Annick Press Publisher Rick Wills

Thursday, March 31, 2016 3:00 PM | Lena Coakley

Wednesday, March 9, 2015 7:00 PM

Minute Notes: Saumiya B.

Our president, Sharon Jennings, began by welcoming all present (and we were a big crowd) and recollecting how she started off her career with her first book published by Annick Press.

Past-president Karen Krossing shared key takeaways from her attendance at the international SCBWI conference attended by over 1200 members. Karen noted the following:

Jane Yolen – Spoke about the importance of re-invention and genre hopping.

William Joyce—This award-winning author/illustrator and filmmaker spoke on new media and how it is bringing democracy to storytelling.

The kid’s division publisher’s panel noted that the climate on kid’s books is good, and the Indies are not going away. Trends are now on new media.

Gary D.Schmidt – author of Orbiting Jupiter talked about writing to express and engender empathy in a broken world.


  • Marina Cohen
  • The Inn Between- Middle grade fiction from Roaring Brook Press.
  • Lana Button
  • Willow’s Smiles—a Kids Can Press picture book to be launched on April 3 at A Different Drummer Books.
  • Joyce Grant
  •  Gabby – published by Fitzhenry and Whiteside won the Rainforest of Reading award for Montserrat.
  • Tagged Out—middle grade reluctant sports reader from Larimer.
  • Deborah Kerbel
  • Feathered- Middle Grade Fiction from Kids Can Press.
  • Kathy Stinson
  • Harry and Walter – this picture book published from Annick Press is a hug of re-assurance.
  • Jo-Allen Bogart
  • The White Cat and the Monk—picture book from Groundwood Books.
  • Cheryl  Grossman ( a new member)
  • Cheryl won an Honorable Mention in the 84th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition for her children's story The Gardener Princess
  • Michele Nidenoff and photographer Olga Kozitska won second prize in the 2016 CAPIC (The Canadian Association of Professional Image Creators) Double Vision 2016 contest. 


Kathy Rondina extends her invitation to all to enroll for her course at George Brown in Creating Non-Fiction for Children.


Theo Heras then introduced Rick Wills who founded Annick Press in 1975 with Anne Millyard. Annick Press, which doesn’t turn away from difficult themes, has been called a publisher built on kindness, warmth and compassion. Theo would add intelligence and innovation as well. She invited Rick to speak to us and let us know how he did it for 40 years.

Rick began with a quick history of Annick. He and Anne co-founded Annick with deep concerns that Canadian values and sensibilities were not being reflected in books. They began well with great reception and coverage on national news—until their volunteering accountant announced they were near bankruptcy. Rick had to learn a different sort of “books” to avoid disaster!

How is Annick unique?

It is an owner-managed publishing company. Rick looks out for good books, distinctive literature. Annick publishes 25 books per annum. Last year it received close to 90 awards and citations. Rick insists that Annick remain an editorially-driven company, but it is always changing. For Annick and most Canadian publishers, 66-67% of sales are to the US. He also said that books are becoming more focused on the visual; the present generation is processing more visually.

Rick is a little pessimistic about changes in the industry and publishing pressures. Right here in Ontario, Grade 3 and Grade 6 EQAO reading standards are dropping. Rick went on to highlight that what kids read doesn’t matter as long as they read. Reading for pleasure is the key. 80% of students who met reading standards in grade 3 and grade 6 went on to pass grade 10 and were reading for fun for more than one hour.

Figures from the UK show that kids who read for fun are faring better in school.

Dr.Stephen Krasher’s research in the field proves that kids who read fare better both academically and socially. They have more empathy, are informed voters, and are better at critical and analytical thinking.

Rick emphasized that initiatives such as The National Reading Campaign and events such as those supported by TD will help improve skills of good readers.

Oftentimes economic factors affect student outcomes, but reading books can even counteract the effects of poverty. Rick’s biggest frustration is that society doesn’t understand the phenomenal social good that comes out of reading.

Some problems that face publishers today:

  • 1.     Not enough reviews
  • 2.     Loss of Indies.

E-books are not the answer according to Rick.

If authors and publishers can give the public powerful, relevant stories that connect, we can be part of the conversation about contemporary issues. Annick tries to do this and producing books about difficult subject and diversity is part of its identity.

For Authors

Rick then spoke of the importance of writing what you want to write about. He emphasized the importance of query letters. Even after you have convinced an editor, it will be used to sell the book to the sales team.

He said it is important for creators to know their competition, to check out other books. One thing he stresses is to never tell readers to think. As writers, we must help them to connect the dots.

Rick then went out to list some of Annick’s key non-fiction titles, books that set out to change the conversation.

  • 1.     Dreaming in Indian, an anthology of Native American and Canadian voices.
  • 2.     Patient Zero by Marilee Peters, about epidemics.
  • 3.     Chanda’s Secrets by Allan Stratton, a YA fiction dealing with HIV, but it also a story about loyalty, friendship, loss and struggle.

In closing, Rick emphasized Annick’s collaboration with the Top Grade program, which Catherine Mitchell told us about at a previous CANSCAIP meeting. It is an initiative that helps to bring Canadian Books to Canadian kids. Rick believes educators need help in getting good books that connect to their curriculum. He also believes kids must be given choices.

Questions from The Audience

Q: What is the market like for YA Non-Fiction?

Rick said that the book needs to be very well done and ensure that subject matter ties in to curriculum. He also re-stated the importance of an impressive cover letter.

Q: A member from the audience alluded to Rick’s mention of Dr.Stephen Krasher and highly recommended his book The Power of Reading.

Q: Kids are visual. Is Annick doing graphic novels?

With most graphic works they do, the writer is also the illustrator. Although they are expensive to produce, the market is growing.

Q: Does Annick do Middle Grade?

There is a healthy market, but publishers need a critical mass of Middle Grades to do well. They are focusing on YA in novels.

Q: From the 25 books published yearly by Annick, what percent comes from the slush pile?

It varies. There is no quota—just as it happens.

Q: How do illustrators approach Annick?

Send in samples to the Art Director, Sheryl Shapiro.

Theo thanked Rick and said (rightly so) that we were fortunate to have Rick speak to us. Join us in April for The Puppet Mongers and in May for a panel out-of-town guests here for The Forest of Reading awards.