Publisher Profile: Brown Books Kids
The CBC asks Thomas Reale, President & COO, and Milli Brown, CEO & Founder, questions about the publisher.
CBC: How did your publishing house start out?
Milli Brown: In 1990, I started a company dedicated to helping families preserve and pass down their special stories and family histories by creating leatherbound heirloom books. Years later, a number of my clients began asking me to publish their commercial manuscripts. At first, I resisted the idea, but once I understood that the publishing industry had largely cut the author out of the industry’s value proposition, I became very passionate about their lack of real choice and decided to incorporate Brown Books Publishing Group in 1994.
CBC: What is your publishing house most known for?
Brown: I established Brown Books as the first hybrid publisher before there was even really a name for it. I decided to describe our fledgling company as “Random House for authors who want to retain their rights.” Over time I found that entrepreneurs and businesspeople gravitated to my business model more than full-time writers, and on that basis, we developed a strong adult nonfiction list.
We have since added to our pool of outstanding authors and have very strong publishing practices in coffee table books, adult fiction (including genre fiction), and of course, children’s books. We’ve also innovated (again!) on the business model side, offering different opportunities based on each author’s or investor’s experience, ability, and desire to participate with us.
CBC: Where in the country is your house based? What do you love about being based there?
Thomas Reale: We are a proud Texas publisher based in Dallas! The culture of rugged individualism expressed throughout the state is a perfect match for an innovative independent publisher.
CBC: What conventions and conferences does your publishing house usually attend?
Reale: While our agents represent us at Frankfurt, London, and Bologna, we have in the past been present for TLA and the trade expo in New York. Coming out of COVID, we look forward to returning to our regularly-attended shows going forward.
CBC: Which genres does your house prefer to publish?
Reale: As a general-interest trade publisher, we don’t pick favorites! We have a rich history of publishing adult nonfiction titles in the Business, Self-Help, Motivational, and Politics genres, adult and YA titles in Fantasy and Science Fiction genres, along with our collection of children’s books aimed at supporting early literacy development.
CBC: Which formats does your house prefer to publish?
Reale: On those titles where the market will bear it, being a hardcover-first house differentiates us in the market, and imparts value through the product upon our authors and readers alike.
CBC: What are some of your house’s publishing priorities over the next few years?
Reale: We are proud to announce our new imprint coming in 2023 in partnership with Fulbright Scholar and Professor of Literacy Michael Sampson. The collection, published under the name Michael Sampson Books, will feature titles by well-known authors selected with Dr. Sampson that fit within and promote the Martin Model of Reading, a literacy framework left as an enduring legacy of the late Bill Martin Jr, with whom Michael worked and wrote for many years.
CBC: Which title has your house recently rallied behind?
Reale: Armadillo Antics has been running and romping through bookstores and libraries alike this year! This first in a series of titles by legendary author team Bill Martin Jr and Michael Sampson led our spring season this year and continues to post strong sales.
CBC: Which title does your house feel deserved more love than it got?
Reale: Come Day in Night by Hal Evans presents a coming-of-age novel about racial tension and doing what is right during hardship and iniquity, set in Texas during the civil rights era and largely influenced by the author’s real-life experiences.
CBC: Which upcoming titles is your house buzzing about?
Reale: The Story of Ukraine: An Anthem of Glory and Freedom by Olena Kharchenko and Michael Sampson, with illustrations by Polina Doroshenko, presents facts about Ukrainian culture and history in a bilingual English-Ukrainian format. This title, which launches in the US on December 13, has already been licensed for the Ukraine and EU regions by Old Lion Press in Lviv. It is our hope that children of Ukrainian descent and the many children around the world who are curious or confused about the war will be able to learn about the long and proud history of Ukraine from this book.
CBC: Which of your frontlist titles would be great for a classroom? Which grade?
Reale: Ten Little Squirrels by Bill Martin Jr and Michael Sampson, with illustrations by Nathalie Beauvois provides excellent storytime counting practice with ordinal numbers for the PreK-1 classrooms.
CBC: Name a few of your favorite backlist titles that people should check out.
Reale: The PNSO Encyclopedia for Children series, including The Secrets of Dinosaurs, The Secrets of Pterosaurs, and The Secrets of Ancient Sea Monsters is a breathtakingly illustrated set of paleontology books for the ever so many kids who are fascinated by the ancient world.
CBC: What else would you like to tell us about your house and the amazing work you all do?
Brown: We’re hitting our stride as a large independent publisher at a great time. There is such need for support in early literacy and the list that we have developed and will continue to add to through the Michael Sampson Books imprint launching next year will, we believe, add to the conversation happening across the industry at this critical moment.
Meanwhile, we continue to offer innovative opportunities for great debut authors to offer their stories to us, which is something I continue to be passionate about.
Thank you, Brown Books Kids!