24 April 2013

Onion Origins - CS

In celebration of our 25th anniversary of children's publishing we are delighted to present the seventh edition of Onion Origins - from another Onion in our Sydney office.

Finding my calling...

I left High School clueless as what to do next, after a few tries in various not-quite-rights jobs, I found myself working at The Bookshop Darlinghurst.

It was soon very apparent to me that I had found my calling, being paid to be surrounded by books, talk about books, sell books! But, The Bookshop Darlinghurst did not sell any kids books; I would have to wait seven years before being able to re-ignite my enthusiasm for them.

I grew up in The Bookshop Darlinghurst, and over seven years figured out that what I really wanted to do was be a Sales Rep at Allen & Unwin. A&U had the best books, the best reps, the best authors, the best reputation and I felt that it was the place for me.

However, no one ever leaves A&U, so I had to wait! While I waited for a position to come up, I asked the fabulous Sandy Weir and Michael White what I could do to get a job at A&U. They advised me to get more experience in the more mass market side of book selling, i.e leave my comfortable Indie world and see the other side!

As luck would have it, Borders were opening up their first Sydney store, and somehow I got a job as their Marketing Manager for Macquarie Centre North Ryde (still not sure how that happened)! Going from Darlinghurst to North Ryde was a bit of a culture shock!

While at Borders I rediscovered my love of children's books (beyond Star Wars), I was in charge of the Kids Book Department and making sure it always looked great, no easy task when parents used it as a babysitting service while they shopped! The A&U list was always the best and I resolved even more that I had to get a job there.

I was there when Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban came out. It was so amazing to be part of this huge experience and it was a lot of fun! Later at A&U, I got to see how much hard work Liz Bray and the team did to get Harry out there!

Finally, someone left the A&U sales team, and I did everything I could to get an interview and the job, and I succeeded!

Selling the kids list to these incredible, dedicated booksellers was and remains a huge part of what I love at A&U. I have also been lucky enough to meet some of favourite authors, David Levithan, Neil Gaiman, Margo Lanagan, Garth Nix, and many others.

I consider myself to be an honorary part of the Children's Marketing Team and although I love our adult books, I probably love the kids list just a little bit more.

Ten years later I am still here, no longer a Rep, but still in sales, working in a job I love, for a company that is everything that I thought it would be. I am a lucky man.

- Chris Sims, National Field Sales Manager

16 April 2013

Onion Origins - EW

In celebration of our 25th anniversary of children's publishing we are delighted to present the sixth edition of Onion Origins.

When the time is right...

I almost came to Allen & Unwin four years before I actually did ...

I was working as a commissioning editor at Penguin Books when Rosalind Price called me. I had a wonderful meeting with her - it was so exciting. She had a copy of the groundbreaking picture book FOX on her mantelpiece, and we met at the trestle table that she had made herself in the upstairs room of the Rathdowne Street office. Allen & Unwin felt like a rush of fresh air, where creative, freewheeling, risk-taking publishing (what other kind is there, in fact?) blossomed.

I had started my publishing career as a trainee editor at Penguin in 1988 and it felt like home. I had many dear friends and strong author relationships, but I felt I was losing touch with what I loved the most - the hands on making of books. Rosalind offered me a dream job, but I wasn't ready yet to make the leap.

A couple of years later, the time was right ... I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to start up a new children's list for a small independent publisher, Duffy & Snellgrove. That same year, 1999, I also spent three months in the US on the Beatrice Davis Editorial Fellowship - a terrifying and intoxicating experience! But on my return, after publishing the first 5 books on my fledgling Silverfish list, it became clear that Silverfish wasn't going to work out as planned. Unlike big publishers who have buffers, tiny independents need their books to sell quickly and in large numbers if they are to survive (unless they have an alternate income stream to cover the establishment phase). When it was clear that Silverfish needed another home in order to keep going, I rang Rosalind. In her kind, wise and practical way, she said, 'Do you want to come to us?' That moment was simultaneously a lifeline and a second chance.

