Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sophie Masson launches a new children's picture book publishing house.

Sophie Masson is one of Australia's most enterprising literary entrepreneurs
Followers of our Universal Heart Club might remember Sophie Masson's guest post some months ago about producing her own e-book titles under the 'imprint' of e-publisher, Sixteen Press. Now Sophie writes below about another independent publishing adventure. We are delighted to support it! And you will be fascinated by the determination Sophie and her friends have shown to bring this beautiful first book from their new press into the world.
Also see below an invitation to their Sydney launch on 9 October 2013.

Sophie writes: This adventure is rather different from my earlier e-publishing because not only is it in the print world but also I'm working in partnership with two other creator friends, illustrator David Allan and author/artist/designer/dollmaker Fiona McDonald.

With them, I've founded Australia's newest children's picture book publishing house, Christmas Press, which is not a self-publishing enterprise as such, though our first title, Two Trickster Tales from Russia, features my words, David's illustrations and Fiona's design. Though this first book features us, we’re interested in more than publishing our work. We want to take in the talents of many gifted creators and are already in negotiations with two well-known authors for our next two titles to be produced next year.

Christmas Press is a small press, which will specialize in picture books for children which feature traditional stories from many lands, retold by well-known authors and stunningly illustrated in a classic style, beautifully designed, and printed in Australia. Why Christmas Press as a name? Well, we wanted to have the feeling of our books being special, like a gift you'd get under the Christmas tree. But our motto, 'Picture books to cherish every day', also tells you that these books aren't just for special occasions!

Two Trickster Tales from Russia includes the lively Russian folktales, Masha and the Bear and The Rooster with the Golden Crest, which I've retold.  It is the first book for new illustrator David Allan, and his gorgeous pictures are inspired by classic Russian illustration. Future titles will feature illustrations in styles reminiscent of the countries the stories come from.

We'd actually toyed with the idea of Christmas Press for some time, wanting to work on illustrated book projects together. But we didn't act on it it until a project we'd presented to several publishers - my retelling of Masha and the Bear, with David's gorgeous pictures —was knocked back for the third time with a regretful note along the lines of, "Really love this, but it's too classic—not commercial enough in Australia, can't make the figures work." That was the spur.

We knew there was a market for classic beauty, rich colours, traditional tales. Why just take the rejection and slink sadly away, or go against instinct by trying to turn our book into something it wasn't? We could do it ourselves, and have a lot more fun too! We decided to add another story I'd retold, The Rooster with the Golden Crest (which had already been published in The School Magazine). We also decided at this point on the focus for our list: retold traditional stories from many lands, each book featuring two gloriously-illustrated stories. It's an approach that seems to be working!

Though the book was a lot of work—especially for David, the illustrator—it was surprisingly easy to work through the process, first of concept, then layout, then design, over many fun working meetings (we all live in the same town). Using the In Design program took a little bit of learning but was soon mastered by Fiona and David, and the printers, Heaneys Performers in Print on the Gold Coast, couldn't have been more helpful. The printing costs were also partly funded by a crowdfunding campaign, which received fantastic support. And that enthusiastic response continues, with support from other creators, booksellers, librarians, and readers, both kids and adults. People love the book, just as much as we do! Quite serendipitously, too, our commercial timing seems good, because Australia's new English curriculum highlights traditional tales from around the world, and teachers are buying copies of our book for their classes.

We're handling distribution ourselves at present: direct-selling into bookshops, libraries, schools and to individuals, both from face to face contact and from our website. The book is widely stocked by  bookshops and more are expected to join the list. The first print run is already selling briskly—we've already had international orders! We are also selling gorgeous limited edition prints of the illustrations, plus a variety of merchandise such as postcards, bookmarks etc. And in more exciting news, an audiobook edition, which will include music and sound effects, will be released in time for Christmas, through another brand-new enterprise, Sounds Like Books, this time the brainchild of my two sons, video producer Xavier and music producer Bevis Masson-Leach.

Sounds Like Books produces both book trailers and audio books for authors, and welcomes commissions—see www.soundslikebooks.wordpress.com  We're handling publicity and promotion in-house too, with Fiona's daughter, writer, editor and events manager, Beattie Alvarez, creating a popular Facebook page as well as getting the word out generally. It's such a pleasure to be working with friends and family who are also fellow creators—and to feel that our labour of love is striking so many echoes in the hearts of other people.

PS: Sydney readers are invited to join Sophie and friends in celebrating the release of their book, at an event on October 9. See here: https://asauthors.org/event/11133/book-launch-two-trickster-tales-from-russia:
Essential links:
Like them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChristmasPress
Follow them on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChristmasPress


  1. The best of luck with this Sophie et al. It ain't easy - but then you knew that and it's looking so good!

    1. Thanks so much, Libby! It's certainly been challenging at times but so exciting, and we are so delighted with how warmly the book's been received.