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Kate Wilson Talks to PI on Rights, Prepping for Book Fairs and Publishing Strategy!

Kate Wilson has over 25 years’ publishing experience, mainly in children’s books. She started her career as a rights seller, and held senior management roles in publishing including MD of Macmillan Children’s Books and Group MD of Scholastic UK Ltd. She cares about good books, design, literacy and technology.

In September 2011, she won the title of Inspirational Business Mum of the year at the MumpreneurUK awards, and in November 2014, was named Most Inspiring Digital Publishing Person at the FutureBook Innovation Awards.

Kate will be kicking things off at The Business of Books Trade event next week and very kindly agreed to answer some burning questions in the meantime.

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What was it that first moved you towards Children’s publishing, as opposed to working with adult lists etc?

I started my career at Faber and Faber in the rights department, selling across the (big) adult list and (small) children’s list. It was a great time – big book club deals and big serial rights deals to be done. But I realised pretty quickly two things: that rights sales were even more important for illustrated books than they were for other kinds of books to make them economically viable and also that you were more likely to be able to acquire world rights in all languages from agents for children’s books. All this meant that, as a rights seller, I had more influence on the children’s list than I had on other lists. I did go back to adult books, but that’s another story that I’ll talk about at the event…


How do you typically plan for international rights events such as book fairs? Do you have a particular focus for London/Frankfurt?

Rights remains a really important part of Nosy Crow’s business… and that is, of course, linked to my background being rights. With the tiniest handful of exceptions, we acquire world rights in all languages, so most of my time at the fair is spent selling rights. Bologna and Frankfurt are our biggest book fairs, but this year we’ll have had stands at London, Beijing and Shanghai – in fact, I will just be back from Shanghai a couple of days before the event. The preparation is extensive: we made a call to a restaurant for a booking for a big dinner for Bologna… in April 2019! We start booking appointments for Frankfurt in June, and we start booking appointments for Bologna in the New Year. At Frankfurt, we had over 300 pre-booked rights appointments. And that’s just the admin. There’s making the books for the fairs too…!


Nosy Crow describes itself as being proud to be an independent publisher. How does this philosophy affect the way the company shapes its list?

What a great question! I will cover this much more at the event, but basically I think that if you are relatively small, you can be focussed and very clear about your brand. Deciding what not to do is, of course, as important as deciding what to do.


Having closed much of your app department earlier this year, how are things looking now for digital development? Have there been any significant changes?

We are absolutely gutted about the fact that we had to stop making apps. Gutted. They were absolutely excellent, and they were innovative, and it is sort of heart-breaking that a sufficiently large market failed to develop for them. Ebooks grow modestly for us, and we have had real success with audio and web-based stuff, though. Again, I will talk about it more in the event. I don’t think we’re alone in looking closely at audio, though!


How do you feel about the market in Ireland at the moment? Is it something you are looking at more closely with Brexit or do you feel that little will practically change?

We are feeling pretty chipper about Ireland at the moment. But, on the question of Brexit, we are, as a company, I think, united in our horror at both the idea of Brexit and the current terrifying lack of clarity surrounding what’s going to happen. So I can’t answer your question, because I think that no-one knows what’s going to change and what isn’t going to change.

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