So I started at A&U on Valentine's Day in the year 2000. Rosalind and I shared her trestle table for the first few weeks - about two feet of table surface each. I felt saved and also in debt! I wanted so much to prove myself, but really I was starting again (I even changed my name ...). Of course, it takes time to find your feet as a publisher - you have to be daring, experiment, fail and try again. It took a while, but always I felt supported by Rosalind and A&U. The working atmosphere was a revelation to me - there were no politics! We just helped each other as needed and trusted each other to do our jobs well. And there was the singing - a brilliant way of bringing the team together.

I feel blessed by having had the best publishers in the business as my mentors and am eternally grateful to them. Having worked for big, small and medium sized companies, what I value the most is the sense of community we have in the children's publishing world - all the laughing, crying, plotting and planning we do - the creativity of the authors and illustrators, editors, designers and the myriad people who make the books happen and then support them out in the world - that's what really matters, and will be our legacy.

- Erica Wagner, Publisher

05 April 2013

Onion Origins - KR

In celebration of our 25th anniversary of children's publishing we are delighted to present the fifth edition of Onion Origins - this one's from an Onion in our Sydney office.

A very sensible plan...

I left high school with the very sensible plan of making lots of money and retiring early (I was, of course, willing to vary this to 'marrying rich and not working' if the option were to present itself), so I began my career as an auditor at a very large accounting firm. It didn't take me very long to realise that perhaps I wasn't quite as shallow and money hungry as I originally believed myself to be* and I handed in my notice so I could follow my heart and do something I really cared about.

At this point I stalled. It was all very nice to grandly declare that I wanted to do something 'that mattered' but what did that even mean? So with nothing better to do, I continued my business degree, supporting myself with a vast range of jobs (the most unusual being the small stint I had as a turf layer), whilst waiting for that light-bulb moment when my dream career would present itself to me. In a moment of desperation I even tried a self-help book which told me to visualise how I would ideally like to spend my time. I imagined myself sitting in a little room surrounded by books reading all day. Upon reflection perhaps I should have taken the results a little more seriously, but at the time I declared all self-help books to be useless, threw it across the room and curled up with a copy of my favourite comfort book, Pride and Prejudice (and I admit vaguely revisiting my idea of marrying rich - oh Mr Darcy, why don't you exist in the real world?).

In 2001 I was following the path of so many other 20-somethings looking for meaning in life by backpacking through Europe. In Norway I met a family member of a friend who took me to her office. It was at a book publisher called Cappelen Damm. I stepped inside and was overwhelmed with how much I loved it. As I was walking along softly stroking the books and occasionally even sniffing them, it hit me that perhaps this was the future career that I was so desperately seeking.

From then on I determinedly worked at getting into publishing. I enrolled in a Diploma of Publishing and Editing and subscribed to the Weekly Book Newsletter which my research told me was the bible of the Australian Publishing world. I also read that the best way to get into publishing was through reception, so I got a job as a receptionist in an unrelated company to get experience.

Then began the process of applying for any and every job that was in book publishing (there weren't many, but I applied for them all!). My first interview was with Allen & Unwin in the Sydney Office. I didn't get the job. But they were lovely and told me they would hold onto my resume in case something else came up - obviously I thought they just said that to make me feel better. Imagine my surprise when they actually did call me I was interviewed for another job. I also didn't get that one. When I was called in for a third role I began to suspect they were just messing with me. But I went for it anyway, and after two interviews I was employed in the Publicity department, which it turns out is a brilliant place to learn a lot about publishing and be involved with all the other departments.

It didn't take me very long to realise that it was the children's and young adult books that I really loved. So I started unnecessarily attending the children's marketing meetings, reviewing their books and basically doing anything I could to make sure the children's department knew who I was. My plan worked, and when a role came up in the children's marketing department I convinced the children's director Liz Bray that I was the right person for the role and here I am.

*Please note I do not think that accountants are shallow or money hungry. Many of my best friends are wonderful, creative and passionate people and are also accountants, but they also didn't choose the career for the sole purpose of making money, they actually liked it.

**Hard to believe I know, but remember those ads where the accountant gets all excited when they help get you a good tax return, some people really are like that!

- Kristy Rizzo, Children's Product Assistant