Second Books – I started there as a Marketing Associate, working with Mark Siegel and Lauren Wohl. I started six months before they published their first books and then stayed there working in marketing and publicity until I moved to Random House Children’s Books last year as the Publishing Director of Random House Graphic.
Our mission statement at Random House Graphic is, “a graphic novel on every bookshelf.” What that means is that we want graphic novels to be everywhere – and read by everyone.
As Publishing Director, I do a little bit of everything at the company – from editorial to marketing to systems to public speaking. The job of a Publishing Director is really to support everyone else in doing the best work possible.
My passion for graphic novels stems from the fact that they’re awesome! I love the combination of writing and art. And the community around graphic novels – from the authors to the booksellers, teachers, librarians, and media people I work with on a day-to-day basis – are some of the most enthusiastic and supportive people I’ve ever met. It’s a wonderful space to get to work in.
I can’t wait for our spring 20 list! What we’ve got coming up is:
The Runaway Princess, by Johan Troïanowski – this princess doesn’t want to stay home and be polite. She wants to have adventures – so she runs away!
Bug Boys, by Laura Knetzger – in which you’ll meet the nicest, kindest bugs yet. And they go to the library (as well as having other adventures).
Aster and the Accidental Magic, by Thom Pico and Karensac – when Aster’s parents move their family to a small rural town, she expects the worst; when she meets a magical trickster spirit, things only go downhill from there.
Witchlight, by Jessi Zabarsky – magic and loss permeate this graphic novel about a girl and a witch who go on a quest together – and gradually fall in love along the way.
And then coming up in the summer is an amazing autobiographically-inspired middle-grade graphic novel by Lucy Knisley, Stepping Stones!
Kids and YA graphic novels are a growing part of the children’s publishing market today. Publishers – and readers – are really enthusiastic about this format.
The first thing I always recommend to graphic novel artists is to read kids and YA graphic novels! There are so many amazing books out there – knowing what’s being published and what’s happening in the market is essential.
Next, draw comics! With the small press comics convention scene and the online webcomics community, comics are one of the easiest formats of books to find a community and share your work with to improve your skills.
Random House Graphic is a dedicated imprint at Random House Children’s Books; we publish exclusively graphic novels.
Our sister imprints at Random House Children’s Books publishe many amazing graphic novels as well – including Babymouse, The Cardboard Kingdom, 5 Worlds, and Hilo. We’re graphic novel publishing siblings – and in many cases, we’re right down the hall (or next door). We all work to support each other!
To get “a graphic novel on every bookshelf,” we want to appeal to all kinds of readers! That means we’re interested in books for different ages – from ages five up through YA – on all different genres, and both fiction and nonfiction. We’re looking for great stories with wonderful artwork.
Diversity is important in every part of our world today.
Any publishing for kids – including graphic novels – has the potential to make a vital impression on kids as they figure out who they want to be.
When all of the elements – writing, art, story, characters, design – come together perfectly, that’s a great graphic novel!