The Bookseller Children’s Conference 2014


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



Women In Publishing – Meeting on Marketing

What a week of Marketing?! On Monday we had Byte the Book #bytethebook and Wednesday we had Women In Publishing where the fantastic Sophia Blackwell and Vicky Hartley shared with us their approach to marketing, their reflections on its evolution and their predictions on its future. The power of marketing has truly taken the publishing industry by a storm but what is it about marketing that makes it so fascinating to us?


From hearing the speakers’ stories, their successes and lessons over a career of campaigns, it initially seems that the same model or marketing strategy cannot be replicated, we can’t rely on it time and time again and sometimes we just don’t know why a campaign works so well. Which can be frustrating but also fascinating – it’s an enigma! Sometimes a campaign just clicks with the public and it gives us such a sense of brilliance that we want to try again and again to make that happen and slowly but surely we are totally consumed by author tours and direct campaigns.

Well that’s one view. It’s a valid view too but perhaps a, how do I say…. traditional view? As publishers we love books and stories so much that we want to believe that the magic of the tale captures the heart of the public so very much that it’s like a spell has been cast over us and we realise that we were all born with one true aim – to read Gone Girl.

Vicky Hartley certainly believes in story telling but her stories are marketing narratives. Does she need to even read the book she’s marketing? Not necessarily, she is gripped by her own plot. The content, not the book, drives the campaign and is the main character. Other characters could include social media, other products, re-purposed versions of the content, emails, above the line advertising…. They are all functioning for the purpose of the main character’s development and success, to get the content to its denouement as a top seller.

Sophia Blackwell positively “facepalms” at her former self, a budding marketer ready to tackle the publishing industry one campaign at a time, innocently oblivious to the importance of data. This was right at the beginning of her career of course and now we have before us a marketing data evangelist. With data you can know why campaigns work and why they don’t and you can make them work better. With data you can link sales figures with customer behaviour, surely the very essence of marketing. Information is power and marketing intelligence is the faculty of our industry.

Whether you are creating your own story through marketing or interrogating data, it seems that marketing isn’t such an enigma. It actually is a tool of control for us which used by the right hands can construct an efficient and strong bridge between book and reader.


Here at Inspired Selection, we are passionate about the publishing industry; we talk about publishing, read about publishing and attend all major publishing events like the one you’ve just read about. We would love to meet you at events so do feel free to come up and introduce yourselves! If you’re interested in opportunities within publishing do keep in touch and register for our Vacancy Update Service as well as keeping up to date with us on Twitter.