On Friday, a proof cover came in for The Baby That Roared by Simon Puttock and Nadia Shireen. We were very happy with it and so are Simon and Nadia. Here it is, though you can’t see its subtle glints of silver foil. It looks intriguing and amusing. It also, we think, looks classy. What do you think?
Classy was what we were aiming for.
What do you think?
The Baby That Roared is not a new book for Nosy Crow. We published it in April 2012, when it looked like this:
It looked bright and funny. It also, we thought, looked commercial.
Commercial was what we were aiming for.
What do you think?
When this first cover was being designed in the late spring of 2011, the UK picture book market was different. Specifically, Waterstones was different. As this book cover was being designed, Waterstones was sold by HMV to Alexander Mamut and James Daunt was appointed to run it. Six months later, Melissa Cox was promoted to Children’s Book Buyer – New Titles. This, then, was a cover designed with “old” Waterstones in mind. We wanted, if anything, to downplay the classiness of Nadia’s art inside the book.
It wasn’t a particularly easy to come up with, actually, and we did work with Waterstones then to get to the point of the version published in April 2012. An earlier version looked like this (we put the owl in later because Waterstones advised us that it was a good idea to have something visible in the top left-hand corner because of the way they display paperback picture books on shelves (you can see the spine and part of the left-hand part of the book, but not the whole cover):
An employee of Waterstones since before her professional life began (she worked there as a student), Melissa combines an ingrained sense of what the Waterstones customer wants with very definite personal taste. Since Melissa’s arrival – and I don’t think it’s a co-incidence – we’ve seen books like Maps by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski, I Want My Hat Back by John Klassen, Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton and Where Bear? by Sophie Henn sell to a wider market than they would have done before 2011. This “classing up” of picture books has influenced, I think, the covers of books like Max the Brave by Ed Vere and The Queen’s Hat by Steve Antony.
This isn’t to say that there’s been a revolution in the kind of picture books books that sell in the UK, or ever the kind of picture books that sell in Waterstones: a look at the 3-5 section of the Waterstones website sorted by bestseller ranking will tell you that. But there has been a recalibration, and a little shift towards classiness.
We sold over 6,000 copies of our edition of The Baby That Roared in three years – a respectable if not remarkable number. We also sold US, French, Greek and Chinese rights. It was shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize. We ran out of stock last month. We could have left it there. But we love this witty, quirky book, and we want to give it another life.
We worked away at it for several months, looking through the book for images we thought might work on the cover. Nadia creates her art digitally, so it was possible to “delayer” it and take characters out of context. We tried many (many, many) versions. One possible cover looked like this:
But it doesn’t stop there: even the proof we now have will have further work done on it. It’s hugely hard to judge what foiling will look like before you have a printed version in your hands, and we all agree that while Giorgia did a terrific job on the design and the foiling, but we could do with making the foiling, which is very subtle, just the tiniest bit bolder.
But a digital version of the cover at the top of this post was the cover we showed to Florentyna Martin, Melissa’s successor several weeks ago. And she liked it. Frances popped a proof of the cover into the post to her on Friday.
One of the great joys – and challenges – of children’s book publishing is that your audience is constantly renewing itself. A child who was 5 years old in 2012 is 8 now, and probably feels themselves to be too old for picture books, so we need this to appeal to a new lot of 3-5 year olds and their parents, teachers and librarians. We really hope that, with this little bit of publisher nurturing, The Baby That Roared has a long life ahead of it, not just in Waterstones, but, as they say, “in all good bookshops”.
You can pre-order The Baby that Roared online from Waterstones here, and take a look inside the book below: