There is so much to be thankful for!
I would like to start with a huge thank you to the community that has continued to support us in every way! To our customers who have purchased our books, ordered from the library and shared reviews, to those who have shared our books on social media, to the teachers, teaching assistants and school librarians who have ensured our books are in the hands of children nationwide. To the Indie booksellers that have stocked our books….THANK YOU! We’ve made some wonderful connections this year with people who genuinely want to see us thrive and we’re forever grateful.
We’ve reached the end of what has been a remarkable and unforgettable year for Formy Books. When Curtis and I founded the company in mid 2020 we had one mission, to publish beautiful books for children centring black main characters whilst also written and illustrated by black creators. This latter point was just as important as the first as far as we were concerned - authentic representation is vitally important, especially in a child’s formative years, the future writers and illustrators of children’s literature deserve to see people that look, sound and come from the same background as them as role models.
For the first half of the year we were working ferociously behind the scenes. We are a team of two so that means a lot of roles for each person to fill; we do everything in house - from concept development and art direction, design and production right through to marketing and PR. Curtis and I both work day jobs alongside our many roles at Formy (not to mention raising three wonderful children!), so it’s definitely been a tiring 2021! It’s also been a year of important learning. We’ve had to learn all about copyrights, IP (intellectual property) and how important it is to protect your work, and yourself. There are sharks in every industry and unfortunately publishing is no different.
This year we’ve released three picture books, written and illustrated by black creators, funded by the community via an ambitious 2020 Kickstarter campaign. We’re extremely proud of The Calicolour Cat, A Grand Place and Lines, Lines, Lines! and what ourselves and the brilliant team of Curtis Ackie (our founder!), Sydney Jackson, Leighan Renaud, Elizabeth Lander, Luke Elliott and Asma Aden Mohamed have achieved with these titles.
Lauren Ackie became both our Commissioning Editor and Editor at the beginning of the year and WOW, what a difference she has made. Being able to take a raw manuscript and mould it in the way she does is a very special talent and we’re eternally grateful for the work she continues to do for Formy Books. Before working with picture books I will admit I had no idea of the work that goes into developing the manuscript, crafting the rhythm, correct tense and overall coherence of what really isn’t very many words. I can tell you that I massively underestimated and there is a huge amount of work - thank you to Lauren and to all the editors doing the unseen (and sometimes unthanked!) work!
In August, Formy Books became a CIC (Community Interest Company), a non-profit social enterprise whose objective is to deliver benefits back into the community. Any profits we make are reinvested back into the company to help us continue supporting those historically underrepresented in publishing. We aim to foster an environment for black creatives to produce fresh works, in their own voices, donate a minimum of 10% of all printed books and commit to local printing in order to be mindful of our carbon footprint. Yes, it’s slightly more expensive and makes us less competitive but our books are never stuck on a freighter in the middle of an ocean so, swings and roundabouts! For those who wish to support our work financially, we now have a donation option here. Every donor receives a colour digital print and all funds go towards publishing our titles.
There was supposed to be another title in our 2021 list, Zazi Finds Plantain written by Ogaga Emuveyan. A much anticipated plantain adventure! Unfortunately we hit our first real setback as a publisher in October and, due to unforeseen circumstances had to push the title back to 2022, when it will be published with a new illustrator. It was hugely disappointing for everyone involved - especially being so close to the release date. But, this book is really special and deserves to be given the best possible treatment. We made the choice to refund all pre-orders rather than ask people to wait as we felt this was the fairest route. That obviously had significant financial implications but transparency is extremely important to us so this was definitely the best way. We will be announcing details, relaunching pre-orders and giving you a cover reveal very soon so keep an eye out for that! It’s truly going to be a beautiful celebration of Plantain and how food brings people together.
In November we were thrilled to announce Curtis’ new book, Seedlings - his first for ages 12+. Curtis wrote a series of micro-blog posts explaining his process and motivation behind Seedlings - and how being a black autistic writer shaped his experiences and writing. We’re so excited for you to read this book - it’s a completely fresh and original creative take, something we’ve never seen before. Having Trinidadian mixed-media visual communicator Brianna McCarthy add her magical touches to the book is super exciting for us as well, we adore her work and as always, the sneak peeks will soon come!
At the beginning of December we welcomed our latest writer Claire Ndario to the Formy Books team! You can find more out about her here, and we’ll be releasing details of Claire’s picture book along with a kickstarter in the new year. This will be our third campaign, and first in over a year so we’re very excited and will again be asking for community support in order to fund the project.
Finally, in January we’ll be announcing our final writer for 2022, as well as the new illustrators who will be bringing our projects to life!
It’s been a blast! We hope you all had a Happy Christmas and that it follows into a fabulous New Year!
Ebony and the Formy Books Team xx