Buoyed by the success of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, children’s non-fiction is the “place to be” this Bologna, with publishers eager for new voices on the back of strong sales in the sector in the past 12 months.
There have been significant jumps in the illustrated non-fiction market: Quarto c.e.o. Marcus Leaver said the category earned his group $150m in revenue worldwide in 2017. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, meanwhile, said its non-fiction leapt 50% in revenue terms last year, led by titles in Kate Pankhurst’s Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World series.
Sharon Hutton, Bloomsbury publishing director for children’s non-fiction, said: “The rise of non-fiction has created a space for outstanding stories that are connecting the world in new and powerful ways. Children are discovering an illustrated narrative landscape of triumphant tales, inspirational heroes, and a new age of science and technology.”
Laurence King reported significant interest in its range of illustrated non-fiction at this year’s fair. Elizabeth Jenner, head of children’s, said: “It’s great to see illustrated non-fiction doing so well. There is so much of an appetite, both at home and internationally, for these traditional subjects treated in new, vibrant ways. [Our] titles on science and astronomy, and our Little Guides to Great Lives, have definitely been the stand-out stars of our fair.”
Feminist-themed titles have been driving the illustrated non-fiction market’s rise in Ireland, too, with the sector boosted this year by Bold Girls, a multi-partner campaign backed by Children’s Books Ireland (CBI). The programme is tied to the centenary of women getting the right to vote in Ireland, and it promotes kids’ books that feature “strong, intelligent, self-possessed female protagonists” and celebrates women authors and illustrators. Jenny Murray, acting director of CBI, said: “Non-fiction is a big market for us and the standard is so high. With the Bold Girls campaign there is a huge number of books about women in history, as well as modern women. Ireland didn’t really ‘do’ non-fiction for such a long while, but Irish-interest picture books are now coming through—and many of these are non-fiction.”