Saturday, 23 June 2012
Packagers, picture books and pop ups
Tony's website is at www. www.iseekcreative.com
Packagers, picture books and pop ups
When people ask what I do, I usually say that I make books and that I run a book packaging company. This usually leads to confusion right away, as people think I'm a bookbinder and packer. When I then explain that I create books, the response is usually "Oh, I've always wanted to write a children's book," or "my aunt / best friend, Mum, sister, etc., has written a children's book - can they send it to you to publish?"
We don't publish anything right now, but we do create and sell a lot of books - perhaps 50 titles a year to clients around the world and we let them get on with the exciting but unpredictable job of holding stock and publishing into their own market - one which they understand and know much better than we do. Right now, our best markets are Brazil, France, USA and Canada. Our worst market is the UK, but that's perhaps the subject of another blog.
Nearly everything we create begins life in-house. I create books every day of the week (and often half the night too!). I conceptualise books and formats, write, design, do paper engineering and occasionally illustrate - one way or another I bash a project into shape from an idea to a printed book. My work also involves art directing illustrators and freelance designers, briefing editors and commissioning text. The best writers, for our projects, are those that can write visually to a brief. Occasionally, but very rarely, someone sends us a manuscript for a picture book or an idea that gets us excited.
The mission is to make books that are compelling, that are good quality, have high production values and which have the potential to sell in as many international markets as possible. Every book we create has to be pre-sold before we print it, so a lot of time is spent making prototypes and proofed dummies that can be shown to publishers and other clients who may be interested in joining a print run.
Creating books that work editorially and stylistically in many markets isn’t easy. What works in Germany invariably doesn’t work in France, where the aesthetic is very different. Books that are loved in Spain often work well in Brazil, but what’s great for a book club in America is often impossible to sell anywhere else, and so on. In the end, a great idea is a great idea, but even the best ideas are more or less successful in different places and often at different times.
All of our books are illustrated and a few are conventional 32pp picture books. We spend a lot of time worrying about the aesthetic direction to take with a new idea and this is often dictated either by the idea itself (as in, this pop up would work really well, but only if it’s illustrated with, say, a very French aesthetic), or by a specific client or group of clients we have in mind (as in, there’s no way that bookclub X will ever buy this activity book unless we make it a certain way). So although we’re creating books with the whole world in mind, in reality we tend to create books that we think will appeal to certain markets and particular clients. The mission remains the same regardless and sometimes we’re surprised. An idea that last year sold in, say, Italy and Australia, but nowhere else, suddenly becomes popular for reasons that we often can’t discern.
Choosing illustrators for a book has never been easier, or harder at the same time. We work with illustrators around the world and this has opened up the possibilities of exposure to very different aesthetics and styles for books that might not have been so possible even 10 years ago. It makes life much harder for UK illustrators, of course, as they are competing for work with the rest of the world, but the important thing for me is to choose the right person for the job.
It’s been a varied week this week: I’ve been making pop-ups for Brazil, working on picture books for Australia, activity books for America and secret new ideas for the Frankfurt book fair. The one thing I know for sure is that although there’s more of the same for next week, there are a hundred ideas waiting to be thought about, developed and conceptualised and every one of them will be a surprise until it’s bashed into shape, finished and in a shipping container on the way to somewhere!