EK Books is a boutique children’s picture book imprint, forming part of Exisle Publishing. The imprint was launched in October 2013, with the motto ‘great story, great characters, great message’. At Exisle, we are known for our self-help, health and wellbeing titles, so we felt it was only right that we carried this focus on books with a self-help aspect across to EK. Importantly, however, we don’t want our books to be didactic. Any message has to be wrapped up in an entertaining story that inspires the imagination and warms the hearts of our readers (big and small!). We want our books to be ones that kids reach for again and again, because they love them THAT MUCH! And if they learn something along the way, too, well, that’s the icing on the cake.
While championing local talent, and with our head office based in the New South Wales Hunter Valley, we’re global in reach. All of our titles are published in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, US and Canada. In addition, we actively pursue foreign rights deals, with our team attending international bookfairs such as London, Frankfurt, Bologna and Book Expo America.
To see our publishing guidelines and for more information, please visit our website: ekbooks.org
Tell us a little about yourself and your history in the publishing industry.
I’ve always loved language and the way words can be played with. I studied European languages at university and then completed a post-graduate diploma in translation. My first job was working on French translations of titles for a book publisher, but when they closed down their foreign language division, I moved across to editing and from there gradually moved up to the role of publisher. My entire professional career has been in book publishing, either in-house or freelance.
How long have you been working with EK Books/Exisle Publishing?
I’ve been with Exisle Publishing for 10 years and started their children’s picture book imprint, EK, in 2013.
What can you tell us about your publishing house and what you publish?
At the moment EK only publishes children’s picture books, primarily aimed at the 4 to 8 age range. Our motto is ‘great story, great characters, great message’.
Does it help when selecting an author for publication if they already have a presence in the children’s book industry?
Not for EK. So far, the vast majority of our authors have never had a picture book published before.
I have written a children’s picture book manuscript – do I need to find an illustrator myself?
Absolutely not. One of the best parts of my role as publisher is to match stories to illustrators.
What’s a common mistake you find when reading a manuscript?
Authors forget that they’ll have an illustrator working with them to tell the story. The best picture books are a balance between words and images, with the illustrations adding richness and meaning to the story not simply reflecting the content.
How many submissions do you receive per year? Out of those, how many do you publish?
The number is increasing all the time! Right now, we probably receive close to a hundred a month, so over a thousand a year. We’ll be publishing about 12 titles in 2017.
How long from acceptance until the book hits the shelves?
The average is probably 18 months. Our schedules are influenced by the longer lead times for sales material required by our overseas markets. (EK titles are released in ANZ, the UK and the US.)
Should a potential author be discouraged by the dreaded rejection letter?
No. Look at all the famous authors who were rejected again and again before getting their break! Manuscripts can be rejected for so many reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the story or the writing. For example, the publisher might just have signed up a book on the same theme, or they recently published a book on that topic that didn’t sell well so Sales are wary of making the same mistake.
Tell us something that has caught your eye, in a good way, in a cover letter?
I love it when it’s clear that an author has looked at our books, visited our website, read our guidelines and has made sure that their submission fits our criteria. It reflects well on the author’s professionalism and attention to detail. Sadly, I often receive proposals for YA stories or chapter books, which EK doesn’t even publish.
And finally, what are publishers looking for in a submission?
I can’t speak for other publishers, but I’m looking for an understanding of what kids engage with, an original voice, fresh concepts (or a fresh way of treating established concepts), and the all-important X factor that, as soon as I read the story, enables me to ‘see’ it in my mind.