Yikes. In the last week or so there has been a flurry of activity surrounding changes at my UK publisher, Frances Lincoln Publishing.
Timeline of Pandemonium
Back in January 2011 Frances Lincoln announced they were doubling their output of children’s fiction, including some awesome titles like the Ministry of Pandemonium by Chris Westwood and Lia’s Guide to winning the Lottery by Keren David, author of When I Was Joe.”
Then, in August 2011, publishing giant Quarto announced it was aquiring Frances Lincoln, suggesting “the lists will retain their distinctive approaches.” Hmmm.
Fast-foward to May 2012 and it seems the axe has fallen. I first learned of the cuts from Keren David (“Sad News”) and Chris Westwood (“I am not a number”), but there has not yet been an official announcement from Quarto or Frances Lincoln.
“When is a good time for us to chat?”
Luckily for me, I have had an official-ish phone call from my Frances Lincoln editor, Janetta Otter-Barry. I knew something was up when Janetta asked when was a good time to call: we usually work by email.
Good news from among the bad
Thankfully, Janetta put some of my fears to rest: Although the young adult (YA) and children’s fiction lists are no more, Frances Lincoln (and Janetta) will continue to produce children’s picture books and illustrated books, and it will keep publishing its poetry list. This, at least, is good news: Frances Lincoln is renowned for the quality of its picture books and poetry.
More good news: Frances Lincoln will continute to financially support the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Childrens Book Award, which has led to the publication of eight books so far, including work by Tom Avery, Wendy Meddour and Helen Limon. The winning book won’t be offered a contract by Frances Lincoln, but it will be lauded before industry eyes and, as always, being shortlisted or winning an award will serve to encourage new and emerging authors. It’s still a great award to enter and it’s still an awesome opportunity.
It is sad, though, that Frances Lincoln’s children’s and YA fiction weren’t given much of a chance to thrive and grow. When you look at the awards won and accolades earned just in the first year (When I Was Joe, for example, won 5 awards and was shortlisted for 14 more!!), you get a strong feeling that this list was meant for great things.
I’m not sour at Quarto. They’re a business, and although they probably love books, they also need to make money. Right Now is a pretty bollocks time for making money. (Thanks, GFC.)
I feel most for authors who have had contracts cancelled. I can’t imagine how that would feel if it was your first book on the cutting block. Lucky for me, it’s book 4 (Takeshita Demons: Mer-Monster) whose future is uncertain. It was supposted to come out in 2013; hence, it’s one of the contracts destined for the recycling bin. I think Mer-Monster is an awesome book, so I’m hoping it will find another home, even if I have to carve that home myself in the big, bad world of self-publishing (where I have zero experience!). We shall see. I can learn 🙂
If not now, then now-now!
So hang in there fellow writers: your stuff is great, that’s why Frances Lincoln wanted to publish it. I’m confident that the staff and manuscripts Frances Lincoln have lost will be happily rediscovered and rehomed elsewhere in the industry. Publishers are probably scanning the list right now…(so ignore their ‘no unsolicited manuscripts’ signs and give them a call…I bet they’ll be keen to see our stuff!)
Harry who? No thank you.
I understand that hard decisions need to be made. I also know that publishing is a funny business. It’s the ultimate workplace for risk-takers and gamblers, and sometimes, gambles pay off. Big time. (Ask anyone who ever rejected Harry Potter 🙂 :-)).
So in more good news, those books currently on Frances Lincoln’s YA and children’s list will continue to be promoted. And all contracts for 2012 books will be honoured and promoted. And these books are terrific. Takeshita Demons: Monster Matsuri (out next month) is awesome and my best yet. There’s a new Ministry of Pandemonium book coming out. Jane McLoughlin’s At Yellow Lake is coming out. Keren David’s Joe sequel, Another Life is coming out. Wendy Meddour’s Hen in the Wardrobe books are coming out. And heaps more.
So watch this space. When you bring together a bunch of talented authors and editors, as Frances Lincoln Publishing has been able to do, good things can and do happen. Some great books are on their way. Some great manuscripts are on the market. Some great editors and writers are newly available. There is not always a silver lining, but hopefully we can find a few. I look forward to hearing your good news, fellow FL-ians!