The Bookseller Children’s Conference #kidsconf23
The Inspired team were suitably inspired by this year’s Children’s Conference as hosted by The Bookseller! The theme was “Publishing with Purpose” and what an incredible purpose to have as a children’s publisher as we heard from Sourcebook’s Domnique Raccah and so many others about how ‘books change lives’.
The children’s publishing market is a strong one and not to be underestimated with 1 in every 3 books sold being children’s books and £1 in every £4 spent on books being on children’s books. Yes, there was a dip during the pandemic as parents, grandparents and gifting opportunities to purchase lowered but the strength of this market remains. What is changing within the market is fascinating….
This sector is beautifully broad including a range of picture books, early years, YA, licensed content & TV tie-ins, fiction, non-fiction and activity books. There is, or should be, something for everyone. This is partly why the stats around lowered engagement in reading from children is concerning; with such a range why are the numbers dropping? Now, recall the strength of the market – this indicates, as supported by market data from HarperCollins’s Cally Poplak, that it’s a small proportion of children that are receiving more books. Frequent reading has a greater impact to the long-term success of an individual than parents’ wealth or educational qualifications and so how can we get this amazing range of books that are being published into more hands….?
We heard from some wonderful initiatives such as the Free Books Campaign and subscription models such as Books2Door, WokeBabies and Illumicrate and of course World Book Day, all of which are trying to widen the reach of readership and ease the access of physically getting the books. Arts Council England are investing more in disability representation within children’s publishing and we look forward to a market that not only is in the hands of more people, but represents more hands of people. There is astounding work being done and a real passion across the board for giving children a choice of what they read as well as simply enabling them to read.
Choice is at the heart of engagement for reading and this was made very clear in a number of the sessions. It’s what children are looking for and is what will deepen the engagement of a young reader, whether during shared reading or independently. This is where we can come back to celebrate the beautiful breadth of the sector and invite children’s publishers to continue in this vein. Having books on a range of interests and topics, as well as including a diverse range of characters, is imperative to an increased audience of young readers. Maybe they want to read about football, a TV character, sea creatures or maybe they’re like Tọlá Okogwu’s daughter and want ‘romance with a side of mystery’! The key is to offer choice and the best way to do this is to learn about our customers better. On Monday we were encouraged to not just think of the parents as customers but genuinely think about the children also. What is appealing to them? How do we know? Ask them! Test books on them, listen to them!
This is a sector steeped with purpose and opportunity to not just make a difference to publishing but also to people’s lives beyond the book. Children’s publishers have the opportunity to engage a young person in reading which, in turn, will impact their long-term success. As Author, Katherine Rundell, finished the day with – ‘Children’s books so often come down on the side of yes rather than no’ when it comes to the ‘what if’ questions. So let’s do the same. Let’s come down on the side of yes and make the most wonderful range of children’s books for generations to come to enjoy together.
For more information on roles within children’s publishing please feel free to get in touch with:
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