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!
I set up Cicada after the birth of my daughter, Edith. I had been working as an editor for a small independent company but had handed in my notice when I got pregnant. I wanted a part time editorial job with another design-oriented independent but there was nothing available. I had had a couple successes at previous companies, so slightly foolishly assumed that it would be no big deal to set up my own company. It’s been a lot harder than I ever expected, and there have been a lot of ups and downs. But I’m still standing, and that makes me pretty proud.
The company has been through various stages. We started out making design/gift books for adults, then moved into activity books for children and finally into picture books.
The picture books are a new venture for me and I’m still bursting with enthusiasm, so it’s hard to pick a favourite. Sock Story is probably my most successful picture book to date. It’s about a pair of socks that get separated in the wash and then have to decide what it means to be a pair if one of you has changed. It’s got a philosophical touch and a lot of humour and it’s beautifully illustrated by Eleonora Marton. It’s printed in pantones with a die cut cover, so quite a wow factor. We had a great critical response, including a review in the New York Times, and it’s selling through really well.
I’m working on a couple non-fiction titles with two great illustrators. Sophie Williams is illustrating a book about natural disasters. She’s got a really warm style that is perfect for conveying information. I’m also working with Katie Brosnan on a book about the microbiome. Her style is very narrative and imaginative, which is unusual for non-fiction, but actually works really well – and makes a complex topic very accessible and inspiring.
After these books go to print it’s back to the picture books with a gorgeous book of Alice Bowsher’s about a dog called Scruff who hates being scruffy. I’ve also got one with Daniel Gray-Barnett called the Pocket Chaotic, about a kangaroo joey who’s mum is very messy. I love books that make me smile.
Wow. Where to begin? I’m an editor, not a business woman by nature, and it’s been a long hard journey getting to grips with the nuts and bolts of running a company. Many, many mistakes have been made along the way. My main challenge is making it all add up. Books have a low profit margin that seems to only get lower as paper prices increase and the value of the pound decreases. It’s a constant battle between the head and heart. What can I afford to do, how much can I afford to pay, how many copies will realistically sell, how commercial is the idea. I have to say, mostly the heart wins!
A typical workday is a balance between doing the stuff I love – writing and editing, communicating with illustrators, researching new projects, planning the future lists. And the other stuff: foreign language rights, shipping, production, checking on sales figures and stock levels… posting books out…. It’s certainly never dull!
I love the moment when you can feel a book in your head. You have the story, you’ve attached the right illustrator, you’ve discussed the visual approach and suddenly you see exactly how it’s going to look and you know exactly what you have to do to get there. Of course it’s a long road, but I know that if I have that clarity of vision at the beginning of the process, the end product will be a good ‘un!
I don’t really know. It’s hard for a small publisher to survive, but I think that’s true for any small business in a globalised world. I sometimes feel like the mainstream industry leaves it to the little guys to take all the risks and the risks that pay off are effectively stolen and commercialised, which can be very frustrating. But again, I think that’s true for a lot of industries, not just publishing.
It depends on the book, but I’m always looking for warmth and expression. For the picture books I want illustrators who can convey emotion in the faces of their characters, and also a sense of movement that can draw readers into the story. On the non-fiction side of things I’m looking for an illustrator who can convey information with a human touch.
On the non-fiction side of things I’m always on the lookout for science or geography topics that can be presented in a new way.
On the picture books, I’m looking for funny. I like books that make me smile and that have a touch of the subversive. Once they’re of school-age there’s a lot of pressure on kids to conform and I like books that challenge that either directly or indirectly.
Illustration styles – I’m open to anything really. I work with all sorts of illustrators working in any number of styles and mediums. I don’t know what exactly I look for, but I know what I like when I see it!
I love all Mo Willems books – Pigeon, Elephant and Piggie and Knuffle Bunny. You can’t beat him for the lol-factor.
I love the American I Can Read books from the 1980s, including Go Dog Go, the Best Nest and Hand Hand Fingers Thumb.
Jon Klassen is amazing. This is not My Hat and I Want My Hat Back are brilliant.
Lucy Cousins is a favourite – I love the Maisy books and Peck Peck Peck is a book I always buy for small children. The die cut holes are so clever. Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love is a book I wish I had published.
