Angus Yuen-Killick, who over three decades in children’s publishing has held key positions at various houses, including Macmillan, Penguin, Disney, and DK, has opened a new career door with the debut of Red Comet Press.
The Brooklyn-based boutique publishing company will launch in September with three picture books: Before We Sleep by Giorgio Volpe and Paolo Proietti; Mister Fairy by Morgane de Cadier, illustrated by Florian Pigé; and Cat & Dog: A Tale of Opposites by Tullio Corda. Rounding out the inaugural list is The Secret of the Magic Pearl, an illustrated novel by Elisa Sabantinelli, featuring full-color art by Texas Bluebonnet Award winner Iacopo Bruno, scheduled for October release.
For Yuen-Killick, this new venture marks a welcome return to his publishing roots. “When I first started in the business, I worked at a tiny poetry publishing company in the north of England,” he explained. “My dad was an editor there and I was exposed to every aspect of the publishing process. When I left Macmillan last year and was trying to figure out the next step in my career after 30 years in corporate publishing, I realized that my dream was returning to that model of shepherding a list of books from the beginning to the end. This felt like the right thing for me to do next.”
Long stretches of time at home during the pandemic, much of it at his computer, helped catapult Yuen-Killick into his new publishing chapter. “As I realized that the lockdown was going to last a considerable amount of time,” he said, “it became clear to me that it was the right time to incubate a new company, which will hopefully go out into the world as the world opens up. It was very much a now-or-never moment.”
The publisher’s quest to build Red Comet’s launch list led him to the Bologna Book Fair team, which gave him permission to access the virtual fair’s online global rights exchange. “I started sniffing around for books, spent a lot of time researching, and requested various publishers to send me PDFs,” Yuen-Killick said. “In the end, I was able to acquire four top-notch books for the fall list, each of which I had a clear vision for.”
Released in English for the first time, the debut Red Comet titles include two originally published in France (Cat & Dog: A Tale of Opposites and Mister Fairy) and two that originated in Italy (Before We Sleep and The Secret of the Magic Pearl). The Red Comet list, which is distributed by PGW, will average 10 to 15 new releases annually, Yuen-Killick said. Going forward, the list will balance books in translation as well as original titles by American book creators, including two new picture books written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells, due in 2022 and 2023.
A True Team Effort
Yuen-Killick was quick to credit his close-knit circle of colleagues—many of them longtime friends—for helping him get Red Comet off the ground. “I am so lucky to have such an incredible group of people rooting for me,” he said. In a shout-out to three supportive fellow small publishers and friends—Kathryn Otoshi of KO Kids Books, Enchanted Lion’s Claudia Bedrick, and Christopher Franceschelli at Handprint Books—Yuen-Killick noted, “I honestly could not have done this without them.”
Helping the publisher helm the new press is his husband, Michael Yuen-Killick, who is well versed in the graphic design and marketing fields. “He is Red Comet’s creative director,” Angus Yuen-Killick said. “He’s in charge of creating our catalogue, overseeing production, working with the printer in Asia, and coordinating our social media.” Among the “raft of people” also on board are individuals masterminding the contracts, royalties, bookkeeping, translating, and copyediting duties.
And helping the publisher spread word of Red Comet’s launch are Barbara Fisch and Sarah Shealy, who founded Blue Slip Media, a publicity and marketing firm, in 2009. “There is something special about the fact that they are working with me now, since I was one of Blue Slip’s first clients when I was at Kingfisher and hired them to work on a series,” he said. “We’ve come full circle, and I feel as though it is poetry meant to happen.”
With Red Comet’s start-up list in place, Yuen-Killick said he is now “facing the anxiety of the next list, of course! I have started on a path to find books that I am passionate about publishing and I am going to see where it takes me. I can’t think of anything more thrilling than launching little comets into the publishing world and guiding them into the hands of readers everywhere.”