IPG Children's Publisher of the Year

Articles tagged with: twitter

Predictions for Children's Books in 2014

Posted by Kate on Jan 03, 2014

I was amused to see #2014YAPredictions on Twitter, a hashtag prompted, I think, by School Library Journal.

Here are some of my favourite YA predictions from Twitter:

@morethanbookish: The protagonist will let out the breath they didn’t know they were holding.

@adamseltzer: Writers will try to write the sort of books bloggers say we need more of, publishers will find them unmarketable.

@elvenjaneite: An author will respond rudely to a review. A reviewer will respond rudely to a book/author. There will be 900 blog posts.

@kjerstanavige: There will be Strong Female Leads. They will be vague in the personality department, but will be Strong, Female, Leads.

But what predictions – serious or otherwise – can we make for children’s books?

Here are a few of our predictions:

The UK market for print children’s books will continue to be remarkably resilient, and publishers will focus on making books that celebrate the physical bookiness of the book.

There will be a growing appetite for retro, and a return to traditional illustration styles (even if artists are using digital to create a traditional look). Some illustrators will go back to traditional illustration techniques.

There won’t, this year, be a bestselling children’s book that started as a self-published ebook sales phenomenon. For an oblique take on why, see the first paragraph of this.

Publishers will look to web (particularly YouTube) and app properties for hot licences.

David Walliams books will be everywhere like a rash, but still won’t sell in America.

Lots of publishers will get caught out publishing books that they acquired on the basis of 2012 and 2013 trends, having overpaid in an overheated market.

We’ll see more illustrated fiction.

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s The Scarecrow’s Wedding will be the bestselling UK hardback picture book of 2014.

Publishers will say that they should probably publish fewer titles better, but they won’t.

China and Brazil will continue to grow in importance as rights markets.

Nosy Crow’s market share will continue to grow.

Predicting anything to do with books and the market for books will turn out to be a mug’s game.

Sort of related to this, I thought it was worth drawing attention to this more general (you’ll see, if you work your way through the comments that I asked what they expected would happen for children’s books) US- and digital-focused Digital Book World piece.

Maybe we are just predicting what we want to see – what fits with our view. In fact, this is altogether a difficult blog post to write, even tongue-in-cheek. Of course we are aware of the market: we spend as much time as we can in bookshops, we speak to book retailers and other publishers; we go to – hell, we speak at and we run – conferences; we read book-trade press… but, honestly, we’re not spending a lot of time on haruspication using bits of available past data about trends and markets. We make our book publishing decisions on a book-by-book basis. We publish what we really, really like, what we think children will enjoy and what we think parents will buy.

But what are your predictions for children’s books in 2014? We’d be really interested to know, so do please tell us here or on Twitter.

A highly unscientific survey of our Twitter followers' favourite Nosy Crow books and apps reveals...

Posted by Kate on Feb 25, 2013

Picture courtesy of @kylewestaway, who named Noodle as her favourite Nosy Crow book.

Friday was our birthday and we invited people to tell us what their favourite Nosy Crow apps and books were on Twitter.

It couldn’t be less scientific, we know, but we were interested to see what titles came up and thought we’d share them with our blog readers.

Favourite apps:

The Three Little Pigs was named by fiercegreymouse, mardixon and anne_jackson.

Cinderella was named by jodawson72.

Bizzy Bear (or, in the vernacular of her two year-old, Beeya Bear) apps, Bizzy Bear On the Farm and Bizzy Bear Builds a House were named by pixiecake.

Favourite picture and board books:

Bizzy Bear books were named by kirsikkamy

The Princess and the Peas was named by carmenhaselup, thebookculture, cjfreiss, damyantipatel, lisakflint, elephantthai and childledchaos (whose eldest daughter shares a birthday with Nosy Crow),

Guinea Pig Party was named by jillcalder.

Goldilocks and Just the One Bear was named by lucycoats and elephanttai.

The Pip and Posy series was named by lucypeatfield and mentioned by cjfreiss and WELbooks too.

Dinosaur Dig! named by afloatingmarket.

The Noodle books were named by afloatingmarket and kylewestaway

Books Always Everywhere (out next month) was named by librarymice.

Open Very Carefully was named by elephanttai and suzimoore1

The Baby That Roared was named by elephantthai

Favourite fiction:

The Grunts in Trouble was named by lindsaylit and by the author of the book (cheating, but impressive on the self-publicity front), philpardagh.

Twelve Minutes to Midnight named by tittamarim and alibrarylady

Our very first book, Small Blue Thing, was named by (13 year-old (I know: I met her at a conference on Saturday) daydreamsworld.

Dear Scarlett was named by voundjian.

Mega Mash-ups and Magical Mix-ups were named by damyantipatel

The Secret Hen House Theatre was named by pollylwh, elephanttai, childrensbkshop and WELbooks.

The Rescue Princesses series was named by jodawson72

We were impressed that, though many of our followers struggled to make a selection between a number of titles, they were able to come up with a favourite title (well,there were those who couldn’t decide, and had to list a top handful of titles). We can’t begin to choose. We love ‘em all – all the ones that our Twitter followers happened to mention, and all the others that weren’t mentioned by followers today. All 9 apps and 69 books published so far.