I left a promising career with advertising giant Leo Burnett, cashed in $17,000 from my 401(k) plan, and launched a publishing house from an upstairs bedroom in my home in Naperville, Illinois. I started with just one book, and was initially focused on publishing professional finance titles, books for bankers, and how-to books for small-business owners.
It’s pretty wild that the company I started 31 years ago has become a Top 10 U.S. publisher and the largest woman-owned publisher in North America. We have over 100 employees and now publish hundreds of books each year in a variety of categories.
We are a data-driven company in an industry that is way too rooted in the notions of “taste” and “instinct.” I’ll take data over my gut any day of the week. We gather and learn from data wherever possible, even if it’s on the smallest of scales. We use data in every single department of the company. My background has certainly helped drive us in that direction, but all areas of the company have embraced the use of data.
In terms of innovation, our personalized books platform came from the discovery that readers were already customizing our bestselling kids and gift books on their own. We launched Put Me In The Story as an app, and quickly realized that readers actually wanted a print copy featuring their child’s name and photo, as a gift or keepsake. We are constantly adapting to better suit the needs and wants of readers.
We know books change lives because books changed my life at a young age when I first came to America. I was 9-years-old and did not speak English. I found refuge in the library, where books helped me to understand the culture and the language of the world I now found myself in. I have seen over the last 31 years how books can make a profound difference in peoples’ lives, and that is what continues to drive the Sourcebooks mission.
Agile, transparent and collaborative. We’ve also incorporated “growth mindset” throughout our corporate culture. It’s meaningful when every person on the team is pushing themselves to recognize that “you don’t know what you don’t know” and strive to understand something new. We publish 400 new titles each year.
In 1998, we broke all boundaries with We Interrupt This Broadcast by Joe Garner, a mixed-media book featuring two compact discs with integrated content. It was our largest first printing, and it went on to become Sourcebooks’s first New York Times bestseller. The brilliant pairing of live audio with photographs and the written word generated enormous interest within the bookselling community.
Three years later, we reinvigorated the way readers experience poetry with Poetry Speaks, a book and three-CD combination featuring noted poets like Tennyson and Plath reading their own work. This anthology, a Los Angeles Times and New York Times bestseller, was lauded by Publishers Weekly as having “the potential to draw more readers to poetry than any collection in years.”
After saying I would never publish a children’s book, we released our first children’s picture book, Poetry Speaks to Children, in 2005. The unique grouping of poems, illustrations, and a CD of poets reading their work delighted booksellers and found its way into the hearts of parents, teachers, and children alike, landing it on the New York Times bestseller list for ten weeks. The title eventually marked the springboard for the launch of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, which started in 2007. A decade later, we’re the 11st largest children’s book publisher.
When I first started the company, my husband came with me to the bank to take out a loan. The banker only talked to my husband. He didn’t pay me any attention, even though my husband made it clear I was the founder and CEO of the company. On the next visit, my husband came with me again, but this time he sat at the back of the room and read a book. When the banker asked for his attention, he said, “you need to talk to her.”
Sourcebooks is the largest woman-owned publisher in North America. Our staff is 70% female, and our leadership team is 70% female. We publish books that empower, recognize and celebrate women who have made a difference.
Sourcebooks Kids is the umbrella under which four children’s imprints live including:
- Sourcebooks Wonderland (customized, proprietary, and regional books)
- Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (ages 0—8, including board books, picture books, and chapter books)
- Sourcebooks Young Readers (middle grade)
- Sourcebooks eXplore (juvenile nonfiction
The viral picture book P Is for Pterodactyl, by Raj Haldar and Chris Carpenter and illustrated Maria Tina Beddia, skyrocketed to #1 on the New York Times Children’s Picture Book bestseller list in December, selling 63,000 in eight weeks (NPD Bookscan).
Reading a print book will always be an incredibly special experience for all ages, but there are absolutely some areas where technology can really create major impact.
Some questions we asked ourselves years ago were: How do we engage reluctant readers? How do we turn every child into a reader? With those questions in mind, we created Put Me In the Story, which takes bestselling books and personalizes them with children’s names and pictures. We work with bestselling authors, award-winning publishers, and blockbuster brands to shape each personalized story into the best reading experience possible. For parents and children, these books become very special bonding experiences that they cherish for years to come. It also engages children at a much higher level, and helps their love of reading grow.
