‘Just look at what this little thing has turned into’
Mike Shatzkin had borrowed a spare outlet to power up and check messages on his phone during the lunch hour at #LaunchKids. His Publishers Launch series of events was producing the fourth such outing focussed on children’s publishing. He stood for a minute with me and looked out over the long expanse of a room that held more than 200 eagerly networking professionals, some gathered around tables to talk with speakers.
The winking Shatzkinian smile was wide. “Just look at what this little thing has turned into.”
Or, as the uncles of the world never fail to say about the readers of children’s literature, “my, how you’ve grown.”
A longtime industry observer and consultant, Shatzkin can take pride in his programming of many Launch programmes in association with Digital Book World, which opens its main conference — hashtagged #DBW15 — today (14th January) at 1:45 p.m. GMT / 8:45 a.m. ET.
And while DBW, proper, rolls in with a slate of no fewer than six keynote events for an audience that F+W Media reports at more than 1,200 this morning in New York — culminating in a much-anticipated onstage interview with Amazon’s Russ Grandinetti — the nature and needs of a #LaunchKids programme are different.
For example, it’s probably impossible to avoid a sort of case-study window-shopping format to such a day as #LaunchKids. Publishing’s center has a lot to benefit from learning of various start-up efforts in the field. Occasionally, that leads to what can sound like commercial pitches from the stage. This might have been the tone in presentations about I See Me, a 16-year-old personalized-book company, for example, or about children’s ebook subscription programmes MeeGenius, Speakaboos, and (not yet launched) SmartyPAL.
Certainly, Sourcebooks’ Dominique Raccah is a forceful advocate for her large company’s success. During her presentation, she announced that her “Put Me in the Story” personalized book division — we covered it Tuesday — is going into one of its several brand-franchise relationships with the Lemony Snicket line to produce a new series of personalized picture books priced in the $30 range and ripe, of course, for adjacent gift-merchandise development.
In communicating models and successes, maybe there’s no way to get around the aura of advertisement. If anything, this makes all the more welcome some of the data-driven explication of the children’s market, a sector that seems to be surveyed, studied, and reported on almost daily.
What Nielsen knows, per “Jonty” Nowell
Before we began, I joked with Nielsen Book president Jonathan Nowell that were I to introduce him onstage, I’d inevitably present him under the name “Jonty,” as his Twitter handle has it — @JontyNowell. And I found out I’d walked right back into children’s territory. It’s a childhood nickname, of course.
And it’s Jonty who — as Nielsen’s folks so frequently have the pleasure of doing at these events — gave the audience a couple of its biggest jawdroppers of the day in terms of statistical analysis.
Chief among them:
Eighty percent of YA books sold in the US today, per Nielsen’s findings, are being bought by adults for themselves.
This being good news to those who sell YA, of course, no one in the room gasped, “What’s wrong with those adult readers?”
And, of course, nothing’s wrong with them, although in some circles it would not be out of line to ask what drives more mature readers to return so heavily to these stories with their generally strong emphasis on romance and youth.
But the unanswered question — one that resonates in the UK market’s slide-by of adult trade by children’s as well, as our Tom Tivnan is reporting — hung over the whole day at #LaunchKids.
It may have made some in the room wish that instead of a parade of “we do this” and “we’re having great success with that,” we might have heard, “we believe we’re seeing this trend because it answers this need.”
In other words, much of what Young Jonty brought us set us up with pressing quandaries about a comparatively booming market that we only partly understand. There are cultural revelations underlying what’s going on here. Their exploration could be good both for business and for booksellers’ sanity.
More from Jonty?
- In the UK, 34 percent of the print book market lies in the children’s wing.
- In the US, that rises to 37 percent of the print market going to the kids.
- In China, you’re looking at 18 percent of a print market given to kids’ books.
Nowell also touched on the recently buzzy concept of the YouTube stars, mentioning the 90,000 copies of Girl Online, the controversially ghosted debut under the name of Zoe Sugg, “Zoella” to her many, many fans. This bit came with the interesting tidbit that 63 percent of book buyers aged 16-19 in the UK report themselves to Nielsen to be active YouTube users. (No word from the inactive YouTube users, we’re too busy writing articles for the press about the active ones.)
Where there were five juvenile titles in the Top 20 bestsellers of 2011, Nowell told us, there were eleven juvenile titles in the Top 20 of 2014
Twenty-one percent of children’s books purchased in the US are ebooks.
And, Nielsen’s Nowell let us know, children are starting to read ebooks at younger ages, the trend being that the devices glowing-up more among the 4- to 5-year-olds.
Around 2012, children’s books’ purchases pretty much went online and stayed online. Consumer survey responses tell Nielsen that while book clubs and fairs seem to have had a bit of an uptick in the last couple of years, the buying of kids’ books has profoundly shifted from a one-time concentration in chain bookstores to the ether. More than a quarter of the sales in the sector, overall, are taking place online.
By Porter Anderson
Read the full post at: TheBookseller.com/futurebook