Posted by Kate on Apr 04, 2014
Posted by Kate on Apr 04, 2014
Posted by Kate on Feb 28, 2014
Last night was just the third time Nosy Crow has attended the Independent Publishers Guild Awards. And, amazingly, for the third time we came away with prizes. Having been shortlisted for four awards this year, and with both Ola and Tom shortlisted for the IPG Young Independent Publisher of the Year Award, we won the 2014 Digital Marketing Award, sponsored by Nielsen, and the 2014 International Achievement Award, sponsored by the London Book Fair.
Tom, Ola and me with our awards at the IPG award dinner last night
We were very surprised. It really did seemed far, far too much to hope for to think that lightning would strike three times. We won three awards in 2012 and two awards last year, after all, so to think we might get any more just felt plain greedy. But I was incredibly pleased that Nosy Crow won these particular prizes: Tom and Ola were with me at the awards ceremony, and Tom put in most of the work that won us the 2014 Digital Marketing Award, while Ola put in most of the work that won us the 2014 International Achievement Award.
Nosy Crow’s awards shelves
We were one of two multiple award winners on the night. The other, I am really delighted to say, was another children’s publisher: it was Usborne, a company that, with pretty much everyone else in children’s books, I think, I hugely admire. Usborne celebrated its 40th year of independent publishing last year. In an email from Bridget Shine to all Independent Publishers Guild Members, she says that Usborne pipped Nosy Crow to the post to win Children’s Publisher of the Year (nice to know that we were serious contenders for that prize again!), but they also won the overall Independent Publisher of the Year Prize, which the children’s, trade, educational, specialist and academic and professional prizewinners all go on to contend for. Peter Usborne, who is what is described as “an industry veteran”, got a standing ovation when he picked up the overall Independent Publisher of the Year Award, and many of us in the room felt a little bit lumpy-throaty as he went up to the podium to pick up his prize. I think that it’s such a great thing for children’s publishing in general that a children’s publisher has won the overall award – the second time it’s happened in the eight-year history of the prizes. And, frankly, if you are going to lose to someone, who wouldn’t 100% prefer it to be Usborne after their 40th year than anyone else?
The compere for the evening, Rosie Goldsmith, did a good job of keeping things upbeat and on track, but I did feel a tiny bit that, in her opening remarks, her friendly jokes about the nature of independent publishers – poor, bearded, uncommercial – didn’t reflect the community of IPG members that I’ve come to know. They certainly don’t reflect how I want to be seen, so it was kind of nice to have the opportunity – in an OK way: you had to be there! – to take issue with what she said when I went up to collect our first prize. I said that I didn’t want to be poor, was whisker-free, and that Nosy Crow was proud to be commercial. Yes, as she’d said, independent publishers like Nosy Crow publish with passion and conviction, and yes, we are free and happy, to publish into the niche markets, some tiny, that reflect our passions and convictions. But publishing with your heart doesn’t mean that you don’t also publish with your head. To be independent is not – or not necessarily, at least – to be charmingly eccentric or amateur or lofty or dreamy or romantic or a bit bonkers. I want Nosy Crow to be at least as professional, effective and business-like as any corporate publisher – for ourselves, for our customers, for our readers and their parents/teachers/librarians, for our authors and illustrators. It’s been said before by people cleverer than me, but the internet flattens the playing field between small and large players, in publishing and in other industries, and an advantage that independent publishers have is that they don’t have to ventriloquise a corporate voice. Instead, they can turn their scale, their individuality and their focus into an advantage. I’d like to think that it was, in part, Nosy Crow’s distinctive voice – not something we “put on”, but, instead, just a reflection of our personalities – in things like this blog and on social media that won us the Digital Marketing Award, and we love the opportunities that the internet gives us to have proper conversations with readers, parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians, bookshops, authors and illustrators that we otherwise might not have.
This is what the judges said:
“Nosy Crow…wins for another strong year of online brand building and customer engagement. Across social media, mailing lists, websites, blogs, events and an ambassador programme, Nosy Crow tirelessly pursued every marketing avenue. Nosy Crow has a very impressive sense of community in all its digital worlds. It’s very cost efficient too, which is important for all independent publishers.”
What won us the International Achievement Award, as well as Ola’s hard work, selling skills and meticulous organisation, was the support of the publishers outside the UK with whom we work closely, including Candlewick Press, Allen and Unwin, Gallimard Jeunesse, Carlsen Germany and Gottmer. Christine Baker, Editorial Director of Gallimard Jeunesse, was kind enough to provide a testimonial as part of our entry for this award. This is what she said:
“The tightly-knit and enthusiastic Nosy Crow team performs with ever-increasing energy, professionalism, dedication and creativity. They never rest on their laurels and keep thinking out of the box. Their speed of reaction and responsiveness is equal to their sound expertise of books and children, and we enjoy with Nosy Crow a model of fruitful and efficient collaboration in a relationship which is always enjoyable, trusting and constructive. The quality of the books and customer satisfaction are paramount for Nosy Crow, who are partners in every sense, far beyond editorial exchanges and punctual delivery of the books they produce for us. We also emulate and are inspired by their dynamic marketing and communication innovations, always helpfully shared. Nosy Crow has provided us with several of our best-selling picture and novelty books for young children of 2013. This success extends to fiction: the Nosy Crow debut, The Secret Hen House Theatre, is shortlisted for the prestigious Prix Sorcières.”
This is what the judges said:
“Nosy Crow scoops this award for the second year in a row, winning from what judges considered to be a strikingly strong shortlist. Nosy Crow again grew its rights, export and international app business substantially in 2013, adding new territories and pulling in more trade and consumer supporters through digital campaigns and tireless work at fairs and worldwide. Nosy Crow is fast becoming a powerhouse not just here but around the world. The international story is incredibly impressive.”
Both Peter and I spoke in our short acceptance speeches (short and garbled in my case: to prepare a speech is to jinx the prize) about the remarkable ability that UK children’s publishers have to select and make books that sell well right round the world. For a children’s publisher to win this prize for the second year running helps to bring a bit of attention to the professional skills and global sensibilities of our sector of the book business.
Here’s the full list of prizes and winners:
Nielsen Digital Marketing Award
The London Book Fair International Achievement Award
IPG Children’s Publisher of the Year
IPG Independent Publisher of the Year
IPG Trade Publisher of the Year
Frankfurt Book Fair Academic & Professional Publisher of the Year
Edward Elgar Publishing
Librios Education Publisher of the Year
Crown House Publishing
PrintOnDemand Worldwide Specialist Consumer Publisher of the Year
Ingram Content Group Digital Publishing Award
Faber & Faber
The Nick Robinson Newcomer Award
IPG Diversity Award
IPG Young Independent Publisher of the Year
David Henderson, Top That! Publishing
GBS Services to Independent Publishers Award
Compass Independent Publishing Services
After the party was over
So, just slightly the worse for wear after a long-ish evening of celebration, we’ll pack up our prizes and get back to work later today: the Bologna Book Fair is just around the corner, and we’ve lots to do.
Posted by Kate on Feb 07, 2014
No, no – I’m not slightly teary-with-pride. Must be grit in my eye.
We have just heard the news that we have been shortlisted for the four Independent Publishers Guild Awards for which we entered, and more than any other publisher. And Tom and Ola have been shortlisted for the Young Independent Publisher of the Year Award. And Bounce, who are our partners in selling books to booksellers, are shortlisted for the Services to Independent Publishing Award.
We are shortlisted for the Children’s Publisher of the Year Award, together with Usborne, Barefoot and Walker. The judges said that the quality of entries this year was exceptional, and this is reflected in the four-strong shortlist. To be on this list again, and with publishers who are so much bigger and so much more established, feels remarkable to us. This is our third shortlisting for this prize – so we’ve been shortlisted each year we’ve been eligible to enter – and we won in 2012 and 2013.
The judges said: “Nosy Crow was the winner of this award in both 2012 and 2013, and is shortlisted again after another impressive year of sales growth and digital innovation. Judges particularly admired its outstanding international business, imaginative apps and beautifully produced books, as well as its efforts to build a strong consumer brand. It has had another superb year—to have got so far so quickly is a remarkable achievement.”