Another example for us is our Fiske Guide to College, the #1 going-to-college guide. It features 316 of the best schools in the US, Canada, and Great Britain. We wanted to find a way to enhance the overall experience for parents and college-bound students, so we created the Fiske interactive app. This allows individuals to browse the curated list of schools and create personal college lists, flag schools for a second look or visit, add notes about each school, email admissions departments directly, and so much more. The college search can be very daunting, and this app really helps families organize all of the information that they need so that that can make more informed decisions.
The future of publishing isn’t a far away concept; it’s actually happening right now. Books are unique, and the publishing is incredibly different than the music or magazine industries. When you buy a book for yourself or as a gift, that book tells the people around you what you like and what’s important to you. It’s another social way to share who you are with the world. That’s why platforms like Instagram are becoming vital to booksellers, librarians, and influencers. It helps them communicate their brand, and it helps them connect to the customer or reader.
As publishers, we have to be innovative and agile, and we have to constantly be thinking about what books mean to readers. We have to uncover new ways to reach them. The future of publishing involves changing and evolving. It means being brave enough to say that you don’t know the answer or the best solution – but that you’re going to ask questions and experiment until you find it. You have to stop believing everything you think you know, and you have to listen to what readers and saying and watch what they’re buying habits are. Then you collect your data, you experiment, you learn, and you move forward. And then you start the process all over again.
The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs by America’s Test Kitchen, which launched in October with a story on National Public Radio, spent 11 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and three weeks in the #1 spot on the Children’s Middle Grade Hardcover list.
Love: from Sesame Street by Sesame Workshop also debuted on the New York Times Children’s Picture Book bestseller list, the first time a Sesame Street book has made the list in 49 years.
In addition, with more than 850,000 copies sold of Baby University, the breakout series of science books for kids by Chris Ferrie, Sourcebooks Kids has quickly established itself as a leader in the preschool category.
I started my career in publishing in the 90s at magazines like The Face and Sleazenation. I had been an avid reader of magazines before that, as a child and a teenager. With these titles, I was lucky enough to ‘go behind the curtains’ and learn how to create them. I always secretly wanted to make my own and it is when I became a Mum ten years later that the dream became a reality. Anorak is now in its 12th year of publishing which officially makes us veterans on the indie publishing scene!!
I read anything when I was a child, from Marvel comics to The Famous Five books, or my mum’s womens or TV listings magazines. As a family we moved around a lot and magazines were constant companions. When we lived abroad, we used to get comics and pop magazines sent over to us as this was a way to stay in tune with what was happening on the Continent. When I became a Mum, I started reconnecting with children’s magazines and realised things had changed hugely and not for the best. Magazines had become commercial and gender-specific and I thought about creating a magazine that I would love to read with my son and would be more about childhood than a brand extension.
I wear many hats so every day is different. My favourite day is when I have no admin to do and instead I spend the day writing stories and commissioning artists. If I have to do some admin, I will tackle it first thing, early morning, and then give myself the rest of the day to think, write or visit a Museum for inspiration. One of the things I have learnt over the years is not be a slave to my Inbox! I usually stop around 430pm/5pm (for ice cream and spending time with my son) and start again later after dinner to answer emails.
Every issue has a theme and they vary hugely, from the more conceptual (Art, Myths and Tales, Words, Dreams) to the plain fun (Cakes, Sweets, Party). The themes we explore are sometimes connected to the British Curriculum, or inspired by a documentary or a podcast. They also come from conversations I have had with my son. We never repeat themes and never shy away from the more ‘philosophical’ ones, such as Friendship, Fear and Kindness. One of the things that frustrates me with mainstream culture for kids is that it always revolves around the same topics like Princesses, Robots and Dinosaurs and yet childhood is the perfect time to be inspired by and absorb everything.
I simply love illustrations so I feel like a kid in a candy shop when I get to commission artists! The process always starts with me writing a story. For Anorak, I tend to write in a short story format, thinking about the narrative and the words (obviously!). For our younger children’s magazine, DOT, I tend to think of it more visually and would often sketch it out before I write it. That’s because DOT’s audience is made of very young readers so the approach has to be more visual than wordy.
Once the first draft is done, I look for the style that would suit it better. It’s a subjective process as it is down to tastes a lot! Sometimes I already have a visual style in mind and it is then about matching that to an illustrator and at other times, I have no idea and just look around in search of the perfect one!
