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Articles tagged with: helen peters

The verdict on our first conference, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Children's Publishing (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Posted by Tom on Sep 23, 2013

As regular readers of this blog will undoubtedly know by now, on Saturday we hosted our first ever conference: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Children’s Publishing (But Were Afraid to Ask). 150 people packed out the Bridewell Hall of the St Bride Institute in Central London – a whole mix of people who’d come to find out more about the industry: aspiring authors and illustrators, literature and literacy enthusiasts, students hoping to begin careers in publishing, as well as some Nosy Crow authors and illustrators:

The view from the back of the room…

The day began (after the mild chaos of registration, some fleeting panic on my part at the sight of 150 very tangled lanyards, and a brief introduction by Kate) with a warm, funny and inspiring talk by The Guardian and Stylist Magazine columnist Lucy Mangan, on what children’s books mean to her.

Lucy spoke movingly about how reading changed her life and opened up her world growing up: how they taught her empathy, lessened her feelings of isolation, and provided comfort and insight into other worlds. And she said that she continues to read children’s books now, because “I’m too old to be bored.”

Lucy’s talk was followed by an Editors’ Panel, featuring Nosy Crow’s Head of Picture Books, Louise Bolongaro, Editorial Director, Camilla Reid, and Fiction Editor, Kirsty Stansfield (and chaired by Kate), and judging by the number of questions from the floor, and the amount of discussion on Twitter, it was clearly a highly anticipated session! Our editors explained how they spent their time, what the division of labour was between working on existing projects and searching for new talent, how the relationship and creative process with their authors and illustrators worked (and why it mattered so much), what they’re looking for (and what they don’t want to see), and how the editorial process is different at a smaller publisher like Nosy Crow compared to a Big 5 behemoth.

After a short coffee break, agent Hilary Delamere gave an absolutely BRILLIANT talk explaining exactly what an agent is “for” – informative, engaging and very interesting. Hilary wove a fascinating narrative out of every stage of an author’s career, from the time they send their work off to an agent, to the moment film rights are negotiated, and by the end of it I’d decided that I’d quite like to be represented by her, in fact.

The following session provided a intriguing counter-point: a panel of three (un-agented) Nosy Crow authors who’ve gone from our slushpile to having their work sold in countries across the world, winning awards and earning rave reviews: Helen Peters, Paula Harrison and S.C. Ransom. For large swathes of our audience it was obviously a particularly inspiring discussion, full of insight into the journey of a first-time author.

After lunch – and plenty of networking – author Tracey Corderoy gave another of the stand-out sessions of the day: a hilarious, passionate and deeply knowledgeable talk on the importance of live events for authors. Tracey spoke brilliantly about wanting to leave children with memories that will last them for a lifetime: that she knows how “grey” childhood can be, but that books and authors can bring colour into it – and over the 70 events that she’s done this year alone, she’s certainly introduced a lot of colour: dressing up as a bunny rabbit, a mermaid, a princess (but not a dragon – the costume wouldn’t fit in the car), at bookshops, schools, and festivals, she’s an absolute event-pro (and she had the audience in stitches).

If Tracey illustrated how important physical, face-to-face interaction could be for authors, Jon Reed, the next speaker, demonstrated the equal value of the other side of the same coin: how authors can use social media to market their books, build an online brand, and share their message with an audience. Packed with advice and useful tools, his talk was an invaluable one for anyone who wanted to learn more about digital communication.

The penultimate session of the day came from Melissa Cox, New Children’s Titles Buyer for Waterstones, and covered the commercial realities of bookselling with profound knowledge, wit and enthusiasm. No-one has a better sense of the whole children’s market in the UK than Melissa, and her talk practically exuded commitment to the industry. She spoke about how Waterstones chooses what to buy and promote, how to balance balance big names against undiscovered talent, how to make books stand out, what trends have emerged in recent years, and what booksellers are looking for, and had the audience hanging on every word.

The final event came from Kate, who spoke about the Future of Reading and Nosy Crow’s digital publishing programme – an inspiring end to the day and a look ahead to the ways in which reading is changing for children, what that means for authors and publishers, and what has stayed the same: the importance of storytelling.

And on that inspiring note, our audience re-convened to the next room for a glass of wine and another chance to chat, before heading home after a very long day!

If you’d like to follow more of what went on, there are a couple more blog posts on the day here and here, and you can also find a very good record of the day as it happened with the #NCConf hashtag on Twitter. Collected below are Alastair Horne and Imogen Russell William’s tweets from the day:

So, overall, the day felt like a great success: a lively and enthusiastic audience, fantastic speakers, and a happy, engaged atmosphere (with plenty of cake).

If you were there on the day, thank you for coming! We’d love to know what you made of it – please do leave a comment below! And if you’d like to stay up-to-date with all of our book news, you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter here, and we’ll alert you to any new and upcoming events that we’re planning.

Our first conference is taking place tomorrow!

Posted by Tom on Sep 20, 2013

Tomorrow’s going to be very busy for us: we’re hosting our first conference, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Children’s Publishing (But Were Afraid to Ask) – a whole day of talks devoted to de-mystifying the industry. We’ve got some incredible speakers lined up from all sectors of publishing – agent Hilary Delamere, Waterstones children’s buyer Melissa Cox, social media expert Jon Reed, columnist Lucy Mangan, a number of our authors, and members of the Nosy Crow team.

And even if you can’t make it to the event itself (we’ve been sold out for some weeks), we’d love it if you take part online! You can follow all of the day’s action on Twitter with the #NCCONF hashtag – and you’ll even be able to ask questions of our panellists during some talks.

If you have a burning question for one of our editors or authors, you can put it to them on Twitter during our panel sessions and we’ll do our best to answer as many questions as possible!

At 10.45, Editorial Director Camilla Reid, Head of Picture Books Louise Bolongaro, and fiction editor Kirsty Stansfield will be answering questions about the editorial process on a panel chaired by Nosy Crow Managing Director Kate Wilson.

At 12.30, Nosy Crow debut authors Helen Peters, S. C. Ransom, and Paula Harrison will be taking part in a panel session about first-time publications.

And at 16.30, Kate and Tom Bonnick, Digital Project and Marketing Manager, will be talking about the future of reading and Nosy Crow’s innovative app programme.

You can read our full schedule for the day below (and download it, and our full list of speakers, as a PDF here).

The hashtag is #NCCONF – we hope you can join us!

Two days left!

Posted by Tom on Jul 31, 2013

There are just two days left to buy Early Bird tickets for our conference, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Children’s Publishing (But Were Afraid to Ask) – you’ve got until midnight on Friday until the cost rises to the (still very reasonable!) ticket price of £129.

There are also only very few tickets remaining – we’ve almost COMPLETELY sold out – so if you’d like to attend, don’t delay! You can buy tickets with the form below, or at the Eventbrite page for the conference, here.

The price includes the full day of events (you can read our list of speakers and the programme here), morning and afternoon coffee breaks, lunch, and cake and a glass of wine at the end of the day (along with the opportunity to meet everyone and mingle). The event is taking place on Saturday, September 21 at St Bride Foundation on Fleet Street – if you have any questions, leave a comment below this post or send an email to tom@nosycrow.com and we’ll get back to you.

We hope you can make it!

Nosy Crow take over Mostly Books - Part 2

Posted by Tom on Jul 09, 2013

Yesterday three of our authors wrote about a Nosy Crow takeover of the fantastic Mostly Books in Abingdon for Independent Booksellers Week. And today, Mostly Books have kindly allowed us to reprint their own fantastic blogpost about the event – here’s what it’s like to hand over your business for the day…

You ask most business people if they’d hand the keys to their company over to three authors for a day and I think you’d get a fairly nervous laugh in response.

“Now, the door can stick a bit, you may need to give it a kick”

But independent booksellers are generally a bunch keen to embrace different, mad event ideas.

