Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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Introducing Quirky Kid Publishing

Quirky Kid Publishing—the publishing arm of Sydney- and Wollongong-based child psychology clinic The Quirky Kid Clinic—has won the Educational Initiatives Award at the 2018 London Book Fair (LBF) International Excellence Awards. Chosen from a shortlist of three, Quirky Kid won the award for Basecamp, an anxiety program for seven- to 12-year-olds in which children embark on a journey through a fictional Australian national park to help explore their emotions. Basecamp was also shortlisted for the Educational Learning Resources Award. Quirky Kid co-founder and publisher Leonardo Rocker spoke to Think Australian. 

What makes Quirky Kid Publishing unique?

Quirky Kid is published with purpose. Our titles aim to engage young readers and parents towards improving specific social, emotional or behaviour skills or challenges. We also publish tools for the school and clinic settings. These tools aim to help teachers or counsellors to engage young people to talk about feelings and emotions. As we are based within a child psychology clinic, we know a lot about child development and our subject area, so, according to our readers and users, our titles are useful and effective.

How did the publishing arm come about?

When we started 10 years ago, we could not find the kind of titles we were looking for. The ones we knew about did not quite do the trick. Sometimes they did not have the graphics quality we were after; sometimes they missed the point in relation to how to talk to kids about feelings or emotions. So we thought, ‘Why not make our own?’ Our co-founder Dr Kimberley O’Brien used illustrations during her counselling and had created a tool. We pitched it to a publisher but they wanted to pay us with 10 free copies. Not a good deal, so we set out to make the first product ourselves, with great success.

How many books/other publications does Quirky Kid publish each year—and what kinds?

Currently, we work toward publishing two titles a year. The last three years have been a little different as we have focused on publishing two educational resources, like Basecamp. These resources have the characteristics of children’s books but they also have a lot more included, such as games, cards, stickers and an entire pedagogical process, so they take a lot longer to produce. They also include lesson plans, manuals and websites. They are resource-heavy, but the result is an incredible tool. We are now starting a new stage and you should expect some interesting trade titles coming up! 

How has the international reception been at both London and Bologna?

The international reception could not have been better. We met with global publishers, government representatives, private organisations and parents. There is a clear understanding of the importance of the resources Quirky Kid produces, and we received a lot of encouragement and feedback that we are on the right path. Our titles are not conventional for trade publishing; however, more specialised publishers are really engaged with us and are considering utilising our materials globally.

Have you sold international rights to your publications?

We definitely export and have some distribution agreements, but we have not yet sold rights. Since returning from Bologna, however, we have four strong leads and we hope to announce something soon.

Which titles have been most successful overseas?

The tools geared towards the schools market have sold over 6000 copies worldwide. I think the last time we checked, we had 20 organisations using our tools from Japan to Brazil. The Face It cards and the Tell Me a Story cards are the bestsellers.

Which title or author on your list do you believe deserves bigger recognition overseas?

It is hard to play favourites but our latest resource Basecamp by Dr Kathryn Berry and Lisa Diebold has to be up there. It’s a very special resource, and I don’t think we will ever publish something like it again.

Have you acquired the rights to publish any overseas titles in Australia?

Yes, we have acquired the rights to five titles already. The first one, How to Be a Friend, was written by a big name: Marc Brown, the creator of the American cartoon series Arthur. From there we have been focusing on translations, as they offer a bigger opportunity since we’re based in Australia. We’re considering and negotiating on three titles since returning from Bologna and London.  

What will you publish next (that may appeal to international publishers)?

We are working on two new titles within our niche market. We have learned a lot since visiting the book fairs for the last four to five years; we feel we know our place in the market—and that we can create unique titles that will be loved by readers and traders.


Category: Think Australian Junior Profile