We are shortlisted for the International Achievement of the Year Award, together with Advance Materials, In Easy Steps. We’ve been shortlisted for the prize in both years in which we’ve been eligible to enter, and we won it last year.
The judges said: “Nosy Crow completes what judges considered a strikingly strong shortlist after substantially growing its rights, export and international app business. It added new territories and pulled in more trade and consumer supporters in 2013, both through digital campaigns and tireless work at fairs and worldwide. Nosy Crow is fast becoming a powerhouse not just here but around the world. The international story is incredibly impressive.”
We were shortlisted for the Digital Publishing Award, together with Bloomsbury Publishing, Faber & Faber and Jordan Publishing. We won the Innovation prize in 2012 and were shortlisted for the Digital Publishing Award in 2013.
The judges said: “Nosy Crow completes what judges felt was an exceptionally strong category for its work with Apple apps and the launch of Stories Aloud, a bundling of free audio content with its picture book apps. Judges applauded the way Nosy Crow used digital technology to bring its content to life, and admired its download figures. Nosy Crow constantly tries interesting things, prepares them beautifully and executes them with consummate professionalism.”
We were shortlisted for the Digital Marketing Award, together with Constable & Robinson and Faber and Faber. We were shortlisted for the prize in both 2012 and in 2013.
The judges said: “Nosy Crow is shortlisted here for a third successive time after another strong year of online brand building and customer engagement. Across social media, mailing lists, websites, blogs, events and an ambassador programme, Nosy Crow tirelessly pursued every marketing avenue. Nosy Crow has a very impressive sense of community in all its digital worlds. It’s very cost-efficient too, which is important for all independent publishers.”
We are ridiculously proud of Tom and Ola for their Young Independent Publisher of the Year Award shortlistings. This is what the judges said about Tom: “Tom Bonnick, digital project and marketing manager at Nosy Crow, makes the shortlist for his energetic and imaginative work producing the publisher’s apps. Beyond that, judges were impressed by his energetic PR, events, social media, ambassadorial and speaking work. “He has the can-do attitude that is so important in an independent publisher. He seems happy and able to pick anything up and run with it, and has delivered some exceptional projects.”
This is what the judges said about Ola: “Ola Gotkowska, rights executive at Nosy Crow, is the second in a double act at the publisher on the shortlist. She makes the cut for her tireless work growing foreign rights business, especially in eastern Europe. “Ola has thrown herself into publishing, picked things up very quickly and achieved a great deal,” judges commented. “Like many young people at independent publishers she is doing much more than her simple job title suggests.”
The IPG says of the judging process, “The 2014 shortlists were compiled over two days of judging by panels of experts from across the publishing world. They feature 27 different companies and three individuals, between them representing all corners of independent publishing. Nosy Crow, Bloomsbury, Barefoot Books, Faber & Faber and Constable & Robinson each receive more than one nomination.”
Of the shortlists themselves, the IPG says, “Judges were very impressed with the high standard of entries across the Awards, especially in the categories for Children’s, Academic & Professional and Specialist Consumer Publisher of the Year, each of which have four shortlisted companies this year. The strength of the Digital Publishing and Digital Marketing Awards reflects the innovation and ambition of independent publishing in this sphere now, and judges also admired evidence of the sector’s rising talent within the Newcomer and Young Independent Publisher of the Year categories.”
Here are the full shortlists:
IPG Children’s Publisher of the Year
Barefoot Books, Nosy Crow, Usborne Publishing and Walker Books
The London Book Fair International Achievement Award
Advance Materials, In Easy Steps and Nosy Crow
Ingram Content Group Digital Publishing Award
Bloomsbury Publishing, Faber & Faber, Jordan Publishing and
Nielsen Digital Marketing Award
Constable & Robinson, Faber & Faber and Nosy Crow
IPG Young Independent Publisher of the Year
Tom Bonnick, Nosy Crow; Ola Gotkowska, Nosy Crow;
and David Henderson, Top That! Publishing
GBS Services to Independent Publishers Award
Attwooll Associates, Bounce Sales and Marketing,
Compass Independent Publishing Services,
Faber Factory, powered by Constellation and Faber Factory Plus
IPG Trade Publisher of the Year
John Blake, Constable & Robinson and Summersdale
Frankfurt Book Fair Academic & Professional Publisher of the Year
Bloomsbury Academic & Professional, Edward Elgar Publishing, Liverpool University Press and SAGE
Librios Education Publisher of the Year
Bright Red Publishing and Crown House Publishing
PrintOnDemand Worldwide Specialist Consumer Publisher of the Year
Absolute Press, How2Become, Quiller Publishing and Search Press
The Nick Robinson Newcomer Award
Critical Publishing, Fine Feather Press and Sedition Publishing
IPG Diversity Award
Accent Press, Barefoot Books and Phonic Books
One more Award, for the overall IPG Independent Publisher of the Year, will be chosen from a shortlist made up of the winners of the five Publisher of the Year categories.
IPG Chief Executive Bridget Shine said: “We are delighted to honour the companies and individuals on our shortlists this year, and proud of the examples they give of the strength and diversity of independent publishing in the UK. We congratulate them all, and thank the many IPG members who submitted entries. Competition for the Awards has been exceptionally strong this year, and we thank our judges for their careful deliberations and astute judgments. We look forward to celebrating our eighth annual set of winners—and the success of all independent publishers—at the end of February.”
Posted by Kate on Jan 13, 2014
We’ve been publishing books and apps for three years.
Sometimes it seems like a lifetime since we founded the company, but at other times it seems as if I have only had time to blink since we got the keys of the first Crow’s Nest (we’re now in the third).
I wrote a blog post looking back on 2011, and one looking back on 2012, so I feel I’ve rather started a tradition. As is often the case with our blog posts, while we really hope that you’ll like reading them, they also serve an important kind of diary function for us, marking milestones and reminding us of what we felt and thought about things at different stages in our development.
RECOGNITION FOR NOSY CROW
We were more delighted than we can say – and very, very surprised – to win the Independent Publishers Guild’s Children’s Publisher of the Year award for the second year running in March 2013. At the same ceremony, we won their International Achievement award, and we were shortlisted for their Digital Publishing and Digital Marketing awards. We were also shortlisted for the Bookseller Industry Awards Children’s Publisher of the Year and Digital Strategy of the Year awards.
Our awards from our first three years of publishing, for Nosy Crow as a company and for individual books and apps, now require two shelves
SOME INNOVATIONS IN 2013
We decided that we’d give away a free digital audio book with every one of our paperback picture books: it’s a modern take on the Fisher Price cassettes my own kids used all the time as children, it works for parents, and it enables every bookshop to offer a digital component packaged with a print sale. So we launched Stories Aloud, and downloads, within the year, topped 100,000.
Art by Sarah Massini that illustrates all of our Stories Aloud marketing material. You can scan a code to hear a story buy using the QR code on the Stories Aloud tab on the website (see the link above)
We ran our first conference, attended by 150 people.
We launched a (usually seriously oversubscribed) monthly children’s book reading group, which has, so far, met six times at the Nosy Crow offices, and which is covered by The Guardian on its website.
And we launched an ambassadors’ programme, The Nosy Crow Crew.
SELLING OUR BOOKS AND APPS
Nosy Crow’s sales in 2013 were over £3.4 million, comfortably more than a million pounds up on 2012 sales… which were over a million up on 2011’s sales (2011 was our first year of publishing). The back-of-the-envelope sums we did while we were founding the company back in 2010 turned out to be pretty accurate.
Adrian with our just-completed 2013 management accounts pack
In 2013, according to the book data experts Nielsen, we broke into the top 20 biggest children’s publishers by UK sales to customers – which I think is a really remarkable achievement for a publisher without a backlist and without a YA list. In the top 25, we were one of two publishers with growth of over 100% (the other was Phidal). Excluding sales to John Lewis, who don’t choose to contribute to the data, we ended the year the 13th biggest publisher of picture books. And we were the the 17th biggest for children’s fiction. We’re grateful to Bounce, whose enthusiastic, knowledgeable and hardworking sales team gets our books everywhere from the post office and general store in the Herefordshire village of Longtown (population 543) to national bookshop chains, independent bookshops, supermarkets, toy shops, galleries and museums and online retailers.
