As regular readers of this blog will undoubtedly know by now, on Saturday we hosted our first ever conference: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Children’s Publishing (But Were Afraid to Ask). 150 people packed out the Bridewell Hall of the St Bride Institute in Central London – a whole mix of people who’d come to find out more about the industry: aspiring authors and illustrators, literature and literacy enthusiasts, students hoping to begin careers in publishing, as well as some Nosy Crow authors and illustrators:
The view from the back of the room…
The day began (after the mild chaos of registration, some fleeting panic on my part at the sight of 150 very tangled lanyards, and a brief introduction by Kate) with a warm, funny and inspiring talk by The Guardian and Stylist Magazine columnist Lucy Mangan, on what children’s books mean to her.
Lucy spoke movingly about how reading changed her life and opened up her world growing up: how they taught her empathy, lessened her feelings of isolation, and provided comfort and insight into other worlds. And she said that she continues to read children’s books now, because “I’m too old to be bored.”
Lucy’s talk was followed by an Editors’ Panel, featuring Nosy Crow’s Head of Picture Books, Louise Bolongaro, Editorial Director, Camilla Reid, and Fiction Editor, Kirsty Stansfield (and chaired by Kate), and judging by the number of questions from the floor, and the amount of discussion on Twitter, it was clearly a highly anticipated session! Our editors explained how they spent their time, what the division of labour was between working on existing projects and searching for new talent, how the relationship and creative process with their authors and illustrators worked (and why it mattered so much), what they’re looking for (and what they don’t want to see), and how the editorial process is different at a smaller publisher like Nosy Crow compared to a Big 5 behemoth.
After a short coffee break, agent Hilary Delamere gave an absolutely BRILLIANT talk explaining exactly what an agent is “for” – informative, engaging and very interesting. Hilary wove a fascinating narrative out of every stage of an author’s career, from the time they send their work off to an agent, to the moment film rights are negotiated, and by the end of it I’d decided that I’d quite like to be represented by her, in fact.
The following session provided a intriguing counter-point: a panel of three (un-agented) Nosy Crow authors who’ve gone from our slushpile to having their work sold in countries across the world, winning awards and earning rave reviews: Helen Peters, Paula Harrison and S.C. Ransom. For large swathes of our audience it was obviously a particularly inspiring discussion, full of insight into the journey of a first-time author.
After lunch – and plenty of networking – author Tracey Corderoy gave another of the stand-out sessions of the day: a hilarious, passionate and deeply knowledgeable talk on the importance of live events for authors. Tracey spoke brilliantly about wanting to leave children with memories that will last them for a lifetime: that she knows how “grey” childhood can be, but that books and authors can bring colour into it – and over the 70 events that she’s done this year alone, she’s certainly introduced a lot of colour: dressing up as a bunny rabbit, a mermaid, a princess (but not a dragon – the costume wouldn’t fit in the car), at bookshops, schools, and festivals, she’s an absolute event-pro (and she had the audience in stitches).
If Tracey illustrated how important physical, face-to-face interaction could be for authors, Jon Reed, the next speaker, demonstrated the equal value of the other side of the same coin: how authors can use social media to market their books, build an online brand, and share their message with an audience. Packed with advice and useful tools, his talk was an invaluable one for anyone who wanted to learn more about digital communication.
The penultimate session of the day came from Melissa Cox, New Children’s Titles Buyer for Waterstones, and covered the commercial realities of bookselling with profound knowledge, wit and enthusiasm. No-one has a better sense of the whole children’s market in the UK than Melissa, and her talk practically exuded commitment to the industry. She spoke about how Waterstones chooses what to buy and promote, how to balance balance big names against undiscovered talent, how to make books stand out, what trends have emerged in recent years, and what booksellers are looking for, and had the audience hanging on every word.
The final event came from Kate, who spoke about the Future of Reading and Nosy Crow’s digital publishing programme – an inspiring end to the day and a look ahead to the ways in which reading is changing for children, what that means for authors and publishers, and what has stayed the same: the importance of storytelling.
And on that inspiring note, our audience re-convened to the next room for a glass of wine and another chance to chat, before heading home after a very long day!
If you’d like to follow more of what went on, there are a couple more blog posts on the day here and here, and you can also find a very good record of the day as it happened with the #NCConf hashtag on Twitter. Collected below are Alastair Horne and Imogen Russell William’s tweets from the day:
So, overall, the day felt like a great success: a lively and enthusiastic audience, fantastic speakers, and a happy, engaged atmosphere (with plenty of cake).
If you were there on the day, thank you for coming! We’d love to know what you made of it – please do leave a comment below! And if you’d like to stay up-to-date with all of our book news, you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter here, and we’ll alert you to any new and upcoming events that we’re planning.
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