IPG Children's Publisher of the Year

Articles tagged with: small blue thing

Queen of Teen 2014

Posted by S.C. Ransom on Mar 19, 2014

Today’s guest post is by S.C. Ransom, author of the Small Blue Thing trilogy.

A few weeks ago I attended a corporate strategy session and I was asked to bring an object which special to me, and share the story with the group. It took a matter of seconds to decide that I wanted to take my Queen of Teen tiara. It’s completely over-the-top, glittery and, frankly, just a little bit too much for the office, but it was exactly what I needed.

Queen of Teen is a UK competition for authors writing for the teen market. Anyone can be nominated, and then the authors with the most nominations go through to the grand final. Voting then starts in earnest, with authors offering giveaways, visits, their first-born children – the usual stuff – to get the most votes. I was lucky enough to be included in the final the last time it was run, in 2012.

On the day of the ceremony the ten finalists were invited to a fancy reception where we met our ‘super-fans’ – a reader who had nominated us and who was randomly selected from the pile – and sized up the competition. It was lovely to get to meet some other writers of teenage fiction, and I had to try hard to remember not to get all fangirl-ish myself.

After lunch it was into the fleet of pink stretch limos and on to the grounds of the country pile where The Book People have their HQ. In the garden was a massive marquee, lined in pink (what else?), and stuffed with pink cupcakes, pink drinks and a completely over-the-top throne. Each one of us was introduced by our nominator, who gave us our tiaras, and then we gave a short speech to the crowds of local schoolchildren. Finally it was time for the results to be announced. The winner (as we all expected) was Maureen Johnson, who accepted the crown and promised to be a just and fair monarch (despite being an American).

We then got to meet all the kids, sign lots of books, and chat for hours about books and writing. Later we were all invited to an ‘after’ party at the local Waterstones store, where there was more signing and more cake (of course).

It was a splendidly surreal experience, quite unlike anything I had ever done before, and I would love to do it again.

But that isn’t the reason that the tiara means so much to me. It’s special because all the nominations and votes were cast by the readers – teens who had read my books and felt strongly enough about them to go on line and say so. Some read all the time and devour a book a week, others are less prolific. One wrote to me to say that Small Blue Thing was the first ‘proper’ book that she had ever read, but thanks to that she was now reading all the time and her grades at school had improved. My tiara is a reminder of her, and of the power of a book to change lives.

Nominations for Queen of Teen 2014 have just opened, and my first-born is up for grabs again. It’s time to wrestle Maureen off that throne!

Small Blue Thing fans can nominate Sue to be the 2014 Queen of Teen here. If you’re new to the trilogy, you can read chapter one of the first book in the series below, or order it online here.

Reading for Fun

Posted by Tom on Oct 02, 2013

A guest post from Rona O’Connor, a Governor at St George V.A. Catholic College in Southampton.

We love you Nosy Crow. When we sent a cheeky request for free books for our Reading for Fun initiative you responded like an old friend who had just been waiting for us to turn up and join the party! You very kindly donated S.C. Ransom’s trilogy of novels, Small Blue Thing, and then you sent us two more sets! HOORAY!

We had an incredible launch on Thursday 12th September with 247 Year 7 & 8 students enthusiastically throwing themselves into a variety of reading based activities. With the motto ‘It Belongs To All Of Us’ staff, students and visitors all pitched in to make the day a resounding success.

The day ended with an assembly which was punctuated by clapping, cheering, whistling and stamping when judges were introduced, presentations were made and winners announced. The overall winners of the challenges were awarded a medal each; the winning group in both Years 7 & 8 were presented with signed copies of their books by Ali Sparkes and Judy Waite (who very kindly donated both their time and their novels). At the start of the day each student was given a raffle ticket and the winners each came to the front and chose a donated book, which was really exciting. And then everybody was given a glow in the dark college pen! Result.!

To top it off The Daily Echo gave us superb coverage and we have the newspaper report plastered pretty much on every window and wall in the whole college it seems!

Two weeks on and reading for fun is bedding in nicely. Each tutor group spends once a week sprawled out on gym mats reading for enjoyment. Their reading is being tracked and will be monitored against their reading levels. We know that reading for fun produces confident learners. Students love it. Teachers love it too. They get to read for pleasure as well. In the first week a Year 7 student read for 24 hours at home and at school. HOO! RAH! He was presented with a book token in a special assembly.

Southampton City Council librarians have climbed aboard and have started to work closely with the college in planning next steps, which will be fun stuff around World Book Day in March 2014. In the summer term our young readers will be working on becoming more confident writers. We’ve got a load of ideas bubbling away for that event including a link with Winchester University and creative writing. Yay! Can’t wait!


Thank you to Rona and everyone at St George for taking part in this Reading for Fun initiative so enthusiastically! You can read the first chapter of Small Blue Thing Below, and order the book online here.

Queen of Teen and S C Ransom

Posted by Kate on Jul 07, 2012

On Friday, Dom, author Sue Ransom, her daughter, Ellie (for whose twelfth birthday she wrote Small Blue Thing, and who is in the photo with her mum above), her husband, Pete, and I met up at on the lawn of the swanky Surrey offices of The Book People for their rather joyous and pink Queen of Teen awards.

Maureen Johnson won, but our very own Sue was shortlisted – which was a terrific triumph for someone whose first book was published just last year.

Sue and the other shortlisted authors with the enthroned winner

It’s a great and very generous sort of event: every single shortlisted author gets to sit on the Queen of Teen Throne in a rather lovely Rajasthani tent on the sweep of lawn, while a “super-fan” tells the audience why her chosen author should win the Queen of Teen crown.

Sue enthroned

After being presented with a tiara, the shortlisted author gets to say a few words too.

Sue, speaking, with her super-fan

Pink cupcakes and fizzy wine combined with a “fierce in fuschia” dress-code to make for a very particular and, I suppose, feminine sort of an atmosphere (though one of this year’s shortlisted authors was a man, who wore his tiara and his pink Converse with pride).

Sue and me taking the “fierce in fuschia” dress-code seriously

The fans went away with bags of signed books and, I hope, a sense from the speeches that reading teen fiction was an important gateway into not only adult reading, but grown-up life, and the sense that they too could one day be successful writers.

Sue and her proud publisher

It was a great way to spend a Friday afternoon for readers and for authors and their publishers.

A guest post by S. C. Ransom: Small Blue Thing has won an award!

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!)

The best romantic novels for teenagers - a Valentine's Day post

Posted by Kate on Feb 14, 2012

Last week, the Romantic Novelists; Association’s Awards 2012 shortlists were announced.

There’s a YA category. Here’s the list of shortlisted YA books:

Artichoke Hearts, by Sita Brahmachari (Pan Macmillan)
Dark Ride, by Caroline Green (Piccadilly Press)
My So-called Phantom Lovelife, by Tamsyn Murray (Piccadilly Press)
Angel Fire, by L A Weatherly (Usborne)


At Nosy Crow, we don’t “do” much romantic fiction for teenagers (our focus is generally on books and apps for younger children) but the very first book we published was Small Blue Thing by S C Ransom, the first in the Small Blue Thing Trilogy (book two is Perfectly Reflected and book three is Scattering Like Light. It has many of the hallmarks of a particular kind of teen romance – a sort of Romeo and Juliet model: absolute love at (pretty much) first sight and a huge obstacle (Callum is a ghostly dirge, Alex is a normal London girl).


The shape and look of YA bookshelves has been transformed, of course, of course, over recent years by the Twilight series and other romantic fantasy (or “romantasy”) books, and, as some of that shelf-space has been taken up by dystopian fantasy novels, the romance has remained: Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games trilogy, for example.

Lots of these YA novels are being read by adults (and there’s an argument that one of the reasons that these YA categories are doing well in ebook form is that adults can “indulge” their desire to read YA novels without it being obvious to a fellow bus passenger that they’re doing so).

Of course, lots of romantic adult novels are read by teenagers and nearly-teenagers.



I write this with two 12 and13 year-old girls on my bed and they nominated the following adult novels that they’d read (or knew through film adaptation) and thought were romantic:

The Go-Between by L P Hartley (there was some debate whether the romance was between Marianne and Ted or between Marianne and Leo.)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Sense and Sensibility by Janet Austen (“more than Pride and Prej because it’s easier to relate to Marianne than Elizabeth” said one.)
The Alexander Trilogy by Mary Renault (“We are allowed gay romance, aren’t we?” said one.)
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (“though it doesn’t really work for them, does it?”)


They didn’t know whether the following were adult or teen novels but they nominated them:

The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith


When we talked about books that they definitely thought of as YA, they came up with the following favourites:

The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank, “because the love story {between Peter and Anne] grows regardless of her circumstances and also because it’s the first and last taste of love she’ll ever get.”

Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine, “even though the romance [between Martha and Lucas] isn’t really what the book is about, but because the romance isn’t immediate. It’s much more gentle and slow.”

The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness, “because there’s lots of romance in it as well as Todd and Viola: Lee and Viola; Bradley and Simone; Ben and Cillian; and 1017 and his ‘one in particular’.”

The Anne of Green Gables series by L M Montgomery, “because it’s the blossoming of their love from hate and it’s all innocent and pure and we know before she does how much she loves him.”

The Little Women series by Louisa M Alcott, though the real romance there is the unrequited love of Teddy for Jo, not the realised love between Jo and Professor Bhaer, was the consensus.

How I Live Now by Meg Rossoff “because the love isn’t too sentimental, and it’s quite frank and honest, and because they don’t shut out the whole world so it feels more real.”

Bloody Jack by L A Meyer, “because you really like Jack/Jackie the love story’s so unexpected and it’s written in a way that works for 11 and 12 year-olds because it’s romantic but not so that you feel sick.”

The Mortal Engines books by Philip Reeve, “because the love transcends everything, regardless of what Tom and Hester do to other people and because Hester isn’t exactly conventionally beautiful but Tom still loves her.”

Tristan and Iseult by Rosemary Sutcliff, “because of the last paragraph: ‘And out of Tristan’s heart there grew a hazel tree and out of Iseult’s there grew a honeysuckle and they arched together and clung and intertwined so that they could never be separated any more.’” (I have to say that my own Rosemary Sutcliff romantic memory is the powerful and unconventional romance between Aquila and Ness in The Lantern Bearers – he doesn’t know he loves her until he’s lost her.)

The Noughts and Crosses quartet, because “the books are absolutely compulsive, and the future generation right the wrongs of the earlier generation: you know from the beginning that Sephy and Callum is never going to work out, but you know that the next generation will make it work, because Callie Rose falls in love with Toby. It’s a bit like Wuthering Heights. And Callum loves Sephy so much that he writes the letter that says that he hates her to force her to get over him – they’re really young, and they don’t really understand and they have been brought up in an environment with hate not love, so they find it hard not to mix up love and hate.”

I asked if they could think of anything funny, as these all seemed rather serious.

The named Just William (William and Joan, and William and Violet Elizabeth) and the crushes in Louise Rennison’s novels (and actually one of them said, “Twilight is funny”), but examples of a link between humour and lurve didn’t come as easily as examples of tragic love. They hadn’t, it turned out, read Adrian Mole.

I should say that they think that children of their age shouldn’t have read some of the books that they’re talking about, because “they’re for older children and teenagers, really”.

So what would you nominate?

Scattering Like Light is out today!

Posted by Kirsty on Jan 12, 2012

Today is the cause of much celebration down Borough way (and in Las Vegas, where Kate is enjoying the bright lights). It’s the day that Scattering Like Light, the third in Sue Ransom’s Small Blue Thing trilogy, is published. Sue Ransom was the first author to be published by Nosy Crow and it’s amazing to think that, twelve months later, she has written and published three fine teenage novels. So if you want to find out how Alex and Callum’s paranormal romance ends, today’s the day!

Here are Sue’s thoughts on the publishing process, and her trilogy’s journey from BlackBerry to bookshelf…

“It’s unbelievably exciting to have all three books on the shelf, and with such lovely covers too. They look fantastic. Just three years ago I had never given any thought to writing anything, so to have achieved so much in such a short time is astonishing. And none of it would have been possible without the support of Kate and the team at Nosy Crow. It has opened up a whole new career for me and I can’t thank them enough for that.

My daughter, Ellie, has continued to love the books, and was able to provide some important input into the final drafts of Scattering Like Light. I’m really pleased with the way the story has evolved from my initial brief conversation with Kate, and have been particularly heartened by all the feedback from the readers. So many girls from around the world are now writing to me to tell me how much they like the story, and the few comments I have had so far from girls who have read the very end have been hugely positive, which is great.

I’m looking forward to writing many more books in the future – the bug has got me now!”

Congratulations, Sue, and here’s to Scattering Like Light!

S.C. Ransom and Fischer filming for Small Blue Thing [video]

Posted by S.C. Ransom on Sep 09, 2011

My first book, Small Blue Thing, has now been translated into German by Fischer Schatzinsel, a very well-respected German publishing company with a terific list. They are really enthusiastic about the book and have been working hard on the publicity and marketing ready for the launch today.

In Germany it’s being called ‘Nur ein Hauch von dir’ which roughly translates as ‘Just a Breath of You’, and they have produced an entirely different hardback cover, with a spooky, handsome face in the background over the London skyline which looks fantastic. They’ve also put a new voice-over on the video.

So when they asked if I minded helping, I was delighted. I found myself being photographed on the banks of the Thames, with St Paul’s Cathedral as a backdrop, by Maria and Caroline from Fischer. They needed a video of me speaking too, just a short one, to say hello to all the fans of the series in Germany. I really wished that I had paid a bit more attention in all those long-ago German lessons, then I might have been able to do it in German, but sadly it’s not a skill I possess.

They had a copy of the German edition for me too, and it’s great seeing the story I wrote, with all the familiar names and places, in text I can’t quite understand. My daughter Ellie (who I wrote the book for originally) has just started studying the language, and she’s very excited about taking the book into class next term. I’m really looking forward to seeing the rest of the series translated too.

Maria and Caroline from Fischer, photographed in front of the Tate Modern:

You can read more about the book (in German) on Fischer’s website here.

Why it was fine that Sainsbury's won The General or Chain Bookseller of the Year Award

Posted by Kate on Jun 08, 2011

Children’s and YA author Nicola Morgan has written a funny and interesting blog post about Sainsbury’s and the injustice of it winning the Martina Cole General or Chain Bookseller of the Year Award at the Bookseller Industry Awards this year.

This was, I’m pretty sure, the first time that the award had gone to a supermarket chain, and even in the course of the award event there was scorn being poured on the judging panel’s decision by various people on Twitter. The most cursory Googling reveals that the controversy continued the next day and beyond, and The Bookseller felt it had to justify the decision of the judging panel. But while I admire Nicola Morgan’s books and idealism, I have to disagree with her. I think Sainsbury’s, who managed to create a really big jump in book sales in a very challenging market, was a worthy winner of this particular award (and there are other awards that go to other, and other kinds of booksellers, in the same awards ceremony).

