A little video celebrating Christmas Press, and our fabulous titles!
What does a commissioning editor do in a publishing house? What does their day look like? In this great post, our very own fabulous Commissioning Editor Beattie Alvarez describes the realities of a typical work day and gives some helpful tips and advice for authors and illustrators.
From the crowded desk(computer desktop actually) of a Commissioning Editor
By Beattie Alvarez of Christmas Press
The day starts with a GIANT coffee and catching up on my Words with Friends games while I wait for all the emails to load.
There are a lot of them AND I’m not winning all my games. This is not a good start to the day. However, it gets better as the coffee starts to set in.
I do my ‘official’ work first. Official work includes emails to and from people who we’re already in touch with such as contracted authors and illustrators, the ones who print our books, my boss. After those emails I move onto editing. This word should change. That word should be deleted. Explaining why I’ve made changes and probably a fight with Word in there somewhere when it hides the comments I’ve spent hours making. Then I send it back to the author and we start all over again. A second, third and fourth coffee probably makes an appearance during all this.
I check the schedule/list of tasks/emails all over again.
If there’s time to squeeze in reading submission in my lunchbreak, then I do it. Why not? I like to read while I eat (side note: tomato soup and computers don’t mix). I start with the solicited manuscripts.
What are solicited manuscripts? They’re manuscripts from people we’ve asked to submit, ones that come from agents, or ones that come from an open call for submissions (there are many good reasons why most publishers are normally closed for submissions). They are the ones that I want to read.
However, I don’t have much time. There’s the ‘official’ work to get back to. So, if the synopsis and opening pages don’t grab me immediately, then I’m unlikely to read more than a few pages.
It goes like this:
- Open computer
- Open food
- First bite of food
- Open synopsis and read
- Second bite
- If synopsis is okay, then open manuscript
- Start reading
- Keep eating
If my lunch is more interesting than the manuscript then I move onto the next manuscript. And the next one. And the next one.
There are some exceptions, of course. If we’ve ASKED you to submit a manuscript then I will read every single word. I may not enjoy it, but I do read it. If my boss asks me to read it then I will (but if it doesn’t grab me and I have to slog through the whole thing then I ask that my coffee budget gets raised).
Unsolicited manuscripts are something else entirely. We are currently CLOSED to submissions.
If you haven’t done your research or if you choose to ignore the fact that we’re closed because someone has told you to try anyway then I’m going to be cross. Don’t make the Commissioning Editor cross. It is NOT a good idea.
I still open the email. I still read the synopsis (if there is one). I’m sure that if a synopsis grabbed me, I would open the manuscript, but that hasn’t happened yet and I’ve been doing this for over six years. I then send a curt reply, thanking the author for their submission, but informing that we are not taking submissions.
A lot of this extra work is done at night after the kids are in bed, or very early in the morning before I have to get them ready for school. There aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done. So make sure you:
- Do your research and find out if we’re open to submissions
- Read the guidelines if we are to find out what we want. Don’t send a picture book text if we say we don’t do picture books (or memoirs or self-help etc).
- Prepare your paperwork. We say send the first three chapters, double-spaced in Times New Roman and only want it as a word doc, then DO NOT SEND the entire manuscript in Curly Stars font as a PDF. I will NOT READ IT. If you can’t follow guidelines, then you are going to be hard to work with and we don’t want that!
- READ YOUR OWN WORK. Just because you’ve finished a first draft, doesn’t mean it’s print ready. Have you edited it? Are there typos? Does it flow well? Have you remembered to change the name of the character originally called Bob, but then changed to Chris ALL the way through the book? Is your synopsis as snappy as your manuscript? It has to be! That’s the first thing I read. If you can’t write an interesting synopsis, then how do I know you can write an entire book?
- If you truly believe that you are ready to send, then write a nice cover letter. Try to find out our names (not always possible, I know). I don’t require a fancy cover letter (again, this changes from publisher to publisher, but I’m not fussy). Eg. To whom it may concern (or Dear Editor), I am a writer and I came across your (insert how you found us, because that’s always good for us to know what channels are working and what are not). I have attached a manuscript called _______. It is _____ words long and is about (insert tag line). Thank you for taking the time to look at my work. Kind regards, whoever you are.
- Once sent DO NOT BUG US. Do not send follow up emails as to whether or not I got it and if I’ve had time to read it. Although, if we’ve ASKED you to send it and I haven’t replied, by all means nudge me.
- We normally don’t have time to give feedback. And won’t. If it’s not for us, then no amount of emails will change our minds.
Remember that all of this is done in between bits of ‘official’ work. While I’m reading and emailing, I’m also working on the next book that’s coming out. The edits, the advertising, the launch, the author profile, the illustrator, the design, THE WORKS.
