The theme of this year’s children’s conference from The Bookseller was ‘How To Publish For Everyone In Today’s Divided World’ . I have tried to collect all the notes together below. There was so much good stuff from the day that I may not have caught everything. If you spot any errors or missed attribution please let me know and I will update the notes. Enjoy the notes and make sure to subscribe to The Bookseller to find out about next years conference.
Jump to section.
- This years numbers
- Why is Young Adult so difficult?
- Opportunities in Young Adult
- Building a library on a budget
- Promoting and sustaining the careers of new authors and illustrators
- Publishing outside London
- World Book Day
- Children’s laureate charter
- Further reading
The Bookseller Kids Conference
It was a packed County Hall in London as Fiona Noble, Editor of the Bookseller kicked off the day with the sentiment echoed by many in attendance, “It’s what all of us want and work towards yet it remains very far from reality”.
“The lack of diversity means the book industry is "failing" children” said Pete Selby, head of books for W H Smith.
Diversity is going to become a "significant" part of WHS' strategy going forward and he called on others in the industry to join them in their goal. Selby told the audience that the industry could play a key role in combatting bigotry and exclusion. He said: “It’s a collective responsibility of everyone in this room to work together to reflect the beautiful, diverse nature of our society at a time when invidious and pernicious evil works to undermine the tolerance and acceptance that many of us took for granted.”
"Need to reflect all children in the books we publish to inspire the creators of the future." Said Catherine Bell (Moreton) (Co-MD of Scholastic UK).
“The book that turns a child into a reader could be the one you least expect”. “To get there we must be a country with vibrant libraries”
This years numbers
Kiera O'Brien, Charts & data editor at the Bookseller took a walk through this years industry numbers from Nielsen BookScan.
Overall the year seen some marginal falls and rises.
- Michelle Obamas biography knocked David Walliams off the Christmas bestseller top spot for the first time in three years.
- Wonkey Donkey became the first picture book to enter those charts.
- YA (Young Adult) is heading for its lowest sales year on record.
Jonathan Watson, Chief Product Officer of @kidsinsights shared some fascinating stats.
Kids Insights do market research on all things kids, tweens.
This is what kids are currently reading. Primary kids are represented by the left word cloud and under 7’s on the right.
Image c: @edgechristopher
1. Reading – 7.6%
1. Football – 23%
2. Music – 5.8%
2. Gaming – 18%
3. Dancing – 5.7%
3. Listening to music – 3%
4. Swimming – 5.5%
4. Reading – 2%
What concerns you the most about being online?
My privacy – 46%
Cyber-bullying – 42%
Pressure from social media – 21%
Spending too much time on the internet – 15%
Why is Young Adult proving so difficult?
After highlighting that YA is heading for it’s lowest year on record a panel of Sam Bradbury, editor at Hodder & Stoughton, Caroline Carpenter, Web editor at @thebookseller and Chair of the @yabookprize, Daphne Lao Tonge, @illumicrate owner and @_KnightsOf marketing director and Denise Johnstone-Burt, Executive Editorial Director at Walker Books looked at what could be causing that drop and what can be done.
Image c: Lorna Hemingway @HemingwayLorna
- Do we need to remove YA from the children’s section in stores?
- Do we need to develop the Tween space?
- Some YA crosses over into the adult market, while some middle-grade might be starting to edge into the YA market.
- Why are middle grade books aging up?
- While this alone doesn't account for the huge drop in sales it is one of the challenges when publishing for this age group.
- Increased competition for teens' attention from Netflix, gaming and others.
- Is current YA representative of Teens?
Opportunities in Young Adult
Children's media consultants Jamila Metran & Alice Burden believe there has never been a better time to be a YA author and publisher.
“Publishers are really attractive to production companies right now because they have lots of great, edited content ready to adapt”
@NetflixUK is investing over £500 million into the UK platform now.
“You’ve all got books on your list that have potential for TV”.
