What are some upcoming trends?
The last few years have marked an increase in awareness of the need for books from diverse writers. The result has been some beautiful and compelling stories that the world needs to hear; I see this continuing. Annick, for its part, is always looking for new and interesting voices. We’ve done well with books like Dreaming In Indian and #NotYourPrincess that have showcased the talent of a cross-section of Indigenous artists; we also look for representation of diverse voices in our fiction, which is why we’re very excited to be publishing Fire Song this year, a YA novel with an Indigenous protagonist who is struggling with some big questions—including his sexuality—by Cree writer Adam Garnet Jones.
At Annick we are constantly striving, through the books we produce, to tell great stories. The trends we are most interested in are the ones that might be set by readers becoming engaged in any new ideas and conversations that will resonate, inform, and also entertain. If our books can help do that through powerful storytelling and unique, innovative designs, all the better.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
It was exciting to see a resurgence of discussion of broader feminist issues in the mainstream media in 2017. At Annick, we’re always looking for ways to introduce those ideas into the books we do—and not just the nonfiction. The Paper Bag Princess, set to reach its 40th year in print in 2020, continues to be cited by people worldwide, including, very recently, the esteemed writer Mary Beard, as a first book about feminism for kids. I hope this discussion of women’s rights, and human rights in general, continues to gain momentum in 2018 and that Annick continues to find ways into these topics for children. The earlier kids learn to look at the world from a perspective that is not their own, the better.
What don’t you ever want to see again?
The longer you work in publishing, the more you realize that brand new ideas are hard to come by. At Annick, we get excited about new and innovative ways to explore ideas that may have been done before. So I don’t like seeing the same treatments for the same types of books over and over again; it can be very challenging to think of new ways to present old ideas. Luckily, I think we’re in a really interesting place right now, where we’re seeing lots of dynamism and creativity in terms of illustration, which helps to set content apart.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
There is a growing awareness in society about the value of reading in young lives. As publishers for kids, we are positioned with the responsibility of making sure that the reading experience is stimulating and relevant. Annick, along with the kids’ publishing industry in general, has the opportunity not only to create lifelong readers, but to increase empathy by doing so and to help inform the way kids form their own ideas and learn to think critically about the world around them.
How are you working with self-published writers?
Annick has a long history of working with authors who have never been published, who have self-published, or who have a long list of books to their credit. If the story suits our editorial vision, self-published or otherwise, we’re open to considering it.
What would you like to change about publishing?
There are some communities that feel little or no engagement with the world of books. That can change, but as publishers, we need to realize that a part of that change includes public education. Rick Wilks, Annick’s founder and director, is a huge advocate for trade books in the classroom, for example, and for working to find new ways to connect directly with our readers to better understand their responses to our books and to be sure they feel they’re able to communicate and interact with us, as publishers and creators. Working to find new ways to increase diverse representation across all spectrums of publishing—from creators to editors to marketers—is key in achieving this.
Katie Hearn is the editorial director at Annick Press in Toronto, where her responsibilities include acquiring and developing a wide range of books for young readers. She has worked with award-winning authors, including Kevin Sylvester, Kate Cayley, Elizabeth MacLeod, and Mary Beth Leatherdale.