Don’t get me wrong. At Nosy Crow, we love all our retail customers and recognise and celebrate daily the role they play in the complicated and expensive business of getting physical copies of our books in front of parents and children. And we love an independent bookstore and a specialist bookselling chain at least as much as the next person.

However, it is undeniably impressive that Sainsbury’s achieved a significant increase in physical book sales predominantly from bricks-and-mortar shops at a time in which print sales are falling; one in every four books (and one in every five children’s books) is bought online in the UK; and ebook sales are growing rapidly and appearing to displace print sales.

Being a chain bookseller is exceptionally tough at the moment. Waterstones was, at the time the prize was awarded, for sale. Foyles (who won last year) and WHS (whose corporate goal is to be the nation’s most popular newsagent and stationer as well as bookshop, so isn’t quite as specialist as the other book retailers in this paragraph) are, of course, real contenders. Happily (very happily) for the book industry in the UK, Waterstones looks likely to be a powerful contender for the future as the acquisition of the chain progresses. Ottakars, Borders/Books Etc and British Bookshops and Stationers are no longer with us. Other book specialist alternatives might have been Book Warehouse (who sell mainly but not exclusively remainder books) or Oxfam Bookshops (who sell mainly but not exclusively second-hand books), but I can’t imagine that Nicola Morgan would have celebrated either of those chains winning.

And the challenges to chain bookselling are not unique to the UK: Barnes & Noble is changing hands and Borders filed for bankruptcy in the US, and the Red Group (owners of Angus and Robertson and Borders) is in administration in Australia.

Just to remind ourselves of what the bookselling landscape is looking like at the moment (and the importance of supermarkets), here’s the graph of books purchased in the UK by source of purchase (with thanks to Books and Consumers):

This graph also points up the relative strength of Sainsbury’s bookselling performance relative to the performance of supermarkets in general between 2009 and 2010.

In this context, the growing role of Sainsbury in the UK bookselling market is an important one. The decision by Sainsbury – or any other supermarket – to back a book can entirely transform the financial fortunes of a book. At Nosy Crow, we were really delighted and excited when the small team of dedicated children’s book buyers at Sainsbury’s backed several of our first titles, including risky ones: a debut novel (Small Blue Thing) and a series that is an innovative mix of fiction and doodling from an author/illustrator team with a limited track-record (Mega Mash-up). We’ll make more money on these books and so will the authors: we committed to more Mega
Mash-ups on the basis of retailer response to the first titles and Sainsbury’s was part of that.

Yes, the discounts to supermarkets are deep, but the volumes are high. The advances paid to adult blockbuster authors in particular are entirely predicated on strong supermarket sales. As a very rough estimate, I’d say that children’s authors/illustrators are earning perhaps 30p on most books sold via Sainsbury’s, so a sale of 3,000 copies might represent £900 in royalty earnings – which has to be seen in the context of the ALCS’s finding that the median annual author wage is £4,000 (and less, I would think, for children’s authors). This compares with 45p per book if the same book were sold via an independent, so the same author would have to sell 2,000 through that channel to make the same £900.

Sainsbury’s doesn’t make any claims to be promoting literacy or increasing access to books on its website statement of its goals (though, for the record it sponsored Book Start at a point when the scheme was under threat before the government funded it). From my perspective, though, anything that increases access to books (and I am writing this in the context of the recent report that three in ten households don’t contain a book, and one in three London children doesn’t own a book) and that makes buying books as easy and as unintimidating as buying bread, is a good thing.

Of course, I’d be delighted if Sainsbury’s took up Nicola Morgan’s author-touring book bus idea. I doubt they will. Sainsbury’s is a business. It allocates shelf-space and prominence to books (and everything else) on the basis of how well they sell in a particular shop. It doesn’t owe publishers or authors a living: its purpose as a business is to maximise shareholder value. If it can do that by selling books as well as bacon, I for one think that’s great. And if giving Sainsbury a particular prize for bookselling makes other retailers for whom it’s relevant think about what they might do to earn the award next time around, so much the better.

Publication of Olivia's First Term and Perfectly Reflected

Posted by Kate on Jun 07, 2011

Last week (ahem – apologies, but life has got in the way of this post) we published two great new novels in print and ebook formats.

The first is Olivia’s First Term by Lyn Gardner, theatre critic for The Guardian newspaper. This is Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers meets Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes with a bit of Pamela Brown’s The Swish of the Curtain thrown in for deliciously good measure. It’s about friendship, family and performing, and its target audience is girls of 9+.

The Stage says it is “hugely enjoyable”.

Parents in Touch says it’s “the first in a very promising new series from Nosy Crow – a relatively new publisher. I can see the series being an instant hit with girls, who will love the thought of the glamour of stage school – or is it glamorous?”

The School Run says “Girls will love this book, it is a great story, with many messages within the story about friendship… I am sure this series could become as popular as Enid Blytons Malory towers and St Clare’s series! I for one am looking forward to the next in the series to be released.”

The second is Perfectly Reflected by S C Ransom, and is the sequel to Small Blue Thing. A paranormal romance for young teens and pre-teens with an iconic London setting – the focus of the action is the River Thames and St Paul’s Cathedral, it’s about teenage schoolgirl Alex, and her battle with the evil Catherine, who has managed to cross over to our world from the world of the ghostly Dirges, who are doomed to steal the happiness of others in order to survive. Catherine has a grudge, and is determined to make Alex’s life misterable, and what better way to do that than to keep Alex apart from Callum, who is trapped in the world of the Dirges? You can find out more about the books on the series website.

Networked Blogs says, “If Small Blue Thing was a paranormal romance, Perfectly Reflected is a paranormal thriller … There’s always a worry that the second of a series may not live up to the expectations created by the first – happily this is not the case here and the twists and turns will keep you hooked to the last page.”

Congratulations to Lyn Gardner and S C Ransom on publication!

These books bring our total number of print/ebook publications to (drumroll) 12.

An author's view of the printing process: Perfectly Reflected gets real

Posted by Kate on May 14, 2011

S C Ransom, who, as the author of Nosy Crow’s first book, and therefore our inaugural book with Clays gets rather special treatment from them, blogs about visting the printer for a second time:

I recently went to Clays in Suffolk to watch the first printing of my new novel, Perfectly Reflected. It was a specific request on my part as I had so enjoyed watching the first book in the series, Small Blue Thing, being printed last Autumn. I had never seen books being printed before, and the guys at Clays had given us a comprehensive tour and explained all the processes that the book goes through. But for that book there had been bound proofs before there were finished copies, so I had held it in my hand before, albeit without the beautiful, shiny cover.

This time it was different. Before I went to Clays, Perfectly Reflected existed only in my laptop and on great wodges of A4 paper bristling with sticky notes and covered in pencil marks. It had never looked anything like a ‘real’ printed book. I was also particularly interested in seeing the first books coming off the line, as that was something I had missed on the previous occasion. When Andrew and Rebekah gave me the tour, they explained that the operators prefer to show the process when it’s up and running – once all the start-up wrinkles have been ironed out. But they smiled at my excitement, and, as the first bound double book came shooting around the line, someone deftly lifted it off and handed it to me. The next ones went through the process of being sliced into two separate books and then trimmed. At the far end of the line they were sorted into piles, shrink-wrapped and loaded onto pallets. The machines were very loud and very efficient, and wastage was almost nil. At the end of the process I saw just two of my books in the recycling bin; one had a ripped cover and the other had a slightly dented cover. (I couldn’t resist rescuing the dented one, and it has now gone to a good home!)

