We spoke to Kate Wilson, MD at award-winning children’s book publisher Nosy Crow, about running a start-up, her prediction for children’s storytelling and what you must know to be a good children’s publisher.
1. How did you come up with the idea for Nosy Crow?
Well, some people have career moves thrust upon them… I was fired, and so was really forced to think what I wanted to do next. I loved publishing, and liked the idea of returning to the detail of the part of publishing I love most: children’s books. The idea was to run Nosy Crow from the (small, damp) basement of our house… but as soon as I showed it to our first prospective employee, I knew that it wasn’t the right place to launch the business from, and maybe that’s the moment that I realised that I was serious about starting something ambitious.
2. How do you predict children’s storytelling will evolve over the next 10 years?
If only I knew! I think that print books will more than survive: most parents are remarkably positive about their children reading “proper” books, but I also think that people – like us – will continue to experiment with new forms, exploring how technology can enhance storytelling and reading. I definitely hope that reading won’t be the most boring thing a child can do on a screen. But even if they’re reading print, I think that exposure to screens will impact the kind of material that’s attractive to children – maybe shorter books, with more broken-up narratives and more illustration will work well. But, really, who knows? I mean, who’d have predicted adult colouring books?
3. What role do freelancers play in your company?
We use freelance designers, desk editors and proof-readers regularly, both to support our day-to-day business and to fill in any staffing gaps. I think they can bring a really valuable fresh perspective to what we do: if you all work together in one big room as we do at Nosy Crow, it can, I guess, become a bit of an echo chamber, and it’s interesting to work with people who don’t live and breathe our day-to-day chatter.
4. What are the most important lessons you can pass on for anyone thinking of running a start-up?
You probably need 50% more cash than you think you do based on your business plan. If you can’t face taking out the bins and fixing the loo seat, start-up life is probably not going to work for you. Even if you’re successful, there doesn’t seem to be a time when you can kick back: it’s pretty relentless! Enjoy the energy and autonomy of it: they’re what make it worthwhile.
5. You’ve worked in large and small publishing houses. Are there fundamental differences in the way in which authors are treated?
I don’t think so, really. I mean, I’d like to think that we can offer a kind of access, transparency and intimacy that bigger publishers maybe find harder to achieve, but author care is more about culture and principle than size.
6. In one sentence, define what makes a successful children’s publisher.
Gah! These are hard questions. I guess I’d say, really know and understand who you’re publishing for.