And keen for anything that cements the relationship between authors, publishers and bookshops – three elements that should have the same goal, but don’t always work together as well as they might.

As we do dozens of school events every year we know children’s authors are regularly encouraged to go out and meet potential readers, we were fairly confident that the three authors, Paula Harrison, Fleur Hitchcock and Helen Peters, would make a pretty good job of stepping into our shoes and being booksellers for the day.

“Why thank you, madam. And can we interest you in a Nosy Crow goodie bag?”

Even so, we regularly take on work experience children from local schools and know that the person with the least experience is always the person who gets approached with the ‘I need a present for an uncle who lived in India and has now taken up bird-watching’ type of customer enquiry. The credit card that is refused. The person who wants to buy six mugs and wants them all wrapped and can she pay with a book token?

So we batted around a few ideas of what our customers and our authors might really want to get out of the day (cake seemed to be the main response), so we hit upon also doing a couple of informal tea party meet-the-author sessions, in case they needed a break from the till and the questions in the afternoon.

Cake anyone?

Of course you can have a basic plan, but when you do a totally different event it is impossible to know how it’s all going to go, so the main aim of the day was to stay flexible and to go along with what our guest authors felt most comfortable with.

Best laid plans: the schedule at the start of the day – we didn’t actually show this to the authors in case they freaked out.

But we just fell in love with the idea that three authors were interested enough to want to see behind the scenes at a bookshop that they offered to volunteer their services for the day.

We discovered we’d picked an incredibly hot day, so thanks to Sally Poyton for the impromptu gazebo. Our courtyard garden suddenly felt a bit like a place to regally take tiffin (see, we really did need all that cake).

Temperatures in the garden were ‘centre court’ level.

As well as bringing cake, all of our authors worked extremely hard in the heat for the whole day – and let’s no forget driving to and from the shop on the day as well (discovering local traffic and parking ‘quirks’ and taking those in their stride). First step was hand-writing recommend wrappers on their favourite books:

Some fine selections – both classic and contemporary.

Paula Harrison got down to some tiara and animal-mask making workshops, Helen Peters was dragged off for an author interview. Fleur Hitchcock stepped up to do first stint on the till.

And it was Fleur Hitchcock in particular who really won her bookselling spurs on Saturday. Honestly, you’d think she’d been doing it all her life. That ability to tune into every customer is crucial. For every hundred people who come through the door, you will get a hundred different requests and need to be able to find an answer for every one.

One of the skills of being a bookseller is definitely being able to listen as well as expertly recommend. One person’s ideal ‘nothing too light’ will be more Philippa Gregory than Hilary Mantel and you have to be able to tune in.

We know what people come to independent traders for – mostly for expert advice. And Fleur was just brilliant with those ‘my son is a huge reader and he has read everything – where do I go next’ queries and turning despair into a new pile of exciting reading opportunities.

Bravo Fleur – the job is yours.

Independent Booksellers Week is a terrific initiative for everyone to go ‘Strictly Come Bookselling’ and volunteer to help out in your local bookshop for a day.

“The best way to approach the till is to think ‘Star Trek Console’
whilst under attack by Klingons.”

What a great way to promote goodwill and understanding between authors and the people who sell their books. Selling books on the high street is tough. There is no getting away from it.

We daily get author requests for help to sell their book. For any author who has phoned up for an event request and we respond with less cheer and more ‘it can be difficult to get an audience’ and then says: ‘but you just stick up a poster in the window’ – I now have my suggestion – go and do Strictly Come Bookselling at your local bookshop. And hopefully it will be interesting, informative and fun. Dig behind the scenes and discover what bookselling is all about.

What did we learn from having guest booksellers for the day? I definitely took away that I can probably hand-sell more classics. We tend to be focused on the new: we read, read, read everything new that comes out, analysing debut authors, making sure we stock enough to satisfy demand for current trends and making sure we know about the books that everyone is talking about – as well as hand-selling and championing the ones we love.

I hope the authors enjoyed their chance and felt they got a good look behind the scenes. I hope they loved the chance to listen and talk to the sort of queries and problems our customers come to every day, because talking to customers about books is one of the best things about the job.

Tiara making in extreme temperatures.

And if we get several people coming in asking us for ‘less fantasy, more reality’, then that’s what we tend to seek out to stock. Like any small shop with limited shelf space, every book has to earn its place – but there are still gaps where we know we could sell more more more.

There was the moment in the afternoon. A lull. And the authors all breathed a sigh of relief. That, of course, is the moment the booksellers go into overdrive, checking no urgent customer orders have come in on email or by phone, or attending to any queries you parked earlier because you didn’t have the time.

All your orders are ready to go so that the one that absolutely has to come in next day is placed with the supplier most likely to fulfil the order. And if stock levels at the supplier were over 30 at the beginning of the day and are now zero, you have to move enough of the day’s order over to the supplier that still has stock – otherwise you won’t be able to trigger your next-day delivery. And you will create that dreaded disappointment in your customers.

So, will that be cash, cheque, credit card, book token, mostly books token, bookstart voucher, Mostly Books Loyalty Card redemption, or should we just invoice you?

And you do it all watching the clock because you are sure that just as you think you might be able to take a breather, you have to find a smile and a welcome for the inevitable end of day rush. When everyone who has been out doing Saturday things suddenly remembers they need to do some urgent shopping and the shop will be packed out again until gone five. After which you can eventually close and then tidy and clean everything and make it ready for the next day before finally, finally, finally going home, looking forward to your one day off. (Except if you open Sundays that is. We are always sooo grateful we don’t. We were particularly grateful this Sunday!)

Thank you so much to all three of our authors who gave their time for our customers and made them feel very special and welcome. And stayed right until the end of the day to make sure all those people who were keen to meet them but couldn’t make it earlier weren’t disappointed.

No, they hadn’t collapsed by the end of the day…

Thanks for bringing all the cakes! The day was over before I knew it and I didn’t manage to find the time to sample any, but they looked delicious.

Thank you also for finding time to do author interviews in between all the work on the till. We’ve already had great feedback from those who came along and the relaxed format of being able to meet an author informally in the shop worked really well and was really appreciated.

Nosy Books?

Thanks also to Nosy Crow for all their support, including Editorial Director Camilla Reid, who brought along our two youngest members of the Nosy Crow takeover day – her two daughters, who turned out to be experts on the till.

And finally, to another young helper, Beatriz Poyton, who did everything from blowing up the balloons to helping on the till and was a real bookseller for the whole day. Only a few more years before she can start to do work experience for us, and – believe me – she’s down on the list already!

Thanks again to Mark and Nicki of Mostly Books for sportingly handing over the keys to the shop, and to Fleur, Helen and Paula for taking part! You can follow all of Mostly Books news and upcoming events on their website and on Twitter, here.

Nosy Crow take over Mostly Books

Posted by Tom on Jul 08, 2013

On Saturday, to celebrate Independent Booksellers Week, three Nosy Crow authors took over the fantastic independent bookshop Mostly Books in Abingdon – working the till, hand-selling their favourite children’s books, and even serving home-made cakes! And here’s what they had to say about the day:

Fleur Hitchcock, author of Dear Scarlett

“I absolutely loved it. I’ve been a shop girl since I was 14 but never in a bookshop, and never in such a good bookshop. Nicky and Mark were fantastically tolerant and welcoming, and as a way of meeting children and their parents I don’t think it can be bettered. Talking, listening and recommending books to those children was also the best fun, and so many of the stories I wanted them to discover were in stock which illustrates what a very good bookshop it is. And of course, there were the cakes…”

Helen Peters, author of The Secret Hen House Theatre

“Spending a day in a beautiful bookshop, eating cakes and talking about books, was never going to be a chore. In fact, it was a delight. Mostly Books is a stunning shop, with a courtyard garden attached – a real joy on the sunniest weekend of the year! It was wonderful to meet Nicky and Mark and their lovely customers, many of whom were devoted regulars. We had a steady stream of children in all day, talking books and writing (some of them even brought in their own writing to discuss), interviewing us and asking for recommendations. Nicky and Mark had asked us for our own childhood favourites and it was a joy to be able to recommend those. We even wrote wraparounds for them, like real booksellers. And it was an added bonus to spend time with fellow Nosy Crow writers and to chat to Camilla and Leen, who both visited us during the afternoon. Thank you to everyone at Mostly Books and Nosy Crow who made the day possible.”

Paula Harrison, author of the Rescue Princesses and Faerie Tribes series:

“It was with some trepidation that I set off for Mostly Books in Abingdon on Saturday morning. Would the customers come flocking to the shop? Would I get the hang of working the cash till? But even before I’d unloaded my cakes, tiara templates and animal masks I already felt at home. Mostly Books is a truly great independent book shop and more than one customer that I chatted to made a point of commenting that they came in because they always had good service and a warm welcome. It was really eye-opening becoming a bookseller. One of my favourite parts was finding out about a customer (especially child customers) and making suggestions as to what they would enjoy reading next based on their tastes, hobbies and reading habits. All in all I had a fantastic day and would love to do it all again. It helped a lot having two other excellent authors with me for camaraderie. I have to be honest though, and admit I never was that good with the cash till.”

You can read Mostly Books’ own round-up of the day here. Thank you to everyone there for sportingly handing over the keys to the shop, and to Fleur, Helen and Paula for taking part!

Celebrating Independent Booksellers Week...

Posted by Tom on Jul 05, 2013

All this week there’ve been events up and down the country celebrating our fantastic independent bookseller trade for Independent Booksellers Week. As a small, independent publisher, Nosy Crow feels a special affinity with independent booksellers, who demonstrate an unrivalled passion and enthusiasm for books every day, for which we are immensely grateful.

And we were truly thrilled to see two of our books, The Secret Hen House Theatre by Helen Peters and Dear Scarlett by Fleur Hitchcock, shortlisted in the children’s category of the IBW Book Award, which was won this week by Wonder, by R.J. Palacio – our first Nosy Crow Reading Group book.

But the fun’s not over yet! Tomorrow there’ll be a Nosy Crow author takeover of Mostly Books in Abingdon – three of our authors will be running the shop, giving recommendations and writing advice, and reading from their own books. Fleur, Helen and Paula Harrison, author of the Rescue Princesses and Faerie Tribes series, will be there from 10am – don’t miss out! You can find more details of the event here.

Have you been celebrating Independent Booksellers Week at all? And do you have a favourite independent bookshop? Let us know below in the comments or on Twitter with the #IBW13 hashtag – and this weekend… why not buy a book?

A who's who of children's publishing

Posted by Tom on Jul 03, 2013

Today we’re very happy to be able to reveal the programme for our September conference, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Children’s Publishing. We think it’s a truly great line-up: sure to be of interest to aspiring authors and illustrators who’d like to understand more about how publishing works, people hoping to begin a career in the industry, and anyone with a general enthusiasm for children’s books and reading. Here’s a look at what’s happening on the day (click the image to enlarge):

You can also download the full programme and list of speakers as a PDF here.

The conference is taking place on Saturday September 21 at the St Bride Foundation on Fleet Street in London. Early bird tickets are still available for just £99 – you can order them online here, or with the simple form below.

Nosy Crow's first conference: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Children's Publishing (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Posted by Tom on Jun 18, 2013

On 21 September 2013, we’re running an all-day conference: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Children’s Publishing (But Were Afraid to Ask). In the course of the day, we will cover many aspects of the publishing process, from manuscript to marketplace.

We’re doing it because we know of so many people with aspirations to write books for children and who want to be published. They use our blog and our Twitter feeds as a source of information and we think that many of them would like to know more about the industry.

We’re doing it because we know (from every time we advertise a job on our website) that there are lots of people out there who are keen to work in children’s publishing, or who think they might be, and we think that the things we’ll be discussing will be relevant to them too.

We’re doing it because we love what we do, and we want more people to understand it.

The event will take place at the St Bride Foundation on Fleet Street, and we have an INCREDIBLE line-up speakers planned for the day, including:

Lucy Mangan, author and award-winning columnist
You may know Lucy for her hilarious weekly columns in The Guardian and Stylist Magazine. She won the PPA Awards 2013 Columnist of the Year award for the latter. She’s also a children’s literature devotee, and her talk, Bookworm: What children’s books mean to me, is bound to be an inspiring one for anyone who loves reading.
Follow Lucy on Twitter

Jon Reed, social media expert
Jon Reed is a social media consultant, lecturer, speaker and trainer. He worked in publishing for a decade before becoming a writer, and is the author of “Get up to Speed with Online Marketing”. Jon’s talk – Building Your Brand: Marketing Yourself Online – will be an essential one for anyone who’s new to the world of publishing and looking for the do’s and don’ts of social media.
Follow Jon on Twitter

Melissa Cox, Waterstones Children’s New Titles Buyer
Melissa is responsible for buying new children’s titles for Waterstones. She knows exactly what sells – and what doesn’t – and from her desk on the Sixth Floor of Waterstones Picadilly she has a unique view of the landscape. She’s been on the selection committee for the Children’s Laureateship and the judging panel for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, and her talk, But will it sell? Children’s books from a bookseller’s perspective, will provide invaluable insight into some of the commercial realities of children’s bookselling.
Follow Melissa on Twitter

Hilary Delamere, agent
Hilary represents a star-studded roster of authors and illustrators including Raymond Briggs, Lydia Monks, Michael Bond, the newly-appointed Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman, and our very own Sarah Warburton, illustrator for The Princess and the Peas. Hilary’s talk will answer the question, What’s an agent for?
Follow Hilary on Twitter

Tracey Corderoy, author
Tracey is the author of dozens of children’s books, including the Hubble Bubble, Granny Trouble picture book series (and soon-to-be launched illustrated fiction series), Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam, and Just Right for Two. She’s well-known for her spectacular author events, and her talk, Playing to the crowd: an author’s view of the importance of live events, will draw on the lessons she’s learnt performing in front of thousands of young children.
Follow Tracey on Twitter

Helen Peters, Paula Harrison, and S.C. Ransom, authors
Helen, Paula and Sue are all authors whose debut novels Nosy Crow has had the privilege of publishing. Together they’ll be speaking on a panel, From Slushpile to Subsidiary Rights Sales: The Journey of a First-Time Author, sharing their experiences of being published for the first time.
Follow Helen, Paula, and Sue on Twitter

Kate Wilson, Nosy Crow Managing Director
Kate is the founder and Managing Director of Nosy Crow. She’ll talk about the future of reading in a time of great digital change, the international book market, and give an insight into some of the decisions that are behind the publishing deals Nosy Crow makes.
Follow Kate on Twitter

And that’s not all! There’ll also be talks from other members of Nosy Crow sharing their expertise in areas of the industry including editorial (covering books for children from 0 to 14), marketing and app creation.

The conference will take place at the St Bride Foundation (on Fleet Street, a walking distance from Blackfriars Station), and will include lunch, morning and afternoon coffee breaks, and a glass of wine (and the chance to chat with us all!) at the end of the day. It’s a jam-packed day so we’ll be starting at around 9.30am and will finish at 6.00pm.

Tickets are currently sold out, but if you’d like to be put on the waiting list for cancellations, please email tom@nosycrow.com. We hope you can join us!

Here’s our event poster with lots of the details:

A double shortlisting for the IBW Awards

Posted by Tom on Apr 03, 2013

The Independent Bookseller Award shortlists have been announced, and we have TWO books nominated in the Children’s category!

The Secret Hen House Theatre, by Helen Peters, and Dear Scarlett, by Fleur Hitchcock, are both shortlisted for the award – the overall winner will be decided by a panel of authors, broadcasters and booksellers, and announced in June.