With incredible speed, the line was running at its usual speed of 12,000 double books per hour, and from where I was standing in the middle, there were copies of my book on every conveyor belt I could see. From never having seen or held one, there were suddenly thousands and thousands of them. My vision and all those months of hard work hunched over the laptop were suddenly transformed into a real live book, bound in a glistening, foiled blue cover.

Everyone from Clays was lovely, answering all of my dumb questions and cheerfully explaining all the various processes. Perhaps having an author there was a novelty, though they must have had to make time to treat me so well.

As we walked around I looked at the monitor listing all the print runs for that particular production line (one of many they have at Clays). The next book up was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. How’s that for being in exalted company?

Toddling along nicely

Posted by Kate on May 12, 2011

Yesterday, the Nosy Crows had a bit of a lunch-time knees-up to celebrate (nearly) 15 months of existence and (nearly) 5 months of publishing. It was a non-birthday party, because we hadn’t been able to get ourselves organised enough to celebrate earlier. We’d love to have a photograph to show you what it was like, but our usual Nosy Crow photographic incompetence precludes this.

I wrote about our real birthday in our blog post of 22 February.

Adrian cooked, mainly Ottolenghi stuff as we have some vegetarians/borderline vegetarians in our group, and, besides, the recipes are great. I wheeled out the old pavlova trick. We ate like hogs, and staggered off into the early evening.

Because of how we work – three of us work from home, and some of us work part-time – and because we have as few formal meetings as possible, we don’t spend much time round a table, so it was great to have us all (well, nearly all: Deb’s in Rome but we couldn’t bear to postpone any further) in one room just to talk.

And it was a welcome moment to stop (because we hardly ever have time to stop) and think about what we’d achieved so far.

We now have nine books published in the UK:

Small Blue Thing

Mega Mash-up: Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars

Mega Mash-up: Robots v Gorillas in the Desert

Bizzy Bear: Fun on the Farm

Bizzy Bear: Let’s Go and Play

Pip and Posy: The Super Scooter

Pip and Posy: The Little Puddle

Dinosaur Dig!

Noodle Loves to Cuddle

Noodle Loves the Beach

The first few are also published in Australia /New Zealand via Allen and Unwin, and many will be published in the second half of the year in the USA/Canada by Candlewick Press under the Nosy Crow imprint. So far, we’ve sold rights to translate these books to publishers in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Holland, Germany, France, Israel, Korea and China.

We have one app, The Three Little Pigs, available in the App Stores throughout the world, which has been named as one of the top 10 children’s book apps by the New York Times, and been extensively reviewed and praised by people who’ve bought it, bloggers specialising in apps and some of the increasing number of children’s book reviewers who are turning their attention to children’s reading experiences on the iPad (you can see most of the reviews on our The Three Little Pigs page of the Media Kit section of our website. The app will be published in German by Carlsen and in French by Gallimard Jeunesse.

We feel lucky to have pulled together the team we have – people with the best possible experience in fields as diverse as computer games coding, picture book design and children’s fiction commissioning (you can find out more about each of us in the Who Are We? section in the About As part of our website.

It’s not all cakes and ale: these are exceptionally tough times to be a print publisher, and the apps market is in its infancy, but, 15 months on, we reckon that we’ve made the best possible start and are toddling along nicely.

It's Nosy Crow's first birthday!

Posted by Kate on Feb 22, 2011

We are one today.

I’ve written about it about it for The Bookseller online, but you can read about it here too:

I’m dating the start of the company from our announcement of our existence, which we sent to the trade press and others on 22 February 2010. In some ways, we didn’t feel quite ready to announce, but our hand was forced by two things. The first was that I had been asked to judge the British Book Awards and had given my job title as “MD of Nosy Crow” for an announcement of the make-up of the judging panels that came out in the week of 22 February 2010. The second was that I’d been messing around with Facebook on the evening of 21 February, working out how to set up a fan page and invite people to it, when I inadvertently sent out a message to my entire address book for a profile that referred to Nosy Crow.

We had, from memory, just three projects signed at the time we announced, and a stated intention to acquire from established talent and from newcomers. We also clearly stated that we intended to create apps from scratch. There were four of us – me, co-founders Camilla Reid and Adrian Soar, and Imogen Blundell – in a single room in an office complex in a Victorian school building.

One year on…

We have three print titles published. In mid-January, we published Small Blue Thing, a debut romantic fantasy that was written by the colleague of the headhunter I consulted when I was thinking I’d get the hell out of the industry. In mid-February, we published Mega Mash-up: Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars Mega Mash-up: Robots v Gorillas in the Desert, innovative two-colour combinations of fiction and doodle-book drawing on popular boy themes by a team who came to us because I’d worked with one of them at Scholastic when he was a designer there.

This year, we will publish 23 print titles for children from 0 to 14, most acquired since February 22 2010. True to our original vision, these are books that children will really enjoy reading: when we acquire a book, we do so with a strong sense of who it’s for. Our books are by established names like Axel Scheffler and Penny Dale and from newer exciting talents. The list – and we’ll be announcing the first six months of 2012 before Bologna – will grow in 2012.

We have one e-book published. Small Blue Thing is our only black-and-white book so far and was the first ebook we created with the support of Faber Factory. I decided that we’d focus our digital aspirations on illustrated publishing and apps.

This year, we will publish 5 straight ebooks.

We have one app published. Last week, we published a cutting-edge story book app, The Three Little Pigs, to quite remarkable reviews (including one from FutureBook, The Bookseller’s digital publishing blog).

This year, we will publish at least two more highly-interactive, cutting-edge, multimedia apps.

From the beginning, we were interested in using websites and social media to communicate with potential consumers – mainly parents in our case – as well as with potential suppliers in the form of authors and illustrators and customers. We launched with a lively website that has evolved over time but remains true to our original plan. We wanted to create something with real personality, that was professional but also warm, honest and informal… and that was updated constantly: we blog several times a week to provide a window into what we do. In our first year, we’ve had a over a quarter of a million page-views from over 20,000 visitors in 129 countries, and, since we’ve had books and apps on the market, visitor numbers have risen sharply. Thank you very much for visiting us.

We’ve also used Twitter (@nosycrow and @NosyCrowApps) and Nosy Crow on Facebook to connect to the rest of the world. And we built two websites for our first two publications: www.smallbluething.com, featuring a cinema-style trailer and www.megamash-up.com, featuring videos and book-linked activities.

We’ve sold in our first list via Bounce and have promotions with Sainsbury’s, Tesco, ELC/Mothercare, WH Smith, WH Smith Travel, Waterstones and Foyles. Our books are in shops from museum giftshops to Toys ‘R’ Us.
We’ve been active internationally too. In May, Allen and Unwin begins distributing our books in Australia and New Zealand. So far, we’ve sold rights in our books to Germany, France, Holland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, China, Korea and Israel with more good news lined up for announcement over the next few weeks.

There are 11 of us now. We’ve been able to attract the most extraordinary talent to work with us, from games coding genius, Will Bryan, to picture book supremo, Kate Burns. Most of us are parents; several of us work part-time; and several of us work from home and only come into our (slightly bigger) open-plan office occasionally.

There have been challenges and disappointments, and there will undoubtedly be more ahead! There has been constant, grinding, sometimes dull hard work.

We worry – of course we do – about the book market and our place in the print and digital future that is unfolding. But it’s been fun.

It’s been a good year!

Things we haven’t loved so much about this year:

  • Queuing at the post-office.
  • Being responsible for all the boring stuff like printer maintenance.
  • Cold-calling people without a big name behind us.

