PUBLISHER, BLACK DOG BOOKS
Black Dog Books is an award-winning imprint with a reputation for publishing some of Australia’s finest writers including Carole Wilkinson, Sue Lawson and Suzy Zail. Through quality non-fiction that kids read with delight – not just for information – critically acclaimed picture books, popular illustrated fiction, and contemporary young adult novels, Black Dog Books are great stories, beautifully told. Black Dog titles show us where Australia has come from and who we are now.
Black Dog Books, led by publisher Maryann Ballantyne, is an imprint of Walker Books Australia.
Black Dog Books is published, marketed and distributed by Walker Books Australia, through Harper Entertainment Distribution Services (HEDS). HEDS supplies stock for both Australia and New Zealand.
Tell us a little about yourself and your history in the publishing industry.
Well, I live in Melbourne. I have been in publishing for a very long time – I started in 1984 – and have been a publisher of children’s books for about the last 20 years.
I am married, I have 3 children almost grown children and two dogs who sit at my feet while I work. When I am not working I love to listen to audio books while I garden or sew.
What can you tell us about your publishing house and the types of books you publish?
Black Dog Books is am imprint of Walker of Walker Books Australia. I am the publisher of the Black Dog imprint. I love books that tell us something about ourselves. I love Australian history – especially small stories that may otherwise be lost. I like all stories actually.
What qualities do you look for when deciding to publish a picture book? Is there a checklist you use when considering manuscripts?
Well, a good story is a great help. But sometimes a story will be gorgeous but the market for the book will be small – that would mean a pass from us. I have to weigh up a number of things when deciding to publish some one but mostly I have to know exactly what the market is for a book and how to get the book to that market.
Does it help when selecting an author for publication if they already have a presence in the children’s book industry?
Yes and no. It is very difficult when an author has a books with a number of different publishers. It makes it difficult to get really behind them and market them. My advice to authors is to identify whom you wish to be published by and target them.
Are there any specific subjects that seem to be addressed more in Children’s Literature?
More than in any other kind of literature? I guess the rights of passage novel or story is very prevalent in books for YA and younger readers. It is a good one though.
Are there some issues you would like to see more focus on?
I love Australian historical stories.
Does having an agent push you to the top of the slush pile?
I don’t have a slush pile – I have a treasure trove and no, having an agent would not necessarily mean you will go to the top of the Treasure pile.
What’s a common mistake you find when reading a manuscript?
That the author has not done their homework about the kinds of books that I publish. I have never published a book featuring a talking animal of any description – though I have published a title with a guinea pig wearing a Santa hat on the cover.
How many submissions do you receive per year? Out of those, how many do you publish?
Unsolicited? I would receive maybe 500 a year – of those I may publish two or three.
How long from acceptance until the book hits the shelves?
For a picture book, over two years. A novel may be a shorter editorial and production time but it depends how much work it may need.
Should a potential author be discouraged by the dreaded rejection letter?
No. If an author is determined and keen to learn every aspect of their craft, they will get published.
Tell us something that has caught your eye, in a good way, in a cover letter?
A cover letter that says, “I have looked closely at your list and I think my book would sit well within it because… “
And finally, what are publishers looking for in a submission?
I can only speak for Black Dog Books but we are looking for a good story, well told. We are looking for authors who are willing to do the hard work and with whom we can develop a productive relationship.