Thursday, 6 June 2019

Dinosaur poets, assemble! What inspired your dinosaur poem? (Part 1)

Our newest children poetry anthology is Dragons of the Prime: Poems about Dinosaurs, edited by Richard O'Brien with notes by Will Tattersdill, aimed at children aged 8+. We asked the poets what inspired them to write their poems...

Myles McLeod
My poem is 'Roar, roar, T.rex'. In 2018 I was working with an illustrator friend Wilm Lindenblatt on a project which we called Poetry Picture Club, trying to produce one illustrated poem a week. We had a list of hot topics and of course one of them was dinosaurs. I was looking for a fun poetic form and had the idea of stealing the rhythm from a well-known nursery rhyme. When I hit upon Baa, baa, black sheep it all fell into place!

Finlay Worrallo 
I was inspired to write my poem 'A prayer at bedtime' by my own childhood and everything I'd learned about dinosaurs when I was younger. I wanted to evoke a parent praying for their child using dinosaurs, the terms the child would understand best, to show their love as a parent and what they wished for their child's future.

Lingwulong shenqi
Gita Ralleigh
Lingwulong shenqi, named in 2018, means ‘amazing dragon of Lingwu’, Lingwu being a town in China. The first mention of dinosaurs was 1700 years ago in China, when Chang Qu described 'dragon bones' – now known to be dinosaur fossils – and this is what inspired my poem. Lingwulong shenqi was found by a sheep-herder, showing there are still dinosaur discoveries to be made today!

Valerie Pate!
Valerie Pate 
I have two girls and I adore watching them learn and explore in museums. Their imaginations keep me inspired. So the narrative voice in my poem was based upon my daughters, who both really enjoy the Night at the Museum films.

Lesley Sharpe
My poem was inspired by the sheer age of the iguanodon Mantellisaurus atherfieldensis, which for me truly makes these animals creatures of the imagination – how can we conceive of something over 110 million years old? It's like thinking about how many stars there are in the sky, or how many fish in the sea. And also the fact that it is so complete – he has 80-90 % of his original bones, which shows the extraordinary capacity of fossilised bone to survive, and to reveal a blueprint which we still share in so many ways – jaw, rib, spine.

Mantellisaurus atherfieldensis
The other little known fact which fascinates me is that it was actually Gideon Mantell's wife, Mary Ann, who in 1821 discovered the enormous tooth that would first give its name to the Iguanodon. She disappears out of the story, of course, even though she also illustrated all his books and brought up all his children. Three cheers for Mary Ann!

B.J. Lee
The first time I heard the word 'dreadnoughtus' I thought, there has to be a poem in that. And then I wrote my playful poem 'The Dreaded Dreadnoughtus' in about half an hour after completing some research on Gondwana, the supercontinent where I believe the titanosaurs must have lived.

Dragons of the Prime: Poems about Dinosaurs is on sale now – buy your copy for £10.99 from our webshop!

Thursday, 16 May 2019

The Emma Press at Andersen Press: Week Six

I have learnt a lot from my last six weeks at Andersen Press and it’s been particularly useful to be able to work in a few different departments, including editorial, marketing, and rights. It’s also been nice to get out of the house/coffee shop/library and work in an office environment again, something that I realised I hadn’t done in nearly two years. The great food in the canteen was a plus, too, and the shelves and shelves of books to browse. I had a variety of tasks to do which made every week quite interesting and different and I’ve been able to learn quite a lot. The most important take-away from my placement, I think, is that working in a larger children’s publisher and working at the Emma Press aren’t dramatically different experiences and this was comforting.

My first week was spent working closely with the PR and marketing team to help promote a new book. I learned that the way that Andersen Press and the Emma Press work are not so different: using publicity plans and lists to determine other organisations who might help promote the book (such as reviewers, bookshops, and libraries) and even having a lot of the same contacts in common. It was reassuring to know that we were both working in the similar ways and contacting the same organisations to market our books. Initially, I wondered if I might uncover a Big Children’s Publishing Secret that I hadn’t been aware of before, but I was relieved to know that this was not the case. However, I did learn that there might be more efficient ways to run campaigns, for example, preparing curated lists of organisations based on genres, themes, and age groups rather than working on individual lists for each book, and sending books directly to organisations instead of emailing first, as that would be the best way for someone to get a feel for a new book.

I had a chance to read through the fiction and picture book slush piles at Andersen Press as well, which was an interesting experience. I’d had some experience at the Emma Press reading pamphlet submissions as well as submissions for a short story anthology, so it was great to utilise and further hone my skills. I enjoyed reading the submissions as well as some titles from Andersen’s current list. For me, this was a great way to get a better understanding of what would be suitable to move forwards with and which submissions might not fit with the publisher’s brand, though it may be more appropriate elsewhere. Something that I’d learnt from both Andersen Press and the Emma Press was that sometimes, you could read a really great submission but not be able to take it forwards simply because it’s not a good fit for the publisher, for instance, if they don’t publish a certain genre. That’s why it’s very important for writers to read the submissions guidelines carefully before sending in their work (so important that I wrote a whole blog post about it).

In my last two weeks, I mainly worked in the rights department and had a chance to sit down with Sarah Vanden-Abeele, the rights manager, to find out more about her role and her work in translation rights. I was interested to learn about the relationships between Andersen Press and international publishers. As the press had been around for so long, it was typical to work with publishers they’d worked with before as there was a strong level of trust between them. This seemed similar to the way Emma had worked with international publishers so far, as we generally chose to publish a few books from the same publisher, for example, The Dog Who Found Sorrow, Queen of Seagulls, and the Bicki-Books, all originally published Latvian publisher liels un masz. Speaking with Sarah made me realise how important these relationships were for the future. I also learnt about marketing books in other countries and ways to help the books and the publisher to be successful. This was something that is usually considered and discussed carefully with a new publisher beforehand and in some circumstances, Andersen can offer materials to other publishers to create content, such as posters or stickers, to help promote the book.   

My work placement at Andersen Press has been extremely valuable as I was able to gain new perspectives on children’s publishing. I learnt that there were a lot more similarities than I thought between larger publishers like Andersen Press and smaller independent publishers like the Emma Press who are relatively new to the scene and because of this, I felt more confident taking the things I’d learned to the Emma Press as well as to my freelance career.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

The Emma Press at Andersen Press: Week Five

As part of the development of the Emma Press’ children’s publishing programme (funded by Arts Council England), Yen-Yen Lu will be undertaking a six-week work placement at Andersen Press to learn more about children’s publishing on a larger scale and writing a weekly blog on her findings! 

Last week, I continued working with the rights department at Andersen and found some time to sit down with Sarah Vanden-Abeele, the rights manager, and ask her some questions. Her job is to sell rights, usually translation rights and digital rights, and take care of a number of territories with the rights director. I have had some limited experience in acquiring rights at the Emma Press, for example, looking at titles from other countries which we might be interested in publishing. As it’s a small press, all of our responsibilities overlapped so I hadn’t realised that in larger publishers, it was actually the commissioning editor who was in charge of acquiring rights, rather than someone in the rights department. However, they all work quite closely together in managing rights and it was great to learn a bit more about the relationships with international publishers.

In the UK, terms of copyright for a work lasts until 70 years after an author’s death. The number of years of a given license will usually depend on many things, such as the publisher, the territory, and how past sales (of an author, book, or genre) have gone. I learned that there are a lot of important factors to consider when selling rights, for example, the population of the country. A publisher in a smaller country may only agree to print fewer books, but this would be expected for a smaller population. However, this may balance out if they are able to adjust the retail price to be higher, for instance, if the country is wealthier or they might be able to sell well if the book’s genre is very popular in that country.

