What’s Hot… And What’s Not: Current Trends In Children’s Book Publishing

Last night after work, I remembered to head to midtown for the latest panel put on by the Children’s Book Group of the Author’s Guild – and I wasn’t disappointed.  Author and chair Rachel Vail moderated to a packed crowd at the Scandinavia House on 38th St, to discuss “What’s Hot And What’s Not: Current Trends In Children’s Book Publishing”.  Aka . . . vampires.  

Authors and enthusiasts of all ages came to hear Kim Brown, VP of Merchandise, Barnes and Noble; Lisa Desimini, author/illustrator; David Levithan, author of Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Exec. Editorial Director at Scholastic; and Marcia Wernick, literary agent at Sheldon Fogelman.  With these bigwigs speaking, it’s not surprising that I picked up a LOT of good info.  Here’s what they had to say . . . 

Kim Brown got things rolling with a quick run-down of, literally, what is selling (and she’s buying!).  If it’s pink, purple, and sparkly – it’s selling.  If it’s dark, purple, and is a vampire book – it’s selling.  In a nutshell.

Lisa Desimini gave a refreshing, and to me, the most relatable, perspective.  She encouraged her fellow authors to not simply jump on every trend that is selling at the moment because, by the time you try to ride the wave, it’ll be over.  Instead, follow your heart and your taste, and just be open to new challenges (like her bestseller, Dog The Fire Dog).   But, speaking of vampires, she does the covers for the True Blood series.  

Next, lone male David Levithan took the publisher’s point-of-view, and spoke about where new media is going to take the industry.  Essentially, he was encouraging, because even though we are on the brink of major change (like the music industry, circa 2000), technology is not going to replace books – it’s going to give more options to the way that we read, write and learn.  And picture books aren’t going anywhere.  Phew.  

Marcia Wernick wrapped it up with the agent, aka. the middleman’s, story. She said that, regardless of trends, great content, powerful characters, and that magic “hook” will always start the next wave.  

Opening the floor for questions, the conversation turned to the NEXT wave – after vampires – the distopia.  I’ve heard of the book, Hunger Games, that represents that next fad for YA, and I think I better pick it up.  Because, as YA dominates, it crosses over with the trends of adult literature.  Example – 40 year old stockbrokers reading Twilight on the subway.  

Other tidbits of useful information for aspiring authors/illustrators:

1.  GET AN AGENT.  It’s a bunny-eat-bunny world out there.

2.  Make sure you know what rights you are giving away, because the contracts signed today will be the ones in the spotlight when major changes happen in the industry.

3.  Sales figures and awards don’t correlate – so don’t stress about winning Caldecotts any time soon. 

4.  Librarians are Twittering!!   And so is Mo Willem’s pigeon.  And after this talk, so will a lot of little old lady writers.  

5.  Teens rule.  

– ABE

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