An FAQ on the Ethicool Books business

  • by Teigan Margetts

We’re doing things a little differently here at Ethicool and there are quite a few reasons why. Now, at the six-month mark of our journey, we thought it was an opportune time to address some of the many FAQs that come our way. From how we pick the books we publish, to why we’re very particular about only selling online, we hope this blog will help in outlining what makes us stand out!

What’s different about the Ethicool business model?

When was the last time you spoke with the people who published the book you’re reading? In fact, do you even know what they stand for, what their principles are, or whether they’re interested in giving back?

Most publishers sell their books through distributors, and it’s the distributors who then sell onto retail bookstores. It basically means that the publisher never has an opportunity to engage directly with its readers. It also means the time it takes a new book to reach the market is far longer than it needs to be, as there are so many hands involved in the process.

In establishing the Ethicool business, we have created a vertically-integrated model, which means we manage every step of the process, from production and publishing, to retailing, marketing, and customer support. 

It’s a lot for one business to manage but we wouldn’t have it any other way. It means we can ensure each step in the value chain is managed sustainably and it also guarantees ongoing, direct feedback from the actual readers of our books, meaning we know exactly what we’re doing well, or where we can do better.

It also means our business is personable, accountable, and open to creating a conversation with its customers. And that’s a big part of enabling and sustaining positive change.

What’s involved in shortlisting submissions to Ethicool?

This process, we believe, is very similar to most other publishers, but perhaps with some added rigour around the thematic angle of the story, rather than the calibre of the narrative in isolation.   

We’re really after books that manage to strike a finite balance between educating, entrancing and engaging little readers. Stories that are too overt with their thematic intent are always well-intentioned (they really want to teach children the right behaviours) but they generally struggle to engage small children.

Conversely, books that are more whimsical and don’t really focus on the themes we care about (sustainability, equality, environmentalism, etc.) are too mainstream and don’t sufficiently align with our mission.

The real art, we’ve found, is when our themes of interest are seamlessly interwoven with narratives that are beautiful, adventurous – special – in their own right. Achieving this balance is exceptionally hard, but when it happens, the response from our readers has been overwhelmingly positive.

Still, when shortlisting, we first review the quality of the narrative and the execution, before reviewing the thematic alignment. Only when these two gates are passed does the manuscript progress further. 

Why do you only sell kids' books online? Why not open a bookstore?

There’s perhaps not yet an absolute substitute for walking into your favourite bookshop and leafing through the pages of the books that catch your eye. But we think technology has advanced far enough that an online experience can come pretty close

Close enough, in fact, that we decided the costs and environmental impacts associated with running physical premises just weren’t logical. We’ve instead established warehouses in key global regions, reducing delivery times, as well as limiting the carbon footprint associated with cross-border logistics.

It’s not to say we’ll never open a boutique bookstore just for fun… just that, if we do, it’ll be small and probably made from funky recycled materials! 

Ok, then, well why not just sell ebooks and avoid using paper altogether?

This is a very good question and we receive it a lot

There is a huge volume of research supporting the cause for getting kids away from screens... not encouraging them to use them even more. Today, books are one of the few tangible experiences that still have a major place in children's development (so many others have been replaced by technology!), so we're keen for this trend to last for generations to come. In saying this, we will soon release our titles digitally as well - then we're ultimately leaving the choice of medium up to readers. Perhaps a mix of both might be the best option? 

One thing's for sure, our "physical" picture books aren't going anywhere for awhile, and we'll continue to do our best to produce them sustainably.

Where do you think the publishing industry will be in ten years?

There will be more “disruptive” players entering the market, perhaps employing a similar operating model to our own. And we do definitely expect a heavier tilt toward sustainable production and distribution methods, as these will likely be regulated at a legislative level, forcing the industry as a whole to think sustainability-first.

One of biggest changes, though, will be in ebook interfaces and the digital manifestation of content. Progress here - coupled with another generational shift across a decade - will comprehensively challenge the production of print books, and this shift will certainly pose a threat to the way things have always been done.

If you could change one thing about how books are published, what would it be?

Oh, transparency for sure. The whole industry is a bit of a black box, and this comes from there being so many layers involved, as we noted earlier. With transparency comes accountability, and with accountability comes change and progress.

What you don’t know can’t hurt you, but it can hurt the environment.

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Well, hopefully that was insightful! If you like to know more, you can always reach out to us on social media, or drop us an email. 

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