BookMachine wanted to find out more about Puffin and how the successful imprint has stood the test of time. This is a guest interview with Amanda Punter, Publishing Director.
Amanda began her career at Scholastic Children’s books where she worked with authors such as Markus Zusak and Philip Reeve. She then moved to Puffin where she became Editorial Director and subsequently Publisher for YA fiction. In 2011 she was appointed Publishing Director for Puffin fiction – a list that includes Puffin Classics and Roald Dahl, as well as global superstar authors Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) and John Green (The Fault in Our Stars). Puffin is part of Penguin Random House Children’s.
1. Why do you think the Puffin imprint has stood the test of time?
The two biggest reasons are I think interlinked.
Firstly, Puffin is one of a handful of publishing imprints recognised outside the trade. Authors, journalists, booksellers and parents have real affection and nostalgia for the puffin. I’m sure this affection is a big part of the reason the imprint has endured.
Secondly, there’s huge respect within Puffin itself for the little bird that graces our covers. Without getting too Mind, Body and Spirit about it, it provides a higher sense of purpose to what we do. Most of us grew up with that logo and it represented the doorway into all sorts of imaginative worlds, often the very story that turned us into a reader – and all that means.
Our own emotional connection with Puffin’s heritage (and I’d wager, many of the teams who’ve worked for Puffin before now) means we take that legacy really seriously, and our aim is to connect every new generation to it in the same way – so that Puffin endures for another 75 years (at least!).
2. What are your tips for creating long-lasting brands?
Of course I have the magic ingredients – it’s all extremely simple (ahem).
However, while by no means guaranteeing long-lasting success, there are probably some common qualities to the most popular and enduring authors and series.
The simplicity and immediacy of the idea. Whether that’s the confectionery factory of your dreams, the diary of a wimpy kid, the worst witch in the school, the reader’s interest is caught straight away because the story possibilities are obvious and compelling. Put simply: you want to read it.
Genius of execution. The stories are told as cleverly, wittily, warmly, distinctively as possible. A winning concept, brilliantly told, in whatever genre, is a powerful combination -particularly when you add unforgettable illustration (a la Quentin Blake and Jill Murphy).
Author activity (and by this I mean beyond the huge achievement of coming up with that great idea and writing it, of course). It’s perhaps not really a surprise that the books and properties that are most successful/long-lasting are often created by some of the most dedicated and hard-working authors around. From Jeff Kinney to Cathy Cassidy to Rick Riordan, whether it’s meeting gruelling publication schedules, constant interaction with fans (from YouTube to Facebook to old-fashioned fan mail) or travelling the globe in order to meet readers, you’ll probably find these authors go the extra mile, and have spent years building their readership.
Having a plan. A close partnership between publisher and author and a clear strategy to keep readers engaged is vital to longevity – this involves regularly reinventing and refreshing the messaging and design in order to appeal to new readers, maintaining momentum in the publishing, and creating additional moments to feed interest.
Bringing the story to life. There’s no doubt that the right TV, film, theatrical or digital interpretation can widen a story’s appeal enormously, and truly cement it in the public consciousness (particularly when it’s as spectacular as Matilda: the musical, for example…)
This list could probably go on – what are other people’s thoughts on the reasons certain stories, series and brands endure?
3. How does the Puffin imprint adapt to change?
Change is pretty much the norm in today’s media and entertainment landscape so we have learned to be more flexible. There’s a strong team dynamic and close communication across the business at Puffin, so we can adapt our behaviour quickly. We also try to give younger team members a voice so they can change things, since they often have a fresh perspective.
And some things don’t change, of course – readers are always looking for brilliantly entertaining, thought-provoking and powerful stories, and we will never stop publishing them.