Here’s what Helen has to say:

“I am honoured and delighted to be shortlisted for this award. I am incredibly grateful that independent booksellers around the country have been hand-selling The Secret Hen House Theatre to their customers and I am so happy that my book is having success through independent book shops, which have always been my favourite kind of shop in the world.”

You can read the first chapter of The Secret Hen House Theatre here:

And here’s what Fleur has to say:

“As a reader, I value the input of the bookseller as much as I valued the input of my very best teachers. For me, the bookseller is there to guide through familiar choices into new territory, often thrilling and unexpected. Without this special person’s knowledge, I wouldn’t know what I was looking at. I might easily dismiss a book because I didn’t like the cover – conversely, I might buy one because I did like the cover and abandon it unread after 20 pages. Because after time, the booksellers shape the bookshops and respond to individual customer’s needs, before long, they tend to develop their own special and delicious characters. In my round of my local indies, I find different flavours, like restaurants all sell food, bookshops all sell books, but they can be so different. And that’s what is ultimately important. Independent Bookshops breed choice, variation, and knowledge. They strain away from global homogenization, making the world a better place. I desperately need them, they feed my soul.”

You can also see Fleur talking about writing Dear Scarlett below:

And here’s chapter one:

The full shortlist for the Children’s category is as follows:

Wonder – R J Palacio
The Sacrifice – Charlie Higson
Gangsta Granny – David Walliams
White Dolphin – Gill Lewis
Oh No, George! – Chris Haughton
Dear Scarlett – Fleur Hitchcock
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever – Jeff Kinney
Maggot Moon – Sally Gardner
WARP: The Reluctant Assassin – Eoin Colfer
The Secret Hen House Theatre – Helen Peters
Matilda’s Cat – Emily Gravett
Socks – Nick Sharratt & Elizabeth Lindsay

And you can read The Bookseller’s coverage of the awards here.

Congratulations to Helen and Fleur!

A book awards bonanza

Posted by Tom on Mar 18, 2013

Last week we learnt that some Nosy Crow books have been shortlisted for not one, and not two, but THREE different prizes. We are as pleased as can be. Here they all are:

The Secret Hen House Theatre by Helen Peters has been shortlisted for the North East Book Award (judged by Year 7 and 8 students across the North East). The winner will be announced in June at a ceremony held at the Centre for Life in Newcastle. Here’s the first chapter:

Order The Secret Hen House Theatre online.

Twelve Minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge has been shortlisted for the Redbridge Children’s Book Award, judged by groups of school children and librarians. Here’s the first chapter:

Order Twelve Minutes to Midnight online.

And finally, Goldilocks and Just the One Bear by Leigh Hodgkinson has been shortlisted for the UKLA Book Award! The award is judged by education professionals and seeks to honour books with powerful uses of language. Here’s a look inside:

Order Goldilocks and Just the One Bear online.

Grassroots support like this – from schools, librarians and local authorities – is absolutely vital for our books and authors. And the emphasis of all of these awards on reading for pleasure is something that is central to our vision as a publisher. So thank you to everyone who’s taken part in these awards, and good luck to Helen, Chris and Leigh!

Where I work: Helen Peters

Posted by Helen Peters on Feb 27, 2013

This is the first instalment in a new series of blogs that we have planned, in which some of our authors and illustrators share their favourite writing spots. First up is Helen Peters, author of The Secret Hen House Theatre, newly shortlisted for The Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.

As a full-time mum of young children, I have trained myself to write anywhere: soft play areas, park benches, tree stumps. But my favourite place to write is in my spare bedroom, when the house is empty. I love the silence and seclusion and the tranquil bareness of the room. And I love to look at the trees outside the window as they change with the seasons.

I write on a laptop but I also have three notebooks on the go all the time. The smallest is the one I take everywhere, in which I scribble random thoughts and ideas for the book and also observational notes on places, seasons and weather, which feed into the descriptions in the story.

The middle-sized notebook is where I plan out the chapter I’m working on. If the writing’s going relatively smoothly, I don’t need to use it so much. But when I’m stuck, I fill pages and pages with tortuous scribble: mind maps and lists and questions to myself that I need to answer.

The largest notebook contains the research notes and big ideas for the book: the overall plan and outline of the story and also poetry and song lyrics that capture the mood I want to create. I try to keep this notebook neat because, in those moments when it feels like the story is never going to come together, then I can at least feel slightly reassured by the fact that there is a Grand Plan. It offers a glimmer of hope that, if I just keep writing, sooner or later there will be a finished book.

You can read the first chapter of The Secret Hen House Theatre below or order the book online here.

The 2013 Waterstones Children's Book Prize

Posted by Tom on Feb 14, 2013

We have some really great news: The Secret Hen House TheatreHelen Peters’ debut novel – has been shortlisted for the 2013 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Helen’s beautifully-written novel (which arrived at Nosy Crow as an unsolicited submission) has been nominated in the 5-12 category of the prize.

Perfect for fans of I Capture the Castle and The Swish of the Curtain, The Secret Hen House Theatre tells the story of Hannah, an instantly likeable heroine stuck in a world of chaos: her mother has died, her dad is lost in grief and struggling to look after everyone, her siblings are unruly, and the whole family faces the threat of losing their home – a dilapidated, rundown farm. Looking for some way of connecting to her creative, theatre-loving mum, Hannah decides to write and perform a play in the overgrown hen house that she’s found – will this be what saves the farm from demolition…?

Here’s what Helen has to say about the nomination:

“I am absolutely thrilled to be shortlisted for this prize. Waterstones have been incredibly supportive of the book and it is such an honour to be selected for a shortlist which is chosen by booksellers.”

And Kirsty, the book’s editor, says:

“The Secret Hen House Theatre shone out of the “slush pile” as a book that just had to be published, and it’s great to see it on the Waterstone’s prize shortlist, a prize that celebrates writers at the start of their careers. We’re sure Helen’s is going to be long and illustrious, and we couldn’t be more delighted to be her publisher.”

If you’ve not read the book, you can read the first chapter for free below.

You can also order the book online from Waterstones here.

The full shortlist for the prize in the 5-12 category is as follows:

The Wolf Princess by Cathryn Constable (Chicken House)
Atticus Claw Breaks the Law by Jennifer Gray (Faber and Faber)
Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Random House Children’s Books)
The Secret Hen House Theatre by Helen Peters (Nosy Crow)
The Chronicles of Egg: Deadweather and Sunrise by Geoff Rodkey (Puffin)
Barry Loser: I Am Not A Loser by Jim Smith (Egmont)

You can read more on Waterstones’ website – the winner will be announced later this year. Good luck, Helen!

Looking back at 2012: our second year of publishing

Posted by Kate on Jan 03, 2013

At the end of last year, I wrote a blog post about our first year of publishing (2011). It’s here. I thought that I’d do the same thing for 2012, our second year of publishing.

It has, once again, been a busy and full year and it’s hard, even after spending the days between Christmas and New Year like a slothful grub wrapped up in a duvet on a sofa reading books for grown ups with a cold as my only excuse, to pick out the key things from 2012 from the whirl of memories and impressions. Nevertheless, here we go…

What we published, and what we signed up:

In 2011, we published 23 books for children aged 0 to 14. In 2012 we published 35 – a 50% increase. The biggest increase was in our fiction output, and we published 19 fiction titles simultaneously as print and ebook titles. Once again, the books ranged from board books for babies to fiction titles for young teenagers (though this year we added a few ambitious novelty books like Playbook Farm).

