A chuffed market's Children's Conference: #PorterMeets Charlotte Eyre

A chuffed market's Children's Conference: #PorterMeets Charlotte Eyre

If you walked into publishing right now and stopped one of us to ask, "What's the healthiest, happiest part of the business to get into?" -- the answer you well might get is "children's books!" The exclamation point would be there, yes. They're a generally exuberant lot these days, the children's books folks. And why not? Thanks to Charlotte Eyre's report Children's market 10% up on 2013, we know why many of them are smiling. And it's not surprising that The Bookseller Children's Conference on 25th September looks headed for a sellout. Fair warning: Children's Conference bookings close at 5 p.m. London time on Friday (19th September) for #kidsconf14, as we're hashtagging it. Time is short if you still need to secure your seat at the Southbank Centre for the confab on the 25th. In her report, Eyre -- The Bookseller's children's editor -- writes:
The UK children’s publishing market is up by 10% this year, making it the fastest-growing book sector...Nielsen BookScan data shows that consumers spent £187.9m on children’s books in the first eight months of 2014 (1st January–31st August 2014), up 10% on the same period in 2013. If the market stays more than 10% ahead of last year’s figures, it is projected to be worth £337m in 2014—the best year the children’s sector will have had since BookScan records began in 1998. Most kids’ categories are showing growth. Sales of children’s fiction, YA titles and picture books are all up, with only a slight dip (-2%) in sales of pre-school books.
And in our #PorterMeets interview with Eyre online, of course the first thing I had to ask, on behalf of all envious members of the adult trade end of the business, was: what's the children's sector's secret? News, in fact, of Microsoft's $2.5 billion (£1.54 billion) buy of Minecraft developer Mojang, in fact, would be one of the next stories Eyre would write for The Bookseller. In 'No change' to Minecraft publishing following Microsoft buy, my colleague writes:
Egmont’s Minecraft book publishing programme is one of the industry’s success stories this year, and sales of the four books published so far - The Official Beginner’s Handbook, The Official Redstone Handbook, The Official Construction Handbook and The Official Combat Handbook – totalled £6.6m for the January-August period, according to Nielsen BookScan data. A fifth book, Blockopedia, will hit the shelves on 4th December.
So clearly, there's blockbuster material afoot in the children's sector these days and the reassuring noises coming from the UK's largest children's book publisher no doubt were welcome to the #kidsconf14-bound set. Eyre:
Egmont's PR director Katy Cattell said: "There’s no change to our rights or publishing programme and we’re really looking forward to publishing Blockopedia this December."
For my money, however, it's another of Eyre's points about children's books' high ride that's intriguing: If you haven't been looking in on children's books for a while, you could be forgiven a double take on that one. After all, isn't digital what publishing is supposed to be striving to master and push forward in every way possible? Isn't any hint of reticence in the digital realm a scarlet letter of old-school foot-dragging? Well, yes but no. Probably because I've been listening to Mike Shatzkin too much, I ask if the difficulty for digital in children's books isn't that illustrated work hasn't yet been handled well in e-reading formats. And that "magic of print" argument doesn't go only for young parents who recall their own pleasure in page-turning: Author Anjali Mitter Duva in Massachusetts joined #PorterMeets briefly, however, to help temper what might look like an all-out romp around digital by the children's crowd with a serious issue drawing a lot of focus: Eyre, who had just spoken this past weekend at Nosy Crow's own conference about the size and shape of the market, agreed with Duva on the severity of the diversity problem: Duva stressed that even the best books "written by white folk" for children can fall short of the need for diversity in voice, perspective, cultural depth. Eyre agreed with her: Eyre also pointed to the work of Malorie Blackman, who was named Waterstones Children's Laureate in April 2013 and is pledged to continue the work of her predecessor, Julia Donaldson, in support of libraries. Eyre noted that Donaldson's sales, surpassing £7 million this year so far, are another of the key factors in the UK's robust children's market sector overall. Here is Letterbox Library, which Eyre mentioned, and it was in mid-July that Blackman hosted the first Young Adult Literature Convention. With Eyre having mentioned Waterstones buyer Melissa Cox's comments at the Nosy Crow conference in regards to diversity issues, I asked her how The Bookseller Children's Conference on the 25th will handle the diversity issues dogging the success of the children's sector. It turns out that another Cox, Beth Cox, is in place for this one: And in my favorite part of our talk -- which included the input of several good industry folks as we chatted -- Eyre set me straight on my assumptions about the trajectory of digital in the children's market going forward. My question to her was, to put it bluntly, how long can children's keep dodging the digital hammer? If parents are clinging to bedtime stories read from print books and YA types are, as Eyre notes, happier ruffling pages that pawing at screens, when will we see the sector start catching up with the wider industry's deepening dive into digital? Eyre's point is a good one. Not only do some of us former children assume, perhaps mistakenly, that the young readers' market will mirror the digital directions of the wider industry, but, as she notes, "Children's and teen/YA are also so different from each other, let alone from the adult trade." Eyre sees a possibility that the children's market will never "go digital," at least in the same ways that adult fiction has done. And in answer to a comment from our Bookseller colleague Sarah Shaffi, she pointed to another seeming dichotomy in children's books involving the plethora of material on the market: Eyre will chair a panel on social media and kids, featuring Hot Key Books' Sanne Vliegenthart; Walker's Sean Moss; and authors Matt Haig and Alice Oseman. Presentations on data and trends will be offered by The Bookseller's John Lewis and by Luke Mitchell, Voxburner's head of insight. (Mitchell, by the way, is my #PorterMeets guest on Monday 22nd September at 4 p.m. London time, 11 a.m. New York, 3 p.m. GMT.) Keynote presentations are being made by HarperCollins' Ann-Janine Murtagh; Nickelodeon's Alison York; and Mind Candy's popular Michael Acton Smith. More about the day's programme is here, and last-minute registration, open only to 5 p.m. London time on Friday, is here.
The Bookseller Children's Conference 2014Seats are still available for The Bookseller Children's Conference, 25th September at Southbank Centre. Hurry: bookings close Friday 19th September, 5 p.m. London time.   The FutureBook basic Registration now is open for The FutureBook Conference 2014 -- 14th November at Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster. (#FutureBook14)   Join us each Friday for a #FutureChat session with The Bookseller’s FutureBook community. We’ll be live on Twitter, at 4 p.m. London time, 11 a.m. New York time, 8 a.m. Los Angeles, 5 p.m. Berlin, 3 p.m. GMT.