Things we’ve loved:

  • Being able to buy great books from authors and illustrators we want to work with as they develop.
  • Being able to act quickly and decisively.
  • Selling our books!
  • The conversations that have opened up online between us and readers, parents, creators and sellers.
  • Working with great colleagues in a relaxed and fun environment fuelled by cake.

Ladies who lunch (for a change) - a date with Small Blue Thing author S C Ransom

Posted by Kate on Feb 02, 2011

Kirsty writes:

“I met S C Ransom for lunch on Wednesday, to hand over the beautiful Small Blue Thing bracelet for Sue to take to events with her (let’s hope she doesn’t start seeing gorgeous drowned boys on her way home) and to pick up Sue’s set of Perfectly Reflected proofs. Mostly, though, it was to hang out with Sue and have a nice time, which we did.

I was relieved to have handed over the bracelet safely (I wasn’t relishing the idea of telling Kate I’d left it on a bus), and full of chocolate cake (‘cos I was on Nosy Crow business and therefore it was My Duty), I prepared to take delivery of Sue’s proofs.

Now I’ve seen many sets of proofs in my thousand years in publishing but I’ve never seen any as beautiful as these Perfectly Reflected proofs (pictured on the table in front of Sue). They were helpfully flagged and perfectly colour-coded. I resisted the urge to fall upon Sue’s neck in gratitude, and took a picture instead. So thank you, Sue, for a lovely lunch and for your lovely proofs – you have raised the bar high and we salute you for it.”

Making films: the Small Blue Thing book trailer

Posted by Deb on Jan 14, 2011

Yesterday, we published Small Blue Thing and launched our first video trailer which you can see at www.smallbluething.com and on the book’s Facebook fan page.

We worked with the wonderful team (David, Ed and Jade) at Fancy. Their brief was to pull together something that felt truly cinematic – the book itself feels very filmable! – instead of the nice-but-basic “slideshow of stills” approach that we see more usually.

Our key visual starting points were flowing water and flowing hair: the Thames river and the Fleet river play a key part in the book, and her long, blond hair is one of Alex’s defining features.

On a December afternoon, the team, who’d shot another forthcoming video for us in the morning (stay tuned!), filmed in London and then went back to Somerset, where they supplemented the footage, by, for example, dropping the bracelet that we had made to feature on the book covers into water.

We’re really pleased with the result. They are, too!

Let us know what you think. And if you like it, go ahead and buy the book.. :-)

Nosy Crow publishes its first book!

Posted by Kate on Jan 13, 2011

Today, we publish our very first book!

For regular readers of this blog it’s no surprise that our first book is Small Blue Thing by S C Ransom. It’s a paranormal romance set, unusually, in the UK, about the love between seventeen year-old schoolgirl Alex and the ghostly but gorgeous Callum, who drowned in the Fleet river, and is condemned to a half-life of stealing memories.

We have a very, very respectable 21,000 copies of the book in print, with promotions in Sainsbury’s, WHS, WHS Travel and Foyles as well as strong support from other bookshops and from Scholastic, Travelling Book Fairs and Red House. Allen and Unwin will release our edition of the book book in Australia in May, and we’ve sold rights to Fischer in Germany and Amber in Poland.

Looking back through the email trail, I see that I made the offer to publish the book a year ago yesterday, and we’re publishing the book just ten months after announcing that we were launching Nosy Crow.

This is a really exciting moment, for Nosy Crow, and I’m happy that Small Blue Thing is our first book. It’s the kind of reader-focused publishing that’s at the heart of Nosy Crow: as soon as I read the manuscript, I immediately felt I knew readers who’d love it. I read the manuscript at a point when I was thinking I might leave publishing altogether, but reading it made me realise that I know and love this business too much. Essentially, I decided to set up a publishing company to publish this book, so it’s particularly appropriate that this is Nosy Crow’s first title.

Deb has been working on the digital marketing for the book. She says, “For several weeks, Sue and Nosy Crow have been talking about the book on Twitter so our followers know all about it, and we’ve just launched a dedicated microsite. We’ll be focusing our efforts in places where teen readers spend their screen time, particularly Facebook, where the book’s fans are discussing friendship and pop culture, chatting with S C Ransom, participating in contests and swapping insights about the series.”

Sue says, “I’m thrilled that my debut novel is being published this week. It’s such a privilege to be able to share the story I wrote as a present for my daughter with so many other girls. I hope they enjoy it as much as she did! Nosy Crow has acted as the best of midwives, helping me shape and edit the story and putting in place a fantastic marketing plan with press pieces in publications as diverse as Bliss and Good Housekeeping! I really look forward to our continuing collaboration as we publish the rest of the trilogy.”

We’re publishing Perfectly Reflected, the second book in the trilogy, in June 2011 and Scattering Like Light, the third book in the trilogy, is published in January 2012.

Nosy Crow staff are having a fizzy wine brunch today in the office to celebrate a milestone in Nosy Crow’s journey (here we are in the picture), and we’re having dinner with Sue at my house in the evening.

It's that time of year... when you present highlights to key accounts

Posted by Kate on Jan 07, 2011

Kate writes:

“I was off to Waterstones today, to show them material on our books from May to August. May is the first month in which we have more than one book or pair of books from the same series, so that felt like a bit of a breakthrough.

The photo is a glimpse of the inside of my case.

Some of the books, as the eagle-eyed among you will see, were continuations of series published between January and April of this year. Mega Mash-up: Mad Scientists and Aliens under the Ocean is the June follow up to February’s Mega Mash-up: Romans and Dinosaurs on Mars and Mega Mash-up: Robots and Gorillas in the Desert ; Perfectly Reflected is the sequel to Small Bue Thing ; and Bizzy Bear: Off We Go! (in which Bizzy Bear goes on holiday and seems to meet a very nice female koala) and Bizzy Bear: Let’s Get to Work! (in which Bizzy Bear works on a contruction site… presumably to finance his travels) are June sequels to March’s Bizzy Bear: Fun on the Farm and Bizzy Bear: Let’s Go and Play!.

However, there is much that’s new:

Lyn Gardner is a terrific children’s writer and a Guardian theatre critic, who has brought her skill, her passion and her knowledge together to create the Olivia books, which are classy-but-commercial Ballet Shoes meets Malory Towers for today’s 8+ girl reader. The first book in the series, Olivia’s First Term publishes in June.

Dinosaur Dig! is Penny Dale’s innovative combination of two things little boys (in particular) love: dinosaurs and diggers. These dinosaurs are (spoiler alert!) digging a swimming pool and making a lot of noise about it. The book was inspired by Penny’s construction vehicle-obsessed grandson, Zachary, to whom the book is dedicated. The book publishes in May.

The Noodle books by French illustrator Marion Billet are touch and feel books with a very attractive panda character whose life reflects the daily activities and excitements of most babies under the age of 18 months. Two books publish in May and two in August.

Where possible, we try to make sure that books with a summery themes, featuring holidays, or swimming, or beaches, which are, therefore, possible summer reading promotion contenders, are published in these months, so the ocean setting of the third Mega Mash-up, the beach holiday theme of Bizzy Bear: Off We Go! and of Noodle Loves the Beach, as well as the swimming pool finale of Dinosaur Dig! all make them books we think babies and children would be in the right frame of mind for as the weather gets warmer. Trudging through the rain, weaving round discarded and dessicated Christmas trees this morning, it was hard to believe we’d ever see summer again, but publishing is always about thinking ahead: full-colour books take months to get from the printer to the warehouse, and we are selling rights and doing highlights presentations up nine months, and even more, ahead of the books being available to readers.

