RICHARD CHARKIN:MORE GROWTH, POTENTIAL, CREATIVITY AND LITERACY
Q What trends have you noticed on children’s book market in UK?
A Children’s books are a very significant commercial sector of the UK market. According to statistics from Nielsen Bookscan, in 2017 33% of all books sold through UK tills were children’s books. Importantly, it’s a sector that has also been in growth consistently for the past five years. In middle-grade fiction, there is a noticeable dominance by a handful of brand-name frontlist authors David Walliams, Jeff Kinney, Liz Pichon alongside longer established names like Jacqueline Wilson, Roald Dahl and of course Harry Potter. We at Bloomsbury have also seen major growth in sales of our children’s list, with growth of 26% last year (figures from Nielsen). Children’s publishing is also a very international business with rights and co-editions at the very heart of Bloomsbury’s business.
Q What is Bloomsbury’s strategy on children’s book at present?
A Harry Potter is a much loved and hugely important part of our list, and it’s part of our job to make sure that new generations keep discovering the magic of those wonderful books with initiatives like the glorious illustrated editions with Jim Kay. Across the business we have a clear strategy for growth through careful acquisition of high quality storytelling for all ages in many different formats. We have expanded our illustrated publishing significantly, in non-fiction and pictures books, with books that are less reliant on the UK market, to create a strong rights and co-editions business. We are building award winning and bestselling talent. We are also committed to growing our US business, and to optimising the potential that our unique global structure gives us to build brands in the English language around the world.
Q What are the differences among countries on children's book publishing, distribution or promotion?
A American schools prefer books in American English, British schools prefer British English, especially in books for younger readers. Australia is interesting because children’s books account for 46% of books sold in their market they are great at supporting their local authors and illustrators, but also very receptive to international talent. They also have a thriving young adult market in that sense, it’s closer to the US than the UK. The US also has a very strong library and institutional market which is very influential in children’s books. Winning a Newbery Honor, as our author Renee Watson recently did for Piecing Me Together, has an immediate impact on sales, and it’s awarded by librarians. Where the US and UK are similar is the dominance of chain booksellers where a single buyer at head office can completely change a book’s fortunes.
Q What challenges and opportunities that will bring to publishers with young readers prefer to multimedia?
A We publishers work a lot harder now to create packages that feel engaging, immediate and appealing to young readers we know that we need to grab their attention and hold it; we also know that books exist in a very competitive entertainment landscape. But social media and screens bring pressure for a lot of children and a book can be a respite from that. We have to make our books worth reading publish the best books we can. We have to market them well to the widest possible audience and be noisy about the importance of books and reading, that regular readers perform better academically, that books help develop empathy and creative thinking. We have to ensure that we lobby our governments and educators to keep space for reading in our schools, and to fund libraries properly. But also we mustn’t underestimate children: if you get the right book into their hands at the right time, they will grab it and you’ve got a reader for life.
Q Please share your views on the future of children’s book market.
A Still more growth, more potential, more creativity, more literacy.