2012’s books came from talented debut writers that we plucked from the “slush-pile”, like Helen Peters and Paula Harrison, and from established names like Axel Scheffler, Penny Dale, Jo Lodge and Philip Ardagh, and from creative talents inbetween. In 2012, we published new books by ten of the 12 authors and illustrators we’d published in 2011 (the exceptions were Benji Davies, but then we did publish two apps based on his Bizzy Bear character and we’ll publish more of Benji’s books in 2013, and Ros Beardshaw, whose paperback Just Right For Christmas was new in 2012 and from whom we also have a new book in 2013). But – and I hadn’t realised this before I totted things up – in 2012 we published 16 authors and illustrators that we hadn’t published in 2011.

In 2011, we released 3 apps. In 2012, we released 6 apps, including, in a departure for us, two games apps linked to books and two non-fiction story book apps. The games apps were Pip and Posy: Fun and Games and the completely free The Grunts: Beard of Bees. The non-fiction apps were Rounds: Franklin Frog and the deliciously wintry Rounds: Parker Penguin.

We did our first bit of own-brand publishing and our first “instant” book when we published, at the very end of the year, The Snowman’s Journey, based on the John Lewis Christmas 2012 TV ad, for The John Lewis Partnership. Here’s the story behind it.

But all the time we were publishing in 2012, we were also acquiring for 2013 publication and beyond. We’ll be increasing our output of books in 2013 to 50 titles. We’ve written about some of them here.

We are going to focus on a few, very ambitious apps this coming year, of which Little Red Riding Hood is the first. However, we have other digital plans, including, this month, the launch of our innovative audio book picture book programme, Stories Aloud.
Across our books and apps, we will add around the same number of new authors and illustrators in 2013 as we added in 2012.

Selling our books and apps:

We more than doubled our revenue compared to 2011, with sales well in excess of two million pounds.

Once again, 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. Many were selected for promotions by bigger retailers and supermarkets – we have, I think, a particularly good strike-rate in this area.

To sell our books and apps, we’ve travelled to the US (where we work closely with Candlewick Press on illustrated books), Australia (where we work exclusively with Allen & Unwin), Germany, France, Holland and Italy. We visited Apple HQ in Cupertino for the first time to talk about our apps.

Having sold our apps exclusively through Apple in 2011, we experimented with Android for the first time this year, selling a couple of our apps for use on Nook tablets. You can read about it here.

This year, we added Japanese and Turkish to the list of languages in which we’ve sold rights to our books, bringing the total number of languages in which we’ve sold rights to 18. Brazil (as a direct result of my visit in late 2011) has been the biggest new source of rights sales. We ran our first two auctions, both of which were in the US, and both of which ended in six-figure dollar deals.

We added Gottmer in Holland to Carlsen in Germany and Gallimard in France as translation partners in our apps programme.

Speaking of Nosy Crow…:

We have had another great year of reviews and mentions in traditional national press from The Wall Street Journal to The Daily Mirror, 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 2012, we had 120,000 unique visitors (up 58% on 2011) to the Nosy Crow website (I wrote more about our web stats here and here). From the autumn of 2012, we decided we’d try to blog every week day (though we have had a bit of a rest over the Christmas/New Year break). Judging purely by the number of comments (though some of the comments are our responses to people who’ve commented), these were particularly popular blog posts this year:

Nosy Crow Publishes The Snowman’s Journey

What’s a Publisher For

Books For Girls: Gender, Packaging and Content in Children’s Publishing

In Which We Uncover An Internet Sock-puppet

Deaf and Blind Characters in Children’s Fiction

Writing Children’s Apps

What My Daughter Thinks About Having a Working Mum

Small Publishers v Large Publishers: Which is Best?

And these were the three posts which received the most traffic:

1. Festive drinks at Nosy Crow

2. Nosy Crow Publishes The Snowman’s Journey

3. In Which We Uncover An Internet Sock-puppet

As I write, @nosycrow has 9,740 followers on Twitter, @nosycrowapps has 3,164 followers and @nosycrowbooks, more recently introduced, has 654 followers. There’s a bit of overlap between these, but overall, that’s 13,558 followers – up 80% on last year. We’ve 2,438 likes on Facebook and we’re now active on Pinterest and Tumblr too.

Back in the real world, Nosy Crow authors were at numerous literary festivals, including Hay, Edinburgh, Bath and Cheltenham, and staged countless events in schools, libraries and bookshops.


We were hugely proud to win a hat-trick of awards at the Independent Publisher’s Guild Awards in March 2012, based on our first year of publishing. We won the 2012 Children’s Publisher of the Year award; the Newcomer of the Year award and the Innovation of the Year award.

Our apps continued to win and be shortlisted for multiple awards and made many “best apps” listings. Our books, authors and illustrators were shortlisted for awards too: S C Ransom was shortlisted for the Queen of Teen prize; The Baby that Roared was shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize; The Secret Hen House Theatre was shortlisted for the Solihull Children’s Book Award.


I ended my 2011 retrospective with a look at what had gone wrong and here are some of the things I mentioned:

The much-investigated drainy smell in the office bathrooms. I am sorry to say that this is not completely resolved, despite plumber intervention, but either it’s less pronounced or I am just getting used to it.

The calorie count of the many cakes we make and eat. I am afraid that the addition to the team of Mary Berry with her show-stopping debut of Nosy Crow logo-inspired cake pops seems unlikely to help us here.

The one or two important UK retailers who hadn’t stocked our books. We did manage to expand our customer base in 2012: we hadn’t sold anything to John Lewis before The Snowman’s Journey, for example.

The key countries we hadn’t managed to sell rights to, like Japan. We did, this year, sell rights in several picture book and novelty titles to Japan.

So most of the old things got better and some stayed about the same. Of course there were new problems and challenges in 2012 – we were particularly sorry to see Kate Burns leave us this summer, for example, but, on the other hand, we were delighted that Louise Bolongaro replaced her at the beginning of November as Head of Picture Books.

Thank you:

2012 was another very good year for Nosy Crow.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us or worked with us in 2012, or who, in 2012, agreed to work with us in 2013 and beyond. One of the pleasures of being a small publishing company is that many of us will be able to show our appreciation for you in person if you’re an author, illustrator or some other kind of creator, if you’re an agent, or a bookseller or a foreign publisher. But we can’t thank, other than in this blog post, the ever-increasing number of people who choose to buy our apps and our books and share them with children, without whom we don’t have a business.

Books of the Year

Posted by Tom on Dec 11, 2012

We were very pleased to see some great Nosy Crow books from 2012 in end-of-year reading round-ups over the weekend.

There were particularly nice reviews for The Secret Hen House Theatre by Helen Peters in The Independent and for Snow Bunny’s Christmas Wish by Rebecca Harry in The Observer.

For The Independent, Nicholas Tucker writes:

“Curtains swish again in Helen Peters’s excellent debut novel. A stage-struck 11-year-old girl living on a tumbledown farm, her best friend who is a talented designer, a mean rival with her own theatre group also entering the local competition, a pet ram who butts away unwelcome visitors: what’s not to like?”

You can order The Secret Hen House theatre online here and read the first chapter for free below.

And in The Observer, Kate Kellaway writes:

“Anyone who likes a Christmas with bling in quantity will enjoy Snow Bunny’s Christmas Wish … You will strike silver here: the ice shimmers, the puddles are glitzy mirrors, the stars twinkle. And the story is short and sweet. Snow Bunny’s letter to Father Christmas asks for a “friend” as a present. But on her way to deliver her message to Santa, she makes friends through her open, generous attitude (handing out delicious homemade biscuits helps) and new friends materialise almost by mistake. A cheery, comforting, sparkling winter’s tale.”

You can order Snow Bunny’s Christmas Wish online here and take a look inside below.

What have been your books of the year – picture books, younger fiction, older fiction? Leave your suggestions below!

The Solihull Children's Book Award

Posted by Dom on Sep 17, 2012

The Crows in The Nest received some rather good news – we were CAWING with pleasure! – last week regarding Helen Peters and her much-loved debut novel The Secret Hen House Theatre…. Helen has been shortlisted for the Solihull Children’s Book Award! A cracking achievement and we all wish Helen – and the Hen House – all the very best.