The first presentation – to Waterstones – went very well. Lots more presentations to come…”

Imogen gets promoted

Posted by Kate on Jan 06, 2011

Imogen got promoted today. She’s now Head of Operations. She will do exactly what she does now, but the thing is that this title felt like a much better description of what she’s ended up doing.

She’s just nipped off to see Bounce so we can’t get a quote from her, but we know that Imogen would say that this has been the most extraordinary year in which her role has changed and grown very significantly. She’s runs all of Nosy Crow’s book production, liaising with Clays and with Imago. She is our main point of connection with Bounce, with Allen and Unwin and with Grantham Book Services. She reminds us of all the things we haven’t done, and of all the things we haven’t yet realised we have to do.

Actually, she does loads more stuff even than that, and we don’t even know what all of it is.

But she’s not grand about it. At lunchtime, she picked up a copy of Bliss, because there’s a “This month we’re reading…” feature in it for Small Blue Thing.

We think we’ve achieved a lot in the last 10 months since we launched. It would have been impossible without Imogen.

Small Blue Thing website launches!

Posted by Deb on Jan 04, 2011

It’s a momentous day here at Nosy Crow.

It’s the first week of 2011 and we’ve just launched our first website for our debut publication, Small Blue Thing, which is S.C. Ransom’s first novel and the first book in the Small Blue Thing trilogy. Lots of firsts!

At www.SmallBlueThing.com readers can learn more about the book, join the Facebook fan page, download a sample sample chapter, see reviews and post their own, pre-order a copy, and go behind the scenes with S.C. Ransom. Most of the fan activity will take place on Facebook, but we’ll be adding more to the site in the coming days and months, too. Check back soon for a very cool Small Blue Thing book

The Birmingham Post recently called Small Blue Thing “a great story, well written with terrific characters.” Read the full review

In just 9 more days – when Small Blue Thing officially hits book shops across the UK on 13 January- you’ll be able to read it, too! We look forward to hearing what you think.

Apps and conferences

Posted by Kate on Dec 15, 2010

Yesterday, Kate met up with Neal Hoskins (pictured) of Winged Chariot in the Crow’s Nest to talk about the opportunities for collaboration amongst apps publishers, and, specifically, children’s apps publishers. For all of us involved in apps publishing, the challenge is how people – parents in our case – find good apps among the ever-growing sea of apps on the store.

They also talked about the Bologna Tools of Change Conference 2011, which Neal is heavily involved in, and at which Kate will be a keynote speaker.

Then Kate and Imogen left for the Bounce Marketing sales conference for April to August titles in Islington, wrapping fizzy wine in the back of the car to give to the Bounce reps so they could drink to Nosy Crow’s first book (Small Blue Thing) being published on 13 January 2011. Kate presented to an enthusiastic audience of 18, and it was great to see how many of the reps had already read many of the titles: Bizzy Bear and Pip and Posy were being enthusiastically read by one sales manager’s two year-old. The six year-old “reluctant artist” son of one of the reps had loved completing his first Mega Mash-up book. And one of the reps told everyone how much she’d LOVED Olivia’s First Term.

After a meeting at the Publisher’s Association about World Book Day 2012 (which’ll be the subject of another post), Kate met up with Imogen and Kirsty at Bounce’s Christmas Party, and Kirsty and Kate had to be asked to leave as the pub was closing. A fine time was had by all.

Appy days

Posted by Kate on Dec 06, 2010

From the moment I saw a touch-screen device – an iPod Touch – I was excited about the potential for apps to become reading experiences for children.

The first thing that struck me was the immediacy of the experience relative to other screen experiences: when you touch the screen, something happens. As adults, we have learned that we can make something happen on a screen by fiddling around with a mouse or a keyboard or a remote control. But if you showed a computer to someone from Shakespeare’s time, she wouldn’t touch the keyboard, but (when she’d got over her fear) would, I think, try to make something happen by touching the screen. If you type “toddler using an iPad” into google, you’ll see two year-olds using that device for the first time instinctively.

The second thing that struck me was how portable the devices were. I am a mother, and, when my children were little, I carried a huge bag that contained, as well as snacks and wet-wipes and a change of clothes, toys and at least five board or picture books. I realised that you could store hundreds of books in this tiny thing: an iPhone is approximately12 centimetres by 6 centimetres by 1 centimetre.

The third thing that struck me was how lovely the screen looked, and how beautiful colours looked on it. The backlighting that many people find annoying when they read texts on screen meant that colour images were lit up like little stained-glass windows.

And the fourth thing that struck me was that, now these things were in the world, they are unlikely to go away.

At The Bookseller’s Children’s Conference in September 2010, Justine Abbott, from Aardvark Research shared some of her research about young children’s engagement with digital media.

She talked about the fact that 28% of children under six have a television in their own rooms.

She said that pre-schoolers in her survey were watching television for over two hours per day.

She said that the youngest iPad user she’d met was four months old.

She quoted the mother of her 20 month-old son, “he’ll probably learn to read from the computer”.

She said that parents welcomed iPhones as “electronic Mary Poppinses”, providing interactive and engaging entertainment for their children without their intervention.

She concluded by saying that families were increasingly embracing screen-based technology as entertainment for their child, saying it was “portable, personal and (importantly) permissible”.

I know that many people involved in the world of children’s books shake their heads in sorrow or horror at Justine Abbott’s statements, and would, I know, recoil from the other statistical evidence that children are spending less time with print and more with screens and that their parents and teachers are letting them or encouraging them to do so.

But what are we to do? We could turn our back on the evidence, and say it is nothing to do with us, and keep our focus exclusively on print. Or we could try to ensure that some of that screen-time is reading time.

At Nosy Crow, we love books. We love the smell of them. We love the feel of them. We love the way that everything changes when you turn a page. Some of the books we will publish really have to happen on the printed page: they are very physical things. There are touch-and-feel elements throughout the Noodle books illustrated by Marion Billet that we will publish in May 2011. There are illustrations for the reader to complete with their own pens and pencils in the Mega Mash-up books by Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson that we publish in February 2001. And there are good, “old-fashioned” (in format, not content) paperbacks like S C Ransom’s romantic fantasy Small Blue Thing, published in January 2011, and beautifully produced picture books like Axel Scheffler’s Pip and Posy titles that are published in April 2011.

But, while we love books, we love reading more. And we profoundly believe in the potential for literacy and, specifically, reading for pleasure, to transform lives. We know that reading for pleasure correlates with increased attainment in reading and writing; that reading for pleasure fosters creativity and imagination; that reading for pleasure develops good social attitudes; that reading for pleasure contributes to knowledge and understanding of the world and that reading for pleasure contributes to self-esteem. We don’t just make this stuff up. These are the conclusions of decades of research: PIRLS 2007; Cox and Guthrie 2001; Meek, 1987; Allen et al 2005; Bus et al, 1995; Stanovich and Cunningham, 1993; Hatton and Marsh, 2005; Pressley 2000.

I’ve just come back from speaking at a children’s publishing conference in Munich: Wie digital wird das Kinderbuch?(How digital will children’s books become?). There the statistics presented about German children’s embrace of technology were just as overwhelming, but several publishers there were advocating a softly-softly approach: let’s make apps, but let’s not make them too different from books. Let’s keep the book, but have it appear on the screen. Let’s not get into competition with computer games and animated films.

That’s not what I think we, as publishers, should do.