As well as attending the London, Bologna and Frankfurt Book Fairs, this year we also attended the Warsaw Book Fair and the first Chinese International Children’s Book Fair in Shanghai. We sold rights for the first time in Hungarian, Czech, Slovak, and Bulgarian, bringing the total number of languages in which we’ve sold rights up to 23. We’re hugely grateful to our international partners, Candlewick Press, Allen and Unwin, Gallimard Jeunesse, Gottmer and Carlsen Germany, who continue to support us and whose editorial insight and specific market knowledge inform our publishing.
Kate in Shanghai with Yolanda Tang from our Chinese agents
When the Apple App Store launched its kids’ category in October, one of the main sections was Interactive Kids Stories. Of the 38 titles featured in on the US store on launch day, 10 were Nosy Crow’s (our only other app – at the time – isn’t a story). This kind of support from Apple – combined with the excellent review coverage that each of our apps receives and the enthusiastic word-of-mouth they produce – generates unusually strong sales on the store, despite the relatively high price of our apps.
WHAT WE PUBLISHED
In 2011, we published 23 books. In 2012 we published 35 books. In 2013 we published 51 books. Roughly half were fiction titles and the other half were picture books, board books or pop-up/pull-tab books.
We launched a few notable debut illustrators (or author/illustrators) in the year – Nicola O’Byrne, Elys Dolan and Steven Lenton – and we launched one debut author, Michaela Clarke. It’s a privilege to be entrusted by an author or illustrator with any book, but a particular pleasure and privilege to be entrusted with a debut. We were also very chuffed to publish for the first time on the Nosy Crow list other respected authors and illustrators – among them Emma Dodd, Sarah Massini, Alison Murray, William Bee and Fleur Hitchcock – who had already been published elsewhere. But it’s worth saying that almost two thirds of the books we published in 2013 were by authors and illustrators that we’d published in our first two years of publishing: 2013 was a year in which we – very happily – kept the faith.
We released two apps in 2013 (though it’s worth saying that our Rounds: Parker Penguin app, which won the 2013 Futurebook Best Children’s Digital Book Award, was only a 2012 release by the skinniest skin of its teeth). We decided that we would focus on creating a small number of really remarkable apps. In April, we released Little Red Riding Hood, which led to USA Today saying that we were “the Steven Spielberg of apps” and which is currently shortlisted for a Digital Book World award. In September, we released Axel Scheffler’s Flip Flap Farm, shortlisted for the Futurebook Best Children’s Digital Book Award.
Following the success of The Snowman’s Journey, the own brand book we created for John Lewis for Christmas 2012, we published a second own brand Christmas book for John Lewis, The Bear Who Had Never Seen Christmas, and a Christmas gift book for Radley London, Radley’s Twelve Days of Christmas.
WHAT WE SIGNED UP
Of course, while we were busy publishing the 2013 titles, we were also acquiring books for 2014 and beyond. 2014 was planned as a year of consolidation, in which we didn’t increase our title count. At the moment, we plan to publish 55 books, so actually we did increase the size of the list a little… but what can you do when you’re faced with great books that you want to publish? 2015 is planned as – and is already shaping up to be – another year of rapid growth.
In the early part of 2014, we are particularly excited that we’re launching two debut novelists, Pamela Butchart, whose Baby Aliens Got My Teacher publishes this month, and G. R. Gemin whose Cowgirl publishes in March. Meanwhile, we have picture books from Chris Mould, Lawrence and Catherine Anholt and novels by Holly Webb to look forward to, all of whom are publishing with Nosy Crow for the first time this year. But we are, of course, still keeping the faith: there are new books by Philip Ardagh, Axel Scheffler, Benji Davies, Penny Dale, Ros Beardshaw, Joe Berger, Paula Harrison and Tracey Corderoy among other creative talents who are the backbone of the Nosy Crow book list.
As in 2013, and in line with our “year of consolidation” plan, we’re going to focus on releasing a few very ambitious apps this year, the first of which, Jack and The Beanstalk, a spectacular addition to our roster of fairy tale apps, will be released in the next few weeks.
Jack and his cow, Daisy, meet “Mr Bean”
PRIZES, SHORTLISTINGS AND PRAISE FOR OUR BOOKS AND APPS
I mentioned a few of our app prize wins earlier, and posted our shelves of awards. We were particularly proud of our UK regional award wins and many shortlistings this year. Chris Edge won his category in The Stockport Schools Book Award with Twelve Minutes To Midnight. Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton won their KS1 category in The Oldham Brilliant Book Award and, on the same day, Jo Lodge won the Sheffield Children’s Baby Book Award category with Icky Sticky Monster.
(L to R) Axel Scheffler, Elys Dolan, Philp Ardagh and Leigh Hodgkinson, our Roald Dahl Funny Prize shortlistees, at the ceremony
Two of our books were chosen for Booktrust’s Bookbuzz programme in 2013: Dear Scarlett and My Best Friend and Other Enemies. Two of our books were chosen for Booktrust’s Best Book Guide: Weasels and Books Always Everywhere.
Over the Christmas holidays, Shifty McGifty was a Bookaboo book.
We have had another great year of reviews and mentions in traditional national press from The Wall Street Journal to The Sunday Times; in specialist press from Kirkus and The School Library Journal to The Bookseller; and in many terrific children’s book, parenting, technology and app blogs. You can see some of our most recent high-profile reviews and mentions here.
In 2013, we had 173,000 unique visitors (up by over 50,000 on 2012) to the Nosy Crow website. As well as using the website to provide information and news about our company, our books and apps, our events, and our submission guidelines, we blogged every weekday this year, with blog posts like Deaths in children’s literature that we will never get over drawing comment not only on the blog but also on Twitter.
As I write, @nosycrow has 14,172 followers on Twitter, @nosycrowapps has 4,242 followers and @nosycrowbooks has 2,075 followers. There’s a bit of overlap between these, but overall, that’s over 20,000 followers – up almost 7,000 on last year. We’ve 3,560 likes on Facebook – 1,000 more than last year.
Nosy Crow authors and illustrators were at numerous literary festivals, including Hay, Edinburgh, Bath and Cheltenham, and staged countless events in schools, libraries and bookshops.
THE NOSY CROW TEAM
We welcomed two babies this year.
Giselle gave birth to Amelie in May, but has decided that being an out-of-London-based mum of two is even more compelling than being a senior designer for Nosy Crow, so she is leaving us, which makes us sad, but we understand.
And in July AJ’s third child, Lily Grace, was born… and he’s not going anywhere, we are happy to say.
Zoe Bennett, who covered Giselle’s maternity leave and has now taken on the role of senior designer, was our only new member of the Nosy Crow team in the year (I said that 2014 was supposed to be a year of consolidation…) but Ola and Kristina were both promoted in the course of the year and we are about to announce a vacancy or two in addition to the design assistant that we’re currently recruiting.
Though I, for one, felt my energy stocks were slightly depleted by the end of the year (nothing a sofa, a few books and industrial quantities of Christmas cake couldn’t remedy, of course), 2013 was a very good year.
Steven Lenton (who did the picture at the top of this post), Ola, Zoe and Kristina celebrating 2013 at the Nosy Crow Christmas Party
Here’s to 2014, and to your health, happiness and success, as well as our own. Thank you if you published with us; supported us by reviewing, blogging about or talking about us or our books or apps; bought something we published for your shop or your library; or bought one of our books or apps to share with or give to a child. We hope they enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed making it.
Posted by Kate on Jun 14, 2013
We held our first Nosy Crow Guardian children’s book reading group for adults in our offices last night, and the first book up for discussion was Wonder, by R. J. Palacio, the winner of the Waterstones Childrens Book Prize for the 5-12 year-old category.
