It’s 2.40am and I find myself recalling the words of the immortal Freddie Mercury: is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
But in a positive way.
It is the night of the annual Independent Publishers Guild Independent Publishing Awards. I am in a hotel room in a part of Oxfordshire so remote that they keep giraffes and lions in it (this is actually a real thing), feeling a little bit post-prosecco, but in cheerful and astonished possession of the Blackwells Children’s Publisher of the Year Award, awarded by the Independent Publishers Guild.
In any circumstances, this would be remarkable, frankly, but what makes it more astonishing is that this is the fourth year out of six that we have won this prize (2012, 2013, 2016 and 2017). Last year, we actually won the overall Independent Publisher of the Year Prize too.
There was, therefore, not a chance that we would win this year, having done so well in 2016.
And then there was the fact that the two other shortlisted publishers were Bloomsbury Children’s Books (who had a particularly stellar year by any standards) and the always-impressive Walker Books.
But win we did.
We did, it is true, have a particularly brilliant year last year, as I mentioned in my January 4 2017 blog post looking back at 2016.
Accepting the prize, I thanked the people I have the pleasure and privilege to work with every day – Adrian, Camilla, Lou, Katherine, Miranda, Victoria, Tegen, Holly, Chloe, Nia, Emma, Kayt, Zoe, Catherine, Frances, Stela, Kirsty, Jess, Dom, Kitty, Hester, Tom, Fiona, Imogen, Leila, Alex, Michela, Ola, Nic, AJ, Will and Ed – and all of our authors and illustrators, without whom there is, of course, no publishing. I said, too, how proud I was to be a member of the extraordinary, vibrant community of independent publishers, working, many of us, in niches that no bigger publisher would deign to consider, but, because of that, reaching readers that are passionate about the books and other digital reading material that we make, or who really, really need our books and digital products. One of my most interesting conversations in the course of this conference was with Dick Warner who runs Class Professional Publishing, a family business, in Somerset. His company publishes a little (about the size of a fat Mr Men book), plastic-covered manual for paramedics. As publishers, when we mess up (and we do), we sometimes comfort ourselves by saying, “well, at least no-one died”. If Class Professional Publishing messes up, though, someone actually might die. That’s a book people need. To have that responsibility as a publisher must be daunting!
I didn’t think we’d win, so I didn’t remember everyone I should have thanked. I should, of course, have thanked the IPG organisers, the judges, and Blackwell’s, the sponsor for the award, whose MD, David Prescott, spoke really powerfully about the chain’s commitment to, and interest in expanding, their children’s book business. I should have thanked our distributors, Grantham Book services, whose guest I was at the awards dinner. I should have thanked Bounce, whose knowledgeable and enthusiastic reps take our books into independent bookshops and wholesalers up and down the country, and Gunnar Lie Associates, whose reps do the same thing throughout much of the rest of the world. I should have thanked Allen & Unwin, who do such a brilliant job selling and distributing our books in Australia and New Zealand. And, as always, I should have thanked every publisher outside the UK (and Candlewick Press deserves a special mention here), every bookseller, every librarian, every teacher and every parents who buys a Nosy Crow book or app. Frankly I could have been up there on the podium all night with the gratitude.
We are so proud of what we’ve achieved, but we couldn’t have done it alone.
You can read a full list of the IPG 2017 Independent Publishing Award winners here.