Hear from our speakers

Matt Deegan, creative director at Folder Media

Which children’s book campaign do you think knocked it out of the park this year?

The World’s Worst Children campaign was pretty ubiquitous in terms of radio on both Heart and Fun Kids.

What is the most exciting brand within children’s entertainment at the moment?

Disney Life is pretty exciting, will be very interesting to see how well it fares. Do people want a Netflix for kids? Pokemon is having a remarkable resurgence thanks to Pokemon Go!

Which companies or brands do you look to in the publishing industry for inspiration?

Harper Collins does a fantastic job of curating existing classics such as The Tiger Who Came To Tea, Mary Poppins and Paddington, as well as launching new titles by the likes of David Walliams.

What is the biggest challenge facing the children’s publishing industry at the moment?

YouTube! There is a worry that children are losing the attention required to stick it out with a good book when there are infinite hours of entertainment available on demand to flick through.

Matt will be talking about using social data to drive decision making at The Bookseller's Children Conference on Tuesday 27th September.

Kate Wilson, managing director at Nosy Crow

Which children’s book campaign do you think knocked it out of the park this year?

Well, I would say that the Nosy Crow Campaign for My Brother Is A Superhero wasn’t too shabby, and that we were proud of our campaign for Refuge too. Anything HarperCollins does for David Walliams seems pretty effective, and I was impressed by their Mog Christmas activity.

What is the most exciting brand within children’s entertainment at the moment?

It’s not, particularly in this manifestation, exclusively a children’s brand, but who can have seen the sales for the Cursed Child script without being amazed and impressed by the resilience of Harry Potter?

Which companies or brands do you look to outside the publishing industry for inspiration?  

Waterstones. I think that they are making changes happen in the UK children’s book market. The rise and rise of hardback illustrated non-fiction post Maps, for example, is something that they’ve very much helped to create. And, of course, we’re really interested in understanding and working with the two big organisations in partnership with whom we are creating children’s publishing lists: The National Trust and The British Museum.

What is the biggest challenge facing the children’s publishing industry at the moment?

Brexit, and the ensuing devaluation of the pound against other currencies, but particularly the dollar, which impacts on our costs. I worry about the impact of Brexit on the UK economy, though I know that July’s high street figures suggest that I may be worrying at best unnecessarily and at worst prematurely.

Kate will be sharing 10 things Nosy Crow learned from publishing a debut at The Bookseller’s Children’s Conference on Tuesday 27th September.

Mairi Kidd, managing director at Barrington Stoke

Which children’s book campaign do you think knocked it out of the park this year?

The Beetle Boy campaign was great. And, of course, we're really proud of our own Alpha campaign - tabloid and broadsheet coverage, major partnerships with charities, funding from two bodies that mainly support adult literary projects, a high profile commissioned event at EIBF, a Scottish Book Trust Authors Live event and lots more to come. We see this campaign running from August 2016 into 2017 and beyond.

What is the most exciting brand within children’s entertainment at the moment?

It's exciting to see children's entertainment continuing to take a lead from books and BBC (and other) adaptations doing well.

Which companies or brands do you look to outside the publishing industry for inspiration?

We look less to brands than to channels and how these are engaging young audiences. We also look to what organisations like Amnesty are doing to engage young people in a thoughtful manner.

What is the biggest challenge facing the children’s publishing industry at the moment?

The institutional market is seriously under threat and from our perspective that risks a complete loss of coverage for new and diverse audiences with whom bookshops, and especially chains, do not engage. Topline bestsellers with big marketing budgets will no doubt be fine, but those are never going to be the most diverse or representative titles and are not going to create a healthy literature ecology for the future.

Mairi will be talking about how publishers can make books more accessible at The Bookseller’s Children’s Conference on Tuesday 27th September.

Brexit + children's publishing = ?

We asked some of our influencers to share their predictions for how Brexit will affect the children's publishing industry.

Sarah Odedina, editor-at-large at Pushkin Children's

I suspect that many publishers will react to the Brexit vote with a desire to counter the negative connotations of the decision and will work harder to find books from European publishers that help build bridges rather than emphasis division.  The pound being so weak will also be beneficial to co-edition sales and sales of books in English to Europe.

Greet Pauwelijn, founder of Book Island

At Book Island we’re mainly worried about a weak pound sterling, which is very unfavourable for publishing houses like us who acquire English-language rights for the UK and print in Asia. Brexit should not affect the subsidies we receive from Europe, as they are allocated by the national literature funds, and not the EU. We might even be eligible for more funding  as we do play an important role in ensuring that the UK readers don’t miss out on great foreign language picture books and in preventing the UK market from becoming even more insular than it already is.

Tiia Strandén, head of International Projects at the Finnish Literature Exchange

Seeing things from a Nordic point of view, Brexit doesn’t necessarily have to mean closed doors when it comes to translating and introducing more children's and YA literature from outside the UK. On the contrary, books for children and young readers are a neutral area and a non-aggressive way of bringing Europe to the UK.

Sarah, Greet and Tiia will discuss working with European partners in a post-Brexit market at The Bookseller’s Children’s Conference on Tuesday 27th September.

Great children’s book social media campaigns

We asked some of our influencers to share examples of what makes a children's book social media campaigns work.

Georgina Atwell, founder of Toppsta

As a creative industry we’re constantly striving for innovation but real success in social media stems not so much from originality but commitment and engagement with the audience. Those publishers who are successful online are posting regularly, posting about general book news and engaging in conversations about their books, their authors and their brands with a voice and strategy that is appropriate to that channel. I think overall, as an industry we have focused on Twitter but if we want to talk to ordinary parents, other social media channels, particularly Facebook and Youtube, can be more effective. 

Georgina will talk about the power of social media and how to reach parents beyond the school gate at The Bookseller’s Children’s Conference on Tuesday 27th September.

Matt Deegan, creative director at Folder Media

Egmont are very good at promoting their titles; for example, this is a great gif promoting a Star Wars colouring book:

The ‘Barrify Me’ campaign for Future Ratboy, where kids submit their photos and get a cartoony make over by author Jim Smith, is also great:

Matt will be talking about using social data to drive decision making at The Bookseller's Children Conference on Tuesday 27th September.

Bestselling children's books in numbers

The Bookseller's charts and data editor Kiera O'Brien breaks down the sales statistics for some of the bestselling children's books of all time.*

  • 18 of the Top 50 bestselling books of all time are Children’s titles. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Bloomsbury) is the biggest-selling children’s book ever, with 3,047,000 copies sold. The Philosopher’s Stone is a close second, with a total volume of just 40,000 copies fewer.

  • J K Rowling’s name appears 9 times and Stephenie Meyer’s appears 4 times in the top 20 bestselling Children’s titles of all time. Julia Donaldson and Jeff Kinney both feature 2 times.

  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Little, Brown) became the 25th bestselling Children’s book of all time in its first week on sale. In 2 weeks, it sold over 1,000,000 copies, the first Children’s book to do so in 9 years.

  • Jacqueline Wilson is just £200,000 away from joining J K Rowling and Julia Donaldson in the £100m club. That’s just 28,612 copies of Hetty Feather at £6.99 each.

  • In the 8 weeks since the Zoella Book Club titles were announced, they have jumped a combined 541% in volume (compared to the eight weeks before). The biggest seller is Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places (Penguin), which has sold over 115,000 copies.

  • Julia Donaldson has been the UK’s bestselling author for the last 3 years. In the first 6 months of 2016, she has already sold 1,300,000 books for £6m. However, 2016 is shaping up to be a competitive year, with J K Rowling and Jack Thorne looking likely to take the crown with Cursed Child.

  • Ahead of Cursed Child’s release, Harry Potter sales had gone up 56% over the first six months of the year. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Bloomsbury) has sold an extra 40,000 copies in 2016 so far, leading up to the film adaptation’s November release.

  • David Walliams’ short story collection The World’s Worst Children (HarperCollins Children’s) was the Children’s bestseller of the year before Cursed Child came along. It has so far sold over 300,000 copies, but only accounts for 38% of his total volume this year, due to the sales strength of his backlist. Four of his titles published before 2016 feature in the Children’s top 20 bestsellers for the year to date.

  • Roald Dahl had his first ever number one this year, 26 years after his death. World Book Day title The Great Mouse Plot (Puffin) hit the top spot in March.

  • In January, Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree (Macmillan Children’s) became the first Children’s title to win the Costa Book Award in its current form. Its volume rocketed 876% the week after its win and it has now sold over 87,000 copies.

*All data from Nielsen BookScan as of August 2016.

Kiera will be sharing which books are really selling at The Bookseller's Children's Conference on Tuesday 27th September.

Adapting for TV

With an expanding array of devices and platforms competing to attract kids’ eyeballs, how can a 94-year-old media brand remain relevant? Charlotte Eyre finds out, in discussion with CBBC controller Cheryl Taylor:

What does your position as controller of CBBC involve?

CBBC is our dedicated channel for six to 12-year-olds, and my job is to look at the numerous submissions we receive and commission as many TV shows and interactive experiences as I can afford for a highly curious and fun- seeking audience.

How do you decide which shows CBBC is going to commission and screen?

We have a diverse offer which has something for everyone, from “Dangermouse” through to “Blue Peter”, “Operation Ouch”, “Newsround”, “Hetty Feather”, “Hank Zipzer” and documentary series “My Life”. So I look for ideas that complement the current shows and bring something new, or something better than what we already have.

All ideas need to be age-appropriate first and foremost. They also need to be high-quality, engaging and ideally optimise stealth learning opportunities without being patronising. I like ideas that fulfil our public service remit at the same time as having brilliant format points and strong stories that will provoke chat in playgrounds across the country.

When creating a hit, how much is down to luck, and how much is talent?

It’s mostly talent. To mix all the component parts together for a compelling drama with returning series potential, or an entertainment show with really grabby format points, takes incredible skill and attention to detail. When certain cast members turn out to have award-winning chemistry then you could put that down to luck, and sometimes you can boost your chances by launching at a timely moment when the zeitgeist conforms to your subject matter in a fortuitous way. But I’d say it’s 90% talent.

How do you keep a balance between all of the different types of shows for different age groups?

A six-year-old has very different preoccupations to a 12-year-old, so we work hard to cater for everyone. We have a heady mix of shows like “Bottersnikes & Gumbles” and “Odd Squad” for younger viewers, and drama and comedy for older viewers like “Wolf- blood” and “Nowhere Boys”.

The majority of CBBC shows have a broad appeal and entertain kids (and often parents) right across our target demographic: “Horrible Histories”, “Operation Ouch”, “Diddy TV”, “Officially Amazing”, “Roy” and “Hetty Feather” are just a few examples.

How does programming for children differ from programming for adults?

In terms of commissioning, CBBC mirrors BBC One in terms of our multi-genre offering, although we have far more animation than an adult channel would carry. In terms of scheduling, our peak slots are before school and at teatime, once kids have come home from school, so we schedule the most popular shows accordingly. We also repeat content more often, as kids love to see their favourite shows again. The CBBC audience are big fans of the iPlayer service too, and our dramas often achieve over 50% of their views on demand.

How has the digital revolution affected children’s TV?

Our target demographic has far more exciting distractions compared to 10 years ago. Digital platforms offer them an endless supply of games and short-form content, and social media use is often obsessive. This has impacted on the viewing figures of all kids’ channels and until we work out a satisfactory way of calculating how our millions of iPlayer views fit into the picture, we won’t have a clear view of how on demand is plugging the gap.

What are the most important links between publishing and broadcasting, in your opinion?

CBBC makes it a priority to encourage kids to read. We have a regular book club on air, hosted by book enthusiast Katie Thistleton, as well as the annual Blue Peter Book Awards, so our links with the publishing industry and with individual authors are really important to us. We were thrilled by the turnout to our CBBC Awesome Authors event in Birmingham in July and we will continue to find as many opportunities as possible to highlight the great literary talents in the UK and beyond.

What kind of books make for great TV shows?

It’s highly likely that if a book is popular it is because it has a strong premise, with great characters operating in an authentic and/or imaginative world. These factors all make for potentially good TV as long as the adaptation is handled sensitively. Most of all we need to feel that, regardless of when something was written, it has a real relevance and value to our audience.

Cheryl will be sharing what makes a great adaptation at The Bookseller's Children Conference on Tuesday 27th September.

Ask the influencers

What gives a children’s book everlasting appeal? What's an example of excellent children’s publishing? What would you like to see more of in children’s books? We ask some of the influencers in the children's publishing industry - from publishers and booksellers to journalists and bloggers - to share their expert opinions.


Imogen Russell-Williams, children’s and YA book journalist and editorial consultant

What gives a children’s book everlasting appeal?

To me, what gives a children's book everlasting appeal is originality and ambition, coupled with directness and clarity. It shouldn't set out to point a moral or hitch a wagon to a prevalent trend - the reader should be swept along by the writer's compulsion to tell that particular story, without any sense of their havering over age-appropriateness or going on at indulgent length.

Can you name an example of excellent children’s publishing? What makes it stand out?

Examples of excellent recent children's publishing include A Great Big Cuddle, published by Walker, a book of poems for very young children by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Chris Riddell. What makes this so good, I think, is that it fulfils a need - small children love poetry that's bouncy, funny, child's-eye level and thought-provoking - and is just so well done. It's alarming and hilarious, diverting and reassuring, a perfect match of illustrator and author - a book that does exactly what it sets out to do.

Other excellent recent children's publishing include the wealth of new books coming out from Barrington Stoke - renowned authors writing pared-down but not dumbed-down, superbly accessible stories for all age groups - and Jonathan Stroud's Lockwood and Co books (PRH), which are terrifying, funny, ambitiously written and effortlessly excellent. Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre's collaborations (Oliver and the Seawigs, Cakes in Space and Pugs of the Frozen North, OUP) are also full of humour and heart, and add up to much more than the sum of their parts. Illustration, to me, is frequently a key part of excellence in children's publishing  - whether it's the tiny chapter-head Lockwood drawings or the anarchic breadth of McIntyre's work, the alchemy of the right words with the right images and design are often what make the experience of reading a book unforgettable and transformative.

What would you like to see more of in children’s books?  

Generally, I would like to see LESS in children's books, rather than more - less mediocre, middle-of-the-road work, especially by celebrity authors who don't have the talent to back up the name (but who may soak up disproportionate amounts of the small media coverage available), and more original and risk-taking books. I would also like to see more 'diverse' main characters (including BAME protagonists - on the covers of books).

Kirsten Grant, director of World Book Day

What gives a children’s book everlasting appeal?

When you look at the number of children’s books being made into films at the moment, enduring appeal (which generally, without fail, makes the book better than the film) always comes back to a brilliant story.

The setting, the characters, the plot, the sense of adventure – whether in a fantastical or urban setting - and, most of all, children battling adversity with whatever metaphorical weapons they have in their armoury are all timeless elements of any book which has everlasting appeal, and which authors come back to time and time again in varying guises.

Children also need to recognise themselves between the pages, to see their own feelings, problems, aspirations and personal circumstances played out by the characters – whether it’s Tracy Beaker, Greg Heffley, Alex Rider – or down a rabbit hole.

Can you name an example of excellent children’s publishing? What makes it stand out?

Despite the obvious hook that the centenary celebrations have brought, the whole fabric behind the Roald Dahl publishing is a masterclass.

The books are treated as frontlist every year, Roald Dahl Day, now in its 10th year, was created to provide the perfect platform to market the books and get consumers talking about them year after year, and all new publishing or rejacketing is clever and considered – just like the author himself, who is now remembered through his life story and beautifully preserved archive, museum and hut.

Layer the omnipresent centenary celebrations on top, and there can’t be a child or family in the land who hasn’t been swept away by Roald Dahl’s books and stories in one form or another.

What would you like to see more of in children’s books?

Diversity is obviously an issue that the industry has been facing for a very long time, reflected in the staff, authors, types of books they are writing and characters they are creating.

Children’s publishing is a veritable hotbed of creativity and clever, strategic thinking, so publishing new voices which reflect our diverse audiences is certainly not beyond their reach.


Georgina Atwell, founder of Toppsta

What gives a children’s book everlasting appeal?

Picture books need to work harder than ever to shine through the crowd but those I’ve seen recently which will stand the test of time have one of two elements. Either they offer something genuinely different, like Bee and Me by Alison Jay, which has beautiful illustrations but no words, so the reader and listener can create the story together. Or they have that rhyme, rhythm and repetition which kids love. Oi Frog! by Kes Gray and Jim Field is a good example or I Went to the Supermarket by Paul Howard. I can see these being family favourites for generations to come.