Chatting before the discussion started
Wonder has been regularly compared to Mark Haddon’s hugely successful The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (as Suzy Feay writes in The Independent, “I imagine that the pitch for Wonder went something along the lines of “does for facial disfigurement what The Curious Incident… did for Asperger’s”). It’s had excellent reviews. Cory Doctorow wrote, “Palacio is a wonderful storyteller and her characters are bright, well-rounded and intensely likeable. Wonder is a beautiful book that is full of sorrow and triumph, emotional without being manipulative,” and the book received starred reviews from School Library Journal, Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly.
There were twenty-odd of us, including Nosy Crow people and Michelle Pauli from The Guardian, so we split into two groups, as we thought that would give everyone a chance to speak. We discussed the book for an hour in our groups (and Michelle Pauli did a great job of transmitting the discussion in her group as it was happening onto The Guardian’s online page for the event), before reuniting with a glass of wine to talk through the main points our groups had raised (the picture at the top of this blog post).
I was focused on coordinating discussion in my group: I failed monumentally to do any Tweeting, and I didn’t make any entries on The Guardian’s page. But here’s a taste of what my group thought, and of part of the full-group discussion afterwards.
PLOT SPOILER ALERT
The first thing to say is that this blog post contains plot-spoilers, so look away now if that bothers you!
A GREAT BOOK
The second thing to say is that we all enjoyed the book, which many of us had read a second time for the group. Many said they “loved” the book, and spoke of their emotional response to it, saying that they’d cried at various points: the dog dying and the prize-giving were common triggers. Many of us felt that there was much to be said for aiming a book at children that celebrates kindness and the triumph of the better aspects of humanity. One reader, a teacher, liked the way that it showed that children can, and do, mess up, but that mistakes can be remedied. Readers thought Auggie was well-realised (I, for one, think that the first 80 pages is an example of terrific writing). As Kirsty said as the Nosy Crows were washing up afterwards, if it had come in as a manuscript to Nosy Crow, there’s no question that we would have swung into action immediately to try to buy it.
So, broadly, this was a book that we really liked and would encourage others, adults and children, to read.
Our discussion and our criticisms of the book focused, essentially, on two things.
First, many of us felt that the book was too sentimental. Several of us pin-pointed the prize-giving scene as particularly problematic, and was described as “too easy”, “too perfect”, “soppy” and “phoney”. This had already come up in Twitter discussions about the book before the meeting, where author Sally Nicholls (who, in Ways To Live For Ever, has herself tackled the challenge of describing a child dying of cancer) had voiced doubts about the prize-giving, saying it was patronising to anyone with any kind of disability or disfigurement, and comparing it to the attitudes parodied in this Laurence Clark video. In mitigation, Auggie himself says:
“I wasn’t even sure why I was getting this medal, really.
No, that’s not true. I knew why.
It’s like people you see sometimes, and you can’t imagine what it would be like to be that person, whether it’s somebody in a wheelchair or somebody who can’t talk. Only, I know that I’m that person to other people, maybe to every single person in that whole auditorium.
To me, though, I’m just me. An ordinary kid.
But hey, if they want to give me a medal for being me, that’s OK. I’ll take it. I didn’t destroy a Death Star or anything…”
Many of us said that we felt that the attitudes of the children to Auggie were simply unrealistic: they just weren’t mean enough. This was, we felt, particularly true of Summer. We all agreed that the most painful moment of the book was Jack’s betrayal of Auggie, and several of us commented that this felt very real. Others commented that the “Plague” was a great way to convey the other children’s initial refusal to accept Auggie.
In the context of the question of sentimentality, we spoke about changing attitudes to disability (or disfigurement). In many 19th Century children’s books disability was the “responsibility” of the person who was disabled (often caused by a moral misjudgment) who was also, often with the encouragement of another child, “redeemed” morally and physically. But in Wonder, the “responsibility” belongs to the other characters, and their morality is revealed by their attitude to the disabled (or disfigured) character. I wrote about sight- and hearing-impaired characters in children’s books in this blog post last summer, and one of us brought along this exploration of the subject.
We asked ourselves if we had different standards, where didacticism and sentimentality (and we saw these as linked in this book – the happy outcome was essential to the moral lesson) were concerned in adult books as opposed to children’s books. We felt we did. We broadly agreed that didacticism and sentimentality were more acceptable in children’s books than in adult books. This is interesting, given that this book is being spoken of as a “cross-over” book. I’ve written about the particular moral responsibilities of children’s book publishers in this blog post. Some of us – particularly those of us who work with children – said that the book was a useful “tool for discussion” with children, and one of us emphasised the degree to which Auggie’s disfigurement could be read as a metaphor for any kind of “outsiderness”.
We also asked ourselves how far our view of the book as “sentimental” was culturally determined: was there something British about our reaction: some of us said we’d cried at certain points in the story but felt embarrassed or rather ashamed of ourselves for this response, for example. Luckily, there was an American in our group, so we had another perspective to draw on. She, like us, did feel that the sentiment of the book was particularly American, that it was more acceptable to express emotion openly in American culture than it was to do so in the United Kingdom, and that this attitude shapes writing.
The second aspect of the book that many of us criticised was the structure. Some of us liked the multiple narrative voices (though several of us admitted to being sorry to “lose” Auggie’s voice when the narrative first transitioned to Via). But we all felt that some voices were more successful than others. Many of us thought that the story would have been better told without Summer (who we felt was “too saintly” anyway), Justin and Miranda, and thought that the plot points that they delivered (it’s Summer who hints to Jack why Auggie is angry with him) could have been delivered differently. That leaves Auggie, Via and Jack. I do think that the structure of the novel (and I sketched the rough diagram below), in which the narrative is taken forward by one voice, before the next voice backtracks to a previous point in the story, is a challenging one, and it’s a real tribute to R J Palacio that she managed to maintain the pace of this story through this “two-steps-forward-one-step-back” storytelling.
The zig-zag narrative timeline of the story
Discussion of the split narrative led to discussions about individual characters’ narrative arcs or journeys. We agreed that Auggie’s emotional journey was simple: he overcame his anxieties and embraced the world. Some of us felt that he was rather passive: a character to whom things happened, rather than an agent himself (and perhaps this ties in to the question of attitudes to disability, above). I sketched a rough Auggie-ometer (below), using Auggie’s own numerical system to convey his level of happiness, and, for a lot of the book, it does seem to hover around 5. The character many of us were really interested in was Jack, and one of us, at least, felt that there was much more to get out of his story. Some of us questioned that central position of the play in Via’s story, and wanted to hear more about her conflicting emotions about being the sibling of someone who absorbed and drew so much attention.
Some of us felt that the book started better than it ended, and several of us commented on how precipitate and perfect the ending was as the denouement unfolded rapidly following the climactic attack that Auggie suffers when the school is away (and we spoke about whether it was a “cheat” to take the action out of the school to create this climax). Auggie is accepted, he wins his prize, his nemesis (Julian) leaves the school… and the family gets a replacement dog. All within the space of forty pages.
We were split on the success of the central section of the novel, where the voices fall away, and we have, in the Christmas/New Year school holiday, an exchange of emails and texts and Facebook messages. Some of us felt that it was a problem that these weren’t “owned” by a voice, and didn’t like the lack of clarity as to who knew the contents of the emails. Which of the narrators, if any, for example, have access to Julian’s mother’s email?
Finally, we were also split on whether the author takes too long – a good 80 pages – to tell us what Auggie looks like. Some of us felt that it was fine to go with Auggie’s “Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse”, while some of us wanted the description that we finally get earlier.
What do you think of Wonder, and of the points we raised? You can tell us here or on Twitter (@nosycrow, with hashtag #NCGKids), but it would be even better if you would contribute to the comments here
Next month’s book is A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness. We’ll write more about it shortly.
This first reading group was, I am sorry to say, massively oversubscribed, but if you would like to join us, or, as it may turn out, join the waiting list for July 11 and beyond (we’re holding this on the second Thursday of every month), then please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Kate on May 14, 2013
So tonight was an evening of small black dresses and supportive underwear donned in publishing offices and bookshops at a scarily daylight hour. 700-odd people gathered in the London Hilton on Park Lane to celebrate the best practitioners in the industry.
