There are so many good books that fall through the gaps,” said Bella Pearson, who earlier this year left David Fickling Books to strike out with her own business. “There are books that don’t get published here in the UK because not all the rights are available, for example, or that are picked up by editors and not supported by sales teams.
“I want books that are commercial but also those that don’t necessarily sell hundreds of thousands of copies.”
Last week Pearson announced her new children’s publisher, Guppy Books. It will launch this autumn with two titles: Gloves Off, a YA novel about bullying, body image and boxing by Louise Reid; and a middle grade adventure from Australian writer Jaclyn Moriarty, entitled The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone.
Pearson told The Bookseller she had wanted to launch her own company for some time, and this summer an investment opportunity—which she didn’t elaborate on—materialised.
“The timing has been incredible,” she said. “I had a lot of freedom at David Fickling Books but always had a burning urge [to launch her own business]. It was at the back of my mind for a few years, then serendipity took over.”
Launch title The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty and the Guppy Books logo
Michael O’Mara is handling sales and distribution. Sarah Packenham, founder of Scallywag Press, is selling translation rights for Guppy Books titles and freelance PR executive Catherine Alport is handling PR and marketing. Everything else is Pearson’s domain. “The ‘doing everything’ is a bit of a surprise,” she said. “Up until now, I have just been getting the business off the ground but now the announcement has happened submissions are flying in. I will need to start looking for help soon! But it has been wonderful to make my own decisions.”
When asked what kind of editor she is, Pearson said: “I’m quite hands-off. Barry Cunningham [founder of Chicken House] once said I was the most hands-off editor he had ever known! I never think it’s my story. I stand away and suggest but would never tell. I’m probably more of an emotional editor.”
Pearson wants a varied list and stories that represent different ways of life, and will decide which books are published in hardback and which in paperback on a case by case basis. All titles will be published in e-book as well as print and Pearson is interested in striking audiobook deals as much as possible.
The Guppy Books website is up and running, and Pearson is planning to use the site to be transparent about how publishing works, and will at a later date publish articles on subjects such as how an editorial meeting works, or how books are marketed. Author interviews may also feature.
When asked about the name, she said: “Guppy just stuck in my head! It’s really hard to find a name but the more I thought about it, the more it felt right.”
Guppy Books will publish ...Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty in October 2019 as a £12.99 hardback. It is one of two launch titles, alongside Gloves Off by Louise Reid.