I think that this route risks making reading less exciting to children. If games and books exist in the same screen space, the comparison between the two will be made. If something happens – a noise, a movement – when you touch the iPad screen when you are playing a game, won’t you feel disappointed if nothing much happens when you are reading a book?

I think that, as publishers, we shouldn’t be trying to squash the books that already exist onto a phone. We should, I think, be creating reading experiences for touch-screen devices. The devices have the capacity for sound, animation and interactivity built into them, and we should use those capacities to tell stories in a new and engaging way.

We’re trying to do just that. If you go onto YouTube and search Nosy Crow, you will find a video of the first of our 3-D Fairy Tales: The Three Little Pigs. It has text and it has illustrations, but it also has an audio track, and animation. When you touch the characters, they move, and you get additional comments. You can make the wolf blow down the house. You can explore the picture, and, when you tip the device backwards and forwards, the images look as if they are in 3-D. Here’s the link.

Making this app, and working on the others that we are developing has used many of the skills we already had: shaping text, determining pacing and choosing illustrations. We have had to learn new skills too, some of them purely technical, but many of them about how to tell a story in this new medium.

We think that, for us and for the people we have worked with, the process has been exciting. But what is important is that we’ve ended up with a reading experience that is engaging, fun, scary, funny, worthy of repeating – in the same way that a good book is all those things.

We shouldn’t turn our back. We shouldn’t go a little way down the digital path or do it half-heartedly and with reluctance. We should, I think, go to where our readers are going, and make sure that they read along the way.

(This is an edited version of an article that Kate has written for Books For Keeps, published in 2011)

Guest post: A writer's first year by S C Ransom

Posted by Kate on Nov 18, 2010

S. C. Ransom, author of Small Blue Thing writes a guest post for our blog:

Exactly a year ago today, on the 18th November 2009, I sat at my computer, took a deep breath, and pressed “send”.

The email was addressed to Kate Wilson, a contact of a colleague, who I had been told would be happy to give me a view on whether the book I had written for my daughter’s 12th birthday was anywhere near publishable. I had already submitted to one agent but not yet heard anything. By return, I got a nice response from Kate approving the Suzanne Vega reference in the title. That was was encouraging. Then on the 20th (I keep a note of these things!) I got an email back asking for the full manuscript and suggesting that we meet up.

Hugely excited, I sent off the vast file and sat back to wait. And wait. And then wait some more. I didn’t want to approach any more agents as I was hoping that Kate (who hadn’t even started up Nosy Crow at this point) would give me an ‘in’ which might short-circuit the slushpile. But Kate was busy (very busy, I discovered later), and I heard nothing more for a while. I got a rejection from the first agent. It seemed that my novel was destined to be a family affair, not an international bestseller.

In the New Year, I gave Kate a gentle prompt, and – hurrah! – we finally arranged to have that coffee. We met in Café Valerie near Sloane Square on the 12th January. Sizing each other up, we decided we liked what we saw, and by the end of the meeting I had an offer for the book which was to be Nosy Crow’s launch publication. On the 27th January, I met with Kate and Camilla at the Nosy Crow “North London Office” – the Wellcome Trust Cafe on Euston Road – and signed a contract for not just Small Blue Thing, but for a trilogy of books. (The photograph is of Kate and me, with Kate signing the contract.)

My feet haven’t touched the ground since!

HOT OFF THE PRESS - Small Blue Thing!

Posted by Imogen on Oct 29, 2010

This post is a few days after the event (mainly due to technical problems with the camera), but Wednesday was an important day in Nosy Crow’s evolution. It was the day that the first book we’ll publish, Small Blue Thing, came off the press!

It was such a momentous day that Imogen visited the Clays factory with the author Sue Ransom and her family to see the first finished copies come off the binding line. This was very exciting for everyone: for Sue it was the first book she’s ever had printed and published: and for Imogen it was the first book she’s ever put into production.

Whilse we were at Clays, we were fantastically well looked after by Andrew Cochrane and Max Roche who showed us round, answered our questions, and provided a lovely lunch (although one sadly lacking in cake, which is pretty essential to all Nosy Crow celebrations). So thank you Clays, and everyone else (copy editor, proof-reader, jacket designer, photographer) who was involved in this big day.

With a Bounce in our step: our first sales conference

Posted by Kate on Sep 10, 2010

Kate went to Nosy Crow’s first Bounce conference: 18 sales reps and marketeers in a room who wanted to hear about Nosy Crow’s first seven books so that they could sell them to their customers. (Bounce is our sales agency for UK and export as we announced in our recent blog post.

Oh, and, the truth is that Kate loves an audience, and it is perhaps the only disadvantage of being a small, independent publisher that she doesn’t get one as often as she used to. And while she’s stood in front of reps and talked about books before, they’ve never been her very own company’s books. So all in all, it was a Big Day for Nosy Crow.

The audience couldn’t have been more receptive and attentive, and were very enthusiastic about our first four months’ of books – Small Blue Thing, the first two Mega Mash-ups, the first two Bizzy Bear board books and, of course, Axel Scheffler’s two Pip and Posy books.

Sue Ransom joined us for a lunch that featured chips and ice-cream (top lunch in Kate’s books), and at least one of the reps was able to give her excellent feedback from real, live bookshop people based on their reading of proof copies of Small Blue Thing.

All good!

It's showtime! Selling books to the big retailers

Posted by Kate on Aug 05, 2010

It is that time of year. The tubes are hot and sticky, London is preternaturally quiet, you can get a lot of apricots for £1, and the key account buyers are seeing publishers to look at their January to April 2011 books, and work out what – if anything – they might want to do with them in terms of promotions.

This is necessarily an opaque business: the buyers have to see everyone before they decide what books make the grade, so you show them what you have and you then try to decode every little comment that they make.

This is Nosy Crow’s first season, and, to tell the truth, it’s been years and years since Kate’s done a key account presentation. All in all, it’s pretty nerve-racking.

Here, for your eyes only, is a glimpse inside The Suitcase that Kate’s trundling around. You’ll see a folder of New Title Information sheets (the top one’s for Small Blue Thing); some little brochures that we’ve had printed up; and laboriously hand-made dummies for Bizzy Bear: Fun on the Farm, Mega Mash-up: Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars, Mega Mash-up: Robots v Gorillas in the Desert, and (open) Pip and Posy: The Super Scooter. You’ll also see a rather fine Nosy Crow mug which is one of a few little presents that we give them, sort of like trying to tame tigers by throwing them small scraps. The presents all get wrapped individually in lime-green (the same colour as the border round this post) tissue paper. Honestly, it’s the most enormous faff getting the whole thing ready.

But, so far, with three down and many more to go, it’s been worth it. It’s another step towards our proper launch next year (Small Blue Thing publishes in January 2011 and is our first title), and the feedback, or at least such feedback as we’ve had, has been positive. In fact, we have our first order, which is a bit of an exciting moment.

Small Blue Thing made real

Posted by Kate on Jul 08, 2010

Some of you have been following the story of the creation of the bracelet that will feature on the cover of the debut novel that’s Nosy Crow’s first print publication, Small Blue Thing. You know that we’ve biked across London with bags of opals, chosen between alternative designs, experimented with dangling bracelets on fishing line in water to see if we can get a bracelet-under-water look working…

The bracelet in question is a “real” version of the one that author Sue Ransom imagines heroine Alex finding buried deep in the mud of the Thames, that turns out to be the means of communicating with the drowned, including the incredibly gorgeous Callum, who wears an identical bracelet himself.

And it’s been made! Zoe Harding has managed to create something lovely that tallies incredibly well with the bracelet as Sue imagined it.

