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Picture Book Club visit to Tiny Owl

In October, Picture Book Club was lucky enough to have a visit from innovative children’s book publisher, Tiny Owl. We met in Waterstones in Reading and the cake, baked by Kate Poels, is still spoken of in hushed reverent tones. The meeting was a fantastic opportunity to hear from Tiny Owl themselves about their submission round ‘hope in a scary world’. Open submissions closed on 31.10.17 but I was lucky enough to be invited to the Tiny Owl offices on Friday to get an update on progress.

Tiny Owl received over 300 submissions from all over the world during the few weeks that submissions were open. A mark, I think, of the respect for this ground-breaking independent publisher of beautiful children’s books. During the meeting on Friday the extent of the work involved in giving each one of these submissions due care and consideration became clear. The small, hard-working team at Tiny Owl put every single manuscript through a three-level process where they were screened, read and re-read. If you submitted, then rest assured that your story was definitely read by at least one member of the Tiny Owl team. You can read more about the submission process in Tiny Owl’s own blog here.

Sometimes the stories didn’t quite fit the brief as Tiny Owl envisaged it, despite often being promising stories in their own right. As a small, independent publisher, Tiny Owl director Karim explained that they have to be very choosy about what they publish as they can only spread their limited resources so far. Sadly, this also means that it is not possible for the team to devote time to giving detailed feedback to all the writers who submitted work. I did a quick calculation and if one team member did nothing else apart from sending out feedback, assuming 10 mins per email, it would take 2 weeks just to respond to everyone! If you’re in a critique group, you’ll know that 10 mins is a very conservative estimate too! As a writer, it’s easy to feel like your story is obviously the most important thing in the world and to feel robbed when you don’t get feedback for all your hard work. I’ve been there, many times! But this was my first visit to a publishers office and, having seen the stack of submissions in the flesh, I now have a bit more empathy with the people on the other side of ‘send’ button.

Tiny Owl have now reached the stage of selecting some of the stories that meet their interpretation of the brief. They are reviewing each of these manuscripts again to narrow down the choice and decide which to focus on for publication. Of course, it will be a while before we find out. We’re all used to waiting in this mad game of children’s publishing! But looking at the Tiny Owl catalogue and hearing about the quality and variety of submissions, I’m sure it will be a wise choice and I look forward to finding out what it is. After all, we all need a little bit of hope in this scary world.