What I’ve learned about starting a new imprint
Mindy Gibbins-Klein of Panoma Press reflects on the launch of a new imprint for children’s publishing
When Panoma Press decided to publish a series of children’s books around personal development called Mind Monsters earlier this year, we soon realised we would need a new list to accommodate them. We didn’t have the specialist knowledge, strategy and retail contacts that we knew would be needed to do justice to the books, so we set up a fresh imprint called Panocub Books.
The middle of the pandemic perhaps wasn’t the ideal time to launch something new, but it’s become clear in 2020 that there is a growing need for books to support children’s mental health, and we have heard about very young children who are nervous, upset and obsessively washing their hands. Our whole strategy is based on publishing books that change lives and that help make under-represented voices heard, so this kind of publishing was a natural extension for us.
We felt we owed it to our children’s book authors to develop a separate imprint for those books. We didn’t want them to be lost within our main list, but to provide them with a supportive new community and the room to breathe. It is important for retailers too, as it presents our children’s books as a distinct and dedicated list, and gives us a better chance of gaining the attention of specialist children’s buyers.
Establishing a new imprint was important to everyone in-house as well. Children’s publishing demands different skills and knowledge to adult publishing, so we wanted to set it apart from our main list. If it evolves in the way that we hope, it will give our team the chance to expand their skill sets, take on more responsibilities and develop their careers. For the Panoma brand as a whole, it hopefully extends our reputation as an ambitious publisher. The business is 15 years old now, and it shows we’re here to stay, focused on the future and willing and able to adapt.
Independent publishers don’t have the economies of scale of bigger companies, but we do have a unique ability to pivot and start new projects like this. Panoma’s strategy is less about strict objectives and outcomes and more about responding to the market: like all businesses we have some targets and plans, but we also leave a lot of things open so we can be agile and embrace opportunities when they arise. We don’t like to be firmly entrenched in a single strategy, preferring to leave the door open. That’s how publishing magic happens.
We’ve had a great time getting to know the world of children’s publishing, and it’s been a reminder that you should never be afraid to try new things and even make a few mistakes. We’ve also learned that a sense of humour can get you a long way, and that being driven by a mission like supporting children is a big motivator. When you are coming from the right place, you can go anywhere.
Mindy Gibbins-Klein is founder and managing director of Panoma Press. For more about the business, click here.