Nosy Crow is three today

Posted by Tom on Feb 22, 2013

Today is Nosy Crow’s third birthday. That is, it’s three years since we announced that Nosy Crow existed, though we’ve only been publishing for two years, so we are sort of two years old as well. There were just four people working at the company on February 22, 2010… and today, as it happens, partly because it’s half-term and lots of us are parents, and partly because we have flexible working arrangements (which is also pretty parent-friendly), there are only four of us in the London office today as well. None of today’s four is one of the founding members, which is perhaps why today’s cake (pictured above, with Ola, Mary and Kristina) is only shop-bought.

We got a birthday card from Benji Davies via Twitter:

If the company were a person, it would be the perfect age to enjoy our picture books for pre-schoolers, like our Pip and Posy books, our Dinosaur Dig! books, and our celebration of reading and being-read-to, Books Always Everywhere (which it would have early access to – it’s not out until next month). It might also enjoy our two birthday books, Zac and Zeb and the Make-Believe Birthday Party and Guinea Pig Party (which even has a cake with three candles on the front cover).

We’re pretty proud of what the company has accomplished in such a short time. We’ve just been shortlisted for four IPG awards, for instance, and you can read more about our achievements in 2012, our second year of publishing, here.

But we couldn’t have done without all of the people who support Nosy Crow. So today we’d like to say a very heartfelt thank you not just to our authors and illustrators, but to the agents, retailers, sales organisations, members of the press, librarians, teachers, parents and children who’ve helped to make, sell and share our books, bought our apps, visited our website, talked to us on Twitter, and spread the word.

To really say thank you, we played a small Twitter game. We asked people to complete the sentence “My favourite @NosyCrow book/app is…” in a Tweet with the hashtag #Crowis3, and we gave three people, chosen at random, who Tweeted before the end of the UK working day a Nosy Crow mug.

Even though the competition has finished, we’d love to hear what your favourite Nosy Crow book/app is. Do please use the #Crowis3 hashtag.

Here’s to the next three years (and beyond)!

The Twitter Fiction Festival - a guest post by Lucy Coats

Posted by Lucy Coats on Nov 28, 2012

A guest post by Lucy Coats, author of the forthcoming picture book title Captain Beastlie’s Birthday (published in March 2014).

A month or so ago I saw a little tweet on my feed. “Click here to enter the Twitter Fiction Festival” it said. I investigated immediately, being (like Nosy Crow) a big fan of all things Twitter, and found out that the social networking site were challenging writers worldwide to come up with stories – any genre, any form – which they could tell in 140 characters. They wanted a quick pitch – so I had a think and came up with an idea.

Since myths are what I love best, I told them I’d take on the challenge of writing 100 Greek myths in 100 tweets. Simple, I thought airily, as I pressed the send button. A month or so later, I got an email. “We like what we’re hearing,” said the Twitter people. “Tell us more.” That was when it got a little trickier. How was I going to do this? How could I condense these amazing stories into 140 characters (including the #twitterfiction hashtag)? I wrote a longer, much more detailed pitch, and decided that the only way to do this was to turn the myths into tabloid headlines. Sacrilege? I don’t think so. These ancient stories are full of just the kind of scandal the tabloids of today love. Zeus is always having torrid affairs (sometimes with his close relations), or turning into a seductive beast. There’s murder, there’s jealousy, there’s war, there’s abduction, there are amazing catfights between goddesses, and, in general, more godly (and human) shenanigans than The Sun can shake a stick at. It’s material newspaper editors can only dream of in real life.

About a week ago, I received a Top Secret email telling me that I’d succeeded. I’d been chosen as one of the 29 global participants who would be the official Twitter Fiction Festival writers, and last night Twitter made the announcement. It was a slightly nerve-wracking moment – because now I was actually going to have to come up with the mythic goods. I put everything else on hold, and started scribbling. The intellectual challenge of condensing the stories surprised me, but in the end I found it came down to finding the essence of the tale and cutting out everything else. Luckily I had the book I’d already written – Atticus the Storyteller’s 100 Greek Myths – to hand as a ready reference guide.

I really hope I’ve succeeded in shining a fresh light on these wonderful, timeless stories – and that some of the people reading my tweets will want to go and discover more about them. No doubt the #twitterfiction audience will let me know loud and clear whether I have! Anyway, the die is cast now. I’ve scheduled all my mythic tweets, and I’m proud to say that I’m kicking off the whole Festival with my very first tweet being read out at 1.40pm today on Radio Four’s The World at One. If you’d like to follow the proceedings, I tweet as @lucycoats.

Hooray for Twitter, I say, for backing and promoting this brand-new way of telling stories. I can’t wait for it all to begin, and I’d love to hear what all of you think too!

Axel Scheffler meets James Joyce

Posted by Tom on Aug 07, 2012

A little while ago, on Twitter, I saw that an English lecturer (@keatsandchapman) who had taught me at University had written that, perhaps unsurprisingly, his young child was more interested in having Room on the Broom, by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, read to him than Finnegan’s Wake, by James Joyce.

