The Bookseller Children’s Conference 2014

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This time last week, The Bookseller hosted its annual Children’s Conference at the South Bank Centre. With a fantastic line up of speakers from all areas of the Children’s market including: Greg Childs, Co-creator and Editorial Director of The Children’s Media Conference, Michael Acton-Smith of Mind Candy, Alison York of Nickelodeon UK to name a few.

To open the conference, Ann-Janine Murtagh of HarperCollins Children’s Books (winner of Children’s Publisher of the Year at this years Bookseller Awards) used a brilliant quote from her best-selling author, comedian David Walliams:

“But being a child is such a special fing. When yer a child, ya can see all the magic in the world.”

This was very poignant as not only did it highlight the importance of children’s publishers as gatekeepers, inspiring and nurturing a lifelong love of reading from an early age, but it also displayed what a magical and rewarding experience publishing for children can be.

The day was full of interesting and insightful talks providing vital information and research covering all aspects of the children’s publishing industry. Nickelodeon UK provided some interesting statistics on kids and their digital habits in a thought-provoking talk entitled ‘Me, Myselfie and I’ which covered the online behaviour and attitudes of children. The key finding from this research was that children prefer and engage with immersive experiences above all others, and so publishers should strive to achieve this when producing digital content.

The Bookseller’s own John Lewis then provided us with some exciting data on the Children’s book market in a comparison with the previous year which showed that in 2014 the market is up by 10%. He also touched on the importance of utilising your backlist as a children’s publisher by stating that there is no backlist in children’s publishing: if a child hasn’t read it, then it is a new book. He supported this by revealing that six of the current top best selling children’s books are not new titles.

The conference also included two panel discussions. The first, chaired by Charlotte Eyre of the Bookseller, was on Social Media and Kids. The panel consisted of Sanne Vliegenthart, Digital Co-ordinator – Hot Key Books, Sean Moss, Digital Marketing Officer – Walker Books and authors Matt Haig and Alice Oseman.

Key points of the discussion were:

  • Social media is integrated into the publishing process now and therefore it is no longer free as time is money and not always the most cost-effective way to reach children.
  • YouTube is the most effective social media platform for reaching young readers via book trailers, interactive videos and live streaming from book launches.
  • YA readers are mostly hanging out on Tumblr, yet it is more difficult to reach them due to the personalised nature of the platform.
  • To use social media effectively is to remember the social aspect and to start conversations; to be direct but remember your audience as a collective; and to be inclusive not exclusive as this cuts down the market outreach.

The second panel discussion, chaired by Anna James of the Bookseller, focused on Working Together – how we can be a more collaborative industry. The panel discussed initiatives that are working well in the industry such as PR relationships and collaborations schools and running interactive author events and book readings. They also discussed what could be better and the resounding answer was that publishers could provide more support to independent bookshops, which at the moment feel as if they are somewhat detached from the rest of the industry and don’t receive as much recognition from publishers for all the hard work they put in selling their titles.

At the end of the day the Bookseller had an exciting announcement: the launch of their YA Book Prize for outstanding fiction in the UK and Ireland. It is the very first prize of its kind and is open for short-list entries until December, with the prize winner to be announced in March 2015.

Overall, it was an insightful and motivating day with lots of opportunity to expand our knowledge of the Children’s market. It was so wonderful to experience the passion and enthusiasm those involved in Children’s publishing have and made it part of the industry we can feel proud to be a part of.

By Zoe Portway

  Zoe

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