It is hard to put into words such instinctive process but generally I look for consistency and craft. Consistency because I’d like to get a good idea of how the story will come back and if a portfolio has too many styles, it can be confusing. Craft because I love detailed and fun scenes that will ultimately inspire our readers to immerse themselves in a story and pick up a pen and draw. I also have a bit of a white page phobia so bright colours are best! Anorak, to me, should be this box of surprises where every page is visually stimulating and gives children a sense that every drawing is a great drawing and there is not one way to draw.
It’s hard to pick one amongst the 46 of them but if I had to choose just one, it would be the one Amandine Urruty did for our Cats & Dogs edition. Amandine is one of my personal favourite artists so I was really humbled when she accepted to do it. I love it because it captures the theme in such a beautiful and intriguing way. It is weird but completely enticing, and looks like it could have been produced over 60 years ago. And the egg on top of the dog is hilarious and bizarre, which is just perfect!
Children are invited to take part in drawing missions and/or they review books for us. Anorak has always been about involving children, as frankly, they are the best drawers and editors. At first, Little Editors were friends of friends but now we have around 300 of them scattered across the world and we also involve schools for some missions.
I think the illustrations we use in Anorak are often very child-like so artists and children’s drawings live very well side by side. We get a huge amount of positive feedback about this scheme as it does wonders for children’s confidence to see their stories and drawings published.
The fun stuff is educational and we make the educational stuff fun! There are subjects that come back every edition such as Nature, Space, Food, and with these, we always look for interesting and fun facts. We approach everything through the lens of child wonderment and when we plan every issue, we access our 8 year old within!
We have just launched a Spanish edition of DOT and are doing events in Barcelona and Madrid to spread the word. It is distributed in mainland Spain and South America.
It is too difficult to pick a single one but I am proud of the fact that we just keep thriving with products that people genuinely love. It amazes me the level of support we receive year in year out from parents, teachers, who really champion everything we do. I am also massively grateful that we have been asked to create magazines like Anorak for brands such as The Scouts, 2017 City of Hull and Airbnb.
Our editorial policy is ‘EVERYTHING IS FUN’ so we hope that by highlighting how fun food, nature or the world are, we inspire them to treat everything and everyone around them with kindness and respect. I truly believe that learning while having fun is the easiest way to learn and stay connected to the world around. But, ultimately, we are very conscious that publishing magazines means chopping down trees so we don’t overprint and ensure we use recycled paper. I also don’t want to add to the sea of throwaway magazines that are available on the shelves (only to end up in a landfill a few months later) which is why Anorak is printed on really nice paper and it is designed to be kept and passed on.
As I grew up, I loved art and was taught that “bored” was a bad word and that one should always try to make something with what they already have - perhaps by finding the magic of what is right in front of you. I often found joy in imagining the world to come alive in wonder the way that children’s books portray (like looking at a tree in the wind and seeing the leaves dance, or thinking that perhaps the stars at night are singing us a lullaby). However, when it was time to think about what career path I wanted to follow, these things never crossed my mind. All I knew was that I wanted to do something that helped others. So, naturally, I decided I would go to school to become a doctor. Within my first year of school I came to realize, despite my best efforts, that I did not enjoy the sciences nearly as much as art. And how would I help others if I was not inspired? I thought to myself, why can’t I help people through art? And there the story really started to take off.
I always loved the way children see life as full of possibility, so I began early on in school designing materials for non profits geared toward helping children in need. As I was nearing graduation as an art major, I knew I wanted to do something that involved design, art, and children, but what? Teaching? It was then that my aunt, Diane Greenseid, introduced me to the magical world of actually making children’s books. She was and still is a children’s book illustrator. She kindly gave me a list of art directors she knew and I immediately contacted them. Several of them graciously agreed to see me! I recall taking my giant, unwieldy portfolio through the wind and rain in NYC back in the winter of 1999, meeting so many lovely people but alas, however, none that could offer me a job. I did find a job at a small design studio in NYC, which was great, but now I had my heart set on working in children’s publishing.
