Megan Farr is currently researching ‘Strategic Action for Internationalisation of the Children’s Publishing Sector in Wales’ for a PhD at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. She is also publicity and marketing manager for children’s indie Firefly Press. She talks to us about children's publishing in Wales.
How would you describe the current market for children’s publishing in Wales?
It’s looking exciting. With the success of English-language publishers Firefly and Graffeg we are starting to see Welsh-language publishers move into the space created after Gomer stopped publishing in 2019 by publishing more original titles in both Welsh and English, perhaps in response to the Rosser report from 2017 which called for more original titles to be published in Welsh. Covid has increased discoverability for smaller publishers and initiatives like the Books Council of Wales’ e-books platform ffolio have boosted Welsh language publishers. The Tir na n-Og Awards, sponsored by CILIP Cymru Wales, highlight the best children’s literature either published in Welsh or with an authentic Welsh setting, with shortlisted titles in both English and Welsh promoted through bookshops, schools and libraries and through digital platforms. It’s also exciting to hear about new publisher Broga from Welsh illustrators Luned and Huw Aaron.
Are there are particular authors, books, publishers or booksellers that you would like to highlight?
Graffeg showed smart publishing with The Lightbringers, the latest picture book from felter Celestine and the Hare, and the quick release of Molly and the Lockdown by Malachy Doyle and Andrew Whitson. Griffin Books had great success taking its events programme online, winning Wales Independent Bookshop of the Year at the Nibbies. Similarly, Firefly Press is Wales’ Small Press of the Year for the second year running for its strong marketing campaigns during lockdown. The Quilt, a story of migration by Valériane Leblond, shortlisted for the Tir na n’Og Children’s Book Award, is one of the best picture books I’ve seen from Wales in a while.
What are the findings from your PhD research so far?
I have been exploring how the children’s publishing industry has developed in Wales, focusing on its bilingual history and how language promotion and education has shaped its writer development and children’s literature. Dref Wen’s founder Roger Boore started in 1970 by publishing Welsh co-editions of great European picture books with a mission to broaden the horizons of Welsh children beyond the English language. Now Carreg Gwalch is picking up this baton and looking for projects from other languages, while Graffeg is publishing its first books in translation this autumn. Post-Brexit, publishers in Wales are looking to build bridges with their European neighbours. Independence is becoming an increasingly strong political issue which is bound to influence the creative sector in Wales.
What developments are you currently seeing, or would you like to see going forwards to help bring children’s publishing in Wales to a global stage?
Welsh-language publishers are looking to expand their English-language publishing and capitalise on the rights potential of their lists. Carreg Gwalch is developing its first ever rights catalogue and translating their titles into English to make it easier to sell into other languages, Graffeg and Firefly Press both have active rights agents, while Rily and Atebol are expanding their publishing into more original titles in both languages and looking for rights representation, along with Y Lolfa. There is definitely a desire to see Wales better represented at the international book fairs too.
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