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Posted by Kate, January 4, 2015

Looking back at 2014: our fourth year of publishing

Happy 2015!

2014 was Nosy Crow’s fourth year of publishing. It’s maybe a bit indulgent and navel-gazey, but we’ve done a retrospective blog post at the beginning of each new year as a sort of diary for ourselves as much as for anyone else (here’s last year’s), so here goes…

WHAT WE DID

In 2014, we published 55 original print books (so I am not counting ebooks or iBooks separately, and not counting paperbacks or board books of previous hardbacks) and three apps. This wasn’t really an increase on 2013, when we published 51 books and two apps. But as I said in my review of 2013, 2014 wasn’t planned to be a year of growth: we hadn’t increased our staff numbers in 2013 which is what we’d have had to do to increase our output in 2014.

HOW WE GREW

But despite our small increase in output, the business grew in terms of sales. We finished the year with revenue of £3.8m – up 12% on last year. And we had a particularly good year in the UK trade: based on Nielsen BookScan figures tracking sales by value out of bookshops to UK consumers, our sales were up 41% on the previous year (in a context of an overall drop in UK trade book sales to consumers by 1.3%). Based on the same figures, we ended 2014 the 16th biggest children’s publisher in the UK. More specifically, we were the 10th biggest publisher of (non-licensed-character) picture books and the 14th biggest publisher of children’s fiction (excluding YA). The gap between the biggest publishers and us is very big, and there was some industry consolidation last year, but, given how small our list is, and how little time we’ve been going (so we don’t have a long backlist), we are very pleased with our continued move up the rankings: it means that our books are doing disproportionately well.

We created two own-brand books in the year: we are proud to have made a book for Unicef which was given to every new-born baby in Scotland from the launch of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games onwards. We were also really pleased to publish Monty’s Christmas, the book of the John Lewis Christmas TV advertisement. This 2014 book was the third of its kind.

Monty’s Christmas, our John Lewis Christmas ad book for 2014

Internationally, we continued to sell our books and apps abroad, and have now sold books in 27 languages other than English.

Li Yin, 18, from Hunan Province, works on the fold-out page – which has to be tipped-in by hand – in the Dutch edition of Use Your Imagination in a factory in Shenzhen. We work with printers in China via Imago, who are founding members of Prelims, but I had the opportunity to visit some factories myself when I was in China in November

SOME AWARDS WE WON IN 2014

This was a big year for awards for Nosy Crow.

Our books and apps won several prizes and were shortlisted for many others. We were so proud of all of our shortlisted and winning authors and illustrators. Among the highlights, we were particularly proud that Open Very Carefully won the Waterstones Picture Book of the Year, that Jack and the Beanstalk won the FutureBook Best Children’s Fiction Digital Book Award, and that Little Red Riding Hood won the Best Tech Stuff Award at the Booktrust Best Book Awards.

Nicola O’Byrne with her Waterstones Children’s Book Prize

Tom, AJ, Ed and Will with their Best Tech Stuff award

As a business, we won many awards this year. We won a number of business awards open not just to publishers but other businesses:

Nectar Business Small Business of the Year
Growing Business Awards Young Business of the Year
Stationers’ Company Innovation Excellence Award
We were named a Smarta 100 company

Receiving the Nectar Business Small Business of the Year award

Also this year, we won several book industry awards:

Independent Publishers Guild Digital Marketing Award
Independent Publishers Guild International Achievement Award

We were also highly commended in the Bookseller Industry Awards Independent Publisher of the Year category

Our award shelves – not including book awards – at the end of 2014

I was very proud to win the FutureBook Award for Most Inspiring Digital Publishing Person, and to be included in The Bookseller 100 and Hospital Club 100; Ola was named a Bookseller Rising Star; and both Ola and Tom were shortlisted for the Young Independent Publisher of the Year Award.

OTHER STUFF WE DID

We were kept pretty busy with publishing and planning for the future, but we found time to run a second conference and to continue to run our Book Group. We launched enhanced iBooks for our picture book list, and we were really proud to have launched a highly innovative way of marketing our apps and picture book iBooks through our Nosy Crow Jigsaws app, launched in the summer, to which we’ve added other features – you can make jigsaws of your own photographs now, for example – since.

Screenshot from our Nosy Crow Jigsaws app

We got around this year. We visited France, Italy, Germany, The Netherlands, China, Poland, the USA and Australia to sell our books and speak at conferences.

