DBF Interviews: Nicki Howard

Gill Publishers - Team headshots - Photography by Ruth Medjber www.ruthlessimagery.comWe sat down with Nicki Howard, Director of Gill Books, which is part of Gill, Ireland’s largest publisher and distributor in advance of our Writing for Children and Young Adults event.

Gill’s origins date back to 1856 when M.H. Gill & Son, whose portfolio included printing and bookselling, was founded in Dublin. The bookshop, which stood on O’Connell Street for 123 years, is referenced in James Joyce’s Ulysses. After the recent buyout of the Macmillan shareholding, Gill is once again a fully Irish-owned, independent company.

Nicki began her publishing career in New York 20 years ago working on children’s properties including R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Mary-Kate and Ashely Olsen. At Gill Books, Nicki oversees the publication of a bestselling and award-winning list which includes biography, cookery, history, current affairs, MBS, gift books, reference and lifestyle. She has recently led the expansion of Gill Books by entering the children’s and fiction markets with titles including Irelandopedia, The President’s Glasses, Oh My God What a Complete Aisling and The Gospel According to Blindboy. Nicki also sits on the Gill Executive board and the board of Publishing Ireland.

Nicki will be joined by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick, Nicki Howard, Bob Johnston, Ivan O’Brien, Faith O’Grady, Sarah Webb in Conversation with Aoife Murphy of Children’s Books Ireland. They will will discuss what publishing houses are looking for at the moment, provide advice on the best methods for approaching publishers and literary agents, share tips for writers on how to market one’s self and build a strong public profile, and examine what makes a current best-seller.


Gill Books in recent years has entered the children’s market. Was this a challenging expansion? 

It’s always challenging to move into new areas, but we entered cautiously and with titles that played to the existing strengths of Gill Books.


Are there major differences in producing a book for children and a book for adults?

We spend a lot of time thinking about the audience – and how we can delight them — for every book we produce on the adult list. We do the same for the books on the children’s list and tailor the package and messaging accordingly.


What is your top tip for budding authors?

Do your homework before sending your proposals into publishers. Why does your book deserve investment? Because that is what you will be asking publishers for. Every book requires a significant investment of time and money and so it makes sense to have a think about what the publisher you’re approaching generally publishes and why their investment in you/your idea will be worth their while.