I wanted to know a bit about how Andersen Press chose which publishers to work with and Sarah talked about three main approaches. As Andersen has been around for a long time and built up a lot of key contacts, they typically go with the publishers they’ve worked with before. That way, you know what to expect and trust them with the titles and you get to know the type of books, whether genre or age group, that the publisher specialises in. 

Book fairs, specifically London, Frankfurt, and Bologna book fairs, are also a great place to make new contacts. The press is normally approached by interested publishers some time before the fair to schedule a meeting, but sometimes they are approached at the fair as well, at least to start the conversation. This was the case for The Adventures of Na Willa, when Emma happened upon the publisher and the book at Indonesia Book Fair and started to discuss publishing the book in English there.

Literary scouts are also helpful in suggesting titles with translation potential to their international clients lists. Usually, UK publishers work with several scouts as each scout works exclusively for only one publisher in each language territory.

I also asked about how other titles are received overseas and how they work with the publisher to market the book. This is one of the key things that Sarah will always consider and discuss with the publisher beforehand. In a series of books, the first few books tend to perform better than later titles. In some circumstances, Andersen can offer materials to other publishers to create content, such as posters or stickers, to help promote the book. It was interesting to learn about authors, titles, and characters that did extremely well in other countries because certain trends and genres are more popular in some areas. I remembered visiting Japan last year and seeing a French series about two mice which was popular enough to have its own small theme park, but my friend from France had never even heard of them.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been helping to organise some of the paperwork in the rights department – updating tax forms, copying contracts, and sending translated editions of books to authors and illustrators. It’s been useful to learn a lot more about the rights department through admin tasks and talking to Sarah.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

The Emma Press at Andersen Press: Weeks Three and Four

As part of the development of the Emma Press’ children’s publishing programme (funded by Arts Council England), Yen-Yen Lu will be undertaking a six-week work placement at Andersen Press to learn more about children’s publishing on a larger scale and writing a weekly blog on her findings! 

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been involved with a variety of admin tasks across the marketing, editorial, and rights departments at Andersen. Elmer the Patchwork Elephant, the popular children’s book character and a series which shaped my early reading experiences, is published by Andersen Press. It’s coming up to Elmer Day (25th May) and it’s also the 30th anniversary of Elmer so everyone in the office has been busy preparing for it. I have been sending out Party Packs, featuring stickers, colouring pages, and other DIY activities around Elmer, to schools, bookshops and libraries so that they can hold their own events for Elmer Day. The Elmer Day website also includes an event map and a page to upload information about events for people to find.

For the past year, the Emma Press has been working with the Reading Agency to help promote some of our children’s titles, particularly The Dog Who Found Sorrow and the Bicki-Books. We have created activity packs to send to schools and libraries similar to the Elmer Day packs, for reading groups and clubs to run their own sessions focused on the books. This included posters, stickers, and various DIY acitivities. We also have some of our titles featured in their newsletters, social media, and occasionally run giveaways.
Our promotions help us to connect with children in schools and libraries across the UK. It’s always really interesting to see feedback from directly from children (as opposed to adult reviewers), as they are our target audience for these books. It’s also useful for us to see how our translated books are received in the UK. The responses from children are usually very creative and sincere and as the team worked hard on creating the activities, for example, discussion ideas, writing exercises, and origami activities, it’s lovely to see some of the results. 

As a smaller publisher, it’s helpful to have the Reading Agency’s network to promote the books. However, I wondered if it would be possible to run a promotion independently, similar to the Elmer Day events. While the Emma Press children’s books don’t have a 30 year legacy (yet), it might be an idea to have a similar promotion (with bookshops and libraries to run their own book events) as a way to introduce our translated children’s list to children in the UK. Generally, the translated books we’ve published are very well-known (and loved) in their original languages and we already run various children’s events, usually with author visits, at bookshops, festivals, and libraries. Particularly with our recent ACE grant to develop our children’s publishing programme and partnerships with local libraries, it might be possible to take this further and be more involved.