Chapter One: The Inciting Incident - New Kid on the Block: EK Publishing

Colour me bias, but there is something incredibly alluring about teaming with the new kid on the block. Being one of the ‘new kids’ is exciting but not without some measure of anxiety. EK Books publisher, Anouska Jones along with some of her debut list of authors and illustrators discussed some of the perks and pitfalls of establishing a new picture book imprint whilst simultaneously opening the Sydney SCBWI Conference 2016.

Publisher, writer, and editor, Anouska Jones has enjoyed an expansive history in the Kids’ Lit Industry. Her time with parent publishing company, Exisle Publishing and role as Senior Editor at Kids Book Review, meant that when Exisle decided to make the leap from primarily self-help nonfiction and fiction titles to an imprint that provided an ‘holistic and fun approach’ in books for kids, Anouska was the girl for the job.

EK’s ethos is simple; they want to deliver great stories with meaningful messages featuring memorable characters. An EK story has to mean something to its readers. Ideally it should follow one of two ‘strings’: the exploration of global awareness or the promotion of some form of emotional journey pursuing mental resilience and strength. And of course, they should all be told in the most beautiful and non-didactic way possible. 

Another feature that sets EK Books apart from some of its larger counterparts is the global distribution model it has in place which aims to simultaneously sell books in countries such as the UK, US, NZ and Canada in lieu of having to sell international rights to them. This has the potential to maximise and maintain sales off shore however as the foundation of such a model means that manuscripts must be translatable and comprehensible to all of these international audiences from the printing get go, the author is faced with the occasional language consideration; mum vs mom being the most obvious example. In other words, an EK narrative that is internationally language neutral (or written in English that Americans will not stumble over at least) is preferable to stories with strong Aussie flavour and themes.

The imprint is currently enjoying a stream of high quality picture book releases. Since its inception in 2013 with less than four books on its lists, EK has plans to introduce at least 14 new books to the picture book market within the next two years. Authors and illustrators with a story to tell for four to eight year-olds, capable of imparting it under 400 words with glorious illustrations include the award winning Belinda Landsberry, Katrina McKelvey, Kirrili Lonergan, Susan Whelan and Gwynneth Jones. They revealed the origins of their stories with SCBWI delegates along with their relationship with EK Books.

In most instances the stories created by these picture book duos unequivocally moved the EK team in some way (sometimes to tears), illustrating a reoccurring view that it’s the strength of story that matters most in the making of a great book.

EK Books is an inviting and attractive landscape for first time picture book creators as illustrator, Gwynneth Jones attests. She is attracted to stories with a bit of a twist and relished, ‘putting her foot in to the puddle’ and getting it wet as it were. She has just completed a compilation boxed set of picture books for EK and is working on her fifth title for them.

Illustrator, Kirrili Lonergan could not name any real pitfalls working with EK either. In fact, she was so compelled to get her work to them on time, she completed her art finals by miners’ head torch light during a week of power outages right before her deadline date.

Author illustrator, Belinda Landsberry agreed, stating that EK books were the first to give her the opportunity of giving or sharing a part of what she considers her gift; the joy of storytelling in words and pictures.

If Anouska Jones could name any pitfalls at all about starting and developing the EK imprint it would be that to survive and make any kind of impact in the  competitive publishing arena, one must have a clear vision and a solid plan to achieve it.

And the best part? The sheer fun of choosing your own publishing path to follow that allows you to put beautiful books together for people to love.

Who could argue with that?

You can find out more about EK’s list of authors and illustrators and their creations on the EK website. Look out for mine and Nicky Johnston's, The Fix-It Man early next year, too!

Dimity Roving Reporter







Meet the New Recruit!

The ocean is a capricious mistress at the best of times. One never knows which way her winds will blow and so it is with leaden hearts we bid one of our most idiosyncratic crewmembers farewell. Roving Reporter, Nette Hilton has had to jump ship as it were and is no longer able to attend the Conference. Fear not Nette for you will not miss out! We have recruited a new Rover keen to share all and sundry with you and anyone else who cannot make it to Sydney this year.

Charlotte Calder

Charlotte Calder

So raise your voices and sing a welcome shanty for Roving Reporter, Charlotte Calder.

Charlotte Calder is the author of four YA novels published by Pan Macmillan, a picture book - Stuck! and a junior historical novel The Ghost at the Point, both published by Walker Books. Stuck! illustrated by Mark Jackson, was a CBCA Notable Book, 2010. 

Another picture book, The Twelfth Dog (Hachette, Lothian Books imprint) is coming out at the end of January 2017, illustrated by the brilliant Tom Jellett.  All about a naughty pooch who won’t give the ball back in a backyard game of cricket.

Charlotte lives with her husband, two dogs, a cat and two beautiful thoroughbreds saved from the knackery in a beautiful spot near Orange in the central west of NSW. Plus their three adult children when they drop in for the weekend. These days her time and headspace tend to get gobbled up by pressing deadlines for her daytime job as a freelance copywriter, but she’s determined to get back to writing novels for kids - one of these days!  

Is this your first SCWBI Conference? If not how many have you attended, where?

This is my second CBCA conference, after 2014 at the wonderful Hughenden, in Woollahra.

What is the most memorable (SCBWI) Conference experience you’ve had to date, or hope to have?

Getting to know so many kindred spirits, and feeling so energised by the end of it all!

As a creator in the Kids Literary Industry, what do you want to be best known for?

My books being loved by their readers. (And by relevant adults doesn’t go astray either!)

Name one thing you cannot live without.

Apart from the obvious, Big Stuff … how to limit it to one?? Smooches from four legged (and other) kids, olives, chocolate, roses, sunny days … Writing, naturally, and music … and BOOKS! 

Learn more about the rest of our Roving Reporters, here. And there’s more to come, when we share some tantalising tip bits about what to expect at this year’s Conference.

Rove you then!