‘Design Thinking’ and Matt Stanton

Author, illustrator and former designer at HarperCollins, Matt Stanton, opened our eyes to ‘design thinking’ and strategy in writing and publishing books at yesterday’s ‘Between the Covers’ seminar in Sydney about children’s books and publishing.

Matt is the creator of two very successful series for young readers. The first is aimed at 6-year-old boys. It is unashamedly commercial and doesn’t even try to win literary awards. It is illustrated by Tim Miller and began with There is a Monster Under My Bed who Farts.

His second series creates a funny and interactive experience for young children and their parents or carers. The first book in the ‘Books That Drive Kids Crazy!’ series is the very popular, This is a Ball and is a collaboration between Matt and his teacher wife, Beck. Now parents, Matt and Beck are ‘learning how to re-enter the space of play’ and what better than using a book to do so! The second in this series is Did You Take the B From My –ook? and The Red Book, with its bold purple cover, is on the way. 

His third series ‘Funny Kid’ will be launched around the world this year. It is aimed at middle grade readers.

Matt focuses on the ‘who’, the reader, rather than on what he personally may want to write about (although maybe these are the same thing). I found this stance fascinating and very different from the many authors who I have interviewed at writers’ festivals and elsewhere. In my experience, authors generally speak about the story that they have to tell, regardless of who it’s for. An example is John Boyne and his masterpiece The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which has found its own audience. Matt is surprised that more authors don’t target their readerships more strategically. I believe that there is probably a place for both approaches.

Matt makes it easy for buyers and browsers to find his books on bookshelves. He uses block colours such as blue, green or purple on his covers. He recognises that yellow is the strongest colour in the spectrum and will feature this on the spines of his upcoming ‘Funny Kid’ series. The book covers in this series will all feature an enormous face to distinguish them from other funny series aimed at middle grade who show smaller characters. Our brains will also register that these faces are looking at us in bookstores and libraries, drawing our attention.

Matt’s website includes a virtual ‘Stretch Your Imagination’ book tour. He also has a YouTube channel that is very popular with his young readers.

Matt reminded us that we’re in a golden age of children’s publishing in Australia. In 2016, children’s and young adult book sales took 44% of the total book market in volume. In 2016, 9 of our 10 top authors wrote children’s/YA. Last year, 9 million more children’s/YA books were sold than in 2005.

Thanks to keynote speaker, Matt, the Australian Publishers Association, host Allen & Unwin and Fiona Stager and her team for organising this very informative event.

Digital diary dates for 2012

Photo: Wolf Concepts' award-winning Caesar's Filofax ad (www.wolfconcepts.com).
Have you started filling in key dates for 2012 in your digital diary yet (read on for a list of ebookish events)?

I switched to using Calendar on the iPhone earlier this year and still miss my Filofax terribly. I am convinced that the act of physically writing an event into the diary ensures its details are etched into my memory too. Typing something in via a touchscreen doesn’t seem to have the same effect at all.

In fact, I’ve just read a blog post that explains why this is indeed the case very well, here on Lifehacker.com:

“With writing, you use your hand to form the letters (and connect them), thereby more actively engaging the brain in the process. Typing, on the other hand, involves just selecting letters by pressing identical-looking keys.”

The trouble is, the Filofax is too heavy to carry around everywhere, whereas the iPhone is always on hand. Sigh.

But back to key dates. There are already plenty of 2012 dates for digital publishing fiends to add to their diaries, written or otherwise. Here are just a few for you to ponder entering:

  • The Australian Society of Authors’ E-Exchange forum, February 18, Sydney, with other states to follow through the year.
  • Copyright Agency Limited member seminar and digital publishing guide launch, including guest speakers Mark Tanner (Google eBooks) and Sabine Heindl (NBN Co) February 23, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne.
  • Perth Writers Festival, February 10-March 3.
  • Adelaide Writers Week, March 2-18, 2012
  • The Australian Society of Authors’ Creating and marketing an app, March 16, Sydney, with other states to follow.
  • Creating your own ebook workshop, March 23-24, Melbourne, with other states to follow.
  • Sydney Writers Festival, May 14-20.
  • Australian Publishers Association’s ebook essentials for editors seminar, June 5 (Sydney) and June 7 (Melbourne).
  • Australian Booksellers Association annual conference, June 17-18, Sydney.
  • Emerging Writers Festival, TBA June, Melbourne.
  • How to publish your ebook course, University of Technology, Sydney, Tuesdays, 6-8pm, from mid-year with dates TBC.
  • Australian Society of Authors’ How to publish your ebook – six-week course (identical syllabus to UTS course above), from July 4, Sydney.
  • Australian Publishers Association digital marketing seminar, July 5 (Sydney) and July 10 (Melbourne).
  • Byron Bay Writers Festival, August 3-5.
  • Melbourne Writers Festival, August 23-September 2.
  • Brisbane Writers Festival, TBA September.
  • Various must-attend if:book events, dates and venues TBA.

    I’ll try to keep this page (and my iPhone calendar) up to date as the year goes on, and hope to see you at some of these events.