The Power of Independent Children’s Publishers
By Michaela O’Callaghan, Annabella Costantino, Aimee Haldron and Rosie Burgoyne
The past year has been a time of change, and independent children’s publishers have proved resilient during this time. Many have honed down on their core messages, remaining dedicated to their inclusive aims, such as Lantana Publishing. Lantana Publishing did a talk on inclusivity in last year’s Society of Young Publishers (SYP) conference, and had a recent campaign called “More Than a Book,” which celebrated the support of independent businesses. Sweet Cherry Publishing won the Small Press of the Year at The British Book Awards last year, and to celebrate their tenth anniversary, have now launched two new imprints.
To show our love for the indie corner of publishing, we have highlighted some children’s publisher finalists in the Small Press of the Year award and spotlighted some of their great accomplishments in children’s publishing!
Owlet Press started out in 2018, with a core mission to “change the world one story at a time” and came “Highly Commended” in the Small Press listings this year. Each year, their list becomes stronger and stronger, and it is incredible to see what has been achieved since they first began. Samuel Langley-Swain of Owlet Press shares with us:
“We’re so incredibly proud to be a finalist [for the Small Press of the Year] within this inspiring group of publishers. Looking at our list from this past year, the diversity within our inclusive stories is so colourful, it’s hard not to smile. We’re so proud of the authors and illustrators who have collaborated with us, to create something truly special.”
In the past year, they have continued to publish inclusive picture books that have been adored. Our favourites include Nen and the Lonely Fisherman, an LGBTQ+ tale about the merman Nen and the sailor Ernest, as well as Little Glow, a beautiful picture book featuring the introverted character of a flame, observing all the different celebrations involving light.
Guppy Books has only been publishing for two years but has already received a huge amount of recognition and praise for its original and vibrant publications. Having run an open submissions competition in 2020 to find their next YA title, the winning publication, The Cats We Meet Along The Way, was published this February and written by debut author, Nadia Mikail. Bella Pearson, Founder of Guppy Books shares her experience with us:
“Setting up a company just at the start of a pandemic wasn't in my business plan when I created Guppy Books. But despite this setback, I still feel very proud of our achievements. We have published eighteen books of children's fiction since Autumn 2019, and they have all been received incredibly well, by both the trade and press. Indeed, two titles have been shortlisted for two of the industry's biggest awards. Tsunami Girl by Julian Sedgwick and Chie Kutsuwada for the 2022 Carnegie Medal, and Maggie Blue and the Dark World by Anna Goodall for the Costa Children's Book Award.”
Bella continues, “from our tiny output, this feels like a recognition of the quality of the books that Guppy Books is publishing, and I am so grateful to the incredibly talented authors, illustrators and colleagues who make this possible.” With four books celebrated as Sunday Times Children’s Book of the Week, we’re sure that Guppy Books have many more award-winning titles to come as they continue to champion new talented voices in this industry.
Otter-Barry Books is no stranger to the Small Press of the Year shortlist, having been on the list last year. Otter-Barry has had a very successful few years, publishing some truly beautiful and thought-provoking books. Once Upon A Tune is a glorious book written and illustrated by James Mayhew (the illustrator behind the “Illustrator of the Day” tweets and all-round illustrator powerhouse). There is also Shu Lin’s Grandpa, illustrated by Yu Rong and written by Matt Goodfellow, which is shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal. Shu Lin’s Grandpa is about the power of the imagination in developing cultural understanding, as Shu Lin’s Grandpa helps Shu Lin to feel more accepted at her new school.
The Small Press of the Year shortlist also included: Little Island Books, Scallywag Press, Sweet Cherry Publishing, Little Door Books, Firefly Press and Really Decent Books. With the London Book Fair coming up soon, there will be plenty of independent publishers doing what they do best: spreading a love for reading! If you want to be in a creative hub with some great indies, make sure to attend panels featuring Magic Cat Publishing and Guppy Books, among others. Over the next year, with rising print costs and inflation at a high, it may be a difficult time for independent publishers. But with readers' continued support and their wealth of innovative and inspiring ideas, we can’t wait to see what amazing things these shortlisted indies get up to.