Working Title Press Archive

Profile of the Working Title Press Archive

This profile is provided to assist those interested in the Working Title Press Archive. The information has been sourced from the various articles written by Jane Covernton and Sue Williams which are included in the Working Title Press Archive.

Jane Covernton and Sue Williams, co-founders of Working Title Press, had extensive publishing experience. Jane Covernton, as editor, and Sue Williams, as art director and publishing manager, had worked together at Rigby Publishing in Adelaide for five years. They left Rigby together and established a packaging and freelance design company in 1981. This soon led to their establishing the children’s book publishing company, Omnibus Books in 1982. Their first published Omnibus Book in 1982 was the picture book, One Woolly Wombat written by Rod Trinca and illustrated by Kerry Argent. Following its success came Possum Magic written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Julie Vivas. It was published in 1983 to great acclaim with ongoing sales in new formats over the years, such as board books and in special ‘presentation’ boxes. By 2017, Possum Magic had sold over five million copies in English and translations (detail from Wikipedia).

In 1991, Omnibus Books was sold to Ashton Scholastic, which later became Scholastic Australia. Omnibus Books continued as an imprint (part of Scholastic Australia) where Covernton and Williams remained for seven years as joint general managers and publishers. In 1997, they left Omnibus Books and established Working Title Press. Their aim was for Working Title Press to be a small independent publishing house. It was to concentrate on picture books and illustrated fiction and nonfiction initially aimed at children from birth through to five years of age, later extended to around 12 years of age. They intended to work with new illustrators and authors and aimed to create ‘warm, funny and enjoyable – and occasionally educational’ books.

Their interests also included Indigenous subject matter which resulted in a series, unique for their time, described by Working Title Press as ‘Dreaming Narratives’. These featured the artwork of Indigenous children from central and northwest Australia. The series was developed by the former Lajamanju Community Education Centre principal, Dr Christine Nicholls. Her role was to consult with the traditional owners of the stories, to edit and assist in their translation and to work with the children in each community on the artwork.

In June 2017, Jane Covernton, now working on her own, sold the Working Title imprint to HarperCollins which continues to publish children’s books under the Working Title imprint. During its time as an independent small publisher, Working Title Press published 111 children’s books.

Jane Covernton donated the Working Title Press archive to the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature Inc along with copies of each book published. Manuscripts, artworks and correspondence are not part of this collection because Working Title Press books continue to be published by HarperCollins and publishing documentation could be required for possible future editions.

In general, this collection provides an in-depth insight into the reception of Working Title Press books through reviews, articles and clippings from various sources worldwide. Of special note is an extensive series of talks presented by Jane Covernton about the publishing process of children’s books in Australia. Topics included by Jane Covernton include the inner workings, costs and challenges of publishing at Working Title Press. There are also some references to her work as Omnibus Books Publisher.  These papers also cover packaging and the publication of poetry.

Of general interest to children’s publishing in Australia are several papers which discuss the rise of children’s publishing in the 1980s in Australia with some reference to the overseas market. Covered here are such topics as book design, marketing, reviewing. The rise of publishers carrying the name of their founding individuals such as Margaret Hamilton Books and Mark Macleod Books are also discussed. Jane Covernton often spoke at high profile events and covered the field of children’s publishing from her own in-depth perspective. These are available as typescripts which are frequently annotated with additional details.

A special strength of the Working Title Press Archive is the extensive collection of typed manuscripts by Jane Covernton. These provide one person’s in-depth knowledge and insight into Australian children’s literature publishing industry during its early stage of development and changes in Australian children’s publishing over time. While a few of these talks were subsequently published, many remain as annotated typescripts representing one person’s in-depth experience and knowledge.

The Working Title Press Archive consists of four series:

  • Articles and publicity about Working Title Press and Omnibus Books
  • The Children’s Book Council of Australia publications which include annotations of awards given to Working Title Press Books
  • Australian and international catalogues relating to book fairs, exhibitions and writers’ week exhibitions which include Working Title Press books
  • Reviews, publicity and articles relating to Working Title Press books with sources identified and reviewers/correspondents identified where available

Background sources for the profile of the Working Title Press Archive

Copies of published talks, drafts and typed manuscripts by Jane Covernton and Sue Williams are included in the following Working Title Press folders: Series 1, Folders 3, 4, 8, 9 and 10.

Adam, Patricia ‘Covernton and Williams Create New Imprint’, Reading Time : The Journal of the Children’s Book Council of Australia vol 43, no 2, May 1999, pp4-5

England, Katharine ‘Writing their way to fame’ The (Adelaide) Advertiser, 12 Apr 2014, p58

Morrow, Robin ‘Long Way from Grub Street’ in Magpies : Talking about Books for Children, vol 32, no 3 July 2017, pp18-19

Sheahan-Bright, Robyn ‘A Look at Working Title Press’ in Magpies : Talking about Books for Children vol 19, no 3, Jul 2004, pp22-24

The Working Title Press Archive
Finding aids
Publishers files