I thought this was very amusing and said as much, and the two of us got into a discussion about the possibility of Axel illustrating works by Joyce (which I think is a very fine idea indeed). Well, Dr. Creasy, a Joyce scholar, not only suggested the perfect text for Axel to start with (Mookse and the Gripes, which is, apparently, “just The Gruffalo and Wyndham Lewis”), but also – very obligingly – supplied an excellent rough draft for “the Scheffler Gruffamookse”, which you can see above. There’s more on the origins of the Gruffamookse on his blog here.

Anyone who spends much time on Twitter will know that you’re never more than two steps away from a hashtag game, and I immediately began to think – what other pairings of contemporary illustrators with classic texts would I like to see?

My own suggestions are for Joe Berger, illustrator of Hubble Bubble, Granny Trouble, with The Great Gatsby (Joe’s very stylish, retro, art deco-ish work would be PERFECT) and Leigh Hodgkinson, author and illustrator of Goldilocks and Just the One Bear, for P.G. Wodehouse – I think Leigh would do an excellent Jeeves.

What pairings would you like to see? Join in on Twitter with the hashtag #gruffamookse or leave your suggestions below!

Win a Nosy Crow mug!

Posted by Tom on Jun 22, 2012

Last Friday, through our new Twitter account, @NosyCrowBooks, we ran a competition to win one of the rather fetching Nosy Crow mugs on display above.

Well, it was such a success, that we’ve decided to do it again! To win a Nosy Crow mug, all you have to do is follow @NosyCrowBooks and tell us on Twitter why you’d like it. Here it is from the other side:

To enter, you need to be a resident of the UK or Ireland, and we’ll announce a winner at the end of the day – good luck! For those of you that don’t win this time around, don’t forget – we’ve also just launched a Nosy Crow Books Newsletter and to celebrate, we’re giving away lots of free books for our first issue – you can sign up here.


Posted by Tom on May 29, 2012

As you may have guessed from the title of this post, we have a new Twitter account! There’s now an @NosyCrowBooks feed, which will be devoted entirely to information about – unsurprisingly – our books, with some tweeting and retweeting about children’s books in general.

We’ve had an @NosyCrowApps account that has operated in a similar capacity for a while now. And nothing about the @NosyCrow Twitter feed will change, but it’s very much Kate’s account and she talks about many things. In fact, the catalyst for a discussion as to whether it might be a good idea to have a books-only feed was a recent tweet in which Kate explained why she was not wearing shorts in hot weather.

It’s important to us that none of our Twitter feeds has a corporate or filtered feel. And @NosyCrowBooks will have the same kind of friendly informality that informs our other Twitter feeds: I’ll be contributing to the feed and I certainly find it difficult to think of myself as “corporate” while I am sat barefoot at my desk messily eating peaches.

If you follow @NosyCrowBooks (as well as one or both of our other Twitter feeds) you’ll be able to keep up with publication dates, author events, competitions, and reviews – and please, write to us with any questions or your own reviews of Nosy Crow titles you’ve read!

Building a Nosy Crow brand that Orla can recognise

Posted by Kate on Mar 13, 2012

It’s a sort of truth universally acknowledged that, with a few exceptions (Penguin, for example), consumers (which is shorthand for bookbuyers, readers and the parents of readers when we’re talking about children’s books), don’t recognise trade publisher brands (as opposed to academic or educational publisher brands, whose consumers do have more publisher brand loyalty). Instead, consumers care about authors and illustrators and their names and visual identities are what matter.

But this way of thinking was particularly relevant to an environment where books were sold in real bricks-and-mortar shops. Today, when increasing numbers of print books are sold digitally, and when, increasingly, publishers’ products themselves are digital (ebooks and apps, for example) the question of the publisher’s brand comes under new scrutiny. It seems to me that it is increasingly important that a publisher’s brand does need to have meaning now. As the route to self-publishing becomes ever easier, part of what a publisher must be able to offer authors and illustrators is an association with clearly articulated brand values, and the ability to communicate those brand values to consumers, to build communities of readers, and to find and foster advocates for the list.

Jeff Norton mentions this in this guest blog post for Achuka today.

So, one year into our publishing journey, I was interested to find this tweet from @anne_jackson:

“Glad I did come home. Orla told me she’d been waiting for me. We read Pip & Posy: The Scary Monster. She recognised @NosyCrow. Sleeping now.”

Anne, who I don’t know, describes herself on Twitter as the “mum of one funny little girl” who “loves bread, science and football”. She lives in Scotland.

Via Twitter, I asked for the story behind the tweet, and she emailed me and gave me permission to use this in a blog post:

“We recently bought Nosy Crow’s Three Little Pigs app for our daughter, Orla, aged three-and-a-half. Three Little Pigs is her favourite story and she absolutely loves the app, especially touches like the Big Bad Wolf lurking outside the Little Pigs’ living room window! Even a technologically-adept child like Orla still loves books though, and we make regular trips to the library. She’s very insistent on choosing her own books. On our last trip she chose Pip and Posy: The Scary Monster. Being a huge Gruffalo fan, she was probably first drawn to it by Axel Scheffler’s illustrations; however when she picked it up and opened it she saw the Nosy Crow logo on the first page. “Look Mum, the Three Little Pigs”, she said. With that, she handed me the book and continued her search, satisfied that Nosy Crow was guaranteeing her a good story. Thanks Nosy Crow!”

The picture at the top of this blog post is of Orla with iPad and with a book.

It’s exciting to think that after only a year of publishing we are starting to have a brand that is recognised by the people who matter – children and their parents.

Nosy Crow's Birthday Cake

Posted by Kate on Feb 27, 2012

It was our birthday on Wednesday last week, at least if you measure from the day we announced our existence. We were, by that reckoning, two years old.

I’ve already written about some of our achievements in 2011. Since then, January/February 2012 has brought the following:

*We won a Publishing Innovation Award for the best juvenile app for our Cinderella app at the Digital Book World conference in New York.
*9,560 new people visited our website
*We’ve picked up 1,000 further Twitter followers for nosycrow and nosycrowapps
*We raised 38 contracts raised for rights or co-edition sales in five languages – the latest rights sale being a sale of French translation rights in Christopher Edge’s Twelve Minutes to Midnight trilogy which was sold to Flammarion today.
*Four out of six of our April titles were selected by Waterstones for promotion, which we think is a good hit rate.
*A W H Smith Richard and Judy book club book promotion for Lyn Gardner’s Olivia’s First Term is running at the moment.
*We bought several pretty exciting books/apps – more news to follow.

To celebrate, true to Nosy Crow form, there was cake: Claudia Roden’s orange cake, made by me, though it’s actually a Tom signature cake.

It’s essentially, as far as I can see, a sort of custard held upright by ground almonds:

6 nice eggs, beaten with
250 grams of caster sugar to which you add
2 tablespoons of orange blossom water and
250 grams of ground almonds and
1 teaspoon of baking powder and
2 whole unwaxed oranges (or an orange and a couple of satsumas, or the equivalent in any orange-coloured citrus fruit that you happen to have waiting for the kids’ lunchboxes) that you’ve boiled for 90 mins and then whizzed up (without the water) in a food processor.
Cook in a buttered-and-floured tin at 175 degrees centigrade for an hour.

Actually, there was another cake (chocolate and raspberry), brought by Michelle from Imago that she got in the Borough Market branch of Konditor and Cook. We had that with prosecco at the very decadent hour of 4.15pm, because Giselle goes then on a Wednesday to pick up her little boy (because that’s the kind of family-friendly company we are).

Anyway, we had a happy birthday, and it was sort of great to look back on the 2 years of our existence. Thanks so much to those of you who regularly come to the Nosy Crow site.

This is a moody picture (thank you, Leen and Instagram) of Dom and Joanne Owen, who does freelance marketing for us, with the cake as we gathered for the publishing meeting that day:

And this is a less moody, less competent picture, taken by me, of the office feeling rather bigger and buzzier than it was when the four of us gathered for our first day of public existence two years ago:

Nosy Crow on Pinterest

Posted by Tom on Feb 21, 2012

We’ve just started using Pinterest at Nosy Crow. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Pinterest, it’s a new social media platform that allows you to share things – artwork, photographs, posters, book jackets – on a “pinboard”. If someone sees, for instance, the cover for Zac and Zeb and the Make-Believe Birthday Party and likes it, they can re-pin it on their own page. It’s a bit like Tumblr.

At least, I think that’s how it works.

It’s still quite a new thing and we’re finding our feet. But we thought we’d give it a try and see how we get on. After all, we’re not afraid of other sorts of social media – Kate blogged on the subject last week. As well as this page, we also use Twitter a lot, as @nosycrow and @nosycrowapps, YouTube (here), and Facebook (here). We’ve also recently started using issuu to post preview chapters and spreads of our upcoming titles.

Pinterest (and you can find us here) seemed appealing because it’s a lot more visual than those other platforms (apart from issuu, I suppose, but that’s a different sort of thing) and makes a great deal of sense as a place where we can post everything from character sketches to finished artwork, as well as sharing some of things we’re enjoying and being inspired by.

At the moment, though, it’s not entirely clear whether there’s much of a children’s book “community” using the site. Pinterest provides a list of categories to choose from and they’re mostly lifestyle-focused – food and drink, fashion, gardening, DIY and crafts, etc. And as with any similar exercise, you can get much more out of social media by interacting rather than just projecting.

So please, let us know if you’re on Pinterest! What have your experiences been of using it? Can you recommend some great illustrators, designers, or other publishing-related users?

Why follow people on Twitter? (another blog post about Twitter by a Twitter fan)

Posted by Kate on Feb 17, 2012

As @nosycrow, I follow over a thousand tweeters, and @nosycrowapps follows over two thousand.


Well, in the case of @nosycrow, I really did aim to keep my following numbers under a thousand, but they have crept up.

I’ve already written one blog post about Twitter, which I wrote late last year when our follower number reached 5,000, but this is about something slightly different.

Every Friday, for anyone unfamiliar with Twitter is “Follow Friday” when the organised among us suggest people to follow. So today, after a bit of a gap, I am going to suggest people to follow, and I began to think about the categories of people I follow.

I follow some people because they are fantastic and vocal supporters of Nosy Crow. They retweet things I tweet, they comment on our blog posts. There are many I have never met offline, but I am hugely grateful for their enthusiastic embrace of Nosy Crow and what we’re trying to do.

I follow some people because they are a great source of information particularly about rapidly-evolving things in which I am interested, like digital publishing, or children’s apps, or children’s literacy and reading. I have found stats, read articles, and engaged in conversations that I wouldn’t have had access to without following those people.