So we took it along one evening to Waterloo station to meet Sue after work to show it to her. Here she is wearing it.

Small Blue Thing

Posted by Imogen on Jun 11, 2010

Well things are hotting up here in terms of Small Blue Thing and the book is now copy edited and ready to go for a final proof read and then typesetting. We are also in the process of designing the cover, and have some great ideas which are now taking shape – we want to create a really strong package that will appeal to all those pre-teen girls who love a romance with a bit of adventure thrown in too!

We are also really excited about the opal and silver bracelet – just like the Small Blue Thing of the title – that we are commissioning. This bracelet will appear on the cover of the book and be given away in a competition, and it is therefore important that we get it just right and that it is true to the bracelet in the story. Commissioning a piece of jewellery is an exciting (and nerve-wracking) process, but we’ve now found the perfect opal, and have been working on finalising the design with our designer (pictured with sketches). Now she needs to get on and make it in time for us to incorporate it into our cover design! We are sure it is going to be a beautiful piece of very special jewellery and are really looking forward to seeing it in its final form.

Watch this space for more Small Blue Thing news …

After Bologna: normal service has been resumed as soon as possible...

Posted by Kate on Mar 27, 2010

We are sorry. We haven’t posted since last Sunday, and we apologise to those of you – and we know you exist and we love you! – who’ve been coming to the site every day for our daily Nosy News. We’ve been at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair since Monday and have had no time at all to post, though Kate’s tweeted a bit.

The picture of Kate and Camilla on the stand with an author was taken by lovely Liz Thomson from Book Brunch.

Kate has her schedule to hand and sees that she had over 50 appointments in three-and-a-half days just counting the ones which she spent showing non-UK publishers and a couple of UK retailers the material on Nosy Crow’s books for 2011. Camilla had a full schedule too. Given that, as some of you know, we initially planned to come to Bologna just to have a few chats with old friends, this wasn’t bad going.

Of course, because we’d been launched for exactly four weeks when the fair began, we didn’t have a huge amount of material – though Imogen did manage to pull together bound proofs of Small Blue Thing which went like hot cakes. We couldn’t be more pleased with the response to all that we had to show, though. Several key people came back to the stand, some with colleagues, to look again at things that particularly interested them. Kate got five requests to come to visit publishers/groups of publishers to talk through the programme over the next few months. There wasn’t a single project on which we don’t have a lot of interest to folllow up, and we’re really grateful to the authors, illustrators and other creative people we’ve been working with over the past weeks for all their hard work as it meant we could make a really strong debut.

People were really compelled by the concept and storyline of Small Blue Thing, for which Kate’s shorthand pitch was, “Twilight in London but with memories instead of blood”.

They responded really well to the “mash up” element of Mega Mash-Up, and doodle books were doing well in many markets so the idea of doodle novels was really popular. As has happened to Kate before, Alan Boyko of Scholastic Book Fairs USA made a brilliant observation that will improve the books as we develop them: thank you, Alan! This is one of the excellent by-products of selling to really good people: their comments really help you to refine the books. Here’s how Book Brunch reported on the books.

Benji Davies’s Bizzy Bear character was tremendously popular – accessible and cute but still distinctive and classy – and people responded well to the very simple and well-thought-through mechanisms.

The idea of being able to tell the story of life on earth from blobs to us in 32 pages in Evolution went down very well, and there was real interest in narrative non-fiction for young readers. This is the book that’s furthest off in terms of scheduling for us (we plan to publish in September 2011, while the rest of the books we were talking about are for the first half of next year), and we’ve yet to confirm an illustrator for it, so it will have it’s first real outing at Frankfurt.

Like us, others recognised Penny Dale’s spectacular brilliance in combining dinosaurs and diggers in Dinosaur Dig. As one interested publisher said, “It’s got dinosaurs, it’s got diggers, it’s got counting, it’s got a story. It’s even got suspense!” Here’s how Book Brunch reported the acquisition

We could sell Pip and Posy many times over in every major market. Axel’s work is known and loved in so many countries, but people also really liked the idea of reflecting the realities of toddler life, including the bits that make toddlers cry. And here’s how The Bookseller reported the acquisition.

We were on the Publisher’s Association stand with other independent publishers who were exceptionally friendly, though we’re not sure we were the best of neighbours as we were both noisy and messy. Gloria and Helen from the PA looked after us brilliantly.

Both off the stand and on the stand, we met authors, illustrators, agents and journalists as well as non-Uk publishers, and there’s a handful of really interesting ideas for us to follow up as possible additions to the list.

Book Brunch gave Nosy Crow a mention in its Bologna Book Fair round up, and did a great write up of this year’s Bologna party of parties: Scholastic’s 90th birthday.

As we were flat-out, we can’t really say that we spent much time taking the temperature of the fair, but we think that the general view was that it was pretty lively and buzzy. UK and German children’s books markets at least did well last year, and people seemed open to buy. A lot of people were talking about US fantasy The Emerald Atlas, which Nosy Crow saw, but decided not to bid on, and which Writer’s House had done a very good job of hyping up before the fair. It went to Random House in the US and Germany and HarperCollins in the UK.

Here are a few photos that we took – we’ll remember to take more next time.

Bologna coming soon

Posted by Kate on Mar 15, 2010

There’s a classic Arthur Ransome book called We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea, and We Didn’t Mean To Go To Bologna… but Kate and Camilla are going anyway. Plan A was to go to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair properly when we had books – so in 2011 – but we had so many requests for appointments that we couldn’t keep up any semblance of professionalism without at least a table, so Imogen got us one on the joint PA stand in Hall 25, because that’s just the kind of thing she can do.

Kate spent all of the weekend and all of today getting our first novel, Small Blue Thing ready to go the to printers, so we have proofs for Bologna. But it’s done! We hope those of you who will read it like it as much as we do. It’s such a great blend of all that’s best in The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Rough Guide to London and Twilight, with more on top.

Anyway, Kate can’t possibly do another post about editing (though there’s a whole domestic riff about boiler failure that might perk things up a bit), because she’s only just done one, so… just do the Who’s your favourite illustrator survey

This reminder to do the survey provides the perfect opportunity to introduce you to this really lovely crow by Christine Pym ( © Christine Pym 2010), sent to us by that charming James McKnight from the Bright Agency. It is only (hint, hint) the second crow picture we’ve had so far.

Edit, edit, edit

Posted by Kate on Mar 10, 2010

Though distracted by

  • a website crash in the morning
  • the great response (on the website and directly) to March 8’s post of the results of the “What boys really like”
  • Twitter
  • the fact that the neighbours were having a wall demolished brick by ear-splitting brick with a drill
  • a first-ever (really: there are advantages to always being at work) visit from Jehovah’s Witnesses

Kate spent a day at home – another first! – editing Small Blue Thing. She realises that she could not work from home because there is too much of interest in the fridge. Well, she could work from home, but she’d have to be winched out.

Small Blue Thing is a joy to work on, and Sue a joy to work with. In editing terms, we’re just over half-way through the book. Callum’s sister Catherine – a ghostly Dirge, like her brother – has persuaded Alex that Callum has been lying to her: all he wants is to drain Alex of her memories and move on to his next victim. Alex can’t bear to believe she’s been betrayed, but she knows, too, that Callum has been evasive. Alex has ripped the amulet that lets her see Callum from her wrist, though he begs her not to, and she’s devastated. Ooooh, it’s good!

Time for Small Blue Thing

Posted by Kate on Feb 14, 2010

At last some time for Kate to work on the edit of Small Blue Thing … a process so engrossing that it keeps her up until 2.30am.