Fish and chips break during a late evening preparing material for the 2014 Bologna Book Fair

Queue for our “Illustrators’ Surgery” at the 2014 Bologna Book Fair: we have 10 minute appointments with illustrators to critique their work and assess its suitability for our list

We sent, and accompanied, authors to all of the major UK literary festivals including Hay, Edinburgh, Cheltenham and Bath.

Pamela Butchart signing books for a fan at the 2014 Edinburgh Book Festival

Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton performing at the 2014 Hay Festival

Philip Ardagh performing at the 2014 Hay Festival

And where there was no festival, we created events… well, Pamela Butchart did, when she took time out of her wedding reception to sign books at J & G Innes

We continued to enjoy our engagement with our friends on social media. At the time of writing, we have a total of 28,000 Twitter followers (18,246 for Nosy Crow, 5,254 for Nosy Crow Apps and 4,449 for Nosy Crow Books – we know there’s some overlap) – up 40% on last year. We have 4,600 Facebook likes – up 30% on last year.

We continued – thanks largely to Tom – to blog every weekday (except around Christmas and New Year). In 2014, our website had 227,000 visitors – up an impressive 31% on last year. The visitors came from over 200 countries – hello, people from Vanuatu! – and we saw particular jumps in traffic from the USA, Australia, India, Poland, Russia and China.

THE NOSY CROW TEAM

The Nosy Crow team grew in the year. Sophie joined the design team in February, and we’re very glad she did, particularly because, though we looked throughout the year, we couldn’t ever quite find the right person to become Senior Designer on the Nosy Crow team, despite interviewing a lot of people, so the design workload is heavy. In another attempt to ease it, in a few days, Giorgia Chiaron will join the design team as a junior designer from Penguin Random House Children’s Books. We expanded our editorial department when Ruth joined us in May from QED Publishing and then again when Victoria joined us in November from Penguin Random House Children’s Books.

Ellie joined us in November too, replacing Kirsten, who joined us and then decided within a couple of months that Nosy Crow was not the right place for her. We were very sad to lose Kristina Coates, who was our very talented designer, but she made a big career jump when she joined Bloomsbury as senior designer in June. I still miss her.

I am aware that all this team talk is about women, and so do want to say that, at the time of writing, a third of the staff on the payroll are men, which I think probably compares favourably with other UK children’s publishing teams.

A full house: Nosy Crow’s Christmas lunch

LOOKING AHEAD

I said that we didn’t plan for 2014 to be a year of increased output. But 2015 is. We plan to publish 78 original print titles in 2015, from board books to young YA fiction. I thought that it was interesting that of the 12 authors and illustrators we published in 2011 (our first year of publishing), we will, in 2015, have new books from 8 of them (and a ninth will launch a new series in 2016): where we can keep the faith with authors and illustrators, we do! But in addition to the authors and illustrators who have formed the backbone of our list, we have a number of new authors and illustrators on the 2015 list, from established names like Ross “Elephantom” Collins, whose There’s a Bear on my Chair we publish in June, to voices that are entirely new to children’s publishing like David Solomons, whose My Brother is a Superhero we publish in July. We’ll publish, too, our first buy-ins from a publisher outside the UK when we release our first two of Gallimard Jeunesse’s remarkable board books with multiple sound chips in October.

Louise, Steph and Ola at the day of the arrival of Ross Collins’ artwork for There’s A Bear on My Chair

David Solomons at our Christmas party a few weeks ago with Camilla

We plan to release another three or four apps this year, starting with the fifth of our widely acclaimed, highly interactive fairy tales, Snow White, in February 2014.

The first scene from our Snow White app, which will be released next month

January 2015 marks another important change for us: we’re bringing several of our key UK trade accounts in-house, though we will continue to sell to other UK customers through our friends at Bounce. Catherine Stokes joins us from Bounce in the middle of this month as head of sales and marketing, and she’ll be supported on the sales side of her job by Frances Sleigh, who joins us as sales executive from Penguin Random House Children’s Books in January too.

2016 is earmarked for further growth: quite apart from our ambitions for the rest of the list, 2016 marks the launch of our children’s list with The National Trust.

This all sounds great, but it’s a hard slog, as I tried to capture in this recent blog post. We’re hugely grateful to everyone who works with us to make it possible for Nosy Crow to exist, let alone flourish: our authors; our illustrators; their agents when they have agents; booksellers big and small; scores of publishers around the world who buy our books to publish them in their languages; librarians; teachers; journalists, and, of course, every single person who’s bought and enjoyed a Nosy Crow book, app or ebook. Thank you.