Dandelions are known as messengers of happiness in Persian culture, Tiny Owl publisher Delaram Ghanimifard tells me. You will see a number of them floating across The Bookseller editorial front cover this week, in an image created for the magazine by Iranian children’s book illustrator Ehsan Abdollahi, who is in the UK attending the Edinburgh International Book Festival. He was initially refused a visa to travel to the UK, a decision overturned following a groundswell of protest from fellow illustrators and authors.
Abdollahi’s cover drawing reflects the themes of A Bottle of Happiness, the book he and writer Pippa Goodhart will publish with Tiny Owl this autumn. In it, a boy seeks to bottle happiness and take it to the people in the town on the other side of the mountain, who seem to have less of it than he does.
This year - and not least following events in Charlottesville - we are all very aware that the role played by books in crossing national and cultural boundaries, and spreading the pleasure of storytelling between people on different sides of the mountain, as it were, feels more important than ever. Ghanimifard talks about the challenges and opportunities of bringing books from Iran to an international readership in this week’s issue.
Meanwhile, the potential happiness of a career in publishing is highlighted by us this week, in an article which looks at those coming into senior roles in the industry from outside. Publishing is highly alert to the competitive challenge from other fields of entertainment - the acquisition of comic book publisher Millarworld by Netflix earlier this month did nothing to lessen that - and is keen to ensure it doesn’t miss out on crucial skills being developed elsewhere. And industry entrants say that strong brands and the passionate commitment of colleagues makes this an attractive industry to work in, despite the alternatives.
Striking is the view of Elsevier’s product director Dave Killeen, who left Lagardère’s magazine division in 2008 because he didn’t feel publishing (in its broader sense) was taking digital seriously. Now, after a period in start-up land, he’s come back, impressed by the tech commitment currently shown at the top levels. And it’s at his company, rather than the likes of Snapchat or Instagram, that the really original and challenging digital work is being done, he thinks.
Arguing for innovation, author Neil Gaiman once said that publishers can learn from the dandelion, which lets go of 1,000 seeds in order for just 100 to sprout. A healthy mix of skills and experience, developed both within our industry and beyond it, can drive that innovation most productively.
Benedicte Page is The Bookseller's deputy editor.