Wakefield Press, which turns 30 in 2019, is launching a dedicated new list for YA books, headed by newly appointed Publisher, Young Adult Books, Margot Lloyd.
Margot plans to publish three to four books a year at first, starting with Making Friends with Alice Dyson by Poppy Nwosu (March 2019), an infectious romantic comedy pairing the school nerd, the school troublemaker and a viral video that brings them together.
News of an investment in young adult publishing is especially welcome amidst a recent downturn of sales in the UK and Australia.
“We are very excited to see what Wakefield’s new YA list has in store for local, homegrown books,” say Dymocks Adelaide’s specialist YA booksellers Amelia Rohrlach and Mhairi Tocher. “We love supporting #LoveOzYA books and writers.”
“Given the amount of talent in Australian YA, we think it’s a really exciting area to be working in, and that there are plenty of new authors and stories out there to be discovered, nurtured and published,” says Margot.
“I really do believe that because we’re small, we can do things other publishing houses couldn’t necessarily do. I want to take books that might have been passed over elsewhere because they might need more work. I’m really interested in developing new authors from the ground up.”
Making Friends with Alice Dyson began life as a manuscript entered into the Adelaide Festival Arts South Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award, for which it was shortlisted.
“I remember thinking, I don’t know if this will win or not, but I’m definitely going to publish it,” says Margot, who is a regular judge for the biennial award, which offers as a prize $10,000 and publication by Wakefield Press. She literally chased the author at the awards ceremony and told her, “I want to publish your book.”
In 2016, Charlie Archbold’s Mallee Boys, a novel of grief, masculinity and coming-of-age set on a farm in the Mallee region, won the award. It was published by Wakefield Press and edited by Margot, who says the book cemented her desire to keep publishing YA.
“I cried every time I read it,” she admits. Last year, in 2018, it was an Honour Book of the Year for Older Readers in the prestigious Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards, and has gone on to be an Australia-wide bestseller.
This followed Simon Butters’s The Hounded (2016), also discovered through the Adelaide Festival unpublished manuscript award, and longlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Older Readers on publication.
Adelaide’s YA community is acknowledged as being extraordinarily rich: renowned local novelists include Vikki Wakefield, who launched Making Friends with Alice Dyson this week, and Allayne Webster, who endorsed the book, as well as Jared Thomas, Margot McGovern and Wakefield’s own Charlie Archbold and Simon Butters.
“Prominent Adelaide authors are more than willing to mentor and offer guidance to emerging voices, which is stunning,” says YA agent, expert and author Danielle Binks. “You seem to have a fabulous sense of community there, and nurturing of new and emerging voices.”
Wakefield Press has been open for YA submissions since November 2018. Margot’s second YA novel as publisher has already been signed for late 2019: Otherwise Known as Pig, a hard-hitting and engaging look at bullying, full of dark humour, by educator and author Catch Tilly.