In 2013, we embarked on the adventure that was to become Christmas Press, with the illustrated storybook that was to become our launch. title: Two Trickster Tales from Russia! The book sold out of its first print run in just six weeks, and ten years later, still continues to sell, all around Australia, where it’s available in all good bookshops. Readers certainly seem to love the fun, lively retellings by Sophie Masson and the gorgeous illustrations by David Allan!
It was quite a journey, creating the book: find out all about the fascinating story behind it here. And check out the wonderful free activities and downloads we’ve created around Two Trickster Tales from Russia. And here, is where you can access the fantastic audio edition of the book–for free!
We love working with our wonderful authors and illustrators, and in this tenth anniversary year, have asked them about their experience of working with us. Over the next few weeks you will see their responses, and today we’re starting with some absolutely beautiful and affirming words from Victor Kelleher!
Our lovely intern Yasmin Paige has created the great tiles: on the first one is the short version of Victor’s words, on the second the full one.
Happy new year, everyone! We hope everyone had a great festive season.
We’re very excited because this year, 2023, is our 10th anniversary year! Yes, our little press started ten years ago with a big dream and a lot of hard work…and this year, we’ll be celebrating the achievements of the last ten years, the fabulous books, the wonderful creators–authors and illustrators–and brilliant professionals–editors, designers, printers, distributors–who work with us. And we’ll be celebrating the fact that our books have found their way into the hands of so many young readers, thanks to the dedicated booksellers, reviewers, families, teachers and librarians who have supported our books and our ‘small press with big ideas’ over those ten wonderful years!
We’ll have all sorts of things going on this year to celebrate and highlight our books, including giveaways, interviews, free downloadable activities, competitions, and more. And today, we’re kicking off the celebrations with a short video outlining the story of Christmas Press. Enjoy–and thank you!
Sharnee Rawson, an experienced regionally-based writer and editor who has worked in a range of media, is soon about to complete a bachelor degree in Media and Communications at UNE, majoring in Writing and Publishing, acquiring several academic awards in the process. Wishing to extend her experience to book publishing, she approached us with her excellent resume, and after a fruitful meeting online discussing possible projects she might be involved in, we were delighted to confirm her appointment.
Congratulations and welcome, Sharnee! We are delighted to have you working with us on several projects over the next few months. And we would like to introduce you to our readers, friends and supporters. So, here are a few questions for you!
How did you come to select us as publishers you’d like to work with?
Although there were several fantastic publishers based in the New England region, United Publishers of Armidale was distinguished by its its combination of two prominent children’s book publishers, Christmas Press and Little Pink Dog Books. I had known since the beginning of my undergraduate degree that I wanted to be involved in book publishing for younger audiences, so when I discovered United Publishers of Armidale, I knew I had to take part!
Like us, you are based in Armidale—have you always lived there, or have you come here more recently?
I’ve lived in a motley of places over the years, but for most of my life, I called a small rural property near Grafton home. It was after graduating from high school in 2017 that I moved to Armidale to begin my bachelor’s degree at the University of New England. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to explore many of the national parks in the region, including favourites like Gara Gorge and Wollomombi Falls. It’s certainly a beautiful area.
Can you tell us about your professional background as an editor and writer? What kinds of things have you worked on?
I’ve had some previous experience in the publishing industry, although, until recently, it has primarily been in news and journalism. One of the most rewarding of these positions was as a content writer at News Corp’s The Daily Examiner. The experience was fascinating, and it granted me the opportunity to work with a range of mediums, including paper-based publications, online publications and videographic material. Working at News Corp also prepared me for my next role at Tune!FM where I had the privilege of working as editor-in-chief for the company’s online news platform. United Publishers of Armidale is my first experience at a book publishing company.
Tell us about the degree you are about to complete, and why you chose to major in writing and publishing? And what’s next for your studies?
Currently, I’m in my final trimester of a Bachelor of Media and Communications degree with a major in Writing and Publishing. Originally, I had enrolled as a Bachelor of Arts student, but I quickly realised media and communications offered the specialisation I needed to enter the publishing industry. So far, I haven’t been disappointed! In 2021, I plan to enrol in a Bachelor of Media and Communications with Honours degree and continue my studies at the University of New England.
What areas interest you most in publishing? What do you hope to learn from the internship with us? And what opportunities do you hope might come from it?
As most individuals within the publishing industry will probably agree, interest in the field began through a love of reading. In high school, I remember googling ‘Jobs relating to books’ and when I read about the publishing industry, I thought, ‘Great! A job where I can read all day!’ I now know there’s a lot more to publishing than simply reading, but I still haven’t lost my passion. In editing, in particular, there’s something about refining a text that will be read and enjoyed by like-minded readers that offers enormous appeal. Through my internship at United Publishers of Armidale, I would love to continue to develop my editing skills and gain further insight into various aspects of publishing. Hopefully, the experience will lead me to further work opportunities within the industry.
And finally—What’s on your reading pile at the moment?
American Gods by Neil Gaiman is currently sitting on my bedside table. I’ve loved the author’s previous work and can’t wait to tuck in!
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:
First bite of food
Open synopsis and read
If synopsis is okay, then open manuscript
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.