Jenny Broom Interview

Jenny Broom

Associate Publisher, Frances Lincoln Children's Books & Wide Eyed Editions

How did your publishing career begin and what have been some of the highlights so far?

I started working in publishing shortly after graduating from the Slade, where I’d done a degree in Fine Art. The world of books had always appealed and specialising in children’s felt like the right fit, since it’s such a visually-driven field. I lucked out by getting a job in a small packaging company almost immediately, working under Graham Brown­ ­­– a somewhat legendary character – who took me under his wing, and I’ve never looked back.

I’ve had two career highlights to-date – the first being the reception to Animalium, which I wrote back in 2014, and the second launching Wide Eyed Editions which I co-created with Rachel Williams the same year.

As Associate Publisher for Frances Lincoln Children's Books and Wide Eyed Editions, what does your role broadly entail and how do you divide your time across these two very different lists?

The role is incredibly varied, which I love. In one aspect, it’s extremely commercial, and I spend probably half my time working on strategy, sales and operations. Doing this helps me to understand the creative decisions I need make later on down the line. The rest of the time I’m thinking creatively, coming up with new ideas and formats, talking to illustrators and authors, writing, editing and giving art direction on covers and layouts. It’s an extremely collaborative job – it’s almost imperceptible exactly how you personally have contributed to a project by the end, and the whole team feels like each book is ‘theirs’, which is very motivating and rewarding.

Describe the day-to-day working relationship with parent company, Quarto.

Quarto is a good home – creatively, we operate like a boutique, independent house, with our own team of editors and designers focussed on commissioning the two lists. But when it comes to printing, promoting and selling the books, we plug into the company mainframe, which gives us real muscle. An important aspect of my job is acting as the bridge between the creative team and the other departments, which is great as I get to run round the building and say hello to everyone at some point in the day!

Wide Eyed Editions publishes ground-breaking books that have revolutionised the non-fiction sector. Tell us about the core philosophy behind this highly successful imprint.

Both Rachel and I have a strong background in commissioning nonfiction, and it felt natural to marry this rich educational content with upscale formats and contemporary illustration. We saw a gap in the market for people like ourselves, with high design values and surrounded by young children hungry to learn about the world. After some early successes with books like Animalium, we decided to found Wide Eyed Editions, launching the list with Atlas of Adventures, which encapsulates everything we wanted from our books: it’s an original concept, packed with educational content, beautifully packaged – and very commercial!

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Frances Lincoln Children's Books is in its 40th year of publishing and has a huge and impressive backlist. Please select 3 of your favourite titles to share with our audience.

1. Amazing Grace – a pioneering book almost as old as the list itself with more than a million copies sold around the world to date, proving that books featuring black children are anything but ‘niche’. There was an extraordinary moment last year when David Bowie died that a picture of him reading it to a group of children went viral. Grace truly is amazing.

1.     Deep in the Woods – a stunning retelling of a traditional Russian folk story printed in fluorescent inks by Christopher Corr, who I would walk to the ends of the Earth to work with again. He is wonderful.

2.     Can I cheat and say a whole series? Little People Big Dreams has been a fantastic success and it’s super rewarding to see inspiring women valued and celebrated in the literary world at the moment. My personal favourite is Frida Kahlo: her little monobrow is particularly endearing

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Growing up, which non-fiction title had the biggest impact on you and why?

I think it was a bit of a golden age for nonfiction as I grew up in the 80s and 90s. I read Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting cover to cover – growing up in North Norfolk meant that art galleries were few and far between. Incredible Comparisons by Russell Ash is another absolute corker. I loved everything by DK, literally spent days with my Filofax Spy File writing codes – what secrets I had to hide I have no idea … Also, there was this craze back in the 90s for collectible animal fact files – a sample pack would arrive through the post for free and I would BEG EVERY DAY to subscribe so that I could collect the complete massive ring-binder bit by bit.

Can you tell us about an exciting project you recently released?

So many awesome things! We recently released All Aboard the Discovery Express, a time-travelling adventure-mystery that the reader has to unravel spread by spread, by solving clues. It’s illustrated by the unbelievably talented Tom Clohosy Cole.

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What key words would you use to describe the kind of illustration style and themes Frances Lincoln and Wide Eyed Editions are interested in respectively?

Frances Lincoln: classic, timeless, rich, emotive, diverse, courageous, enlightening. Wide Eyed: contemporary, graphic, eye-catching, innovative, experimental, international.

Who have been some of your most significant mentors?

Amanda Wood, who I worked under in my stint at Templar. She’s a force of nature: unstoppably creative, incredibly warm, very, very funny and extremely generous. I got seriously lucky in landing a job with her.

I’m also very fortunate to have worked with Christine Baker a little, who works in London but publishes for Gallimard Jeunesse in France. As a young woman looking for female role models in the publishing world, you couldn’t do much better than these two pillars of children’s publishing, both enormously talented and very gracious humans.

Which projects have brought you the greatest sense of satisfaction and why?

The Wonder Garden, a book I worked on with Kristjana S Williams (a wonderful Icelandic artist), was a hugely joyful project, and so many great things came out of it. I had a brilliant time touring the book – taking it from Hay to the Southbank Centre in London to Moscow – and to see this ornate, decadent, gold-laden book embraced around the world at a time when minimalism and retro-modernism was dominating the design scene was really satisfying.

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