Nosy Crow was shortlisted for two awards, Digital Strategy and Children’s Publisher of the Year – up against industry titans with many, many years, if not many, many decades, of history behind them, so we were proud to get as far as a shortlisting, based on our two years of publishing.
I’d have live tweeted the event, but it was hard to get a signal.
Anyway, here are the winners:
The Gerry Davies Award for Outstanding Achievement in the book industry went to former book supremo at W H Smith, Rachel Russell, for her work for World Book Day: she’s chaired the World Book Day committee twice.
The Sue Butterworth Young Bookseller of the Year went to Socrates Adams (excellent name!) of Blackwell’s in Manchester.
The Publicity Campaign of the Year went to Hodder and Stoughton’s publicists for A Street Cat Named Bob.
The Independent Bookseller of the Year was Linghams Bookshop in The Wirral.
There were two winners of the Library of the Year award, which was awarded this year for the first time: Devon Libraries and Dundee Libraries.
The Rights Professional of the Year was Jason Bartholomew from Hodder & Stoughton.
The Children’s Independent Bookseller of the Year was won by Octavia’s Bookshop in Cirencester.
The Literary Agent of the Year award was won by Maggie Hanbury of The Hanbury Agency, which is 30 years old this year.
The bookshop Manager of the Year was Ian Owens of Waterstones in Argyle Street in Glasgow. And Marion Akehurst, of Blackwell’s at the Wellcome Collection (a shop I love because, before Nosy Crow had an office, the cafe at the Wellcome Collection was our office) was highly commended.
Digital Strategy of the Year was won by Pottermore, described by judges as a “game-changer”.
Imprint and Editor of the Year was won by Fourth Estates’s Nicholas Pearson, after another remarkable year of Hilary Mantel publishing.
The Children’s Bookseller of the Year award was won by Sainsbury’s, which reminds me of the blog post I wrote in 2011, when Sainsbury’s, rather controversially, won the big bookselling prize at the industry awards ceremony that year.
The Marketing Campaign of the Year award was won for the campaign behind Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast And Slow (the only book for grown ups that I had read on the shortlist, as it happens).
The Academic, Educational and Professional Publisher of the Year award was won by Bloomsbury.
The Independent Academic, Educational and Professional Publisher of the Year award was won by Edward Elgar.
The judges commented on the strength of the entries for Children’s Publisher of the Year this year, but the award was won by Scholastic after the sales explosion generated by The Hunger Games. I felt pretty chipper about this, having run Scholastic for five years until 2009, and Imogen and Kirsty both worked there with me too.
The Independent Publisher of the Year award was won by Alma Books.
The National Bookseller of the Year award was won by Foyles, about whose quest to work out what a bookshop might be in the future we have written here.
The Publisher of the Year award was won by The Random House Group – up against their future merger partners Penguin for the last time, in all likelihood – after “reinventing a genre” and achieving startling levels of sales for Fifty Shades of Grey. Gail Rebuck acknowledged the backstage input of the digital team in the group’s success: 22% of their sales are digital now. But she emphasised that, even in times of extraordinary transition, “our future depends on discovering brilliant books and getting them to as many readers as possible”, whether we are publishers or booksellers (or, for that matter, librarians).
Posted by Kate on Feb 11, 2013
We’re very chipper!
We’ve just found out this evening that, at the end of our second year of publishing, we’ve been shortlisted for four Independent Publishers Guild Awards: Children’s Publisher of the Year, International Achievement, Digital Publishing and Digital Marketing.
With four slots, we’re on more shortlists than any other publisher.
This is pretty great, we think.
Last year, in March 2012 and after our first year of publishing, we were amazed (really!) to win three Independent Publishers Guild awards. We won Children’s Publisher of the Year, Innovation of the Year and Newcomer of the Year.
You can read about the 2013 shortlists in full here, but this is what the judges said about us in each category:
Independent Publishers Guild Children’s Publisher of the Year
“Nosy Crow is seeking to win this category for the second time in a row, having triumphed in 2012 after its first full year in publishing. Twelve months on it has been shortlisted again after even stronger commercial success and particularly impressive export, rights and coedition business. Judges admired its innovative products, marketing and can-do attitude. “From a standing start Nosy Crow has had an exceptional couple of years. It has bags of energy.”
We’re up against serious big-boy competition, though, in the form of lists we could hardly admire more: Usborne Publishing and Walker Books.
The London Book Fair International Achievement Award
“Nosy Crow’s selection follows substantial export, coedition and rights sales. Deals in dozens of territories reflect its ambition, and good partnerships in territories including the US and Australia have positioned it in key markets. Judges also liked the way apps were developed with international potential firmly in mind. ‘The breadth of the global strategy is very impressive. Nosy Crow is very quickly establishing itself as a brand to follow around the world.’”
We’re up against Top That! Publishing and Advance Materials.
Ingram Content Group Digital Publishing Award
“Nosy Crow makes the shortlist for a raft of apps and total integration of digital. Judges liked its strategy of keeping technology work in-house while many others outsource, and the way it has reworked print-digital links by reversing paper books out of app content. ‘Nosy Crow has produced a succession of well-crafted and beautiful digital products, and achieved impressive commercial success in a very short space of time.’”
We’re up against Bloomsbury Publishing, Constable & Robinson and Faber & Faber.
Nielsen Digital Marketing Award
“Nosy Crow joins Faber in being nominated for both the digital publishing and marketing awards. Judges noted its rich website, frequent blogging, smart use of social media and brand building among online communities, and particularly liked the way it has used apps for marketing as well as publishing. ‘Nosy Crow does everything a modern publisher should. A company reaching out to people in so many ways feels new and exciting.’”
We’re up against Faber & Faber and The History Press.
We were also really pleased to see that Bounce Sales and Marketing was shortlisted for the GBS Services to Independent Publishers Award. Bounce sells Nosy Crow’s books throughout the UK. They also carry books by Phoenix Yard, a children’s publisher shortlisted for the Newcomer of the Year award.
And Faber and Faber was shortlisted for the same award, which was great too: we distribute our fiction ebooks via Faber Factory.
The IPG announcement says, “The shortlists were compiled over two days of rigorous judging by industry experts sharing vast experience in publishing.
“Between them, the publishing companies span the broad and diverse range of independent publishing in the UK, and blend companies large and small, old and new. Nosy Crow leads the pack of shortlisted publishers with four nominations, while Faber & Faber has three and Advance Materials, Bloomsbury, Constable & Robinson and Phonic Books two apiece… Competition for this year’s IPG Independent Publishing Awards has been exceptionally strong.”
The winners will receive their Awards during the IPG’s Annual Conference on Thursday 7 March 2013.
Wish us luck!
Posted by Tom on Mar 30, 2012
The Parents’ Choice Awards are the oldest nonprofit program created to recognise quality children’s media in the USA. There are several tiered award levels, and the criteria for the gold award are “the highest production standards, universal human values and a unique, individual quality that pushes the product a notch above others.”
Cinderella and The Three Little Pigs received the awards in the Mobile Apps category.
Claire S. Green, President of Parents’ Choice Foundation, judging The Three Little Pigs, said:
“Oh that Nosy Crow! They’ve gone and recreated the Three Little Pigs as you’ve not seen them before. Each piglet has more personality than ever; Mom and Dad can’t wait for their nest to be empty, the eldest boy is a nervous wreck, the girl appears worried but holds her pocketbook like the queen, and the youngest can’t wait to get started on his adventure … Charming to the core.”
Emily Crawford, judging Cinderella, said:
“This interactive edition of the traditional fairy-godmother version of Cinderella is irresistibly cute. Most children who approach the game will already know the story, but this will in no way limit their delight at seeing the story play out with child-like protagonists and characters that respond to prodding with flips, giggles, retorts, or expressions of the characters’ own delights and sorrows … The animation is skillful and artistic, more visually appealing than many of the print versions of the story … The price of the application is higher than most children’s apps, but it is comparable to that of a paperback picture book and lower than many e-books. The humor and style will appeal to adults and children alike, making this purchase entirely worthwhile.
…And she also added the following wonderful note to her review:
“My 6-year-old daughter could hardly wait to return to this book night after night. I never tired of the app myself, and even my 12-year-old daughter and my 10-year-old son clamored for turns playing. This was by far a runaway hit!”