I follow some people because I know them outside the world of Twitter. I’ve worked with them, or they’re friends, or they’re people I admire. Several are Nosy Crow authors, illustrators and other creative types. And, of course, I follow people who work for Nosy Crow in either a full-monty or freelance capacity and who tweet.

I follow a few people because I want to get to know them for professional reasons outside the world of Twitter. Some might be customers or potential customers. Some might be authors or illustrators we might like to work with in the future.

I don’t follow many “competitors”, but I do follow some book publishers and app makers that I like and/or admire.

I follow some people because they are, quite simply, entertaining.

Most, but far from all, people I follow follow me.

I asked Twitter followers why they followed people, and suggested a few reasons why they might: for information, for entertainment or to establish a connection they hoped would go somewhere outside Twitter.

Lots of them answered, “all of the above”, and several cited “keeping up” with things, and the opportunities Twitter afforded for “networking” particularly with “booky-types”. People talked, more fundamentally, of following people in the hope or expectation of finding “like-minded” people with whom they felt a “common bond or connection.”

A few, though, commented on the fact that they used Twitter to connect with people who were NOT necessarily like-minded. @matlock said he followed people “to be curious – seeing what someone else thinks is important, interesting, or funny.” They talked about the serendipity of Twitter. @sharontelfer said she “love[s] the unexpected angles” and that she drew “lots of inspiration from people with different perspectives or in different fields.”

Some said that they wanted to meet new potential customers or suppliers and a few said that they used it to find out about jobs, including, interestingly, @codingcrow, who now works for Nosy Crow and who said, “I’m hoping that one day you’ll give me a job. Oh…”

Some followed Twitter for very personal reasons:

@PhilipArdagh said he followed people “in the unsure and uncertain hope of photographing their shoes”.

And @alex_t_smith said, “I follow people who like books, drawing, cake and small animals in costumes as much as I do.There are a LOT of these people on Twitter”. As it happens, he was able to produce a (to him) perfect example within half an hour: “[This is] EXACTLY why I follow people: @2dScrumptious says, ‘Does Elvis remind anyone else of the Childcatcher?’”. You can see Elvis here:



(@2dScrumptious , who supplied the picture of Elvis, is Steven Lenton, a Nosy Crow illustrator.)

I am aware that a picture of a bug-eyed chihuahua in a hat is not necessarily going to recommend a person as someone to follow to everyone, but it led to a lively three-way conversation about Philippa Pearce’s A Dog So Small (a brilliant book which appeared in the comment stream of another of our blog post) so even bug-eyed chihuahuas serve a purpose.

So why do you follow people on Twitter, if you use it?

Nosy Crow wins best children's app at the Futurebook Awards

Posted by Kate on Dec 09, 2011

I know it’s a bit late (for reasons too complicated/embarrassing to go into) to be posting this now, but, just for those of you who missed it, I went, on Monday, to the second FutureBook Conference in London, run by the FutureBook team at The Bookseller. Well-organised and informative, with (for me) stand-out speeches from Stephen Page of Faber and Jon Ingold of Inkle, I, and many others, live-tweeted throughout, and you can find our tweets (for now, at least) here, several of which have links to stats and blog posts.

I will have a shot at posting a blog posting my impressions of the day if I have time over the weekend.

Immediately after the conference, the FutureBook Innovation Awards were presented. I was on the jury, but, because Nosy Crow’s Cinderella was on the shortlist for best children’s app, this year, I had to recuse myself from that part of the judging, disappearing to another room and biting my nails… and we won our category!

Above you can see our very smart and glassy award.

Our Three Little Pigs app was highly commended at the first FutureBook Innovation Awards, for which there was just a single apps category (won by Faber and Faber and Touch Press for The Solar System).

For this second round of awards, there were three apps categories, one of which was best children’s apps. The judges said of Cinderella:

“Nosy Crow has created a visually attractive and highly interactive application for children which takes a classic, popular fairy tale and immerses the reader in the world of Cinderella.

“The illustrations are beautiful and the interactive features mean that there is plenty to keep even the youngest digital reader occupied for a long time.

Nosy Crow has managed yet again to marry education with entertainment with this fun, interactive application and deserve to win.”

The awards were reported by The Futurebook, but here’s the list:

Best Children’s App: Nosy Crow for Cinderella

Best Adult App: Faber and Faber and Touch Press for The Waste Land

Best Reference App: Dorling Kindersley for The Human Body

Best Start-up: Unbound

Best Technology Innovation: Bardowl

Best Digital Marketing Campaign: Harvill Secker for The Night Circus

Most Inspiring Digital Person: Rebecca Smart of whom the judges said, “Under Rebecca Smart’s leadership, the Osprey Group’s businesses have demonstrated success across the range of digital publishing – including apps, online services and ebooks – that many larger houses would envy. In giving this award to Rebecca, the judging panel also took into account her generosity in sharing her knowledge through conferences and industry events, and her open and informative use of social media. This willingness to inform and inspire others makes her a deserved winner.”

(Just as a very silly aside, Philip Ardagh was so intrigued by the FutureBook conference and the tweets emanating from it that he “ran” and tweeted (aided and abetted by others who should really have been working), his own non-existent publishing conference, Non-Conference, the following day. You can find the tweets (again, for now, at least) here.)