For older fiction I think there’s definitely something to be said for simple and recognisable settings. We’ve seen it with Wimpy Kid and Tom Gates but also more recently, the brilliant Timmy Failure series by Stephan Pastis, the Trebizon series from Anne Rigby and the hilarious Chicken Nugget Ambush by Mark Lowery. It’s easy for children to relate to the characters in these books, whilst the stories tackle everyday challenges that appeal to children from every generation. Alternatively, those authors who have dispensed with any specific geographical or cultural context and focused on the human aspect of the story, Roald Dahl is obviously the king of this approach but equally the Train Your Dragon series from Cressida Cowell is pure genius and won’t date in years to come.

Can you name an example of excellent children’s publishing? What makes it stand out?

I think Bubble Boy by Stewart Foster was beautiful. It managed to be inspiring, motivating, poignant and absolutely compulsive reading. It deserves to be up there with The Fault in Our Stars and Wonder and our reviewers aged 8 to 12 all loved it. Then there are publishers like Usborne who just publish brilliant books each and every month. Practical, informative, innovative and fun with consistently high production values.

What would you like to see more of in children’s books?

I’d love to see more campaigns for mid-list and debut authors but they just don’t get the budget. I am full of admiration for those publishers who continue to get behind debut authors. Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford and My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomons are just two that really stand out, not just for the writing but for the campaigns from Harper and Nosy Crow which supported them. Equally, it would be great to see more campaigns for illustrators, like Little Tiger Press’s campaign for Bee by Britta Teckentrup - it is such a gorgeous book and they’re helping to build up Britta to get the recognition she deserves.

Jonas Herriot, librarian and chair of London’s Youth Libraries Group

What gives a children’s book everlasting appeal?

I think the most important thing is that it needs to be written with a believable voice, with the characters acting in ways which are true to life. To do this the author needs to be able to get inside the mind of their characters and to see the world as they see it. Many stories fail because the author has an idea of what they want the story to do and plan it out and then force the characters to jump through hoops to get to the end, whereas I believe a good story will have an outline but it is driven by where the characters you have created take it. Alongside this I feel that for a story to have long-lasting appeal it can’t be to connected to current trends as this will date it. Some of the best books are many years old and despite being situated in a different time they are focused not on what is happening so much then, but more on what the characters are going through, and this makes them accessible and relatable.
Can you name an example of excellent children’s publishing? What makes it stand out?
Personally for me the The Borrible trilogy by Michael De Larrabeiti is about as good as it gets for a children’s book. The first book was published before I was born and is still as enjoyable to read now as it was when I first discovered it, in fact I can remember going up to London to buy the last book when it came out. The series itself is subversive, anarchistic, and so utterly unlike anything else  with its distinctive anti-authoritarian and rebelliousness that it captivated me as a child, and opened my eyes to the world of urban fantasy. I think what makes it such a good book is the complete lack of sugar coating or need to conform to the moral standards of the time. Indeed, the third book was even dropped by its publishers Collins because they felt that the message it portrayed wasn’t suitable and could reflect badly on them. Luckily, it was finally released by Pan a year later.
What would you like to see more of in children’s books?

I’m not certain as recent years have seen an exponential increase in the books which deal with diversity, sexuality, and inclusion/exclusion and I feel that the industry is in a good place at the moment. The voices we are hearing reflect well across the whole of society and there are certainly enough good books being produced. It may be worthwhile though if we could have more books published and promoted in this country which are not written here, or set in the Western world. There are certainly many talented authors around the world writing in their own countries and in their own languages which are worthy for translation. I would like to see more of this rather than Western authors writing about other countries from a Western viewpoint, which no matter how authentic they are, will never be the same as a translated work.


Jim Dean, blogger at YAYeahYeah and Teens on Moon Lane

What gives a children’s book everlasting appeal?