So, thank you, Parents’ Choice – we hope we’ll continue making apps that meet the same high standards!
Posted by S.C. Ransom on Mar 22, 2012
A few months ago I found out that my debut book, and Nosy Crow’s first publication, was up for an award. Small Blue Thing was one of five books nominated in the teen category for this year’s West Kent Schools Themed Book Award. This is an award set up by the local school librarians, and this year the overall theme was London, so all the shortlisted books were set in or around the city. I was up against fierce competition:
Arthur Conan Doyle – The Red Circle and the Adventure of the Dying Detective
Charlie Fletcher – Stoneheart
Benjamin Zephaniah – Refugee Boy
Matt Whyman – Street Runners
Having looked at the shortlist it was quickly apparent that I had no chance. Sherlock Holmes – with all the programmes on the TV at the moment? The fabulous Benjamin Zephaniah? But I was invited to attend along with the rather talented Matt Whyman, so I accepted and I practiced my losing gracefully face.
In February the votes were cast by the students at the various West Kent Schools, hundreds and hundreds of them, and I was told by one of the librarians that the results were too close to call. The event itself was packed, and featured music, dancing and a fancy dress competition, which I was rather surprised to find that I was judging. It was too hard to decide between the London literary characters, all of whom were done brilliantly, so I gave first prize to that ever-present Londoner, the pigeon.
Matt Whyman and Ben Aaronovich (author of Rivers of London, shortlisted in the YA category) had a discussion on stage and answered questions. As Matt and I were up against each other for the prize we each fixed on our smiles and waited while they tore open the envelope… I was sure Matt was going to win – his book sounded brilliant, and was going to appeal to the boys and the girls in the audience – but they called out Small Blue Thing! I was so surprised that I forgot to say anything and sat right back down again after getting my certificate.
So I’d like to say thank you to all the librarians and of course, all of the readers who voted for our book. It means the world to me that so many people enjoy it. (The picture is of me with the girls from Maidstone Girls’ Grammar School, some of whom had dressed as characters from SBT, with home-made amulets too!)
Posted by Kate on Mar 09, 2012
Well, you could knock us down with a feather.
At the end of our first year of publishing and second of existence, we’ve won in not one, not two, but three categories of the Independent Publishing Awards.
We won the IPG Children’s Publisher of the Year, the IPG Newcomer Award, and The Nielsen Innovation of the Year Award.
Me with Nosy Crow’s three awards
We were also shortlisted in an additional three categories (IPG Independent Publisher of the Year, Frankfurt Book Fair International Achievement Award and The London Book Fair International Achievement Award).
Given that just 14 awards are given (and some of them are for things we couldn’t win, like being the Academic and Professional Publisher of the Year), this was a pretty remarkable strike rate. To be honest, we were pretty chuffed when we received the news that we were shortlisted for several awards at the end of last week and this exceeds all our expectations.
The awards are run by the Independent Publishers Guild (IPG), in association with The Bookseller and The London Book Fair, and the winners were announced at the Annual Conference of the IPG.
The sixth annual IPG awards featured 21 companies and four individuals, shortlisted across 14 categories.
Nosy Crow was recognized as IPG Children’s Publisher of the Year for its books and apps that “bring reading alive for children and parents”. The judges said that, “What Nosy Crow has achieved in just two years is phenomenal. Its marketing has been faultless and its publishing is full of energy.” The judges especially liked the high production values of our books and apps and our use of web and social media to build and maintain close relationships with customers and suppliers.
In the category of IPG Newcomer, Nosy Crow was celebrated for its impressive commercial success after just two years in existence. The judges admired the twin focus on books and apps, and our “sense of ambition”. They said, “Nosy Crow has produced a string of beautiful books and apps in a very short space of time. It has picked up impressive sales from a standing start.”
Nosy Crow was awarded the Nielsen Innovation of the Year Award (for which no shortlist was announced) for its creative and interactive apps including ‘The Three Little Pigs’, ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Bizzy Bear on the Farm’. The judges were impressed by its adoption of digital technology right from its launch, by its in-house development of apps, and by strong marketing, PR and sales. “Nosy Crow has adapted to change and embraced it with some terrific work. It is easy to produce apps for the sake of it, but Nosy Crow has done something very innovative and special.”
It’s just amazing to see Nosy Crow honoured in three categories at the end of its first year of publishing. It’s such a tribute to the whole Nosy Crow team who have worked so hard and with such commitment to build a list from scratch, and it’s a particular honour for our completely brilliant in-house app team. It’s also a great tribute to the authors, illustrators and other creative talents who entrusted us with their work from the beginning of our journey. We’re grateful to the shops, librarians, reviewers, international publishing partners, and, above all, mums, dads and other grown-ups who bought and appreciated our books and apps over the course of the last year. Being recognized in this way by the IPG, a community of publishers who exhibit such professionalism, focus and sense of their readers, is particularly inspiring for us. To paraphrase Adele at the Grammys, ‘the Crows done good’.
Because it’s not, you know, cheap to go to conferences like this and Nosy Crow is careful with its cash, and, more importantly, because we’ve only got a few days to go until the Bologna Book Fair, I was the only Crow at the awards ceremony, though I feel rather sad that more of us weren’t there to celebrate.
Still, there’ll be cake later today, you mark my words.
Of course, it wasn’t all about Nosy Crow. Here’s the full list of Independent Publishing Awards winners:
The Bookseller Trade Publisher of the Year: Constable and Robinson
IPG Children’s Publisher of the Year: Nosy Crow
IPG Academic & Professional Publisher of the Year: SAGE
IPG Children’s Publisher of the Year: Nosy Crow
IPG Education Publisher of the Year: Jolly Phonics
IPG Specialist Consumer Publisher of the Year: Osprey
IPG Newcomer Award: Nosy Crow
Neilsen Innovation of the Year Award: Nosy Crow
The London Book Fair International Achievement Award: Woodhead Publishing
Ingram Digital Publishing Award: Constable and Robinson
The Frankfurt Book Fair Digital Marketing Award: TopThat!
IPG Young Independent Publisher of the Year: Andrew Furlow, Icon Books
GBS Services to Independent Publishers Award: Adrian Driscoll
IPG Diversity Award: Barefoot Books
IPG Independent Publisher of the Year Award: Constable and Robinson
Posted by Kate on Mar 02, 2012
We were already feeling a bit giddy from World Book Day – terrific app sales following our one-day World Book Day promotion (sorry if you missed it: they are jolly good value at full-price too) and, of course, arguing about what children’s book character we should be.
And today we’ve had great news. We’ve been shortlisted for four Independent Publishing Awards. And these are concise shortlists – some with only two publishers on them!
We are shortlisted for THE IPG CHILDREN’S PUBLISHER OF THE YEAR AWARD. The judges said, “Nosy Crow, a new arrival in children’s publishing, is shortlisted for its books and apps that bring reading alive for children and parents. Judges especially liked its high production values and close customer engagement. What Nosy Crow has achieved in just two years is phenomenal. Its marketing has been faultless and its publishing is full of energy.”
We are shortlisted for THE IPG NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR AWARD. The judges said, “Nosy Crow is in contention in this category after demonstrating impressive commercial success after just two years in existence. Judges liked its twin focus on books and apps and admired its sense of ambition. Nosy Crow has produced a string of beautiful books and apps in a very short space of time. It has picked up impressive sales from a standing start.”
We are shortlisted for THE LONDON BOOK FAIR INTERNATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD. The judges said, “Nosy Crow impressed judges with its ambition to sell its books and apps around the world right from its launch rather than relying on the UK. They admired its imaginative efforts both to promote export and co-edition sales and to sell its apps in north America. It is a great example of a company looking at a changing market and adapting itself very quickly to it.”
We are shortlisted for the THE FRANKFURT BOOK FAIR DIGITAL MARKETING AWARD. The judges said, “Nosy Crow impressed for its efforts to establish the Nosy Crow brand among readers, suppliers and other partners, making full use of websites, microsites, email, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube among other platforms. Nosy Crow has made very good use of technology and has wholeheartedly embraced the digital market.”
