What comes first, the book or the reader? - Nosy Crow Skip to content
Posted by Kate, May 9, 2010

What comes first, the book or the reader?

On Friday, Kate had a meeting with an Italian publisher at Nosy Crow’s Lambeth offices. This woman is clever, energetic and has good market knowledge as she is married to, and works alongside, a successful Bolognese children’s book seller. She has an international business background.

She wanted to show Nosy Crow books that she is publishing, because she wanted to know if Nosy Crow would be interested in buying UK rights in them.

Now, it’s always interesting to see other people’s books, and always interesting to see books from other cultures, but this meeting was never going to end in a deal.

The first reason is that Nosy Crow is interested in acquiring world rights in all languages to all the books it publishes, and buying a limited portfolio of rights – say English language rights for the traditional British market – will be the exception rather than the rule for Nosy Crow.

But the second reason is perhaps more interesting. This woman (as we’ve said, clever, with market knowledge) approached publishing children’s books completely differently from Kate.

The Italian publisher’s starting point was the product. She was interested in looking at where there were gaps in product available for the market and in filling those gaps. Now, in Kate’s view, sometimes there are product gaps for very good reasons: there aren’t enough people interested in what might fill those gaps for them to be economically viable, or, at least for it to be economically viable to reach them through our traditional bookselling channels.

Kate’s starting point – and Nosy Crow’s starting point – is the reader, and we will not publish anything whose reader we don’t think we can identify. While of course we recognise that children and readers don’t fit into neat and discrete groups, we do try to identify a core market – a sense of who the book (or app) is for. If it appeals to others beyond this group, so much the better. But we have to believe that there are children for whom what we are publishing will be perfect: will make them laugh, will make them excited, will surprise or shock or move them, will make them think or ask questions, or talk about it to their friends… and will encourage them to read more.

Of course, Kate’s exaggerating a bit: there are sometimes books we just fall in love with and hope will find their audience, but we hope that that idea of the child reader remains at the heart of all we do.

And, while Kate and the Italian woman had a great chat, Kate ended up staring in bemusement at a beautiful touch-and-feel book about the history of costume and fashion, while the Italian woman was baffled by Nosy Crow’s Dinosaur Dig.

See more: