1 What's your company called?
Big Sunshine Books.
2 What do you publish?
Children’s picture books and board books for the under-five age range.
3 What's the story of the company?
I [Caroline Baxter] founded Big Sunshine Books with my husband in late 2015, so we’re very new! For the previous 15 years I worked in higher education producing publications like prospectuses, brochures, magazines and direct mail, and always thought it would be a joy to produce and publish books, particularly for young children. My husband has a business background, so we decided to join forces. Our aim is to publish high-quality, beautifully illustrated fiction that inspires a love of reading.
4 How's business?
We’re just starting out in a very competitive market, but the early signs are encouraging. Our first title, The Bear Cub Bakers, received some great reviews, and we’ve seen sales in a wide range of UK bookstores, as well as via Amazon. Our second title, Pilot Jane and the Runaway Plane, was only published in March, but we were thrilled to have a well-attended launch event in Waterstones. Pilot Jane is now in an increasing number of bookstores and schools and we’re just starting to explore the potential for foreign rights sales. We’re also getting a steady flow of manuscripts and submissions from illustrators now, which is exciting!
5 What do you enjoy about being independent?
The freedom and flexibility to grow our company as we want, and to choose what we publish. It is also a real pleasure to see our books in stores alongside those of well-known authors and the big publishing houses.
6 What do you think is the biggest single issue in publishing right now?
The children’s book market is crowded, and I think the biggest challenge is getting readers to discover your books. With picture books, so much shelf space is given to Julia Donaldson (brilliant though she is!), celebrity authors and well-established names that it is difficult for new books to get noticed. Many children’s book purchases are spur-of-the-moment, so it’s important to get that visibility in stores. I’m sure this is a challenge for all smaller independent publishers!
7 What one piece of advice would you give to a fellow independent just starting out?
Get as much information and advice as possible. Since we set up we’ve worked with some brilliant illustrators, book designers and editors, and received so much support from readers, other publishers and the children’s book world generally. As well as from the IPG of course!
8 What do you get out of belonging to the IPG?
It’s wonderful to feel part of something bigger. The IPG is so helpful in terms of support, networking and events. In recent years, we’ve been on the IPG stand at the London Book Fair, and I’ve used the online resources a lot. We also appreciate the weekly newsletter and hearing other members’ thoughts and experiences.