Here is the rest of our interview with Kate Wilson of Nosy Crow.
Digital Storytime described The Three Little Pigs application as one of the best children’s applications created, how important is this feedback for you on a personal level and also in terms of the group’s effort in making Nosy Crow an effective children’s publisher?
We’re delighted to have Digital Storytime’s review! The responses overall to the app have been excellent. We knew that we were doing something that was different from the other apps that were out there, but it’s great to have our enormously hard work and careful thinking validated. Our print track-record meant that we were already attracting great talent to the company, but since the reviews have started coming out, we’ve had even more approaches.
Are you surprised or flattered by such a good response to the company and how well children and parents appreciate what Nosy Crow does?
It’ll sound arrogant to say we’re not surprised, won’t it?! But, as I say, we knew that we were doing something new and different when we were making The Three Little Pigs. After years in publishing, you know when something is shaping up really well, and every time we saw a new build, it was increasingly exciting. There are many really good apps out there, but there are lots of people who think making apps is easy, just as there are lots of people who think it’s easy to write or illustrate a children’s book. Neither of these is true! Children are extraordinarily discerning: they won’t put up with stuff that doesn’t work, or isn’t age-appropriate, or isn’t fun. They’re a hard audience to please! And, because they’re engaged with children, parents are – rightly – demanding too. The child’s experience is at the centre of everything we do, whether it’s in print or on screen. I think it’s THAT that children and parents are picking up on.
In your opinion, how hard is it for a new publishing business to compete with other businesses? What challenges and obstacles did you face when beginning?
There’s huge pressure on children’s time and attention from a range of media and activities. Recent National Literacy Trust research suggests that more kids own a mobile phone than a book. Newspapers, magazines and print books are all facing the challenges and opportunities of the era of digital content. We’re combining innovative thinking and a small and nimble organisation with traditional story-telling and technical publishing skills. I think that we had an advantage in that we had a network of contacts and a lot of knowledge to find our way through our early days. If you’ve got a book by Axel Scheffler (illustrator of The Gruffalo) and have a reputation in the industry, then printers and retailers are willing to see you. Our main challenge is that we have more ideas than we have time or capacity to execute them!
You published your first book in January Small Blue Thing and in February just released the Mega Mash-Up series. For those unfamiliar with the Mega Mash-up series could you tell our readers a little about this innovative new project? Also how would you define a doodle book?
The Mega Mash-up series is interactive and innovative in a different way from an app. They’re print books that are a unique meld of chapter-book fiction and doodle book. So the child reads a really satisfying short novel with a beginning, middle and end, and lots of laughs inbetween, but is also invited to complete the illustrations and add speech to speech bubbles. Conventional fiction doesn’t invite this interaction. And doodle books – and there are several – are generally books for children to draw in without a story-line. I saw how well children responded to drawing books in a previous job, and that’s great, but I was also sometimes sad that those children didn’t choose to read novels when there were great novels on offer too. I had these children in mind when we were working on Mega Mash-ups.
Meet The Authors of Mega Mash-up:
Have you achieved what you wanted to, in the time you’ve been active?
This question makes me laugh! I think I’ve always worked hard, but I’ve never worked harder than I have in the past year, which is as long as we’ve been going. I think that what we’ve achieved has exceeded my expectations, honestly. Within a year from announcing that we existed, we’ve built a team, we’ve published three books that have been promoted in retailers including Sainsbury, WH Smith and Waterstones; we’ve published an app, The Three Little Pigs, that is more interactive and exciting than any other storybook app on the market; and we have 23 more books and four more apps lined up to publish between March and December 2011. We’ve sold rights to Korea, Israel, France, Germany and America. We’ve found new authors and illustrators and attracted more established talents to the list. We’ve built a lively core website and some microsites and a good Twitter and Facebook presence. We’re regularly invited to speak at digital publishing conferences because of our unique approach to apps.
For someone aspiring to start their own company, what useful advice would you give to them?
Only contemplate starting up in an area that you have real passion for, and, ideally, good knowledge of. Make sure you work with people you like, respect and trust and whose skills and knowledge complement yours. Assess carefully how much money you need. Understand that it’ll completely take over your life and that you’ll never work harder.
So finally 2011 looks like a pretty busy year for Nosy Crow? What are Nosy Crow‘s plans for 2012?
We’ll publish 25 print titles and at least 5 apps in 2011. We’re really busy! More books and more apps for 2012. We want to publish great books and find out more about how to make apps that children and parents really like.
We would like to give special thanks to Kate Wilson for being so generous with her time!