Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Friends of the Emma Press newsletter #3

Did you know you can support the Emma Press and all the work we do by becoming a subscriber? Become a Friend of the Emma Press for £5-15 per month and receive a quarterly thank-you package and an exclusive quarterly e-newletter. Here's a taster of the most recent one:

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your support! Here, a little later than planned, is an update on the various things that have been going on with the Emma Press.

So, today is the last day of my long-awaited holiday! I've been in California for the last 2.5 weeks, staying with family and friends (someone I met just before I left said "Well done on having family and friends in California"), and I thought I'd enjoy my flight back this evening more if I'd sent out my overdue Friends newsletter. For the most part I've managed not to think too much about work while I've been away, as I wanted my brain to relax and return to Birmingham refreshed and ready to resume kicking ass/publishing recondite literary endeavours, but of course it was always in the background. It's hard to forget the reason why one is telling oneself every day to RELAX!! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD RELAX!!!

The main thing I've been trialling recently, even before my holiday started, has been letting go of all the things I've been telling myself I must be or avoid being. I'm very aware of how hard I've been trying since the start of the Emma Press to hold myself to the standards of the biggest publishers. Though my tagline was "small press, big dreams" and my business was the size of just me, I wanted to be just as professional and efficient as the big guys, and even more committed to accessibility and fairness. I think this was partly to avoid the stigma attached to the idea of self-publishing, and partly because I didn't see the point in aiming low. So, I tried to make lots of books, run publicity campaigns, organise lots of events for authors, stick to all my deadlines and committments, reply to all emails, create lots of opportunities for publication and give lots of people training in publishing through work experience and freelance work. Lots and lots. That is what I've been pushing myself to do over the last 7 years, and to no-one's surprise I've worn myself quite thin.

Before I left for California, I stacked up all the books I'd published this year and realised that I'd already published as many books as the previous year-with-the-most-number-of-books (2014; 15 books), and it was only June and I still have many more books yet to come. So that made an impression on me: I thought, "Well no wonder I need a holiday!"

And apart from the holiday, I've been taking care of myself in other ways: planning to do fewer books next year (maybe 12-14), just arranging one launch event per book, not beating myself up about getting behind on social media, moving some pub dates and deadlines instead of burning the midnight oil to hit them, having a little break from submissions, and letting my freelancers go.

The last one was kind of a big deal, as I really wanted to give more people opportunities to work in publishing and be part of the change I wanted to see, but it was costing a lot of money and I ended up realising that I don't need to take it on myself to try and single-handedly transform the publishing industry. I have done a lot already and I can do more in the future, when I'm less stressed.

When I return to my desk, I hope I can retain some of this clarity and keep making sensible decisions for myself and the business. I've been feeling good about the impact I've already had on the poetry landscape, as the various new pamphlets have been launched and I've looked back on all the other pamphlets they're joining in the Emma Press list. I'm glad that it means something now to be an Emma Press poet and I want to keep offering this platform to people, so I'm hoping I can open an new call for poetry pamphlet submissions in September but I'll see how I get in with work over the next few weeks.

I have another children's poetry anthology to typeset and illustrate, about insects, and some poetry pamphlets to get ready for the printer. Also, amidst all my thoughts about slowing down, an opportunity came up with the Arts Council to apply for a huge grant to develop my organisational resilience. My expression of interest was successful so now I have till 15th August to submit my full application. I'll send my next newsletter after that and let you know if I managed it!


If you enjoyed this newsletter and would like to support us in producing lovely books and providing opportunities for readers and writers, click here to find out more about becoming a Friend of the Emma Press.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Dinosaur poets, assemble! What inspired your dinosaur poem? (Part 4)

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...


Jeremy Wikeley 
I have always been fascinated by what did, or didn't happen between the dinosaurs' time and ours. To be honest, the scale of loss terrifies me. The poem probably comes, ultimately, from that place, although of course I don't want to scare anyone, least of all our readers! The poem itself is light-hearted, though you can see parallels with today's warnings about mass extinction. Meanwhile, there is something wonderful about the fact that you and I are descended from what thrived next. Human-centric as it is, I wanted to communicate that.)

Rachael Nicholas 
It was the story of the discovery of the Podokesaurus that fascinated me, particularly because the museum housing the original specimen burned down. All those years since the first day of its life, all that time in the ground; uncovered by chance, and then destroyed by accident. I wanted to keep going back from that ending to think about what came before, and before that, and before that, right back to the start.

Elli Woollard 
For me it's both incredible and humbling to think that dinosaurs probably once roamed the very ground we tread on now. I wrote the poem to conjure up that sense of wonder.

An illustration of diplodocus from the book
Bo Crowder 
I was inspired by when 'Dippy' disappeared from the entrance hall of the Natural History Museum and went on to tour the country.

