'Passion makes the best books': Why finding new children's authors is so important

Published on: 05 September 2018 Author: Katie Cotton

We all have our favourite authors - but how can we discover new voices? Katie Cotton from Frances Lincoln Children's Books explains the steps the publisher is taking to find incredible talent...

An illustration from the cover of The Best Sound in the World by Cindy Wume

Creating your first picture book is a Herculean task. I remember reading an article once that said why. I don't actually remember who wrote it or exactly what they said (apologies to whoever it was) but the gist of it was this: the world is never going to put its hand up and say that it needs a new artist.

When you're starting out, it can feel like every story worth telling has already been told, that there are so many other people trying to do what you're doing, that the market is just too crowded, that your story will never stand out.

However, at Frances Lincoln Children's Books we believe that new authors and artists are essential. How else will literature reflect the world we live in today?

Celebrating new voices

An illustration from the cover of Erik: The Lone Wolf by Sarah Finan

So, to champion new stories, we set up our sub-imprint First Editions. We publish up to six picture books a year, of which either the author or the illustrator will be starting out in their career, with either none or just one or two books to their name.

We're interested in creators with non-traditional backgrounds, so we've worked with animators, film-makers and graphic designers in our first year. We have authors from six different countries – spanning all the continents of the globe – and I couldn't be prouder of our first titles.

We have a lovable lone wolf in Erik and a tremendously brave heroine – plus a human cannonball moment! – in Cannonball Coralie and the Lion. If All the World Were... is a tear-jerking testament to the power of literature in the face of loss, and The Best Sound in the World explores how friendship is the most important thing of all.

The power of passion

An illustration from the cover of Baby Bird by Andrew Gibbs and Zosienka

If a new author or artist has a couple of stories that they can't decide between, I always ask them which story they care about the most. I'm a firm believer that passion makes the best books, and this has – so far – proven true in a commercial sense.

However, something happened this year which showed a different reason for why it's important. Andrew Gibbs was the author of Baby Bird, the beautiful story of a bird who is born with a damaged wing and learns that with the help of a friend, he can achieve his dreams.

Andrew had a heart condition and unfortunately passed away before the book was published. He never got to see the book but I believe that children who are born with illnesses or disabilities will be comforted and inspired by it for years to come.

As editors and publishers we have a duty to reflect the experiences of as many children as we can, so we must continue to seek out new authors and in particular be open to those who have had experiences that exist outside the mainstream.

This is what we are hoping to achieve with First Editions in the years to come. It's an exciting task, as – after all – there's a whole world of stories out there.

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