Walker Books Australia
Editor - Mary Verney
Walker Books Australia has been bringing the best of children’s publishing to Australian children for over 20 years and is recognised as a market leader in quality children’s books, publishing award-winning authors and illustrators. The company is dedicated to publishing books of unwavering quality for children and young adults to read and treasure. Equally, Walker Books Australia is passionate about the Australian Children’s book industry and renowned as a haven for the most highly talented authors and illustrators, both emerging and award-winning. Walker Books Australia is proud to be the home of Black Dog Books, an award-winning imprint with a reputation for publishing some of Australia’s finest writers including Carole Wilkinson, Sue Lawson and Suzy Zail.
Walker Books Australia is a part of the Walker Books Group, one of the world’s leading independent publishers of books and content for children. This vibrant international group includes Walker Books UK, London; and Candlewick Press, Somerville, Massachusetts. Renowned for its truly original publishing and outstanding quality, the Walker Books Group is home to books for readers of all ages. Award-winning authors and illustrators for the group include Cassandra Clare, Kate DiCamillo, Patrick Ness, Anna Branford, Jeannie Baker, Sally Sutton, Bob Graham, Meg McKinlay, M.T Anderson, Sally Murphy and Jon Klassen, and major brands for the group are Maisy, Guess How Much I Love You, Tilly and Friends, the widely acclaimed Judy Moody and the bestselling Where’s Wally.
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Tell us a little about yourself and your history in the publishing industry.
I actually started out selling books up in Brisbane and did that for many years before completing a Diploma of Publishing and Editing. I was then lucky enough to get a job as an Editorial Assistant at Pan Macmillan Australia so I moved to Sydney to begin my career in publishing. I feel my experience in book retail definitely helped me secure my job at a publishing house. I really recommend it for getting a feel for the publishing industry as a whole, but especially for becoming familiar with local Australian lists.
How long have you been working with Walker Books?
I have been an editor at Walker Books Australia since 2010.
What can you tell us about your publishing house and what you publish?
Walker Books Australia publishes quality children’s books – everything from board books and picture books to junior fiction and young adult fiction. We are a part of a Group which includes Walker Books in the UK and Candlewick Press in the US. Our local list publishes authors and illustrators from Australia and New Zealand (Eg Roadworks by Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock (NZ), The Truth About Verity Sparks by Susan Green (AUS) and A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay (AUS), but we also distribute titles from Walker UK and Candlewick Press (Guess How Much I Love You – Walker UK, The Mortal Instruments series – Candlewick Press).
What qualities do you look for when deciding to publish a picture book? Is there a checklist you use when considering manuscripts?
I look for an engaging, well-crafted story that is going to have appeal to young children.
Are there any specific subjects that seem to be addressed more in Children’s Literature?
I guess there are a lot of themes that keep being explored in kids literature: belonging, acceptance, fitting in, finding yourself … all things that you go through in those formative years. I think this is also why so many adults these days read kids book – the themes are universal.
Does having an agent push you to the top of the slush pile?
Sometimes I think it can help. For example, WBA is closed for general submissions, but we do accept manuscripts that have come through an agent. I think this is common in the industry today. But be on the lookout for times when publishers have pitching days – they usually advertise these on their websites. Authors who don’t have agents do get published too!
What’s a common mistake you find when reading a manuscript?
Sometimes people forget who their audience is and the text ends up sounding a little too message driven. Always ask yourself if what you’re writing has child appeal. Also, and it sounds silly, but it really helps if your manuscript is double spaced and has page numbers. Make it easy for the reader!
How many submissions do you receive per year? Out of those, how many do you publish?
Oh, goodness, I’m not sure how many we get, but a lot. We receive more than we publish.
How long from acceptance until the book hits the shelves?
It depend on the type of book. A picture book can take up to a couple of years from contract to publication (it can sometimes take the illustrator a year to create the artwork and the proofing process alone can take months). A fiction title can take up to a year.
Should a potential author be discouraged by the dreaded rejection letter?
Rejection letters are hard to receive, but they are also hard to write in my experience. But don’t be discouraged – keep writing! Your manuscript just has to find the right home.
And finally, what are publishers looking for in a submission?
Here at Walker we are looking for: an engaging well-written story, characters who have a strong voice that readers can relate to, clear and interesting world-building. But most of all I think we are looking for submissions that are written from the heart.