Sunday, 22 September 2013

Nosy Crow Conference, September 2013.

Yesterday children's authors and illustrators, aspiring and established, converged on The St Bride's Foundation, London for the first Nosy Crow Conference entitled 

"Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Children's Publishing 
(But Were Afraid To Ask.)

Nosy Crow is the exciting independent children's publisher established in 2010 by Kate Wilson and Camilla Reid.  In its short life to date, Nosy Crow have already published a host of beautiful children's books, several ground breaking apps (they are very hot on new technology) and have been voted IPG Children's Publisher of the Year two years running. That's quite a start.

Nosy Crow are keen to support emerging talent and I believe this must be the motivation behind this incredibly comprehensive and ambitious conference.

After a brief introduction by Kate Wilson, Guardian columnist Lucy Mangan explained why children's literature has always been so important to her.  She said that she did not know what he would have done without books in her childhood; books bought by her parents and loaned by school and public libraries.  Books gave the young Lucy freedom and and a means of escape.  She spoke of the inherent desire in all of us for stories.

This theme was picked up later by brilliant children's author, Tracy Corderoy.  Her childhood in Wales was not full of books, but her passion for stories was enormous, nonetheless.  She described the world in which she grew up as rather grey; her notorious Comprehensive school was overshadowed by the one of towns principal employers, an enormous chemical works.  Tracy recalled vividly a stage production she saw as a young child, in which people in red hoods danced to 'Walking In A Winter Wonderland'.  This dazzling splash of colour and glamour clearly left a strong impression on Tracy and is one of the reasons she believes that live author events are so important for children.  They bring colour and excitement into children's lives.

Live events are also essential for authors and illustrators.  Tracy spoke warmly and encouragingly about forcing ourselves to step out of our comfort zones, leave the safety and security of our offices and studios and actually get in touch with our audience, the children.  She offered practical advice on preparation for events which I found very helpful. Drawing on personal anecdotes, she was self-efacing, charming and very funny without a hint of egotism or 
self-promotion.  I got the impression that Tracy is still very much in touch with her inner child and has enormous and genuine affection for her audience. 

Nosy Crow's editors, Camilla Reid, Louise Bolongaro and Kirsty Stansfield spoke in turn about their individual roles, areas of expertise and what they look for in a submission.  It was pointed out that as well as a desire to create beautiful books, Nosy Crow is ultimately a commercial enterprise, with a need to sell books and make money.  This was a useful reminder, in case we become too romantic about our motivation as authors and illustrators. We do all need to live and eat.

However, a real love for their work was obvious in all three and a desire to help author and illustrator create the very best possible book.

Agent Hilary Delamare spoke brilliantly about the role of agent, dispelling suspicions of exploitative parasites and explaining that securing a contact is only the first step in a ongoing process.  The relationship between agent and client should be a close one and I know from my own experience that the support and advice of a good one can be career changing.

Debut authors Paula Harrison, Helen Peters and Sue Ransom described their individual journeys to publication with Nosy Crow. All their experiences were different, unexpected and ultimately encouraging for as-yet unpublished audience members.

John Reed of Publishing Talks gave a head-spinning introduction to building your own brand through social networking and blogging. He managed to convey a great deal of useful information and ideas in a short time.

For me, one of the highlights of the day was an appearance from Melissa Cox, Waterstone's Children's New Titles Buyer.
Melissa gave an illuminating insight into what makes a book stand out on the shop floor. Her love for children's books was very apparent, as was her desire to give every book she sells the opportunity to shine. She described what draws her attention to a book or author and gave some great examples of what does and doesn't work. Melissa also acknowledged that book selling is not an exact science, and that expected successes can flop just as easily as outsiders can become best sellers.

The day was really interesting and informative and I am sure that everybody will have learned a great deal, regardless of the amount of experience they have in the publishing industry. I know that I did. As Dr Seuss said

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” 

So, thank you, Nosy Crow. You are clearly going places.  I look forward to your next conference.

Check out the Nosy Crow blog at