The other two books on the shortlist are Black Ops by Tom Palmer and Small Change for Stuart by Lissa Evans. Funding for the book award enables the award organisers to buy a copy of the three shortlisted books for every primary and secondary school in the borough as well as for every library. Children in Years 5 to 8 will read, review and vote for the books between November and July, and the award culminates in a ceremony at Solihull Library Theatre on Thursday 11th July 2013 at 2pm.

The award is being publicised across Solihull and through Facebook and council website pages. There is also a book award blog where children will be encouraged to post reviews.

Good luck, Helen!

You can buy The Secret Hen House Theatre online here and read the first chapter below.

Summer Reading round-ups

Posted by Tom on Jul 24, 2012

Last week, Kate blogged about the extraordinary triple-review of The Secret Hen House Theatre in The Guardian, and the cheering effect it had on an otherwise miserable weekend.

Well, the weather may have changed (for the better – the picture above is of the colour of the sky from my window), but the good news continues! Yesterday we learnt that The Secret Hen House Theatre has been selected by Booktrust as one of their Great Summer Reads.

In their review, Booktrust say of the book:

“Helen Peters has drawn on her own childhood on a farm, and her memories of writing and acting out her own plays, to create this lively story with a very convincing rural setting. Peters depicts a cast of strong and believable characters, from Hannah’s overworked and under pressure father, to her stroppy 10-year-old sister Martha, who soon proves herself to be a true ‘drama queen’. With a hint of Pamela Brown’s ‘The Swish of the Curtain’, there is much for aspiring young actors to enjoy here, but this hugely enjoyable story of family, friendship and country life will also have a broad appeal for children at upper primary level.”

And there was more good news to be had elsewhere. The Telegraph and The Independent ran lists of summer reading over the weekend, including both Dinosaur Zoom! by Penny Dale (out next month) and Goldilocks and Just the One Bear by Leigh Hodgkinson.

For The Telegraph, Dinah Hall wrote of Dinosaur Zoom:

“Little boys love dinosaurs. Little boys love trucks. Put the two together in the worryingly appealing Dinosaur Zoom! and you have the recipe for a night-time battle over bedtime stories. Resign yourself to reading the same book over and over again for the next two years – and make sure it’s a girl next time.”

On Goldilocks and Just the One Bear, Hall writes:

“With Hodgkinson’s fetchingly retro midcentury modern illustrations matched by her brilliantly animated text, this is a triumph.”

And in The Independent, Nicholas Tucker writes:

“Penny Dale has a new slant on ever-popular prehistoric animals in her picture book Dinosaur Zoom! Whether driving a blue convertible through the desert or reversing a lorry into the woods, these dinosaurs practically leap from the page.”

What are you summer reading plans?

The Guardian newspaper hat-trick for Helen Peters' The Secret Hen House Theatre

Posted by Kate on Jul 14, 2012

On a rather soggy Saturday morning in Herefordshire, after arriving late last night at a cottage with a power cut and the powerful smell of rot emanating from a many-weeks defrosted and prodigiously leaking freezer, I was not feeling as pro-countryside as I sometimes do.

But my faith in all things pastoral is being gradually restored, and I am powerfully reminded, too, of my own response to the countryside elements of Helen Peter’s rurally-set debut novel, The Secret Hen House Theatre by The Guardian’s three lovely mentions today.

First, Linda Buckley-Archer reviewed it as The Guardian’s children’s book of the week. She says, “There’s something timeless about Helen Peters’s accomplished and hugely engaging debut… Drawn with humour and affection, Hannah’s world is utterly convincing… There is a lovely moment when Hannah takes a newborn lamb from its cardboard box at the bottom of the Aga, feeling its “quick, shallow heart-beat under nubbly wool”. Its body is warm and comforting “like a hot water bottle”. “You’re mine,” she says… It is said that your capital as a writer is your childhood. In celebrating friendship and family, a country upbringing and the joy of discovering something you truly love to do, Peters has drawn on hers to create a memorable story with broad appeal”.

Helen Peters singing copies of The Secret Hen House Theatre in the signing tent at the Hay Festival

The Guardian also asked writers and children to nominate books, new and old, that might be good additions to the Summer Reading Challenge to read six books over the summer. Of the six children’s writers asked to nominate their books, two, Julia Donaldson and Michael Morpurgo named The Secret Hen House Theatre.

Julia Donaldson says, “As a child, I loved The Swish of the Curtain by Pamela Brown, and The Secret Hen House Theatre by Helen Peters is another engaging book about amateur dramatics”.

Michael Morpurgo says, “Helen Peters is a new writer and The Secret Hen House Theatre feels very autobiographical. Hannah Roberts is the eldest of four children; her father, a single parent is an overworked farmer struggling to keep his farm going against a greedy landlord and vandals who try to destroy his dream. Hannah takes her responsibilities as eldest daughter very seriously, but what she really wants to do is become an actor like her dead mother. The book follows the dramatic twists and turns as she tries to write, direct and act in her own play. Life on the rundown farm is wonderfully described – you can almost smell the pigs and hear the lambs bleating. Full of action, with a happy ending, this is a book I didn’t want to finish.”

The book is, in fact, one of four Nosy Crow titles included in the 2012 Reading Challenge official lists, and we wrote about how pleased we were about our inclusions in the selection here. And here are links to both the older and younger lists.

We’re so proud to have published The Secret Hen House Theatre. It’s great to have its qualities recognised and articulated by others.

Belated report on the Hay Festival

Posted by Kate on Jun 19, 2012

Well, the truth is that I have had a horrid cold for a ridiculous two weeks. The whole family’s been down with it, but the adults have had a particularly lingering version. This has meant that I haven’t been so up-and-at-‘em with my blog posting as I’d like to be.

Anyway, Hay was wet and cold but nevertheless jolly, with facepainting (see the picture above) and fudge as well as books, authors and illustrators. It was, as always, a surreal experience to be in the same room as Caitlin Moran, for whose permission to reproduce her brilliant defence of libraries we are always grateful, Salman Rushdie, Jo Brand and Eric Hobsbawm.

We kicked off on the first weekend with a lively Pip and Posy event led by Axel Scheffler, reading the stories, drawing characters suggested by the audience from scratch and answering questions with a little help from – ahem – me and an appearance by Pip and Posy themselves.

Pip meets some of his adoring fans

And Posy meets some of her adoring fans

NIkalas Catlow and Tim Wesson did two great interactive writing sessions connected to the Wicked Young Writers’ Award and then a brilliant, big, funny event, drawing mash-up characters to order based on their Mega Mash-up series.

Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson with their picture of a mashed-up character suggested by the audience: Zic Zac Zoo is a Zampoid (a vampire/zombie combination with one granny leg and one chicken leg) who eats rotting human brains and likes talking to ladies at the bus stop and playing golf

On Sunday, I spoke on a panel at a Business Breakfast about the Future of Books with James Daunt of Waterstones (whose comments were reported here), Dylan Jones of GQ, and Simon Morrison of Google.

Leigh Hodgkinson did a crafty event, involving many hundreds of sequins and much glitter to introduce children to her new Magical Mix-ups series.

A glittery model of Leigh Hodgkinson’s creation, Princess Sapphire

Lyn Gardner engaged potential readers and hard-core Olivia fans alike with her event on Tuesday, while Tracey Corderoy mentioned Hubble Bubble, Granny Trouble at her event for her Little Tiger Books.

Lyn Gardner in the Green Room

And, finally, Helen Peters, who’d hoped to make a long weekend of it and had hired a tepee for her whole family, ended up taking shelter from the floods and wind with us for a couple of nights before sharing the autobiographical inspirations for her debut novel The Secret Hen House Theatre.

Helen Peters singing copies of The Secret Hen House Theatre in the signing tent

Hand-drawn thank you cards from Helen’s children

The festival was a triumph of organisation (thanks to the indefatigable Peter Florence and children’s programme organiser, Sophie Lording), good spirits and committed reading over bad weather. We had a great time, as authors, illustrators, publishers and, for those of us who squeezed in a few events as punters, as enthusiastic audience members.

The Secret Hen House Theatre launches and prompts some crafty booksellers to work on displays

Posted by Kate on Apr 29, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, we published The Secret Hen House Theatre by debut author, Helen Peters.

Helen, who, though brought up on a farm in Sussex now lives in North London, had a little launch party at The Children’s Bookshop, Muswell Hill, an award-winning, specialist, independent bookshop, run by Kate Agnew who also reviews children’s books and writes about them for The Guardian.

I wasn’t able to be there: I had a London Book Fair thing that evening. But Kirsty, Dom and Nicola, who designed the cover (I wrote about the photoshoot here), were at the party, and reported back that a Good Time Was Had By All.

The picture above is of the window display in the shop.

Meanwhile, Waterstones in Cheltenham drew attention to the book with a very sweet little hand-made display, labelled “a fabulous book… our favourite this month”:

Angela Williams, of Bounce, who sell our books, emailed the following message when she sent me the picture:

“Off to Cheltenham Waterstone’s this morning to see children’s bookseller extraordinaire, Barbara, to tell her about all the wonderful new titles coming from our publishers this summer. After a quick catch-up, she said, “Oooh have you seen our Secret Hen House?” and she took me over to an amazing home-made mini-theatre, complete with hens and a gingham curtain, that they are using to display their favourite read of the moment. Don’t you just love passionate, inventive booksellers like Barbara?”

And we do love passionate, inventive booksellers.

The book’s doing very nicely indeed. And we’ve had some very nice reviews (you’ll find them in the Media Mentions section of this page), and we’ve sold rights, so far, to Gallimard in France.

The Secret Hen House Theatre: a competition to meet the author on a working farm

Posted by Dom on Apr 28, 2012

They say they luckiest man alive is he who gets paid for his hobby.

Well, this man, whoever he is, may indeed be getting paid for his hobby – but he wasn’t lucky enough to spend a day on Helen Peters’ family farm. I was. So I consider myself luckier.

This farm not only raises Middle White pigs and South Down sheep – among other beautiful, rare breeds, I hasten to add – it also raised Helen and her truly delightful family. And, in no small part, because Helen grew up there, it’s responsible for Helen’s wonderful debut novel, The Secret Hen House Theatre, with its honest and beautifully realised deeply rural setting.

It’s a farm with SOUL.There’s no other word to describe it.

But I should set the scene. We’re running a competition with a well-known children’s magazine (I can’t say which until the piece appears) to meet the author and spend time on the farm that inspired the book.

From the moment we arrived to find Helen’s mother baking the bread rolls (from scratch!) in an AGA (of course!) that would hold our lunch-time, farm-produced sausages and burgers, to the moment we all bade each other farewell, the day simply couldn’t have been any more perfect.

The competition winner and her family were a delight – and, praise be, naturals in front of the camera (because we had photographers there to record the event for the magazine piece).

The sun shone in the heavens (remember what that was like?…).

The lambs were cute. Good grief, SOOOO CUTE (check out the pic).

Maisie the sheep dog was endlessly enthusiastic. About everything.

Our lunchtime burgers and sausages – and the homemade rolls, cakes, Easter chocolate nests … everything, really – was absolutely delicious.

But what was most special was the effort Helen and her family had made to ensure the lucky competition winner felt special.

I know this sounds crazy-enthusiastic, and I am sorry, but you sort of had to be there. From an Easter Egg Hunt around the farmyard to bottle-feeding lambs, it was a perfect day: simple as that. And if the truth be told, I don’t know who had more fun, me or the lucky competition winner…

So I just want to thank Helen – and her brilliant folks, brother and sister- for making us all so welcome. And I’d like the thank the farm for having so much soul – because it HAS. Read The Secret Hen House Theatre and I think you’ll see what I mean.

Easter reviews (and why children's book reviews help)

Posted by Kate on Apr 09, 2012

We’d a nice presence in the broadsheets over the Easter weekend.

On Saturday, Julia Eccleshare’s round-up of Easter reading for The Guardian featured The Baby That Roared written by Simon Puttock and illustrated by Nadia Shireen. Kate Burns wrote about its publication in a recent blog post. The Guardian placed it nicely as a witty story for new siblings:

“Love them or loathe them, babies are sweet. At least, that’s what Mr and Mrs Deer think. They long for a baby of their own, so when one is left on their doorstep they do not hesitate to bring it in. But this little baby does nothing but ROAR. And when relatives start disappearing, Mr and Mrs Deer have to ask some serious questions about their new baby. With no happy-ever-after ending, this is a deliciously entertaining story that takes a fresh look at the arrival of a new baby and the problems it can bring.”

On Sunday, Nicolette Jones included two Nosy Crow books in her Sunday Times round-up of Easter reading.

The first was Goldilocks and Just the One Bear by Leigh Hodgkinson. The book, says the Sunday Times, “gives a novel twist to a familiar fairy tale as a lost bear causes mayhem in a city apartment, before the (human) family comes home. After the “somebody’s been…” routine, the mother turns out to be Goldilocks, now grown up, and the bear is the former Baby Bear. This happy reunion is remarkable for its witty, chatty update reminiscent of Lauren Child, with comical, detail-rich illustrations in vivid retro greens, oranges and pinks.”

The second was The Secret Hen House Theatre, by debut novelist Helen Peters whose publication Kirsty wrote about in this recent blog post.

The Sunday Times piece said:

“A variation on the always popular let’s-put-on-a-play-in-the-barn story, The Secret Hen House Theatre… adds depth with its theme of dealing with grief and a plot about saving a farm. An engaging tale about family and friendship for 10+.”

Well over 100,000 books are published in the UK each year, and I think around 10% of them are children’s books (I have a figure of 8,000 in my head, but I may be making it up or it may be out-of-date, and Google has been unhelpful in verifying it). Let’s assume it’s right, and then let’s assume (wrongly) that roughly the same number of children’s books is published in each month, and that Easter round-ups draw on the previous two months of publishing. That would mean that these books were competing with over 1,300 other books to be featured in reviews. While this arithmetic isn’t exact, it does give a sense of how tough it is to get a review of a book in a major UK paper.

Last year’s Books and Consumers survey suggested that reviews and recommendations drove only 5% of children’s fiction book purchases. However, browsing remains the biggest purchase prompt and covers remain significant, driving 39% of sales between them. One of the things that reviews sometimes provide is a few key words to put on the cover of the next reprint of the reviewed book that, we hope, draw the eye of the potential reader (or parent or teacher of the reader), and support the browsing and cover-based selection process.

Reviews also help us position future books by the author/illustrator with retailers: we include review extracts in the information sheets about our books that we supply to retailers and in our catalogues. In fact, we’re working on a catalogue for the London Book Fair, and I was emailing through the key words from the reviews of the three titles mentioned above for the designer to incorporate into the final tweaks to the catalogue as I was reading the reviews. A good review won’t salvage a book that a retailer doesn’t think that they will succeed with in the first place, but it might reinforce a selection that they are part-way to making… which means that the book will be available for the browsing and cover visibility that accounts for the 39% of book purchases.

The picture at the top of this blog is an illustration from Goldilocks and Just the One Bear in The Sunday Times round-up… with an Axel Scheffler illustration from his first picture book, You’re a Hero, Daley B, that is being reissued and that I mentioned in this recent blog post.

(Twelve Minutes to Midnight author Christopher Edge’s event with Philip Pullman and JD Sharpe at the Oxford Literary Festival about the influence of Charles Dickens on children’s writers was also mentioned in The Sunday Times: “Asked what his first encounter with Dickens was, Edge rather shamefacedly confessed, ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’.”)