I think it's great characters, more than anything else, that give a book everlasting appeal. Looking back to the books I read in my own childhood, the ones which still resonate today are those with heroes like Taran of Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain or Gwyn, Emlyn and Nia in Jenny Nimmo's The Snow Spider and its sequels, or those with hugely relatable characters like Jennings and Darbishire in Anthony Buckeridge's Jennings books.  Looking at recent reads, ones which I'm sure will stand the test of time include Rooftoppers and The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell, Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant series, and Candy Harper's Faith trilogy, because in each case the main and supporting characters are brilliantly portrayed.

Can you name an example of excellent children’s publishing? What makes it stand out?

It's so hard to pick one example given the amount of excellent publishers out there! However as a long-term fan of Anne Digby's wonderful Trebizon series, Egmont issuing new editions made me really happy. It's fantastic to see a new audience for these brilliant books while Lucy Truman's completely charming illustrations make them a must-buy even for fans who already own the originals. (On a related note, Lucy Truman's quickly becoming a favourite illustrator of mine; I also adore her super-cute artwork for Katrina Charmans' wonderful Poppy's Place series published by Stripes.)

What would you like to see more of in children’s books?

I would really love to see more representation of asexual spectrum characters in YA; this is something where the US seems to be ahead of the UK in general - although it was fantastic to see Alice Oseman's superb representation in Radio Silence. Less specifically, I would also love to see more authors from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds being published and being included in major marketing and publicity initiatives.


Sarah Odedina, editor-at-large at Pushkin Children's

What gives a children’s book everlasting appeal?

Excellent writing first and foremost. Characters that the reader really cares about. A story that touches on universal truths that speak to readers everywhere.  

Can you name an example of excellent children’s publishing? What makes it stand out?

The Art Of Being Normal. Published with real style by David Fickling Books this was a novel that wasn't sold to readers on its 'issues' but on the credibility of its writing, the gorgeous cover design, the originality of the voice and the fact that the novel dealt with an important matter without ever resorting to cliche or stereotype.

What would you like to see more of in children’s books?  

I would love to see a more diverse range of characters in books for readers of all ages whose race isn't a theme in the book.  Generally, I think we are publishing a great range of subjects and voices but it still tends to be from a rather specific perspective.


Alex Wheatle, author

What gives a children’s book everlasting appeal?

I think what gives a story an everlasting appeal is a great story well told that touches a range of emotions including fear, courage, love, betrayal, friendship, loyalty...all the emotions that we all share and grow up with. If a writer can touch those buttons and make the reader root for the protagonist even when she/he makes the wrong choices, you have a chance of instilling in the reader a fantastic reading experience that they will always remember.

What would you like to see more of in children’s books?  

I would like to see more working class stories and characters in children's fiction. Too many working class children cannot relate to characters in children's fiction and do not visit their school libraries.


Fiona Noble, children’s and YA books previewer at The Bookseller

What gives a children's book everlasting appeal?

It's a question the children's book world is constantly grappling with, and notoriously difficult to define. There is certainly no exact formula – a dose of serendipity is always a key ingredient - but the books we define as classics often share common traits: evocative world building (be it Narnia, Hogwarts or Hundred Acre Wood), unforgettable characters and mesmerising storytelling which addresses some of the big themes of life. I don't believe all great children's books need to be enjoyed by adults, but books with the most enduring appeal are often those that resonate with both the young and old.

Can you name an example of excellent children's publishing? What makes it stand out?

Thousands of children's books are published each year, many of them debuts, so I am always interested in how publishers communicate with influencers, booksellers and readers to make their titles stand out. Chicken House have done a stellar job with M.G. Leonard's Beetle Boy. From acquisition to publication their passion for this book has been evident including a grassroots pre-publication campaign of early proofs, striking cover design and production, innovative PR and collaboration with retailers, particularly Waterstones. The result: the bestselling children's debut of the year.

What would you like to see more of in children's books?

The renaissance of illustrated books and non-fiction has been a wonderful thing. Younger fiction has been transformed by heavily illustrated titles and I would love to see this extend even more into books for older readers. In non-fiction, there has been some glorious high-end publishing in the past few years, but I see a gap for lower priced child-centric books. It would be a wonderful thing to find a new series that replicates the must-have appeal that Horrible Histories had in its heyday. 


Chris Riddell, illustrator, authors and Children's Laureate


Some of these experts and many more will be speaking at The Bookseller's Children Conference 2016 on Tuesday 27th September.