Erin Murgatroyd, our Rights Manager, discusses the importance of nature and poetry during the current coronavirus crisis – and reflects on the success of our nature poetry collection, I Am the Seed that Grew the Tree. Here are her thoughts:
Nature always matters, of course. At an emotional level, because it is about the connection between people and nature, publishing I Am The Seed made perfect sense when we did it in the autumn of 2018. If anything, it makes even more emotional sense now: during the coronavirus crisis, we are all, as individuals and families, recognising the importance to us of being outside, and, for many of us this is a moment when we see and observe nature around us more clearly both because we have time to do so and also because the natural world – whether it’s a kangaroo bounding through the streets of Adelaide or wild ducks on the canals of Venice – is resurgent and visible, even if only through our windows or on our screens.
But, though it made perfect emotional sense, at no point in the process of creating I Am The Seed That Grew the Tree did it make any financial sense. With 336 fully illustrated pages, using poems from a rich literary history which required two years’ worth of permissions clearing, the project was – to say the least – economically ambitious. This was a project that stemmed entirely from faith alone, and it was a risk that paid off tenfold for the UK market. To date, I Am The Seed has sold over 80,000 copies, and has won both Waterstones Children’s Gift Prize 2018 and a 2019 British Book Design & Production Award. These are accolades that exceeded everyone’s expectations and, most of all, our own.
Nonetheless, there was another hurdle for us rights folk. The content of this title makes it very UK-language market specific. Poetry is tricky across borders and every country has its own unique literary heritage. We never anticipated this to be something that we would sell abroad; showing it to customers at book fairs only as an attempt to demonstrate the diversity of our publishing programme, and out of pride for what we had achieved.
It was something of a surprise, then, when we not only sold the title into 6 different languages across three continents, but further when the Dutch edition Ik wou dat ik een vogel was (I Wish I Were A Bird) charted as the number 1 bestselling children’s book in The Netherlands for four weeks running. The title was highlighted on Dutch national television in one of the leading Dutch talk shows, with the panel of booksellers praising the anthology as “a book for all ages, with something in it for everyone, a beautiful anthology that every family should have.” This led to the first print run selling out in less than two weeks for Ploegsma, the Dutch publisher.
We have seen innovation in the way that our international publishers have approached the project – our Dutch publisher, for example, went as far as to commission 60 new poems for particularly tricky spreads where it didn’t feel there was a pre-existing Dutch poem that would naturally complement the artwork. We have been overwhelmed by the dedication of our co-publishers, to see through what was such a consuming (and in turn rewarding) project of our own, in a new edition. We are so proud to have been proven wrong and to see that I Am The Seed has shattered not only the pre-conceived boundaries of the UK market, but of international markets, too!
You can take a look inside I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree below – and if you’d like to be the first to find out more about our upcoming follow-up to the book, Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! An Animal Poem For Every Day of the Year, you can sign up to our exclusive Tiger, Tiger newsletter here.
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