Friday, February 24, 2012

Mostly Good News

Writing conferences stimulate my creativity, so I try get to at least one every year. But in recent years, market reviews were so discouraging -- fewer publishers acquiring fewer books for fewer bookstores -- I left wondering about my choice of profession.

The SCBWI Winter Conference in January was different. The air bubbled with fresh optimism and renewed enthusiasm (amid familiar cautions, of course).


  • The children’s market is ‘very robust’ (Ken Wright, Agent, Writers House). Kids are still reading real books (Chris Richman, Agent, Upstart Crow Literary).
  • Imprints for YA have increased in the last three years (Regina Brooks, Founder and President, Serendipity Litereary Agency, LLC)
  • MG is the new YA (Regina Brooks) with rising popularity and market potential. YA and MG will continue to grow.
  • Picture Books are ‘alive and well’ (Nancy Paulsen, Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin). Digital books, so far, seem to be an incremental purchase rather than a cannibalistic one. Parents like a book which is already on their bookshelf, and buy a digital copy for travel purposes.
  • Non-fiction is underestimated (Ken Wright). National Geographic and Discover are doing more, and make NF commercial enough for Barnes & Noble. A number of NF titles have appeared in the National Book Award lists.


  • The Best Seller Mentality: traditional publisher’s lists are narrower and more focused. They want the books they publish to do very well, theoretically translating to more support for those titles and authors. 
  • Differences between genres will blur as writers seek new and fresh material. (Ginger Knowlton, Agent, Curtis Brown LTD) 


  • Amazon: Is it a big bully? ‘Discoverability’ is a problem here. 
  • Transmedia: How will digital evolution continue to change and impact books? Again, ‘discoverability’ can be difficult in the digital world. New devices generate a need for new content, but beware smaller margins and fierce competition. As kids inherit digital devices from their parents, what effect will this have? 
  • Continued consolidation of the traditional bookstore. Where will it end? 

The landscape is becoming more defined, and more certainty enables the market to move forward. Publishers have mostly stopped merging and wringing their hands. E-books, digital devices and self-publishing are part of the future, but are now more tangible and predictable. 

Personally, I write MG fiction (as well as PBs), so I was pleased to hear MG is ‘the new YA’, and note that many editors list it as one of their needs. Now I have to use my conference-inspired enthusiasm to follow up with those agents and editors who said it. 

What’s your feel about the children’s market?  Do you agree or disagree?  Any good news to share?


  1. It's always good to hear that agents and editors are still bullish on kid lit. Who knows what the future holds with e-books and apps. I'll just keep on writing.

  2. Always happy to hear that picture books are alive and well! Like J.A., I think the important thing is to "keep on writing"! :o)

  3. As another MG writer, I think this all sounds like good news!