Bluebird hosted a star-studded 2017 preview event for press and retailers last night (24th November) with bestselling authors Joe "The Body Coach" Wicks, comedian Russell Brand and activist Jack Monroe all appearing at the London Edition Hotel.
Wicks, Brand and Monroe were joined by debut authors Laura James (Odd Girl Out), Eleanor Morgan (Anxiety for Beginners), Dr Holan Liang (Inside Out Parenting) and The Hardihood, Daisy Kristiansen and Leah Garwood-Gowers (Raw Cake) who gathered to introduce their books for the upcoming year.
Publisher Carole Tonkinson and communications director Jodie Mullish presented the evening, looking back on what has been a record breaking year for the brand new imprint, which has published 39 books, ranging from a meditation on mercy by Pope Francis to, "the phenomenon that is Joe Wicks, a debut cookery author who has now sold more Jan one and a half million books in a 11 months".
Wicks, currently number one, three and four in Nielsen's paperback non fiction chart, has had a book at number one in the charts for 41 of 47 weeks, while his first title, Lean in 15, is the fourth bestselling food and drink title since Nielsen records began.
Looking back at the last 11 months since his first book published, an emotional Wicks told Tonkinson in conversation "you just got me". Speaking about the day he first met Tonkinson, amid interest from more than eight publishers, he said: "I walked out and it didn't matter what anyone else offered me, I always knew, that is who I want to be published with because you [Tonkinson] you just got me. And we haven't looked back, and look what an amazing year it's been."
(From left) Laura James, Joe Wicks, Jack Monroe, Eleanor Morgan, Russell Brand, Daisy Kristiansen, Leah Garwood-Gowers and Dr Holan Liang. Picture: Michael Leckie
After publishing three titles in such a short space of time, Wicks joked at the event he felt like he'd been doing this for about 10 years, and he put down his success to the strength of his team, social media and hard work. "It's just putting the content out and being passionate about it, and people are drawn to that," he said.
"I love the new book, it's called Lean Cooking for Friends," continued Wicks. "The first books served one and two [people], which has been great because people often live at home, or are students, and stuff, but the new book is a bigger hardback which is lean cooking for friends. It's really lifestyle, with lovely photos we've done with friends and even my little nephew. It shows you don't have to sit in the corner with your little lunch box, you can cook with the family and be lean, have barbecues, have birthday parties and Christmas dinner, just healthy food broken down into really simple recipes."
Brand, who opened the presentation, said his as yet untitled book on addiction, announced in October, was born out of 12 steps to recovery that "saved my life", and he spoke about how he would make the book accessible and relatable to help those with symptoms of all kinds of addiction. It publishes in September 2017.
"It's good for me to go first in case people go and think Joe Wicks has fallen asleep in a time machine and slept outside for a couple of nights, 'to hell with the diet, perhaps I can do this with fags!', he said opening his presentation.
Russell Brand speaks. Picture: Michael Leckie
"Carole is a wonderful person to work for and she seems very good at generating success quite quickly so that's a good quality," he continued. "I'm writing about something I know about a great deal: narcissism and addiction. I believe the 12-step method of recovery provides a format and template for all of us to re-evaluate and analyse our relationship with the exterior world and a way of auditing our own emotions."
Of her cookbook Cooking on a Bootstrap: 100 Delicious Recipes for a Bon Vivant on a Budget, coming in 2017, Monroe said it was about "teaching people to cook" as well as "the politics of food".
"It's about smashing down the barriers," she said, arguing that you don't need high-end ingredients or extensive skills to turn out "strong food".
Jack Monroe speaks about her new cookbook. Picture: Michael Leckie
Raw Cake duo The Hardihood brought along cakes from their kitchen in Shoreditch for guests to sample. Launched in 2014, their refined sugar-free raw cakesare are now stocked in Harrods and Planet Organic. Leah Garwood-Gowers and Daisy Kristiansen spoke to the audience about how they got started and their hopes for Raw Cake publishing February 2017.
Ex-Vice and Guardian journalist, and author of 2016 title The Beginners Guide to Anxiety Eleanor Morgan interviewed journalist Laura James, author of autism memoir Odd Girl Out: Being autistic in a neurotypical world publishing April 2017. James said she hoped the book would raise awareness of the existing shortcomings around diagnosing girls with autism, and how we as a society should seek to support those who are neurodiverse.
Jodie Mullish interviewed Dr Holan Liang, child psychiatrist at Great Ormond Street Hospital, author of parenting guide Inside Out Parenting: How to Build Strong Children from a Core of Self-Esteem in April 2017. They discussed how a psychiatrist’s point of view on parenting differs from that of a psychologist – the more usual profession of a parenting book author – and how important helping children develop social skills is to building confidence and self-esteem.
Tonkinson joined Pan Macmillan from HarperCollins in autumn 2014, and Bluebird's first title was published in May 2015.