In some way, entering for these awards is startlingly dull: there’s a lot of envelope stuffing involved in entering for four awards! But in other ways, explaining, to tight criteria, what we feel we’ve achieved over our first year of publishing is both useful and cheering.
The awards are made at the Independent Publishers Guild Annual conference next week. The competition’s stiff, so wish us luck!
Posted by Tom on Jan 24, 2012
The awards recognise the best-in-class across twelve categories of book apps, eBooks and enhanced eBooks. Cinderella won in the Juvenile App category, and Kate was in New York to accept the award last night – she tweeted a picture of it here.
Also amongst the winners were The Magic of Reality by Random House in the Non-Fiction App category, British Library 19th Century Books by BibloLabs in the Reference/ Academic App category, and Decoded by Jay Z, also by Random House, in the Transmedia Project category.
You can read the full list of winners here.
Matt Mullin, Community Relations Manager for Digital Book World, said “Well-designed ebooks and apps are not just beneficial to a publisher’s brand – they are essential to a publisher’s business. When publishers surprise and delight their readers, they gain advocates who will talk about, recommend, and discover more of their quality work. We are proud to honor this year’s winners because each demonstrates excellence that inspires creators and readers alike.”
Posted by Tom on Jan 06, 2012
It’s been a great few months for our apps: last month, Cinderella won a KAPi award and a FutureBook award, and our third app, Bizzy Bear on the Farm, has received great reviews from, amongst others, The Guardian, The Literary Platform, and The New York Times Gadgetwise Blog.
The apps’ success is entirely down to your support – so please, vote for your favourite at http://bestappever.com/v/kded to help us be in with a chance of winning!
Posted by Kate on Dec 31, 2011
2011 was Nosy Crow’s first year of publishing. We published our first book in January.
It’s been an incredibly busy and full year, and I find it hard to sort through the events and impressions of the past twelve months to write anything coherent.
But here goes…
The books and apps we published… and signed up
In 2011, we published 23 books for children aged 0 to 14. 8 were board books. 7 were picture books. 8 were fiction titles for children aged 6 to 14. Here they are in reverse publication order finishing, at the time of writing but this will update as publication dates pass, in December 2011.
We signed up a further 38 books and 8 apps for 2012, and already have projects scheduled for publication in 2013 and beyond. You can already find out about some of the forthcoming books (in publication order starting, at the time of writing but this will update as publication dates pass, in January 2012) and about some of the apps.
Selling at home and abroad
Working with Bounce, we had books sold and promoted in a huge range of UK sales outlets from independent booksellers through bookshop chains and online book retailers to supermarkets and toy shops.
We launched partnership deals with Allen and Unwin for book distribution in Australia; with Candlewick Press for illustrated book publishing in the US and Canada; with Carlsen for apps in German and with Gallimard for apps in French.
We sold rights to books in the following languages: French, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Polish, Hebrew, Chinese, Norwegian, Greek and Korean.
Nosy Crow authors on the road
Nosy Crow authors were at numerous literary festivals, including Hay, Edinburgh, Bath and Cheltenham, and staged countless events in schools, libraries and bookshops.
Nosy Crow on the move
We moved offices from our second office in Lambeth to our third office in Southwark (it’s always cheaper south of the river) as our staff grew from 8 to January 2012’s 19, including part-time people and “attached freelancers”. We’ve lost members of staff too (which is a real rite of passage). Two were only with us on a temporary basis and went on to roles that they had planned before they joined us, but Deb Gaffin has just left us to take on a marketing and partnership strategy role at Mindshapes. We are very grateful to her for helping us shape our first apps and the thinking behind them. Andi Silverman Meyer who has known Deb since they were at school together, and who has been fantastic at getting us US coverage for our apps, is joining Mindshapes too.
Spreading the word
We have reached a lot of people with Nosy Crow news of various kinds.
Nosy Crow as a company or Nosy Crow books or apps have been in the Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, The Gadgetwise Blog of The New York Times, Wired Magazine, The Daily Mail, The Times, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, The Independent, The Scotsman, Prima, Junior, Good Housekeeping, Kirkus, School Library Journal, The Melbourne Age, The Australian, The Huffington Post and many great children’s book, parenting, technology and app blogs. We’ve had terrific coverage in trade press and websites including Publisher’s Weekly, The Bookseller, FutureBook, BookBrunch and The Literary Platform. The quickest look at the first few pages of a Google search result for Nosy Crow gives a sense of the range of coverage – and, where it’s third-party coverage, how positive it’s been. We’ve had more than our fair share of TV and radio coverage too, and coverage, through our Gallimard and Carlsen links in Figaro, Marie Claire and Buchreport.
This year, we had over 74,000 unique visitors from 161 countries to the Nosy Crow website and almost half a million page views. Over half of our visitors have returned to the site. The site’s got information on everything from our commitment to paper-sourcing standards to our latest app reviews, and we’ve used the blog section of the site to write about subjects as diverse as library closures, Martin Amis, the thinking behind our apps, chocolate cake, the formation of the child reader, Steve Jobs, Charles Dickens, the role of supermarkets in bookselling and Wilson household New Year traditions.
From around 1,300 Twitter followers for @nosycrow (bit of a guess, this, but based on the numbers we had in September 2010) this time last year, we’ve built our @nosycrow following to over 5,700 and our @nosycrowapps Twitter following grew from 0 to over 1,800. I wrote about Twitter here. We’ve 1,250 Facebook fans.
Our apps were included in so many “best apps” listings in the US, UK, France and Germany that it’s difficult to list them here. They won several awards, including, most recently a KAPi award for best ebook and a FutureBook Award for best children’s app which were both won by our Cinderella app. Our ratings in the iTunes app stores are excellent.
Our KAPi award
We won the Mumpreneur Inspiring Business Mum of the Year award, and have just been named in The Independent as one of the six book people or organisations who wrote glorious chapters in 2011
A measure of success
We invoiced over a million pounds in sales.
What went wrong?
It would be ridiculous to pretend it was a year without disappointments or irritations. The much-investigated drainy smell in the bathrooms at 10a Lant Street continues to baffle. The many cakes we make and eat continue to contain a lot of calories. Camilla had her bag stolen and we had to have all the office locks changed. There are one or two important UK retailers who still haven’t stocked our books. There are several countries to which we’d hoped to sell rights but haven’t yet managed to do so – Japan for example, but there are good reasons for that. We didn’t always (though we did generally) agree what books we wanted to publish and how much we wanted to publish them. We offered for some books that we didn’t manage to buy, a couple of which I still feel sad about. One or two books (and I mean “one or two”: our strike rate has been good) didn’t sell quite as well as we thought they would. We had to cancel a couple of projects because they just weren’t working out the way that we’d planned.
But it’s been a very good year.
Whatever we achieved in this first year, we did it in partnership with our many authors and illustrators, new and established, and with other artistic collaborators, such as composers, audio experts and paper engineers. Without them, we have nothing to publish. We threw a party to say thank you. You can see the pictures at the top of our Facebook page.
Our author party in The Crow’s Nest in Lant Street a few weeks ago
And whatever we’ve achieved in this first year, we did it thanks to the support of publishers abroad; booksellers of many kinds; librarians; reviewers; bloggers; literacy organisations; literary and illustrators agents; printers and print managers; talented freelancers; and, of course, the parents and grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends, teachers and librarians who have bought and read our books and apps to, with and for children.
Posted by Tom on Dec 16, 2011
It’s been a busy day for our Cinderella app – as well as landing on the front page of Apple’s Apps for Kids store, we’re thrilled to announce that Cinderella has won a KAPi award for Best Children’s eBook.
The KAPi awards – created by Children’s Technology Review and Living in Digital Times – recognize the most innovative games, software, devices and apps for educating, entertaining and communicating with today’s connected children. The 13 judges for this year’s KAPi Awards are respected journalists and children’s interactive media publishers who reviewed 635 children’s technology products released in the past 12 months.
“This year’s jurors had a big job as they sorted through some impressive products,” said Warren Buckleitner, editor of Children’s Technology Review. “The winners accurately reflect the maturation of movement and touch-based platforms.”