The Secret Hen House Theatre is out today

Posted by Kirsty on Apr 05, 2012

The Slush Pile. Every publishing house has one (unless of course it has closed its doors to submissions). And every editor dreams of plucking the Next Big Thing from it. Which is exactly what happened seventeen months and two Nosy Crow offices ago to THE SECRET HEN HOUSE THEATRE by Helen Peters , published today! (I’d love to claim credit for the plucking but can’t – step forward, Mr Adrian Soar, and take your bow.)

From first read, it was clear that this book is set to become a classic and that Helen Peters is an author with a great future ahead of her. The story, of a girl who pulls her chaotic family back from the brink through imagination, courage and a joyful commitment to secret theatres and muddy farmhouse living, is entirely engaging. It’s funny, sad, dramatic and impossible to put down. And here it is, already gracing the shelves of the Muswell Hill children’s bookshop.

A little snippet:

“The sow was charging straight towards her. Hannah turned and ran, the pig splashing and squealing behind her. Thick wet clay, heavy as concrete, clung to her boots. Dad crashed through the hedge just ahead and ran full tilt towards the enormous sow at her heels. And Hannah tripped over his boot and fell flat on her face into a gigantic puddle. She staggered to her feet, soaked to the skin. Freezing water cascaded down her back and legs. The world had gone dark. Her eyes were stuck together with mud, and she tried to wipe them but her hands and sleeves were coated with mud too. She could feel her hair plastered to her face. Through the muddy water in her ears she heard Martha’s laughter.”

I’ve read THE SECRET HEN HOUSE THEATRE many times now and it still makes me laugh. And I’ll admit, get a bit choked more than once. And it always makes me glad I don’t keep pigs. Congratulations, Helen, on writing a brilliant novel that everyone loves and happy publication day!

Books selected for the Reading Agency's Summer Reading Challenge 2012

Posted by Kate on Mar 06, 2012

We’ve received the good news that four of our titles – the four pictured above – have been selected for The Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge.

We don’t know how many books were chosen in total, but it’s usually around seventy, so, particularly as a small, new publisher, we were pleased to have bagged four slots.

And it is, of course great both to have the extra sales; to see The Reading Agency supporting new talent as well as more established writers/illustrators; and for us to be working on this library project at a time when we’re keen to do whatever we can to support libraries against the threats they face.

Of these books, Danny Danger and the Cosmic Remote by Adam Frost has been out longest, and has already drawn some nice praise from librarians and parents:

“Young readers today who have grown up with an amazing array of electronic gadgets will certainly enjoy this fast-moving and imaginative story.” – The School Librarian, Winter 2011

“A great read for boys – the story really grips the reader and draws you through the book.” – Parents in Touch

Twelve Minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge was published last month. The Bookseller described it as “a really pacy historical thriller with a great sense of Victorian atmosphere”, while Lovereading4kids.com said, “A thriller with a fast-paced cinematic style…an electrifying story from an exciting new author”.

The Secret Hen House Theatre by debut novelist Helen Peters will be published in April, but it’s already had a great mention in the Ham and High from Kate Agnew, children’s book consultant at the brilliant Children’s Bookshop, Muswell Hill. She says the book is “absolutely delightful … Astonishingly accomplished for a first novel, it is on one level an engaging story about a group of children determinedly staging a play in a disused old hen house and, on another, a warm-hearted and compassionate account of a family coming to terms with loss. I enjoyed the proof so much that I read it in two sittings”.

The paperback of Goldilocks and Just The One Bear by Leigh Hodgkinson won’t be published until June, but the signs are good, with a promotion lined up with Sainsburys.

Roll on summer and summer reading…

Country photoshoot for a book cover

Posted by Kate on Aug 16, 2011

Today, and not without a qualm, I left the last of the Ikea shelving assembly for the new office (I have a personal best of 15 minutes for a 4 × 2 Expedit). Instead, I was up with the lark to drive to Herefordshire for a photoshoot.

The shoot was for the cover of The Secret Hen House Theatre by Helen Peters who Dom described meeting in his blog post last month.

The book’s out in April of next year, and, frankly, we’re late with the cover: we’ve been using a mocked-up cover for the first couple of highlights presentations we’ve done. But we had to wait for a slot with photographer Marsha Arnold, recommended by Peter Florence of Hay Festivals after I posted a request for recommendations on Twitter. She photographs Monty Don, cheese and sheepshearing among other things, and we thought that she was the woman for us.

Here she is, in what is, I think (though I am no expert on such things), a tack room, which was being used to represent the hen house of the title. She’s checking results on a laptop screen, with our model for Hannah, the book’s heroine (wearing a cardi of Camilla’s), and techno and lighting man, Paul.

This kind of photoshoot is one of those hands-on, “detail” things that I would never have been involved in in any of my previous publishing lives, but, especially for debut fiction like this, creating a really great cover for a book is one of the most important ways you can, as a publisher, contribute to a book’s success. Overall 6% of all (adult and children’s) fiction purchases last year were made on the basis of cover alone, and a further 27% were made on the basis of “browsing” in which is seems likely to me that cover played a part, according to BML’s Books and Consumers survey 2010.

We had a very clear brief, based on an image we’d found of a grown-up model looking out of a barn-ish sort of doorway, and it looked to me as if we got some great images today. We’ll post the result as soon as we can.

Our publicist meets Helen Peters, to talk PR for debut fiction

Posted by Kate on Jul 08, 2011

Helen Peters, debut author, children's book, The Secret Hen House Theatre

Dom Kingston recently joined us as our “attached freelance” one-stop PR man, and he’s getting to know our authors. This week, he met Helen Peters, pictured above at a cafe in Muswell Hill, author of debut novel for 8 – 12 year olds (particularly 8 – 12 year old girls) The Secret Hen House Theatre, which Nosy Crow is publishing in April 2012.

This is what he said:

“Meeting new authors is always an exciting part of a publicist’s job.

Often, especially if the book in question is their first book, meeting their publicist is an author’s first insight into life after the editorial process. And publicity is often a relative mystery to many new authors. Most aspiring writers know that they will have their book edited, but not so many think, when they’re writing, about what they’ll say about themselves, their book, and the process of writing it to a class of school children, a librarian, a bookseller, a journalist or a conference audience.

For some, the word and the idea of a ‘publicist’ has scary connotations – think Entourage. Or Ab Fab. Or the bit in Phonebooth before Colin Farrell actually gets into the phonebooth…

Luckily, publicists in the children’s publishing industry are always a four-day-drive-and-a-boat-trip away from this stereotype. Authors often seem to be relieved when you don’t arrive Gucci-ed up to the eyeballs, in a cloud of Kouros, and barking into the four mobile ‘phones permanently clamped to your ears.

As publicists, we just want to get to know and understand… The Author. It’s important that an author is totally comfortable with any promotional activity they’ll be doing.

So… how was Helen?

Well, she’s an English and drama teacher, so she’s totally at home when she’s talking to a room full of children and engaging them creatively with a subject.

Music to my ears!

She also kicks off our meeting with some excellent event ideas that will work beautifully for the age-group that she writes for.

A natural!

The icing on the cake is that Helen’s obviously going to be a dream interviewee. She’s eloquent, focused, funny and charming. And she has a story to tell. Couple these qualities with the autobiographical, made-with-love aspects of her novel (the farm setting, the characters drawn from her own family), and we’re soon bandying around possible feature ideas for both adult and children’s media.


She’s also connected to, or connecting with, with lots of our world’s brilliant – and deliciously vocal – bloggers and tweeters. (Kate says, “speaking of this, you can read about Helen’s experiences as a first time author in this terrific blog post.”)

By this time I’m practically pinching myself.

So… Helen Peters – a lovely person, author of a lovely book and a publicist’s lovely dream . I CANNOT WAIT for curtain-up at The Secret Hen House Theatre