Exclusive Interview with Buster Books editor, Hannah Daffern ~ 20th Anniversary ~ @BusterBooks

To celebrate Buster Books’ 20th birthday, I have an exclusive interview with editor, Hannah Daffern. Hannah has been an editor for Buster Books for thirteen years. Having worked on a wide range of books from search books to sticker books to picture books, she loves how every day is different in the world of Buster.

Hi Hannah, it is lovely to be chatting with you. Congratulations to Buster Books for 20 years of publishing! Could you tell us a little bit about your role at Buster Books?

My role is incredibly varied which is why I love my job at Buster so much. One day, I will be proofreading a fun, fact-filled science activity book called This Book is Full of Brains for our collaboration with Little House of Science, and the next day I will be considering just how big an elf’s ears should be when approving artwork for our gorgeous upcoming picture book Steve the Christmas Elf, which lands on the shelves in October this year. There is never a dull day in the Buster team office.

I am currently helping to develop our growing picture book list, working up picture book ideas and collaborating with illustrators and agents to find the perfect author/artist dream team for potential projects and pitching them to our Editorial and Sales Teams. I also work on Buster’s brilliant non-fiction titles.

What do you think makes Buster Books unique from other publishers?

As one of the last independent publishers, we are able to react quickly to the market and publish what we want, when we want. We recognize trends and try to apply a unique twist on things.

Our titles are always fun and a little bit quirky. We love to engage kids and make them laugh whilst informing them with cool facts at the same time.

We are proud of publishing high quality, well-researched books for children and their adults to enjoy.

How big is the Buster Books team – and how will you all be celebrating Buster Books 20th birthday?!

We have 11 editors and 5 designers on the Buster team, as well as two publishing apprentices.

We are doing lots to celebrate our big Buster birthday! We’re publishing a special edition of our flagship Where’s The…? search-and-find series, called Where’s The Puppy?  as the Buster Books imprint was started by our Managing Director Lesley O’Mara, who named it after her beloved dog Buster. And the new book features some of the editorial team (and their pets!), too.

We’re also running an online campaign with our favourite reviewers, to highlight some of our backlist titles. Bloggers and reviewers have been an essential support over the years in shouting about our books, and this is just invaluable as a smaller, indie publisher so we are very grateful. We’ll also be celebrating with an old-fashioned party when regulations allow – we’re a pretty tight-knit team and love hanging out so this will be perfect! 

Over the 13 years you’ve worked at Buster Books, has there been one book you’ve published that has really stood out for you?

I’ve worked on so many gorgeous books in my time at Buster but I think the book closest to my heart right now is The Dinosaur Department Store. It was one of the first picture books we published and kids respond to how wild and imaginative it is. I love how our picture books combine humorous rhyme and bold artwork with themes such as acceptance or the importance of freedom. The Dinosaur Department Store was such a success that we are continuing the heroine’s adventures in That Dinosaur Has Talent! which is publishing this September.

As an editor, how do you decide which texts to commission and how do you and the team decide on which illustrator to pair the author with?

We either decide to commission a text on a specific popular theme requested by our Sales teams or we share submissions from authors and agents within the editorial team and champion the ones we feel fit the Buster list.

Finding the perfect illustrator to match a text can be challenging as we find that our UK sales teams champion bright and bold artwork that might not be liked in all of our foreign markets, so it can take some time to decide on the illustrator style that straddles both UK, US and other foreign markets.

We love to work with illustrators who have a platform on social media but that isn’t essential if their work is filled with charm and character.

Can you tell us about some of the authors and illustrators on your lists?

We work with a huge range of authors and illustrators, some famous, some lesser-known, and some are even in-house!

Lily Murray is one of my favourite authors to work with and has written a number of our picture books such as “What About Me?” Said the Flee. Her text is playful, witty and fun and combined with the super-talented illustrator Richard Merritt, who injects his own humour and narrative into the artwork, we have ourselves a best-selling combination!

We were thrilled to work with the vet, conservationist and CBeebies star, Dr Jess French on her debut picture book, Slow Down, Monkey! She wove mindful tips and tricks into a rhyming text set to a jumping, jungle beat!

Jonny Leighton is the author of the hilariously funny Does A Bear Poo in the Woods? ­– another quirky and original picture book due to publish this July. Jonny authored our successful Magical Unicorn Society Handbook series, and this is his first picture book. So far, both the UK trade and foreign publishers are snapping this one up with its funny rhyming text and tongue-in-cheek illustrations by the best-selling picture book illustrator Mike Byrne.

Just Being Ted by Lisa Sheehan, a little gem of a picture book about a dragon who doesn’t have any friends, was a stand-out submission from Lisa and the first title that she both wrote and illustrated. It only published in May this year and is already flying off the shelves.

We’re very excited to be working with the fantastic illustrator Carmen Saldana on a picture book called Bedtime, Little Mouse, which comes out in March 2022. It cleverly combines a lovely bedtime story with a three step Mindful Method designed to get your little one off to sleep.

On the non-fiction side we work with hugely successful authors as well including Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock in Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System and Dr Gareth Moore who creates our huge puzzle book range, as well as the completely original and quirky Mike Barfield who authors many of our titles including the new A Day in the Life of a Poo, a Gnu and You, which scooped up the Blue Peter Book Awards for Best Book with Facts this year!

What makes a submission stand out to you as the right fit for the Buster Books list?

Like all our best Buster Books, if a submission takes a popular subject or theme and gives it a twist, our interest is piqued, and we will read on …

Do you have any exciting children’s books being published later this year?

So many. As I’ve mentioned we are very excited about publishing more picture books including Does a Bear Poo in the Woods?, That Dinosaur Has Talent! and Steve, the Christmas Elf.

And on the non-fiction side, we are really excited about our ‘Buster Wellbeing Books’ including Feeling Good About Me and a range of official LEGO activity books that we now have the licence for. 

What advice would you give to authors and illustrators looking to work with Buster Books?

We love anything original and quirky. It is even better if they have researched the market and know what we are competing against and are taking something to the next level in a new and engaging way. We are always on the hunt for new talented authors and illustrators to work with.

Thank you so much for chatting with me, Hannah! We are huge fans of Buster Books picture books and can’t wait to read your upcoming titles – they look and sound amazing!

Here are links to my reviews of some amazing Buster Books titles:

Slow Down, Monkey! by Dr Jess French and Eefje Kuijl
It is Monkey’s birthday and she is in a hurry to arrange the perfect birthday bash. But the more Monkey rushes around, the more things start to go wrong. Until she meets a super-chilled sloth who tells her to slow down! This post includes an interview with Jess!

What About Me? Said the Flea by Lily Murray & Richard Merritt
A bright, rhyming picture book that almost ends in disaster with a capital SPLAT! When a little girl decides to write a story, she ponders and puzzles over whom to write about. Then she hears a loud voice, lots of loud voices in fact, coming from would-be picture book characters, all vying for the lead role in her story. 

Just Being Ted by Lisa Sheehan
Just Being Ted is a beautiful picture book that allows children to explore themes of individuality, acceptance and friendship. Ted the dragon lives all alone in the woods and wishes he had some friends to play with. He decides to go undercover to a Bears-Only Picnic. Will the bears discover the truth and what will happen if they do?

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