“We are raising a generation of always-on digital kids. From e-books to Facebook, the KAPi Awards recognize the best products for a new generation,” said Robin Raskin, founder of Living in Digital Times.
Kate said: “Children and parents have told us how much they love our Cinderella children’s story book app, and it’s immensely gratifying that such a distinguished, knowledgeable and child-focused panel of judges has recognized Cinderella as well.”
You can read our press release here.
Posted by Deb on Oct 05, 2011
This is an amazing honour for us. Every year iLounge, one of the top app review sites, runs a “Reader’s Choice awards” and the winners are published in their Nov 1 iPhone + iPod Buyer’s Guide.
Yesterday we received an email from the editor at iLounge saying that Nosy Crow has been nominated for their “2011 Developer of the Year Award.” The competition is steep and we would love your vote! You can vote here.
When you click to vote in the Top Developer category you will also need to vote for nominees in the other three categories (best Apple product, accessory developer, and game developer). You’re sure to see several familiar names.
Voting ends October 28th, and iLounge will post periodic updates on the voting results from now until then. Please spread the word.
Your friends at Nosy Crow
Posted by Kate on Aug 06, 2011
(After this blog post was written, Kate actually won Mumpreneur’s Inspirational Business Mum of the Year, Mumpreneur’s top award.)
We’re feeling pretty chuffed.
Nosy Crow has been selected as a finalist in the Mumpreneur Awards Best Start Up category.
This is one of a series of awards that are designed to celebrate the best of the UK’s parent-run businesses.
I blogged about the 2010 conference and awards last September, long before we’d launched.
I don’t think that it’s necessary to be a parent to write, illustrate or publish great books or apps for children, but I do think that those of us at Nosy Crow who are parents draw heavily on our experience as parents to inform our publishing decisions. We think of our own children’s fascinations and fears. We remember the point at which birthdays became meaningful; when the challenge of sharing was a particularly difficult one; when our children first lost a tooth; when our children first said, “I hate you!” to us (or, in my case, left a note on my pillow saying, “I hat you”); when they were ready to play in a field on their own. I am, at the moment, particularly attuned, because of the ages of my own children, to the differences between a top-end-of-primary-school child (an 11 year- old) and a bottom-end-of-secondary-school child (a 12 year-old), and I find that this is very much influencing my response to writing for children of 10+.
Of course, we have to resist extrapolating from our own parental experience too much. Children are different, and while one may be afraid of the dark, another may be completely unaffected; one child may love dinosaurs and know all their names, while another couldn’t care less about them. In fact, I would have to admit that I did some of my least successful publishing for little babies immediately after the birth of my first child: I think I was so wrapped up in that experience that I couldn’t imagine the preferences and perspective of any baby other than my own.
But having parents as part of the Nosy Crow team is valuable and important… and we go out of our way to accommodate parents’ needs to balance their work life with parenting (five of us work flexibly, or work particular hours, or work part-time, to accommodate childcare, and we welcome children into the office when things like offset days mean that normal arrangements don’t apply). Recently, Giselle was due to start work on the day of her son’s first birthday, but (though we were getting a bit desperate for design support!) we told her to stay at home and enjoy her day with him.
We know, too, that the buyers of most children’s books and apps are parents. Though our main aim is to produce books and apps that appeal to children themselves, we are also aware of the need to appeal to parents. That means that, at least at this stage in our development, there are certain books, and certain kinds of books, that we don’t choose to publish: gritty coming-of-age fiction for young adults, or books with explicit sex or violence, for example. (I’ve previously written on the sort-of related subject of the responsibilities of being a children’s publisher.) One of the great appeals for me of Small Blue Thing, the novel we’ve published that is oldest in terms of its target audience, for example, was that it was very innocent: I couldn’t imagine any parent (or teacher for that matter) taking exception to any of the content. It’s interesting to note that S C Ransom originally wrote the first book in the sequence for her own daughter’s twelfth birthday.
So being parents, and being part of a small, entrepreneurial child- and parent-focussed business are both essential to many of us at Nosy Crow.
Please wish us luck in the next stage of the selection process. There were 720 entrants, so being a finalist is a pretty great achievement in itself!
Posted by Kate on Jul 26, 2011
I woke up this morning to an email from the lovely Liz Bray, who heads up Allen and Unwin’s children’s team, sharing news of the company’s triumphs at the Australian Book Industry awards.
For the tenth time in their twenty-year history, they won the Publisher of the Year Award. I have to say that, among other things (their focus on cake in the Alien Onion blog ; the fact that they’re based in Crow’s Nest in Sydney; their all-round niceness and decency; and their excellent sales team), the fact that they’d won this nine times was one of the reasons that I was keen for Allen and Unwin to be our distributor. So for them to win again in the first year of our association is a terrific validation of that decision – not that any was needed, frankly: they’re a joy to work with and sales are great.
Ahn Do won three awards: 2011 Book of the Year for The Happiest Refugee ; 2011 Biography of the Year (jointly with Paul Kelly’s How to Make Gravy); and 2011 Newcomer of the Year. The Happiest Refugee had, the previous night, won the 2011 Bookseller’s Choice Award. A retelling of the early part of his autobiography – his escape from war-torn Vietnam and arrival in Australia – will be published in picture book form for children as The Little Refugee.
This is an awards-haul that points up the degree to which Australia is a separate book market, with its own tastes, celebrities, history and heroes.
So big congratulations to Allen and Unwin and a big “hooray” for the Australian book market.
Posted by Kate on Sep 02, 2010
This evening, Kate went to the Book Trust Early Years Awards ceremony.
It’s far too early for Nosy Crow (which, let’s remember, hasn’t published a book yet) to be submitting books to awards, but Kate loves books for babies and pre-schoolers.
Once, many years before she had babies herself (and so many, many years ago), Kate went to Wigan.
She went to Wigan because Wigan Council (forgive her: she thinks this is right, but her memory is a bit hazy as to the exact body), was excited by the results coming out of the early Bookstart research. They wanted to give books to every baby in Wigan, because they believed that early exposure to books made children:
Kate had just acquired independent publisher Campbell Books from its founder Rod Campbell (whose Goodnight Buster was shortlisted for the Baby Book Award this evening) for Macmillan, the company she then worked for. She’d always been interested in baby books, but Campbell Books was really all about babies and toddlers. She said to Wigan Council that she’d give them some books to give to Wigan babies, and they invited her to come to a Sainsbury’s in Wigan to recruit babies and their parents for the Wigan Bookstart scheme. She’ll never forget approaching parents of a toddler to ask if they’d be interested in joining the scheme, and being looked at as if she were mad: “He can’t read! He’s only two years-old!”. Or being photographed with a baby who stiffened in astonishment when she opened a book – a child who’d perhaps never seen pages turned before, and whose mother acknowledged that there were no books in the house.
At one point, when the National Bookstart Programme ran out of money, just before the government committed to supporting it, Campbell Books donated over 600,000 books to the programme to help keep it going.
So Nosy Crow will publish books for babies because if you don’t start at the very beginning, how can you expect to engage readers later.
This evening, three awards were made by children’s book expert Wendy Cooling on behalf of Booktrust.
The first was for the Best Book For Babies, and went to I Love My Mummy by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Emma Dodd. The book was, as it happens, designed by Steph Amster, who’s joining the Nosy Crow team on 13 September.
The second was for the Best Picture Book (for children under five), and went to evolution tale, One Smart Fish by Chris Wormell. Kate was especially pleased to see two books from the Alison Green Books list on the shortlist, one of them written by Alison herself: Alison was a colleague of Kate’s for 17 years.
The third was for the Best Emerging Illustrator and went to Levi Pinfold for The Django, for his detailed, painterly and highly sophisticated picture book artwork. The book’s published by Templar, who share with Nosy Crow Bounce as their UK and export trade sales agency.
Worthwhile awards. Nice people. Fun evening.
Oh, and Kate tweeted the awards (so apologies if this is all old news). In the course of the event someone asked her to recommend books for a one year-old. Off the cuff, these were her suggestions:
What books would you suggest? Let us know by commenting on the post.