The Australian list with a UK outpost is looking to spread its vibrant picture books far and wide, and is seeking compassionate non-fiction at this year's fair.
Tell us about Scribble and what you publish?
Scribble is an imprint of Scribe, and we officially launched in April 2016 to publish picture books. I have been a book designer since the early 2000s, and became art director at Scribe in 2011. I commissioned two children’s books, in 2013 and 2015, and that inspired us to launch an imprint. We publish around eight books a year, a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, and we try to publish books that speak to children today, rather than their parents. We always have a focus on design and production, too.
What are you doing at Bologna this year?
It will be mostly a buying trip for me this year. We are looking for books for our list in 2020 and 2021. I’m looking for non-fiction titles about contemporary issues and I’m always interested in interesting picture books. We have also been nominated for the Bologna BOP Publisher of Year award in the Oceania region. One of my main goals in launching the imprint was to publish internationally, so being nominated was very exciting.
Do you acquire books or develop concepts in-house?
We do a mix. In the past few years we have worked with début illustrators and on developing concepts with them. We have also found illustrators and paired them with texts we have already acquired. Australia has a lot of illustrators who haven’t done a picture book, so there is a lot of opportunity there. I would say that around 70% of our books are done by Australian creatives, and around 30% are from overseas.
Do you sell rights internationally?
Yes. Our book All the Ways to be Smart [by Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys, released in October last year] was a bestseller in Australia and has sold in French, Italian and Dutch language editions.
What is Australia's market like compared to the UK?
Australia is very hardback-led. In the UK there is more pressure to publish in paperback first, but that industry support for hardback is so helpful financially. Non-fiction is bigger in the UK than in Australia, but Australia is catching up.
What trends can you see emerging internationally?
There are a lot of books about kindness, so that’s a big driver of the market. I don’t think we need to wonder too much about why, given the political situation. There are a lot of books about empowering children, the environment and politics. Publishers are responding to the world and giving kids a sense of agency. This is true everywhere, but especially in the UK and the US.
What has been your biggest learning curve with Scribble?
How to get a book finished on time! Working with illustrators and sale dates is a constant struggle. Also, working out how to sell books... It sounds obvious, but it isn’t. In Australia, Amazon isn’t such a big thing so hand-selling is hugely important. You want to make the book that the bookseller reaches for when they sell a picture book to someone.
And what has been your biggest achievement?
Definitely All the Ways to be Smart. The success has been overwhelming. It is sold everywhere, from tiny gift shops to the biggest chains. It’s so exciting. Kids everywhere have access to it.
What exciting plans do you have for the future?
We are launching in the US this autumn with four books, including All the Ways to be Smart. We had lots of messages from people over [in the US] asking for that book, so we are taking it to them. We’ve also got some great books coming out. Lunch at 10 Pomegranate Street is a fiction/non-fiction hybrid of recipes by Felicita Sala. It was originally published in French and we have the Australian and UK rights. It’s out in August in Australia, and in September in the UK. We are also publishing Plastic, a book about the history of plastic by Eun-Ju Kim and Ji-Won Lee, later this year, translated from the Korean. There are lots of books about the environmental impact of plastics but this gives a more nuanced view of what plastics are for. We bought it at Bologna last year.