Kid Lit 101: Children’s Literature
Publishers and Young Readers
By Pennie Hoover
Children’s Literature Moves In To Stay
Retailers selling children’s books enjoyed a boom from Harry Potter
that included an industry-wide increase in hardcover sales of 645
percent in June 2003, according to the Association of American
Publishers. Is there momentum between blasts for retailers?
Gary Ink, research librarian for Publisher’s Weekly says children’s
book sales have been mostly flat over the last two years. Why, then, do
book departments seem to sparkle and grow in retail outlets?
Retail shelf space for books has doubled, but sales have not. The choices
are growing, but statistics show the number of readers remains flat, according
to Loren Wengerd at Eaglemont Press.
Where teachers and librarians
were once a loyal market, retailers find success with titles that
blur the lines between toys and books.
“Still, children’s books are a good, healthy segment for toy stores and
toy departments,” claims Susan Raab, a partner at Raab Associates.
And there are many reasons for retailers to have hope for the future.
Raab believes kids today are more likely to own more books than their
parents did. There are more outlets for children to buy books, though
they may visit the library less since they are able to do research at
home on the Internet.
The Market Shifts
Library and school budgets are being reduced, so retailers may have to
pick up the slack. Where teachers and librarians were once a loyal market,
retailers find success with titles that blur the lines between toys and
books. Publishers are producing more books with sound effects, kits, music,
CDs and other interactive features.
Wengerd agrees “Thirty-Eight percent of books sold are sold in retail
outlets as opposed to schools and libraries, and that number is growing.”
Wengard explains that as the number of titles published increases every
year, competition for shelf space heats up. Publishers are involved in
a number of initiatives to support retailers, especially smaller retailers
that sell books.
Though children’s books are designed
for the young, they have to be presented in a way that appeals to
the adult making the buying decision.
Books published for the 4-8 age range often have related toys and merchandise
that broadens the market. The branding of a book can include plush animals,
board games and video games. The possibilities for value-added sales are
endless, and both publishers and retailers can benefit from the market
Since studies show that 53 percent of girls read consistently compared
to only 36 percent of boys, Eaglemont Press also envisions providing more
books for boys as a way of growing the market. Their newest series, Adventures
of Riley, mixes photography and illustrations in a way that teaches
children about preserving the habitats of endangered animals through adventures
to foreign lands.
This series will send children to a website where Eaglemont will gather
information about what kids want, to be used for creating add-on products.
Book Sense Makes Good Cents
The American Booksellers Association provides retailers with continually
updated lists of books and recommendations for retail buyers. The Book
Sense website is designed to compete with Amazon as the place
to buy books, with books ordered through the site shipped from the nearest
Dad, Get Out of My Toy Box!
Raab Associates reminds publishers that even though children’s books
are designed for the young, they have to be presented in a way that appeals
to the adult making the buying decision. The Children’s Book Council
agrees, publishing a catalog of books that’s designed to help booksellers
increase their market for children’s literature.
Apparently, adults are not only choosing children’s books; they are reading
them, too. The CBC catalog -- titled “Not Just For Children Anymore” --
lists over 200 books that adults will enjoy and buy for themselves. The
purpose of the catalog is to generate ideas about in-store promotional
displays as well as answer adult customer inquiries.
Writer's Bio: Pennie, a graduate of Indiana
University School of Journalism, is a freelance writer and lives with
her husband and three children in Visalia, CA.