At the end of last year, I wrote a blog post about our first year of publishing (2011). It’s here. I thought that I’d do the same thing for 2012, our second year of publishing.
It has, once again, been a busy and full year and it’s hard, even after spending the days between Christmas and New Year like a slothful grub wrapped up in a duvet on a sofa reading books for grown ups with a cold as my only excuse, to pick out the key things from 2012 from the whirl of memories and impressions. Nevertheless, here we go…
What we published, and what we signed up:
In 2011, we published 23 books for children aged 0 to 14. In 2012 we published 35 – a 50% increase. The biggest increase was in our fiction output, and we published 19 fiction titles simultaneously as print and ebook titles. Once again, the books ranged from board books for babies to fiction titles for young teenagers (though this year we added a few ambitious novelty books like Playbook Farm).
2012’s books came from talented debut writers that we plucked from the “slush-pile”, like Helen Peters and Paula Harrison, and from established names like Axel Scheffler, Penny Dale, Jo Lodge and Philip Ardagh, and from creative talents inbetween. In 2012, we published new books by ten of the 12 authors and illustrators we’d published in 2011 (the exceptions were Benji Davies, but then we did publish two apps based on his Bizzy Bear character and we’ll publish more of Benji’s books in 2013, and Ros Beardshaw, whose paperback Just Right For Christmas was new in 2012 and from whom we also have a new book in 2013). But – and I hadn’t realised this before I totted things up – in 2012 we published 16 authors and illustrators that we hadn’t published in 2011.
In 2011, we released 3 apps. In 2012, we released 6 apps, including, in a departure for us, two games apps linked to books and two non-fiction story book apps. The games apps were Pip and Posy: Fun and Games and the completely free The Grunts: Beard of Bees. The non-fiction apps were Rounds: Franklin Frog and the deliciously wintry Rounds: Parker Penguin.
We did our first bit of own-brand publishing and our first “instant” book when we published, at the very end of the year, The Snowman’s Journey, based on the John Lewis Christmas 2012 TV ad, for The John Lewis Partnership. Here’s the story behind it.
But all the time we were publishing in 2012, we were also acquiring for 2013 publication and beyond. We’ll be increasing our output of books in 2013 to 50 titles. We’ve written about some of them here.
We are going to focus on a few, very ambitious apps this coming year, of which Little Red Riding Hood is the first. However, we have other digital plans, including, this month, the launch of our innovative audio book picture book programme, Stories Aloud.
Across our books and apps, we will add around the same number of new authors and illustrators in 2013 as we added in 2012.
Selling our books and apps:
We more than doubled our revenue compared to 2011, with sales well in excess of two million pounds.
Once again, working with Bounce, we had books sold and promoted in a huge range of UK sales outlets from independent booksellers through bookshop chains and online book retailers to supermarkets and toy shops. Many were selected for promotions by bigger retailers and supermarkets – we have, I think, a particularly good strike-rate in this area.
To sell our books and apps, we’ve travelled to the US (where we work closely with Candlewick Press on illustrated books), Australia (where we work exclusively with Allen & Unwin), Germany, France, Holland and Italy. We visited Apple HQ in Cupertino for the first time to talk about our apps.
Having sold our apps exclusively through Apple in 2011, we experimented with Android for the first time this year, selling a couple of our apps for use on Nook tablets. You can read about it here.
This year, we added Japanese and Turkish to the list of languages in which we’ve sold rights to our books, bringing the total number of languages in which we’ve sold rights to 18. Brazil (as a direct result of my visit in late 2011) has been the biggest new source of rights sales. We ran our first two auctions, both of which were in the US, and both of which ended in six-figure dollar deals.
We added Gottmer in Holland to Carlsen in Germany and Gallimard in France as translation partners in our apps programme.
Speaking of Nosy Crow…:
We have had another great year of reviews and mentions in traditional national press from The Wall Street Journal to The Daily Mirror, in specialist press from Kirkus and The School Library Journal to The Bookseller and in many terrific children’s book, parenting, technology and app blogs. You can see some of our most recent high-profile reviews and mentions here.
In 2012, we had 120,000 unique visitors (up 58% on 2011) to the Nosy Crow website (I wrote more about our web stats here and here). From the autumn of 2012, we decided we’d try to blog every week day (though we have had a bit of a rest over the Christmas/New Year break). Judging purely by the number of comments (though some of the comments are our responses to people who’ve commented), these were particularly popular blog posts this year:
Nosy Crow Publishes The Snowman’s Journey
Books For Girls: Gender, Packaging and Content in Children’s Publishing
In Which We Uncover An Internet Sock-puppet
Deaf and Blind Characters in Children’s Fiction
What My Daughter Thinks About Having a Working Mum
Small Publishers v Large Publishers: Which is Best?
And these were the three posts which received the most traffic:
1. Festive drinks at Nosy Crow
2. Nosy Crow Publishes The Snowman’s Journey
3. In Which We Uncover An Internet Sock-puppet
As I write, @nosycrow has 9,740 followers on Twitter, @nosycrowapps has 3,164 followers and @nosycrowbooks, more recently introduced, has 654 followers. There’s a bit of overlap between these, but overall, that’s 13,558 followers – up 80% on last year. We’ve 2,438 likes on Facebook and we’re now active on Pinterest and Tumblr too.
Back in the real world, Nosy Crow authors were at numerous literary festivals, including Hay, Edinburgh, Bath and Cheltenham, and staged countless events in schools, libraries and bookshops.
We were hugely proud to win a hat-trick of awards at the Independent Publisher’s Guild Awards in March 2012, based on our first year of publishing. We won the 2012 Children’s Publisher of the Year award; the Newcomer of the Year award and the Innovation of the Year award.
Our apps continued to win and be shortlisted for multiple awards and made many “best apps” listings. Our books, authors and illustrators were shortlisted for awards too: S C Ransom was shortlisted for the Queen of Teen prize; The Baby that Roared was shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize; The Secret Hen House Theatre was shortlisted for the Solihull Children’s Book Award.
I ended my 2011 retrospective with a look at what had gone wrong and here are some of the things I mentioned:
The much-investigated drainy smell in the office bathrooms. I am sorry to say that this is not completely resolved, despite plumber intervention, but either it’s less pronounced or I am just getting used to it.
The calorie count of the many cakes we make and eat. I am afraid that the addition to the team of Mary Berry with her show-stopping debut of Nosy Crow logo-inspired cake pops seems unlikely to help us here.
The one or two important UK retailers who hadn’t stocked our books. We did manage to expand our customer base in 2012: we hadn’t sold anything to John Lewis before The Snowman’s Journey, for example.
The key countries we hadn’t managed to sell rights to, like Japan. We did, this year, sell rights in several picture book and novelty titles to Japan.
So most of the old things got better and some stayed about the same. Of course there were new problems and challenges in 2012 – we were particularly sorry to see Kate Burns leave us this summer, for example, but, on the other hand, we were delighted that Louise Bolongaro replaced her at the beginning of November as Head of Picture Books.
2012 was another very good year for Nosy Crow.
Thank you to everyone who has supported us or worked with us in 2012, or who, in 2012, agreed to work with us in 2013 and beyond. One of the pleasures of being a small publishing company is that many of us will be able to show our appreciation for you in person if you’re an author, illustrator or some other kind of creator, if you’re an agent, or a bookseller or a foreign publisher. But we can’t thank, other than in this blog post, the ever-increasing number of people who choose to buy our apps and our books and share them with children, without whom we don’t have a business.