Posted by Kate on Nov 05, 2011

I see that at some point, probably yesterday but I’m not sure, follower numbers for @nosycrow topped 5,000 (of course, because, like investments, Twitter following may go down as well as up, this may no longer be the case!).

I think that I set up the Twitter account once we’d finalised the Nosy Crow name (which will be the subject of a future post, by the way), but I actually started tweeting as @nosycrow on 22 February 2010, which was the date that we announced the existence of Nosy Crow.

I had a – seldom-used – Twitter account under another name already, so I was sort of familiar with the mechanics of Twitter, but, to tell the truth, I was a bit scared of what using it might mean for me professionally. I am not always awfully good at knowing when (or how) not to say things. It’s got me in to trouble as a corporate employee more than once, and it seemed positively dangerous to amplify this problem by being able to broadcast views to anyone who followed me. I worried that I would not be able to be me and be an employee simultaneously.

But as the founder of Nosy Crow, I was freed from the concern that I might offend or inaccurately represent an employer… because my employer was me.

There are some things – personal things, family things – that I choose not to tweet about (and that’s about the privacy of the other people involved, really, as well as the fact that my personal life is not particularly gripping), but I don’t spend time thinking about whether I am tweeting as Kate-Wilson-the-person or Kate-Wilson-the-professional (and anyway, that’s often a pretty meaningless divide for me nowadays).

Tweeting as @nosycrow is part of my effort to make Nosy Crow as transparent and approachable as it’s possible for a business to be.

I certainly tweet about books and apps that Nosy Crow is bringing out, and I retweet comments and reviews about what Nosy Crow is publishing and making. However, I am absolutely happy not to present a super-shiny, always-positive professional facade. I’m in the USA at the moment, and rather rushed and tired (on Tuesday I racked up 14 meetings in four different locations in New York). I tweeted to acknowledge that this was impacting on my judgement: I’d done at least two really quite stupid things in the previous 14 hours. I’ve also tweeted about procrastination, saying once that I’d chosen to check my children’s hair for nits on a Saturday evening rather than get down to the piece of work that I knew I needed to do that weekend. And I have a weakness for wordplay hashtag games that have no bearing on my professional life (#Shakespeareanfood: “It is the yeast and Juliet is the bun”, for example).

Other people at Nosy Crow tweet too. We use @nosycrowapps to talk to people about our apps; let them know when there’s a price promotion or a giveaway going on; and to connect with people who might be particularly interested in that area of Nosy Crow’s activities. And there’s a Twitter list of other people who work for and with Nosy Crow. There’s also a Twitter list of authors, illustrators and other creative people that Nosy Crow works with.

In my 20 months of Twitter use, I’ve found Twitter a terrific way to find things out. It’s been my source of world news: I was in an airport motel in Australia when Osama Bin Laden’s death was announced, and Twitter was how I found out about it. It’s a great way to find opinion pieces, surveys and news about the rapidly changing publishing and apps businesses. We’ve used the opinions we’ve solicited on Twitter to inform our publishing decisions, as this blog post on what girls draw indicates. And when I’ve found out something interesting through Twitter, I use Twitter to offer it to other people.

If I go to a conference, I often live-tweet it – combining my own note-taking with letting other people have a sense of what are, in my view, the most interesting things being said.

And perhaps most importantly, in these ridiculously busy early days of starting up a company when my life is pretty much my work and my family, Twitter has been a way for me to keep in touch with people that I know in the real world, including some of the authors and illustrators Nosy crow publishes. It’s been a way to find new contacts too: there are people I have met through Twitter who I’ve subsequently (and often as a result) met in the real world. There are also several people with whom I have regular Twitter conversations but who I have never met in the real world.

I use Twitter because I like it. I find it fun, undemanding, informative and reciprocal.

If you follow me, thank you.

And thanks to the 1000+ people I follow too.

If you use Twitter, why do you do so?

If you don’t, why don’t you?

Do please comment.

Mega Mash-up: Aliens v Mad Scientists under the Ocean - some feedback

Posted by Kate on Jul 05, 2011

Two weeks ago, we published the third of Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson’s funny, clever and innovative new Mega Mash-up series of Draw-Your-Own-Adventure books, Mega Mash-up: Aliens v Mad Scientists under the Ocean.

An alien and a mad scientist eye one another suspiciously.

We always want to know what people think about our books and apps, whoever they are.

This time, we have had some terrific feedback from a friendly bookseller. Matt Black (pictured doodling above) is Children’s Bookseller at Waterstone’s High Street Birmingham. We know him from Twitter (where he rejoices in the name @marquiscarabas). Here’s what he says:

Mega Mash-Up: Aliens v Mad Scientists Under The Ocean is by Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson and well, you when you add to the pictures! If you haven’t seen any of the previous books in this fab series, then you are in for a treat. The whole point of these great stories is to bring the reader in on the action: you get to make up parts of the narrative as the story progresses, creating and illustrating elements of the story yourself. Using pencils, pens and felt tips (with hints on how you might want to do so from the authors) you can fill in the gaps in the story and pictures and make it your own little adventure.

This makes a great alternative to the usual doodle books available, which don’t have stories. Here, the narrative adds so much more to the book, making interacting with it much more fun. Also the illustration is very loose and simple – very child-friendly – which, I think, helps to encourage children to draw and to use their own imagination.

