At the beginning of this year, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center released their annual report on the number of children’s books published which were by and/or about people of colour. The good news was that last year saw a record number of diverse books published (a still low 28%, mind you). The bad news was that while there were more diverse books published, the number of books written by people of colour was a meagre 6%. What does that tell us? The numbers reveal that there may be more books on shelves with diverse characters and content, but largely those books are being written by white authors.
So, what if there was a publishing house that decided to throw out the established way of doing things — completely disrupt the status quo — in order to bring beautiful books with representative voices and narratives to children AND these books would be edited, produced, designed, marketed and publicised by as many people from as many different backgrounds as possible? Sound too good to be true? I know! Well, as it turns out, I have the privilege of introducing you to just such a publisher. They are called Knights Of, are London based, and are brand-spanking new.
The name Knights Of was imagined by founders, Aimeé Felone and David Stevens (former members of the team at Scholastic), as a nod to the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table — who all had equal say and standing. Let’s find out a bit more about how Aimeé and David intend to realise their holy grail of truly diverse book-making.
TiaT: Let’s start with the basics, how did you get started?
KO: We’re both passionate about children’s publishing and decided to step out from the traditional together and throw ourselves into launching an independent press that would tackle some of the problems with the industry head-on.
And the rest … is history. (Very recent history. Some might call it the present.)
TiaT: What’s the idea and the market behind it?
KO: The idea is simple – we want to make brilliant commercial kids books with one BIG difference, building an inclusive, diverse, fairer team to make them. That’s it.
We want to make sure that the books we produce have been edited, produced, designed, marketed and publicised by as many people from as many different backgrounds as possible. That definitely means people from many cultural/ethnic backgrounds and abilities, it also means people from broader economic and social backgrounds too.
TiaT: How are you seeking out author/illustrator talent?
For industry, we’re putting ourselves, and our partners, the team at the Little Tiger Group and others, in front of as many people as possible – in schools, colleges and universities – as well as conferences and parallel industries (design, marketing etc.)
In reaching creatives, we’re working hard to lower the barriers to entry, and have launched live chat on the homepage – http://www.knightsof.media. At any time, anyone can drop us a message and get a reply straight away.
TiaT: What has been your process so far for choosing Knights Of books?
KO: We’re aiming to publish commercial books so whenever a submission comes in we are immediately comparing it to the most successful titles in the industry. From there it’s about working with the author (and their agent, or connecting them with one) and getting down to planning how we would publish it.
TiaT: Can you give us a flavour of what is to come in 2018?
KO: Our first books will hit bookshelves!
We’ll be hosting more great interviews, reviews and articles on #BooksMadeBetter (booksmadebetter.com).
We’re not giving away much here, are we? We will soon, we promise.
TiaT: We can not wait to see you first titles! Final question (for now!) — What do you hope to accomplish with Knights Of?
This one is easy. To prove there’s a market for inclusive books and not just in the characters of the stories, but also in how they’re made. Easy! Now we have to find that market.
TiaT: Go get em! Thanks very much, Aimeé and David. We couldn’t be more excited for you.