Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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Introducing Affirm Press kids list

Affirm Press launched its list of books for children and young adults in early 2017 and has since published books by Australian Children’s Laureate Alison Lester and much-loved author Jane Godwin, alongside up-and-coming talents. Senior editor Davina Bell—who works on the kids list with commissioning editor Clair Hume—spoke to Think Australian.

What makes Affirm Press’ children’s list unique?

I think that our list is distinguished by the pairing of our commitment to quality and our dedication to finding talented new creators. As a new children’s publisher, we have to be nimble, to take risks and to believe passionately in every book and author we publish, and part of that includes putting each through a rigorous editorial process. We’re devoted to making books that are beautiful and lasting objects, and I feel that the design and production of our titles really stand out. This focus on quality is perhaps why two of our first picture books were shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year Awards this year, to our surprise and delight. We publish the Children’s Laureate Alison Lester and much-loved author Jane Godwin alongside first-timers 76-year-old Gwyn Perkins and 22-year-old Sasha Beekman, visual artist Jane Reiseger and family therapist Maggie Hutchings. Being able to launch the careers of such a diverse range of children’s book creators is a privilege, and I feel that each book we produce is infused with the joy we extract from making it.

How many children’s books does Affirm Press Kids publish each year—and what kind of books?

We’re publishing 24 books this year, and we’re aiming for 36 titles in 2019. The majority of these are locally produced, and they’re a mix of picture books, board books, junior fiction, middle grade and search-and-find. Our ethos is to publish bright, fun, quality books with humour and heart, and there’s a spark in each that we hope will inspire a life-long love of books in Australian child readers.

Have you acquired the rights to publish any international children’s titles in Australia? Which titles have been the most successful?

We’re hugely excited by the international children’s books rights scene and have been attending the Bologna Children’s Book Fair each year since we launched the kids list. We bought in seven international titles this year, including some delightful French picture books, with more to come in 2019. Our most successful overseas acquisition to date has been Patricia Forde’s The List—a dystopian thriller about the power of language, which we’ve just reprinted, originally published by a fantastic small Irish press called Little Island. Next year we’re releasing a hilarious bestselling Dutch series about a rogue dictator, and we’re currently considering translating a really charming Slovenian junior fiction series. Poring over international rights material is so inspiring, and we spend a frankly ridiculous amount of time plugging European picture-book texts into Google Translate, trying to work out the stories that accompany the illustrations we love.

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

A lot of our books are quintessentially Australian, which is how we like it, but The Lion in Our Living Room and The Bear in Our Backyard by Emma Middleton, illustrated by Briony Stewart, have a classic sensibility and, I believe, a universal appeal. This lovely pair celebrates the warmth and playfulness of family life, and the special moments that parents create around the world every day.

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

I think that our upcoming picture book When You’re Going to the Moon (October 2018) will have huge international appeal. It’s a really special collaboration between debut author Sasha Beekman and emerging illustrator Vivienne To (shortlisted for this year’s CBCA Crichton Award) that celebrates the power of imagination and features a particularly charismatic pet iguana called Rochelle. Vivienne has a background in animation, and her illustrations have a whimsical quality that I believe will translate across many markets.

 

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Category: Think Australian Junior Profile