I am proud to say that soon I will be a Clavis Books author. I loved their books and mission from the moment I Googled them and saw their catalog.
It’s why I submitted to them, even though they were an international publisher. When I received my acceptance via e-mail, it was from the Publisher, Philippe Werck. I interviewed him for Writers’ Rumpus.
Carol Gordon Ekster: Please tell us how Clavis Books came to be.
Philippe Werck: First we started with a children’s bookshop, created in 1978, just out of the need to find the right children’s books for our children. When the store opened in October 1978, the plan to create our own publishing list was already there. It took 6 years until 1984 before the first books (then 5 titles) were created. Clavis is Latin for ‘key’, a perfect symbol for books, as books open a new world for the reader.
CGE: How has Clavis continued to grow?
PW: The growth of Clavis was very organic. There has always been a large effort to attract authors and illustrators. We receive many submissions every week, which we read and examine very carefully in the hope of finding new authors. We also organize open days for illustrators, to look at their portfolio and discuss improvements for their work. So we find and train illustrators. On top of that we organize an illustrator’s competition every two years called “Key Colours”. Finding new talent has become a well-organized system. The list grew this way from 5 titles in 1984 to 220 new titles in 2016.
CGE: What is your mission?
PW: “We make children’s dreams come true” is our base line. We believe that the dreams of the children of today will create the world of tomorrow. This makes our list very child supportive. We want to try to support their positive dreams with these five essential tools.
- Know yourself. A lot of our books work as a mirror for children. The main characters are children, of course (even the animals). By learning how the characters in books overcome their worries and obstacles in life, children will adopt attitudes and train their own behavior.
- Learn to know others. Everyone is different. Accept others, train your EQ [emotional intelligence].
- Learn about the world. Children have to build up a large amount of knowledge, not only in school, but from all sources, all the time. There is so much to learn!
- Be creative. Learn to look at different art styles. Judge, look and look again. Picture books can be a small museum at home. It stimulates creativity.
- Read, read, and read! Reading is essential to learn and to grow. Therefore books should be fun and we need books for all ages and in all genres.
Clavis also publishes nonfiction.
CGE: How do book fairs enter into your publishing mission? And congratulations on winning The International Trade Children’s and Young Adult Publisher Award At The London Book Fair 2015.
PW: Interacting with the world is one of the main things in the learning process, not only for children, but also for editors in publishing. Therefore we visit a lot of book fairs around the world. We find people with similar ideas as ours, soulmates. We share ideas, we learn from each other and we license the rights, because a lot of these ideas are very universal. We’ve done this for many years. We are at fairs all over the world, in West and East Europe, in Asia, In the Middle East, in North and South America, We have books in fifty countries, in most every language that exists in the world. It is a fascinating, exciting world we live in. Authors too, start traveling more and more, pick up ideas, learn, teach. We are building the world of tomorrow.
CGE: Can you tell us the benefits of American authors working with an international publisher?
PW: The benefit for any author to be in an international environment is the chance to find his/her books translated and published in different cultures. Then learn how children and teachers react to these books. Learn from it and improve the writing process to become an even better author. At the same time there is a financial benefit, from having a larger quantity sold. And most authors are very proud to have the translated copies of their books on their bookshelf.
CGE: For the readers of our blog, please tell us what kind of manuscripts you’re hoping to see.
PW: At this moment we are looking for picture books, very child supportive, where an emotional, relational problem for the child is the main theme of the book.
CGE: How should interested American writers submit to Clavis?
PW: Submission is very easy. Email your work to firstname.lastname@example.org or by letter to 575 Madison Avenue – New York, NY 10022.