Christmas Press – Sophie Masson – Adult Program

Sunday September 13th, 2015 Story by Peter Taylor

Sophie Masson outlined the development of her Christmas Press http://christmaspresspicturebooks.com publishing company since its 2013 launch, and emphasised an ethos of creating engaging books with superb production values. Since they went to hardcover this year, these are managed by Karen Small of http://www.smallbutmightyproductions.com. Christmas Press specialises in publishing traditional folk tales, fairy tales, legends and myths retold by well-known authors.  As well, they produce one Christmas-themed title a year. It is a partnership of four creators: Sophie; author, illustrator and toy-maker Fiona McDonald; author, illustrator and editor Beattie Alvarez; and illustrator and designer David Allan. They are based in Armidale, northern NSW.

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Sophie explained that the Press favours Australian printers where possible, and uses them for soft-covered books, but they have found that though the books have sold well, school and other libraries prefer to buy hardcovers, due to their longer shelf-life. For competitive pricing, hardbacks need to be printed in China. For a new, small company, Christmas Press has already made some significant gains, with the big schools library distributor Australian Standing Orders taking on three of their titles–Two Selkie Stories from Scotland, Once Upon A Christmas anthology, and Three Dragons for Christmas (out this year). This meant higher print runs could be achieved for these. But aside from the Christmas-themed titles, which are firm sale, ASO buy a proportion of a print run on sale or return, so there is some pressure there! Christmas Press’ trade distributor is Dennis Jones and Associates. Christmas Press also publishes audio book editions of their picture books. These are produced by Sounds Like Books, a small business owned by Sophie’s sons, Xavier, who works in TV and film, and Bevis, who works as a musician, music producer and sound engineer. Once the audio files have been produced, the CD design is done in-house by Christmas Press and the whole package sent to Troy Horse in Sydney, which is a recording studio and duplicating (or ‘pressing’) specialist.

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Christmas Press books are gorgeous, with outstanding text, illustration, printing and design, and these will be maintained in their new imprint, Eagle Books http://eaglebooksadventure.com. The first Eagle Book will be released in 2016 – a translation of Jules Verne’s Mikhail Strogoff.

First published in French in 1876 as Michel Strogoff, it is a rip-roaring tale of adventure and suspense, painted with romance and humour and set in pre-revolutionary Russia. Suitable for both adult and young readers from 11 and up, it is a book that’s inspired countless film and TV adaptations all over the world.

In France, it’s never been out of print, with most people considering it to be Verne’s best novel, but this lively translation by Stephanie Smee will be the first in English in 100 years.

I understand that the Eagle Books version will eventually be printed in more than one edition, but initially as 750 hand-numbered collectors’ copies with internal pages of soft cream paper, and delicate black and white illustrations by artist David Allan scattered throughout. The cover will feature a full colour illustration by David, set into high-quality textured red hardback binding, and the book will also feature coloured end-papers, a satin bookmark and gold foil detail on front, spine and on book block edges.

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Christmas Press started with print runs of only 500 copies, but is now producing editions of several thousands.

Christmas Press managed to crowd -fund two-thirds of the printing cost of the first print run of their first title, Two Trickster Tales from Russia. This year, they also ran a crowd-funding campaign for the limited edition of Jules Verne’s Mikhail Strogoff, which has raised a substantial amount too. Sophie said that 95% of this money came from people who she and her business partners know personally, and emails worked best – rather than social media announcements or ads on Facebook or Twitter.

Unfortunately Christmas Press is not currently open to unsolicited submissions.

Bio for Peter Taylor

Peter was also a presenter at Story Arts 2015. His latest book is Once a Creepy Crocodile. www.writing-for-children.com

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