Louise Crosby
There is lots of writing about dinosaurs, so my poem was inspired by what we don't know because nobody has ever seen a living dinosaur. I thought about all the senses and realised that we can only guess at what they smelt like, or sounded like. Hence I wrote 'What did dinosaurs smell like?' Well actually I wrote about what they don't smell of! I leave you to write about sound.

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

Dinosaur poets, assemble! What inspired your dinosaur poem? (Part 3)

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...


Jane Newberry 
When my son was four he took part in the Palaeontologist race at Sports Day. Ned taught me everything I know about dinosaurs and took me to the Natural History Museum.

Sophie Kirtley 
I'm always inspired by young people who do amazing things. When I read that Mary Anning was 12 (yes, 12!!) when she discovered her first dinosaur fossil (an ichthyosaur skull poking out of a rock face - how exciting must THAT have been?!) I knew that I just had to write about her. I imagined how it would feel to be a young Georgian girl stomping along a wild Dorset beach, dinosaur hunting, and I tried to literally put myself in Mary Anning's pioneering shoes.

Illustration of Lawrence's poem from the book
Lawrence Schimel 
I wrote my poem because I've always been struck by the disparity between the Tyrannosaurus' sheer bulk and ferocity, on the one hand, and its tiny, near-useless arms. Not to over-anthropomorphize, but it seems easy to imagine these creatures acting like bullies because of their self-consciousness about their body image--or otherwise trying to compensate, like the T. Rex in my poem.

Emma Rose Millar 
I was inspired to write my poem Dawn of the Dinosaur while visiting Oxford Natural History Museum, where my son and I learned about the evolution of dinosaurs, beginning with lobe-finned fish. The museum is free to enter, with loads of interesting skeletons, fossils and crystals to see.

Image from The Land Before Time, which inspired Wye Haze's poem
Wye Haze
Like many poems, my dinosaur poem is about more than one thing. It's about dinosaurs, of course, and it's also about cherishing time with your family, which is something which was on my mind when I wrote it.

Lorraine Mariner 
I called myself a dinosaur to a friend because I felt I was falling behind with new technology and that gave me an idea for the poem.

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

Dinosaur poets, assemble! What inspired your dinosaur poem? (Part 2)

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...


Rebecca Rouillard
My poem was inspired by Walking With Dinosaurs Episode 4, 'Giant of the Skies', which featured an Ornithocheirus at the end of his life. I watched Walking With Dinosaurs a lot with my son when he was younger, and the tragic line "the Ornithocheirus has lost his majesty" always made us cry. My son also requested an Ornithocheirus cake for his 5th birthday party.

Camille Gagnier 
When I decided to write a poem about dinosaurs, I thought about looking at stuff in museums with my parents and my grandparents, and then I thought about life going on and on through the generations. Animals who die are remembered by the rocks where their bones are buried, or by other living things who find evidence of them and wonder what they were like.

Tristan Otto
Ros Woolner
For the past four years, my favourite dinosaur has been the T. rex – specifically Tristan Otto, whose skeleton is on display at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin. At the end of 2015, the museum produced a wonderful bilingual book to accompany the exhibition, which followed the journey of the bones from living dinosaur to museum exhibit, and I was on the team that produced the English translation. I have felt connected to Tristan Otto's story ever since, and my poem '66 million years' is about him.

Philip Monks 
My poem 'The Bone Wars' is a series of Clerihews. These were invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley and are slightly silly four-line poems about someone. My poem is about two fossil hunters and how silly they were, so I thought it was a good form to choose. This website tells you more about them and this one shows you how to have a go yourself. July 10th is National Clerihew Day.

Junornis huoi
Ruth Wiggins
My poem 'Tiny' was inspired by two things: firstly, a fossil of Junornis huoi. In photos of the fossil you can see the long tail feathers of this Early Cretaceous bird, and can really imagine it running. Secondly, my poem was inspired by my fairy goddaughters, Hester and Niamh (aged 10). Hester has adored dinosaurs for as long as she can remember, and Niamh (who prefers cats) is very good at running.

Cat Weatherill 
I have always loved the idea of a jigsaurus dinosaur. I imagine it to be stegosaurus-shaped, with skin that is heavily mottled, giving the impression of jigsaw pieces. Brontosaurus-shape would work too, but NOT tyrannosaurus. A jigsaurus couldn't be ferocious, could it? It would have to be one of the placid ones!

Pete Donald 
My poem, 'Pthe Pteranodon', celebrates the use of the silent P (as in bath).

John Kitchen
The thought of a just hatched and vulnerable lizard and the massive beast it would grow up to be.

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

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.