More than a decade after opening its London office and successfully publishing into the international children’s market, Nosy Crow will expand its presence in the U.S. with the spring 2023 launch of Nosy Crow Inc. Based in Boston under the direction of president John Mendelson, the new company will publish the full roster of genres that has been the backbone of Nosy Crow U.K., ranging from books for infants to works for middle-grade readers.
Mendelson, formerly senior v-p of sales at Candlewick Press, announced that Nosy Crow Inc. will release 30 titles during its first year of publishing, with an emphasis on novelty board books, picture books, and nonfiction. Within a few years, the list will expand into chapter books and other fiction, and will include books that originate in North America, created by a diverse group of authors and illustrators, as well as those acquired by Nosy Crow U.K. The new American list will be sold and distributed by Hachette Book Group.
A Leap Across the Pond
There are, unsurprisingly, multiple logistical issues to consider when starting up a new publishing arm on different turf from the original model. The children’s book markets in the U.K. and the U.S. vary in key ways, observed Kate Wilson, group CEO of Nosy Crow, who will oversee both the U.K. and U.S. companies.
“Of course, the North American market is bigger,” Wilson said, “and there is a more lively and better-funded institutional market in the U.S. In the U.K, libraries are lamentably underfunded. And obviously, each country is dealing with a different population mix, which makes the market interesting and challenging. On the other hand, kids are kids, and they all love lifting flaps, seeing themselves in a mirror in a board book, and learning about sharks—that is universal content.”
Noting that 70% of Nosy Crow U.K.’s revenue derives from outside of the U.K., Wilson heralded the contributions that Nosy Crow Inc. will make to the continued growth of the overall company. “John has already become embedded in our acquisitions process since his arrival last May,” she said. “He has also been instrumental in bringing a North American eye to book covers and to the voice of Nosy Crow. We are confident that he and the U.S. team he establishes will tap into their international expertise, to the benefit of both lists.”
Mendelson is performing a balancing act as he pulls together Nosy Crow Inc.’s inaugural lists, which he described as “varied, commercially powerful, creatively distinct, and fully Americanized.” He regularly visits Nosy Crow U.K.’s office to work with Wilson’s creative team. He also works with freelancers in Boston to adapt for American readers books that originated in the U.K., some of which will have redesigned covers for the U.S. market. And, he added, “I have begun conversations around building an editorial and design team in Boston.”
Ready to Roll Out
Highlights of Nosy Crow Inc.’s launch list, on sale next May, include Everything Possible, the company’s first joint acquisition with Nosy Crow U.K. Illustrated by Alison Brown, this picture book is based on American musician Fred Small’s folk song of the same title. The lullaby, first performed 40 years ago, celebrates love and friendship, and encourages children to dream their own dream and choose their own path, wherever it may take them.
Other picture books on the debut list are Frank and Bert by Chris Naylor Ballesteros, a meditation on friendship; and How to Count to One by Caspar Salmon and Matt Hunt, a counting book with a twist. Also included are the first books in the Look It’s... board book series by Camilla Reid, featuring Clare Youngs’s collage artwork and felt flaps and foil on each spread; and Welcome to Our Table, a celebration of food from around the world, by Laura Mucha and Ed Smith.
Nosy Crow has, of course, sold North American rights to a range of publishers over its 12-year history, and those titles will continue to be sold by their existing U.S. publishers. This particularly applies to Candlewick Press, which has published (under the Nosy Crow imprint) many board book series and character-based picture books. Going forward, Candlewick will continue to publish backlist and new titles in many of these series, but under its own banner rather than the Nosy Crow imprint.
These include Bizzy Bear, which has sold more than 18 million copies worldwide; the felt flaps and Peekaboo series, both illustrated by Ingela P. Arrhenius, which together have sold almost six million copies worldwide; and the 100 First Words series, illustrated by Edward Underwood, whose sales total more than 280,000 copies worldwide. Titles previously published under the Nosy Crow imprint will change to the Candlewick imprint upon reprint.
Karen Lotz, president and publisher of Candlewick Press and group managing director of the Walker Books Group, said, “Over the past 11 years, since their founding, we have truly enjoyed our partnership with the talented Nosy Crow team under Kate Wilson and establishing their many innovative, beloved, and popular creators, titles, and series in our market. We look forward to continuing to bring these series to U.S. and Canadian shelves even as we focus more firmly on our homegrown initiatives going forward, including our partnership with the MIT Press on MIT Kids Press and MITeen Press.”
Another new development accompanying the launch of Nosy Crow Inc. involves the expansion of Nosy Crow’s Stories Aloud program into the North American market for the first time. Introduced in 2013 by Nosy Crow U.K., this initiative bundles free digital audio with print titles, by including a QR code on the inside cover which, when scanned, provides access to an audio edition of the text, enhanced with music and sound effects.
All Nosy Crow Inc. board and picture books will include this audio component, which is promoted on the front covers. With its free access, this add-on has received an enthusiastic reception from retailers, teachers, and librarians in the U.K., Wilson said, noting that Stories Aloud had two million streams in 2021.
Mendelson views Stories Aloud as an asset that “will help establish Nosy Crow Inc.’s identity in North America, and help us connect with teachers, librarians, and parents by providing easy access to audio so that children can engage more deeply in the reading experience.”
With Nosy Crow Inc. poised for liftoff, there is much positivity on both shores. Having known Wilson since Nosy Crow U.K.’s inception, Mendelson said, “We have a level of connection and trust that is ultimately what is going to help us successfully build the business on this side of the Atlantic and continue to work collaboratively.”
Wilson seconded that, adding, “John not only knows the market very well, but we have an affinity and shared sense of values about what is important to children’s books—as well as a confluence of taste. We are so excited about this new venture, which feels like such a natural extension of our publishing program. It’s now time to spread our wings and engage directly with the amazing and very different market that is North America. And I believe we’re off to a flying start.”