As life will have it, you never know what turns your path will make unknowingly — 2 weeks later, I got a call from the very first art director I met, Joann Hill, saying she had a position open for a design assistant at Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin). And it was there that my career really began. I spent several years learning under her wing and having such a great time. I then moved on to the Knopf imprint at Random House, where I continued to learn every day for just shy of a decade, meeting so many amazing creators from authors to illustrators, editors of all styles including Janet Schulman who showed me how a book can be serious and funny at the same time, fellow art directors and designers, and of course Isabel Warren-Lynch, who taught me to always focus on powerful expression (and yes, I mean that in more ways than one).
When we moved out to the North Bay of California after my daughter was born, I never thought I would be able to find what I have found now which is the incredible team of Cameron + Company — a small boutique publisher that embraces the love for story, design, books and creative collaboration. I am definitely one of those lucky people who can say they love their work.
Here, at Cameron Kids, I feel my job is less about directing the art than inspiring artists and idea makers to inspire our children as they acquire language and gain a deeper understanding of the world around them and their part in it. To help bring stories to people through books. Because in the end it is our stories that make the world human. I guess I finally found my role after all.
Although Cameron + Company has been publishing children’s books for a few years, we really started to establish and grow this past year with the official launch of the Cameron Kids imprint. The team consists of our children’s publisher, Nina Gruener, our children’s book editor, Amy Novesky, (both amazing authors in their own right), myself — the art director, our production manager, CJ Hemesath, who is stellar at making all our crazy ideas tangible, Emma Kallok, our Marketing and Publicity manager (also a published author), and Jan Hughes, managing editor and copyeditor extraordinaire.
We are an imprint of Cameron and Company -- where Iain Morris is the creative director, who is always inspiring with his expertise -- making sure none of our books got to print being anything shy of perfect and Chris Gruener is publisher. And of course, the heart of our work -- all the authors and illustrators! So, you see, we are all here because we truly love the art of making stories for children and pretty much everyone does a little bit of everything. There is a definitely a lot of joy in our work, but we take it seriously. We publish about 6-8 titles a year on our list, as well as publishing our Cameron Studio projects on our Roundtree list, which is an exciting new endeavor.
To me what that means is that our books are stories begging to be heard in a way that only a tangible book can do (you know that feeling that comes from reading and holding an actual book? the smell of the paper, the feel, the quiet...)
I’ll have to refer to our blog about this as I couldn’t put it better myself.
To us there is a place in today’s digital media-driven culture for the printed word and the print design that goes with it. We seek out those books that need to be held, and appreciated for their tangible value. The books that call to us to be just that, books.
Following the Cameron tenet of publishing books that need to be books – FOR KIDS, has been a thrilling and rewarding journey for our team. Whether it be a picture book biography or a board book about trucks, we choose stories that need to be told, and told well. Our hope is that when given the chance to visit some other world in the pages of our books, children will glean wisdom, compassion and empathy. The dance between words and art in a picture book, executed with thoughtful design, has the power to not only entertain a child, but engage them in a way no other medium can. Books can expose kids to beauty they may have otherwise missed in our fast paced world. Even among the youngest of us, beauty is a great and underrated tool for cultivating change and inspiration.
Truthfully, they all stand out in their own little way. Each project I have worked on has taught me something new. It would be fun one day to make a list of what they have taught me!
I will say, that one of my most treasured experiences, that stands out in a big way, was working on THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak. I remember being handed a huge stack (real paper!) of a manuscript to read and turn into a physical book. I read those very pages on an airplane ride across the country, unable to put it down. I was haunted by the imagery and power of Markus’s story and have been ever since. How on earth was I going to capture that in a cover?! His words were life changing and the project was humbling. And then to watch it over the last many years reach so many other people. It has been an honor to see how much one little book really can help the world.
There are most definitely so many wonderful books I have had the pleasure of working on, it is almost impossible to choose as what has meant the most, is the process of creating a book for children together with other creative people whether we are like-minded or not. What a delight it is to work with other artists, constantly hearing and seeing new ideas. I actually just finished working on a project, called ODE TO AN ONION written by Alexandria Giardino, illustrated by Felicita Sala, that is to be published in the Fall of 2018, that I am simply thrilled about all around: the words, the pictures, the content, the design, the process of collaboration between publisher, editor, author, artist and production — truly lovely.
Absolutely! One of the most fascinating things to me is watching artists grow to reach their potential while working on making a book reach its highest potential. I love looking through an artist’s work and finding that little nugget of art that is just begging to be explored, and subsequently working with an artist to develop that in a way that is unique to them.