I love the idea of aliens and mad scientists being put together in one book set under the ocean: just such a good idea! Why just doodle, when you can create?”

We really like to hear from booksellers, whose role in getting our books into the hands of readers is so important… but it’s also great to hear from readers – or their parents – themselves. Yesterday, we got an email from a mum who had taken the trouble to contact Nosy Crow via our website after Nikalas and Tim did an event at her child’s school. This is what she says:

“Hi I just wanted to send you guys a quick email to say thank you for doing a talk at my son’s school, Bellenden Primary School, last Friday. He was shy about talking to you after school when we bought a couple of your books, but then was full of excitement and enthusiasm telling me all about your talk to the children and about your drawings, and all weekend he has been drawing aliens, asteroids, smelly socks and sound effects like “ZAP!”: he is totally inspired and loves your website and your books. The kitchen table is covered with his drawings and I will keep them all.

It does make a difference when you talk in a school. It gets kids excited about reading and drawing as well as making for a bit of fun!”

The first books in the Mega Mash-up series have reprinted, and rights have been sold to the US, France, Germany, Korea and Israel so far. We publish the fourth book, Pirates v Ancient Egyptians in a Haunted Museum, in September, and three more next year.

Nosy Crow interview in The Huffington Post

Posted by Kate on Jun 06, 2011

We thought that you might be interested to read this review of The Three Little Pigs and profile of Nosy Crow in the The Huffington Post by 2MorrowKnight and Amy Neumann (who tweets as @CharityIdeas).

A while ago, I wrote a post about the challenges of getting media coverage, particularly traditional print media coverage, for apps. We’re hugely grateful for the online coverage we’ve had and continue to get, and the article in yesterday’s HuffPost Books section is a great and cheering example.

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators event at the Lincoln Book Festival

Posted by Kate on May 16, 2011

I went up to Lincoln on Saturday to talk to a group of children’s authors and illustrators (and agent Elizabeth Roy, many of them aspiring to be published. The event was organised by writer and blogger Addy Farmer (pictured here with me) for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

It was hard to know what to cover (and Kate had a scary 90 minutes to fill), other than pointing people in the direction of our “submissions guidelines” and to telling them we prefer to receive submissions digitally, which is the work of a minute. But I talked about how Nosy Crow got started, and what’s important to us: identifying the core audience for each book or app that we do and trying to ensure that every aspect of that book or app is right for that audience; bringing our own creative energies and skill to projects as we work with authors and illustrators to shape and make books and apps; embracing digital technology both as a means of creating new reading experiences and communicating with people about them; and thinking internationally, and accessing international markets through our partners in key countries.

Of course, most of the people there really wanted to know what Nosy Crow was “looking for” and that’s a hugely difficult thing to define.

But here’s a shot at it:

Print books:

Fiction for 0 – 12, bearing in mind that a lot of the texts for board and novelty books are are produced in-house.
“Mum-friendly” books – no drugs, sex or gritty or gratuitous violence.
Strong commercial concept-driven or character-led series novels and picture books.
Brilliantly-written stand-alone novels and picture books, but nothing too intensely high-brow.
Great illustration with child and parental appeal – nothing too dark and arty.


While some of our future apps may be based on our books, Nosy Crow is currently focused on commissioning apps that start as apps, not as books. We are interested in working with authors and illustrators who are excited by, and really understand how, touch-screen devices can enhance and extend the story experience. As we have engineers on staff, we don’t need people who can code apps, and we don’t need to see a ready-made app. Instead, we want to see really great ideas and really great art (and need art that is created digitally in layers for this medium).

I got to visit glorious Lincoln Cathedral:

And I even saw a little of the top part of the city (here are Addy and Elizabeth Roy in front of something lovely and half timbered) before leaving.

I got a couple of nice comments on Twitter, and Addy blogged about it.

Tools of Change Bologna

Posted by Kate on Mar 27, 2011

Today, Deb and I went to the first Tools of Change conference at Bologna. Tools of Change is a sequence of conferences about publishing in the digital age, but today’s was the first to focus exclusively on children’s books.

Organised, at least in part, by Neal Hoskins of Winged Chariot, who couldn’t be more passionate in his conviction about the importance of apps as a new form of story-telling for children, it was a 200+ person conference with delegates from 27 countries… and a great success.

Deb spoke eloquently about the interactivity that’s at the heart of our apps development. She spoke about the interactivity that is at the heart of the content – we want to creat apps that children want to read, explore and play with. She spoke about the interactivity that is the basis of how we create an app, pulling together original text, audio, music, illustration, animation and coding into a whole in a way that involves lots of collaboration. She spoke about the interactivity that we have with readers and buyers of the app, as the digital world provides us ways of finding out – and acting upon – what our customers think of what we’re doing. She was mobbed by publishers at the end of the panel discussion in which she took part, all keen to find out more about what we do and how we do it.

And, at the very beginnning of the conference, I delivered the first keynote address. Frankly, this was playing against type: I could bore for Britain about Nosy Crow and what we believe is important, but I thought that the first keynote should sort of sketch out the landscape that the rest of the conference might cover. Armed only with data from Book Marketing Limited and The Futures Company, together with a few opinions, I talked about, on the one hand, digital selling and marketing of print books and of eBooks and other reading experiences; and, on the other hand. about digital products. First I talked about what was happening now in those two areas, and then I looked at what might happen in the future.