United Publishers of Armidale, a collaboration between children’s books publishers Christmas Press and Little Pink Dog Books, is delighted to announce that it is the recipient of a 2020 Resilience Fund Grant, an initiative by the Australia Council for the Arts.
The 2020 Resilience Fund is designed to provide emergency relief to support the livelihoods, practice and operations of Australian artists, groups and organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Australia Council has directed more than $5M to the Resilience Fund to provide immediate relief to the Australian arts sector.
United Publishers of Armidale was granted funds under the Adapt stream of the Resilience Fund, to create a wide range of fun new free activities and resources centred around their books, to join those already featured on their website, www.unitedpublishersofarmidale.net These are aimed at children, families and schools. Funds will also be used by the publishers to create special ‘Journey of a Book’ video presentations for adults which will look at aspects of writing, illustrating and publishing children’s books, around a focus on books produced by each publisher. These presentations, to be hosted on the UPA You Tube channel, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCebJK9zqg1f1ROlrSrtAFuA, and showcased on their website, will be aimed at aspiring creators as well as anyone interested in children’s books.
Christmas Press and Little Pink Dog Books, under our United Publishers of Armidale banner, wish to warmly thank the Australia Council for their generous support of our joint initiative. We look forward to creating some fantastic resources–watch this space!
For more information: https://www.unitedpublishersofarmidale.net/contact.html
Armidale-based children’s book publishers, Christmas Press and Little Pink Dog Books, are delighted to announce a brand-new joint initiative, United Publishers of Armidale, with the launch of a new website, www.unitedpublishersofarmidale.net, and associated social media on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
The United Publishers of Armidale website features a number of books from each publisher, with free activities and resources to go with each, as well as information on each title. Activities and resources include audio and video presentations by creators, puzzles, quizzes, word searches, printable colouring pages, teachers’ notes, and more. The Featured Books page will be updated regularly with new, upcoming and backlist titles and their associated activities, while the About page gives information about the UPA partner publishers.
‘The idea behind United Publishers of Armidale is that in these difficult times, it makes sense for publishers, especially small, regionally-based publishers like us, to pool our efforts and resources in order to promote and showcase our books and help to support our creator communities, and we’re thrilled to be partnering with Little Pink Dog Books on this,’ said Sophie Masson, co-director of Christmas Press. ‘But it’s also very much about supporting the wider community, especially children, their families, teachers and carers, by offering free resources and activities through a dedicated website.’
‘We are delighted to be partnering with Christmas Press in this new enterprise and we hope that everyone will have lots of fun discovering our featured books and the activities around them,’ said Kathy Creamer, co-director of little Pink Dog Books. ‘And we warmly thank our authors and illustrators for getting so enthusiastically behind the project and creating such fabulous and diverse activities for our readers.’
Books featured for the website launch are, for Christmas Press, middle grade historical fantasy novel, The Phantasmic Detective Agency, by Julian Leatherdale (out May 2020) and Australian Children Laureate Ursula Dubosarsky’s recent collection of plays, The Boy Who Could Fly and Other Magical Plays for Children(2019); and for Little Pink Dog Books, author-illustrator Trish Donald’s picture book Tissy Woo and the Worry Monsters(2018) and Parmesan, The Reluctant Racehorse, written by Jacqui Halpin and illustrated by John Phillips (2017).
Check it all out here!
We are delighted to be part of the many wonderful small publishers to be featured in the 2019 Small Press Network Christmas catalogue. Our five 2019 titles are listed in the children’s books section in this fabulous catalogue, which goes out to thousands of booksellers and libraries around Australia. But anyone interested in the wonderful range of small-press books being published around Australia can consult the catalogue online, here. Have a look!
Six years ago this month we launched our very first title, Two Trickster Tales from Russia, by Sophie Masson and David Allan. It was very exciting and nerve-wracking too, we were on a steep learning curve and though we had high hopes of course for our fledgling little Press, we also knew big challenges lay ahead in an industry which is a lovely one to be in, but not easy either!
Six years later, we have published 29 books across our three imprints: Christmas Press, Eagle Books and Second Look–we have sold all over Australia, acquired an international rights agent, been shortlisted for literary awards, won a business award, worked with dozens of wonderful authors and illustrators, and achieved a high reputation amongst creators, readers, booksellers, agents, and reviewers. It’s been and continues to be an amazing adventure!
Christmas Press will be going to Sydney next week–first to be part of the SCBWI Conference, and then to cheer on our author John Heffernan as he presents his beautiful book with us, Two Tales of Brothers from Ancient Mesopotamia, in two special events.