As an art director, I can look at sketches and help with pacing, emotion, expression, perspective, composition, etc. once we get into the book making – but the artist is the artist, and that is what we are looking for – that unique artistic expression that will turn a story into a tangible magical world.
I am lucky that I can say all of them! Our Spring 2018 list which just published at the end of April, features a The Great Chicken Escape by Nikki McClure, for which we had fun creating a giant die-cut of a chicken in the case to echo her signature cut paper style, Red a 2 color wordless book by first time author/illustrator Jed Alexander, a bright and bold book about Los Angeles by Elisa Parhad, illustrated by Alexander Vidal, and the second installment of the WALNUT ANIMAL SOCIETY, Magnolia’s Magnificent Map written by Lauren Bradshaw, illustrated by Wednesday Kirwan....that is 4, but I can’t choose.
Being a small publisher, it is always a collaboration. We receive a story submission, and decide if we love it. Since we do so few books, we always search for that absolute yes moment! Once that is settled (often after several rounds of edits to the text), we begin the search for an illustrator who can bring the words visually to life. This sometimes happens quickly and sometimes takes a really long time.
While we do have a certain aesthetic we gravitate towards, what excites us most is when we see something different than what has been done before. We believe the art for children’s books can be sophisticated yet still childlike. So, often, we may work with artists who are amazing artists but have never done a children’s book before.
Once the team for the book is made, we go through anywhere from 1 to 4 sets of sketches, with the level of involvement differing due to the nature of the project and how the artist works. The design happens simultaneously as we begin to think about the production aspect of the book from the get go.
Design plays a huge role in our books, but it has to be thoughtful. No bells and whistles! So we think about the format, the paper, and any other added elements we may want to explore. Then the final design comes in to play once the art is done, we go through several rounds of edits to make it perfect. Then we proof the book to get the look and feel just right, then it becomes a book! That is an extremely simplified version of the process (not including all the materials and plans made to get the outside world excited about the book, the number crunching, the marketing and publicity,...)
WHAT A MESS! by Frank Muir illustrated by Joseph Wright is still one of my favorite books, as well as Who Took the Farmer's Hat? by Joan L. Nodset, illustrated by Fritz Siebel, Harold and The Purple Crayon, and The Little Prince.
We are looking for artists who can visually capture childlike wonder–artists that have a unique expression that can turn a story into a tangible magical world and fill the spaces the words leave open with more. It inspires me when an illustrator shows the reader what he/she can’t already see.
I am moved when I can see an artist’s passion and potential through their work. A good balance of fresh use of line, white space, and poignant expression of character—whether that is portrayed through the setting of the stage or the characters themselves . . . I love to see an artist open to trying new things within his or her own style to make the story come to life.
Our emphasis is on beauty, simplicity, and story.
To continue to find stories that inspire and teach children about empathy and an open minded understanding of the world around them and inside them, to see the beauty in the simple things that are really the big things. And to turn those stories into books.
Yes! I am so excited for OH, BEAR. It will be illustrated by Ruth Hengeveld - this is her first picture book and she is a true talent. I am over the moon at the art I have seen so far. After all these years of being on the art director side of picture book making it is invigorating to see someone else put visuals to a story that came directly from my heart. And Ruth couldn't be a more perfect fit. She is brilliant! The story is simple, yet deep. It's about a dear bear, a beloved kite, loss and renewal, and friendship. The art is realistic yet magical and my hopes are that this book will inspire children to find the magic in nature, the magic of connection, and the magic that can emerge when you change the way you look at something. It will be published in the spring of 2019.
If I do have to pick, a couple of projects that come to mind, I’d mention Lunch Lady and Punk Farm by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, who I am simply thrilled has had so much success in publishing.
The Sleepy Little Alphabet by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Melissa Sweet.
A Splash of Red, by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet.
See the City by Matteo Pericoli.
Modern Fairies, Dwarves and Other Goblins by Lesley M.M. Blume, illustrated by David Foote.
Thelonius Monster's Sky High Fly Pie by Judy Sierra illustrated by Ed Koren.
...and a recent book, Play? by Linda Olafsdottir.
I’ve been in love with print for as long as I can remember but I couldn’t decide if I wanted to make art or write. In the end I did an art degree, but while I was there I wrote for magazines and interned at a couple of publishers. I had an Aunt in Romford who let me kip on her sofa. When I graduated I had a body of work to show, so I was able to get a job with a local publishing consultancy in the production department. From there I worked my way up, writing bits whenever I had the opportunity, to production editor, where I was in charge of coming up with ideas for new titles. I love that bit the best, so this job is perfect for me. I get to come up with a whole raft of new ideas every month.
We’re a small in-house team. Benita Estevez and I share the editor’s role and manage a large group of freelance writers and illustrators. Then we have Sophie Bryant Funnell who is a very talented art director an in-house illustrator, and Tim, who manages layouts.
My day begins at about 8.30, directly after I’ve finished the school run. I check my emails, maybe commission for a few things later in the year and then I’ll take a look at the spreads for the current issue and start proof reading, copy editing, image research and approving roughs. I might be involved in kicking around concepts for an important cover or talking a museum into lending us their expertise on a feature. Last week I spent some time building a pinball machine out of cardboard. It’s so varied, I am really lucky.
The world may have changed quite a lot over the last 25 years but fundamentally the kids who read AQUILA have not. They respond to the same things you and I responded to at that age. They’re incredibly switched on, well informed and eager to learn, so as long as the content is colourful, interesting, intelligent and packed with fun, it remains relevant and engaging. We try not to think too much about this trend or that. Our aim is that the AQUILA going out this month will still be being passed around, used and enjoyed two or three years from now.
That’s a tricky one. I like the covers with little hidden jokes or details in them but I know they don’t necessarily please marketing. A cover has to do so much! It has to work at loads of different sizes and communicate a very precise message. I LOVED Ed Brown’s Grow Your Own cover for our March issue. I felt it really conveyed the nuttiness of AQUILA.
8-12 is a really diverse age group and within that there are kids of all different abilities and with a whole host of different interests. It’s an organic process. We don’t run anything that we don’t find interesting, and when we run something that is very challenging we have a few tricks up our sleeve – we can pair a very tough maths feature with a really fun and colourful illustrator, we can use a very bright and friendly colour palette or I can write jokes and splice them into the text. Animals and ecology always go down well.
Repeat pattern artwork (below) by Ed Brown.
I can’t speak for Sophie, our art director, but personally I look for these things:
A fairly consistent style running across all the work. I should be able to tell instantly that all this work has been made by the same person, and it should tell me something about the person who made it.
Ideally I want to see a good mixture of subjects including people (adults and children), town and country scenes, food, diagrams (a good diagram illustrator is worth their weight in gold), hand-rendered text and large illustrations and spots.
A mixture of personal and professional projects. It’s really interesting to see what an artist chooses to work on, as opposed to what they’re given to work on.
I LOVE sketchbooks. Show me your sketchbook work. It will tell me so much about your process and your practice.
I like to be surprised by a topic. Often my favourites are things I think I’ll get nothing out of, but then suddenly I’m fascinated. A while back we ran a feature on slime moulds and their ability to solve mazes, and that just blew me away!
Slime mould artwork (below) by Rachel Tunstall.
Personally I think it’s absolutely crucial. For a start I think it helps people retain information but a shared joke also makes you feel like part of a gang. That’s what AQUILA really is – it’s a club for kids who are creative, kind, curious and a bit mad.
I just hope my jokes are actually funny.
The boy who was so inspired by our interview with a coracle maker that he made his own boat and sailed it down a river.
The kid who made our Dig for Victory garden with his granddad and ended up learning all about his experiences during world war two.
The boy who can’t go to school because of ill-health and disabilities, but who enjoys learning and feeling part of a community of kids because of AQUILA magazine. And then the replies to him from other children on the letters page telling him how proud they are of him and what he is achieving.
These are the stand outs, but I get great letters from kids every day. Each one makes me feel really privileged to be able to come to work and do this job.
After graduating with a degree in English and American Literature, I interned at several children’s publishers before I landed a job as editorial assistant at Andersen Press. While there I had the pleasure of working for the inimitable Klaus Flugge and had a hand in producing picture books created by David McKee, Tony Ross and Quentin Blake, to name a few. I’d long admired Nobrow’s books so when I heard they were starting a children’s list I knew I had to get in touch, and soon after I was hired. There wasn’t actually an editorial department when I started at Nobrow, so it’s been amazing to create a new department which has grown to a team of three within the four and half years that I’ve been here.
