EK Books are relatively new to me as a book blogger but I have been nothing but impressed with the books I have seen from them. I wanted to get to know EK Books a bit better so sent across some questions- they kindly answered them- read on to get a glimpse into EK Books!
Website: http://www.ekbooks.org (newly re-designed and launched on 1st July!) Twitter: @EK_Books | Instagram: @ekbooksforkids | Facebook: @ekbooksforkids
Where and when did EK Books come about?
EK Books was established in late 2013 as an imprint of Exisle Publishing, and was global from the get-go. Our offices are based in Australia and New Zealand, and we have a northern-hemisphere team working in variety of locations across Europe and the US. Navigating time-zones is our bread and butter!
The idea for EK Books evolved from our adult self-help list. For 30 years, we’ve been giving adults the tools to help themselves cope with anxiety, recover from loss, and live more mindful lives. It seemed natural – and necessary – to extend that so that we gave children those tools early on in life, to make it even easier for them to thrive and flourish as adults. As our CEO Gareth likes to say, we’re a children’s picture book imprint ‘with the DNA’ of an adult self-help publisher.
Can you explain your motto in more detail?
Our motto is ‘Books with Heart on Issues that Matter’, which is a good reminder that our books have a purpose beyond telling an entertaining story – although our wonderful authors and illustrators always make sure they do that, too! The ‘Issues that Matter’ part relates to our focus on self-help and helping children and parents tackle important topics such as diversity, mental health, illness, bullying, and more. However, kids don’t like being lectured and when they pick up a picture book in a school or home setting they generally don’t want to feel like they’re receiving therapy or being taught a lesson. What’s key is entertainment. Hence, ‘Books with Heart’, because what’s most important for us is to engage our young readers in great storytelling, ensuring that every book we publish is a book that a child will enjoy regardless of whether they know anything about a particular issue personally.
Why is it so important to the future of your company?
There are numerous publishers out there who publish wonderful picture books. For us to feel like we’re making a meaningful contribution to publishing, we need to know we have something important to say. That’s why our ethos underpins everything we do with our list. Our authors and illustrators are often teachers, counsellors, psychologists or art therapists. Their entire lives are wrapped up in ensuring the wellbeing of children. You only need to listen to the news or scroll through social media to see the epidemic of anxiety and stress that is affecting young people. If we can help even one child to feel less anxious, then we’ve achieved our goal, and hopefully as our list grows and develops over the years we’re starting to help hundreds if not thousands of children, together with their parents and carers.
What is the aim and what type of books do you want to publish?
Our constant aim is to continue to develop and broaden our list in line with our underlying philosophy, while always keeping fun, entertainment, engagement and warmth at the heart
of every book we publish. For example, we now have a few books on environmental themes on our list as this is a topic that increasingly concerns children from an increasingly young age. We want to be responsive to the interests and needs of our youngest readers, and to do that we have to evolve as they evolve.
What have been your biggest highlights and challenges so far?
One of the biggest challenges of consciously tackling tough topics is to make sure our books don’t ever come across as overly didactic or preachy. We aim to keep a sense of fun and heart in everything with publish, and this can be a balancing act at times.
A constant highlight is seeing our books having a positive impact; hearing from our authors and illustrators about the letters they receive from kids saying how much a particular book has helped them. And yes, it’s also wonderful to win awards such as the Crystal Kite for Book of the Year in Australia and New Zealand (twice), and to be nominated for Publisher of the Year (Oceania) at Bologna.
How can the children’s book industry support you?
Simply by realising that our books are mainstream and can be enjoyed by every child. It happens less and less, but it’s not uncommon that as soon as retailers hear that our books are focused on ‘issues’, they would immediately decide they were ’niche’ or ’specialist’, best suited to a therapist’s office. Every child loves a good story with great illustrations that’s beautifully produced. Our books deliver that, and if as an added benefit a child might feel less anxious or alone, or be happier about going to school, then what’s not to love about that?