On the Monday of the conference we’ll be viewing the Illustrator Showcase, and looking forward to seeing the work of new and established illustrators! We’ll also be conducting a manuscript critique and appearing on a fabulous panel at 2pm about building a brand while maintaining your passion. Our books will also be featured in the conference bookshop and we’re looking forward to meeting authors, illustrators, readers and publishers!
On Tuesday 6th, John Heffernan will be giving a talk at 1 pm Leichhardt Town Library; and will also present at a SCBWI event at 4.30 pm on Wednesday 7th, at the Children’s Bookshop in Beecroft when John will be part of a stellar panel of authors and illustrators from Australia and New Zealand. Both are free events, all welcome. Two Tales of Brothers will be available for sale at both these events, and John will be happy to sign them for you!
Over at the fabulous site Creative Kids Tales, there’s a great new series of interviews, Publishers in Focus, which aims at giving authors and illustrators an insight into publishing houses around the country and how manuscripts get selected for publication. And we’re honoured to be featured on it this week, as one of our directors, Sophie Masson, talks to CKT.
You can read the interview here.
We are very excited here at Christmas Press, because not only have we got some fabulous new titles coming up in our core Christmas Press Picture Books list–watch this space!–but we are also debuting two wonderful new imprints this year–Second Look Publishing and Eagle Books.
Second Look Publishing: New editions, in e-book and print on demand format, of classic out of print Australian children’s literature, featuring plays, poetry and fiction. Our launch title(March 2016) is a completely revised edition, with a new play added, of a hilarious collection of plays for children by Duncan Ball, illustrated by Craig Smith, which we’ve retitled This School is Driving Me Nuts and Other Funny Plays for Kids (originally published in 1988 as Comedies for Kids). It will be followed in July/August 2016 by a new illustrated edition of Libby Gleeson’s powerful first novel, Eleanor, Elizabeth. We plan to publish two-three Second Look titles a year.
Eagle Books: A new list also debuting in 2016, this will focus on adventure novels for older readers, by both classic and contemporary authors. The launch title (April 2016) is a magnificent limited edition of the first new English translation in over a hundred years of a great classic adventure novel by the legendary French author Jules Verne. Translated by distinguished translator Stephanie Smee, with illustrations by David Allan, Jules Verne’s Mikhail Strogoff is a major publishing milestone!
Eagle Books will publish 1-2 titles a year.
More details on the Eagle Books and Second Look websites soon!
We are delighted that our hometown of Armidale now boasts another children’s books publisher besides Christmas Press!
Little Pink Dog Books, which opened for business on December 30 2015, will be specialising in picture books for young children, by new and unpublished authors and illustrators only, and will publish between one and three books a year initially. They are open to submissions at the moment.
Little Pink Dog Books is owned and operated Kathy and Peter Creamer, who are fairly new to Armidale but have previously run a children’s books publishing company overseas. Kathy is an author-illustrator with a long publishing career, and has worked on over sixty books, while her husband Peter looks after the business and production side of things.
We caught up with them this week, and asked them a couple of curly questions!
What’s the reaction been to Little Pink Dog Books so far from authors and illustrators?
The reaction has been remarkably good, with our first manuscript submission arriving just a day after the launch of our new website and Facebook page. Since then, we’ve had submissions arriving at the rate of two or three a week, but unfortunately, not a single submission from illustrators. I think we may need to adjust the information on our website to make illustration portfolio submission a little more prominent.
Other reactions have been that it’s good to see a new publisher that specializes in Children’s picture books.
It’s been viewed as a very enterprising initiative that could help a significant number of locally based talented authors and illustrators.
What are the advantages of running a publishing company from a regional town like Armidale? and the disadvantages?
Armidale is full of creative people who know each other and are keen to work together.
Being a small community, everyone knows about you and what you do, so you don’t have to advertise too much.
Artists and illustrators in Armidale are keen to experiment and we have been impressed with the range of different techniques, skills and media people use as part of their creative expression.
Armidale is on the NBN, which is a fabulous advantage in terms of moving information around.
We are also very conscious that quality is vitally important and hence your reputation stands for a lot!
The book services for printing, distribution and marketing do not appear to be readily available within the Armidale area.
The number of traditional retail outlets for the product is very small in number.
Access to events and shows where one can promote picture books is difficult, but not impossible, with most such events being held in the various state capital cities.
Costs for services, equipment and consumables are also inevitably a little higher than in the larger cities.
Getting your products and the authors and illustrators who created them a public profile will be more expensive here, as they would need to travel to key events usually held in major cities.
Congratulations on the launch of Little Pink Dog Books, Kathy and Peter!