Tips on evaluating your story for pitching:
• Does your target audience match Netflix?
• Can your story sustain 52 episodes?
• What is this story doing differently from shows and what is already on Netflix?
• Can your story world expand?
Building a library on a budget
The amazing Jo Clarke (Children's writer. School librarian. Award winning Children's Book Blogger) and Lucas Maxwell (Writer and UK School Librarian of the Year 2017.) took to the stage during the day to talk about their experiences building a running school libraries.
Image c @lucasjmaxwell
CILIP, the Library and Information Association recommends that a library should have 10-13 books per child.
Resources Jo suggests are:
Lucas helpfully did his own write-up in this blog post going into more detail covering:
- Strategies to get boys reading
- Getting staff involved in the #library
- #Edtech tools we use to engage students
- Why you should run a student Library Assistant program.
Read the great post here: https://glenthornelrc.blogspot.com/2019/09/bookseller-kidsconf19-innovative.html
Promoting and sustaining the careers of new authors and illustrators
Image c @edgechristopher
The overall takeaway was that authors and illustrators need to take more of a hand in their own promotion and business and it needs to become part of the process when developing a new book.
“Engagement is key. Be proactive. “ recommends author Jasmine Richards.
- Start promoting your book months before publication
- Get to know and support your publishing team (Editor, Production, Publicist etc)
- Build relationships with your team and with librarians, teachers and book sellers.
Candy suggests on twitter , tongue-in-cheek, to have your author photo taken early while you're not tired and bitter.
According to author Christopher Edge, "What new authors and illustrators need: proactivity, tenacity and courage. Get out there and meet your audience."
A later panel highlighted the severe lack of children's book reviews in newspapers, so why not consider pitching features based on the author or their reasons for writing the book?
Overall a career in writing and illustrating can be solitary and lonely. Look for real friends you can meet and talk to. Not likes. They're the ones that will hold you up throughout your career. One of the best things Candy did when she was an unpublished author was join the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators because she made friends there. “These friendships with authors, illustrators, teachers and librarians have held me up over the years."
Kirsten Cozens, Press Officer at Walker Books shared this great pre-publication checklist used to promote the book Julián is a Mermaid from Jessica Love. The aim was to elevate a book with low sales expectations and marketing budget.
Image c @ candygourlay
The result was terrific press coverage and a 2019 Stonewall Book Award and Nomination for the @Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.
- The story must be eight minutes or less in length.
- It must be of a suitable age for CBeebies.
- "We don't do farts. Go to @cbbc for that"
- Telegenic illustrations.
- They do accept self-published Picture books.
- They need to show diversity.
- Must be of a suitable tone i.e. settling a child down for bedtime.
Publishing outside London
The Scottish Book Trust is doing brilliant work with an incredible reach of 3.2 million people across a population of 5.5 million.
Firefly in Wales are continuing to punch above their weight with award wins and nominations. They shared the following benefits of publishing in Wales.
World Book Day
Announced on the day was the selection of books for World Book day. A great selection.
Children’s laureate charter
Author and children’s laureate Cressida Cowell finished the day highlighting the importance of reading and accessibility to books to our society and future.
Reiterating her campaign to make school libraries a statutory requirement Cressida also released her 10 point charter to get EVERY child to read for fun and get something out of books.
Every child has a right to…
- Read for the joy of it
- Access NEW books in schools, libraries and bookshops
- Have advice from a trained librarian or bookseller
- Own their OWN book
- See themselves reflected in a book
- Be read aloud to
- Have some choice in what they read
- Be creative for at least 15 minutes a week
- See an author event at least ONCE
- Have a planet to read on
You can download the list and poster here.
Image c @SarahE_Mac
Other writeups from the event:
- Notes from the Bookseller Childrens Books PR and Marketing Conference.
- Last years Childrens Books Conference notes.
- The Top 500 Influencers in Childrens books UK and Ireland.