Will Kiester never seems to lose his easygoing demeanor, even while describing the breakneck speed at which Page Street, his Salem, Mass.-based publishing house, continues to grow. Sales are up 20–30% this year; title output is up to 70 from 34 in 2015. New office space is being added to accommodate it all and, he added, he already needs more.
“It’s a shocking pace for most,” said Kiester, “but it’s actually sustainable.”
As part of the expansion, the eclectic publisher of cookbooks and lifestyle titles has announced two new ventures: an illustrated children’s book imprint and a line of young adult books. The YA list will launch in winter 2018 with the publication of two titles. Page Street Kids, the children’s illustrated imprint, will follow with four titles in fall 2018.
Kristen Nobles is heading up Page Street Kids as children’s publisher, and aims to set a particular tone with the imprint from the outset. “The list is art-led,” said Nobles, who was previously art director at nearby Candlewick Press for 13 years. Half of the inaugural titles have been penned by author-illustrators, and Nobles said she remains committed to retaining that approach in the years to come.
Among the first picture book releases are Khalida and the Most Beautiful Song, written and illustrated by Amanda Moeckel, and Contrary Creatures, a visually intricate nature-based title by James Weinberg. Nobles said she is excited to publish books with an artistic approach that children’s publishers used to shy away from. “Kids are pretty visually savvy,” she said. “We used to sort of say, ‘That’s too sophisticated for kids, but if it has stunning visual art, kids will read it.’ ”
Kiester and Nobles have developed an ambitious schedule for growing the imprint, with a target of 37 titles for 2020. Most recently, they acquired world rights to Hector on June 16, a nonfiction account of the 1976 Soweto, South Africa uprising by author-illustrator Adrienne Wright. To support the growth, Nobles recently hired an additional editor.
For a publisher committed to production quality, having “editorial development coming from an art direction” is a perfect fit, said Kiester, and also “sort of a throwback.” Nobles and Kiester both spent years at similarly minded presses, where much emphasis was placed on production and design. Prior to working at Candlewick, Nobles was at Chronicle Books, and Kiester worked at Black Dog Leventhal. Both had stints at Workman.
Kiester is betting that a squad of skilled and passionate young editors will deliver the same hoped-for success with the forthcoming YA line. The as-yet-untitled list will launch in January with Beneath the Haunting Sea by Joanna Ruth Meyer and It Should Have Been You by Lynn Slaughter. In total, seven titles will be released next year, with a target of 20 in 2021.
Editors Ashley Hearn and Lauren Knowles said that both of the launch titles touch on subjects that are important to YA readers today, delving into issues of intersectionality and diversity. But the driving editorial vision is even more fundamental. “It’s the craft,” said Knowles.
The editors’ orientation toward craft requires a close working relationship with their authors, all of whom are previously unpublished. “The first launch list is all debut talent,” said Nobles. “It won’t always be the case, but right now it’s what I’m looking for.”
Working at their authors’ sides means that the editors travel to their studios both near and far, meet with them in bookstores, and take their calls at all hours. Nobles said that the interaction helps with keeping authors “on task.” She currently visits one author every two to three weeks.
But she adds that the visitations go beyond simply meeting deadlines, noting that authors and illustrators are often isolated, and that they both like and need the creative energy that comes from discussing their work with her. “They spend a lot of time alone,” she said. “It’s a solitary profession.”
As is true with the press as a whole, acquisitions have largely been unagented, and many are being made through the outreach of the editors. Nobles frequently gives talks on her work, and uses the opportunity to keep an eye out for new talent. She said she acquired Khalida and the Most Beautiful Song after author-illustrator Moeckel approached her after a presentation, and handed her a postcard featuring her artwork.
While Nobles, Hearn, and Knowles work to develop their lists, Kiester said his focus is on providing the infrastructure to support them. “You can’t have great people tripped up by dumb systems,” he said. “Workflow is important. We need to have all the support to get where we want to be or else we’ll take all these great people and make them miserable.” He believes that his simple ethic will continue to fuel the growth of Page Street through its forthcoming lines for younger readers. “Make a book you’re proud of,” he said, “and would share with friends.”