Otter-Barry Books launches poetry list with focus on debuts and diversity

Otter-Barry Books launches poetry list with focus on debuts and diversity

Janetta Otter-Barry, the founder of independent publisher Otter-Barry Books, is hoping to publish new voices in children’s poetry with her new list.

Otter-Barry Books Poetry will publish two poetry titles this year: Adder, Bluebell, Lobster by Chrissie Gittins (illustrated by Paul Bommer), and Dinosaurs & Dinner-Ladies by John Dougherty (illustrated by Tom Morgan- Jones) in August, followed by two more in March 2017: How to be a Tiger by George Szirtes and Where Zebras Go by Sue Hardy-Dawson. All titles will be published in B-format paperback, priced £6.99.

Otter-Barry said she would then aim to issue four poetry books per year, looking at new voices as well as established writers, and that one title every year will be by a poet who has not published their own collection before.

“Sue Hardy-Dawson is our début for 2017. She has already been published in anthologies but this is her first single collection,” said Otter-Barry. “I found her through word of mouth. Poets are very generous in promoting each other and she was recommended.”

She hopes to find “culturally diverse” poets and is currently working with Pop-Up Projects, a book events company, on a project to find young voices from diverse backgrounds, and wants to publish writers (mainly, although not exclusively) that can perform live too. “It’s important to have poets who can go to schools, festivals, libraries and bookshops and spread the message,” she said. “Ideally a poetry collection is fantastic live.”

Otter-Barry expects to sell the poetry list mainly through schools and libraries, as well as smaller bookshops, and said independent publishers have an advantage over bigger players when it comes to children’s poetry.

“Big publishers shy away from poetry. Co-editions are hard to sell because of translation issues, and even in the US lots of the colloquialisms just aren’t the same,” she said. “There are practical issues for big publishers but that’s why small publishers can get in there and make it work.”

Otter-Barry announced her intention to run Otter-Barry Books independently last year, after several years of running the company as an imprint of Frances Lincoln, part of Quarto Publishing. Quarto had acquired Frances Lincoln for £4.5m in 2011.