Mary Cartwright

Art Director Usborne Publishing

Could you tell us about how you entered the world of publishing and detail your subsequent rise to Art Director with Usborne Publishing?

I trained in textiles first, then changed to illustration, was an illustrator for a while ( a pretty bad one). I decided I wasn’t going to earn much of a living as an illustrator, so I painted pub signs for Courage breweries for a year or so. Then I did a graphics course at the Sir John Cass (now Metropolitan Uni I think). I applied for a designer job at Usborne Publishing and got taken on freelance, then offered a fulltime job. That was about 20 years ago.

On average, how many titles do Usborne produce a year? 

Nearly 300.

How many members of staff are there at Usborne and of these how many work within the creative department?

Around 200, with nearly 50 designers/creative people in and out of house – we have offices in Oxford and Wolverhampton too.

How many illustrators do you typically work with per year? 

Nearly 100 I would have thought.

Do you work with many illustrators from outside the UK?


Of the titles you have been personally responsible for, which one are you most proud of and why?

This is too hard a question really, I’m proud of the fact that we all work really hard as a team to produce lots of great books.

Tell us a little about a recent project you have worked on, the stages involved and why you chose the selected illustrator(s).

I choose lots of different sorts of illustrators, some I prefer more than others naturally. I recently worked on a Hide and Seek Bunnies book with Lesley Danson from the Bright Agency. We chose her because her a/w suited the age group (very young) and her work is suitable for putting in bits of touchy feely. It’s also lovely fresh colours, she is nice to work with, agent is helpful etc.

Could you explain the royalty / flat fee structure you have in place at Usborne Publishing?

We pay a generous flat fee to our illustrators and we pay a bonus to those with whom we work with on continuing projects.

What is your all-time favourite children’s book and why? 

Oh blimey I’m too old, I loved Grey Rabbit when I was a child, and Eloise, Struwwelpeter. Now I love the illustrations of Lisbeth Zwerger – she’s done a gorgeous Wizard of Oz for North South , I think.

Can you identify some of the current trends in children’s publishing and predict trends for 2007.

From our point of view; more traditional,beautifully made books, a bit less pink and girly, nat hist is coming back, more stuff for boys, graphic novels, Manga

What can we expect from Usborne Publishing in 2007?

Dare I say more fab books, more activities, more baby stuff, a bit less pink, more fab fiction, the rest is a secret…

This interview has been syndicated courtesy of Childrensillustrators.com