The opportunities for digital selling and marketing are already huge. One in four books – and one in five children’s books – in the UK is sold via an internet-only retailer (and Amazon is much the largest of these) so digital selling is a real and growing fact of life. Websites, electronic marketing and social media have opened up a way for publishers, who have traditionally “handed off” relationships with readers and book-buyers to retailers, to communicate directly with their consumers in a two-way conversation, and we have seen the development of the “consumer critic” – blog and rate-and-review website-enabled people whose opinion is trusted by other consumers, perhaps more than they trust the voice of the professional critic.

The opportunities for digital selling and marketing will, I think, only grow in future, and I quoted Aaron Miller of Bookglutton:

“Social publishing is the natural evolution of publishing as a business. It encompasses the web and all new distribution platforms including the way people read and discover on them… Social publishing involves a deep interest in, and study of, what happens to a text after it’s disseminated – how readers interact with it, how they share it, how they copy it, how they talk about it.”

The market for digital product is still evolving. Ebooks (and I’m not including apps here) accounted for only 1.26% of the UK book market by volume in 2010 and 0.4% of the UK children’s book market in the same year.

Nevertheless, the rate of adoption of digital reading is accelerating: in January 2010, just 3% of US book-buyers had bought a digital book, but by January 2011, that figure was 13%. And where the US leads, I think, the rest of the world will follow. Looking ahead, one concern is the consumer expectation that digital product should be cheap, or, indeed, free. As Lyle Undercoffler of Disney said, “Free is the four-letter word of digital publishing – the word that we don’t want to hear.” Another concern are the ongoing challenges to copyright. Almost a year ago, I wrote a blog post welcoming England’s Digital Economy Bill, and it now seems perfectly possible that the current government may not implement this protection of creators’ rights. Whether or not this Bill represents exactly the right way to protect the rights of creators is less important to this post today than the fact that this challenge to copyright may be in line with consumer expectations that they should be able to interact with, personalise and change the things that they read in ways that suit them. I quoted Adam Penenberg:

“Instead of stagnant words on a page we will layer video throughout the text, add photos, hyperlink material, engage social networks of readers who will add their own videos, photos, and wikified information so that these multimedia books become living, breathing, works of art.”

When I think about the impact of the digital world on publishing, I think of this quote from the twentieth-century economist Joseph Schumpeter:

“A railroad through new country upsets all conditions of location, all cost calculations, all production functions within its radius of influence and hardly any ways of doing things which have seemed optimal before remain so afterwards.”

The role of the publisher is changing. If there is this thing that we call “content” – ideas, words, images, audio, video, animation – and there is a reader, and there is a process for getting that content to the reader, we need to think strategically about what our role in that process is. We don’t, as publishers, have any kind of right to play a part in that process. We have to carve out our place in the process, by bringing to it something that we can do better than anyone else.

No-one owes us publishers lunch. We have to earn it.

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.

More cake, more apps

Posted by Kate on Dec 08, 2010

It’s Kate B’s birthday. Happy birthday to her! We can’t let standards slip, so a cake has been baked. Look at Twitter later for pictures.

Yesterday, Kate W spoke in a Digital Book World/Publisher’s Weekly webinar on Children’s Publishing in the Digital Age with Rick Richter of (US-based) Ruckus Media and head of Harper Collins Children’s Books in the US, Susan Katz. The webinar is available for one week, before it goes into the members-only section of the Digital Book World site, and for now you can see it/listen to it here

Kate said that we had ten aims for our apps:

  1. To create something new and exceptional
  2. To experiment (and to experiment in media other than text and still images)
  3. To find new talent
  4. To commission creative material that really uses the features of the touchscreen devices
  5. To avoid squashing existing book-based content onto touchscreen devices
  6. To make sure that a child who is used to the interactivity and multimedia experience of the touchscreen device is not disappointed by anything we make
  7. To create an enhanced and different reading experience for children
  8. To create something that parents will feel happy to give to their children
  9. To invite the reader into the story through interaction and personalisation
  10. To create or evolve a business model that works for us, for our creative talents and for any partners we may work with.

If you’d like to see a (very basic – a professional one’s in the works) video of our first app (which we’ll release in January), here’s the link to it on our YouTube channel

Numbers online

Posted by Kate on Sep 04, 2010

Sorry, folks: this is as much a note-to-self as it is a post for you.

Just over six months after its launch, this website’s had over 27,000 visits from 8,300 visitors (130,000 page-views) from 108 countries.

@nosycrow has 850 Twitter followers and a lively Facebook presence that’s liked by 256 people.

Ours is an interesting position to be in: unlike most publishers, we’re able to build our identity before we’ve published anything. We’ve been able, over the last 6 months, to talk about apps and electronic publishing as well as about classic books published by “rival” publishers (it’s fun to be generous), and throughout we have tried to keep some kind of record of being a start-up that we hope gives you some kind of insight into our values and our lives.

Once again, we’re grateful to those of you who have taken an interest in us and who choose – regularly or occasionally – to join us on the ride.