Mabecron moves into children's fiction

Mabecron moves into children's fiction

Independent bookseller Ron Johns is moving into children’s fiction publishing, following a number of successes as a publisher of picture books and coffee-table books under the ­Mabecron Books imprint.

Johns, who owns bookshops in Falmouth, St Ives and Plymouth, said booksellers are “well placed” to develop their links with local authors and to move into publishing titles themselves. Mabecron Books includes local author Helen Dunmore and illustrator Michael Foreman on its list.

Johns, who published his first book 12 years ago, said he does not discount his titles and publishing provides the most profitable part of his business. He said: “Publishing forms a relatively small part of my turnover—some £130,000 out of total sales of £1m—but the margin in publishing is 60% gross profit.”

The fiction launch title, High Tide by début author Hugh Hastings, is described as “MI5 meets the Famous Five”, and is set in Cornwall. It is aimed at eight to 11-year-old readers, and will be published in April 2012, with the series planned to have around seven books in total.

Among Mabecron’s most successful picture books to date are the Soggy Bear titles by Philip Moran and Michael Foreman, which have sold around 34,500 copies. The stories are based on real toys that have been washed up on local beaches. While the books were initially bought by holiday­makers, Soggy Bear is now developing an international following, and the seventh book will be published next spring.

Johns said: “Booksellers know what will sell to their local market and at what price, so if the book doesn’t exist they can create it.” He approached Helen Dunmore to write a story based on the real-life case of two birds that hitch a return ride on a local river ferry every day, called The Ferry Birds.

A sequel, The Islanders, has also been published, and both titles have sold over 2,000 copies in hardback.