Nobrow and its children’s list, Flying Eye Books, was founded by two graduates of Central Saint Martins, Alex Spiro and Sam Arthur. For a while they were the only ones producing the books, but the UK office has since grown to a team of thirteen people, passionately working across editorial, design, publicity, marketing, accounts and foreign rights. We also have a sales office in the US where a team of three work to market and publicize our books in America while also liaising with our US distributor, Penguin Random House.
As a small and fairly young company we are still learning our way, but we have had some successes of which we are proud. One in particular that comes to mind is when Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill won the Kate Greenaway Medal in 2015. More recently we’ve had success with The Secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton, which won this year’s Waterstones Best Illustrated Book. But success for us isn’t just about winning awards, it’s about creating good quality books that sell well domestically and all over the world.
This can be true, but we do often notice a correlation between our bestselling titles in the US and the UK and I think this comes down to the globalization of publishing. However, the US market is much bigger so our sales expectations are higher, especially in certain areas such as Graphic Novels. This area is still quite niche in the UK, but we appear to be having a golden age in illustration which is opening the UK market up to different types of visual storytelling.
Arthur and the Golden Rope by Joe Todd-Stanton, of which we recently published the paperback edition, is an example of how we have experimented with visual storytelling. It’s a hybrid between a children’s picture book and graphic novel, which is set in the world of Norse Mythology. It’s been particularly successful for us as it reaches an age group of 5-8 year olds and schools have loved using the book in class. At its core it tells the tale of an unexpected hero, in the form of shy and awkward Arthur who manages to battle gods and beasts to save his village. We paired text and illustration in a slightly unusual way but it’s worked out well and it is accessible to children who might be reluctant readers.
This month we’re celebrating ten years of Nobrow, and have released a special anniversary 10th edition of the Nobrow magazine. The magazine was one of the very first projects to be published by Nobrow. In this edition 70 contemporary illustrators from all over the world have responded to the theme of ‘Studio Dreams’, and it’s printed in four spot colours. It’s been incredible to see the range and variety of art styles and interpretation of the theme by all the artists, and I could look through the book for hours!
In June, we are publishing a creative non-fiction book called Skyward: The Story of Female Air Pilots in WWII by Sally Deng. It’s a stunning book that tells the unrecognized story of female pilots from Great Britain, USA, and Russia. Set during the Second World War, Sally Deng sensitively tells the story of three women who all had a passion to fly and faced enormous obstacles along the way. This is a book I would have loved to have read as a child myself, especially as I had no idea women flew during WWII.
This can vary from project to project and it’s hard to describe exactly. Mostly we work with illustrators who are visual storytellers, but don’t find the writing part so easy. We’ll often work on the overall arc of the story and help the illustrator to write the text and make sure the book works as best as it can. Or sometimes I’ll send an illustrator a story or a visual reference for inspiration. Creating stories can be a long process, as sometimes original ideas by new voices take time to develop.
Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill is our most successful creative non-fiction title. It pairs inventive visuals and a fascinating historical story about survival and teamwork. When it was published in 2014, there were very few books out there like it – so it’s been wonderful to see how successful it has been.
I think the best children’s picture books are about universal experiences, whether that is something funny and silly or emotional and heartwarming. At their core children’s books have to appeal to children, but that doesn’t mean an adult can’t enjoy the book either, especially if they are going to be reading the book aloud every night to a young child!
Like most children, I was read to, and read a lot of illustrated books. These books have always stayed in my memory because they were some of my very first experiences of reading. However, it wasn’t until I started interning at children’s publishers that I realized my skill set was much more suited to working on illustrated books.
My taste in illustration styles is hard to define, as for every editor it is quite a subjective thing. I would say it’s often when an illustration provokes a response from me. I tend to like illustration styles that are warm and full of character and expression, like Emily Hughes’s art. Lately, I’ve been drawn to lots of diverse subject matters, but in particular I like simple stories with important and relevant themes, be they social or environmental.
I’m particularly excited by a non-fiction book we are publishing in October called Everest. It tells the story of the world’s tallest mountain, from its early beginnings, to the flora and fauna which survive on it and the legends that surround it. It’s written beautifully by the talented Sangma Francis and illustrated by the incredible Lisk Feng, whose illustrations are bold and mystical. It’s been an ambitious project, but it’s truly breathtaking – in my humble opinion!